Manly to Moruya

We packed and dragged our bags back to Helen’s. We then breakfasted at Sketch, sitting outside in the warm sunshine. Helen took us to the next car rental place before we said our sad goodbyes. Not as sad as usual though, as Helen will be coming over to the UK in a month’s time, hooray!

Helen was delighted that the wine order she’d collected last week at Heifer was duplicated: a delivery was made this morning. So the dilemma is: drink it or return it? Helen did the right thing of course and was punished by having to carry the heavy box down to the post office!

The new car was much newer than the Queenland one, but a little smaller which is ironic since we now have a huge case as well.

And so began our final road trip in Australia, before our long journey home. Manly to Melbourne, mostly along the coast road.

After leaving Sydney and its suburbs behind us, we were able to relax a bit and enjoy the scenery.

Coledale was a nice little place to stop, rugged and rocky.

Coledale Beach

This sculpture celebrates the life of all-round local good guy, Mike Dwyer. It just invites you to walk round and round and admire it from all angles.

Comradeship by Didier Balez, 2007

It was quite windy and the sea was crashing onto the beach. Not surprisingly, nobody was on the beach nor in the water.

A little later, we stopped at Wollongong for lunch.

Wollongong Serpent, the Southern Siren

I went for a walk towards the lighthouse but was unable to complete the trek due to my inability to walk on water.

Sometimes, we gnarly old farts need a little help

I did make friends with a pelican in the harbour, though. We swapped stories and fishy tales.

Just the Pelly and Me

Today’s destination was Kiama Blowhole. It was windy enough for a good blow, but the tide was right out, so not much action today. Well, other than everyone walking around trying to keep their hats on.

Kiama Lighthouse

If being blown along by the wind didn’t convince you of its strength, the white horses out at sea certainly would. Yes, it was windy, but the Sun was out and it was a bright afternoon.

White horses

The rock formations in this area are fascinating too, especially the attempt to emulate the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.

Kiama rocks, OK

There’s a large area of what can only be described as a lunar landscape. And in the middle of all the desolation, there’s one small plant, one giant leap for plantkind.

Little plant growing out of rock

Our b&b in Kiama was called Itchycoo Park so of course I had that song in my head all night.

The wind died down at some point overnight. The brief peace and quiet was disturbed though by a tradesman turning up early to demolish the balcony over our heads as a prelude to Neil, our host, building an extension, with a great view towards the northern Sun.

We returned to the blowhole in the morning where it was performing very well.

Thar she blows
Much calmer Kiama sea today

Today was Jenny’s birthday. I shouldn’t give away a lady’s age, but this is interesting. She is now 6². I am 8². If you add our ages, you get 10². Yes, we are like the squares on the sides of a right-angled triangle. Very special. That sounds better than saying that our ages now total 100, so I won’t mention that.

Liesel and I went for a walk on the beach at Gerroa. The wind had found us again and our legs were sand-blasted and exfoliated perfectly. Fascinating watching the little sand dunes form and move across the beach, like an old Open University Geography demonstration.

Whistling, whispering sands

Despite the strong wind and the raging sea, we found a group of hardy souls, actually in the water, trying to learn how to surf. A Surf Skool in the Sea in a Gale.

Surfers with L plates

Berry is a lovely, quiet little town. There are lots of interesting knick-knack type shops. We saw something nice or cute or unusual in most places, even some furniture that we like the look of, but of course, we didn’t buy anything. Except in the toy shop: that was totally irresistable. I just hope we don’t have to go out now and buy and even bigger case to put the new purchases in!

Alexander Berry, popular with birds, yes, and so popular with people, they named the town after him

The wind in Berry wasn’t as strong nor as cold, so it was delightful just walking up and down the streets, window shopping.

Dog taking shelter under a cow

I found one shop offering Intravenous Coffee, seems like a good idea, so I went in but they just gave it to me in a cup, like a normal coffee shop.

IV Coffee
Dog in a boat on the roof

Proceeding southwards on the A1, we were surprised to see smoke in a few places. Just a few, late, controlled fires even though it’s very nearly Winter here.

Smoke in the distance

By the time we reached Hyam’s Beach, a little later in the day, it was a colder breeze again. Neil had told us earlier that Hyam’s Beach claims to have the purest white sand in the world.

What does the sand at Hyam’s Beach do?

Well, it is white and soft and squeaky but I think the authorities at Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays might have something to say about Hyam’s claim.

What else does Hyam’s Beach have to offer? More black smoke over there, a couple of youngsters fishing, plus, at the water’s edge, a young couple reenacting that scene from the film ‘From Here to Eternity’.

More smoke over in the distance
Fishing
Just good friends

But the pièce de résistance was without doubt seeing this cloudbow, which appeared fleetingly just before the Sun set.

