Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Thursday, 2 October 2014
Paronella Park is such a huge experience, it requires a blog all of its own. And as each picture paints a thousand words, this will be more of a photo essay. For more photos and information, visit www.paronellapark.com.au .
(The following is transcribed directly from their own brochure)
Everyone has a dream, but not everyone’s dreams are fulfilled. Jose Paronella’s dream was to build a castle. He chose a special part of Australia and created Paronella Park. On 5 hectares beside Mena Creek Falls he built his castle, picnic area by the falls, tennis courts, bridges, a tunnel, and wrapped it up in an amazing range of 7,500 tropical plants and trees. It opened to the public in 1935.
Paronella Park … is State and National Heritage listed, and is a National Trust listed property. … Paronella Park is the site of Queensland’s 1st privately owned hydro electric plant (1933).
We arrived late in the afternoon, following a shopping excursion in Ingham and camped up in the front yard of the Mena Creek Hotel (free camp), then walked the short distance to the entrance of the Park itself, across a suspension bridge. My discomfort with heights (and especially moving platforms at height) is still with me – no matter how many times I endeavour to conquer it.
This bridge is not part of the Park itself, but was built in 1988 as a Bicentennial Project. It was constructed by 18 Field Squadron, 2nd/3rd Field Engineer Regiment, Royal Australian Engineers.
Mena Creek Falls (taken from the Bridge)
This picture shows the suspension bridge high above the creek and falls, with the hydro electric plant on the far right. This has recently been restored to be fully functioning and it powers the entire Park.
Upon arrival we were greeted by Mark Evans (co-owner with his wife Judy) most warmly. He was pleased to hear that we had heard his interview with Richard Fidler on Conversations. Also he knew immediately that we were the 5th Wheeler camped at the pub and when we said we were checking out the camp area at the Park for re-location the next morning he asked were we not happy where we were. Of course we are, came our reply, but it’s a one night only camp. That’s when we found out that he owned the pub as well when he replied – Well if you’re happy there you can stay there until you’ve done your tour. I’ll let the staff know.
Mark & Judy definitely know how to operate within the tourism/hospitality industry. Nothing is ever too much bother, the customer is always right, and word of mouth is the best advertising money can’t buy. We even heard him tell an older couple that if they wanted to bring their picnic lunch & thermos in to sit on the deck and enjoy, then they were more than welcome so to do!
Gordon enjoying a read & a coffee on the deck, prior to our day tour.
An arrangement of tropical flowers – all picked from the Park.
The tour guides (we had a young lady in the morning, and a young gentleman – who co-incidentally is their official photographer for their brochures, website etc – in the evening) are very well trained, well spoken and quite passionate about the Park and its history. The story of the Paronella family is very emotional, and as it is told by the guides you can feel yourself drawn to the family.
Jose and Margarita on their Wedding Day in 1925
Teresa Joe & Val
Jose was a pastry chef, prior to embarking on what was to become his life’s work. He came to Australia to prepare for a better life for his future wife, and began as a cane-cutter in Far North Queensland. He saved enough money to buy a cane-farm, then another and so on. After 12 years he returned to Spain to claim his bride – only to discover she had grown tired of waiting (bear in mind he never wrote home in all that time) and had married another man. Not to be defeated, Jose proposed to her sister Margarita and they were duly married. The trip to Australia was to be their honeymoon.
All the work at Paronella Park was hand-made by Jose and his workers. In the cement work, the indents of their fingers/hands can still be seen to this day.
The planters (which can be seen in the centre of the bottom picture) were individually moulded by Jose – all 500 of them! But that is nothing compared to the balustrade inserts – there were 8,000 of them. Yes, EIGHT THOUSAND – once again all individually moulded by Jose. The man was truly driven by his dream.
The creek is fast flowing and home to much aquatic like, including black bream, turtles and eels – all of whom benefit from being fed special pellets provided to the visitors for just such purpose.
The gardens, despite having been ravaged over time by many floods and cyclones, are most impressive.
The Kauri Walk – from each end. These trees are 80 years old.
The Fountain, between the Tea Rooms and the Playing fields.
After a full morning (over four hours), we trundled back to ‘the pub’ for a rest before returning at dusk for the night tour. There is a restoration programme underway, which will eventually see all the buildings reinforced and made safe for visitors to view from closer range. At the moment – due principally to flood damage and subsequent ‘concrete cancer’ – the main buildings are only viewed from a safe distance, and some judicially placed structural supports need to be taken into account when lining up your photo.
The Wishing Well – at the entrance to the old Ballroom
The Fountain near the Tea Rooms
The main Mena Creek Falls . . . and Teresa Falls
Paronella Park is definitely a ‘must do’ – these few words and pictures can go nowhere near the actual experience. And, once again highlighting Mark & Judy’s vision, your pass is valid for two years. Yes, TWO years. All that is required is photo identification and (the really hard part for me) keeping (and remembering where you kept) your ticket/pass.
Do yourselves a favour – come visit Paronella Park.
Until next time . . .
Live the Life You Love
First night back on the road, we stayed at Torbanlea Racecourse – a low cost camp just off the Bruce Highway and not far from Hervey Bay. This camp is priced the way I think they ALL should be – a base rate plus additional for the services you use. In this case, $5 per vehicle per night (includes use of toilets) an additional $5 for power & water and another $5 for the shower/amenities key. All up, fully serviced just $15 per vehicle per night with passably level ground & within reasonable proximity to many attractions.
