Gone Fishing

Gone Fishing, Ballina

Fishing in Ballina

With Australia being bounded on all sides by water, its hardly surprising that one of the main pastimes here is fishing. It’s not just men, we’ve seen plenty of women and children casting off from bridges, harbour walls and beaches. (Still haven’t found out what the collective term is for both sexes that fish. Firemen and firewomen are referred to as firefighters. If anyone knows what the term for fishermen and fisherwoman is then do please let me know!) We have yet to see anyone land a really sizeable fish but there is still a thrill when the rod bends and something appears at the end of it. Personally I have no desire to take up the sport. I still carry the physical and mental scars from my childhood of when I had to kill a trout with a priest and when a fish hook got stuck in my finger, not to mention handling worms and the smell.

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!

Food for Free and Food for Thought

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.

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day Flowers

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).

Brunswick Heads

Choppy water at Brunswick Heads

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!!!

Three Amigos!

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.

Jura Off Into The Sunset!

Jura’s new owner with pooch

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.

The Adventure Continues!

Jura’s Replacement

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?

The Rain/Shine Coast

Druket Lorikeets

Druket (Wet) Lorikeets

April Showers have been happening all week unfortunately and it put paid to our plans to visit Carnarvon Gorge. The Gorge and the main road leading to it were closed off due to flooding so we had to head south via The Country Way instead. It was actually a very scenic drive with the fields full of Brahman and Hereford cattle and sweetcorn. We passed through Banana Shire without seeing a single banana tree though! Hmmm, something of a theme happening here when it comes to fruit huh – last week there were no pineapples along the Pineapple Trail.

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).!

Emerald, Sapphire and Rubyvale …. they’re all here!

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.

Crossing Capricorn on the East Side

Original Tropic of Capricorn Memorial (East Coast)

Spot the Difference!

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!

Underwater Lecture

Cool Lecture


Fish at Reef Aquarium

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.


Welcome to Townsville

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!

Preventing Theft

You can only steal the new roll!

Overlanders Way

Welcome to Queensland

Speed limit back down to 110 after 130 in NT!

We’ve travelled over 1,000 kms since the last blog and once again have the ocean to our left as we’re now in Townsville. It wasn’t the most inspiring route but if you’re into dinosaurs then there are plenty of replica’s around on the Dinosaur Trail plus some nice windmills. Following the recent flooding we also came across lots of roadworks as well as hundreds of locusts that didn’t jump out of the way in time and covered Jura in yellow splat!

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!

Copper Mine Tour

Does My Bum Look Big In This?

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.


So long Northern Territory (NT). We cross the border into Queensland tomorrow appreciating that to have fully explored NT we should have done a 1,000 kms round trip down to Alice Springs before turning East. We’re saving that for another trip! This week’s adventures go under the various vowel sounds ………

A = aaaaaahhh

We gave a very big Hurraaaaaahhh when we learnt our bikes were finally fixed and we could move on from Darwin. Seems the cure was a good ol’ Aussie trick – applying sandpaper to the contact points! Nice as Darwin was, we felt we were stagnating having spent two weeks at the same campsite. Mind you it gave us the opportunity to visit the fabulous Museum and Art Gallery of the NT and meet up again with a lovely Norwegian couple we’d become friends with in Broome.

The sound aaaaaahhh could be heard as I floated around the thermal springs in Mantaranka. Just as well I brought more than one bikini! Bitter Springs was first. These pools were more natural (i.e. less concrete and more algae) and the water temperature was a ‘cool’ 34 degrees. We then drove on to Mantaranka Thermal Pools where the pool was surrounded by palm trees and the colour and clarity of the water was incredible. Loved it!

The next watering hole we visited that day was one of Australia’s great authentic pubs known as the Daly Waters Pub. It has a lot of character including knickers and bras hanging from the beams, signs warning about unattended children being taught to swear and an interesting happy hour. Being British we ordered pints (or schooners as they’re called here) and made no saving at all! Turns out if we’d ordered a “pot” which is a half pint we could have saved $1! This would explain why so many big burly men were standing at the bar drinking halves!

E = eeeek

You’d think I’d have got over my fear of insects and creepy crawlies by now but no! I still jump and squeal at the sound of rustling in the bush despite it usually being a lizard. This week I also had to contend with grasshoppers landing on my chest, frogs leaping out of the toilet, bats swinging from trees above and being careful not to disturb Olive Snakes and Salt Water Crocodiles! At least the spiders at the Spider Exhibition we paid to go in and see were all safely behind glass and ‘Sweetheart’, the crocodile was stuffed. Interesting fact – spiders have blue blood.

