Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011 Trip: Into New South Wales and All Points West

Wednesday 5th October
At Ken's suggestion we headed south from Kunda Park, over the Gateway Bridge, and up to Toowoomba via the Gateway Mwy, Logan Mwy, Ipswich Mwy and Warrego Hwy. It was a good run.

Ken & Lyn had left earlier from Spinifex and it was our plan to meet up at Rudd's Pub in Nobby, south of Toowoomba. (QLD742 in CAW6)

The last couple of kilometres into Toowoomba was up a very steep section and we found ourselves stuck behind a large truck going very slowly. In 1st gear we pulled out and passed the truck. The Cruiser was working hard; this is not something I would like to do every day.

We arrived at Rudd's Pub mid afternoon. It is named after Australian author Steele Rudd, not deposed PM Kevin.

From my book collection at home:

A couple of enjoyable beers in the bar followed by a very nice counter meal. We had stayed here 2 years ago on the way home from picking up the Bushtracker. It's a nice spot.

Thursday 6th October
We wanted to get a few kilometres under our feet today. It was raining and we wanted to get clear of it. South into NSW, through Glen Innes and Inverell. Two years ago we came through these towns and they appeared to be bustliing and prosperous.  This time it looked like they were in recession. In Inverell two BP servos had closed.

We pushed on to our campsite that night: the banks of the Gwydir River at Bingara (NSW369 in CAW6). A beaut spot, even if a little crowded and still raining.

The next day, Friday 7th, we went into Bingara and had a look over the refurbished Roxy Theatre.

What a great place. Here is the milk bar/restaurant.

The theatre was set up for a wedding that week. Just a beautiful building.

Friday 7th October.
We left Bingara for Narrabri. Last year, with Steve & Glenda, we came in the opposite direction via Mt Kaputar NP. The steep section on this road were mostly downhill that way, but if we wanted to go from Bingara to Narrabri on that road we would have to deal with inclines in excess of 15%.

We decided on the long way around via Warialda and Moree.

It was a long day. We continued via Narrabri and Coonabarabran and spent the night in the caravan park at Tooraweenah (NSW925 in CAW6), just north of Gilgandra. The owners, Lindsay & Vicki, introduced themselves and Lindsay recognised my plates. He is also a member of ExplorOz and uses the nom-de-net Polar Bear.

We had previously discussed with Ken & Lyn that we would probably hit the road west at Gilgandra. They had a bit more time up their sleeves and would continue on to the Murray River and Victor Harbour in SA.

Saturday 8th October.
We refueled in Gilgandra and turned west via the Oxley Hwy. That irresistible force that takes over whenever you get a whiff of home certainly dominated my right foot. Eight hundred kilometres later we pulled into the Broken Hill City CP in Broken Hill. We spent 2 nights here which allowed us to throw some clothes through the laundry and catch up with our friends, and also ExplorOz members, Dave & Norah.

Monday 10th October
Broken Hill to Minnipa in South Australia. 700 kms. We overnighted at the Apex Park (SA776 in CAW6).

Tuesday 11th October
Minnipa to Jillbunya Rockhole, 44km west of Caiguna in Western Australia (WA14 in CAW6). 950 kms. Crossing into WA we picked up 2 1/2 hours because of daylight saving so we kept going. 

Wednesday 12th October
Jillbunya Rockhole to Burracoppin (WA328 in CAW6). 850 kms.

Thursday 13th October
Burracoppin to Mandurah and home. 350 kms and it rained all the way.

After about 20,000 kms around Australia we were home and happy.

Thanks very, very much to Ken & Lyn for being fantastic travelling companions and good friends. It was a wonderful trip.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

2011 Trip: Turning South.

20th September
We left Cairns this morning and, having decided to confront our Flatlander fears, we dragged the vans up to Kuranda via the direct route. Steep and twisty, but much shorter than the long way around that we took last year.

