Fishers and surfers have been out in force this week in the seaside towns of Ballina, Yamba and Coffs Harbour. Its getting a bit cold for swimming now but we are enjoying beach walks, long shadows and the late autumn sunshine.
We took a little detour through Maclean, a town that actively promotes Scottish heritage and cultural identity. What started as a little project in 2000 to paint half a dozen telegraph poles with tartan designs to coincide with the arrival of the Olympic Torch, has turned into a massive feature throughout the town. There are over 210 family tartans painted on telegraph poles and for 20 cents you can buy a map to see where they are all located. Local families were allowed to sponsor a pole for $60 and volunteers ensure the pole’s appearance is maintained if they become damaged or faded. Matheson (although with an added “i”) was located outside the ambulance station!
And finally, a little ditty called:
‘Ode to the collectively named Fisher Folk’
Launch the tinnie, Vinnie
Fetch the rod, Todd
And don’t forget the reel, Neil.
We’re goin’ fishing.
Remember the bait, Kate
Try the yabby, Gaby
Perhaps the prawn, Shaun.
We’re goin’ fishing.
We’ll catch a stack, Zac
With the right hook, Luke
When is high tide, Clyde?
We’re goin’ fishing.
You netted a great haul, Paul
Only an hour at sea, Lee
What’s that smell, Belle?
Ahh, you’ve been fishing!
With a squeeze, we managed to get everything bundled into our new motor home and made the short journey to Burleigh Heads, a place that holds very fond memories for us from previous holidays. Had we been members of the surfing fraternity we would have known the Gold Coast Open was happening there that very weekend! The place was pumping – that is everything apart from the surf! It must be difficult to compete in a surfing competition when the waves were few and far between. No such problem in Byron Bay where there were plenty of waves but oh so many people to have to dodge!
We’ve made good use of our bikes this week and cycled to Base Camp at the bottom of Mount Warning (a volcanic plug whose height would easily qualify it as a Munro back in Scotland). We hiked up through the rain forest, in the rain, but only managed to get half way up before reaching signs saying we should not attempt to reach the summit if it was after 1 p.m. It was after 2 p.m. – our late start being the result of our Let’s Go motor home deciding to Let’s Not Go!
The ice cream served up at the Cold Slab in Burleigh was as we remembered, truly scrumptious, and Surfers Paradise was still an over rated concrete jungle (in our humble opinion).
We hit upon some free food this week and it wasn’t of the bush tucker variety. Our first freebie came when Mike ordered two coffees and a scone. The chap serving us came out with our coffees and two date scones. He explained they’d warmed up two scones by accident and did we still want them at no extra charge. “Oh alright then!” we said, especially since they came with extra jam and cream! Next we went off to the supermarket to buy some groceries to restock our new mini-fridge. I planned on making a chilli to use up store cupboard tins and try out the home made chilli powder Jake gave us. As the cashier was totting up the vegetables I noticed the one red chilli I had bought scanned through at $4.75. I asked her if that was indeed correct because if it was £2.50 for just one chilli I’d say forget it and add in more of Jake’s chilli powder. She checked and it came out the same price which she agreed was a bit steep! The cashier then looked at the other veggie items she’d scanned and felt a clove of garlic for $5.50 and cup mushrooms for $1 a piece was probably not right either so she deducted the cost of all the fruit and veggie we’d bought! Good fortune is supposed to come in threes and our friend Colin is probably hoping we’ve bought the McLaren sports car raffle ticket we spoke about! Flowers from my daughter Jenny on Mother’s Day topped everything off beautifully.
We are now back in New South Wales with only about 800 kilometres to go. With four weeks to complete this we can afford to take things at a slower pace. After leaving Mount Warning we drove to Brunswick Heads. This pretty little seaside town has more boutiques and coffee shops than anywhere else we’ve visited together with the dearest Caravan Park. In every sense of the word they are away with the fairies (check out the fairy boxes outside the fire and police stations).
Byron Bay was always on our list to visit as it is the most easterly point on Australia’s mainland. I had planned to do a skydive until the weather changed but we enjoyed the steep walk up to the lighthouse. Despite the sun being in our eyes one minute, it was raining the next and we got absolutely drenched on the 20 km cycle ride back to Lennox Head where we were staying. We managed to get a game of mini-golf in today before the rain started and hopefully the weather forecast correctly predicts we’ll manage to complete tomorrow’s Park Run in Ballina before the rain kicks in again. All good for acclimatising us to the British summer!
Thoughts are turning more towards our return home and what that holds for us. We are grateful we still have a number of different options but it has been a difficult week of adjustment. It will be wonderful to see family and friends again though and before too long I’m sure we’ll be planning our next road trip!!!
One of the best bits about this lap has been the people we have met. We have exchanged phone numbers with a select few and vowed to hopefully meet up with them again as we travelled through their home towns. This week we have had laughs, barbeques and amazing hospitality from Colin and Kim who we met back in Kalbarri and Vicki and Jake who we met way back in Ceduna. Mike also met up with a former work colleague from Basingstoke and we had a wonderful lunch with my daughter’s in-law’s, in-laws at Cotton Tree.
