Monthly Archives: March 2023
Bargara to Brisbane
Made it down to Bargara, on the coast out from Bundaberg, from the free camp beside the Calliope River in good time, despite a bit of a braking problem with the truck. The Big 4 at Bargara is very spacious with nice shady trees, it’s their ‘Breeze’ brand…..doesn’t quite live up to the ritzier Big 4s that have rows of huts blocking the views of mere vanners, along with jumping castles, water parks and hoards of kids running amoke. So it suits us fine, nice red cloud sunset before settling in for the night.
Allthego decided to drop into the local Isuzu dealer and get them to look at the brakes. Fortunately, they fitted us into their schedule, brakes got a going over and were fixed up satisfactorily to allow the journey to continue. Homealone put the parachute away, but it took up a day of our time in Bargara.
We have been around the Bundaberg region a few times now and little seems to change. Sugar cane, macadamias, tomatoes, strawberries and root vegetables. It is one of Queensland’s food bowls on rich volcanic soils. And of course it is home to the iconic Bundaberg Rum and Bundaberg Ginger Beer. Allthego is keen on the latter but the Rum is not really his scene, except for the banana and toffee infused liqueur version. Really good drizzled on a banana split!
A developing trend for caravan parks is to get the local food trucks to set up shop in the grounds on selected evenings. Generally, the usual sort of fast food stuff. The park here though has tied up the local South African food truck, in national colours, with some quite tasty pre and post diner nibbles. Especially, the samosas.
We had a short drive around the Burnett Heads area, this is where Bundaberg’s river meets the sea. An old area undergoing redevelopment, some nice houses along the sea front.
We have also had some in camp excitement with a python devouring a possum one evening next to our campsite. Could have trod on it when wandering off to the bathroom. It was not a big python, but it still cleaned the possum up quite quickly and then slipped away to digest it.
The sea here is supposed to be free of those jelly fish threats to life of more northern waters, so Allthego decided to go off and have a swim in the surf. Although they have been found further south on the inside of Fraser Island. Surf is a loose term as it was very gentle, the water lukewarm. A northerly was blowing , whipping the sea up a bit and as everyone knows brings in the blue bottles. A stray one latched onto Allthego causing some agitation.
Allthego, with the usual display of stoicism, made a quick return to camp for ice relief and some sympathy. Good as gold after an hour or two. I trust my readers will excuse the photo, just wanted it for the record! Things come in threes: brakes, snakes and blue bottles.
We are now back in Brisbane having stopped overnight at a free camp, near Gunalda, north of Gympie. Got to get the maps out now to see where we might be off to next. We have learnt one thing though on this trip, going north in February can be a little warm. Best we reckon to wait till towards the end of March or early April when things cool off .
Have had three nights at Clairview, succumbing to the van’s air conditioning at night to get a good sleep. Rather hot and humid here beside the sea, even with the sea breeze. Not a lot to do either, besides sitting and looking out through the trees and coconut palms watching the tide come in and out across the sand banks and also warding off the midges as the sun sets.
Clairview overlooks a shallow bay that is home to a large population of dugongs and we had hoped to see some up close. If conditions are favourable they can sometimes be seen from the shore in pods, a bit like whales. But we didn’t see any. Have to try again some other time.
After leaving Airlie Beach we made good time down to Mackay and headed out to the coal loaders at Hay Point for a gander at all the ships lined up out to sea. Unfortunately, the lookout was closed for some reason and the view from the breakwater was not good, either out to sea or of the port facilities. We continued down the coast road to Sarina Beach. This is another of those places we stayed at on that trip 43 years ago before kids. The motel still there, looking much the same. The view is certainly the same.
Nowhere for a quick late lunch though, so it was back on the road to Sarina. Pulled up there at an old milk bar type place that seemed to have every type of fast food one could want. Unfortunately, we settled for long hot chicken rolls and gravy, Homealone, had mayonnaise. Plus a serve of chips to share. No shortage of chips in these parts! Quite filling, left one with an oozie feeling in the belly which lasted all the way to Clairview and into the evening. An omelette was all that was necessary for dinner that night. Being eggs it was chicken again I suppose. The next night, chicken again! One of Allthego’s chicken and salami skewers, simple salad no chips.
The Barracrab Caravan Park is where we are, semi sardine like along the water front but overall not too bad, there is no one between us and the sea and not many behind. A couple of vap aficionados beside us puffing away, mid late 40s should know better!
Aside from dugongs Clairview is home to a good supply of mud and sand crabs. Barramundi are also supposed to inhabit the creeks. Hence the name of the park, Barracrab. As usual up this way at this time of year the sea can have those unpleasant jellyfish and warnings are aplenty. We didn’t see a barramundi or a crab, except on a crab sandwich at the camp bar. Rather good, lots of crab too!
