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Getting Ready

This is the post excerpt.

There’s just a few days to go until we go on our trip around Australia. For those of you who don’t know us Ben is a 32 year old bricklayer who has been working hard since 16 years of age. I am Leah, a 34 year old veterinary nurse who has also been working full time since finishing school. Next week we embark on a journey to find a different part of ourselves. We are taking our Toyota Prado, our off road BlueWater Murray camper and our two dogs Brock and Chevy and we will leave our comfortable 3 bedroom home in hope of seeing and experiencing the best of what our amazing country has to offer.

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Red Hot Summer Tour

April 30th 2022 – Sandstone Point Hotel

After battling the wave of bodies filing into the Sandstone Point Hotel, Bribie Island at around one o’clock Saturday afternoon, we made it to one of the two indoor bars I could see. Myself, my husband, Ben, and our neighbours, Megan and Dave, had booked to see the show back in November and it had finally snuck up on us. I had not been to Sandstone Point before but I had heard from several people how good the venue was for gigs like this. So far, it hadn’t disappointed, the place had an upper class but rustic feel about it and I was already considering returning when it wasn’t as busy to see what a normal day at Sandstone was like.

At the top of the grassy hill, just outside the doors of the hotel, a sea of picnic rugs and half height folding chairs spilled out in front of us. It was chaos, of course, with up to 10,000 people expected to arrive but it was organised. You could see that the staff here had done this before. They had defined walkways through the crowd so that people could travel to the bar, the toilets and the food trucks without accidently standing on fingers or tripping over legs.

We weaved through the walkways, eventually settling ourselves in a corner to the right of the huge black stage with massive screens either side. It turned out to be a great spot. Not only were we seated near a very comical nurse from Ipswich but we were just a couple of meters from the walkway that led to the dance area… the pit… the stage front… whatever you would like to call it, which meant we had some of the best seats in the house for ‘people watching’. I have been to enough gigs to know that the other attendees can be just as entertaining as the entertainers themselves.

The Red Hot Summer Tour – Unfinished Business, it had been called. It turns out that the reason for the name was that this group had been trying to get this tour done since 2020. It had been delayed several times in the wake of COVID. Now that life is a little more normal, they were determined to finish what they had started. First up, in place of Boom Crash Opera, we were treated to a few popular covers from Chocolate Starfish, who formed back in 1992, disbanded in 1998 and now somehow seemed to be back together again. They started the rock rolling, while more people filled this magnificent venue.

Killing Heidi then came on, a dated version of their former selves, they helped people to remember that they had hits. The lyrics for “Weir” and “Mascara” suddenly coming from listeners lips again. They lacked some of the energy that my group of onlookers remembered but were something to listen to while we ate and refreshed our beverages.

As the sun lowered, the crowd thickened. The lights at the hotel, which now seemed quite a walk away, glowed gold against a royal blue sky. The magnitude of this scene unfolded before, my eyes scanned the hill from the stage back up to the hotel. There were so many happy heads bobbing around. It really was a unique experience. The venue was absolutely grand, meshing so well with the balmy Queensland weather and laid back attitudes. The food trucks were good. The pizza, in particular, was great for this sort of gig. The bar tent was busy but set up in the best way possible.

Next up, the Baby Animals graced us with their stage presence. Now this… this is a band that still has what we all remembered them for. Great songs, great riffs and a lead singer (Suze DeMarchi), who still held the glory and darkness of real rock close to her heart. The Angels, lead by Dave Gleeson, were after them and did just as well, leading us into the darker hours with hits that we all loved hearing once again.

It seemed there was a bit of a break, which gave me time again to look to the crowd. In general, it was an older crowd, there were a few millennials scattered among us but Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y seemed to have the majority here.

The break gave us time to prepare and sink ourselves into the pit for the first time that evening. We had seen the next act before. We knew what they would bring. They already held a place in hearts, never before had they let us down. We waved our arms and chanted their names. We grinned widely at the tell-tale two double bases set up to the far left of the stage and the roady testing all of Chris Cheney’s guitars. The crowd rumbled into cheer when they finally ran out onto the stage. They started with ‘Second Solution’ then followed it up with mad guitar solos, incredible double bass acrobats and drum beats that went through your chest and came out your ears. The Living End are a 28 year old band that have not lost any of their former glory. The boys rocked as hard as they did in their twenty and thirties and we loved them for it.

The headliners were to come, James Reyne, who bought a list of loved songs a mile long. His voice still as superb as it had always been. Their songs still as nostalgic. There were many who stayed in the pit or joined it for them but due to the nature of their music, there wasn’t as much jumping around as The Living End had created before them.

Hunters and Collectors, they were the headliners and what many had come to Sandstone Point to see. From what I could see, little had changed with these guys. I had never seen them live before but I had heard they liked to tell stories in between songs. Sure enough, they were happy to spend some of their allotted hour and fifteen minutes chatting about past experiences and environmental issues. Their fans pleaded for their best songs, like ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ and ‘Holy Grail’, they did not oblige until close to the end of the set.

For us, after all was said and done, The Living End were the stand out act of the night and the Sandstone Point Hotel were the winners. Not only would they have made a pretty penny or two, they delivered the perfect place for these bands to come and for their fans to see them again. We can only hope that live music will always have a home at Sandstone.

Foo Fighters Pop Up in Geelong – Friday 4th March 2022

Even though we’d driven all the way from Queensland just a few days ago, the drive from Glen’s house in Lyndhurst seemed long. Traffic held us at a slow pace, cars full of fans bottlenecked into Geelong. We were anxious to get there and see what this true band of the ages, The Foo Fighters had in store for us. They’d not been to Australia since 2018 and this show was a surprise announcement.

The cloud cover was thick and grey, which made us think that the weather man might have been right, it really did look as though 20 to 40mm of would fall on GMHBA stadium and drench us. We walked through the blocked streets of Geelong to get to the stadium and our excitement built. Memories of past gigs came back. Black t-shirts and others who love to rock lined up. COVID had made it a long time between gigs and we’d all missed it more than we realised.