Our intention with Colin and Kim was simply to give them a quick ring and say “Hi we’re in Noosa”. After dinner on our first night in Noosa I duly dialled Colin’s phone number and was relieved to hear he still remembered us. Biggest surprise of all was that he was parked only four sites along from us on the same caravan park. Turned out that they had returned from their lap too early to get back into their house in Noosa which was rented out so they were killing time at the same caravan park we booked into. The chances of that happening had to be about a million to one – clearly meant to be. Colin took us on a guided tour of Noosa one day and we got out and explored the National Park on our bikes another. Loved Noosa but found it too busy and expensive to consider a move to the Sunshine Coast!
DRUM ROLL – BIG NEWS We left Noosa having secured the sale of our beautiful motorhome, Jura. Jan, her new owner, dropped something of a bombshell by asking us to consider leaving Jura behind. Long story short – we have. The saying goes that the first offer is often the best offer. Jan was the first person to view Jura and on the basis she met our asking price and contributed half the cost of our replacement hire vehicle we have let her go. Since driving off into the sunset Jan has asked a couple of questions about how things work and gushes about how much she LOVES her. I’m glad but also gutted which is why I probably came down with a heavy cold this week, sniff sniff.
Poor Vicki and Jake didn’t know what they’d let themselves in for when they invited us to come and stay with them in Algester (a southern suburb of Brisbane). “Come and enjoy a comfy bed that doesn’t move about”, they said. “Thanks”, we said but then had to do a very unBritish thing and ask for extra favours. Not only did we enjoy a comfy bed for four nights whilst temporarily motorhomeless, we filled up their beautiful new granny annex with all our worldly goods including bikes, barbeque, table, chairs, linen, clothes, alcohol, cleaning materials, etc. No room to swing a cat or Jan’s little dog. The handover happened on Tuesday and we picked up our hire van on Friday. This allowed us a couple of days to box stuff up and see the sights of Brisbane.
Brisbane has a great public transport system with buses having specially constructed roads all to themselves. We took advantage of the free City Hopper ferry, cheap buses and trains but left the electric scooters to the experts!
Having passed my cold on to Mike we weren’t at our most energetic so we took a gentle stroll through the Botanic Gardens even if we couldn’t smell the roses. There were some interesting contemporary art displays including the following entitled Circle Work (resting) 2019 which basically allows circular areas of lawn to take a break from routine maintenance!
DRUM ROLL – MORE BIG NEWS Some of you will know we’ve been in negotiations over the sale of our two properties in the UK. Well due to our solicitor’s incompetence, combined with the continuing saga over Brexit, the deal has fallen through and so we will be returning to our house in Maidenhead at the end of the lap. Maybe I’ll consider writing a book instead?
Thankfully the same cannot be said about the Gemfields with Sapphire coming up trumps when it came to actual sapphires. We took our little bag of gems back to the place we bought the bag of dirt from and they kindly separated out the wheat from the chaff (so to speak). Turns out we had quite a lot of good quality gems in amongst the quartz! Armed with the knowledge of what to look for we bought another bag of dirt and have ended up with 66 stones for cutting! Not bad for the equivalent of £30 with the largest sapphire being the size of a peanut (we only have cashews!). Next step is to send them off to Thailand and if we’re lucky we’ll get them back in six month’s time!
Childers was a lovely little town and we would have stayed longer if we didn’t already have a rendezvous planned with a potential buyer for Jura. The Caravan Park outside of town was one of the most serene bush settings we have encountered. Staying at the park were a number of Hot Rod enthusiasts and their stories were entertaining round the evening campfire. Jeremy Clarkson eat your heart out. ‘Hot Rods’ are not just your run of the mill classic cars, they have large engines modified for faster speed and this lot pulled equally quirky vintage caravans. In the early morning dew I went round and took a few photos to add to the photo album!
This week will see us catching up with two couples we have befriended along the way, as well as family (if my daughter’s sister-in-law’s mother-in-law counts as family).!
Yes, Emerald, Sapphire and Rubyvale are all names of towns here in the Gemfields of Central Queensland and we have had some fun as novice fossickers. Forget Easter eggs, we went searching for Thunder eggs and found quite a few. Thunder eggs, to the uninitiated, are nodule-like rocks which formed within volcanic ash layers millions of years ago. They come in various shapes and sizes and it’s only on splitting them that you really appreciate what’s inside. As in the movie Forrest Gump, you never know what you’re gonna get, but Mike was pretty happy with his!
Next we tried our luck at finding sapphires. We had hoped to get first hand experience of digging and finding sapphire at a Designated Fossickers Area but it hasn’t stopped raining for two days and the area has been closed off. We had to contend instead with buying a $25 Gem Bag of pre-washed grit and using our keen eyes, a torch and tweezers, pick the gems out in the comfort of our motor home. Our wash contained over 30 little sapphire chips, mostly green or blue in colour, but none that would make us rich!!! We aim to go back to Armfest again tomorrow and buy another bag and ask them to check that we didn’t miss any carats in our first lot!