Time to move on and we are now sitting beside the Calliope River at a free camp, about 10 km north of the Gladstone turnoff. Got here and set up around 3 pm before a vigorous thunderstorm. Now a pleasant drizzle and degrees cooler, no humidity! Why did they call this place Calliope? I don’t know. She was the Greek muse in charge of eloquence and poetry, so very fitting for a blog post!
We have made it to Airlie Beach, known as the Gateway to the Whitsundays. The Whitsundays is an area of the Great Barrier Reef dotted with islands and barely submerged reefs. The area has been inhabited by our indigenous peoples for thousands of years. It got its anglicised name from Captain Cook who cautiously navigated here on his voyage up the coastline in 1770. He came through on Whit Sunday, the 7th after Easter, and so named the area ‘Whitsundays’ (also being the feast day of Pentecost in the Christian calendar). Allthego go didn’t know that and thought he would share it with you. A little more, why ‘Whit’? Google tells me ‘Whit’ is derived from the anglo-Saxon word ‘wit’ meaning ‘understanding’. So, it was the day the disciples were filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
After leaving Cape Hillsborough we dropped into some of the small villages nestled along the coastline to the near north. Basically, they seemed like retirement spots that get a boost during holiday times. We made our way back out to the Bruce Hwy and headed north to Proserpine where the turn off to Airlie is located.
In Airlie we are staying four nights with the Funnells, old friends from Brisbane and Gold Coast days, now residing in the sunny tropics on the side of a steep hill overlooking the town and islands. Nice spot indeed. The van is off by itself in a storage yard at Cannonvale on the Airlie outskirts. Solar keeping the fridge running along ok.
We have enjoyed our time here, wandering through the town and some drives into the surrounding countryside. Very green place, sugar cane everywhere. Great views from the top of the steep hills out over the coastline to the islands. Gives one an appreciation of how they are all so close together separated by narrow channels.
While out we stopped for a light lunch at Whitsunday Gold, a local coffee plantation. Also home to a great variety of caged birds of all sorts, they are nicely caged and cared for of course. Nearby the Proserpine Museum has interesting memorabilia from the old days. Good variety of stuff and not a mental overload to get through!
Sailing is big up here, yachts and boats of all shapes and sizes. Mark F has joined a local sailing group and is out Wednesday afternoons for the local sailing club race. We had a nice meal back at the clubhouse among the after race celebrations.
Cruise ships are well and truly back, three were in port on different days, emptying their passengers into the streets and excursions to the reef. Pacific Encounter, the ship we took to Melbourne for the 2022 cup, among them. It is now adorned with a big water slide and walkway that overhangs the side. Not into ships with water slides!
The vagaries of the coastal weather have also been experienced. Sun to cloud to cloud bursts and more extensive rainy white washouts of the view from the unit balcony.
The time has come to move on though and commence the return trip south back to Brisbane. Picked the van up from storage all ok and are headed for Clairview and maybe some dugong sightings.
We have moved on from Mackay and find ourselves at the Cape, about 60km north of Mackay. Like Eungella we were here some 43 years ago. It was somewhat different back then when we camped in a small tent among the trees just off the beachfront. There is a swimming pool here now, no need to dodge the various jellyfish dangers in the ocean at this time of year. Our van site overlooks the tent sites where we camped all those years ago. The tent sites today are almost palatial compared to when we did it, some have power and water.
Being a weekend the park was pretty full up, not only with Mackay locals but also quite a few Europeans out in their vans touring the country. The Cape is a big attraction for them because of the famous early morning beach and rock roaming kangaroos. Allthego dropped down one morning at 5.30am and there were about 5 kangaroos, 12 brush turkeys and 100 tourists all trying to get a look and photo op. All this supervised by one park ranger. Later in the day the kangaroos lay day under the trees and hopped around from time to time.
We have basically sat around the van enjoying the sea breeze and cooler temperatures. Allthego wandered off on a walk out across the causeway at low tide to Wedge Island. On the full tide the causeway is completely submerged, 43 years has seen no change there or in the general beach set up.
Another walk takes you to the top of the ridge behind the campground and out to Point Alexander with views back down to the beach and along the coast.
A plunge in the pool was a welcome relief upon the return to camp.
In tune with the reliving of the old days Allthego and Homealone have locked horns on a couple of occasions over a game of Squatter, the old sheep farming game that everyone played back in the 50 /60/70s.
Allthego thinks the game has changed a bit, you now get bonuses for having environmentally favourable and sustainable farming practices. In the original game Allthego thinks you got bonuses for land clearing, maximum stocking ratios etc. Times change. After two rounds, Homealone is still searching for that elusive combination of sound financial planning and farming luck. There will be another opportunity for her on the run back to Brisbane.
We now move on to Airlie Beach where will be storing the van for a few nights and taking up lodgings with our old friends the Funnells who moved there 15 months or so ago.