I = ay yay yay

The highlight for me this week was seeing the indigenous rock art in Kakadu National Park. Some paintings have been dated back 20,000 years. The quality of the art and the natural setting we were able to see it in made it a really moving experience. Photos depict animals, rituals and tales connected to the Creation Ancestors (aka Dreaming). For example, the last chap, Nabulwinjbulwinj (pronounced Nar-bull-win-bull-win), is a dangerous spirit who eats females after striking them with a yam!

O = ooooooohh

We did a number of walks with views this week including a climb to the Mirrai Lookout and up to Katherine Gorge, hence the oooohh’s.

Humpty Doo wasn’t that inspiring – so no eggs cracked there but we did take a couple of photos to prove it exists! Goodness knows why it needs a Park and Ride though for a journey of 450 metres!

U = uuuh oh

Just over two months left on the road so we’re starting to think about all the things we need to plan for including selling the van, organising storage for those things we’re hanging on to and making sure we give ourselves enough time to see and do all the things left on our pootling around Australia lap. Did I really say I was going to attempt a Sky Dive?

The Lap So Far

The Journey So Far!

Cyclone Trevor what an endeavour!

We’ve only travelled twelve metres away,
Cyclone Trevor ensured we extended our stay.
Thunder, lightening, rain and a breeze,
We took the precaution to move from the trees!

Cyclone Trevor’s put a spanner in the works,
However Darwin has offered some lovely perks.
Whilst walking around aimlessly, ready to drop,
We made a discovery – The Cheesecake Shop!

Strawberry, lemon, blueberry as well,
Choices, choices, my kind of hell.
Hang on a minute, two dollars a slice!
Why have one, when three would be nice?

The Deckchair Cinema is closed right now,
But the Wave Lagoon was a definite wow.
I mounted a boogie board to surf the waves,
As activities go, this was one of my favs!

Wave Lagoon

Darwin’s Wave Lagoon

The Aviation Centre, entrance fee paid,
Some bits unfortunately we would describe as “staid”.
The B52 Bomber was the highlight for us,
It’s wingspan alone created a fuss.

Mike has kept busy by visiting the gym,
Weights and cycling to keep himself trim.
Sewing and knitting that’s been my thing,
Making teddy costumes with sparkle and zing!!!

Materials are sourced from each charity shop
Some beautiful dresses are next for the chop!
My daughter has said she needs a dozen,
For Sophie’s friends and even her cousin.

Next for the chop!

Next $2 bargains for up cycling

Apart from that, our bikes are still broken,
It’s chucking it down and my washing’s now soakin’.
There’s a notice gone up, ‘Beware of the snake’
Jings and crivvens, just give us a break!

Staying In!

Staying in after dark!

We’re still on target to complete the lap,
So no need to panic or get in a flap.
Humpty Do plus Kakadu are next on the list,
That’s unless Trevor does a three sixty twist!

Soggy Bottom and Itchy Bites at the Top End

The ‘Top End’ is the name given to this area of Australia and it is the most northerly part we will visit. We are currently in Darwin and may need to extend our stay as Storm Trevor is making its way over from the east coast. The Northern Territory has only had half its average rainfall this wet season which has allowed us access to all the National Parks. We just hope Trevor doesn’t plan to dump the second half whilst we’re here! On the way up to Darwin we stopped at Edith Falls where I enjoyed a beautiful solitary swim whilst being mindful of any crocodile escapees!

The reference to my ‘soggy bottom’ has nothing to do with The Great British Bake Off and everything to do with being in an out of water. Swimming pools at the various caravan parks are getting lots of use and at Litchfield National Park I was diving in to the various water holes at every opportunity. I actually had some people company for a change so didn’t feel quite so nervous about lurking crocs! Mind you the sandflies, mosquitoes and ants are having a field day and I’m covered in itchy bites at the moment.

We came across some interesting ant structures whilst in Litchfield National Park. The first was the Cathedral termite mound which dwarfs Mike. An impressive achievement for a mere 5 mm long termite. The other mounds, slightly hidden from view behind the long grass, are made by the Magnetic termite. These clever little insects align their tower from north to south to ensure one side is always in the shade and they therefore have optimum temperature control inside their mound. Wish we could do that with Jura!

We loved lorikeet feeding time at Batchelor Caravan Park. We considered going on a jumping crocodile cruise but manipulating these wild animals to perform by dangling a carrot/meat on a stick just doesn’t do it for us.

We have enjoyed Darwin’s street art, the harbour area and Charles Darwin National Park. Darwin played an important role during the Second World War and we’ve yet to visit the Aviation Museum which is just along the road from us. Getting around Darwin has been a bit more tricky with our bikes still in for repair. We have hopped on and off local buses (avoiding the rear as they can be a bit smelly) and done a fair bit of walking.

Aussie humour is something else. I have kept back the offensive logo about seeing you in the Northern Territory. The two included here wouldn’t be tolerated in Blighty, would they?