Say 'Hello' to Cardinal & Myrtle. These two lovely bears (representing South Sydney Rabbitohs, of course) adopted us with thanks to Sue of Squires Felted Bears - wife of Rich & 'Mum' of puppy Ben.
Sue & Rich volunteered at the CMCA Rally at Maryborough, where Sue gave classes in the Craft Barn for felting these cuties and we 'looked after' Ben for a day whilst they attended an OH&S Course. Ben was absolutely no trouble, and as gorgeous as these two.
After the Rally in Maryborough, we headed off to visit an old army mate of Gordon's - Bob Harland & his lovely wife Karon at Craignish (Hervey Bay region). They have a lovely home with the most beautiful gardens - which attract many birds who know how to tell the time. 4 o'clock & in they come, looking for a feed. If the butcher bird comes first, he is told to go fetch the kookaburra before they are both fed some mince. Meanwhile the seed eaters are well catered for with a generous serving of Wild Bird Mix. Very relaxing to sit back, enjoying a bevie or two and watching them all at their antics. Whilst we were there another couple, Neil & Pauline from Lower Hutt in NZ, arrived in a rental motorhome - exactly like the one we had owned previously. We stayed with the Harlands from 6th May through until the following Saturday - then we HAD to leave. Far too much alcohol was being consumed, day in day out!
During our stay with Bob & Karon another old buddy, Daryl McPhee, came over to catch up with Gordon. The Harlands are truly gracious hosts and entertained us all right royally. Karon took me shopping for my last 'Aldi' fix to be had for a long time. I was able to buy a couple of 'Paella' pans - one for its intended use and another to act as an ash-tray for our fireplace. There was nothing for it but I had to make a paella - which I did but it wasn't as good as usual because I just simply cannot accustom myself to electric cooking. But there weren't too many complaints from around the table, and there were no leftovers.
Our original plans leaving Hervey Bay had been to head to Bundaberg & offer ourselves as volunteers to help out after the floods. The only contact number we had, for the 'Mud Army' turned out to be incorrect so we headed inland to join Blazeaid ( blazeaid.com.au ) at Monto. We travelled via Gin Gin, Mount Perry, Ceratodus and on to Monto. We had camped at Ceratodus a couple of years ago on our way back from Carnarvon Gorge. At that time (Nov 2011) we had quite a hike from the campsite by the old railway station down to the riverbed - which was just a trickle, more like a creek than a river. This time we were devastated to see the damage which had been caused by the floods in January. There was flood waste almost 4 metres up trees - paulownia trees which became famous during the tv news coverage of the floods for one hardy soul who was trapped by the floodwaters. (And shared her dry spot in the tree with many snakes whilst other trees were snapping off around them like twigs)
Blazeaid Monto - now here was a life-changing experience. We were originally going to give them a couple of days, which turned into a week, then ten days, and finally a fortnight. We met some of the most wonderful people - Col & Mary Coleman, Dave & Jan Binskin, Allan & Willa Ross, Dave & Rita (and Sun Conure Bird 'Henry' who sh1ts on command!!) Richard & Marion Higgin and many many more. We worked hard, and enjoyed the company of all the other hard-workers as well. We were fed three square meals a day and had powered sites at the local showgrounds provided. I worked in the kitchen and even though I am most definitely NOT a morning person, I was up at 5:30 each morning - much to Gordon's amusement as he was able to stay in bed another half hour. The kitchen girls worked from approximately 6am to start setting up for breakfast until last wash up at around 7:30 - 8pm. With good planning we could have a bit of time off in the middle of the day for showers and to catch up on our own house-work but sometimes the menu didn't allow for big breaks. Those out on the farms were doing hard physical labour & needed a good feed at the end of the day. Thankfully my school holiday experience in a commercial kitchen stood me in good stead and I was able to contribute well. I took only one day off in the 2 weeks we were there and really needed to just sit back & do nothing for a couple of days after we left. Gordon also worked hard - out on the farms recovering fence-posts & barbed wire, clearing & rebuilding the fences, some fence-posts had to be earth-rammed into place when the farmer had no star pickets to replace them with. I went out on the fences one day (and still have the battle scars from my fights with the barbed-wire to prove it) and let me tell you - yes, we worked hard BUT the kitchen girls worked harder and longer! The day I went fencing it started to rain and because of the black soil out there, we had to knock off at lunch-time otherwise the chances of making it back into town - even in the 4WD - we slim. So the farm workers had half a day off and come back to camp but the kitchen staff had to work all day and their afternoon load was harder because of the more people around camp.
Pictured from left: Dave, Terry & "I Can't Remember, Sorry & His Wife"
Every evening, before muster and then again after dinner there was great camaraderie around the campfire. Happy hour was a bit of a misnomer - happy most certainly but hour just didn't cut it. Many hours was much more to the point.