Cloudbow

The b&b today stunk: someone described it as ‘funky chicken’. It had the smell of an old person’s flat where they never open the windows, overcook all the food, and smoke. This hosts were friendly enough, admitted to smoking but only in the back of the house and they were proud to be cooking up two days worth of stew. Well, I hope they enjoy it because we certainly didn’t enjoy the stench it produced. We drove into Huskisson where we had a gorgeous meal.

Needless to say, we didn’t hang around in the morning for breakfast, we just wanted to get away before all our clothes became infected with the cigarette smoke and the stew grease fumes and the air fresheners that were fighting a losing battle. I just found it unpleasant, but poor old Liesel doesn’t have the most robust set of lungs at the best of times.

A few deep breaths of fresh air and we were back on the road.

To prevent landslides, there are a few places by the A1 (and presumably elsewhere) where they’ve sprayed concrete all up the hill, a common sight in Malaysia. But here, the colour they’ve chosen here is a better match to the background earthy colours.

We stopped at a place called Milton, where the views could be English pastoral scenes, evoking paintings by Constable.

Milton scenes

Breakfast at Ulladulla was very welcome. The Sun was out, the sky was blue, hardly a breeze, we found a place mentioned in some of the literature, Native!, and it lived up to its reputation.

Ulladulla Harbour

Boats in harbours always make me happy and I wonder if this is because one of my very first jigsaw puzzles, when I was small, depicted such a scene?

A fish out of water

I had more fun than Liesel did in Ulladulla for which I feel very guilty. No I don’t. I sat in the library writing while she sat in the car looking out for Traffic Wardens, or Rangers as they are called here.

When I reached a stopping point, I went to meet Liesel and was delighted to find this sundial, with its unorthodox orientation and gnomon placement. It told the right time as far as I could tell, taking into account the equation of time and daylight savings, but I could see no reason why it was set up this way. It was erected in celebration of Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988.

Sundial at Ulladulla

Burrill Beach at Dolphin Point has no crocodiles, hooray, no mention of jellyfish, fantastic, so a lovely place to go for a dip, you’d think.

Burrill Beach warnings

But even without those hazards, the high waves plus the strong winds were far too intimidating for us.

Burrill Beach surf’s up

I went for a quick walk along the beach and had the place to myself again. At one end of the beach, there was no wind. One minute, I had to hold my hat on, the next I’m standing feeling the heat of the Sun on my back. Magic.

Calm end of the beach

I tried to make friends with the oystercatchers, but they weren’t interested. I was intrigued by the structure of the beach’s surface here, though: usually you see roughly parallel lines in the sand, whether from waves or from wind.

Sand like orange peel

Yet another reason why I regret not pursuing a geology course at some point.

Burrill Beach has many holiday homes and would probably be a great place to spend more time. But a lot of those homes don’t look out over the sea. There are tall trees in the way. Or, if you’re really unlucky, you look out over the caravan park that is right next to the beach.

Just when you’re thinking, ooh, we haven’t seen any wildlife for a while, we turn a corner in Kioloa and find a field full of kangaroos relaxing.

Field of kangaroos

And if that wasn’t enough, just along the road, we passed by a house with several kangaroos in the front garden. These were not at all timid: in fact, they seemed disappointed that I didn’t offer them any food. But I swear the one at the front rolled his eyes when I asked, “What’s up, Skip?”

Garden of kangaroos

It was bright and sunny in Bateman’s Bay too and although we didn’t see much of the town itself, we did find some great sculptures.

The octopus on a buoy certainly drew our attention.

Buoyansea by Jesse Graham
Lavender is an old, old, old, old lady (RIP Ken Nordine)
Dance by Haruyuki Uchida
Selfie on the Bay
Portal by John Fitzmaurice

Our final stop tonight was at our b&b in Moruya. On the way, we passed this sign, so now I had another song in my head.

Roll over, Batehaven

When we entered the premises, we held our breath but, phew, this place didn’t smell too bad at all. And relax!

Dubbo Zoo

‘Twas a cold night in Orange. That’s the second time I’ve been able to say that. It occurs about every one third of a century.

In 1986, Sarah, Jenny and I slept in a campervan in a campsite in Orange. It was cold. So cold, there was ice on the windows in the morning. It was our coldest night camping ever.

Today, we woke up to a temperature of 45°F (7°C). A few months ago, we were enjoying 45°C (113°F). One extreme to the other. There was dew on the grass, maybe even frost, that’s how cold it was.

Cold, crunchy grass

During the nearly two hour drive, we passed a few wallabies and kangaroos wondering why their early morning grass was so crunchy. But it warmed up nicely, the sky was clear and blue, so a good day was definitely in store.

I’d last visited Dubbo Zoo in 1986: a return visit was well overdue.

Rainbow in the fountain

We arrived just in time to Prowl the Pridelands, to look at the lions. The bus accommodates over 20 guests, but there were just the three of us on this tour.

Four young brothers live and play together, and take advantage of the shadow cast by the bus.

