Category Archives: Drives

They do have a winter

Yes it does rain, winter (relatively speaking) is part of the Queensland experience. Best part of the morning spent exploring the foreshore in Bongaree. This location named after the aboriginal who travelled with Matthew Flinders while he mapped the area. Names aside, while the sun shone we did plan to go to the beach but by the time we got home clouds were gathering and it was much too cool. Some good, some bad – non beach day. Our plans included going to Mooloolba but a minor medical emergency meant sampling the excellent support services on the Bribie Island.

Bongaree Jetty
The Bongaree Jetty, many a pleasant afternoon spent here

We are enjoying – as part of house sitting- the joys of a fully equipped gourmet kitchen. Instant heat under high-tech stove top hot plates, homemade yoghurt, obscure products, seasonings, garnishes and gourmet, organic or even freshly gathered, locally sourced food. The surrounds provide us with papaya, passionfruit, mint, herbs, rouquette and spinage. So I can be creative. Results include a mandarin slice and green papaya salad.

Another grey day and we drive north to Mooloolaba, apparently holidaying. What used to be little more than one bakery, plank footpaths and a caravan park, largely surrounded by swampland is now an up-market, bustling café strip. More crowded, more resort towers than we are used to, this is a bonsai Gold Coast. Still some shabby areas though, the Aquarium centre, or down on the spit where the fishery/ seafood area. The adjacent foreshore has a sheltered swimming area but the chilly air puts us off.untitled (320)

Being deep in Maroon territory when the State of Origin Rugby happens is a new experience. Many in the neighbourhood deck out houses, buses, offices in their team’s colours. Queensland having won eight years on the trot are very popular. They are definitely walking the walk of winners. The whole state rivalry is much less noticeable south of the border, or perhaps we just live in the wrong area.

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While Queensland has adopted the Cane toad as their emblem, and with no love lost those from south of the border are aligned to cockroaches, we have our own invasions to deal with: tiny ants along the hand basins in the guest’s bathroom and perhaps kindred NSW cockroaches. House sitting does have its down side.

Cane toad
Great invader, taking over so much.

When we eventually explore the coast Cotton Tree and Maroochy Surf club do not live up to the hype. Much of the foreshore is being rebuilt and heavily dressed in construction site garb.

A garbage truck stalks us northwards. My memories of a lovely family lunch in the Surf club on a previous business are destroyed by insistent jack-hammering.

Much of the façade is the ‘same-same’ as all along the coast. Why do people come here? Scratch just below the surface, behind the shops, sparkling businesses, and gleaming towers are still garages, back alleys and waste areas.

Much changed Mooloolaba foreshore

A favourite up away from the coastal strip is the Kunrana Organic Supermarket – Brownies worth the drive. (featured image) They have bulk bins and paper bags for customers to fill, mark the product code and you are charged accordingly. The range is enormous, everything squeaky-clean and good for you. Now the complex has been extended to include café, garden centre and even an organic butcher. I notice a sign indicating they now sell, “Grass fed Lamb”, and wonder; is there another sort? Do they eat something else?

We are frequently asked, ‘how long we’re staying or what are we doing here?’ Which leads us to feel we are being judges as clearly not locals! As far as I can see the only evidence to support this assumption is that we are clothed in shorts and T shirts, obviously damming evidence, when others around us are in more wintery outfits. When we get a chance to respond to this curiosity any mention of house-sitting is greeted with platitudes.


Day Trip to Eumundi Markets

Any trips off Bribie Island mean the initial 19km to the Bruce Highway; tedious process of several sets of traffic lights and more changes of speed limit than should occupy such a short stretch of roadways.untitled (309)

Once on ‘the Bruce’, we are still becoming accustomed to the scenery, pine plantations, swampy paper-bark tree stretches, and long open highway with adjacent strawberry farms (yet to harvest). We have decided that Queensland drivers are the worst encountered in our travels, most noticeable is their ignoring major road work speed restrictions. 4 Wheel drive enthusiast lumber though the unsealed side roads which appear to be worn and puddled as a result.

Caloundra features much more high-rise apartments and busy city streetscapes – with small businesses and hardware shops. untitled (310)

We head to Noosa beach which is perfect. I make the mistake of asking about my husband’s memories of the area when the parking area at the Noosa River mouth was a caravan park where a council worker with cigarette hanging from his bottom lip would give the boys in their panel van a ticket for camping overnight costing $1. My queries were treated with typical up-market Noosa sourness, ‘there has always been a council car-park here!’ I am told.

Featured image is Noosa street art.

Later I find a wonderful evocative poem Only in Places Like This by Cindy Keong–

…Only a scatter of stores to tempt the ladies who

are more at home on Noosa streets, with their

gold mesh and white linen. Here some things

never change: the caravan park that waits patiently

for its regular families to set up camp,…

Thought the “gold mesh and white linen” image was apt.

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Hastings Street with its retail reputation, up there with Lygon St, Carlton or Toorak Road, South Yarra, and apparently commercial rents are the most costly in Australia. I wonder why I don’t find it at all interesting and other things catch my attention. Like several decades of Miles Franklin Award winning books in a window. My every ice-cream laden window shopping move is watched by snobby managers. Finally I stumble on a food court where I thought there was nothing affordable.

