Gold Coast to Bundaberg 11 - 15 July 2012

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July 26th 2012
Published: July 31st 2012
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We headed off towards Brisbane and so left New South Wales and entered Queensland - and it’s not sunny here either, what has happened to the sun in Australia! We travelled along the Gold Coast which then turned into the Sunshine Coast (really) stopping at Coolum Visitor Centre to collect some brochures and maps of the area. The sun was not shining and the rain was coming down in buckets so we continued on and on stopping at Peregain Beach where we had lunch in the van watching the rain on the windscreen. We had a quick walk along the beach between showers. The whole place was completely deserted apart from a couple of bored surf patrol guys watching the empty waves and so we continued on to Noosa Heads and Nooseville to try and find somewhere to stay over.

We tried to book into a campsite but they only had one ‘power site’ left and it was not in a very good location so we decided to try elsewhere - whilst walking into the reception though I knocked my hand on their metal door, heard a crack and it really hurt - OW!! We continued on and found another campsite nearby and managed to manoeuvre the van into a pitch although the grass was really sodden and muddy - my hand now was becoming quite swollen and sore. At the back of the van was a small creek which was a shortcut to the camp kitchen and BBQ area - you had to jump over the creek or you got your feet wet, as there had been so much rain it was flowing fast........

That evening we had a lot more rain and in the morning my hand had doubled in size. Luckily we were near a hospital so we parked the van and found their emergency ward. We were seen quickly by a nurse who said I must also see a doctor - a couple of hours later I was called through and the doctor thought that I had indeed broken my hand and sent me for an X-ray. After three X-rays and quite a few dollars lighter they decided that it was not broken and was told to keep the swelling down with ice - quite difficult in our little van but at least it was not broken and it got me out of the washing up and driving (although I have not done either yet!!!) The hospital receptionist must have felt really sorry for us with the long wait and when we went to pay the bill she insisted on giving us some sandwiches and a couple of drinks even though we said we had plenty in the van!

When we came out of the hospital it was still raining and we decided not to do the walks we had planned around Noosa Heads (maybe next time) but to continue on via Gympie to Rainbow Beach our next stop. Rainbow Beach derives its name from the towering sandcliffs which form an arc to the South East of the town. These rainbow coloured sands are part of an aboriginal legend. The early inhabitants of the area were the Kabi Tribe. They spoke of Yiningie, the spirit of the Gods, who was represented by a rainbow. Yiningie was killed in a fight when he crashed into the cliffs, and his spirits coloured the sands forever.

The journey to the campsite was through the Great Sandy National Park comprising of the Cooloola National Park and Fraser Island - the oldest and largest unconsolidated sand mass in the world. Massive dunes, towering sand cliffs beside wide ocean beaches - an amazing geological site.

A couple of hours later we arrived in the pouring rain and found that the site we had been allocated was completely flooded - we were at the bottom of the hill so all the water was heading our way...... Paul went off to find something to try and clear the water off so that we could at least step in and out of the van and returned with a broom followed by the owner with a spade and they dug a channel through the grass for the water to flow out - all this rain we may as well have been in England - but at least it was ‘warm rain’......We later walked ‘in the rain’ along the beach and settled down for the evening with a barbie which Paul also cooked in the rain on a free barbecue site near the beach.

The next morning we set off on a couple of bush walks through the woodland which had an abundance of the lovely Scribble Trees which I so liked. They remind me of the pads you find next to pens in stationery shops where everyone tries them out!!! Our first walk was to Carlo Sand Blow (named by Captain Cook after one of his crew) which had spectacular views of The Coloured Sands (our next walk), Double Island Point and Inskip Point and the southern tip of Fraser Island - although the views were marred with the bad weather. When the thermals are right hang gliders take off from here and land on the beach below - lucky the weather was bad or I might have had to give it a go! Cooloola’s ancient sands have accumulated and eroded over thousands of years and the ‘sea’ of sand here covers over 15 hectares overlooking the coastline. It was like a giant sand dune perched on top of a cliff........There was no access to the beach below without hand gliding so we had to walk all the way back and get down to the beach for our next walk.

The Coloured Sands are a magnificent piece of nature and even on this dull day they were gloriously coloured hence the name Rainbow Beach. The tide was coming in so we made our way back pretty quickly as there is nowhere to go if the tide reaches you as the towering sand cliffs are the only other way out.........

We wanted to walk to Lake Poona but it was 3 km along a gravel road to get to the start of the walk and with this heavy rain we thought it would probably be best not to do this - it was a shame we did not have a 4WD as it would have been easy.... We drove out to Inskip Point where the ferry, ‘Manta Ray’ carried 4WD travellers over to the large Sand Island. We had wanted to do a tour of the island but decided that the weather was so bad it would have ruined the trip - so we may come back and do this later - watch this space.