In the shadow
In the light

Their parents are in a large, separate area, and they all looked very content. So would we if we could sleep for 16-20 hours a day.

It would be cruel and heartless to pull a lock of hair from a lion’s mane, but that’s exactly what someone has done.

Lion’s mane hair

It’s surprisingly coarse and it would have been difficult to untangle the dreadlock into which it had been wrought.

Taronga Western Plains, aka Dubbo, Zoo is very spacious, 300 hectares, so the animals have plenty of room to roam. The disadvantage for us visitors is that sometimes, they’re way over there on the other side of the field.

We hired a buggy to drive around the 6 km circuit. It didn’t necessarily mean less walking altogether, but we were able to visit pretty much all the inmates.

Parking the buggy

The meerkats were very active: well, some of them.

You have a rest while I do all the digging
Black rhino taking it easy

The zebras and other big animals are behind a moat and a fence that are well concealed until you’re up close, giving the impression of wide open spaces.

Zebra laughing at our shadows
Giraffes over there by the trees

In 1986, when we visited Dubbo Zoo, we hired bikes to cycle around. Sarah had 2-year old Jenny on the back of her bike. After a short while, I realised there were no brakes so I rode back to complain, and was told that you have to back-pedal to brake. Obvious. Well, later on, as we rode towards the hippopotamus pond, down a slope, Sarah momentarily forgot how to brake and she and Jenny nearly ended up joining the hippos in the water.

Today, we arrived at the hippopotamus enclosure in style, on four wheels. We listened to the Hippo Talk, haha, no, we listened to a zookeeper talk about the hippos. There is one way apart from the obvious to tell the difference between males and females. A nice, neat pile of poo is probably deposited by a female. Males tend to poo and pee at the same time and get their tail spinning round like a propellor to spread it far and wide. A better metaphor for Brexit I have never seen.

Hungry hippo
White rhinoceros way over there

We watched a baby elephant having a nice mudbath followed by a dry dirt shower.

Elephant eating apples

I started singing “There’s a starman waiting in the sky” as we approached the black apes. The sideways text on the sign soon became clearer: siamang.

Siamang hanging about

Two of them were playing on the rope bridge over the water. Later on, one ate a carrot while the other ran off with a lettuce or something. Both kept their backs to us, they obviously know humans would be after their food, given half a chance.

Liesel and I hadn’t seen camels in the wild in the Northern Territory, so we were delighted to see some here. Liesel asked the question so I told her about the two different kinds. Bactrian camels have two humps, like the letter B. Dromedaries have one hump, like the letter D. I was hoping to find a sign confirming this.

Camels

The sign just described all the residents here as Arabian Camels. No Asian Bactrians, it seems.

We heard a booming noise. I thought it was the siamang using the echo chamber built into his throat. Liesel thought it was the lion. We never did find out the origin of the slightly spooky noise.

A quartet of locals: emu, koala, echidna and quokka

The quokka was cute but we couldn’t approach any closer than from the viewing platform, several metres above.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we were sitting outside the giftshop. I was eating my apple and this did not go unnoticed. The ring-tailed lemur over the water was watching me like a hawk. It wanted my apple but I don’t feel guilty about eating the whole thing all by myself, thank you very much.

Salivating ring-tailed lemur

If we’d wanted to visit Africa, this signpost would have been very helpful.

Kalahari: this way or that way?

It was a fun day at the zoo, probably one of the best zoo days we’ve ever had. Not once did we think the animals looked a bit unhappy or stressed and that makes a lot of difference. The weather was perfect, there weren’t too many other people, the buggy was fun to drive and none of us fell out.

The drive back over the hills to Orange was pretty, especially as the Sun began to set.

Sunset near Orange
Mick resting his eyes

This photo is being used as evidence that I fell asleep in the back of the car. Well, yes, I did rest my eyes for a minute or two.

As we were in Helen’s car, we mostly listened to her music. So lots of Snow Patrol and Killers. At Liesel’s request, we listened to the soundtrack from the film The Big Chill.

We kept the house slightly warmer tonight, but the floor was still cold, made from some material designed to suck all the warmth out of your feet.

To Orange

We woke up in Manly, several degrees further south and several degrees cooler than Queensland. In the morning, after work, Helen and Liesel went to the shopping mall. My invitation is still in the post, so I went for a massage and a walk instead.

A fire engine and several police cars in close proximity plus a few people looking at something: the something was a damaged car. It’s hard to see how a vehicle can be driven fast enough to cause that much damage in the narrow roads of Manly, but Helen assures me it happens all the time.

Grey, cloudy Manly Beach

Manly Beach provided two contrasting views. In one direction, a bit grey and gloomy. In the other, bright blue skies, an image worthy of a picture postcard.

Picture postcard Manly Beach

My second perambulation of the day was arranged to coincide with the ridiculously early sunset time of 5pm.

Early sunset

I was surprised to see so many people still out and about and playing in the sea.

