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Monday, 25 July 2011

FURTHER NORTH AND WARMER STILL

After leaving Kingscliff, I had more wonderful times with friends and relatives. A great evening of talking and eating and drinking with Colleen and Garry on their acreage at Tambourine. Two lovely days with cousin, Mary Ruth, much of it spent in her lovely apartment balcony overlooking the Brisbane River watching the sunset and sipping wine. We also set out to visit the Brisbane Art Gallery for a Surrealism exhibition but roadworks had us on so many detours we couldn’t get near it and we gave up. Then lunch overlooking the yachts at Manly with Val and Tricia. Great to catch up with them all.

While In Brisbane, I stayed in a caravan park that was the closest I could find to the CBD. Those that were closer, only took permanent residents. The park I did stay in had more permanent residents than tourists too. I have noticed this phenomenon – more and more people are living in caravan parks as the only affordable alternative. Some of the residences were old broken down caravans with a shack attached. Others were quite palatial and you could tell the owners took great pride in them with gardens and ornaments.

Today I headed north to the Sunshine Coast and am in a caravan park at Mudjimba, between Maroochydor and Noosa. I walked through the bushland to the beach. Beautiful.  Yes, parts of Queensland are close to perfect.

Mudjimba Beach late afternoon looking north
Mudjimba Beach looking south to Maroochydor


Standing on the beach, I looked across at a curiously shaped island, shaped a bit like a whale swimming south. Mudjimba Island – so of course I had to find out about it.

Mudjimba Island (Old Woman Island)

Some research on the Internet told me that  Mudjimba Island is also known as Old Woman Island and is one kilometre from the shore. It’s only accessible by boat. Diehard local surfers have been known to paddle half an hour, over a very deep hole filled with an abundance of marine life to reach the island. Apparently Sean Connory owned it at one time though it’s hard to imagine what on earth for. Another version of the story is that he and Diane Cilento spent their honeymoon night there which would answer the what for question. Apart from that, there’s nothing there except thousands of Shearwaters (mutton birds) that nest there.


An Aboriginal dreamtime story tells of the creation of Mudjimba Island. The story of two  men Coolum and Ninderry and a woman named Maroochy. In a fierce battle Ninderry knocked Coolum’s head from his shoulders into the sea to lie where it is today as Mudjimba Island.

I can hear the crash and roar of the ocean as I sit in the Tardis writing this.Life's good.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

GETTING WARMER


The trip from Byron Bay to Kingscliff isn’t very far and I was there around 11 on the morning of 12 July.  I left the car and the Tardis in the street and rang Anne Gabrielle’s door bell. 

“ ‘Allo”, said a very French voice. “C’est Veronique,” I said and she laughed as she let me in. Two kisses, one on each cheek and a big hug. Then we got down to business – the drinking of the champagne. 

Anne Gabrielle lives in a very sweet resort style apartment block. Her apartment is tiny: one bedroom with a bathroom (with washing machine and dryer) and walk in wardrobe, and a living area which includes the kitchen, also tiny. She has an enormous balcony which is really like a large room open at one end because it is roofed over by the floor of the much larger apartment above.  Here she has a dining table and chairs, a day bed and lots of beautiful potted tropical plants.



The view from the balcony is lovely. Her flat is on the first floor so you are looking through palms to the swimming pool that winds its way through the gardens and also includes a spa to the side to the pool and a communal BBQ area.
 
I first met Anne Gabrielle in Brisbane in 1961. I needed a French tutor. At high school, I had gone the Maths and Science route, then gone on to Teachers’ College. I then decided to go to University at night and do an Arts Degree. Turned out I needed a language other than English to qualify for entry. So back to night school to study French. I met Anne Gabrielle at a party. She had just immigrated to Australia with her English husband. We got talking, she offered to tutor me and we’ve been friends ever since. She is now eighty-two and losing her eye sight but still the same person, just a bit frailer.

