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Published: December 24th 2010
NOTE THESE TWO LINES WERE DROPPED OUT OF THE LAST POSTING FOR SOME REASON BUT THEY COMPLETE THE CANOE EXPEDITION STORY:
Back at Camp 3 we slid ourselves into the river and sighed with pleasure in its tannin stained, but cool, refreshing waters.
It was a tired, lazy downstream paddle back to Harry’s Hut and the wheels to carry us home. But with foresight, we had left some beer on ice in the car - and for once ….really did deserve it!
Summer is here
These are gardening days with bonfires of tree slash and dead palm leaves, major lawn mowing, bean and tomato harvesting and ocean swimming every day.
But the forecast isn’t so good - we expect the monsoon to return and stall over all northern and eastern Oz for maybe weeks to come. It’s now the wettest ‘Wet’
We had long weekend in visiting Blad’s cousin Tony and his wife Ann. They hadn’t seen each other for fifty years, but there is some family resemblance
and they easily recognized each other as they met again on the waterfront in Bargara about 200 kilometers north of Noosa.
the esplanade under the shade of casuarinas and pandanus trees then drove out to their house and cooled off in the pool.
Bargara is near Bundaberg in the heart of sugarcane country. Big freighters load up with bulk sugar at the dock at the mouth of the Burnett River and the famous Bundaberg rum is distilled from the cane waste (people we might call rummies in N Am are known as ‘bundies’ in Oz).
The marina near the dock was full of fine sailing craft and the warm wind sang in their rigging. In the air there was that familiar smell of adventure, mixed with paint fumes.
Tony has lived here for about 30 years. He showed us around the sights and explained history and local politics. We found the best fish and chips in Oz is on the
Bargara strand sold by a pom from a shop bedecked with Beatles’ memorabilia! We sat on the beach licking greasy fingers and watched the kite board surfers strut their stuff.
Ann is a nurse specialized in cardio medicine. She is an avid aerobics advocate and a great marathon runner. Every weekend at 5AM, in the cool of dawn, she
does a 10k run with her friends and colleagues that finishes at her and Tony’s home. The super fit girls plunged in for a swim then we lay-a-beds joined them for a delicious high protein breakfast prepared by Tony. They sat and analyzed their performance from amazing high tech GPS wristwatch devices that record route, pace, heart-rate, even altitude of each runner. It was all pretty impressive!
Tony and Blad slowly caught up with the Hansen family history over lingering suppers around the barbie, or swimming in pool or in surf, filling in details between teens and gold age - happily they seemed to laugh a lot.
There was a kith and kin gathering on our last night. Ann’s son and daughter and their spouses and a grand child came to eat “crunchy pig” (barbequed roast pork)
We sat under the back porch and happily feasted as the heavens opened with staggering downpours, eventually with lightning.
By dawn 78mm – about 3inches – had fallen! Calls to the police told us that many roads in the region were blocked but the one we wanted was still passable,
so we left Bargara early in the morning bound further north
in search of the Great Barrier Reef.
‘1770’ is the name of a little resort town on the central Queensland coast - just the number. Captain Cook made his Australian landfall in a small cove in the lee of a headland there. The date of his ‘discovery’ was May 24, 1770.
21 Dec 2010 we set up camp just near his monument. We swam at the exact spot we figured he must have stepped ashore.
There is a footpath around the headland where he must have looked out on his anchorage, the coast and into the interior and even now this is a very romantic view over a ‘new continent’. We returned to our campsite and cooked up a couple of steaks and of course wine helped, our picnic in the sandy tent
Early next morning we headed to the town dock to ride a big motor-catamaran some 26 nautical miles out to the Great Barrier Reef.
It was a fast, wild ride to Lady Musgrave Atoll - the water was rough and half the passengers were sea-sick but the crew were real pros and looked after everyone with sympathy and a smile.
Boobies, Wedge tailed shearwaters, and storm petrels rode the winds across the white-caps as we crossed the Coral Sea.
The cay rose above the horizon – low, dark and forested surrounded by a golden fringing reef with rolling breakers; then we slid through a narrow cut into the shallow lagoon and moored to a swimming pontoon.
It was a bit rainy off and on but we had a good time snorkeling with the fish and turtles around the coral reefs and drifting in a glass-bottom boat. Lunch was a buffet of veggies, salads, various meats and chicken and heaped bowls of prawns.
Afterwards we walked the island with ‘Di’– a tropical ecologist.
The windward shore is made of coarse gravel of broken coral and giant clam shell and the thick bush cover rises immediately behind it. There were Golden Orb spiders (very venomous) hanging in the little interpretation shed. A pair of huge Sea Eagles circled over-head.
Then we walked under the thick canopy of the Pistonia trees. These almost indestructible plants grow out of the coral rubble and send down roots and sprout
new branches from every fallen trunk or broken branch. Every part of this tree
– leaves, wood, and roots – is edible. Lovely seabirds – Black Noddies – use the leaves to build thousands of nests in the branches. These close relatives of terns feed on small baitfish just offshore of the reef in whirling, black tornados of predation.
But there is a much tighter relationship between the trees and the birds than nesting. Pistonia Grandis produces extremely sticky seeds. Initially these serve to adhere to migrating birds to distribute the plants to other island habitats. But the stickiness has evolved far in excess of this necessity. Many birds become so coated with ‘glue’ they cannot fly. These doomed birds wander under the trees picking up more and more seeds and sticks until they starve and die of exhaustion. The decaying corpses are the perfect compost on which the seeds can germinate! This is perhaps the only plant species that has evolved to ‘eat’ a vertebrate creature.
The lee side of the cay has white beaches of fine, white lime sand that is perfect for turtles dig their nests and bury their eggs. A hundred or more Greens or Loggerheads can come ashore on a single night leaving enormous tracks and pits above
The journey back to 1770 was smooth compared to outbound and the westering sun finally emerged from the monsoon overcast.
We drove over to the neighboring town of Agnes Waters to walk the beach and enjoy the Pacific surf in the sunset, then dined out at a tiny Thai restaurant.
We slept well, but the rain came on hard about dawn so we decamped quickly and got onto the Bruce Highway (the main north/south route of Queensland) to get home asp. We were concerned that the road might flood and close again at the Isis bridge. But we made it easily with a bit of delay because of an overturned truck and a couple of auto accidents (wow that's a nasty road). Two additions to the list of great ozzie placenames --- Gin Gin and Goodnight Scrub!
Because of the early start we were back here by lunch and relaxed in the pool and rested away the afternoon.
Tonight, as we send this off, it’s Christmas Eve. 30 C and the water is very warm in the pool here at Rick and Dot’s, in Cooroy, near Noosa
There is misty rain as we
sit and drink a great Cabernet after dinner. We indulged in an expensive vintage wine for the holidays at 12$ instead of the usual great $8 bottles. It’s really all that is cheap in OZ.
If you want to call us from Canada just dial 011 617 5442 5882 (8pm Montreal is about10 am here)
Happy Holidays to everyone.
In the New Year we are off to NZ.
And new tales to tell
Love Blad and Judi
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