It was during our time here at Monto that we joined the Highway Wanderers. This is a chapter within the CMCA. We had looked at joining one of our local chapters back home - either Manning Valley or Port Macquarie - but were not too sure we wanted to be that 'structured' in regards to our travels. The Highway Wanderers (or HWW) suited us so much better - no monthly meetings, no real 'executive' (anyone in a position is there for life) and everyone is out for a good time. Sounds just like us so we joined. The beauty of belonging to such a group is whenever we are somewhere new there is bound to be at least one member who has been there before and can offer us advice on everything from where to free-camp to what to see or do in the region. They are also great support for fellow members as can be seen by the following example: Whilst working on one of the farms at Monto one lady, Barb, had a fall and broke her wrist. She needed to go to the coast to be seen at the hospital so Vicki (camp manager) sent out an SOS to HWWs and Barb & Barry were put up for the night by fellow members - even though they had never met each other before. Wonderful Club Spirit. :-)
Our first week at Monto also saw our first mail for some time. Thanks must go here to (mainly) my sister Tamara & her husband Robert for a) use of their PO box and b) culling and on-forwarding of said mail. But I wasn't thanking them when I saw our electricity bill - over $2,300!!! And that was for 92 days between October & early January when we were away for over 6 weeks during that period AND we have solar power AND solar hot water. 6,600 and some kilowatt hours. That meant for each and every day (even when there was no-one in the house) electricity was being used to the tune of 2.79kw EACH & EVERY hour!!! Good lawdy, Miss Claudie. A phone call to the (new) supplier eventually (45 mins later) confirmed that yes, there had been an error and no, we didn't have to pay it. There would be nothing to pay until such time as new readings were obtained and the correct rates applied - including the feed-in tariff and pensioner rebate. This was actually the day after the bill was initially due. Imagine our horror the following week when we discovered
$1,994-77 had been debited to our credit card. The truly "this would be funny if it wasn't so serious" thing about this was that the amount debited was less the 'pay on time' discount - a week after it was due. Go figure. As I type this, the incorrect charge has finally (after more than four and a half hours of phone calls to the supplier and one email to the Energy and Water Ombudsman of NSW [EWON]) been refunded back to the credit card, but there is still no sign of a correct bill. Oh, well - perhaps we should not have joined the Daily Telegraph's "One Big Switch" campaign; better the devil you know than the devil you don't.
Leaving Monto, our first stop was Dululu - a very cute pub & not much else at the intersection of the Leichhardt & Burnett Highways. Once again another place we had been to previously - typical small-town country welcome.
This is a selfie taken at Dululu on 25 May
From there we travelled to Marlborough for an overnighter behind the servo before moving on to St Lawrence Free-Camp at the Rodeo Grounds. Camping is free, the showers are $1 for 3 minutes, there is fresh water and a dump point and there is a separate area for those who want to run a generator - which we did so I could catch up on the washing. Five loads including sheets and towels. A woman's work is never done. There is a donation box, to which we were more than happy to contribute as the grounds are impeccably kept and this type of camp-site is to be encouraged by all travellers.
At this point, there were going to be more photos - some truly beautiful ones of the wetlands at St Lawrence and more. But, true to form, all electronic gadgetry within my reach seems to want to turn up its toes and die. We have had an Olympus camera for 6 years or so now; one which uses an XD card. When we tried to upload photos to the laptop, all it wanted to do was to format the card - without uploading pictures. So we took it to The Camera House in Cairns Central and a very helpful lass said she would be able to recover them if we gave her a disc or memory stick and $30. Duly done & now when I am trying to access the recovered files I find that they have been saved as MP3 files - bloody music when they should be PHOTOS! Let me tell you, I am a very unhappy camper at this time.
This is just one of the photos - which I managed to salvage from Facebook.
We have also killed one laptop and another is seriously (and I believe critically) ill - it needs to be returned to its maker under warranty. Hence, we have now forked out another $1000 for this new HP. It comes with 3 years IT service as well as full warranty so it had better behave itself.
From St Lawrence we moved on to Slade Point to visit an old (sorry, Joycie) friend from New Zealand. Joyce formerly lived at Bluff in the far far south of the South Island and after travelling Oz (she has seen more of it with her friend Linda than most Aussies) she decided to settle in Mackay. A very different climatic outlook indeed. We had a most wonderful week, including dinner out at The Seabreeze Resort, Slade Point and me making yet another paella. Joyce enjoyed this, and as she is gluten intolerant (actually coeliac but I'm not sure if that's the right spelling) it is a dish she can really enjoy - with no guilt or aftereffects. As Joyce was so good to us, we left the unused paella pan with her, so she can hone her skills on her friends and neighbours. Good luck, Joyce & we hope you entertain right regally from now on.
We are now three months into our trip - yes you know, the one which was originally going to take twelve months or so. We have travelled 5,120 kms and are still only 1,600 kms from home. At this rate two or three years doesn't look long enough. This country of ours is so large with so very many beautiful, whimsical and awesome places to see, as well as thousands of friends we have not yet met.
Only one more 'planned' stop - Cairns to meet up with Bob & Carol Dixon from back home and to go see the mighty Rabbitohs play a home game in Cairns on 16 June. . . . And all that will come next time. Until then - Live the Life You Love!
We now also have a new camera, so from Cairns onward (starting 14 June) photos should be better and more plentiful. Hopefully.