188. Heading South – the Bowen Boaties and other friends

It was still raining but not so heavily when we left Tamborine Mountain, going straight to the M1 as our proposed route via Murwillumbah was cut off by flooding. We spent a night at pricey Brunswick Heads, right on the river…..


….. before shifting to Mullumbimby where we stayed wetly on a very muddy field for the next few days. I love that part of the NSW countryside, all hills and dales and green grass (and doubtless other types of grass), hippy country with charming little townships full of cafes and art and dress shops.

Mullumbimby itself is a popular haunt of weirdly dressed and dreadlocked inhabitants, and the “Information Centre” was a single stand inside the newsagents. Mysterious odours wafted from certain shops. Our tour of exploration was cut short by – you guessed it – more rain. We did manage one evening trip along narrow hinterland lanes to meet one of the babies I did knitting for during our earlier touring.

We made a day trip to Bangalow so I could see an osteopath about my recalcitrant neck; a pinched neck nerve or two occasionally makes life miserable.  Bangalow has streets lined with vibrant purple ‘something’ trees, as well as a lovely antique shop where it was difficult not to fall in love with all the old restored furniture. The whole area is a colonial furniture collector’s paradise.


By then the weather had eased a little and I had a wonderful time catching up with various friends from the days when my first husband Geoff and I ran the Bowen slipway.

We lived on board our boat “Cornelius” on which my daughter spent her first five years. Geoff acted as harbour master for the numerous boaties and fishermen who came and went in the popular harbour in the late 1970s, so we were never short of new people to meet. I acquired a few more old photos …..





It was so wonderful to see them all and visit their homes which I had not seen for many years, particularly ‘Serendipity’ deep in the bush with its abundant wildlife.



P1140374P1140380One last evening we shared a meal with Pete and Dee sitting in the near-empty carpark at nearby New Italy, it being far too hot and humid to be in the caravan, especially since I had the bright idea to make a salmon quiche in the oven! (We nearly didn’t have it anyway as the oven went out  at an early stage, fortunately discovered in time).


The Pacific Highway has certainly become wider since I used to beetle up and down it in my little VW in the 60s.  But the narrow opening bridges are still there.


An important side trip was made to Evans Head, near which my Great-Uncle George lost his life at sea when the SS “Cahors” ran aground on Evans Reef in 1885. The reef cannot be seen from the shore, but here are views looking in the general direction, plus views of the modern-day breakwater.  George’s story is told in detail at https://nancyvada.me/sailing/george-johnston-sailor-boy



P1140398A shop spotted in Evans Head:


On to another beautiful camp at Yamba, with a  small pool where I did morning laps, something I sorely miss in NZ…

P1140477 … and another long-time friend to meet and hug and swap reminiscences with. Dave has met most of my friends over the years so was far from feeling  left out.  Kay and Peter’s home is right on the river, oriented just right to catch the sunsets.


P1140504P1140505Like Evans Head, Yamba has a huge breakwater where the enormous Clarence River enters the sea. Pilot’s Head furnished wonderful views.



Here’s the vista looking the other way into the extensive estuary. Aboriginal art  gives some idea of the size.P1140440

P1140471A lasting memorial (with a little camellia tree) overlooks the breakwater. It was obviously somebody’s favourite spot.

P1140436The lighthouse….P1140446

And the former pilot’s house, now restored and the home of the local radio station.


P1140453Two local inhabitants. The second one has lost part of his/her tail.



P1140500The views from beside and on the Yamba breakwater. Decorating the rocks seems to have become the in-thing. P1140473




The Yamba Historical Museum is well worth a visit, with lots of well-presented exhibits. We learnt some more about the lighthouses we visited the other day…….


….. and Dave also chatted with one of the researchers who had written about the “Cahors”, and an exchange of information resulted. It has been some time since I first researched my Great Uncle George, and lots of new information has come to light via on-line old newspapers.


Spooky Beach (yes that’s it’s name) just south of the breakwater. The rock pools were formed after quarrying to build a railway -there’s a piece of railway line sticking out in the bottom photo.


Yamba Prawns are justly famous. Dinner one night was simply prawns, home-made seafood sauce, fresh bread rolls and some NZ Sauvignon Blanc.  We should be drinking Aussie wines and we try to do so but all too often they are priced well out of our budget. We’ve heard the Aussie market is flooded with NZ wines and the growers are angry, yet in NZ some growers are importing Aussie wine and bottling it under their label!!