We camped at the Mareeba Rodeo Grounds again. Very very dry at this time of the year. I was surprised and looked up our records to see that we were there in early June last year. Almost 3 and a half months ealrier than this trip. There were relatively few vans there too.

So we all had a good look around the Atherton Tablelands.

One morning we were woken up by a series of regular loud roars and looked out the door and saw some hot air balloons. Robyn and I had a flight on these last year. They landed on the Rodeo Grounds again and this time, out stepped a wedding party. Now that's a wedding with a difference.

We had intended heading south into NSW via Charters Towers and St George but things were so dry, and Ken & Lyn hadn't seen much of the coast on their rushed trip up to Cairns so we chose the coastal route south.

23rd September
Leaving Mareeba, we headed south through Milanda and Millaa Millaa (there's that alphabet soup again) to Innisfail. We turned inland at Tully and set up camp at Tully Gorge Campground (QLD24 in CAW6).

This is where Robyn and I spent a couple of hours on a day trip out from Mission Beach a few weeks earlier. Great campsite.... except there was a full blown March Fly epidemic, and it was September. What's going on?? Must be climate change. We killed hundreds of the biting pests and were happy to hit the road the next morning.

24th September
Passing south through Cardwell, we stopped and enjoyed a coffee. Once more, we hope Cardwell gets back on its feet real soon. It's almost there so the locals have really done well since TC Yasi.

We camped overnight at Toomulla Beach (QLD38 in CAW6). This too was very dry. We watched the Eagles capitulate to Geelong.

25th & 26th September
We drove into Townsville. On past trips we have driven past Townsville enroute to other destinations. It's a bustling city. We stayed at the Seventh Day Adventist caravan park (risking a few stray lightning bolts). We met another couple from Mandurah here. They have a distinctive spare wheel cover with photos of their grandchildren which I had seen driving around home before.

This is the view from the top of Castle Hill lookout in Townsville. This city has a lot going going for it.

Ken & Lyn had some family on Magnetic Island so we jumped on the ferry and visited for a day.

This is the ferry terminal at Nellie Bay on Magnetic Island.

And the beach in front of the pub where we had lunch.

The bus trip around the island was a hoot. The driver knew all the locals and kept up a running commentary on local happenings.

27th September
Heading south from Townsville we stopped at Bowen for lunch on the waterfront. Fresh prawns from the Fisherman's Co-op. Yummo.

Seaforth (QLD64 in CAW6) was the campsite for tonight and, with some help from some fellow BT owners (the Cow Cockies) we found the correct way into town. A very popular campsite.

28th September
Tonight we camped on the south bank at Calliope (QLD105 in CAW6). We stayed here on the way up and Ken & Lyn stayed on the north bank during their trip up the coast.

29th September
Today we went into Bundaberg and stayed at the Big 4 Park there. Very nice. I met Peter (Trackor 2), another BT owner who we met 2 years ago in Inverell.

We went over the road to the Brothers Sports Club because their evening meal was a roast for $3.95. !!  It almost broke the bank when we had to pay an extra 50cents for a bread roll. Heck, we aren't even on a pension yet, so we have to watch our pennies.


A tour of the Bundaberg distillery was a must do event. It was good too. Both Ken & I bought some of their Bundy coffee and chocolate liqueur (only available at the distillery). Nummo

Also picked up some of their premixed cans of white rum with lemon & lime. Also nummo.

After a short stay in Hervey Bay we went back to Maroochy Palms CP in Maroochydore and Ken & Lyn went down to Caboolture. We both had to have some last minute tweeking done to our vans by our respective manufacturers. Maroochy Palms was almost deserted. It was very strange. It was as if, come the end of September, the tourists abandon Queensland.

While we were in Maroochydore we took a drive down to Mooloolaba. This is one of our favourite places on the Sunshine Coast. A beautiful beach and beachfront restaurants and apartments. We've stayed here a few times in the past and loved it.

