179. A Homesit in Otago

Our latest homesit at Oturehua, Central Otago is already proving memorable. Our charges are three dogs each with a distinct personality, an aged cat and three chooks. After some initial snarling Penny and Aliyah another foxie are friends and delight to chase the gentle sheepdog Ben all over the yard.

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TJ the ancient cocker spaniel prefers to follow me around when not sleeping or gazing at me soulfully (now I really know what that word means). Charlie the cat is of course the boss of the lot!

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The rooster is a new addition, very bedraggled looking with no tail feathers but seems happy with his harem of two very fat hens who mostly lay two eggs per day. It is an absolute delight watching all the animals interact.

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We are in a comfortable oldish farmhouse down a long drive, part modernised, with a huge deep blue Rayburn wood-fuel cooker dominating the kitchen. Neither of us are familiar with this type of cooker (the one Dave’s mother had was coal-fired) and also being the latest version it has all sorts of bells and whistles, aka levers, dials, etc. (note the plurals).

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Our bedroom has THE most glorious views and catches the morning sun. Currently it is broom flowering time and a huge swathe of bright yellow dominates the landscape.  Over to the other side some snow can be seen on the mountain tops.

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img_4155Yes it’s a wee bit chilly particularly in the mornings!

Two other memorable things happened recently. We had a hideous puncture on our first trip to the Oturehua township, the tyre was a write-off and a new one had to be ordered. The other thing was my cochlear implant went missing for two days. We turned the bedroom and ute upside down and inside out then it was finally discovered in the living room, sitting smugly on top of a book on a bookshelf in plain view, at least if you just moved a chair a little!

Dave has been feeling energetic and eager to try out the big lawnmower and also a huge scythe, so we have been literally making hay for the past two days. The grass around the house was very long as the owner was waiting for the daffodils to die down. Dave needed a bit of a rest afterwards – well deserved.

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Today we took off for Alexandra, about 50 km away, intending to do some shopping. We collected the new tyre at Omakau on the way. The historical store in Oturehua stocks most basic things but it is nice to visit a big supermarket once in a while. I must remember to take a photo of the store’s interior; it is well known to many photographers.

After managing to escape from the house with all dogs bar Penny (who always travels with us) safely inside the gate, we turned out of the front gates to encounter the next obstacle.. ….

img_4178Arriving in Alexandra the first thing we saw  was a Friday Street Market, so instead of going to the supermarket what did we do….?

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We must have spent almost $100 on several goat cheeses, fig and olive tapenade, Dunstan wine, hand-made lamb and thyme sausages, special smoked bacon and a huge pot of manuka honey.  After tasting most of them too. There was just room left for a spot of lunch at the charming little heritage cafe in the main street.

We returned ‘home’ via Ophir and a back road through very productive, newly-mown and ploughed country, something not seen so often from the highway in this particular part of Otago. We’ve been to Ophir before so didn’t stop except I insisted on taking photos of this olde world cottage hospital covered in the deepest red roses.  Beautiful.

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178. On Shaky Ground

  On Saturday 12 November our friends Graeme and Barbara arrived from the north island, having been lucky to catch one of the early Saturday ferries; later ones were cancelled due to rough weather, then sailing resumed in the late evening. 

So we all had a nice dinner and went to bed and then just after midnight were very rudely awakened by the caravan rocking and rolling, far too much to be merely the wind. It felt rather like being in a boat in a rough cross-sea. It was pitch dark outside, nothing to see except the huge Super Moon. Thank goodness for social media, nothing about the earthquake came up on the TV for ages and without being able to listen to the radio, we would have been in some confusion. As it was we knew all about the tsunami threat long before it came up on the TV. The orchard is about 7 km from the coast but not within the danger zone so we decided to stay put, if fully dressed “just in case”, as did most of the other orchard inhabitants. 

Penny, old earthquake hand that she is, soon went back to sleep and the subsequent aftershocks didn’t even wake her.

