Armstrong Beach and Mackay

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July 24th 2011
Published: July 24th 2011
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Saturday 16th July 2011

Rags awoke at 4.30am with rain beating steadily on the roof of the van. He dozed a little between then and sunrise, but Judy was also restless. By 7am he was up and about, soon followed by Judy.
After a quick breakfast and shower we soon had the van packed and ready to go, leaving by 8.30am.
John and Marilyn intended leaving shortly after, so we agreed to meet for lunch.

The GPS told us a different route to what we were expecting to take, by-passing Rockhampton altogether. This was a pleasant drive and about 15kms shorter. By 11am we were near the town of Marlborough, so we detoured off the Bruce Highway and entered the town. This consisted of a few houses, a Post Office and a service station/deli and little else.

We stopped at a small park for our rest and morning tea, meeting a couple who were returning from a trip up Cape York with their grandchildren. There is now an inland road, the Developmental Road, up to Weipa, from where it is an easy trip to the top. We may consider this trip when we get up near Cairns.
Clairview BeachClairview BeachClairview Beach

Camped on the beach at Clairview

Another couple we met, from WA, had come through the Great Central Road from Laverton to Uluru, they told us that although it was dusty, they took their vans (similar to ours but not as heavy duty) along it without problems. Maybe another time.

We set up our van near a picnic spot in Clairview, finding we had Telstra and Vodaphone reception, so decided to stay here so Judy could complete a group of her assignment uploading. John and Marilyn joined us soon after and lunch was enjoyed our sandwiches on the lawned area nearby.

After they left for the next town Judy continued her work, Rags filling in the afternoon with some exploring on his bike, he found a lost crabpot in one of the mangrove creeks. After much effort he was able to free it from the mud, this coming with us to, hopefully, catch many crabs as we head north.

The evening was spent as many before with our laptops, we used the starter powerpack to keep the batteries going. With the fridge and cooking on gas, we could stay here for several days if we wanted to.

Sunday 17th July 2011

Several trains passed us during the night but only a few of them really disturbed us. Even so, we were up by 7am and on the road before 8.30.

We drove straight through to Sarina, stopping there to check out the Information Centre. Here we were given everything we wanted regarding the area by 2 very helpful staff, leaving with handfuls of information about the district.

Judy thought we passed a vehicle similar to John and Marilyn's on the way to Armstrong Beach, this proved to be correct when they stopped behind us at the entrance to the campsite. We scored the last site available (there were others but the manager didn't seem keen to let them out) and spent the next hour setting up our home for the next week.

The afternoon was spent either working or fiddling around (guess who did what!!) and in the evening there was a campfire where we sat around and got to know some of our fellow campers. We then had a drink or two, followed by hot-dogs, compliments of the camp, most then continuing with more drinks ,with the fishing stories becoming more prevalent and unbelievable. We returned to the van glad that we had extended for a week with such a friendly crowd.

Monday 18th July 2011

Blue skies and no wind greeted us this morning so Rags prepared his fishing gear first thing, even though he wasn't due to leave until about 10am, nearly 3 hours before high tide.

We joined Marilyn and John with Missie, the manager's dog, for a walk around the township stopping to look at a couple of houses being built using polystyrene blocks. These are filled with concrete and then rendered, making thermally efficient houses. On our return the men prepared the boat for the day's expedition.

The fishing trip was more successful than previous outings over the last week or so, John catching the only 'keepers' but Rags managing to land a sooty grunter and a threadfin salmon, both just under legal size. When the tide changed and no bites were had for some time, we called it a day, leaving the peace and quiet of the mangroves where we had been observed the whole time by a pair of sea eagles from a nearby clump.

The ride back was choppy, the wind having come up, and by the time we reached the beach where we had launched we were both damp and a little sore from the pounding.

The afternoon was spent driving to Hay Point, this being the biggest coal exporting harbour in the world. From the lookout we counted 19 coal carriers anchored waiting to be filled, plus another just berthing at one of the three loading areas.

A drive around the nearby town showed it expanding with many new houses built at the southern end. Someone later told us that a company was looking for a couple of hundred rental properties her for their new workers.

A stop at the local Woolies had ingredients for our prawn stirfry, as well as a pizza which Judy heated and served at the 5pm drinks around the fire. This went down well with all there, and we both surprised that tonight no-one else provided any nibbles. Looks like nibbles are only served when the manager provides the meal.

The Internet connection was very poor during the evening, making it impossible for us to upload the blog pictures for the last week or so. We'll try again tomorrow or maybe
Yes, there is milk in hereYes, there is milk in hereYes, there is milk in here

Found some of these on our morning walk but Judy prefers the passionfruit we've been picking up.
do it when we visit Mackay.

Tuesday 19th July 2011

Today we went into Mackay, stopping at the Information centre on the way. Mackay is a spread out city with several of the streets lined with shops as they were in the past, as well as the ubiquitous Coles/Woolworths mall.

We enjoyed walking in the old section, the newer being similar to what you see everywhere. The place is obviously set up for tourists and backpackers with almost every second shop being somewhere to eat, or selling souvenirs.