Fraser Island is world heritage listed and the largest sand island in the world - an expanse of sand dunes and endless beaches with lush tropical rainforest and lakes in the interior. The island is home to an abundance of wildlife including Australia's purest strain of Dingoes, wallabies and possums as well as numerous bird species - so we really do need to come back here sometime. We parked the car where the road ended and turned into a sand track for those going onto the ferry and walked around Inskip Point where the area was covered with a variety of mangroves shooting across the sandbar and the ferry was just coming across to pick up its next batch of travellers. There are several access points across but it has to be undertaken in a 4WD as most of the tracks are just sand roads and to do it independently you have to get a National Parks permit to cross to the island.

We decided to take a trip out to Tin Can Bay instead on the Cooloola Coast and walk along the foreshore where apparently where 137 birds have been sighted but alas today we only spotted the blue faced honeyeater although the one we saw looked rather like a ‘green’ faced one! Tin Can Bay is where Mystique and his girlfriend Patch come in beside the boat ramp to observe us humans - these rare Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphins have been interacting with residents and visitors here for over 30 years, very similar to the ones in Western Australia we had seen at Monkey Mia last year.

We took a shortcut back to our campsite via Cooloola Cove and stopped at Seary’s Creek for a short walk through the woodland to a little Creek which was stained tea coloured brown from the fallen leaves. We saw wonderful reflections of the trees and plants in the evening light on the creek bottom - memories are all about these special times. Colourful flowers were everywhere including Guinea flowers and the brilliant pink Melaleuca which were in full bloom as well as some little purple flowers like wild thistles - but we were unsure what they were. Along the creek edge were an abundance of Swamp Banksia with their huge new golden flowering heads as well as the previous season’s blackened ones.

We awoke to yet more rain and packed up the motorhome and headed to Maryborough which was first settled in 1847 and is one of Queenland’s oldest cities. Many of Australia’s first settlers entered the colony through the Port of Maryborough between 1859 and 1901. In fact it is estimated that 22,000 immigrants from the UK and Europe entered through this port. We arrived in the centre of town and parked the van on the wide main street and all was very quiet even though it was mid morning. All along the sides of the main road were beautifully restored colonial styled buildings and old Queenslander styled homes. We headed for the Visitors Centre which was inside the City Hall (again a picturesque building) and picked up a walking tour map and set off to explore the town’s buildings and museums around the centre. Of particular interest were the many old buildings which were now museums holding many relics of the past. In the Bind Store Museum was the original packed-earth floor and even some old liquor barrels from 1864. Maryborough is obviously a completely different place to what it was back then when it was a thriving port but you could envisage it as it was back then.

Located on the corner of Kent and Richmond Streets was a life size statue of Mary Poppins - supercalifragilistic..... comes to mind (spell that one Maisie). The statue is here in recognition of Maryborough’s link with the famous nanny being the birthplace of the author of the Mary Poppins books, PL Travers. The bronze statue, complete with umbrella was erected outside the old Union Bank premises where she was born and where her father once worked. We enjoyed our time in the city and you could quite easily spend a whole day looking at all the restored buildings and exploring the museums and artifacts but we had a schedule to keep to.

So we travelled on to Hervey Bay to see what the situation was with the arrival of the Humpback Whales into the bay. We had seen so many making there way north since we left Sydney - was it only a few weeks ago and had they arrived? We stopped at the Visitor Centre and spoke to a lady who had just returned from a visit to the UK and had been to Winchester and Bath (small world) so we had a long chat with her about the UK. She asked why it was so difficult to park in Winchester!!! - we told her she should have used the’park and ride’. She had no idea what a ‘park and ride’ was - they do not have or need them in Australia.

With regard to the whales arrival in Hervey Bay she was quite informative and said that even though the whales had arrived they were not in large numbers and later in the month there would be more pods and almost guaranteed sightings. This really made the decision for us as we wanted to be able to get up close to them now that we were so here. We had 10 days free at the end of our cruise on the Barrier Reef before we flew out to Dubai so we decided we would return to the area when we had more chance of seeing them. We decided to fly from Cairns to Brisbane in August at the end of our cruise and pick up another motorhome and just visit the Hervey Bay area. We could then hopefully see the Whales and also visit Fraser Island at the same time - hopefully then we would also have some better weather but who knows in these ever changing climes!

We decided to have a look around Hervey Bay caravan parks as there are so many of them and toured around looking for a nice quiet one!!! We stopped at several but decided the Big4 Park which was on its own at the end of the bay looked good. We parked the van outside just as the owner was coming out and he was extremely helpful taking us around the camp park and also said that they could arrange trips to both Fraser Island and out to see the whales with pick ups from the park - so we reserved a spot for later next month with flexibility to change dates etc if necessary.