In this map the orchard is the wider long green oblong near Ouruhia with lots of little green flecks  (trees) and at one end some white objects – that’s us and about 12 other caravans/motorhomes/buses. The second map, smaller scale, shows a corner of the tsunami danger zone where evacuation was ‘advised’ although not required. The coastline is just out of sight on the right.

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it was devastating to follow the news about Kaikoura and the lovely coast road which we have travelled so often. No to mention the seal breeding grounds and in particular the pup nursery and waterfall which we’d visited a scant three weeks earlier. Here are two photos again:

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Barb and Graham were doubly lucky as apart from not being stranded for 12 hours on the evening ferry, they’d had all their belongings shipped south a week earlier. 

Sitting in the caravan in the orchard we’ve barely felt the aftershocks; the caravan moves slightly  when anyone moves around inside so we are all so used to the slight movements we don’t notice any extra ones. 

At least Christchurch was spared this time. The following weekend we went for a great walk on the beach with Asti and her tiny dog Evvie; but signs along the way to Brighton Beach – houses still under repair, red-zoned land, rough roads –  reminded us of those earlier devastating quakes.

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That same weekend the Motukarara Races were on; we’d known about them for years but never managed to be in the right place at the right time before.

The racing was very much a family picnic affair, very relaxed and casual. There were so many family groups. It seemed just about every type of group was catered for, from large marquees with white tablecloths and smart waiters to roped-off enclosures where various shade gazebos were erected. There was not a great variety of food but it was sufficient. The TABs were very popular, there was even a small one for children (!).

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Having spent some time with quarterhorses in Queensland, the trotters with their different conformation and gait were quite strange to see at first. img_3889img_4032img_4050

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There were even some pony trotting races:

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Children were well catered for ….

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It was a lovely day and we hope to make up a family group picnic next year.

Dave is now hard at work fixing up a special WiFi aerial which hopefully will give us the fast access promised by the modem we purchased recently. 

Next week start a two-week homesit down south at Oturehua, caring for someone’s farmhouse, 3 dogs, 1 cat and 2 chooks. 

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177. A Couple of Local Shows

We’ve been sort of vegetating in the chestnut orchard since returning from Picton with Penny. When we first returned to Christchurch some of the trees wore little green flecks but 3 weeks later the orchard is a glorious sea of young vibrant green leaves. There are pukekos, ducks, quail, a pheasant and some rabbits in the sea of grass which has grown incredibly fast since it was mowed only a few days ago.

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Dave has been busy bringing our water pipe system up to the new compliance standards. That involved replacing just about all the piping under the caravan. Penny tried to assist.

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We went to the Canterbury Motorhome and Caravan Show (dismal – all the dealers were too busy selling vans out of their yards to attend), then the Hororata Highland Games which was as wonderful as ever. I always enjoy the drive towards the western mountains through the Spring countryside with flowering gorse and broom. There were all the usual events plus the spinning/knitting competition again and another ‘new’ attraction, bicycle polo …..

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img_3594We missed the pie-eating contest last year so had to have a look. The winner, after several heats and a tomoato-sauce-no-hands final, was the young woman at the right end of the table.
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I tried to photograph the winner of the Kilted Mile (which involved several obstacles along the way including eating a pie) but he was too quick for me.

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Then there was the annual Canterbury Agricultural Show on a dull grey day where we gorged on THE best whitebait patties made by some people from the Chatham Islands, watched the showjumping, inspected some exotic farm animals, and Dave bought himself not one but two distinctive hats. (No photos of the hats yet but keep an eye out for them!).

Beautiful well-turned-out horses …

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Lots of alpacas …

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This is a Cape Barren goose, a threatened species in its native Australia. It’s not strictly speaking a goose but more like our Shelduck.

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A young African pygmy sheep.

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A cute little cart.

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Lots of wool, including a knitting display.

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This is a Highland Pony stallion named Finglenny out of Blaven by a stallion in the UK, Hirstmund Beaujolais. He is a rising 3 years old.

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A cooking demo …. mouthwatering aromas wafting everywhere in the food tent.
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It was such a long walk back to the car park that we took the courtesy bus. We must be getting old!!!