A little bit later

For supper, Helen had baked pies for me. As requested. Pies with Quorn chunks and leeks. I do like pies and it’s been disappointing a couple of times to come across a pie shop only to find it’s not open. Or in some cases, to find that the only pies totally sold out are the vegetarian pies. I like pies and I miss pies probably more than any other single food item. Really looking forward to a pie fest when we get home. Lovely pies, thanks, Helen!

I’ve not watched any proper TV for ages but tonight, we watched the first episode of “Gentleman Jack”, several hours before it was shown back in the UK! Well, we watched half of it. Martha and William called Helen after their swimming lessons and we watched them on a laptop screen rather than a phone screen, both talking, both delightful to watch. William is quite happy to pilfer tomatoes from Martha. He’s quite happy to climb out of his chair and onto the table. He’s 18 months old, in case you’d forgotten.

Liesel and I have suffered a few early mornings but today’s early rise in Manly was really hard.

Adam’s away for work, so Helen’s offered to take Liesel and me away for a couple of days. Our third Aussie road trip on this visit. We left the apartment at 7am, drove through the busy streets of Sydney but, as a multiple-occupied car, we were allowed in the special inside lane for special people.

The city views were enhanced by the odd patch of mist.

Early mist in Richmond

Sydney’s a big city, it takes hours to drive through all the suburbs. And people commute these great distances too, which we all would find so depressing.

We stopped briefly at the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens and what a beautiful view over the Blue Mountains. The Sun was out, it was a bit misty in the valleys, there were some Autumnal colours.

Misty Blue

A Japanese artist would produce a much better image than my camera ever could, but it was a sunning view.

We had a quick look at some of the botanicals too, and as usual, a longer visit here is recommended.

Wollemi, a prehistoric pine

This display of colour is in direct competition with anything at the Chelsea Flower Show, which is on right now.

Forever Autumn

The sundial was fantastic: if we had a garden, this would fit right in.

Botanic Gardens Sundial

We stopped for lunch in Bathurst, and this is another cute little place that we need to explore more. The architecture is very attractive, once you look up from the modern-day shop façades.

Bathurst

Helen coped with it very well, but I wondered whether this ‘squareabout’, a square roundabout at a crossroads, which you drive around the wrong way, was designed purely to confuse the slightly less astute visitor.

Squareabout in Bathurst

The landscapes and skyscapes were great to look at: sometimes, we could have been looking at an English pastoral scene, but then you’d see something quintessentially Australian, and come back to reality.

We arrived at Heifer Station Cellar Door where we went on a tour of the vineyard, on a golf buggy. We sampled wines as we progressed, stopping every few minutes while our guide told us about the different grapes they grow here and the different wines produced.

The vines

We tried sparkling, white, rosé and red. They were all good, I recognised some of the flavours but my suggestion that one had a hint of licorice was slightly poopooed! One of the sampled wines was only bottled five days ago.

There are some animals here too, including a petting zoo with a Shetland pony, some goats and a pig. Best of all was the hieland coo.

Hieland coo

We all bought several bottles and if we don’t drink it all, Liesel and I will have to lug some bottles all the way home.

Car on a tree stump

Mount Canobolas is the highest peak in this section of the range. It is claimed that, looking west, there is nothing higher until you reach Madagascar. We drove to the summit in order to watch the sunset. We didn’t see Madagascar.

It was a little bit colder up on top, but the views were good, in all directions.

Setting Sun behind the Central Mapping Authority Geodetic Station
Selfie of the day (thanks, Helen)
Orange sunset near Orange

It became dark very quickly once the Sun set. Helen drove us to our b&b in Orange, stopping in town so we could buy some groceries.

It was a cold house. There, I said it. The floor is made of ice, or so my feet told me. We turned on the heater. A few days ago, we were still using air conditioning. No more. Heat is required. Helen and Liesel both feel the cold more than I do, but it was a bit of a shock coming into this cold storage unit pretending to be holiday accommodation. Brrr.

Back to Manly

We had a breakfast of Linda McCartney sausage rolls plus peanut butter on toast plus bananas plus a cup of tea. Later on we had coffees, snack bars and a cookie. Our evening meal was wood fired pizza and soft drinks from nearby Bundaberg. This concludes today’s exciting foodie blog.

While breaking our fast, we saw a couple of bush turkeys out in the field.

Bush Turkey 1: Oh no, there’s a human.
Bush Turkey 2: Suppose we’d better run away.
BT1: They’re OK, it’s Jack that worries me.
BT2: Yes, he gives a good chase, him and his one sticky-up ear and one lying-down ear.
BT1: That always makes me laugh.
BT2: I’m not sure his heart’s in it really, he very rarely even barks.
BT1: Well, as a last resort, we can always fly a bit, he can’t, he won’t catch me.
BT2: I’m not that worried. That dog couldn’t catch a cold on a wet Tuesday in Macclesfield.
BT1: Oooh, Macclesfield, aren’t you well-travelled!