GMHBA stadium certainly looked the part. Precious turf was protected by hard plastic temporary tiles, creating The Pit. Huge black stage three massive screens and lighting towered over the ground. Rows and rows of seats bordered The Pit.

The Meanies and then Amyl and the Sniffers showed us their best. Old style rock rang out. They put their full energy into it but we knew that compared to the famous elephant sized act that was coming next, these bands were mice. During their performances, light rain was constant enough to dampen the air and our clothes and as the sun went away the air felt fresher. More people joined the crowd until finally, there were more bodies than gaps between them. Rain came more steady, some covered themselves with ponchos, while others braved the wet, wearing their Foo Fighters t-shirts from now and years gone by, some choosing to represent different rock bands that we all knew and loved.

From left: Ben, Leah and Glen getting ready to see The Foo Fighters

The stage stayed black with the shadowy movement of roadies, who were making the stage worthy of the greats. The diversity of ages in the crowd, kids through to twenty something’s, through to people who’d been grey for years, reminded me of what I’d seen at an AC/DC concert years ago. There aren’t too many bands that are solid enough that so many love them. The Foo Fighters are well and truly one of them. They had been a band for 26 years now. Ben and I, like so many, had followed this fantastic evolution.

When finally at about 8:40pm, Dave Grohl led his band onto the stage. Our mate, Glen said loudly, “Geez, he’s a magnificent bastard, isn’t he?” Ben and I could do no more than agree. Yes, he and this amazing band are absolutely magnificent. They made sure we believed it as they warmed up their vocal cords and instruments with the famous lyrics of ‘Times Like These’. Hit after hit flowed, satisfying old school pub songs, drinking songs and driving songs that made everyone raise their hands, clap or scream out.

For two and a half hours, the rain no longer mattered. Everyone was out of lockdown and this was a celebration of having some sort of normalcy. Dave Grohl explained how he’d been waiting to come back and how desperate he was to make The Foo Fighters the first big band to rock the Aussie’s again. During performances of great songs like Monkey Wrench, The Sky is a Neighbourhood, Learn to Fly, All My Life and Best Of You, these legends bought out the best in all who watched. Much loved drummer Taylor Hawkins, even came out from behind to drums, giving his sticks over to Dave, while he sung a Queen classic. He did it so well. The female back up singers added class to the show. Lighting and big screens shined across the rain. We all jumped around, admired and sung until our throats hurt.

As we pushed out way out of GMHBA stadium, we were crammed together like pickles in a jar. The smokey reminence of the fireworks that ended the show hazed sky above us. We looked like drowned rats, we were cold and the walk back to the car was uncomfortable but none of it mattered because we had witnessed something incredible. Not only was it the magic of one of the world’s biggest rock bands but it was the rebirth of freedom. We were allowed to stretch our wings again, shake off the last couple of years and forget the uncertain future for a while.

Stars like Jimmy Barnes and members of the band Motor Ace reportedly joined the audience. Now more people will get to see this filmed highlights online. Foo Fighters will be back in Australia in November, until then and beyond, we will listen their music Everlong.

Flooded in at the Moonie Crossroads

You’ll never find anywhere quite like the Crossroads at Moonie. We were stuck there for two days, flooded in. Goondiwindi was blocked unless we want to drive 4 hours out of way with the odds of “maybe” getting through. On site, at Moonie Crossroads, there is a petrol station, rooms and most importantly, a pub. Moonie comically boasts being the home of a fictional illness called Moonie Madness, as well as having Australia’s largest feral pig ‘collection’. The walls of the pub are decorated with artwork, some of which are mounted boar’s heads. The beer is cold, the pool table needs improvement but they have one, they have hot meals, snacks and water. We left Hervey Bay Thursday, headed for Melbourne to help out family. As we drove, trenchial rain fell, roads flooded and were closed behind us. Even if we wanted to go back home to Hervey Bay, we couldn’t, Gympie and everywhere in between we’re being inundated with water.

At the Crossroads, there are locals, mostly who work there, commentating what’s going on. Out on the front deck is a good place to sit with a beer and people watch. We watched them drive each of the four ways the Crossroads offer, only to come back, learning for themselves that there isn’t anywhere else they can safely get to. They too were stuck, which bought a variety of people, who were trying to get to a variety of places, unexpectedly together.

A stocky Moari truck driver, Phil, is stuck here too. There’s an outback trucker called Lex, who’s trying to get his Kenny and it’s load to Perth. If I had to liken his looks to someone, maybe a slightly younger Slim Dusty. He’s been driving trucks for longer than I’ve been alive. Other truckies, families and couples have come and gone, and come back again, trying to escape this dead end place called Moonie. People like Lex, Phil and couples like us, who are well travelled and have seen places similar make the most of places that ooze this kind of country character.

We had two nights there at $140 per night for a room they call “executive” with an ancient television, a double, a single, a fridge and a small ensuite. We appreciated it though, we had more there than a lot of people who have lucked out in these floods.

Here’s the thing about drinking in country pubs. It’s a culture that is just ingrained so deeply in some Aussie’s that it goes right to their bones and never comes back out. You must drink or you are not one of them. People who don’t drink are considered stange, except if your a millennial, of course. Millennial’s are taught to accept all types, which may not be a bad lesson, though, one some of us will never learn. Youngen’s local to here and places like it, are different to those you’d find in a city. They’ve grown up on the land with parents who bought them up to work hard because they know no other way. Their local pub is no stranger to them. It is where they had their first tap beer and where they see all the people they’ve known since they were small.

In country pubs, people have stories they are happy to share, some of them great and all of them supposedly true. There are the people who stand out and the people who blend in to the woodwork. You have to respect the locals in any outback pub, for they are as close as you might get to royalty in that town. If you are going to drink with them, you have to relax and take the place for what it is. Some of the stranded visitors can’t seem to do this. Mandy said she’d worked at the Crossroads on and off for 23 years. It’s easy to tell she is the heart of the place. She keeps it clean, she makes the food taste the way it does and she keeps the Moonie spirit rolling.

