Runaway Bay, O'Reilly's and the venture north...

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Oceania » Australia
April 28th 2022
Published: April 29th 2022
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Sunday morning 10th April we dried out as best we could, packed up and headed to Runaway Bay to the caravan park. We were heading here as Merlin had his National Youth and Junior Triathlon Super Sprint Championships. We had a good run with sunny weather and arrived at the Gold Coast Performance Centre around lunchtime. We made lunch and then went in to registration and to check out the course. It was an amazing venue with all sections of the course in close proximity (so easy viewing for us!). Once done we made our way to our accommodation- packed away our campo for a few days and headed into the cabin. As we had several essential bikes with us, we needed a cabin so they could be safely locked away at nights so the campo got a rest for a few days. Of course we forgot it was school holidays so it was wall to wall with holiday makers- you can imagine how Chris was (not) coping at this point??!! Neverthless it was only a few days and we would only be there generally late in  the afternoon/evening. The next few days were an amazing experience for us all, but particularly, Merlin. He was surrounded by the best triathletes in the country - it was affirming for him to see so many kids keen on the sport he is loving at the moment. The first day included three events, each 2 hours apart - 1500m run, then a duathlon 250m run, 4.5km ride and 250m run and the final event was an aquathlon 400m swim and 800m run. The second day was probably Merlins favourite event -it was the doublesprint which was a 250m swim, 6km ride and 1.2km run and then this is repeated a second time straight after.
The final day had another triathlon 300m swim, 8km ride and 1.6km run. Merlin loved it all but particulrly the technical components of the bike course and being able to draft and work with others in the bike leg.  It was fantastic and lots of new friendships forged and existing ones enhanced, over those few days. 

Runaway Bay is close to the coast so it was a terrific chance to let our bodies breathe a bit from all the bities we experienced in the bush. We looked like pin cushions with little red welts when we arrived but the saltwater was a welcone solace.After the event we spent the next day safely shipping Merlins bike back to NEVic, going for runs, having mini golf tournaments and playing in the GC Aquapark - which was a lot of fun. From here, we packed up headed back to the bush for a few days before we made our way to OReillys. Luckily, this time we had better weather and a few days to relax, birdwatch and have a short time to photograph.

On Mon 18th we headed off for OReillys Rainforest Retreat in Lamnigton NP. We love this place, having been on a few previous trips, and were really excited to be coming back. This was going to be even more special as we were seeing our friends Ross and Jan from Victor Harbour and Mark and Ina from Brisbane. Unfortuntately we completely forgot that it was Easter Monday and therefore we were travelling with the hordes of others who have ventured afar for the Easter break. As a result the drive took a few extra hours and we arrived very late in the day. Not perturbed by this, we were excited to find our Villa and unpack. Again the campo was having a rest for a few days, while we experienced a little high end luxury amongst the rainforest canopy and with our friends. We quickly unpacked, did a little exploring and then had dinner. The next two days provided us beautiful weather enabling running, swimming, birdwatching and photography as well as the more mundane, admin tasks and washing. Although very late in the season we were lucky enough to get great looks at the OReilly's poster bird- the stunning Regent Bowerbird and again the contrasting vibrancy of the rich obsidian black against the golden yellow was a sight to behold. Other specialities we got to see were the Log Runners, Pale Yellow Robin, Brown Cuckoo-dove, Lewin's Honeyeater and of course the beautiful Crimson Rosella and King Parrots. We also had a really special encounter with the very cute Red-necked Pademelons, spending time with a little family of three while they were out feeding.

Unfortunately for us, La Nina visited us again and the next few days were not only extremely cold but very wet.  Merlin made the most of this spending countless hours on the bush tracks and up and down the hills on his mountain bike. We still ventured out on the many and varied walking tracks through the rainforest, as well as defeating the heights to scale the Tree Top Walk (30m above the ground). We made the most of the little snippets of sunshine doing some swimming in the luxurious infinity pool, this was especially wonderful to enjoy after some hard run sets. Moreover, since being here the last time, they have started using a pool blanket so the water is slightly heated making it even more inviting. Apart from the brilliance of the Birds of Prey show and the numerous birds we encountered (unfortunately the cold spell meant the reptiles were in hiding!), and the close encounters we had with the very cute Red-necked Pademelons, the other major highlight, particularly for Merlin was the zip lining. This is essentially a flying fox but one that sits 30m above the ground across a span of over 180m traversing down the lush valley. Not only was this a highlight because he would get the opportunity to feel what its like to fly, but to see if he could win the bet with Chris- that I could complete the activity without a scream passing my lips. Chris was convinced he had a sure bet that there was no way i could do this.....Merlin was otherwise optimistic and just hopeful i could pull it off. I really thought i was a chance as well.... but unforuntately as soon as the walk down the ramp came to an end and i was suspended by what seemed like such a feeble cord, my lungs were let free and to Merlin's dismay, the whole valley heard my zip line adventure....It was such fun though, and improvements were definitely made in subsequent trips.