176. Collecting Penny

We arrived back to a wet and windy Christchurch on the usual midnight express. Despite the announcement soon after take-off that we might be in for a bumpy ride, the bumps did not eventuate, and the journey was further enlivened for Dave by finding he was sitting right next to his old Christchurch doctor (and the husband of mine).

Next morning it was straight to Swannanoa, where our friends’ driveway welcomed us with a brilliant display of old apple trees (the property used to be an apple orchard).

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 Both T5 and the red truck had survived the winter very well despite not being under cover. T5 was dry and smelled fine, perhaps due to the three containers of dessicant we left inside plus a liberal distribution of dry tea bags. One bag tucked inside some clothes had burst which gave me a bad moment till I realised what all the little black things were! But the clothes smelled fine, unlike the towels which had been in another cupboard without any tea bags and simply smelled of disuse.

The truck had become home to a starling family who somehow constructed a nest in the engine bay. Our friends discovered it about a week before our arrival when they opened the bonnet to check the battery. They removed as much of the straw as they could but by the time we arrived the nest had been rebuilt. Luckily there were no eggs.

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Within two hours of regaining our ‘home’ we were on the road. We headed straight for the chestnut orchard, still looking very wintry with mostly bare-branched trees; at this time last year, according to a reminder from Facebook, it was a sea of green branches, not just green grass and flowers. This time at least there’s a pukeko’s nest in the long grass and some quails skittering about. 

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After stocking the pantry, collecting Penny the foxy was our next focus. Penny’s foster dad David J was happy to make the trip from Taumarunui to Wellington so he could spend time with his granddaughter there. (We received a text message the day before we arrived: “Penny wants to know why I would rather have a baby on my knee instead of her?”) We headed for Blenheim with T5 in tow, planning to take a day ferry over to Wellington with just the truck (so Penny could travel back on the ferry in the truck and not in a cage beside lots of strange dogs).

After outback Australia and in particular the very dry country around Nic and Mick’s in the Somerset area north of Brisbane, the green Canterbury plains dotted with lambs, flowering trees all along the highway, occasional foals (including one particularly striking ‘paint’ foal which eluded my camera), snow-clad distant mountains and in particular the surprisingly green hills of the Kaikoura Ranges were a welcome revelation. We were back home!  Even if it was a grey rainy day ….

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One sobering moment was on the Ranges when we came upon a huge semitrailer laden with cars which somehow overturned after negotiating a particularly tricky curve.

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We stopped at Domett for the usual delicious lunch…..

img_3469…. and also visited the seal pups north of Kaikoura but it was too early in the (new) season for them and only a few older pups were around.

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img_3490Arriving in Blenheim we made the snap decision to try a new POP site near Picton, which turned out to be a rather nice huge green paddock.

We were at the ferry terminal by 8 am next morning, this time doing the crossing on the newer Interislander “Kaiarahi” which has very comfy reclining chairs in the huge viewing lounge with large windows on three sides (why didn’t I take a photo?).

Once off the ferry, a quick trip to Animates to get Penny some treats, and we were at David J’s son’s place in seemingly minutes. Penny shot out as soon as the door was opened, did a double-take and instead of her usual who-are-you bark, immediately started dancing and climbing over Dave, then me, then Dave, then me …. definitely she knew who we were after 6 months. A lovely reunion. Our very grateful thanks to David and Marion for looking after her so well. I’m sure if Penny could talk she would have some wonderful tales to tell, of rat hunting on the woodpile and visits to the neighbour (and his fire) whenever left at home alone, and helping in the woolshed, and … and …

here’s the photo David J took of us as we were leaving. Obviously taken in Wellington …!!

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The trip back to Picton was without incident, although we were expecting a very rough trip judging from the wind and waves in the Wellington inner harbour.img_3505img_3508img_3509 But it was a smooth journey, with a beautiful sunset as we entered the Marlborough Sounds. An outgoing ferry was lit by golden light but by the time Dave had grabbed his camera and scooted outside the light had gone.