If you are too loud, or you try too hard the locals will huff at you and look the other way. If you have no time for them, they don’t care and they have no time for you. If you sit, if you drink where they drink, if you laugh with them and listen and learn from them, they accept you and appreciate your presence. Moonie Madness indeed, everybody gets it, everybody interprets it differently.

Sunday morning we woke, as much as we’d appreciated the Moonie Crossroads and their hospitality, we HAD to get out of there. We had to get to Goondiwindi because it was our path to Melbourne. The day before we’d taken a drive down the Liechardt, we had to see for ourselves whether we could get through. Plus, we had to get more solid report than the bush telegraph (the gossip) going on at the Crossroads.

Flood water crossings of 300 and 400mm didn’t stop us. When we saw two cars sunken off the side of the road, we held our breath. We then came to a long crossing, the flood stick measuring at least 600mm, not disappearing within our sight, we decided to go back to Moonie. Pushing on posed a danger that we weren’t prepared to take. Through talking to the locals Sunday night, we learnt that there was a chance of taking a back road in the morning, that drains of water faster than any of the other roads. They were right, at 5am, when it was just light enough to see, Ben drove the Prado around some road blocks, through some shallow crossings and a patch of damaged road but we made it out unscathed. We wouldn’t forget Moonie or the story it left us with and one day we’ll probably even go back but, for now, we are celebrating escaping and continuing our mission in Melbourne.

A True Wonder – Fraser Island

Our First Peak at Fraser

For years, Ben and I have had a burning desire to explore Fraser and now that we live in Hervey Bay this magical place is well within our regular reach. We have visited the very outskirts, in the form of Kingfisher Bay previously but we hadn’t yet had a great opportunity to delve too deeply into its true beauty. We decided to join the tourists and go on a four-wheel drive bus tour of this magical Island. When I say “the tourists” I’m talking about our family, who are visiting from Victoria. My Uncle Bok, from Bendigo and Ben’s brother George, with his fiance, Ebony and our newphews, Alix, 12, and Lachie, 2.

The most well-known truth about Fraser Island (K’gari) is that it is the world’s largest sand island. In 1992 it was heritage listed. The best way to understand why it is so special, it seems, is to either do a hell of a lot of historical reading or to do what we did… take a guided tour of the island.

As most news watching Aussie’s are aware, our part of Queensland, including the nearby town, Maryborough, have been battling flood waters over the last couple of weeks. This made our barge ride to Fraser Island a little different. The water at River Head’s wasn’t the blue we are used to. The water expelled from the Mary River, the overflow and the muck had washed into the ocean, creating mud-brown water that reminded me of milk with too much Chocolate flavouring in it.

Ben, myself and the “incognito” our newphew Alix on the barge.
Ben and Uncle Boka
Ebony, Lachie and George

When we arrived at Fraser, a big blue four-wheel drive bus awaited us #fraserislandexplorer. https://www.fraserexplorertours.com.au/fraser-island-tours/fraser-explorer-day-tour.html.

The bus was surprisingly comfortable, it was air conditioned and with a limit of 25 on the bus, it gave us more than enough space to put belongings without needing to be cramped up. (Just a side note for people thinking about following in our footsteps with a young child, definitely bring a car seat/booster seat for the bus.) Our tour guide was David, he started offering interesting information straight off the bat. We headed to Maheno Bay to start with where a well known shipwreck gradually erodes away.

She is now a rusty shell, trying with all she has left to hold her shape. She is still, by all means, something to behold. She grabs your imagination and now, instead of carrying soldiers injured in World War One, she provides photo opportunities for travellers and locals alike.

From there, we went to The Pinnacles, a place that holds a lot of significance to the indigenous residents of Fraser, in particular, the women.

The Pinnacles
Lachie, Alix and myself doing the old ‘photo bomb’.

Eli Creek was next and, for me, this is where the wonder of Fraser started to deepen. Here, in this crystal clear, tranquil creek, over four million litres of fresh water gently runs to the ocean every hour. It filters through sand dunes and plants in Frasers middle. The natural filtration creates some of the freshest and coolest water I’ve ever walked in and tasted. It is so beautiful that it attracts millions of visitors each year.

Eli Creek

We visited the rainforest and went on a short walk, where David took us on a historical journey through the logging years that Fraser endured. He told stories of the trees like the were old friends.

Over the buffet lunch my mind kept going over the beauty we’d already seen. Little did I know, Fraser had not yet shown us her heart.

As we drove to Lake Mackenzie, David told us how it formed and tried to make us understand how special of a place it really was. The thing is that words really can’t explain its charm, even if they come from the most knowledgeable tour guide. You’ve got to see it… Feel the freshness of the water… See how blue it is to understand. The silica sand, the fresh water with the dark inner… it’s just breathtakingly, out of this world, beautiful.

A refreshing swim in this most wonderful place was the perfect way to end our tour. I’d like to thank Ben for making this fantastic day happen. George for being his comical self. Ebony for enjoying the natural beauty treatments as much as I did. Alex for sleeping on the bus and being the best “incognito”. Lachie for being super good all day long. Boka for being my bus buddy and for putting his pro photographer hat on. You all made the day that bit more magical.

The barge ride home was a time to plan. Plan a trip where Ben and I can take our Prado on the barge and have a good, long camp trip on Fraser. We highly recommend the tour for Fraser first timers as it gives you a decent look around without needing to worry about navigating the sand highway yourself.

I also want to credit most of the photos on this post to Ben, as you can see, he has an eye for a good shot.

Doing Cup Day Hervey Bay Style

We would be lying if we said we didn’t miss anything about Melbourne, since moving to Hervey Bay earlier this year. There are some great things about Melbourne. One of those is The Melbourne Cup. We never needed to go to Flemington to have a wonderful Cup Day in Melbourne, there was always a friend putting something on. Normally, a barbeque and a sweep and a few bets, surrounded by good friends.

