Sunday, 16 June 2013

Natural Beauty

And onward . . .

Leaving Lake Leslie (April 3) & off to Highfields near Toowoomba to visit Gordon’s old army mate Ken Perry and his wife Marelle.  As always, we were made to feel most welcome – more at home than at home!  And once again, we ate too much, drank too much and talked lots. 
The late husband of one of Gordon’s Legacy widows had been in the 7th Division, and Laurel knew there was a museum in the Toowoomba region to which she wished to donate some of Keith’s memorabilia so we took a little detour to obtain some information for her.  Although we were unable to take a tour of the Milne Bay Military Museum;
we were able to speak with some of the volunteers and see the general set up which is quite good. 

We had bought a new, smaller 2Kva generator before this trip; had only given it a quick run before leaving and it all seemed ok.  But . . . and it’s a very big but . . . when we went to use it to top up the house batteries in Toad Hall after a few grey and miserable days, all it wanted to do was ‘overload protect’ and then cut out.  Could manage to just run the power board enough to charge tablet and phone or small 300w fan or 800w toaster – one at a time – but anything more and it would automatically cut out, again.  This made for a very unhappy camper and a very angry one!  So, after asking around we were referred to ODES SUPERSTORE (in Toowoomba) .  They had a 2500 ‘gennie’, imported same as both of ours, on the shelf for $949.  After having spoken over the phone, we arrived to find ‘John’ had fuelled one up ready for us to try.  Gordon asked for ‘best price’ and we settled on $850.  Took it straight back to Highfields and gave it a test run.  Gordon threw everything at it – toaster, microwave, kettle and even the air-conditioner.  The only think it didn’t like was the kettle (at 2400w).  So young John could rest easily . . . we weren’t going to be back the next day, having told him if it wasn’t suitable we would be.  I was not expecting to be using the AC at anytime unless we were on 240v, so this is a real bonus.  All I really wanted was to be able to top up the house batteries and use the coffee machine . . . anything more is in all ways super.

Saying farewell to Ken & Marelle, we head off to Wivenhoe Dam, Lumley Hill Campground.  This is only about 80kms from Brisbane which will enable Gordon’s daughter Peta, her husband (another) Gordon and their two children Emily and Andrew to come visit us over the weekend.  They live in a very built-up hilly area in Brisbane which would make manoeuvring – much less parking – Toad Hall extremely difficult to say the least.
Lumley Hill (they say) has sites suitable for ‘large rigs’.  Unfortunately Carmel (who took our booking) didn’t seem to classify a 27ft 5th Wheeler as a big rig.  It took quite a considerable amount of to-ing and fro-ing for Gordon to be able to position us on site.  Now we can only hope that no-one comes in too close in front of us before we leave on Monday.  Fingers crossed. 

With the family coming for lunch on Sunday April 7, we went to Fernvale shops (about 15kms) to stock up for a barbecue.  All we can hope now is that the weather improves and the Met Bureau is wrong!
The amenities at Lumley Hill are very good – certainly no lack of water.  Showers are clean and hot, each site has its own bbq and with attached undercover wood storage and the tariff doesn’t change – be it Christmas, Easter, School Holidays or mid-week.  Bookings only open 12 months on advance for peak seasons and you can only book 2 sites per phone call.  Overall it is a good spot and appears popular with families.  We have a Mum, Dad & three littlies on one side and 3 Dads with three young boys in front in a tent . . . all having the absolute time of their lives!

We left Lumley Hill behind us on Monday April 8 and arrived at Imbil (south west of Gympie) quite late that afternoon.  Here we were to spend time with youngest daughter Courtney and Little Miss Haylea Jayne (5 months old).  Once again, we are unable to park Toad Hall anywhere near Courtney’s house.  She was going to take in goats on agistment to supplement her income & keep the grasses down, but even the goats couldn’t climb the hill! So we booked in to The Island Reach Camping Resort for an extended stay so Grandma could have her fill of Haylea before she too was all grown up. 

The camping resort/caravan park was severely damaged (again!) during flooding earlier in the year and they have been valiantly cleaning & gardening to try to restore the park.  Unfortunately for me, the soggy grounds are a breeding ground for biteys of all kinds so we opt to move out to Standown Park on the Gympie-Tin Can Bay road.  This beautiful park is owned and run by Rod and Pam Elkington who originally set it up as a veterans’ retreat, although it is now open to all.