The next few days were a lovely combination of sightseeing, wining and dining and catch up talks. Bastille Day, 14 July, of course we celebrated in one of the nicest restaurants in Kingscliff, Bablou above the Kingscliff Hotel.  Sarah, one of Anne Gabrielle’s daughters joined us for lunch and we enjoyed it immensely. Lovely food and excellent wine. Not cheap but worth it. And Sarah surprised us by insisting on paying for it.


After lunch, Sarah drove us along a bush track to the mouth of Cudgen Creek which flows through Kingscliff. A lovely spot and I took some photos of the cloud formations over the river. A lovely day and one of several.

Not as sunny as we hoped but a great spot!




Next stop, three kilometres up the road to spend a couple of days with long-time friends from Ocean Grove who now live in Kingscliff, Sue and Yolana.

Saturday 16 July, I left the Tardis outside Anne Gabrielle’s place and headed up the road for a couple of days with Sue and Yolana. I arrived late afternoon and of course that was perfect timing for champagne. Then a lovely Malaysian style dinner (Yolana is an expert at it) and a gentle evening of catching up.

The next day, they were hosting a sit down lunch for 18 people. I was at least able to help with the preparation and table setting etc. The lunch was a tremendous success. Yolana and Sue had prepared so much food, all of it delicious, and all the people were delightful and interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then of course we had to clean up when they all left but well worth it. We were all pretty tired so it was early to bed and sleep like logs.

Next stop Brisbane.

Monday, 11 July 2011

ALONE AGAIN

Had a great few days with Sharon here. We walked on the beach, sat in the sun, shopped, chatted,  drank coffee, drank wine, solved the world's problems, ate lovely meals, read, relaxed .... aaaaah. Yesterday, we drove to Ballina Airport and Sharon took a plane back to Melbourne. The Tardis seemed a bit empty last night.

So today, plenty of "me time", writing, relaxing but also packing up ready to head up to Kingscliff tomorrow and a few great days with Anne Gabrielle.

But here are  some pictures of the last couple of days. I think Sharon had a good time too.

Sharon outside the Tardis

Sharon enjoying the water

TAKE A BREAK

Written on 6 July 2011

It has been great to spend a day doing very little. Mundane things like washing and shopping of course needed to be done. But I took a morning stroll on the beach. Almost had it to myself except for a couple of joggers, a dog walker and a meditator. She looked so peaceful meditating there.on the sand with the morning sun on her upturned face. I had already meditated at "home" as I do every morning but it did look like a good thing to be doing.

Suffolk Beach south of Byron Bay

 
Pathway from caravan to beach

I am just constantly awestruck by the lushness of the sub-tropical plant life here. I've always loved it but have been away from it too long and had forgotten. Lush is the only word for it. There's rainforest here and mangroves and tropical flowers though not so many at this time of year. It is life-enhancing just looking at them all.Yes, I know that sounds over the top and New Age but there is no other easy way of describing it - for me.

One of my purposes for this trip was to write and research my next book and today I was able to make a good bit of progress on that.

Tomorrow Sharon joins me for a too brief get together. Looking forward to it. Living in Melton, I do sometimes feel quite isolated from my friends so this will be a good time to relax together and catch up.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

GET DOWN OFF YOUR HIGH HILLS

After several days of travelling through mountains of the Great Dividing Range in NSW, I left Glen Innes and began the descent to the coast. I chose the route through Tenterfield, Casino and Lismore reaching the coast at Ballina. Four hours of descending, winding, twisting, braking, sitting behind trucks, stopping for roadworks and singing along with my favourite tunes on my iPod and I finally reached the coast.

Wow!  Instant climate change! Not just the temperature which jumped at least six degrees Celsius but the plant life. The wonderful semi-tropical trees, palms that hadn’t been transplanted, massive Moreton Bay figs, and poinsettias four metres high. (Made my potted 20cm poinsettias look Lilliputian.)

I had previously decided not to stay right in Byron Bay so had booked into a caravan park at Suffolk Beach just five kilometres south of Byron. What a lovely park! Jungle-thick trees everywhere. Delightful staff. The young woman at reception calculated my week’s stay at $238 at the current tariff of $34 per night then proceeded to find ways to reduce it. First, since I was staying seven nights that meant I could pay for six nights and get one free. Great, that made it $204. Then she gave me a senior’s discount which amounted to another free night. So that dropped another $34. So I ended up paying $170 for a week’s accommodation in Byron Bay. Not bad. Sure I'm providing the bed and the roof, but let's not quibble.