In Queensland, it’s a little different, for starters, it’s not actually a public holiday. In saying that, it surprised me how many people still seemed to be dressed up in their shirts and dresses, fascinators on and out and about.

Getting ready for Cup Day in Hervey Bay

We chose to check out one of our most loved hang outs here, Crafty Cargo. It was $100 per head, which included unlimited craft beer on tap (selected choices), a couple of cocktail options, champagne and a constant flow of delicious canapes being walked around from 12pm to 3:30pm. The staff and owners there did an absolutely amazing job. They had fashions on the field, which encouraged all of the guests to dress up, making the day feel Verry Elleegant.

Craft beer, it’s in our hearts.
Before the crowd.

For those of you who live in this area and haven’t been to Crafty Cargo, give them a go! Especially, if you have an appreciation for great Aussie craft beer. They only stock beer from independent breweries and they’re always fresh, with a good selection on tap. For those who don’t like beer, they also serve other drinks. There is a kitchen and also a little arcade game area.

After Crafty’s we went for a stroll, ending up at The Torquay for one, we walked some more down to The Beach House. That’s where more drinks and pool tables took over the night. The conclusion, Hervey Bay puts on a decent Cup Day.

Looking forward to doing it all again next year

Long Weekend at Gootchie Creek

Camping at Gootchie Creek Escape

Over the Queen’s birthday long weekend Ben and I dusted off our Blue Water “Murray” camper trailer, hooked up the Prado and headed to Gootchie Creek Escape for a long-awaited camp. Since we moved to Queensland, we have been chomping at the bit to get out and explore some of our local camp areas. The extended work break and an invitation from our neighbors finally allowed that.

Gootchie Creek Escape is approximately a one-hour drive from our new home in Hervey Bay. You’ll find it situated right between Maryborough and Gympie (just over 30 minutes from each town).

Looking from the top of the hill (toilet block) down to the main camp area.

This trip was different from what we are used to. There was no fishing or crabbing and really not much to do besides relax, have a beer and meet new people.

Gootchie Creek Escape seems to us that it less about the location and more about the company. There is nothing particularly off-putting about this spot. In the same breath, there is nothing particularly attractive about it either. It is basically an extra-large paddock, complete with cattle, with a body of water that campers set up around. The body of water isn’t good for fishing, nor is it very big or clean but it is still good for a paddle if it is hot enough. I would imagine it to be more impressive after a good dose of rain. There is an abundance of turtles in the water, unknowingly keeping onlookers entertained by sunning themselves on logs and popping their heads up for air intermittently.

Nevertheless, our neighbors at home, Megan and Dave and their two kids, Hunter and Ella, became our neighbors at camp, setting up their caravan next to our camper. My Mum and Dad also came along, setting up on the other side of us. One thing we have found challenging since moving states is meeting new people. Lucky for us, Megan and Dave had invited a few camps of friends and we got to know some very interesting new people.

Camping is always made better by the people you are camping with. For us, this really was what our long weekend was about. Relaxing days, staying out of the direct sun and cheerful nights chatting to new friends.

The staff at Gootchie Creek Escape went to a lot of effort to add some extras to their paddock for the long weekend. They had Yo Dough come in and make wood-fired pizza (pre-order only) Saturday and Sunday night, which we didn’t partake in, only due to the amount of food we had all bought with us. They had a talented couple provide chilled music covers around a big campfire and also set up a projector screen, playing a movie for the kids on Saturday night. The NRL Grand Final was on the projector Sunday night (unfortunately, with a couple of teething problems and reception issues). We definitely scored them an A+ for effort with these activities.

For those thinking about visiting, you can book online or give them a call. It is pretty cheap at $15 per adult and $10 per child, per night. There are no powered sites available but once you are in, you can camp wherever you like. There is a relatively new toilet and shower block, which is a short drive or a decent walk from the main camp area. In saying that, you can camp as close to it as you like. There is a dump point at reception ($3.00 to use it). The friendly reception staff also offer barista-made coffee at certain times. Gootchie Creek Escape is dog-friendly, it has some shady spots available and a small play area for kids with plenty of extra space for them to run around. You’ll need to take your rubbish home, although they do provide recycling bins for all of your cans and bottles.

Inspired By Lady Elliot

Lady Elliot Island from the plane window.

It has been a while since I last added to my blog. Yesterday was my 39th birthday. As a gift, my husband, Ben, took me to Lady Elliot Island and oh boy, it is worth writing about. The day not only reminded me how important little adventures are but it also inspired me to get back into blogging and so here I go.

Lady Elliot Island is the southernmost coral clay of the Great Barrier Reef. It is around 80km north-east of Bundaberg. You can get there by boat or plane, they have an airstip that runs down the center of the Island. For us, as we live in Hervey Bay now, it was a 35 minute flight on a smallish plane.

The adventure started the minute we boarded. From the air we saw our beautiful new home town in a new light. We then saw Fraser Island, and as a natural bonus, it happens to be whale season and so we got to see a few of the majestic humpbacks from above. When you first get a glimpse of Lady Elliot from the air, you can’t help but inhale and hold it for a moment. It is absolutely beautiful.

When you land, the smiles and enthusiasm that meets you, in the form of the island staff makes you feel so welcome. There is an itinerary for the day but there is no pressure, you can literally do whatever you feel like doing. In our day trip, everything was included. We had a locker to use for the day, which was super handy when you are in and out of the water. They provided towels, snorkel gear and a buffet lunch. You can stay at the Lady Elliot Eco Resort. If you are a day guest, you are welcome to it’s facilities.