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Penny seems happy to be back in T5 but I do think she misses the large warm farmhouse kitchen at Taumarunui, not to mention expert ball-thrower David.

It rained again most of the way back to Christchurch. We stopped at Nin’s Bin for some mussels and crayfish but the hefty price tag for a tiny little cray hardly big enough for the two of us and the lack of mussels due to the bad weather spelled disappointment.

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So here we are back in Christchurch, waiting till the long weekend is over and we can get our special caravan TV re-tuned to the Geosynchronous orbiting satellite. Apparently the satellite’s position has been changed and the TV/Caravan repair places have been inundated with irate people.

Wikipedia says:

“A geosynchronous satellite is a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, with an orbital period the same as the Earth’s rotation period. Such a satellite returns to the same position in the sky after each sidereal day, and over the course of a day traces out a path in the sky that is typically some form of analemma.”  ……  These satellites are commonly used for communication purposes such as radio or television networks, back-haul and direct broadcast.  There are also some weather satellites and classified military satellites. GPS systems do not use this type of satellite.

Is it really Spring?? I keep on thinking it is time to get out more warm clothes ….

Postscript: Six months living in another caravan with a different layout has consequences. Too often one of us says – Where is X? and the answer is – I know exactly where it is … in (this cupboard or that) … in the Australian caravan!

175. The Best-Laid Plans ….

THE PLAN: Leave the caravan and Jeep at Nic and Mick’s until we return to Australia some time next year.

Tuesday 11th: Caravan and Jeep to Caloundra for servicing. Collect late afternoon. Return to N&M’s.

Wed. 12th: Big clean-up of both including vacuuming etc. Cover both. Final packing.

Thurs 13th: Fly home to NZ.

THE ACTUALITY:

Tues 11th: Drove to Caloundra. A km or so before the caravan servicing place, there was a sort of crunch but we thought it was the road. Dropped off caravan at servicing place, drove to Jeep servicing place. Received a phone call …..

 

The crunchy bit was the spring which Dave had repaired in Mt. Isa, breaking …

These are the spring pivots supposedly “serviced” when we bought the van in Melbourne, they did a great job on them.. not.

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This is the spring leaf that was bent when the locating pin sheared on the road to Gregory Downs, I am amazed that it lasted so long but this was the main reason for taking it to a service place to be checked out, very lucky it was so close when it finally broke and we were able to limp the rest of the way.

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SO the caravan will have to stay on the hoist for a week or so until they can get a new spring/springs. By which time we will be in NZ.

SO we were not able to access the caravan to retrieve my favourite NZ kitchen knife, empty the rubbish bin (including some sugar), do final cleaning, vacuum, insect spraying etc etc. Thank goodness all linen, the duvet, spare clothes, towels and so on are already washed and stored in plastic bags.

Apart from the above we have been enjoying the ambience at Toogoolawah, and caring for the dogs/cats/horses since we arrived last week.

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We made an earlier trip to Caloundra, with wonderful views of the Glasshouse Mountains on the way, but unfortunately we could not stop on the very narrow twisty road to take good photos.

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We had lunch at Moffat Beach, where the waiter just happened to be wearing a T-shirt featuring a Christchurch cafe! He said it was the first time he’d worn it for months, and couldn’t get over the coincidence…  (Photo by Dave)

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Dave managed to find time to have a snooze…

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…and I investigated the flowering trees – a sign of Spring in Queensland, where daffodils and jonquils are sadly lacking …

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Sunrises and sunsets are always awesome around here.

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174. Last Australian Camp!

We had one more night before being due at Nic and Mick’s where we will be on house/horse/dog/cat/cattle-sitting duties until it is time to fly home two weeks later.

Leaving Tin Can Bay we drove through more hectares of pine forest ….

img_3229img_3226…. until finally we reached Gympie where we stopped for lunch and Dave explored the Gympie Gold Mining and Historical Museum. I decided some sudoku was more attractive. No photos from Dave – he had the wrong lens on his camera. No photos of the town either, I was too busy trying to navigate up and down the steep streets especially when we strayed off the highway.