Cyclone Debbie caught up with us the evening before we were to leave Yamba. We made a rain-sodden dash 250 km or so south to Port Macquarie without mishap and are now in a small camp high on the cliffs. My brother’s ashes-scattering ceremony is tomorrow.

187. Back in Australia

We’re on the road again. The last few weeks have been busy and as usual I am way behind with this Blog. I started writing this on top of Tamborine Mountain south of Brisbane, not too far from the state border. It was pouring rain, just like on our last visit there about 5 months ago. It was the first time it’d rained there since then, so of course when we went to the Information Centre and mentioned that, they wanted to keep us here. I don’t mind the rain, it cools things down beautifully. So long as it doesn’t manage to find a way through the overhead ventilator and onto our bed… (which of course it did). 


Even the scrub turkeys were looking a little bedraggled. Most birds were sheltering from the rain but this hopeful kookaburra hung around.



It was wonderful to catch up with my dear friends Ian and Leonie and Bobbie, my “Brisbane family”, in their beautiful homes with the rainforest right in their backyards.

But back to the beginning ….. We were very fortunate to find the perfect foster family for Penny just before we left Christchurch, and have received various encouraging messages and some photos since then. The latest was: “She is very very good she loves my (dog) grooming clients too – new visitors with different news!!”

We went straight to Nic and Mick’s on arrival in Queensland, well sort of straight, via the efficient overhead monorail from the airport then a train to Caboolture where we were met. Our very grand Jeep Gand Cherokee which had been languishing under cover since last October was fine, the battery had been kept charged by a small solar panel. 

The dogs gave us the usual lovely welcome and the cats were sightly less frosty than before, so we were soon all set to do some serious house and animal sitting for five days while Nic and Mick took off for some much-needed R&R and a birthday celebration.



House sitting Nics02


The two calves Brie and Cracker only needed feeding from a bottle once a day and only three of the ten or so horses needed supplementary feeding, the rest were off in the far paddocks with the cattle.

House sitting Nics01


There were the usual beautiful sunsets.


Dave had fun trying to mow the “lawn” early one morning before it got too hot …..


When the fan belt of the ride-on mower broke we drove to nearby Esk for a replacement only to find the last one had been sold about an hour earlier. We consoled ourselves with lunch at “Nash” then drove to Toowoomba.


I felt that the long drive justified spending more than 5 minutes getting a new fan belt, so bought some knitting wool and a pattern and also a new Western-style canvas hat. I was surprised that the local Lincraft was so relatively poorly stocked compared to NZ. We all know the art of knitting has declined but is having a resurgence in NZ; obviously not in Australia though. Well it is a bit hotter here. Also HUMID.

We collected the caravan in Caloundra without mishap, it had been well stored and smelled good, even if the cover was a bit torn. Bad weather, they said. The storage people (who had supplied the cover) tried to get us a replacement from the manufacturer, but no go. Still, courtesy, efficiency – much appreciated.



Grandy was taken down to Banyo near Brisbane airport for repairs to the rear bumper bar, which someone had run into just before we left Aust. last October. Our insurance company insisted we use their recommended place in Banyo and I was stunned at the efficiency of the whole operation. Arrive at the appointed time, drive into one of two reception bays, welcomed by a smiling lady and in no time an assessor was looking at the car. 2-3 days, he said. They paid for a taxi to the airport to pick up a hired car, we drove back to Toogoolawah, then the very next day they phoned to say it was ready. Back to hand in the hired car, free taxi to the repair shop, here are your keys, sign here ….


By then I was craving some Queensland prawns so after a hunt we found Morgan’s at Scarborough (not Redcliffe as I had thought) where many years back we would go to order a huge Christmas seafood feast; and enjoyed some prawns in their outdoor area, surrounded by the local birds.


We left Toogoolawah with the usual regrets, it is a very lovely piece of country; fortunately they’ve had some rain since our last visit. Some local roos were lining the drive to wave us off.




First stop en route to Ipswich was Lake Wivenhoe, source of Brisbane’s water supply.

P1140317 P1140311



We headed for the Ipswich Showground where we camped for a few days while we caught up with friends and Grandy acquired a new set of tyres. The Showground actually had a welcome kit – first time we’ve received one. There was even a biro. The facilities were excellent. There was a huge old tree nearby, actually only the remnant of a larger one, a stump can just be seen on the left.