My site is conveniently close to the amenities with a short walk through the jungle to the beach. I haven’t seen the beach yet but my neighbours told me it is pristine.

Speaking of my neighbours – I pulled into my site and began to set up my  home away from home. To anyone seeing the Tardis go UP for the first time, it’s always an eye-popping experience. I have to admit I get a bit of a kick out of watching the jaws drop. So I’m setting her up and out of the corner of my eye, I see my neighbours opposite sitting watching me. So as I “effortlessly” push up the walls, I lean out and say to them “How’s that?” They almost cheered but instead they came over to check it out. Two couples with four kids. I invited them in to look. No they didn’t all fit in but they were impressed. 

One of them asked “Do you have an annexe?” “No”, I said. “But I have an awning. It’s a bit of an effort to put up so I’m going to do it tomorrow.” The two young men said, in chorus, “We’ll do it. Since you’ve given us the guided tour, we’d be happy to do it.” I could have kissed them but raced for the awning, guy ropes, tent pegs and mallet before they changed their minds. It’s the one thing about the Tardis that I hate. The bloody awning. It takes ten minutes to put the van up and forty-five minutes (if I’m feeling in the flow) to put the awning up.

The young women retired back to their kids, and Chris and Stephen and I got that awning up before you could blink. When we’d finished, I produced beers all round.  They invited me to come over and visit them later and left me to finish settling in. They have two camper trailers with a tarp that covers both. Great set up and they have two kids per couple all about the same age. Perfect holiday. Beautifully behaved and very articulate children. Delightful people.

I did go over and have a chat with them around 5 p.m. They were ordering pizzas for dinner so I left when the food arrived. As I left, six-year old Sienna said “You can come and visit us tomorrow if you like.”

I reckon I will.


Sunday, 3 July 2011

Och Aye. Standing Stones and Faeries and too late for Solstice
Made it to Glen Innes today. Not far from last night’s stay in Tamworth. Although I love Country Music (well a lot of it!), I never linger in Tamworth. Always seem to be on the way to somewhere else.
Drove through the town of Uralla, famous for its bushranger Captain Thunderbolt. I have admired his bronze statue on the corner of the main street before, so I stopped to take a photo of him mounted on his spirited steed, looking very romantic indeed. I’m a sucker for horses.

On the corner diagonally opposite was a canon from World War 1 (I think – could have been World War 2. Canon have been around a while.) Looking from the canon to the bushranger and back again got me thinking of the things we Australians choose to memorialise (is that a verb?). No statues of Caroline Chisholm or Hannah Watts or Fleming or Flory. There’s even a bloody dog on a Tuckerbox in Gundagai and it’s famous for shitting in the tuckerbox. And now I’ll climb down from my soap box.
I put some Scottish music on full bore as I drove into Glen Innes. Came here for the Celtic Festival in 2008 and loved it. Went to the standing stones monument – not as old as Stonehenge but still lovely. A tribute to the old religion.
 










Booked into a great caravan park with some serious stones of its own. Boulders everywhere. Not your usual row on row of caravan sites at all. Just trees and boulders and the occasional tap and power supply. Find a site and settle in. Great couple running it – Helen and Robin. Spent quite a bit of time chatting with them. Lots in common.
Decided to stay here a couple of days before heading down to the coast. I’m on top of the range here so it’s downhill all the way. It’s gonna get cold at night but my trusty little heater will see me through.
Would love to celebrate the Winter Solstice here one winter. Missed it by 2 weeks this time.




Yes That's the Tardis in the caravan park among the rocks!