It was here we met our first “Oz Nomads”. Oz Nomads is a facebook forum full of tips & tricks from fellow travellers, and as members we recognise each other by the green & yellow ribbons on our vehicles. (G’day Rod & Yvonne, Ron & Carol)
We waited here for a couple of days, to receive a delivery, then headed off to Calliope River – a beautiful free camp on the river next to the historical village.
Leaving Calliope River camp, we went into Calliope township to re-stock our groceries only to find that the trailer brakes were faulty! Stressful times all around. We have had an intermittent fault in the past, but only very temporarily. One touch & they’re not there, second touch & they’re back. This time there was no second touch – there were no brakes; although the vehicle brakes were doing the job, it was definitely a job for the experts. Unfortunately there is no-one in Calliope up for the job so there was nothing for it but to hobble along up the highway towards Rockhampton. Fortunately it’s only 130 kms. After such a long & stressful day, we were very pleased to see the Kangaroo Country Caravan Park, just 11 kms south of Rocky. The proprietor was kind enough to recommend a specialist just up the road a little, but unfortunately they would not be able to even look at it for 8 to 10 days!
There must have been someone looking out for us, as there was a billboard advertising “Capricorn Caravan Repairs” and Shane and Natasha – business owners – could not have been more helpful. As the fault was intermittent, it took some time for Shane and his father to isolate it. The brake cables run through the centre of the axles and it had rubbed bare in patches and was shorting out from time to time – hence the intermittent fault. On our behalf, Natasha phoned 3 caravan parks in town for us to stay overnight, but they all said they couldn’t fit us in. Now I’m unsure as to whether they were full or their sites were too small but each and every one gave the same reply! All we can say is thank goodness for the foresight shown by Mayor Margaret Strelow and her Councillors who approved free-camping on unused land near the entrance to Kershaw Gardens – just opposite a large shopping centre on the northern side of town. We spent less than 48 hours in Rockhampton, but over $1,300 spread between six or seven businesses. This is the benefit that free or low-cost camping can bring to a town. Rockhampton received some fairly adverse publicity around this time because a caravan park owner by the name of Ralph Warner castigated the Mayor and Council for providing free-camping as it was “depriving (him) of his rightful revenue”. The hide of the man! The sheer arrogance of him thinking OUR money was his “rightful revenue”!!! Never mind – I shall not continue my rant here, but I think you understand how I feel. The free camp was convenient, not too noisy & just what we required for a last-minute, short-term rest stop. The following morning, Shane completed the repair and by just after lunch-time we were on our merry way again – this time with fully functioning trailer brakes.
We had originally planned on going inland from Rocky travelling to Longreach/Winton area but the hiccup with the van brakes and the extended time in Maryborough led us to changing our minds and continuing up the Coast. So . . . it’s off to St Lawrence we go.
Typical of us, no plans and all, when we arrived it was to find that the campground was closed because it was Camp Draft weekend. Consequently we set up ‘over the road’ along with upwards of 100 other campers, caravanners, motorhomers etc. The really beaut part about it all was all the entertainment all weekend was absolutely totally free. And we so enjoyed the entire weekend.
Waiting you turn Junior style . . .
. . . and Adult style
As comfortable as in a lounge chair
Bastille Day – and we’re moving on again. After stopping off for shopping, fuel etc it turned into a long day so we stopped off at St Helen’s Caravan Park at Calen. Once again, a fully serviced site (power, water, amenities) for only $25. And a really pretty place – had we known how nice we probably would have stayed longer. As it was, just one night then on to Home Hill showground. The price has risen since our visit last year ($15) but it is still convenient and generates a lot of income for the community. This time, we drove around to some of the WWII historical sites.
Inkerman Hill Lookout
Charlies Hill – a radar emplacement . . .
Once again we enjoyed our time here, but the time came to keep moving. The prime purpose of staying coastal is to be in the vicinity of Cairns for the mighty South Sydney Rabbitohs’ game on 3 August and on the way my wish is to visit the Tyto Wetlands at Ingham and also Paronella Park.
Ingham is also a progressive shire in that it has introduced (on a trial run) 48 hour free-camping near the Wetlands so that is where we’re heading. Only to find that, by 11 am it is absolutely chock-a-block full! Just a quick wander around, chatting to some of the campers, it was plain to see that quite a few of them are going to cruel it for the majority. There were some dropping waste water straight onto the ground – even though the signs stated strictly self-contained – and they saw nothing wrong with that, even after having it pointed out to them that the Wetlands is environmentally sensitive. There was another woman (whose dogs were unrestrained) who openly admitted that she & her hubby had been there 4 days and had no intention of leaving for another two! Honestly – if only people didn’t abuse privileges, life would be so much kinder for all. Consequently, we were unable to stay there so went to a nearby caravan park and moved on again the very next day.
A quick lunch stop in Cardwell – to boost the economy of a tiny coastal township which was all but obliterated by Cyclone Yasi. The community has made great strides in regenerating the waterfront -
From Ingham it was inland and up into the mountains to Mena Creek and Paronella Park. Paronella Park is a whole new (old) world and as such deserves an entire new posting. So this is where we art company for now; and until we meet again -
Live the Life You Love