The Council operates several caravan parks in the area from here up to Noosa and this one, right on the beach at Mooloolaba, is just excellent. What a location. I guess you would have to book well in advance to get a spot.

Wednesday 5th October.
South via Toowoomba into New South Wales. Now we are really on the way home.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 Trip: Cairns

Thursday 8th Sept to Tuesday 20th Sept:

It was a short drive from Mission Beach up to Cairns. We stayed at the Cairns Coconut Resort Caravan Park.

This is promoted as Australia's first, and Queensland's only, 5 star park. It was great. Particularly for families with young kids. They had a terrific time. We got a real kick watching the kids on the water playground. We wish they would set aside an afternoon for "big kids" so we could have a go too.

There was a family of Bush Curlews near our van and they welcomed two chicks into the world while we were there. I'm glad that this park maintains a "no pets" policy, otherwise these birds would have been breakfast for some poorly supervised pet.

We drove out to Barron Gorge national park. Very pretty. It must be out of control in the Wet Season.

We also took a drive up to Port Douglas. Once again, a bit yuppified for us. Nice scenery though.

We spent a few hours in the Botanical Gardens. Outstanding. It amazing what rich soil and good rainfall (and an army of gardeners) can achieve.

Tuesday 13th September:
Today we went on a reef cruise with Sunlover Reef Cruises.

It was a rough day. A huge swell and big waves. Some of the tourists aboard with us did not survive the trip. Well, at least the contents of their stomachs chose to abandon ship.

This photo is one of Sunlover's taken on a fine day.

Once out at the reef there were various activities available. The large permanently moored pontoon was the activity area where everyone prepared for what they would do.

Robyn and I had booked to go on a Seawalk. This involved getting into a wetsuit, first time for both of us, and a diving bell type of helmet. I explained to Robyn how to make the wetsuit warm. It worked for me.....

We were then taken under the boat onto a submerged platform where the staff, in scuba gear, attracted the resident fish to us with some food, and took a bunch of photos.

On the surface the wind was blowing and creating choppy conditions, even though we were sheltered a little by the reef.

A glass bottom boat was included in the tour and we went out amongst the coral outcrops.

Despite the heavy seas it was a very good day out. All the staff looked after us very well, running around collecting sick bags everywhere.

Wednesday 14th September:
Today we went on a tour of the Daintree Rainforest with Billy Tea Safaris.

It was an excellent day out. The driver/guide, Mark, had a wry sense of humour.

There are signs on all the roads asking drivers to be cautious in case a cassowary crosses the road. This one was modified by a local. Apparently it has been seen on T shirts.

We went a few kilometres up the Bloomfield track and had morning tea, billy tea actually, on a river bank.

A walk on the beach at Cape Tribulation was pleasant.

After lunch we fed a couple of kangaroos. One was particularly greedy and took things into his own hands... paws.

The tour ended with a river cruise with a few salties sighted. This was good.

We have been on 3 river cruises. One in Kununurra, one on Yellow Waters in Kakadu and this one on the Daintree. Yellow Waters was the best of the three for wildlife spotting.

Friday 16th September:
Today it was up to Kuranda on the Skyrail. 

Last year we came down to Cairns on the train and back up on Skyrail but this time it was Skyrail both ways.

That's a cable water ski park.

You can see an aircraft coming in to land at Cairns airport. Just to the right of the tower.

In Kuranda we went to Birdworld. 

They were very friendly.

We were warned that they tried to remove the winding pins from wristwatches, so it was off with them before we walked in.

I must remember to shave more than once a week.

After that it was a short walk to the Butterfly Sanctuary.

We came here last year but it is always worth visiting.

When we got back to the van, Ken and Lyn had caught up from their flying visit back to Perth. On Sunday 18th September Robyn and I had our 40th Wedding Anniversary. We set up our BBQs and tables and chairs between our vans and had a lengthy seafood dinner: fresh oysters, scallops, barramundi. Superb.