The Memorial – awaiting consecration

Standown is a quiet park – with none of the gimmicks designed to attract young children like jumping castles and water parks – so costs are kept down and resting comes easily.  It is very well positioned as a staging point for Fraser Island, Gympie, Tin Can Bay and even Maryborough is only 77kms north. 
The campfire is lit at 16:30 precisely (half past four for the uninitiated) every afternoon ready for happy hour (or two or three).  All very civilized.  Here we met some lovely people – Bob & Dawn, John & Esther, Graham & Mary, Jim & Joy, Sue & Rich – among many others.  Some of these we were to catch up with again at the CMCA Rally in Maryborough.

Like many others, we took a day trip to Fraser Island with Courtney playing chauffeur in her Jeep.  I had last been on Fraser some 30 years earlier and no-one else had ever been so it was quite a trip for us all.  Haylea had her first ice-cream (vanilla paddlepop; thanks Grandma) and Courtney, John & Haylea swam in Lake Mackenzie. Well Courtney & Haylea swam & John almost managed a wet chest. Said it was too cold – wimp.  The barge trip was just as I remembered it but the island was much more sand – great vast sand drives which Courtney handled with aplomb.  Well done kiddo!

While we were at Imbil, John had taken Gordon 4WDing and he was much more impressed with Courtney’s driving than with John’s.  Not that John drove dangerously but it was much more adrenalin based than Courtney’s ‘family drive’ style.


From Standown we also went to The Silky Oak Tea Gardens – a most delightful country pub serving good food and cold drinks.  We had a night out with John’s parents – Jim & Suzette – for the Full Moon Pig-on-a-Spit dinner; along with about 130 other people.  Good basic wholesome food with fabulous atmosphere and great company – you can’t ask for more.  We had earlier enjoyed Jim & Suzette’s company at Imbil Bowling Club and were wowed by the food cooked and presented by Rainer Kruse from  A truly fabulous meal and not what one would expect in a small country town bowlo. 

Also from Standown we travelled into Gympie for Anzac Day – a very moving march followed by a Citizens’ Service in the town’s Central Park.  The whole town was involved; combined schools band and choirs, the Mayor affirming on behalf of the people support for all troops and a commitment to remembrances.  So much to take in.  And from out of the crowd came Marianne and her husband (?Leon) from Taree! You can’t afford to misbehave whilst travelling, you never know who might see you. 

Monday 29th April saw us head north to Maryborough for the CMCA Rally.  This is a full week of fun, frivolity, learning, meeting old friends and new.  There is just so much to see and do at a Rally that words tumble far more quickly than I can type.  Entertainment every night.  Trade stalls, craft lessons, information seminars.  On and on.  Or one can just sit back and do as little as you wish.  All for $50 per person up front and $9 per night unpowered.  Full shower and toilet facilities (and those provided at Maryborough were the best we’ve seen in five years).  Free shuttle bus service into town, shopkeepers making special offers available to CMCA members.  It just keeps going.  The showgrounds became a mini-city in its own right.  And someone was there filming it – from the sky – in his own helicopter – towed behind his own motorhome.  Boy oh boy, was that some rig! The trailer is also his heliport.

The ball on Saturday night is quite a culmination; and a chance meeting with another couple from back home – Linda Parker from Telecross and her husband.  Like I said, no misbehaviour because you never know who’s watching & ready to report back home.
Maryborough has some wonderful tourist attractions, including at Portside the Customs House Interpretive Centre, Bond Store Museum, Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum and the Customs Residence Cellar Dor – entry to all of which is just $5.50 per adult.  The Time Cannon is fired at 11am daily and costumed characters mill about the area whilst old time piano playing can be heard throughout the day.  The Military Museum is THE BEST we have seen outside of the War Memorial in Canberra.  The way their memorabilia is presented and preserved would surely stand out as a model to be followed by many an organisation.

