Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Still in Cairns–& The Surrounding Districts

Following the Kuranda trip, we had a day off – well a day off tripping, but there is always ‘housework’ to be done, even in a van.  You know – washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning . . . a woman’s work is never done.  Blah bah blah.

Saturday, 22 June – a day to be long remembered.  We had been hearing about the ‘Avenue of Honour’ at Yungaburra through the local radio for some weeks now, & here we were just a short drive away.  What better way to spend a tropical winter’s day than a quick drive up to the tablelands and be a part of this momentous occasion.  The Gillies Highway, which leaves the coastal route at Gordonvale, is not really worth of the name ‘highway’.  Switchback would be more like it.  Gordon & I have a bit of a pact whereby he does the majority of the driving whilst we are under tow, & I do the driving without ‘Toad Hall’.  So   off we merrily went from Cairns south to Gordonvale then west.  Until the road started to become hairy- and I mean REALLY hairy.  At the first opportunity I pulled over & told Gordon all deals were off!  I simply was NOT driving any further! 

So on we continued, with Gordon behind the wheel & me behind my hands.  We chanced upon a beautiful Tea House on the banks of Lake Barrine, where we stopped for coffee & a bite to eat.  It was still just before midday & the official opening was not until 2:45, so we were convinced we had time to dawdle.  Little were we to know that approximately 6,000 other people had the same idea as we, & the nearest to Lake Tinaroo we could park was about 850 metres – & I think that was only because of the “Vietnam Veteran & Damn Proud” sticker we have on the front windscreen of the ute.  There were many more vehicles as far as 2 kms away. 

A little of the history behind the  “Avenue of Honour”.  In the early hours of June 21, 2010 three Australian soldiers and one American died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.  One of those three Australians was 27 year old Private Benjamin Chuck, a sniper with the elite 2nd Commando Regiment.  Ben came from Yungaburra, and as a lad he loved to be on or around Lake Tinaroo, nearby.  After Ben’s death his parents, Gordon & Sue, often walked by the lake Ben loved and just as often thought of planting a tree nearby in his memory.  This thought grew and blossomed, and after approaching the Tablelands Council the unused peninsular of land jutting out into the lake was set aside for the memorial.  It is a stunning position for a very moving memorial – the only one in Australia which is not in a major/capital city.  Funds were raised from donations, raffles, sausage sizzles and all places.  Eventually enough money was raised to grow the initial $60,000 plan to the $300,000 national memorial it has now become.

See more at: (

The (then) Prime Minister was late, so the ceremony did not commence until well after 3pm.  It was very moving, with a wonderful, unscripted speech by Cpl Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG who had served with many of those whose ultimate sacrifice was being honoured.  Family members of the fallen soldiers laid floral tributes at the base of the memorial, as did most of the dignitaries.  Ben & the Chief of Army performed the official opening, leaving Miss G out in the cold.  And I thought this was the RIGHT way of doing things, as she had not earned the right to be there; she was only there by the accident of the position she held. (And a position she was to hold for only four days more).

The national flag was parachuted in just prior to commencement, and at the conclusion three Black Hawk helicopters performed a flypast.  After the official programme was completed, those present were invited to sign a  register, which I did – immediately under Tony Abbott, who graciously allowed himself to be photographed with me.



        The Flag being parachuted in

Official OPening Yungaburra 1                                   Official Opening Yungaburra 4

The Memorial from Our ‘Vantage’ Point                                              The Roll of Honour

P6220039             P6220044

           Blackhawks in Flight                                    The Crowds & The Wings


                                                    Just Exactly What It Says 

          (The photo below is taken from video footage uploaded to fb – ‘cos I don’t know how else to take a still from film :/)          1044024_10200874207969742_119875852_n[1]                                                                                     

A very emotional day.  The Avenue is lined with Flame Trees, and throughout the park are planted Raintrees acknowledging the participation of our forces in all other theatres of war.

There is also a memorial to the EDD (Explosive Detection Dogs) – five of whom have died, also in service to their country.  We met a couple EDDs – one retired & one still serving.  Absolutely beautiful, faithful animals.  And the bond between them and their human companion is so strong and also quite emotional to see.

P6220056                      P6220057

   The Brown Dog is with His Handler,                                    In Memory of the Fallen EDDs

the Black One (Flo Joe) is Waiting for Hers


Lest We Forget . . .

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Memories . . .


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Memories . . .


