Mons Repos to Agnes Water and Town of 1770 - 16 - 19 July 2012

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Oceania » Australia » Queensland
July 31st 2012
Published: August 3rd 2012
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We awoke the next morning and guess what the sun had finally decided to put in an appearance - what a change that made to one's day....... At breakfast we chatted to a couple from near Tweed about the grey nomads that travel permanently around Australia and they said this was great but that problems would occur if one got sick. They said that they heard that this man had got really poorly and his wife could not drive their caravan and did not know what to do. However the local caravan club put a notice in their magazine and although they were over 600 kms away from their home a convoy of volunteers manage to get their caravan back home - they are quite a unique united band of travellers these ‘grey nomads’ that travel all around Oz.

We left the campsite and drove the short distance to Mon Repos Turtle Conservation Park - the place I have so wanted to visit since we started planning our retirement all those years ago - in fact our travels were based around being here in January/February 2011 - but it was not to be, the weather was totally against us. Mon Repos beach is the largest mainland turtle rookery on the East Coast of Australia and the largest loggerhead turtle rookery in the South Pacific hence the reason we had wanted to come. It was July now so we were completely out of season but were glad that we finally made it here.

Mon Repos beach gets its name from a large house that used to stand nearby. Sugar pioneer Augustus Barton built the house in 1884 and called it Mon Repos (french for rest). We thought we would be the only ones at the Turtle Conservation Park but there were a couple of others and we wandered around the park which had detailed boards outlining the conservation efforts to try and save these turtles which had been going on since the 1970s. After viewing the information boards we wandered along a boardwalk to the beach. All along the high tide mark there were white wooden boards with numbers, which obviously directed the wardens to where the turtles were nesting and thereby able to direct nighttime visitors to see the turtles laying their eggs and the young ones heading for the ocean and hopefully a ‘life on the ocean waves’..........

It was at the beach of Mon Repos that Bundaberg’s famous son and pioneer aviator, Bert Hinkler made his first flight flying 30 metres in the air. He later made the first solo flight between England and Australia in 1928.

We left Mons Repos and headed north travelling through large agricultural areas with many roadside farms selling their produce and we stopped at a Strawberry Farm to select some lovely fresh fruits that had just been harvested (even in all this rain) and later we stopped and purchased, local potatoes, kiwis, lemons and avocados (very tasty here).

We then continued on to Agnes Waters our next stop - Paul had booked a couple of nights at what he thought was a beach side caravan park. But had in fact booked a different caravan park (Discovery Coast Agnes Waters) which was a few kilometers away from the beach in the middle of the bush........ He had spent a long time chatting to the lady owner the day before and she has said her name was Sharon so we arrived and greeted her with her name...... She said though her name was in fact Julie not Sharon, but she thought it would be too confusing to try and explain the misunderstanding to Paul on the phone so she answered to that name! Julie and her husband Paul had set up this Eco Campsite 10 years earlier and were obviously keen on conserving the bush and ensuring that the campsite and bush merged together in harmony. They seen to have got this just right for what a nice ambiance it had compared to many other sites. Paul (the owner) directed us to our ‘pitch’ and there was room enough for us and a couple of other vans - you do not find this on any sites located close to a beach. It had no hard standing but the grass was good and trees surrounded us on two sides with the songs of birds and wildlife all around - a lovely bush setting. The kangaroos even came to help with the washing up!! We asked where we could buy some local fish (renowned in this area) and Julie directed us to a smallholding down the road where a fisherman and his wife sold locally caught fish and we brought some fresh for our supper which we would barbecue later.

We headed into town to get some more supplies and picked up some brochures from the Visitor Centre, where we got all the ‘gen’ on the area as well as some detailed walks nearby. So we set off with map in hand to do a couple of short ones that were on the headland on the adjoining Town of 1770 which was only 6 km away. We walked to the Lookout Point which was where Captain Cook made his ‘second landing in Australia’ what was to become the state of Queensland. So now we had been to his first and second landing spots - I think he had many more before he hit the reef near Cookstown which we would be visiting on our Barrier Reef cruise next month.

That night we had a delicious barbecue entirely of local produce with the local fish we had purchased before settling down for the night - the sun had been out all day and the campsite was dry so at least we did not have to wade through water and mud to go to the bathrooms.......... if we needed to get up in the night..... The next morning we awoke to our ‘alarm clock’, the first time we have had to set it this trip, but we had to ensure that we were up as today we had booked a boat trip to Lady Musgrave Island on the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

Our boat the ‘Spirit of 1770’ was a modern high speed catamaran, although it would still take one and half hours to get to the island and we were told to expect a rough crossing!!!! - ‘oh no’. T We set off along the channel where Cook had landed and out through the breakwater and into the open ocean. As soon as we hit open water the boat rose up and skimmed over the waves battling against the natural flow and it was a very rough crossing to get out to the island - in the end it took a couple of hours due to the weather and tides. The boat was designed for 150 passengers, but we were lucky as there was only 30 of us and the crew on this trip - so plenty of space which was just as well. However our very first glimpse of Lady Musgrave Island and the stunning coral reef with its calm turquoise lagoon as you headed in over the outer reef made it so worthwhile. We moored up alongside a small pontoon and boarded a glass bottom boat to get to the island, within minutes we had spotted our first turtle which was directly under the boat resting on some coral before it emerged just a few metres from us - it was though it came up to inspect us visitors and welcome us to the island. It surfaced several more times before diving back down on to the reef - memories are all about these special times.