Construction is underway for the Noosa Food and Wine Festival, something we searched prior to leaving Sydney finding that tickets were way too expensive. Seriously overpriced dinners and luncheons ranged from $108 to $250 each. Access to the fair was $40 with what looks like additional $9 to purchase samples from food stalls. Even that was beyond our budget.

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Another unexpected cost was parking at Eumundi Markets, all sorts of restrictions were in place for market days, or you could park in the Primary school for $5. Don’t blame this small town for attempting to make a bit of profit from tourism.

Day trip to Maleny

Mt Tibrogargan
Can you see the Gorilla?


We are getting into the dog-walk habits, and the day is not really beach suitable, so may as well tour.

The Glasshouse Mountains are suddenly on the road-side. We turn off along Steve Irwin Way as indicated by a silhouetted sculpture of the man with a crocodile. ‘We should visit the Australian Zoo,’ says rod. ‘Yes and do some walks.’

Mt Tibrogargan looked like giant Silverback Gorilla. We are passing our first pineapple plantation. Then the big mower at Beerwah comes into view. Why? Really don’t know, but hey, it’s a big thing. The roadside has a passing parade of fresh fruit stalls, we’ve made a decision which one to visit on our return. Turned out that they were giving away custard apples, which needed to be eaten right now.

Maleny shops
Typical of cute crafty shops in Maleny


I wander into every bookshop in Maleny, including Rosetta Books. Oops missed one. Eventually managed to swap but not before I am told, ‘we have to make money, pay bills, you know.’

Part of this day trip was a visit to Rosetta Book shop – dust jacket information, from the Accidental Terrorist said the author was one of the owners. Apparently not anymore, and was told that he is even overseas, so there would be no chance to meet Steven Lang. But did learn from the shop to note down authors and add them to the search-for titles/authors at the library list.

David Linton timber gallery takes much of my time. All items are created by local artists, many of whom reside in Maleny or around the beautiful Blackall Range. Come top up your soul and experience the wonderful qualities of our exquisite native Australian timbers in this magical gallery in the beautiful hills of Maleny. Advertising speak aside, I felt as if my soul had been topped up. untitled (283)

There is art, exhibitions and fine food everywhere. Even a fromagerie! Wonderfully handcrafted shoes, but way too expensive. So much like Leura in the Blue Mountains. We dine at Colin James Fine Foods – bread and soup for me. Ploughman’s lunch for Rod.

Recent cold snaps have put the temperatures down into single figures. Further west is even cooler only 5 or 6 degrees Celsius overnight. So out comes the scarfs and cold clime clothes. We’re still in shorts, but with long sleeves, lightweight but still – the locals seem softer. We’ve found going into the mountains, or rather hinterland in April much warmer than our January in NZ, or February in Tasmania.

Heading back down the mountain heavy rain washes away any chance of a view.

Mary Cairn Cross Park
Typical trails in Mary Cairn cross park

Even with limited signage we make sure to take the turn off to Mary Cairn Cross Park. The view back through the nodules Captain Cook likened to glass smelting towers was stunning. (featured image) We can see control burns underway. Sunlight makes the rock faces sparkle, truly do look like melted gems. Had my sister not taken me to these gardens on an earlier visit I’d have been ignorant of their existence.

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There is also a giant barrel winery close by, but we decide to make tracks down the hills to get time to ask some questions at the Bribie Island tourist centre. Nope, no such thing as 4 wheel drive tours, ‘a guy thinks he might run tours and has approached the council, but he still needs to buy his 4WD bus.’ Fishing charters cost $230 per person, not in our price range.


Onward to Burleigh

Now we get to experience the major changes to Pacific Highway, straight out of Waterside and onto the bypass. How will all those caravan parks and beach resorts along this coast cope? Places like Red Rock, Arrawarra and Mulloway. Much less access to the –just turn off the highway– discovery factor.

There is a point progressing north when the vegetation changes. Paper barks dominate, the ground seems like a flood plain. Vines fill the gaps. There are gum trees but they seem insipid. Signs warn of Kangaroo the next 20km, then Horses. There are no perceivable fences.

Woodburn NSW
Lovely riverside to take a break.

We stop at Woodburn, where the lampposts sport fire motifs art work. On the Evan’s River, this is the Lismore turn off. Our café choice does not do Chai, only Latte (not the same thing) but a huge range of milk shakes. You can get an enormous artery choking $15 breakfast, and plenty are. Steady stream of traffic loaded up school holiday returner style. We are subjected to random breath testing just outside Ballina.

Ballina NSW
Not meant to be a Bunning’s Ad

The Big Prawn’s new posh coat of paint has made it more visible as we transition onto the Logan Freeway. That anticipated view across the rolling hills of Macadamia Nut plantations still seen even with the huge gouges into the rich red dirt for the major upgrading of this section.