The Ladies bathroom, at Conway Beach Caravan Park -

reputed to be the most photographed bathroom in Aus

From Slade Point, Mackay we move north to Conway Beach - only 35 kms from Airlie Beach but a thousand miles from all that touristy bullsh*t.  We did actually take a day trip to Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour and the only real 'up' note was that I managed to buy two lovely white summery blouses for only $5 each.  The rest was a bit passé - and was not helped by the fact that the main drag through Airlie was being dug up. The whole area is so very tired and dreary.  Oh well.  Conway Beach is peaceful, beautiful and the start of our 'warm winter'.


Cedar Falls - just off the Shute Harbour/Conway Beach Road

These places are the reason we travel - the out-of-the-way places that it seems very few people have been to before us.  We spent three days at Conway - including the first State of Origin where we were the only Blues supporters - before moving on to Home Hill.  Here I was hoping to fit in a game of golf at Karrie Webb's home course but, much like our inflatable kayak, our golf clubs seem to be coming along just for the ride and not to be used.  The main problem here is that in these warmer climes I would much rather play early in the morning and be done & dusted by late morning whereas Gordon would rather play after lunch & really enjoy that beer at the 19th! 

Our first night in Home Hill was at the comfort stop just behind the Tourist Information stop in the old railway station.  Wonderful amenities - once again all free - with hot showers, camp kitchen, potable water and plenty of space.  The only drawback is that although the station is closed the railway line isn't.  Trains go past very regularly - all through the night.  Our second and subsequent nights were spent at the showgrounds, with thanks to HWW member BJ who had organised this as a stopover for those on their way to the Dam Fine Rally in Townsville.  At $10 per vehicle per night for power & hot showers, and far enough away from the railway line for a peaceful night's sleep, we stayed for a few days.

From Home Hill it's only a hop skip & a jump to Ayr - the home of the most wonderful 'Butterfly House'.  I had been here many many years ago - 45 to be exact - when we lived in Townsville & my Dad had brought us down for a day trip.  The dear old gent who set up the display is now long dead, but his lovely wife Jessie is still alive and living in Townsville with their daughter.  Every now & then they come down to spruce up the old place & while they are there they re-open it to the public for just $5 per adult & $2 per child. 

    Butterfly House Ayr 3

Just one of the displays - this one of stones.         And this a sneaky flash on the phone

There are many more, mainly butterflies and beetles but also some shells.

I remember my Dad telling me that this fellow had the shortest address in the country, maybe even the world.  This was in the days before postcodes & the address was just 7 letters -

A Ey


The entire place is just as it was when they first moved into it in the '50s - complete with lino, laminex table, plastic canister set - yes you know the one,  Yes, THAT ONE! It is just such a fabulous trip down memory lane.  Unfortunately some of the displays are showing their age, but they are still fabulous and well worth a visit if you are anywhere within cooee of Ayr.  Photos are only permissible without flash, so most of ours didn't come out very well so you'll just have to go along to see for yourselves.


We met & made some new friends at Home Hill, as well as catching up with Dave & Rita (and of course Henry) from Monto.

          Saturday Night BBQ at Home Hill Showgrounds

Another of our side trips from here - and that is one of the great benefits of a 5th wheeler over a motorhome, you can just hop in the car & go - was to a very whimsical place called Groper Creek.  It would appear that floods (or very high tides) are high & frequent - even the gas tank for refills is up on the verandah of the 'shop'.

Just one of the local homes at Groper Creek



Still chasing warmth we head further north - this time towards Townsville where I hope to catch up with my nephew, Andrew, who is in the army & stationed there.  Oh, nearly forgot!  While we were talking to Jessie Ey & her daughter at the Butterfly house, they asked were we going to Townsville, and of course I said yes, to try to meet up with my nephew and also to see if I could find my old house at 175 Bayswater Road, Currajong.  After our visit to the Butterfly house we went to have a coffee & whilst we were waiting for the coffee to arrive, Gordon was talking to his sister Di on the phone so I amused myself by browsing through the local paper.  Well blow me down - I'll be burnt & buttered on both sides - there was "Thundagulla" (as our home was called)  advertised for Auction, complete with pictures.  Just made me feel 10 years old again - brought back so many memories.  I have kept the advertisement & will send copies of it to my sisters for old times' sake. 