We took a stroll on the island while we awaited our glass bottom boat and snorkel tour. Our guide pointed out all of the features and then we were free to roam. The Lagoon is a shallow reef, which basically surrounds the south-east side of the Island. You can walk in at low tide and at high tide you can snorkel the warm waters right off the beach, without being in water any deeper than an adults shoulders. Marine life is abundant and before we even entered the water, we started seeing marvelous finned friends swimming in the shallows. A few black tipped predators could even be seen stalking them.

Although the water was a little choppy, there was no stopping us from snorkeling the outer reef off the glass bottom boat. The world below the water at Lady Elliot is amazing. It boasts that it is ‘the home of the manta ray’ and we were lucky enough to swim beside one of these gentle giants. As their big flaps lift so do your spirits, they were an absolute treat. As were the abundance of healthy looking corals, that happily showcased their resident fish. From big rock cod hiding under ledges, to trevally and glowing parrot fish, to smaller fish that seemed only too happy for you to see their brilliant colour up close.

When we got back, we were more than ready for some food. The buffet lunch, although simple, was fresh and enjoyable. They have a well stocked bar where we were able to purchase some drinks.

After lunch, there was nothing else to do but head back to The Lagoon area, where the promise of meeting my favorite marine creature was looming. There was a green flag our tour guide had pointed out, she said that if we headed for it, seeing one of the wonderful “flippered” reptiles was a huge possibility. So we donned our snorkel gear again and did just that. The water in the lagoon is easy to snorkel and there is so much to see. We looked and looked and got excited about all of Lady Elliot’s amazing sea life that takes refuge in the green zone.

As we swum over a small ledge in a deeper part of the reef Lady Elliot really delivered. Tucked partially under some rock and coral, we saw one… a green sea turtle resting. My excitement soared, for as long as I can remember, I have been jealous of all of the people I see on the television getting close to a wild turtle and now I was doing it. We looked over him a few times, taking in the glorious patterns on his shell and his flippers and his gentle black eyes. We stood up and took a moment to celebrate, we’d done it, we’d seen one! As we started to make our way back to shore, another smaller turtle appeared, causally grazing a top of the coral. Not a care in the world, not even for the humans ogling him within extremely close proximity.

A refreshing shower and a couple of a beers later, we were back on the plane for our ride back home. Again, we spotted some whales, Fraser then Hervey Bay from above. A pub dinner and cake with my parents to top it off. It all added up to a birthday I’ll never forget. Alongside my Weipa birthday (able to be read about in a previous blog), I am unsure it can ever be beaten. I am so thankful to Ben for this amazing day and also for the photos he took that you see in this post.

If you are looking for a great trip, you love snorkeling or diving or just love being close to nature, then look at Lady Elliot Island and Eco Resort, it is nothing short of magical.

Home: Back In Melbourne

We arrived back at our little home in Hampton Park three weeks ago today, just a few days before Ben’s birthday. There was a small sense of excitement when we were on our way back. In three days, we drove over 2,500km from Townsville to get home. Only a couple of our friends knew we were coming home, to everybody else it was a surprise.

In 11 months we…

  • travelled through 3 states
  • stayed at 35 different camp sites
  • went to more than 34 different pubs
  • changed 2 tyres
  • had 1 bullbar fall off
  • hit 1 kangaroo (on the morning of our last day on the road)
  • caught more than 42 fish (mostly Ben)
  • saw over 50 different waterways and beaches, we swam or fished in over half of them

It is fair to say, we had the time of our lives.

So, what is it like being back? If we had a dollar for every time somebody asked us this question since we got home, we would be able to afford the repairs and alternations we are having done on the camper trailer and then some. What is it like? Well, three weeks in it almost feels like our trip was a really nice dream that we had. Perhaps we would believe it was just a dream if there wasn’t still red dust stuck to parts of the Prado. As annoying as the red dust is, there is part of me that is reluctant to wash it away. It is a good reminder that there is a whole world out there still waiting for us to discover more of it.

Yes, we missed our friends and family and yes, it was an awesome feeling being able to catch up with everybody. Since being back we have appreciated small things, like having a drink and a face to face chat with friends, being there for our family, sitting down at a dinner table, watching our nephews and neice and our friends kids smile and play but we keep feeling this strange itch. The itch is caused by a part of us that is anxious about falling too hard back into old routines, that part of us will never allow us to forget how great life on the road really is. It is like finishing the most delicious meal you have ever eaten and then being told straight after that you can not have that meal again for a long time.

Home is a little like prison for us, even though our friends and family can come and visit, we are trapped inside. We have to stay here until our sentence is finished and we are just waiting for the day we will be free again. After 11 months and acclimatising to 30+ degrees every day up north, Melbourne is a very cold prison indeed. Sorry, about the graphic metaphore we have been watching a lot of Wentworth lately. It’s definitely not all doom and gloom though, we have some fun events and things to look forward to while we are here and we plan to make the most of the time we spend with friends and family now that we have a new appreciation for their closeness. It really is great to see everyone again.

The camper trailer is at Blue Water getting repaired and upgraded at the moment and this is probably a good thing, because having it sitting in the garage, within easy reach, would be a little bit like torture for us. The Prado is a enjoying a little rest. Ben has been working hard and I am waiting to start work, which will happen next week. The dogs are loving having comfy bed each inside but being in a backyard again after their exciting beach and bush life has taken a little getting used to for them.

Summer isn’t too far away and this year we are definitely looking forward to it. We will welcome the sun and the heat, then again, it might make us miss the road even more. For now, we plan to work hard, make some money, sort out our house and work towards a bigger trip next time around.

I also just wanted to write a special note to all of those people we met on the road… you guys are awesome and we won’t forget you. There are some who are particularly special and we hope to see you all again in a different spot in this incredible country of ours.

A recap on some of the greatest times…

Thursday Island, The Tip and Weipa

Firstly, let me explain my reasons for lack of blogs lately… little to no reception, fishing and basically just doing other things. Here is some of the photos of our journey through Cape York that I could not show you last time due to reception issues.