Our last night we spent in a remote bush camp somewhere on the road between Gympie and Nanango, in the South Burnett region of Queensland. Rather optimistically called Broadwater, there is a narrow creek beside which we camped and enjoyed a reasonable but not remarkable sunset, surrounded by bush noises and with only one other known camper well out of sight on the other side of the reserve.

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Dave went bird hunting ….

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On the way to our final destination we stopped at Murgon and visited the Information Centre just in case there was something interesting in the vicinity. It was there I spotted this sign about Duboisia (the native Australian corkwood tree) with its useful medicinal properties.

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The first commercial crop of about 5 acres was grown in the area in the 1940s. There are now approximately 1000 acres sown. The plant is propagated by cuttings grown in pots in a hothouse. It has a high water requirement. Up to two crops can be harvested per year.

Duboisia grown in the South Burnett region of Australia has a particularly high concentration of the tropane alkaloids scopolamine and hyoscyamine. The plant’s properties were known to the early aboriginals.

I think this is a Duboisia plantation, spotted a few days later.

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Also these are examples of Bunya nuts which I haven’t seen elsewhere. Dave charmed the information ladies with his Kiwi accent!img_3237

Next morning, we reached Nanango in good time for morning tea with Elaine and Frank, then on to Toogoolawah in light rain. Finally our destination came into sight:

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We are now camped in the same position as four months ago. We have done 19,650 km, seen many beautiful sights and had some wonderful adventures.

This was supposed to be the last blog for a while but seeing we are here for 2 weeks before flying home we do expect to see/do a few more things. As for example driving all the way back to Gomeri three days after passing through that small country town, to watch Nic and Mick doing some ‘cutting’ with their quarterhorses (we actually got there too late to see them). It was a huge weekend event with people – and horses – coming from near and very far judging by the size of some of the motorhome-horse floats.

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Very loose reins, hold the pommel, guide with spurred heels … The horses were amazing, wheeling, backing, feinting …ears pricked, coats gleaming….

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It was a fine day but very windy, therefore rather cool, and after some hours sitting in a grandstand watching the cutting it started to pall and the thought of some nearby wineries became increasingly attractive. So off we went for lunch at one of the  Barambah/Moffatdale wineries, which shall remain nameless. Nothing wrong with it, a reasonable atmosphere, pleasant wines, a small but adequate menu, nice scenery …. but not a patch on NZ wineries in my opinion. Still, we left with one of their champagnes and a Verdelho (the same wine in which my salmon was expertly cooked – but why was it Atlantic salmon and not NZ?  Think air miles, global warming, etc etc.  I asked the waitress but she had no idea).

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We also had a look at the Bjelke-Petersen dam (Lake Barambah). The huge camping site was chockers. People, kids and boats were everywhere. Not our idea of a peaceful camp, but there WAS plenty of water to play on and in.

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The water skiers were all just out of sight. Apparently the fishing here is very good.

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“What are those people doing in our pool?”

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We have over a week left so will probably do some more exploring of the region; plus the caravan and Jeep should both have a service in Toowoomba before they get wrapped up and stored until we return some time next year. So, maybe one more Aussie Blog is to come??

173. Bundaberg

While in Gladstone we realised it was almost our last chance to visit a Great Barrier Reef island. Previously we’d turned down Green Island out of Cairns in favour of the Kuranda Railway. At Bowen we decided not to visit touristy Airlie with its numerous sightseeing boats around the Whitsundays. We skirted Mackay so missed the boats to the Northumberlands and Percy Isles. From Rockhampton we could have visited the Keppels but preferred to see family. Then at Gladstone we learned the only business with boats to Lady Musgrave Island (operating out of the Town of Seventeen Seventy) had two boats but one had sunk and the other was in Brisbane for servicing! That left Lady Elliot island at the very bottom of the Great Barrier Reef but it is now a high-priced eco-tourist resort and we only wanted a day trip.