One cafe we noticed, near where we parked the car, was Mexican and as Judy was hankering for a meal of beans we went there for lunch. It was 'Chilli Tuesday”, where for $10 you could have as much chilli as you wanted. The serve, with corn chips was a huge plate piled high, Judy not being able to get through all of hers, Rags just managing. The waiter offered us another plate but we declined.

An hour or so was spent test driving a Pajero, the Mitsubishi sales manager insisting we take it for a test drive, coming with us and taking us on a tour of the town. It was a top of the line vehicle, very nice but no-where near as quiet, comfortable or powerful as the Jeep. Made us put a lot of thought into it though.

The evening finished with the usual campfire and drinks with most of the campers, at 5pm, where the day's activities were discussed. A nice way to end the day.

Wednesday 20th July 2011

Rags went fishing again today with John, the result being as it has been, with no fish of any reasonable size being caught.

Judy had a quiet day in that she wasn't feeling the best and spent the day in the van checking and uploading her last batch of assignments. We hope whatever she has doesn't develop into anything worse as there are some people here with bad coughs.

Thursday 21st July 2011

Judy was feeling better this morning but still wasn't at her best. She spent the day quietly, continuing her uni work. There is an overlap in the different subject times, for a while now she will have four groups.

The weather looked reasonable as far as the wind was concerned, so Rags spent the morning setting up fishing rigs and getting his 'new' crabpot ready. Just after lunch he set off with John, the tide having come in enough to be able to launch the boat.

We moved the boat several times trying to find 'the' spot, but the fishing was abysmal, as it has been all week. Locals say it has been the quietest fishing period they have had for ages. Just our luck!

Just after we threw back a couple of undersize bream and grunters a Fisheries boat with two inspectors pulled up next to us to check our catch and inspect the boat. We had everything required, John having to show his skipper's licence at the office in Mackay as he didn't have it with him. They were quite friendly, unlike some we have come across over the years.

We continued fishing for an hour or so without catching another fish and to top it off Rags was a little careless removing the only mud crab from the pots, getting a nasty nip on one of his fingers. To add insult to injury the crab was a female, so we had to release it.

Friday 22nd July 2011

We toured around Mackay today, looking at the sights and venturing into some of the shops. While we were having an early lunch in a food hall, John and Marilyn came past and joined us, we all were tempted by the Chinese food vendor. John had presented his licence to a vague office worker who knew nothing about it. To ensure he could prove he had been there if anything ever came of it he filled out the Visitors Book that was there.

We ended up at the Mackay Marina where besides looking at boats for sale, we also looked at some of the high-rise units for sale. These appeared to be well set up with views overlooking the marina.

For the rest of our time we drove around, looking at different suburbs and generally getting more of a feel for the area. Mackay seems to be a pleasant, laid back place which would be a good place to live.

Saturday 23rd July

Our walk today had more purpose than just exercise and exercising the camp dog, there were garage sales in the town. These are sponsored
Mackay MarinaMackay MarinaMackay Marina

One of the big cats that go out to the reefs
by the town committee, who for a cost, advertise the event and produce a map showing where the participants are.

We walked from one sale to the next, only picking up some cheap novels, until at nearly the last house we visited, we (that is John and Rags) struck gold! Fishing reels and rods were for sale for $10 each or $15 for one of each. Both John and Rags walked away with gear, Rags with a rod which John knows cost in excess of $150 and a good reel. No excuses now for not catching fish! Not that he had one anyway, with the lovely set he has already.

After lunch off he went with John, this time to a beach reached by car where they could launch at a low tide. After bobbing up and down in a strong breeze, as usual without success, they decided to drift with 4 rods over the side. Suddenly the boat rod with the heaviest line started losing line very quickly. John grabbed it, Rags pulling in the other three. After about 10 minutes we had a 2 metre shovel-nosed ray on board. These, according to John, are good eating, so as we had no further bites we returned to shore. Sure enough, we had a stack of fillets ready for the freezer by the time we had finished, impressing many of the other campers who were finding it as difficult as we were to catch anything.

For dinner, we joined a large group of campers who had arranged to go to a hotel in Sarina. This hotel has a courtesy bus which takes you there and delivers you home afterwards. No skippers required. Judy had steak parmigana, Rags a lamb steak. Both of these were tasty but the dish of the day would have been the racks of lamb some other diners had, the dish having them stacked 3 high on the plate. We had a lovely time socialising with our fellow campers and the girls had a flutter on the pokies with the vouchers we were given with dinner. It was wonderful not to have to count the drinks we had as we knew we were all on the bus to return. On our return we joined John and Marilyn for a final nightcap before returning to the van.

Additional photos below
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24th July 2011

Fillets at last!
Glad to hear that there are some fish fillets in the freezer at last ! How do they taste ? I don't think I have ever eaten "Ray". Sounds like you are having a good time with all the "Grey Nomads' Are there many younger people travelling ? Sounds like the tourists are well catered for along that coast, what with a bus supplied to take you into town for Dinner. Good idea, isn't it.! When do you get into Crocodile country ? Or are you already in it? Hope Judy is feeling well now, love Mum

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