It took eight days for the mechanic in Seisia to get the bearings for our Prado and fix the car. During those eight days we started feeling a little restricted. We were in one of the most remote and best areas in Australia but we couldn’t really explore it because the car wasn’t in good enough shape. Ben was going fishing at Seisia Wharf two and sometimes three times daily and I was accompanying him at least once a day. We would walk along the Seisa Beach admiring it’s beauty but all the while wishing that soon the car would be fixed and we would make it to the tip of Australia.

During our wait in Seisia, we thought why not catch the ferry to Thursday Island and have a look around. The ferry ride is just over an hour from Seisia Wharf to Thursday Island. The water keeps your attention, it is so clear and the layers of different shades of blue stretching across its body are amazing.

We did a tour on Thursday Island with a local called Dirk. It is just $25 for the tour, this includes a drive around town to look at all of the main buildings then a walk around the war history museum. After this you see their cemetery and get to learn a little about the pearl driving that went on around Thursday Island and then it is off the crayfish farm. Ben bought one live crayfish just over 2kg for $60 (delivered to the wharf at our ferry departure time) and that was our dinner that night.

Finally, last Tuesday our car went into the mechanic and got fixed and suddenly we were free again! The next morning we were up early and headed for the red roads again. We visited Somerset on the way up, which was lovely and really made you realise how close to the edge of our continent we really were. We then drove all the way to The Tip (Punjinka). At low tide you can walk along the beach and up a small shelf of rocks to get to the famous sign and so this is what we did. The dogs had travelled all of this way with us and so we thought it was only fair that we walked them to The Tip too.

Standing on The Tip of Australia is a surreal feeling, we were almost as far away as we ever could get from home without being out of the country. There is something about reaching The Tip that makes you smile, it is an achievement, a trophy, a reward for roughing it that you never even asked for or expected. There is a certain amount of proudness that all Aussie’s can feel when they stand on that point. If you are a proud Aussie, try and make it to The Tip one day, you won’t be disappointed. While at the top we visited The Croc Tent, which is bascially a sovenier shop and Punsand Bay. Punsand Bay is home to the famous Corrugation Bar and there is a beautiful campground there. We would have loved to have been able to spend a couple of nights there but our extended stay in Seisia due to the car issues stopped that from happening. Next time we do The Tip the Telegraph Track will be on our agenda.

Our time and money was starting to run short and so Thursday morning we were up and out of Seisia and headed to Weipa. The road to Weipa was a long, dusty and corrugated one. It would be six hours before we would hit the smooth bitumen roads of Weipa, this was the first time in 10 months that we have actually headed South instead of North.

If you have any interest in fishing, Weipa, is like a famous rock star of the fishing world. Every keen Aussie fishermen has a dream to make it to Weipa one day. Weipa is by no means a large town but it does have handy shops like a bakery, pharmacy and Woolworths, which are rare or non-existent further North. Thanks to mining it has all of the essentials and prices for food and fuel are a little more normal. The caravan park here is huge and within walking distance of the shops.

Started 10/09/17 – Continued 14/09/17

Weipa is an amazing place, especially for fisherman. The waterways, although full of crocs and sharks, are stunning. There is a good selection of spots for land based fishing, which is great for us. In the first few days we were here Ben landed quite a few good sized Queenfish and a big Golden Trevally. Since then he has been consistently catching Queenfish and has caught a few smaller fish and some barracouta. I have even caught two Queenies and an alligator garfish.

We have made friends with our neighbours here at Weipa. Janice and George are two seventy something year olds. They have been to Weipa on several occasions, so they know the area quite well. They like to go fishing and George loves it almost as much as Ben does, so they have been going fishing together here and there. Janice and George live and on a lime farm in central Queensland. They are here for a holiday with their friends Kev and Howard, who are also our neighbours and are very nice guys.

We have fished off the wharf and under the bridge here. Ben fished off the beach one morning and there was one day when we headed out to Red Beach with Janice and George then Kev and Howard came later. Red Beach is called this because it is, in fact, a red beach. Instead of sand it has tiny round red pebbles and then the blue, salty water stretches out before it. I loved this spot because the pebbles are comfortable to sit on and as you watch the water you see fish jumping and sharks lurking.

We went to a place called Pennefather a couple of days ago. It takes almost an hour to drive there from Weipa. The roads out there are red and dusty, like many of the other roads up here but the corrugation isn’t too bad. When you finally reach Pennefather, the road turns from red compact dirt to soft sand. We reduced our tyre pressure and pushed on, leading Howard and Kev, who haven’t got much four wheel drive experience onto the sand. The tracks lead you through scrub and then out onto the sand dunes. The drive is great and is like nothing we have done up until now. Ben drove the dunes in low range, bumping along the tracks and we both admired the remote beauty of the white sand and occasional brown, dry grasses. There are tracks everywhere, winding around the dunes but if you stick to the high ones, lower your tyre pressure and keep your speed low your chances of getting bogged in the sand are fairly low.

The tracks lead out to, what seems like miles of beautiful beach and a small, remote camping ground. There are rolling dunes in the back ground and the coast line waves along creating shallow beaches, drop offs, points and a few rocks to fish off. We had a great day there and Ben caught a big thick lip Trevally, which we all had for dinner that night.

When you fish ‘under the bridge’ in Weipa, you have the choice of standing on a concrete platform to fish or on the beach area. The platform is the more popular and more croc-wise place to stand. Ben has seen some big barramundi pulled in at this spot but unfortunately they weren’t on his line. There is a hefty one way bridge that crosses this part of the water, it has a train line that also crosses it right next to the roadway.