I was particularly disappointed about Lady Musgrave island. Twice in the late seventies-early eighties I visited it on board “Cornelius”. Both times it took great care to negotiate the narrow dog-leg channel through the coral and into a large lagoon where we anchored and snorkelled and dived to our hearts’ content. It is still uninhabited although camping is permitted.

Oh well – onwards. Approaching Bundaberg we stopped at Lake Monduran for a cuppa and met a lovely couple heading in the opposite direction. (So sorry, if you are reading this, we didn’t even catch your names). Too often we meet like-minded people but plans to meet up again somewhere else seldom seem to materialise.

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We didn’t have any plans for Bundaberg but on the drive there one of the roadside ‘fatigue zone’ quiz signs was about Bert Hinkler the famous aviator from Bundaberg so we determined to visit the Museum. It turned out to be an interesting treasure-trove located within the Bundaberg Botanical Gardens, where we had a reasonable cafe lunch and then set off to explore.

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I thought I was museumed-out but this last one was good, particularly because it had several hands-on flight simulators. Here I am piloting one of Bert’s early gliders (this is the way he “sat” in the cockpit) …

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… a model of it on the beach … (you can see the pilot’s position)….

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.. plus an amazing story about a fragment from that glider ……

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…. us taking turns in the cockpit of another very early plane ….

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…. and Dave piloting a Cessna Cub (?) which I also loved. Luckily there were few other visitors so I had several goes. I  ALMOST made it to the next airfield before running out of fuel and crashing. I now have a much better understanding of flying small planes!

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More planes … (hard to see in the dim light).

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Another unusual sign …. (what has happened to Cathy Freeman? – https://www.wyza.com.au/entertainment/where-are-they-now-cathy-freeman.aspx)

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Bert flew from Sydney to Bundaberg in 1921 in a Baby Avro. There was much excitement when he arrived ….

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Bert lived in England for many years at a house in Southampton called Mon Repos.  In 1982 the house was listed for demolition but a long-time Bundaberg resident and Hinkler admirer organised the relocation of the house to Bundaberg as part of the Australian Bicentenary celebrations. A three-man dismantling team from Bundaberg pulled down the house brick by brick and shipped it to Australia in two 20 tonne containers. It was successfully rebuilt and furnished with some of Bert’s furniture which had been saved plus other from the same time period. 

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We did not stay in Bundaberg but continued towards Maryborough, spending the night at a free camp well guarded by Wicked Banksia-Men. Anyone who read the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books when young will know what I mean! The dried seed pods used to fascinate me as a child.

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Wallum (Banksia) obviously has strong powers of regeneration.

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About to leave next morning, we noticed someone must have bashed into our rear bumper bar some time the previous few days. So disappointing – we have come this far without a scratch and now this. Fortunately all the lights still work.

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172. Heading Downhill – Rockhampton/Yeppoon & Gladstone

We chose a camp at Yeppoon rather than Rockhampton, to be closer to family. First – a burst hot water pipe had to be fixed. After visiting various caravan supply stores and plumbing supplies Dave finally found what he needed; then it was a fairly simple matter to make repairs although it did involve dismantling part of the shower.

We didn’t stay very long, just a couple of visits and some lovely meals with two separate families This roo and baby were at the Yeppoon Adventist Retirement village, which I blogged about at some length last year ….

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… and my other family, when  some of them visited the caravan….

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…… a quick drive along the waterfront where a flotilla of little boats were getting ready for a regatta ….

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…… and a cemetery search to locate a couple of Darchys. For once the search was fast, aided by an excellent locator provided by the Rockhampton Council. My mother and aunt knew Blanche. We also looked for the house where they once lived, but it has been rebuilt. These are the houses on either side .. lovely old Queenslanders.

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Then it was over one of the two bridges and down the coast to Gladstone.

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I wanted to visit Gladstone port, where we had tied up Cornelius all those years ago in early 1977 and where I first realised I was pregnant when the “seasickness’ which had mysteriously appeared on the sail from Sydney to  Lord Howe Island onwards refused to disappear. There is now a large children’s playground/park in the area, complete with a wonderful water feature which almost had me wishing I was five years old again!