We tried to free-camp at Saunders Beach which is about 25 kms north of Townsville but there was scarcely enough room for a bongo  van style camper, much less our 27' rig; so we continued on to Bluewater Park about another 35 kms further on. Even though we arrived about 3:30 (early enough, we thought) the place was virtually full already except for a bit of a patch right up the end.  Much to the amazement of several others who looked at us as though to say "You'll never get that thing in there" Gordon managed to reverse into a fairly tight spot with only minimal assistance from me - that being "That'll do, Darl".  The occupants of about three or four other vans appeared a bit dumbfounded.  Later on another van arrived & Gordon helped guide them in to a very tight spot beside us.  George & Linda (Bickerdike) from WA joined us for a most enjoyable happy hour (or two) and a little wine (or three).  This was just a one-nighter and the following morning (we're up to 10th June by this time) we set out for Hull Heads Campground which is just behind the Coastguard at Hull Heads and raises funds for their ongoing work.  Well, we thought that's where we were going, except Wanda (our GPS) just wanted to keep taking us through canefield after canefield.   Eventually, after a phone call to BJ (back at Home Hill) we finally arrived.  After just over 200 kms to travel what should have been about 150.  This is the first time we wet a line - no fish but no wet ars* either.

From here it's just an easy 150 kms to Cairns, where we are booked in at Coconut Village Resort, a Big 4 Caravan Park, and where we will meet up with Bob & Carol.  The park is a bit on the expensive side, but it has been voted Queensland's #1 Park seven times.  On arrival we can see why,  The grounds are impeccable, as are the amenities.  The staff are ever so friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable.  This will be our base for the next two weeks.

The entry is a bit kitsch but you can't miss it!

This is where I leave you for now - stay tuned for Cairns and its surrounds.  A truly tropical wonderland where Mother Nature spreads her wings.

Live the Life You Love . . .

Butterfly House Ayr 1


Sunday, 14 July 2013


Arriving in Cairns on June 14 - just in time to settle in, catch up with Bob & Carol Dixon from back home and head out to pre-dinner drinks at Cairns RSL Club ( - in a fabulous position on The Esplanade; right across the road from the waterfront.  The Club is currently undergoing refurbishment.  What has been completed already - the front bar - has a really sumptuous feel with floor to (very high) ceiling windows which open all the way, giving a real open-air sensation.  We then strolled along the Esplanade which is lit to show off the palms and other tropical plants to best advantage.  About mid-way along there is a 'Night Market' with all the usual offerings and a 'cheap & cheerful' food court with a dozen or more bistro style eateries - mainly Asian cuisine - where we had a good meal and watched the passers-by, most of whom were tourists like ourselves.
The staff at Cairns Coconut  Resort ( are very welcoming, very knowledgeable and very helpful.  There was simply nothing too much trouble.

The view from under the awning, at Cairns Coconut Resort Caravan Park






Our second outing was to Barlow Park on Sunday to see our beloved

play Round 14 against the Titans.  A game, of course, we won 30-24.  As season Members, we would normally be able to attend all home games as part of our ticket package.  This game however, although a home game, was to cost $68 EACH for a 'grandstand' seat.  Seat, yes; grandstand, no.  Well technically it was called the grandstand but the roof was at least 30 metres to our left and 20 metres behind.  Oh well, never mind - we saw the Bunnies play & win and we were part of the atmosphere. 

For most of our stay in Cairns we were chauffeured admirably by Bob (& sometimes Caroline) - mainly I think because their 4WD is much more comfortable than ours - especially for back-seat passengers.

Monday we popped in to the local shopping centre - Mount Sheridan - to catch up on the groceries.  Whilst there we thought we should try to see a doctor to update some scripts, expecting to wait - as we would at home - anything up to a couple of weeks before we could see someone.  Lo & behold we could have seen a doctor straight away but because we didn't have the paperwork from our own Doctor we made an appointment for early the next morning.  At the same time we booked an appointment with the local Dentist - once again virtually immediately, something quite unheard of in our neck of the woods.  Both medicos were very professional and easy to deal with, making Gordon feel comfortable straight away.  The most uncomfortable part being that he had to have a tooth extracted which took Monday/Tuesday out of the loop for sightseeing, whilst he recovered.

Wednesday was another trip back in my memory - to Green Island.  Unfortunately it did not live up to expectations in some ways.  The Underwater Observatory, which had opened not long before my last (and only prior) visit in the late 1960s, had been condemned as a building but because it now had coral growing on it, it couldn't be 'interfered with' in any way because it was now part of the Great Barrier Reef itself and as such totally protected. 