Part of the Vietnam War Memorabilia

Various firearms arranged to represent the Rising Sun Badge

In the next issue – Hervey Bay and points further north.  Off to watch the Rabbitohs play the Titans in Cairns.   “Live the Life You Love”

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Still Heading North - Upward

Well . . .  here we are again, folks.  Sorry for the long absence but travelling does that to you.  Computer problems (a few hours work is out there in the ether somewhere) – or should that be operator problems?, lack of internet service, unreliable power source (and that’s another computer problem which will be addressed later) and speaking of power THAT’s another story as well! On top of all that there is travelling, sight-seeing, meeting new people and work.  Yes, that’s right, work.  You’ll all just have to keep reading to find out the details of these little snippets.  

And so, on with the trip.  We did, in fact, take a few ‘tourist drives', and spent quite some time admiring the small country townships that in times past we have just driven through.  We had another couple of ‘paddles’ in the kayak & even took the fishing rods for a ride.  I put it that way because, quite simply, I’m certain there are no fish in the lower Clarence.  If they are there, well they still are there – because none of them even tasted our bait let alone took the hook!  Drifting and paddling are very therapeutic ways to while away the hours.


Another wonderful way is to take a cruise along the Clarence – all the way past Harwood to the Pacific Highway Bridge – a total of two and a half hours for just $20 AND with live music. Met a lovely couple from WA (Matt & Kathie) who introduced us to a couple of wonderful ideas which we have since adopted.  First item was a business card folder, for keeping cards both from businesses which we have used (and more importantly found helpful) as well as cards from fellow travellers.  The second is a “Visitors’ Book” which is a super way to remember the people you have met, where you met them and somewhere for them to leave their contact details for follow up when we reach their home turf. 

After the cruise, the weather started to close in, so whilst Gordon prepared to roll in the awning he hung Dustee’s cage in a nearby jacaranda.  A short time later he heard another cockatiel having a chat from up in the branches.  As he approached the cage the ‘blow-in’ fluttered down to land on it and stayed there when Gordon brought the cage inside.  No sooner than they were inside than the ‘new’ bird started to talk. “Who’s a pretty boy?” “Who’s a pretty girl?” Who’s a pretty baby girl?” “What’cha doing?”  It was blindingly obvious that this was someone’s pet.  After the storm passed (and it was quite wild), we door-knocked some of the permanent vans nearby – no-one had lost a cockatiel or knew any local who owned one.  We then went to the office to ask, and they in turn contacted the local vet.  All to no avail.  We left our phone numbers but by the time we left Iluka some 3 or 4 days later, no-one had claimed “Cheekie” as he/she/it is now known.  Fortunately we had purchased the larger cage in Coffs Harbour (the day before Dustee went AWOL) so we had enough room for both of them. 

Leaving Iluka, we saw the damage caused by the storm the previous Sunday.  It was no wonder Cheekie sought refuge – there was evidence of some very wild weather throughout Bundjalung National Park and Iluka Nature Reserve. 
Heading over the range, via the Bruxner Highway to Tenterfield.  Although the label ‘highway’ is much of a misnomer – ‘goat-track’ would be more truthful.  On arrival in Tenterfield, we learnt that there are more differences than just geographical from ‘The Coast’ to ‘Across the Divide’.  In Lismore it is pronounced “Brucksner” whereas in Tenterfield it is known as “Brooksner”.  Hmmm – however they say it, it still needs a lot of work.  As I write this some six weeks or so later we have still had only one fuel consumption level anywhere near that of this particular stretch of driving.  It peaked out at 15.38l/100k.  
Tenterfield is a beautiful ‘RV Friendly Town’.  The trees lining the streets have just begun to turn, with their autumn colours putting on a glorious display in the late afternoon sunshine.  
The good folk of Tenterfield (and not necessarily my brother Bryce and his lovely wife Erika) have maintained the historic feel of this very welcoming town.  [Although in their relatively short time in Tenterfield, they have become widely known & obviously well-liked with Bryce very involved in the RSL sub-Branch and the local Bowls Club as well.]
From the historic School of Arts Building – restored and phenomenally well maintained – where Sir Henry Parkes’ speech outlining Federation of Australia first saw light of day, to the very rustic, almost original, saddlery of George Woolnough.   For the uninitiated, George was immortalised as the “Tenterfield Saddler” by the iconic Peter Allen.
Although the railway no longer operates through Tenterfield, the Station and its outbuildings are all painted and maintained to the highest standard and house a well researched rail museum.  Periodically the grounds also host local markets, and on these days entry to the museum is free.
Just a short drive away, from an old ‘overpass’, the original railway turntable can still be seen.  Thanks to Erika and Bryce for the guided tour, and a terrific meal at the local tavern –quality food at a reasonable price and with top notch service!