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HMAS Gladstone II was also on display, somewhat incongruously hoisted a little way above the water.

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I loved the signal flags, they reminded me that I once sewed a whole set for Cornelius. They were kept in a multiple-pigeonhole cabinet above the gimballed saloon table, and a couple of times we “dressed ship’ for special occasions such as when we towed the engineless Ahodori II down Sydney harbour and out to sea, at the start of the second (or third?) leg of Yoh Aoki’s single-handed voyage around the world.

Feeling famished we stopped at the Black Duck cafe near the waterfront and both had an eyewateringly spicy calamari and prawn salad – wonderful.

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Then back to the caravan. About 50 km south when we stopped for diesel I realised I had left my handbag at the Black Duck. Readers may remember that Dave left his keys behind when we were at Eungella and we had to retrace our steps up and down the range and  then north for 80 km. So when I went up to Dave at the bowser and said “My Turn” he knew immediately what I meant …!!

A phone call ascertained that the bag was indeed there, and off we went. About two thirds of the way to Gladstone we stopped at a roadside caravan park and left Westy there, so the rest of the journey was accomplished quickly. Collected the bag, back to Westy, and another conversation with Johnny Walker while admiring the sunset.

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That caravan park was more semi-permanent caravan-cabins than travelling caravans/motorhomes. Here’s one that looks like getting an upper floor.

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We left next morning heading south for Bundaberg.

171. Eungella & the Broken River

We decided not to wait any longer in Bowen for the parcel, which of course arrived the Monday after we left and has now been redirected to Nic’s to arrive hopefully about the same time we do (!). Australia Post said it would take up to five working days to arrive from Melbourne. It took over two weeks.

Leaving Bowen we decided to avoid the tourist trap called Airlie Beach and instead visit the platypus at Eungella National Park west of Mackay. One of the caravan forums Dave subscribes to said the Broken River free camp was a great place so we headed that way, eventually to be confronted by several warning signs about a VERY steep climb up the Range.

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Foolhardy or not, we ventured up – and up. These are the views from the ‘Sky View’ area at the top.

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At Eungella we decided not to go further on the narrow twisty road to Broken River but instead sought a caravan park in the Eungella township. The GPS directed us up a steep narrow road. At the bottom we passed a large sign covered over with canvas. We should have known! At the very top instead of the expected caravan park there was a dead end with no place to turn around, so Dave reversed down the whole hillside; luckily it was in a very quiet part of the town. Near the bottom we saw the reverse side of the canvas-covered board, it was facing away from the road and was the sign for the caravan park with a large CLOSED at the bottom.

So back down the Range we went with its 20 kph hairpin bends …..

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…. and back towards Mackay, through Netherdale with its purple house …..

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…..until we came to the Finch Hatton Showgrounds, a lovely flat safe haven.

I trotted off to inspect the amenities and returned to find Dave with an odd look on his face – his caravan keys were missing. On the same keyring was a controller device for his cochlear implants and a near-irreplaceable battery holder for the same. Nothing for it but to retrace our steps. The possibilities were:

  1. At the information sign at Eungella, ie at the top of the Range, a mere near-vertical 25 km or so away.

2. At the BP service station at Kolijo some 80 km north.

3. At the Bowen dump site, 185 or so km north.

Leaving Westie to enjoy the Showgrounds, and hoping the contents of the fridge would stay cool, we headed back up to Eungella. No luck so down again and north to Kolijo. Success!! The keys must have fallen out of Dave’s back pocket at the pump. Oh the relief. The return 80 km flew by and we were back in Westie as the sun went down, enjoying a much-needed close encounter with Johnnie Walker.

Next morning (Sunday)  it was up the Range again sans Westie, to try and see the elusive platypus (plural – opinion is divided on the correct term – platypi, platypuses, or just platypus). But we got there too late, a sign told us the best viewing times are before 8 am and after 3 pm.

We had a look around anyway – these are the two main viewing habitats, with good viewing platforms.  Upriver from the bridge…..