I had my birthday in Weipa, I turned 35 and what a way to spend it… Corona’s with fresh lime, birthday cake, swimming in the pool and a lovely sunset cruise to top it off. There was supposed to be nineteen other people on our cruise but Ben and I were the only ones who showed up. The other nineteen were supposed to arrive on a tour bus but they cancelled and somebody failed to notify the skippers. So one of the tour guides gave us the choice of refunding our money, coming back a different day or to go out anyway even though it would only be us two and the skipper on board. As it was my birthday present we decided to go out anyway. Ben asked if he could bring a fishing rod on board and the skipper was happy for him to do so. Our sunset wildlife cruise turned into a two hour, trolling, fishing, eating and drinking cruise. We had the whole boat to ourselves… not to mention we had access to all of the nibbles that had been prepared for 21 people and all of the beers and champagne. Neither of us could have asked for a better sunset cruise. It is not every day you get to spend your birthday in such a magical place.

Continued 16/09/17

On Thursday we went for a drive out to Mapoon, which is an aboriginal community about an hour from Weipa. We had heard that the fishing there was great and our neighbours, Janice and George, were keen for us to accompany them out there. The beaches in Mapoon are not white, the sand is a light brown colour and is full of large shells and dead coral. Ben and I were both of the opinion that this place was not as nice as Weipa. We did a bit of beach fishing but there was very little good live bait to be seen. After a few hours of trying to fish and trying to get bait we gave up on Mapoon and headed back to Weipa, hot and tried.

Both Ben and I attempted to get work in Weipa. Ben was trying to get into the mines there and I tried at the bakery, Woolworths and at the local vet. The promise of work was real but it was taking too long for the mines to get Ben’s induction, interview and medical sorted out. When they told him he would have to wait around a month just for him to start training we knew that staying in Weipa wasn’t going to be an option. We needed work and money and we needed it soon.

We considered a few possibilities but after much deliberation, on Friday morning, we left Weipa and headed South again back to a place we know well… Townsville. The guy Ben was working for in Townsville previously was happy to have him back and it looks likely that I will pick up some shifts at JCU again.

On our way back to Townsville we stopped in Mareeba overnight. There is an old style drive-in there that allows you to stay overnight and watch two movies for just $14 per head. It was a unique place to camp, with the added bonus of some old school entertainment. They only have movies there on Friday and Saturday nights so it was lucky that it happened to be a Friday afternoon when we arrived there. What a great stop over!

Continued 26/09/17

We have been back in Townsville now for just over a week and both of us have been working since the day after we arrived. Ben is back to laying bricks and blocks six days per week and I am working nights at JCU Vet Emergency. It was good to come back and see the staff at Coral Coast Caravan Park, they literally welcomed us back with open arms. We sat in the TV room Saturday night and watched the Tigers beat GWS and get into the Grand Final so we are now awaiting the BIG game on Saturday.

Cooktown to Cape York (Written 29/8/17 & 31/8/17)

Cooktown was supposed to be a short stay for us, two or three nights, we said at first. It is a place that kept our attention and intrigued us more than most places do. It is a smaller town than what we had imagined it would be but you do have access to all of the essentials and it is not too remote.

The vibe that Cooktown gives off is interesting to say the least. There is a great small community feel. It holds what appears to be a very even mixture of indigenous people, other Aussie’s, working travellers and tourists and seems to balance them all very well. You see the same faces in the shops and streets as you do in the pub and at your accommodation so the place feels familiar and comfortable quickly.

The fishing off the wharf is probably the best pier based fishing we have seen thus far. The locals tell us that it is the quiet season for fishing but they are still catching Spanish Mackeral, Queenfish and big Trevally off the wharf. Ben was up early most mornings, joining the locals on the wharf with a line or two in the water. He caught a 6kg Spanyard and a nice school mackeral and also a queenfish for eating. There was also some smaller fish and some travelly, which he put back.

Cooktown’s main area has The Lure Shop (bait, tackle and hunting store, very helpful staff), IGA, two bottle shops, a butcher, a camping store, a couple of aboriginal art and history places, The Croc Shop (souvenir and gifts) and a budget variety store. There is a couple of pubs there plus the RSL and Bowls Club. The one pub that we visited almost daily was The Top Pub, it was literally across the road from Cooktown Orchid Travellers Park where we were staying. This old hotel is like a heart that beats at the centre of Cooktown, feeding blood and life to the rest of it. You will find that most of the locals spend a little or a lot of time here each week.

If you know Ben and me, then you will know that we both enjoy playing pool. It is, in fact, how we met each other in the first place. The Top Pub in Cooktown allows the locals to showcase and hone their pool skills like no other pub we have seen. The pool table is in great condition and in a perfect location. Tourists are more than welcome to join in and try and beat the locals. Pool competitions are held not once, not twice but three times per week at The Top Pub. Everybody seems to play. There is a mesmerising type of interest and respect for pool in that pub that we have not seen anywhere else. The table brings people together. When there is no competition on, you simply write your name on the chalk board and the winner of each game plays the next person on that list. The system works well, it allows anybody (whether they know the people on the table or not) to try their hand at beating the current game winner and stops people from having to wait too long to get a game. All of the locals have their own cues and some of them even go as far as having pool gloves. It is just $10 to enter the pool competitions and prize money is normally $200 for the winner. So if you love a game of pool and fancy yourself against people who can actually play, add Cooktown to your places to see before you die, you will not be disappointed.

Alby and his 10 year old son, Jackson are two locals that really stood out. Alby taught Jackson to play pool and for a 10 year old he has an incredible amount of focus. He takes shots that most kids would not even see and plays better than a lot of adults who have been potters all of their lives. It is a common site to see his and his dad’s name on the chalk board on competition nights. Harry, the local builder, is also around most of the time, he is a tall man and a good player and is hard to knock off the table on a good day. His current girlfriend, Robyn, is a free spirit and loves a hit on the table. Brian and Stan, two older gentlemen, that are rarely seen apart, often take their seats on the stools beside the table. They will observe quietly for a while but it won’t be long until they too add their names to the chalk board and pick up a cue. The local indigenous people, Les and his sons and friends are seen often and in the pool comps. Vinnie, an ex-commercial fisherman, lives upstairs at the pub, he knows the town well, maintains and cleans the pub and is a keen player. Loud Dan (“Keno”), is somebody who is hard to forget, he is a large guy who loves Keno, hence his nickname and cheers loudly for his numbers. He is a handy pool player and is intense but fun to be around. Michael the current publican, likes to sit around and have a beer with his locals and gives off a welcoming vibe without being too forward. The girls behind the bar are very good at their job, they are helpful and complete The Top Pub nicely. You will get great smiles and good conversation from most of them.