We thanked Susie for her hospitality, for the peace and quiet, and set off for another long day in the car.

An almost empty road with a distant mountain

After all the rain, or maybe it was our imagination, everything looked a little bit brighter and greener. Well, not everything, not the sky, that varied between very dark grey and very bright blue with white fluffy clouds.

We stopped by a school playing field and successfully avoided being arrested.

This magpie approached: maybe he’s used to being fed by passers-by.

Magpie on the running track

As I walked around the running track, I was keeping an eye on the trio of kangaroos just lying there. I managed to approach closer than expected before they stood up. I cautiously stayed behind a tree. They were big, I think the tallest kangaroos we’ve seen so far.

Uh-oh, here comes trouble, I’ll stand up
Hello, Big Boy
Maybe a quick hop is called for

Our first planned stop was just south of Rockhampton. We’d had to give both Rocky and Yeppoon a miss this time, but today was a landmark occasion.

Tropic of Capricorn

We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn so for the first time in 71 days, we are no longer in the Tropics.

Capricorn Spire

This Spire marks the position and other cities on this line of latitude are commemorated too.

Where to next? Rio de Janeiro or Johannesburg?

We saw several goods trains, each with dozens of cars. I hate to think how many tonnes of coal were being taken south while empty cars were being taken back north. The coal industry is a big debating point during the current elections here.

Part of a coal train

We didn’t expect to see a giraffe in Queensland, except in a zoo maybe, but nevertheless, here is one.

Giraffe

Liesel commented that some of the conical hills look like Hershey’s Kisses.

We wondered whether Mount Jukes is a real mountain and what are the criteria for a hill being a mountain anyway?

The lush, green landscape gave way to what one of us called “brown and ugly”. I disagreed and said it had its own kind of beauty. The red/brown colour of the clay seems to be the default colour in a lot of places, though.

The sign warning us of “Slow trucks carrying explosives for the next 5 km” should have caused alarm, but it was another interesting or fascinating feature that eluded us.

Driving north along the A1, Bruce Highway, Highway 1, there were several convoys of army vehicles. We wondered whether they were heading for far north Queensland in case emergency help and rescue is needed once (now ex-) Tropical Cyclone Ann strikes land. Or maybe Cyclone Trevor has already caused damage? It’s very hard to keep up to date with an intermittent internet connection.

One rare sight today was the petrol price: 147.7 per litre. Point seven? Petrol prices are always something-expensive.9 in whatever currency.

We passed a sign pointing towards the Old Bruce Highway. Who was Old Bruce, I wondered. Probably Robert the Bruce, suggested Liesel. He would never come to Australia if he knew about the spiders here, I surmised!

At some point, Liesel said we should be recording some of the bizarre conversations we were having in the car. I thought that was a good idea so I have just done so.

Musical ents today were provided by Martha Tilston, Kirsty MacColl and Sam Brown.

Cécile met us at the b&b in Maryborough. She’s From France, lived in Fiji for five years and is now in Queensland. I didn’t ask her who she’s on the run from.

We went out for a pizza but the place we were aiming for appears to have closed down. Plan B was a Wood-fired pizza place.

Over the road, we watched children and others having a good time in Anzac Park, the skate park. We saw people on BMX bikes, skateboards and scooters, all doing crazy stunts and sometimes falling off.

Fun in the skate park

We’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time. At last, here is Liesel together with Mary Poppins: two practically perfect people together at last!

Mary Poppins delighted to meet Liesel

Mary’s creator, PL Travers, was born here in Maryborough, and Maryburgians are very proud. Crossing the road here is a delight, so I did so couple of times.

Pedestrian crossing lights

When we returned, Cécile showed us a lovely, shiny green frog that she’d found in her garden: they live in the area. It was croaking for help and I was glad to see it released again. Spooky that it doesn’t appear in any of my photos. I think it must be a vampire frog.

It was a long day in the car, but we enjoyed it so much, we opted for a second long day in the car. This time, all the way to Brisbane where we had an appointment with a Tiger. A Tiger Air flight to Sydney. We felt bad about not giving Maryborough much of our time, but that’s not unusual these days.

Goodbye Cécile. And…

…Goodbye, Mary

We also missed out on the Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, Noosa Heads. Next time!

Google Maps took us on a road parallel to the A1, probably because it felt the three minutes saved were important. It would have saved even more time if it had told us to turn right at a certain point rather than insisting we stay on the same, wrong road for 53 km.

We passed by a few kangaroos grazing at the far side of a field.

Fascinating cloud formations

On Highway 15 to Gympie, we saw signs warning us of the possible presence of all kinds of wildlife on the road: kangaroos, horses, koalas, school buses, echidnas. And all we saw were a few cows and a few goats, not even on the road.