Our pootling adventures this week have been quite varied. We spent a few days in Mackay and whilst out cycling the Bluewater Trail came across a street that could have come straight out of an episode of Wanted Down Under. The houses were all huge, a bit too perfectly manicured, they backed onto the beach and would have been outside most families’ means! Still, one can dream!
We cycled the Pineapple Trail in Yeppoon without seeing a single pineapple but we did buy a tasty one at the Sunday market in Emu Park. This week we have seen a sculpture that sings, poignant ANZAC Memorials, fabulous street art and a huge shell collection. We love the public swimming lagoons we’ve seen at Airlie Beach, Mackay and Yeppoon – the latter having an infinity pool overlooking the beach. We gave Bobby Dazzler’s Cafe a miss in Rubyvale and instead frequented Muggachinos where an Austrian man served his own homemade Apple Strudel! Mike thought it was very good!!!
It may surprise you to know that the dilapidated structure in the next photograph is actually the original East Coast monument marking the Tropic of Capricorn. We’ve spent two and a half months in the tropics – yes it has been hot and humid but we have loved it. Sadly only seven weeks of pootling left to go.
I’ve always liked Spot the Difference puzzles. If you were to compare photographs posted three months ago, to those today, I’m sure you’d be able to spot a few differences for yourself. You’ll be too polite to mention that I have put on some weight and my hair is out of shape but you may notice the changing SCENERY.
We have left behind the stunning red dust and entered very lush green pastures. There is no shortage of water in the creeks and lakes and the main crop growing in the fields is sugar cane.
The beaches are attractive, especially fringed with palm trees, but there are warning signs about crocodiles and stingers so very few places for swimming. Most campsites have swimming pools and I continue to make use of these as much as possible but the water is much cooler than I’ve been used to.
This brings me on to the second main difference – THE WEATHER. We Brits love to talk about the weather! Just in case you’re wondering, we are back with comfortable temperatures of around 30 degrees by day, 20 by night. We are still wearing shorts and tee shirts and haven’t needed to get the duvet out just yet. There’s been some rain but it doesn’t last long. We are so pleased to be able to get out on our bikes again. Park Runs are also back on the agenda so hopefully I’ll shift some of the extra weight!
TRAFFIC is another difference we’ve spotted. There’s so much more of it and sadly this means that there is less waving. Mike and I had both perfected our wave to other road users but Queenslanders don’t appear to have the same interest in waving frantically at every passing vehicle!
The other big difference we have spotted has to do with PEOPLE. We were pleasantly surprised at how lovely Townsville was although we weren’t drawn to Magnetic Island (sorry about the pun!). There just isn’t time to do everything but we enjoyed a visit to the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium, Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef. We had our own personal guide pointing out interesting facts first and then went to the Predator Dive Show. Whilst in the auditorium listening to a diver underwater talk about the sharks circling him, a child asked him how he lost his finger. I hadn’t even noticed his missing digit but turns out a snake bit him!
We didn’t so much enjoy the bus driver who didn’t have a good word to say to anyone getting on the 204! Cranky pants criticised Mike for not speaking loudly enough, I was told off for turning my back on the approaching bus as he could have taken by head off with his wing mirror, an elderly lady with a shopping trolley was told off for standing too close to the kerb and a student was told not to push her bus pass into his face! You know when things are so awful you eventually find them funny – I started giggling when the old lady began making faces behind his back and zipping her mouth shut with her fingers lol.
Airlie Beach was one of the places we stopped at after leaving Townsville. It was very busy and seems to attract a lot of young backpackers. Not our cup of tea as very touristy. There is definitely an honesty issue round these parts with petrol stations requiring you to hand in ID before filling up. Some even state wives are not accepted as ID because drivers have been known to fill up and drive off without them – honest truth! Other signs that people can’t be trusted included the barber requiring you to pay before he cut your hair and the padlock arrangement in this public toilet!
We could have added another 70 kms onto our journey and visited the Walkabout Creek Hotel at McKinlay which featured in the Crocodile Dundee movies but chose instead to stay at Julia Creek and enjoy the Artisian baths. Having a bath in the open air with drinks and nibbles was a lot of fun and helped soothe our aching muscles after our first Park Run of 2019 at Mount Isa.
Mount Isa is another mining town – predominantly copper. The powers that be decided some years ago that it was a bit risky taking tourists down an actual working mine where blasting happens daily at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Instead the town received funding to construct a mine specially for tourists. There are no seams of copper, zinc or silver but we got to dress up, descend 17 metres underground, see some of the obsolete machinery they used to use, have a cup of tea and eat a Cornish pasty! Black Jack, our tour guide was entertaining otherwise I’d have said save your money!
Charters Towers was an interesting city and when gold was discovered there on Christmas Eve in 1871 quickly grew to become Queensland’s second largest city. The mines no longer operate but the architecture still mirrors its former grandeur and there are some interesting displays at the Zara Clark Museum. A replica school room had two notices up which demonstrate the difference a Century can make.