We had some lunch overlooking the bay and then headed toward Elliot Heads where we were going to spend the night. The roads were not too bad for a while and then we got quite a shock as the Satnav directed us through pouring rain on to this small road. It just got worse and worse with huge holes all over the road we could only go at about 5 mph as Paul was trying to avoid these ‘craters. We then came across several areas where the road was completely under water and all we could do was close our eyes and drive through with everything crossed. There was no way we were going to turn around and head back along the way we came! As we approached a ‘sort of’ cross roads this huge kangaroo sat in the middle of the road and just stared at us before he finally hopped away into the water logged bush. We finally came out on to a slightly better road and a short while later arrived at the campsite. We had the last available pitch which was not too bad just water logged grass but most of the campsite was under water for many areas were cordoned off - just going to the loo was quite a challenge. We did find a dry barbecue to cook our supper and had a laugh with the owner of a caravan who was sat in his awning drinking red wine with his feet under water......oh us hardy campers!!!! I think I would like to find a little luxury now.............

Once the millions of Rainbow Lorikeets decided to go to sleep we had a peaceful night. The next day we moved on a short distance stopping at the Visitor Centre in Bundaberg (Bundy for short) - the Ozzie like to shorten most names. We stopped at the Bundaberg Barrel which is a Ginger Beer Factory. Ginger Beer is not quite as famous as Bundy Rum, renown in this area but probably because its nonalcholic! There was a small display showing how the ginger is mushed, crushed, brewed and finally fermented and an interactive video showing the process right through to packaging the final product - all completely automated. Afterwards we were able to sample the 14 different flavours including the famous Ginger Beer although our favourite was the lemon and lime, so we purchased a few bottles. Not quite the same as wine tasting but we enjoyed our time there nevertheless.

The Bundaberg district produces a large percentage of Queenland’s sugar crop and has sugar mills in Bundaberg itself. We had been travelling through many sugar plantations for quite a few days now and noticed that it was ready to harvest. The harvesting takes place between June and November but everyone was saying that the weather was causing problems this year. Although the crop did not need to be harvested and could stay in the ground for the following year - but obviously this would not be profitable for the farmer.

We continued towards Gin Gin - we remembered there was another town with the same name where we stopped in Western Australia last year. On the way we visited the Mystery Craters - Australia’s most baffling phenomenon - 35 craters all in one locality and over 25 million years old. The craters are an unusual natural rock formation which was discovered beneath a layer of silt and sand by a local farmer in 1971. Their location, origin and unique mixture have baffled geologists and still remain a world-proclaimed unsolved mystery. An interesting feature was the even distribution of red ochre through coloured sandstone as if it was was burned in a giant cauldron. Three of the craters resembled large footprints, whilst some held water and other did not - so plenty of stories have emerged about them. On the walls of some of the craters there were strange markings and notable recessed areas (we thought they looked liked niches for icons). However the formation is completely natural, except for the clearing away of the soil and silt which covered the area before the discovery. The site was rather touristy in an old-fashioned way though with cafe, shop, coin collection and rock and fossil display and in the grounds there was a display of antique machinery including a Morris motor engine adapted as a band saw - but definitely worth the short detour.

We headed to Bargara where we were going to stay overnight and stopped at a place called Sharon which is a small township - well we had to with a daughter of the same name. We had lunch and then walked the Sharon Gorge where the track made its way through the thick bush down to the banks of the Burnett River. Again it was raining though and parts of the track were completely flooded but we manage to scramble along and jumped over a few small rivers - ended up rather wet and muddy though....... but we are used to this now. Postscript - having sent Sharon some photos of the gorge whilst she was visiting her friend Nicole in England, apparently Nicole said it should be called Sharon Gorgeous!!!!

Reading back through this blog it seems that all I have spoken about is the rain and as I write this it is raining again....... Later that night I went out to the ablutions block to clean my teeth - it was quite dark so took the torch but this seemed to give out on the way back only to find that I stumbled into thick mud and lost my ‘thong’ (flip flop) and had to rummage around to try and find it - you can guess the outcome I finally arrive back at the van completely covered in mud - Paul just stood there and laughed (we are still travelling together but only just!) We move on tomorrow to try and find some sun and get away from this persistent rain and mud - hopefully see you there.

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31st July 2012

Still waterlogged!
I am surprised the Ozzie tourist board has not offered to pay you to return home! I hope it improves soon as we know how frustrating it is to be in interesting areas and not be able to make the most of it. How is your hand now Sheila? I hope it is back to normal but not washing up fitness level. I have been meaning to ask - How are the Keen sandals standing up to the travel, or have you temporarily ditched them in favour of wellies? Have fun (conjures up interesting image in the mud), love S & J

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