We also saw a convoy of Morris Minors, all bright colours, beautifully polished, I’m guessing not off to the breakers on this occasion.

The A1 became the M1. For a long time, we’ve been seeing signs for PC World, and I thought it was a bit strange. Turns out PCW stands for Pacific Coast Way. This road must be the one of the most polynymous in the world: A1, M1, PCW, Bruce Hwy, Hwy 1, State Hwy 1. No wonder Google Maps gets confused.

But it wasn’t long before we dropped the car off, flew to Sydney, and found ourselves on board the Manly Ferry. A flock of seagulls (not the 1980s synth-pop band) joined us on our voyage across Sydney Harbour. The nearly full Moon was peeping out from behind the clouds and I spent far too much time and wasted far too much film trying to get a photo of a bird in front of the Moon. Well, not film, but the limited storage in my phone.

Artistic shot of the day

It was lovely to see Helen who met us with food from the Japanese restaurant, Mira: we wolfed it down back at her apartment. Sorry about the further outburst of foodie bloggage.

In real life, the results of the Australian General Election were coming in. Good to see so many women but other than that, what a widerange of old, middle class, white males on display, both politicians and TV presenters.

Castlerock Farm Eco Stay

Before leaving Dolphin’s Head Resort, I went for a quick walk as we were in for a long drive later. The part of the beach close to us was rocks but way over there in the distance is a nice sandy beach.

The rocky beach

But it is out of reach to us mortals. All the ‘beachfront’ accommodation is private property. I could buy a house here and get my share of the beach, but I’ll leave it for the crocs and jellyfish to make friends with the occupants instead.

One of the exclusive beachfront properties

We refuelled the car, bought some vittles and set off. We decided to miss out on seeing Mackay due to time constraints.

It was Mother’s Day here last weekend and I always miss my Mum on that day. This year, I would have bought her the best present ever.

Happy Mother’s Day

It was another grey day but not raining. The road was long, we drove for the best part of five hours. We passed more sugar cane, more cattle, more trees, lots of grass, caravans, campervans, a crocodile… yes, that was a surprise.

Crocodile on a shop front

Some of the roadsigns were quite funny.

How long to go, Dad?
Still 2 hours to Rockhampton, kids!

We saw signs warning us of stock on the road for the next 10 or 20 km, but we only saw cattle in fields.

There were signs telling us about the presence of koalas for the next 20 km, but we didn’t see any at all. In fact, as far as we could tell, there weren’t many eucalyptus trees for us to look in as we drove by.

The authorities have our welfare at heart. So many signs telling us to have a rest, where the next rest area is. “Rest or RIP”.

I thought this one was a Batman logo from a distance.

Driver fatigue crash zone

“Don’t sleep and drive”.

Today’s soundtrack was provided by Pink Floyd. I tapped my foot and drummed my fingers on the door handle. Liesel accused me of tapping completely out of time with the music. I pointed out that Pink Floyd sometimes have very unusual time signatures and crazy rhythm patterns and… but I couldn’t keep a straight face.

Tropical Cyclone Ann is likely to make landfall in northern Queensland in the next few days, the first May cyclone to hit since 1989. I heard a couple of guys talking the other day about a place that had been evacuated.

After hours and hours of taking it in turns to drive, we turned off the A1 (Highway 1) towards Byfield National Park. I keep saying Byfleet of course, because my larynx has muscle memory of familiar placenames from home.

A hillock in Baga National Park

In an otherwise flat or gently undulating area, this rock could not be more out of place.

Susie met us at Castlerock Farm Eco Stay, where we are staying in a caravan for a couple of nights.

Our home: caravan plus tarp cover

A caravan with an awning. It’s gonna be a tight squeeze. The waterless composting toilet is quite a trek so we’ll leave a couple of lights on. The cooking area is ok but not 100% mosquito-proof. We’ve been warned that small bats sometimes come in and leave their mark on the floor.

We really are in the middle of nowhere, no 4G, the only wifi is just outside Susie’s house and it feels a bit rude to loiter there too long, although she said we were welcome to.

We’ve heard several birds, especially around the time of sunset.

A bit of a sunset

Susie told us about the snakes and the huntsman spiders, putting a little more adventure into our planned bush walks!

It rained all night and when it wasn’t raining, water continued to drip (pour) onto the tarpaulin ‘roof’ just six inches above our dozing noses. Despite that and a few nocturnal bladder-related excursions, I felt refreshed in the morning. Liesel not so much.

Hello there, Sunshine

I brought cups of tea and bananas back to the caravan. Liesel later brought back jam and peanut butter rolls. Then we got out of bed and went for a walk around the farm hoping to see spiders at least, but no such luck. No snakes either which I have mixed feelings about. A few birds and butterflies full of the joys of what passes for Autumn here

I lost count of the number of mosquito bites I acquired: the Germolene will be working overtime later.