Moving on from Tenterfield, we travel up the New England Highway to Warwick and then out to Washpool Camping Reserve on the shores of Lake Leslie.  The idea was to head inland and away from the ‘holiday hordes’.  We were very wise to arrive on Wednesday!  On arrival – and at this camp you cannot pre-book; it’s first come first served – we noticed that it was much more highly populated than we had previously seen it.  Little were we to know . . .  there was more to come – much more!  Posters around the entire camp area advertised a free concert on Saturday night – with ‘Tootsie’.  Apparently we are/were one of the very few who had no idea who or what ‘Tootsie’ was.  From the 40 or 45 vehicles at Washpool when we arrived, by Good Friday night there were over 1400 ‘camps’.  Camps of all shapes & sizes – motorhomes, caravans, campervans, camper-trailers, tents, swags . . . you name it, it was here!  As far as we can discern we are the only 5th Wheeler, and as such of more than passing interest.  AND . . . with each campsite there appeared to be at least one watercraft.  

The camp immediately to our left/rear started off with Tracy & her Prado and off-road camper-trailer.  She told us her husband would be arriving later with their two young children aged 5 & 7.  What she didn’t say was that he would be towing their speed-boat.  Before he arrived, their friends Nick & Mandy arrived.  Nick towing his speed-boat behind his 4WD and Mandy in her car.  Out of these 2 vehicles and boat came the most amazing amount of gear.  Two tents, four gazebos, 4 sets of skis, 4 knee-boards, 2 ski-biscuits and all the accoutrements! . . . coolers, tables, chairs, hammocks, tarpaulins (used as flies on the tents), wet-suits, life-jackets and a full-sized 6-burner barbecue – the plate of which took two burly fellows to lift into place!
Then arrived Sarah & her family (three children) in their Prado/Cub-Camper combo followed by her husband in yet another vehicle towing a PWC.  He was followed by two teenage lads in a car (they occupied the second tent set up by Nick & Mandy) and they also brought a jet-ski.  And then to round out the campsite – Tracy’s brother Craig arrived in his ute – with swag set up in the back – with yet another jet-ski and two hard-shell kayaks.  For all of this, they are the nicest neighbours – no screaming/squealing from the kids (from 3 to 18 years of age), no loud music, civilised hours for the boats and EVERYONE wore life-jackets whenever they were anywhere near the water.  A lovely, healthy ‘outdoorsy’ group.  All I can say is there must be money in cotton/sorghum farming and real estate in these parts – they have all the toys for the boys.  Then again, the girls enjoyed them as well.  Both Mandy and Tracy were very good drivers of the speed boats, and Tracy was by far the best skier of them all. 
Saturday saw their camp swollen by the arrival of Craig & Tracy’s mum & dad and another couple with their two teenage children.  The day was glorious – sunny with light breezes to keep cool by, and surrounded by lovely fun-loving people.  This despite having been woken at 4:15am by some inconsiderate idiots deciding to go fishing.  These the owners of the boat with the most unreliable motor in the entire SE Queensland!  Seven efforts, lots of swearing and yelling, and finally they depart for their expedition at 4:50.

At least I was first in the shower for the morning!

The concert – Tootsie, remember – began at 6pm – whether you wanted to be a part of it or not, you couldn’t escape it!  Some songs were good, some were bad and many more were just so-so.  Tootsie’s favourite saying was “suck it up” and she used it often. And loudly!  And long!!  Long after 11pm.  Over 19 hours makes this one very unhappy camper.
Once again the heavens opened on Sunday.  Watching our neighbours huddle under canvas in an effort to escape it made me very grateful for Toad Hall and all the comforts.

That's about it for now - will be back soon.  Still heading north.