I haven't found any faeries yet but there are lots of rabbits, kangaroos and birds.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

NORTH TO THE SUNSHINE

1 July 2011
I’m on the road again in the Tardis, headed north for the sunshine. Warmth would be a bonus but it’s the grey I want to escape.
I left home on Sunday, 26 June and drove to Swan Hill (315 km) to meet up with Helen, a long-time friend who lives in her van full time and house sits in between.
We spent a relaxed three days in Swan Hill, including Helen’s birthday. I took her out to lunch at a lovely restaurant on the banks of the river near the Pioneer Village.
When I left Swan Hill, I drove north to Goolgowi (no, I’d never heard of it either but the Camps 5 book said it had a caravan park). By then I had driven 305 km and I try to average no more than 300 km a day.
I found the caravan park at the back of the tiny town, beside the football field. It looked like someone’s large backyard with taps and power points on poles scattered round. It was totally deserted but the sign said, “If unattended, pick a site and we’ll be round between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to collect the money. If not, please use the honesty box.” The posted price was $18 for a powered site. That was much better than the $32 plus that most are charging.
I checked the facilities. They were fine and very clean so I chose a spot. This is not as simple as it sounds. I find if I go to a caravan park and they say “I’m putting on site 53,” then that is that. I drive to site 53 and I settle in. But when I’m faced with an entire empty paddock to choose from, I suddenly can’t make a decision. My mind races through all the pros and cons – proximity to the amenities, lovely view (if any), avoiding the western sun, and on and on it goes.
The Germans have a saying which, in German, rhymes very nicely, but in English it says “Who has the choice, has also the torment.” Fits this situation perfectly.
While I’m going round in my mind, I also drive round and round with the van. It’s bloody embarrassing if there’s anyone else around. Fortunately there wasn’t.
So I dillied and dallied but finally chose a site near the amenities. There was no view so that was not an issue, and I’d lost interest in the Western sun. 
I set up camp, made a cuppa and prepared to spend the night alone. Then another van drove in. No dillying or dallying. They parked right beside me. So we got chatting. They were from Melton. Unbelievable! They set up camp and we got together for Happy Hour. Then one by one, three more vans arrived and I was definitely not alone.
Next day, after farewelling Dorothy and George, I headed north again. The birds feeding on the previous night’s road kill were so intent on their middle-of-the-road breakfast, it was difficult not to turn them into more road kill. I managed by sounding my horn almost constantly. The young kangaroo who leapt out in front of me had a very lucky escape. Braking suddenly with a caravan in tow is no picnic.
I stopped for a morning coffee in a picnic ground in a tiny town along the way. There was an old Douglas DC3 on display. It brought back memories of the times I had flown in them as a child in Queensland and the Northern Territory when they were used as passenger planes. It can be a bit off-putting having things you’ve personally experienced labelled “history” but then it feels quite good when you consider the alternative.
I drove to Dubbo (417 km – too far) and arrived stiff and stuffed. Am staying here two nights to have a day of no driving and just rest. Beautiful flowering gum behind my caravan helped with the sense of peace and relaxation.





Coo ee - come and join us

2 July 2011
Today I saw more dead kangaroos than I’ve ever seen on the sides of the road. Quite large ones too.  The only time I’ve seen more road kill was armadillos in the Southern states of the USA.

I left Dubbo and stopped for a break in Gilgandra. This is the town of the Coo-ee march. I’d never heard of it so here’s a bit of little known history. 

Apparently after the slaughter of Gallipoli, they were not getting as many volunteers for the Army as they hope. In November 1915, a young man from Gilgandra started the Coo-ee march. The idea was to march all the way to Sydney and whenever they saw a young man they would call out “Coo-ee, come and join us” and this way they would recruit men to the army. With a lot of speeches and parading of local dignitaries on horseback, thirty young men set off from Gilgandra. News spread and every town they came to greeted them with food and military bands and more speeches. By the time they marched into Sydney there were 263 of them.

Ttheir biggest shock in the army was the change in food. From being fed the very best by townspeople along the way, they were put on army rations of lumpy porridge, beef stew for lunch and bread and marmalade for tea. They received a couple of months training in Australia, were shipped off to Egypt for more training then sent into  Europe and the trenches of World War 1. Very few of them came home.