Very pretty red and yellow flower

We enjoyed walking by a variety of fruit trees: lemon, lime, mandarin, persimmon, mango, banana and although we didn’t come across any, there are avocado trees here too.

Fruit bowl

It was the perfect temperature, just a little damp. We’ve gone from hot and humid to comfortable but damp in just a few days.

Small pond

We both returned to our kitchen/living quarters with sweat pouring off, something we’d not anticipated.

The rest of the day was a day of rest. Reading, writing, arithmetic. Well, two out of three, anyway. We listened to the wind in the trees, the odd few birds, we chatted with Susie before she drove into Yeppoon.

The outdoor shower water is heated by a donkey. Not that sort of donkey, but a wood fire burner water heater that Susie lights each day at 4pm. We can have showers at other times, but we’d have to fight, I mean light, the donkey ourselves. It was a very pleasant shower: I think we both would have stayed longer if the water was on tap rather than from a tank. Maybe a bit strange having a shower outside while wood fire smoke billows around, but it was a mosquito-free zone.

The Moon rose and the Sun set marking the end of another fantastic day.

Moon behind the palm trees

The buzzing sound in the kitchen was made by what we thought was a plain old housefly, but it was much more interesting, we noticed, when it landed on the window.

Pretty fly

Again, it rained for much of the night but being inside, under cover, warm, cosy and dry is a wonderful feeling.

To Dolphin’s Head

The wind and rain kept me awake for much of the night, I’m just not used to this sort of weather any more. Liesel slept through though, not even hearing whatever animal was making a really strange, loud noise in the early hours. No, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Liesel.

Ali’s artwork: we found Nemo

We enjoyed our breakfast at The Hungry Goat, though we did feel sorry for the staff there being micromanaged by the proprietor. He had his finger on every pulse, he was aware of everyone’s order, he just could not trust his assistants get on with their jobs.

He even read out our order to the young guy, surprisingly not looking too flustered, who was ringing up our bill. Vego breakfast. Omelette. Two teas. “Is that two tee-shirts?” asked Mr Unflustered. “Two pots of tea.” Ah.

There’s a moth in the toilet, dear Liza, dear Liza

It was a grade A grey day. Dreich would normally be the word, only it was still warm, today. In the 20s rather than the 30s, but the rain and the solid leaden sky just took away all the colour.

Clouds creeping down the mountain

Sometimes we stop to look at things and take photos and sometimes I just shoot from the moving car. Today, I seemed to be really unlucky, getting road furniture in front of the interesting phenomenon I’m aiming at.

Mount Jukes

We passed more sugar cane, even after seeing a sign telling us that there were no more cane trains from now on. Some fields could have been rice, they were so flat, well organised and water-logged.

We passed a few herds of cattle including a field where most of the cows were generously taking some white birds for a ride.

Cape Hillsborough was a bit of a detour, but worth it. Kangaroos and wallabies can be seen on the beach at sunrise and sunset but we arrived exactly between those two times.

The path to Cape Hillsborough Beach

Some trees by the path leading to the beach were almost silver in appearance, very pretty.

Despite the fact that it was raining, Liesel joined me for a walk on the beach. I continued when she returned to the sanctuary of the car.

No animals on the beach, just lots of rocks, really weird rocks and boulders, some of them looked artificial with what looked like sheets of metal between the different layers.

Rock, crystal, minerals, just like our window box at home
Lots of different rocks cooked up like a geological Eton Mess

I was reminded of a Kate Bush album cover when I saw this rocky outcrop reflected in the sea, resembling a soundwave.

Aerial album cover rip-off

Turtles lay their eggs on this beach too, so I hope we’ll be back sometime to see all the various animals on the beach.

Just along the road, there’s a boardwalk through the mangroves which I enjoyed so that Liesel didn’t have to. You can see the change between where the water is mainly fresh and where it’s tidal, so predominantly salty. Lots of information boards told us about the precarious balance between the lifeforms here, and asking how will a potential sea level rise of 2.8 mm affect this environment?

Wet Boardwalk (not the 1970s country singer)

Some of the trees definitely had their own personalities: I would love to hear what they talk about when people aren’t around.

Tree eating a pig: just the head to go

I don’t know whether this tree was struck by lightning, but there was no other fire damage around: maybe the fire was a long, long time ago.

Fire-damaged tree (some of)

We heard kookaburras and other birds but apart from a quick flash of wings up above, I didn’t see any. There were a few butterflies braving the rain too.

Further along the road, we saw a tree with a bell on it. You can tell how old it is by counting its rings.

A bell in a tree

Lots of cows, but no sheep. Except this one, quickly snapped from the passenger seat.

Big ram

The rain never really let up and by the time we reached Bucasia Beach, we had the windscreen wipers going pretty much all the time. The rain didn’t stop me from having a good time all by myself on a beach the size of a hundred football pitches. (I have no idea if it really was the size of a hundred football pitches but it’s the kind of comparison much loved by TV commentators, and they never get fact-checked either.)