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… and downriver. There’s also often good viewing from the bridge itself.

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A large number of little turtles were visible; apparently they can breathe through their bottoms! 

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We noted that the Broken River cafe served what sounded like an excellent breakfast, so planned to go there again much earlier next morning, see some platypus and  breakfast in style.

Which we did, the very first part that is – but no platypus and the cafe was closed! Luckily the Platypus Cafe nearby was not, and served an excellent Eggs Benedict. Highly recommended.

The walks around the Broken River area are delightful and also well signposted, with illustrations by local schoolchildren who are obviously proud of and care for their environment (and have an excellent teacher). 

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An artist’s palette ..

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There were quite a number of trees adorned with fig lacework.

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And lots of enchanting little birds.

Down the Range again (that was the fourth return trip, we were beginning to know the Range very well!) …..

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….  we stopped off at Westie for lunch then feeling adventurous we headed for the Finch Hatton Gorge. We knew there was a waterfall, the Araluen Cascades, but not the amount of up-and-down walking involved to reach it. Lizards and fungi watched us go by.

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finch-hatton05Eventually we reached ground zero to find a couple of teenagers daring each other to jump into the pool below. Further on were some popular swimming holes judging by the number of people we passed on the track wearing togs and carrying towels.

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Back up the range again that evening on our fifth return trip, to arrive about 4 pm. At long last the platypus made their appearance. The first one I spotted was just a splash but after that we could see from a track of bubbles which way they were heading underwater, then a surge indicated they were about to surface.

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They only stayed on the surface for about ten seconds while masticating their food, then it was another duck dive … We never tired of watching them. There are several viewing points from the bridge and along tracks on either side. It was an awesome, privileged time and the faces of other people watching told the same story.

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Next morning we packed up and headed for outer Mackay where there was a Jayco dealer, but no luck there so we continued towards Rockhampton, finally arriving late afternoon. It was just as well we decided not to stop for the night at a roadside free camp as the hot water pipe burst that evening. 

170. Bowen

I blogged about Bowen at some length  last year, or was it the year before – time goes so quickly these days. I lived here on board “Cornelius” between 1977 and 1985 and found the town much changed when we last visited. This time it has been mainly catching up with old friends and trying to stay cool! It’s only early Spring but already the days are very humid.

Just before reaching Bowen we passed over the Burdekin River again … rather nearer the sea this time.

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With a rather large Westie in tow, we elected to stay at the Rose Bay caravan park, right on the beach, well almost.

img_2749 There is a rather intriguing “outside bathroom”  in one corner for those who are a little far from the main amenities.  I wonder if they provide an umbrella during the Wet.

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Patrick and Sylvie gave us a wonderful welcome which included a scrumptious meal of Bouillabaise; it was so good to be back at their beautiful  little home with its strong French atmosphere.

 

We paid a visit to the Harbour (Port Denison), the tide was well out, and this time we noticed the old Catalina flying boat base, or what’s left of it, just a large concrete apron and wide ramp. I don’t recall seeing this ever before – it must have been very overgrown and neglected back in the eighties. There is a new  monument which incorporates a war memorial (which I forgot to photograph in its entirety).

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The Cruising Yacht Club which gave Geoff so much angst is still the same as ever – and the same size. Not modernised at all apart from a small marina rather than a hard standing. The harbour itself seemed to be very full of all sorts of boats from small fishing cruisers to large ocean-going yachts….. and a converted Thursday Island lugger, easily recognisable by its rigging.

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The Boat Harbour is much the same, the entrance just as narrow as ever. There was what looked like a dredge working there.

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We are stuck here actually until a parcel arrives from Melbourne, it should have arrived two days ago. In the meantime, here is Horseshoe Bay, a beautiful little beach. this is actually a good time for a swim, it’s hot but the marine stingers have not yet put in an appearance and I doubt a crocodile would venture  near this popular bay. Actually I haven’t seen any of the usual croc signs (Achtung!!) since Townsville. Have we really left croc territory?

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