Here we are in Mackay and it is hot. We are at the Discovery Park in North Mackay not far from the Marina. Not much shade and little breeze. Good excuse to get out in the car and have a drive around in the air conditioning. This is what we have done over the past couple of days.
Coming down from Eungella we stopped off in Marian, the Mackay Sugar Mill is here, and had morning tea at Melba House. In this cottage, Dame Nellie Melba lived for about 8 months before she up and left her husband; took their son with her. Nellie was Australia’s first world renowned opera singer, late 1800s early 1900s. She spent most of her time in London and Paris, didn’t think us Aussies appreciated her. Well, we now do because she is on, or was on, our $100 note. Not sure because I haven’t seen one for a long time. Anyway the Marian locals really work the 8 month connection in this old plantation house, one small room dedicated to Nellie and the rest crammed with craft works and souvenirs for sale, plus the coffee shop.
On our previous journeys up and down the coast we have never stopped in at Mackay, it seems to be that sort of distance between stops that allows one to amble by on the way elsewhere. Missing its delights. Mackay is a small city spread out on the flood plain of the Pioneer River and bordered by cane fields in almost every direction. Sugar cane was the reason for its foundation in the 19th century. It was also the main ‘beneficiary’ of the organised ‘black birding’ of south sea islanders to work for little reward on the plantations, Australia’s little known slave trade. The city has a large south sea islander descendent population. Many in the town are engaged in the coal mining industry. If the boats tied up in the marina are any indication the town is prosperous.
Although the CBD area was very quiet, with numerous empty shop fronts. Seems that there is some rejuvenation going on with big box type places, such as Bunnings, Harvey Norman, Caneland Shopping Centre etc setting up on the city’s fringe perhaps killing off the small old time family retailers and CBD stores.
Not a lot of people around, maybe inside out of the heat instead of wandering around looking at old buildings and gardens.
Had a great plate of fish n chips at the pub perched on the headland at Eimeo. One could look out over the Coral Sea and see many of the islands just off the coast. Also 30 plus coal ships at anchor awaiting loads of coal at the Hay Point terminal to the south of Mackay. The fish n chips lasted on board well into the evening, only needed some crackers for dinner.
After lunch we dropped in at Blacks Beach for a wander on the sand, one sensed it was low tide, it was a long way to the water. Allthego not tempted to have a swim.
On our last day we were looking for a light lunch and not wanting a repeat fish n chips experience, like out at the pub at Eimeo. Settled for a prawn pizza to share at the Lighthouse Hotel at the Marina. Hit the spot and Allthego is going to add it to his menu at home. Prawn, avocado, spring onion and roasted garlic cloves. Excellent.
Our campground has one redeeming feature, a really nice swimming pool to cool off in at the end of the day. And that is where we ended up before dinner.
Our next stop is Cape Hillsborough NP about 60 km north.
We have learnt how to pronounce Eungella. It seems you don’t worry about the ‘e’s. Others prefer ‘Young-gah -lah’. Eungella is 500m up in the hinterland behind Mackay in the Clark Ranges, 700m above sea level. At the end of the Pioneer Valley there is a very steep winding road up to the top. Currently, one way only with a stop light at the bottom and top to control the traffic. Lengthy wait. Recent land slips are being rectified. Once at the top there are great views looking back down the valley.
Eungella means ‘land of the cloud’, we had 3 nights in the National Park beside Broken River. There always seemed to be mist and low cloud about, particularly in the mornings. It was damp also, being one of the wettest places in Queensland. We were last here nearly 44 years ago, before kids.
We have come again to see a platypus or two. The place is famous for them. Homealone, finds the camp ground familiar and recalls walking down to the river from our tent to have a look for a platypus. We saw one back then. But this time it was more than one and over the 3 days there were many great sightings of the little fellows splashing around.
The bird life was also prolific. The Eastern Yellow Robin was very friendly around the camp and a lone Azure Kingfisher a regular visitor.
Much cooler too and less humid, light blanket was needed at night. Allthego went off on a couple of rainforest walks while Homealone rested at camp with some craft catchup.
Wandering in rainforests in summer requires one to keep eyes open along the track, Joe Blakes can be out and about. Sure enough one was lying along the track, a suspected green tree snake of some sort. Allthego doesn’t really care what snake it is and prefers to let them slither off of their own accord. This approach was applied again and green Joe slid away.
Back in camp it was pack up time to return to the low lands and warmer weather. One of the interesting things about our stopover at Broken River was that we were camped up with three couples from the Netherlands, one of which had two small children, on extended tours of Australia in Maui Campervans headed for all parts before going home. They were all enjoying their trip greatly and said we (Aussies) had a great country and we’re very friendly people. Something we should remember!
Mackay is the next stop for a couple of days in the big smoke.