In the couple of weeks we were at Cooktown I ended up doing a few shifts at The Top Pub to try and top up our funds a little before we headed for Cape York. I worked behind the bar for three shifts and then did housekeeping for three shifts. The experience was really good. It let me get a feel for hospitality. The bar work was a sink or swim sort of experience, I was told to just jump in and see how I went and that is what I did. Pouring drinks and learning the till wasn’t too bad but putting through Keno was a little stressful at times. Housekeeping demands attention to detail and is physically challenging but gives your mind a chance to breathe and relax.

Ben took the Prado to Tyrepower in Cooktown to get the wheels aligned and the tyres rotated as we still have the same tyres on the front that the bulbar fell onto while we were in Corryong. After they looked at it they told us that the bearings needed doing, as did the bushes and the ball joints and all of this, with the parts shipped in from Cairns was going to be around $1500. This kind of money was really going to put a dent in the money we had saved to do the Cape. It would have been foolish not to get it done before hitting the rough roads though. Ben chats to people, especially locals, while he is out and about and while he is fishing. This is a very good thing. A local at the pier told him to try a different mechanic, about 10 minutes out of town in Martin called Dion. So, Ben took the car there. He looked at it and told us that everything looked good besides the back brakes, which were squealing because the brake pad was almost gone. He ordered the pad for us and fit it and fixed a shocker for $180 cash, saving us the $1500 that Tyrepower quoted.

We made friends with our neighbours at the park we stayed in. Carol and Wayne, who are in their sixties, they are both lovely, they love to travel, to have a chat and they love a drink… so needless to say we got along well with them. We exchanged some of Ben’s fresh caught fish with them for a couple of loaves of their fresh baked bread. We had some happy hours at the pub with them and some drinks in camp. We could not have asked for better neighbours, thanks guys!

By this time, we had spent around two weeks in Cooktown, we were spending more money than I was making in my few shifts at the pub and the longer we stayed the less money we were going to have to do the Cape. So, finally, we made the decision to leave. We left reluctantly, we could have very happily stayed much longer. Generally, we tend to spend a lot less money while we are moving than when we stop in one place for a while.

Back on the road, headed North again, knowing that we were slowly but surely running out of road that continued North. The road we did have left, lead us toward Cape York. Although the kilometres on the map looked short compared to the distance we had already travelled, the roads are rough and rugged and our travel would be slow and more risky than anywhere else we had been thus far.

It isn’t long after you leave Cooktown that you start to see the redness of the land pass by the car windows and then after that the road turns red as well. The road is exactly what you would expect if you have done your research. They are red, dusty with loose sandy gravel covering patches of corrugation, rocks, dust holes and smooth patches. There are some breaks of bitumen in between the dirt, which are a welcome site, but then sure enough the dirt patches return and the car shakes again. The ant hills seem to get taller as you drive and the trees and dry grasses change all of the time.

It took us three days to drive to Seisia, which is where we currently are. Our first stop was at Musgrave Station. A well set out outback service station that sells food, drinks and alcohol with a large grassy campground to one side of it. At the back of the campground, there is a small, still waterway, which is home to a number of turtles and fresh water crocs.

After Musgrave we drove six hours, through Coen (where we saw wild dogs), making it to Bramwell Junction Roadhouse. This place does not sell alcohol and although it has food available they may stop serving food early when it is quiet. The campground is large, grassy and pleasant, as are the amenities. The ant hills surrounding it are very tall and very red and by the time you reach Bramwell everything else will be red too… your car, your camper, your clothes, your dishes, everything. Even the trees and shrubs that line the road cannot escape a light but obvious covering of red dust.

To get to Seisia from Bramwell Junction you must cross more corrugation, more sand, more red dust and then the Jardine River. It was $130 for ourselves, the car and the camper to go over the Jardine on the ferry. The ride takes just a minute or two on the small open ferry. The $130 covers your return ride on the ferry also and gives you a permit to camp on the grounds above the Jardine. It is an impressive river, wide and clear brown in colour, it is the longest and largest in The Cape.

We were nearly at Bamaga, which meant we were only minutes away from Siesia when a back tyre on the car blew. As Ben lay on the red road jacking up the car, I watched for passing cars and trucks. Most of the main road is quite wide but the part we had to change a tyre on was a little more narrow. The changing of the tyre went fairly well, then as we pulled into Bamaga there was a rubbing noise coming from the front end of our Prado. After a visit to one of the local mechanics up here we learnt that out front bearings had gone on the car.

Seisia is truly beautiful, it is remote but still you can find what you need if you look hard enough. It is around 30km from The Tip of Cape York. Life is simple here. Compact red dirt, mango trees, coconut palms and dry grass make up the caravan park we are staying in and just beyond it the red dirt merges into white sand and then into aqua water. It looks fantastic and you could not blame anybody who did not know any better for running into the water for a refreshing swim. If it were not for all of the crocodile warning signs I may have even been tempted myself. When had only been here a couple of hours when we saw our first croc on the opposite beach. Ben is happy because the pier is basically next door to the park so he can go fishing whenever he likes but at the same time he is tired of waiting to get the car fixed.

The parts for our car need to be shipped or air freighted in and even though we ordered them days ago, they still have not arrived. We cannot wait for the Prado to be fixed so that we can explore more and look for our next work and money source. We will be staying in Seisia at least until Monday, we will go to The Tip and then head to Weipa. The tip of Australia, it is an achievement in itself and is worth the effort to get here.

There are more photos to come of the wild dogs at Coen, Bramwell Roadhouse and Seisia but internet reception is really bad here and so it is not allowing me to upload anymore at the moment.