The 'Semi-Sub' which replaced the Underwater Observatory

Now, in order to see the inner reef and some of its fishes, most of the tour companies offer - as part of the Cairns to Green Island fare - snorkelling and/or 'semi-sub' trips.  In hindsight, I should have made a more concerted effort to overcome my claustrophobia and given snorkelling a try.  But I just can't see myself being comfortable with  my nose covered, something shoved in my mouth, & trying to

(?)swim at the same time.  I mean, the only water I'm truly comfortable in is in my bathtub! And to do all this in public!  Honestly!  But we did take the tour in the semi-sub, and although it was very close quarters, the fish swimming all around us and the 'ooh looks' coming from other passengers kept us enthralled & my mind off the confined space.  The trip was not long and although the water wasn't as clear as it might have been, there were many photos taken and memories stored.

           Green Island 74

Underwater Fish & Reefs from Semi-Sub

Following that little jaunt, we ventured off to explore the island.  Green Island is a very small (approx. 15 hectares) coral cay - in fact the only coral cay located within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  And the only coral cay with a rainforest.  There has been a boardwalk constructed which meanders through the rainforest, with glimpses of the crystal clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.


              White Sandy Beaches, Pristine Waters &  Far Horizons

      From the Boardwalk, looking to the Ocean

Walking around the island is possible at low tide, the circumference is only 1.5 kms.  Along the beaches there is proof positive (if anyone needs it) that the island is, indeed, just coral.  Those 'white sandy beaches' upon closer inspection is just coral finely ground over time. 



        Green Island 84

                    Coral 'Sands'

Most tours of the island give you ample time to explore, swim, shop & dine.  There is a resort for those who wish to stay longer.  This resort is well hidden amongst the rainforest, so well that many day trippers aren't even aware of its existence.  Resort guests and day trippers alike are also able to take tours to the 'Outer Reef'; here one can snorkel or scuba dive as well as just relax & absorb the beauty of the surroundings.  A day or more on Green Island is time well spent.

On our trip over, we were joined by 110 school children up for the week from Brisbane.  In the main they were relatively well-behaved but when we learnt that they were going to Kuranda on the train & returning on the cable cars on Friday - the same day we had planned - we quickly amended our plans & set out on Thursday.  Two big days out in a row is normally out of the questions for this pair of grey nomad couples, but we decided circumstances warranted. 

We opted for the 'self-drive' tour - parking our car at the base of the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and taking the courtesy shuttle bus to  meet up with the Kuranda Scenic Railway at Freshwater Station.  The train is beautifully decorated and very 'olde-worlde'. Kuranda Train The carriages  are most definitely from a by-gone era.  The friendly staff are, like most of the hospitality folk we have encountered, helpful and knowledgeable.  They even offered to take our group photo using our own cameras (which we duly accepted of course).  The train makes a couple of stops on its journey up the mountain; the most spectacular of which is Barron Falls.  Here anyone who so wishes can alight from the train, stretch your legs and take photos from a wonderful vantage point. 


The train pulled in to Kuranda station & we all felt we had stepped back in time to a more simpler time, a more relaxed time.  The township is basically a village; an open air market & some fabulous attractions such as a wildlife sanctuary.  After strolling around the village for a couple of hours, we head over to the Skyrail Cable Terminal.  Yes, even me - the super scaredy-cat where heights are concerned.  Kuranda SkyCable 2Gordon keeps telling me it will be fine & as long as I keep looking straight ahead and DO NOT look down, all will be well.  At take off, it's a little bumpy at first, but then it is smooth gliding, except at each and every pylon (and there are more than 30 of those!) there are minor hiccups with jars and shudders, but eventually Caroline & I become used to those. 



There are two interim stations along the route, one at Barron Falls and the other a little further along.  Both stops have board walks through the rainforest.   The sights all along are truly breathtaking.  Even for those wimps like me with no head for heights.  To be floating across the tops of the trees is a feeling like no other.  And the variety of trees, ferns, palms, orchids & epiphytes is amazing. 


Barron Falls, Kuranda Train 2 Barron Falls

. . .  until next time

Live the Life You Love . . .

Natural Beauty

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.

“Leaving Highfields, heading down the Toowoomba Range”

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!

“Juanita, Emily Andrew, Gordon, Peta & Gordon”

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.

“Haylea & Her ‘Thomas’ Toybox”

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.

“Happy Hour”

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 Door – 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”

Still Heading North–Upward



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.

        Kayaking on the Clarence

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.

                                                  “Just Cruisin’ . . . “

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.

“Aahh The Serenity . . . “

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.