Then off again heading for Tamborine Mountain. And the aforesaid rain.

186. Rarangi again

We had such a lovely time homesitting at Rarangi Beach near Blenheim in a glorious beach house with two friendly dogs and some chatty neighbours. The same place we homesat over two years ago. it was almost like coming home.




The dogs Nunny (Valhund) and Dudley (Standard Schnauzer) obviously remembered us and Penny too so the transition was very smooth. We all enjoyed the daily beach walks. 

img_5410img_5427img_5428img_5488img_5486Blenheim is always interesting, the rows and rows and ROWS of grapevines occasionally become monotonous but the colours are always changing with the seasons. This time it was late summer, almost everything was still bright green, the variety of ‘haircuts’ was interesting, and the bridal veils for keeping birds off the ripening grapes were only just being brought out – we saw huge rolls sitting by the side of the road waiting to be placed.

We had lots of visitors including Dave’s sister, so we had an excuse for several vineyard lunches, the only problem being which one to choose. Brancott Estate was first, because of its location, with sweeping views of acres of vineyards. The grapes were just starting to ripen.




Brancott has a small falcon breeding facility, their two birds are unable to fly due to injuries but there’s nothing to stop them doing other things and eventually their progeny will help protect the vineyard from avian grape robbers.


Another day, the weather not being so good we decided to forego a long drive towards Kaikoura and the Peter Yealands vineyard, instead opting for one of our favourites, St. Clair, where the huge Tastes of Marlborough platter is always excellent. Huge green-lipped mussels, local olive oil, artisan bread …. and so many other delicacies.

The new people next door wanted a couple of ancient pine trees felled, they cast too much shadow over their new Natives garden. The first few came down Ok but the last one needed prolonged discussion. Our house owners were expecting their woodshed to be a fatality but the tree came down perfectly.




I have long wanted to experience the Marlborough Sounds mail run to various outlying settlements, and at long last we managed to fit one in, albeit only a half-day run in a fast hydrofoil rather than an all-day in a small launch. Penny was allowed along and thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly as we stayed on the top deck and she could lord it over the dogs which occasionally ‘met’ the mail boat, probably eager for the dog biscuits which the helmsman/postie kept handy.





Penny was not allowed ashore at Ship Cove which Captain Cook visited several times, the only place where we humans were allowed ashore.



We took Dave’s niece Viv for a long drive to Cape Campbell, north of Kaikoura. There is a caravan/motorhome camp nearby at Marfells Beach, which we inspected for signs of the recent earthquake damage (nothing much obvious) ……


…… and then continued to Ward Beach where the seabed has very obviously been raised several metres. The road to Kaikoura was blocked a little further along. No fishing is permitted along quite a long stretch of the coastline, until marine life recovers.



All too soon it was time to pack up yet again, the sunset that last evening was softly beautiful.  The dog owners tell me that Nunny kept on checking our bedroom for me each morning; he was in the habit of jumping on the bed if I was not up by what he considered a suitable time!



We’d heard our geocache at Blackball was full of water again and needed a new container, so we headed that way, stopping for coffee at our favourite little roadside wheelie cafe in the Wairau Valley and then for diesel and some purchases at a small farmers’ market in Murchison. The road is beginning to show obvious signs of the great increase in traffic since the Kaikoura quake. We spent the next two nights in the Ahaura Domain near Blackball, a pleasant place with free showers at $5/night. A trip to Greymouth for a new container, then up to Blackball. It being around lunchtime when we arrived of course we had lunch at the Hilton! (For non-Kiwis, this old pub was grandly renamed the Blackball Hilton some years ago, then when the Hilton Hotel chain heard about it and threatened to sue, the name was changed to “Formerly the Blackball Hilton” which it retains to this day.)


And so back to Christchurch via a less frequented road which took us around Lake Brunner (not actually sighted), Arthur’s Pass (nobody told us a new straight road is being constructed there, Dave is not happy, he likes the curvy bits!), the beautiful road beside  the Waimak, a stop for a cuppa, excellent pies from the Sheffield Pie Shop on the way, and  so to our usual haunt in the chestnut orchard. We have just two days to go as I write this, before returning to Australia for three more months. We have found an excellent dogsitter for Penny, she should be happy there in the company of two other small dogs and two cats.