Lady Musgrove Island and Lagoon is the largest coral cay on the outer Southern Great Barrier Reef situated only 32 nautical miles off shore from the Town of 1770. The island is set on 3000 acres of living reef with a 1000 acre coral lagoon that is unique to the Great Barrier Reef. It is the only coral island and navigable lagoon of its kind on the Outer Reef. The only people on the island are hardy campers who pay $5 dollars a night for the privilege and obviously their boat fare to the island. They do however have to be self-sufficient and take everything with them including tent, food, water, medicines and cooking appliances etc and only 40 campers are allowed on the island at one time - a true paradise but at a cost.

We took a short walk across the beach and through the centre of the island. Once leaving the white sandy beach we walked under the thick canopy of an abundance of 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 are edible. Black Noddies use the leaves to build their nests in the branches and likewise thousands of Shearwaters make their nests in underground burrows below the tree canopy. There is a much stranger relationship between the trees and the birds than nesting on the island though....... Pistonia Grandis produces extremely sticky seeds and 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 that now many birds become so coated with the ‘glue’ they cannot fly. These ‘doomed’ birds wander under the trees picking up more and more seeds and sticky seeds until they starve and die of exhaustion. The decaying corpses of the birds 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’ - a quite amazing quirk of nature.............

We finally arrived from the tree canopy and out on the lee side of the island which had a fine white beach strewn with coral rubble, white lime sand that is perfect for turtles to dig their nests and bury their eggs. A hundred or more Greens or Loggerheads Turtles can come ashore in season on a single night leaving enormous tracks and pits to lay their eggs above the tideline.

We wandered along the beach and back to the glass bottom boat before heading back out to the platoon where our boat was moored. We had lunch on board before donning our wetsuits and diving into the amazing reef. The colours and corals were stunning and even though the water was quite cold (even with wetsuits) we snorkeled for nearly and hour before we were so blue we had to head back to the boat but after a short rest went off again but returned a while later to warm up with some hot drinks.

It was truly a wonderful place to snorkel as the lagoon wall here is exposed two and half metres at low tide with only one entrance and as there is no current or swell the branching stag-horn corals grow exceptional well and we were amazed at the vast quantities of this as well as the extraordinary colours and quality of the soft corals on this reef. The snorkelling was quite easy without any strong currents so we only had to watch for the swell of the waves in one area and the rest was quite calm. We were astounded by the multitudes of tropical fish (including the lovely clown fish) and were informed that as the lagoon is a protected zone and has never been fished there were over 1300 varieties as well as over 350 species of hard and soft corals. We have snorkelled over many reefs and must say this was one of the better ones.

Later we took a semi submersible boat tour and it was great to appreciate the reef without having to get wet or cold (although its much better to see it under your own ‘steam’). All too soon it was time to leave the island and head back to 1770. Luckily the journey home was smooth compared to the outbound one and on the way we were rewarded with a couple of close encounters with the migrating Humpback Whales.

We so liked it in this area that we booked another night, again having a long chat with Paul and Julie before retiring to bed. We awoke the next morning to the sound of birds, the Laughing Kookaburras were in fact in the tree just above our van and the noise was so loud but yet so delightful - another day in the bush to relish. It was raining again though, which was a shame but I am sure we will find plenty to fill our day. We had breakfast and Paul went off to do the dishes at the camp kitchen whilst I put the bed away and got the van ready for the day. Paul was ages so I wandered over to find him and there he was ‘yes’ doing the dishes but with the company of ‘three’ kangaroos which kept distracting him!!!! Later we wandered around the bush that circled the the campsite and were amazed at the number of birds and wildflowers and even saw two birds we had not seen before and did not know what they were - Sue a job for Jim when we meet up in Costa Rica.

In the campsite opposite us there was a couple of permanent residents (the only residents on the site) and they fed the wild birds. Their garden was always surrounded by a multitude of birds, including the lovely blue faced honeyeaters, a male and female magpie who the owners fed by hand by throwing the food in the air and the birds swooping to catch the tasty morsels. A huge number of parrots including the colourful Rainbow Lorikeet, the King Parrot and the Eastern Blue Rosella visited the bird table at different times of day. The Eastern Blue Rosella is pale blue with a green/yellow head and a red wedge through their tail - very colourful and we had not seen them on our travels throughout Oz before - there are still so many we have yet to spot.

Later in the day we headed down to the local museum and spent a couple of hours wandering around the many exhibits. The museum had been started by ......and the house that contained his museum had been relocated to the side of the new museum. This had now been added to and there was so much interesting information on Captain Cooks second landing in the area of Agnes Water and The Town of 1770 you could have spent weeks and never touched the surface. There were interesting articles on previous residents from local newspapers since the 1930s as well as aborigine artifacts and stories together with an astonishing collections of memorabilia about the peoples that lived and died in this small area of Australia. There was a reading room compete with a library of old books which you could read at your leisure. There were a couple of extremely interesting books on local floral and fauna with original detailed drawings of plants and flowers found around Agnes Water and The Town of 1770. Some of the painting of the flowers were exquisitely drawn and reminded me of some of my Granny’s paintings - she loved painting the details of flowers in watercolor. You can only take in so much information and it would be good to be able to return one day and view more - you never know........ We walked back and out through the car park at the rear of the museum which led directly into the bush and within minutes we were on a headland where a lookout gave glorious views of the beaches of Agnes Waters and Boatmans Beach. A plague detailed the many wrecks that dotted this area.

Back at our campsite we had a barbecue supper and chatted to Julie and Paul - they had made us feel so welcome and we would thoroughly recommend this caravan park to anyone visiting the area - we could have stayed a week or more and not been bored but yet again it was time to move on. The next morning we packed up the van and this only takes a few minutes unlike some of the other huge caravans (they can take all day to pack) and headed to our next destination - Yeppoon.

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