Bucasia Beach

There was a delightful stream flowing into the sea, which I walked the length of, admiring the eddies and currents, watching the vortices and the low banks of sand being eroded. A good representation of how actual rivers are created over a longer time period.

Stream on the beach

I even caught myself running rather than walking for a bit: nothing like a bit of exercise in the rain. From the top, some vegetation was encroaching onto the sand adding a rare splash of colour to the day.

Creeper on the sand

It was still precipitating when we arrived at our abode for the night, at a place called Dolphin’s Head. We’re on the first floor and we have a balcony from where we can see the beach.

The beach view from our balcony

The waves are crashing onto the rocks, and I hope that’s a more relaxing sound than the rain was last night!

Whitsunday Islands

We woke up early in Airlie Beach. It was grey and cloudy and raining slightly, as forecast. The wind from the south-east was expected to pick up too.

Rain

We checked in at the Port of Airlie for our boat trip out to the Whitsunday Islands. This is the wrong name. No, I don’t mean they should have been the WetMondays given today’s weather. The islands are named after the Whitsunday Passage, discovered by Captain Cook actually on Whit Monday, but as the International Dateline hadn’t yet been agreed, he didn’t realise. If the islands had been discovered on the 7th November, we might well have been visiting the Captain Cook’s Birthday Islands instead. This is the sort of train of thought that occurs when you rise too early and need a bit more sleep.

Coffee, muffin, toast all contributed to waking up, eventually.

Looking back towards Airlie Beach

The boat ride was quite pleasant, just a bit bumpy out in open water.

We had a brief stop at Daydream Island to pick up a couple of people.

Daydream Island

We stopped at Hamilton Island too, but we knew we’d be returning here later on. It had stopped raining, but the sky was still grey, which is a shame. There are over 80 islands in this group and on a clear day, on this particular cruise, you could see over 20 of them.

The jetty at Hamilton

I mentioned the toast, and on the next leg of the trip, we were given fruit, water melon, pineapple and honeydew melon as well as muffins. I guess they wanted us to sink were we to go swimming.

As we approached Whitsunday Island itself, the largest of the group, we could see the long white Whitehaven Beach from a long way out.

First view of Whitehaven Beach

There are lovely photos of sand swirling around in the water, but this feature is at the northern end of the beach. We were going to anchor at the southern end. Liesel and I thought we’d walk the length of the beach, just to see the swirling sands. The captain announced that if guests wanted to walk the length of the beach to see the swirling sands, don’t even try, because it’s too far to walk and you’ll never get back in time for the return boat. So that was us telt.

We transferred to a small tender which took us to the beach. Liesel and I went for a walk along one of the trails, hoping for a good view.

View from the summit of Solway Circuit
Another view from the summit of Solway Circuit

Part of the Solway Circuit was closed for refurbishment, so we walked there and back on the same path. We enjoyed a few moments of solitude on the rocky summit before other people began to arrive.

Selfie of the day

Back on the beach, we made friends with a goanna or Australian monitor lizard. He was very friendly, apart from sticking his tongue out all the time, not fazed by people at all.

Coming to get ya…
Nice, friendly, pretty goanna

Liesel and I went for a walk along the silica sandy beach, exfoliating our heels as we went and in my case, acquiring a splinter in the sole of my foot. A recent storm has destroyed a lot of trees around here and there is a lot of dead wood on the beach.

Deadwood stage (for Doris Day RIP)
Where’s Liesel?

It is a gorgeous beach, and we were pleased that only a small number of people are allowed here at a time. On a sunny day, we would be seeking out shade, but today was made for walking.

One of our fellow travellers was straight out of a perfume ad, Stenche de BlancHaven maybe, especially when the breeze picked up her floaty red dress.

Lady in red

The ride back to Hamilton Island was a bit exciting, the wash and the water on the windows distorting the view of the other islands.

A slightly distorted island

Hamilton Island is one big, big resort, as far as we can see. The harbour, or marina, is really busy.

Hamilton Marina

By now, the clouds were dispersing, some blue was recapturing the sky and we delighted in the short walk round to the Marina Tavern where we enjoyed the lunch that was included with the cruise ticket.

We went upstairs for a better view, and celebrated with a customer who won $165 for a $5 bet: this was the gaming area. The balcony was the smoking area: I’d forgotten there were such places.

Golf buggies are available for hire so you can drive yourself around the island. No, that’s too common for us, we wanted a utility vehicle.

Mick in a ute

The legitimate user of this vehicle asked if I wanted a ride. I said, no thanks, I’m married.

Beaucoups de buggies

We did go for a quick ride on the free bus service, mainly because a big lunch followed by a big ice cream meant that we just wanted to sit for a bit.

The clouds returned, we were full and tired, so we caught an earlier return boat to Airlie Beach. The day started early, the day ended early, the universe is back in balance.