Another highlight was when Merlin and I went for a long walk to Elabana falls, (as we hadnt seen this on previous trips). It was a lovely walk through the rainforest descending down towards the creekline. Our friend Mark, also an ecologist and photographer, came on the walk as he wanted to get some great landscape shots. The falls were amazing and all the more spectacular due to the volume of water in the catchment. Whilst Mark was off being very creative taking various shots of different angles and exposures, Merlin and I were having the best fun ever being creative, but of a completely different kind. Luckily, even though our subject was oblivious to our shenanigans, he performed  brilliantly and enjoyed the end result.(see pic below)
After several wonderful days, despite the often inclement weather, it was time to say farewell for now to our friends and head further north, with at least three huge days of driving ahead of us.

As the rain kept coming, we packed up and headed off Sunday 24th mid morning. It was a good drive down the mountain and then we started our trek further north. We arrived at our destination late, just on sunset but with enough light to set up camp. We were in Hervey Bay at the caravan park we have booked to stay in when we come up on September for Merlins National SSV Triathlon events. Luckily when we set up the campo, everything was dry so we were pleased that our plan to utilise a tarp as part of the pack up, had paid dividends. We locked up, walked into town and to the beach not only to stretch our legs but to treat ouselves to some dinner after a long day driving. It was lovely to be out and about. Next morning, after a restless night due to noisy camper neighbours, more rain from midnight and then some unexplained and interesting singing neighbours from 3am, we got up about 6.30 to what appeared to be a beautiful day and warmth!! We all got our gear on and headed off for a run along the beach- it was wonderful. We then got our gear and had a swim - the water was crystal clear, on the slightly warmer side and crisply salty. Apart from the roofing screw we picked up in the campo tyre (possibly from the car park at OR), it was a fabulous morning, meeting a few locals and enjoying the very kind weather. We would have loved to stay a whole day to explore the  area more but time didnt permit it- we had to keep moving.

Unfortunately, La Nina was again with us raining all the way as we headed north. This would not bode well for a bush camp to try and set up and cook dinner. As it was late, we decided to head into another caravan park in Rockhampton. I can hear you cringing and pondering again how Chris' patience was faring. Well by now, the rain was more problematic, skuttling several photographic endeavours, so although frustrated by the prospect of another night in 'civilisation', it paled in significance. Surprisingly, our stay was quite good, although it does baffle us how, when asked if its possible to have a site on the end or a quiet one, and there are plenty of vacant options, the proprietors still choose to place you right up next to other campers??? Regardless, it was a great spot, close to the camp kitchen ( which became a key factor), and had the added bonus of a water fun park which of course Merlin and I made the most of. We found out very quickly that the rain we had experienced so far was nothing compared to what was to come. It rained continually during our stay and the close proximity to the camp kitchen was appreciated. We woke up Tue morning 26th ready to pack up and head off further north. The issue was how were we going to do this with it constantly raining and the canvas already saturated?? We decided to cover the mattresses top and bottom with tarps and when we were lucky enough to have a 15 min window without rain we went to work, packing down and including another tarp to try and prevent leakage. On we went.....

We drove all day heading north and started to realise, (due to delays in setting off and the rain etc) we wouldnt make our destination. With that and the very possibility that the whole campo would be saturated ( as the rain continued again all day), we would head for Eungella and stay in a mountain cabin the night. This would also enable us to try and find the Eungella Honeyeater (the most range restricted bird in Australia). Again we arrived late, just on dark but it was great to get into our little cabin out of the weather. Sigrid, our host, let us know of the platypus in the creek so, as we were in desperate need of a walk and a stretch, we headed out in the rain to the creek. We couldnt believe it when upon scanning the creek, we saw one frolicking in the water!! Such amazing creatures and we had the best looks at it enjoying the freezing conditions.

Next morning (Wed 27th) we headed out in search of the Honeyeater. Chris had done a bit of research so we knew the habitat to look for- although being in high mountain rainforest amid pouring rain and mist can sometimes make this challenging to spot. Nevertheless we came across the right stuff and started walking. After some time, Chris heard one, coupled with Merlin and he having fleeting glimpses of it darting through the dense bush and then he got his binos. onto it and the unmistakable 'thats it' was exclaimed.  Merlin got onto it at the same time and just enjoyed the sight of this striking bird with its brown and white colouring, notable markings down its chest and its stunning blue/green/purple eye. Of course the papparazzi were in the hunt but given all of this activity was occurring during pelting rain, the act of photographing this stunning little creature was going to be more than just a challenge. On we persevered for some time, until the rain (& really time) defeated us. We headed back to the car all feeling extremely lucky to have witnessed this special bird.
We headed back to the cabin to pack up and head north again, hoping to get close to Townsville if possible, however that would depend on whether the campo was flooded. We hastened a quick peek whilst parked at the cabin and to our dismay saw pools of water on the would be a long day ahead....

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