There will never be a by-pass around Coffs Harbor was our conclusion. It’s too political with a commercial – commerce lobby. Tourism must traverse to ensure a strong passing trade. The purchase of swaths of banana grower’s land to put in a highway that just seems too hard.

Thick traffic is encountered only when we close-in on the Tweed River. Now there seems a buffer zone on speed. According to urban myth you will not get booked X km over the limit, is it 5, or 10, we don’t know. But the locals do seem to, and they speed accordingly.

Virgin Travel Magazine writes Burleigh up as – just a stone’s throw from the glitz and glam of Surfers Paradise, but its village like atmosphere makes it feel like world away…. The new Byron Bay…former fishing village has evolved from a touristy coastal hub offering kitsch souvenirs and fish and chips to a hip little enclave… pristine beaches, a surf culture, fabulous dining, eclectic markets and laid back charm. While all that is a big sell, the article does go on to point out…so many individual shop and land owners…it can never be built out, so you are doing to get a village feel forever…We hope so. Village as featured image.

Village markets burleigh heads
Gotta love a market

We didn’t schedule our arrival, getting to Burleigh for a sunny Sunday, end of a long weekend. Weekend market is on the foreshore. ($2 for giant pack of bananas) Parking is a nightmare, some are even on the entrance ramps to apartment block car park. ‘Tomorrow all those people will be gone, and we’ll have it all to ourselves’, is Rod’s optimism. Offered up for a change from the ‘I love it here!’ mantra. He asks all sorts of questions about which apartments are up for sale.

Time for food shopping, parking under the areas covered by shade cloth (a tropical Queensland shopping centre innovation). It’s crowded here and finding a trolley is also a debacle. What are all these people doing here? But we do recognize the Australian triathlon Legend Jason Shortis at the check outs. His wife scours at me, but he’s ever the diplomat making small talk.

Jason Shortis
Might random women talk to Jason?

We finish off the day with a mini-drive tour around the canal-side housing of Burleigh cove. This probably used to be a swamp. The type of water soaked land those developer scams were selling off in the 1970s. Wall to wall Mc-mansions now, built so close they could share garage doors.

To where did the day vanish?

After dark late in the week at Burleigh means a gathering on the foreshore that resembles Cheryl Strayed’s Wild …loose tribe of so-called freethinkers, who share a common goal of peace and love on earth…drum jams and bonfires an parties… They can’t light bonfires on the grass esplanade so practice flame dancing, and fire eating instead. Parties are all about communities of music and low wire work. The latter I think is teaching newcomers so they can make money at county fairs at some stage in their travels.

Spending School Holidays

Even though the weather we are encountering is getting cooler, and the days shorter Rod is still able to get away with short pants. End of daylight saving means we can relax into waking with the sun around 7am. But in the few remaining days of extended daylight in the evenings we can enjoy a few BBQs with Liz from next door, who welcomes us back eagerly. But soon, all too soon we plan to leave for our longest absence.

Royal Easter show
The other school holiday activity – Royal Easter Show. Natasha’s show junk food of choice.

Easter; can always go either way in Sydney– cold, wet, miserable or cool evenings but precious autumn days. Seems to depend on if you planned a family camping trip, then it will rain. But this too is part of the Easter tradition.

Winter traditionally arrives after Ironman Port Macquarie, ask my husband, the one who has raced this endurance format for 20 consecutive years. Even as part-time residents of Sydney we still see all those dedicated individuals out there on their bikes doing those last long rides.

A legacy of not being at work leading into the public holidays is we have no shared Easter eggs. These treats seem to find their way to all sorts of desks at this time of the year. I aren’t at that work station, and only offer a passing thought to who is filling that space.

Rod’s employer gave him a harbor cruise last Christmas which we decided to use. There is also the Helicopter ride I brought for his birthday. Seeing as the date I’d planned for Rod to enjoy this was when he was laid up in a hospital bed recovering from a broken pelvis, now his able to tick this off his bucket list. (featured image)

I able to so some running on similar trails, heading down to the pipeline trail through Heathcote National Park. A trail that world class triathlete Craig Alexander says is, ‘this is the best running in the world.’ Fitness can also be maintained with a few short bike rides, I find an ability to make some difficult creek crossings on the mountain bike, something I never had the strength for before. So this not working must be beneficial.

Arrangements that have to be made things like re-directing the mail, again. This time we opt for everything to be sent to Rod’s dad, something I wasn’t sure he would be well enough to cope with, but he seems keen and any bills have been placed on direct debit systems. All of which we now know works well. We make repeat bookings of our favorite places to stop on the Pacific highway, having made this trip several times and knowing it takes two days to drive comfortable. Getting away at a time which will allow us these stops plus making our deadline to the house-sitting arrangement. Chris wants us there a week before so he can go through all the instructions, but we opt for a much less cross-over time.

Pacific Highway Australia
Updated sections of the infamous Pacific Highway


On to Narooma

Cann River Victoria
Favourite motor cycle journey, coast road Sydney to Melbourne

Our third state so far; Tasmania, Victoria and now back in New South Wales.

Up through Cann River, notable murals for Kenny to notice. (featured image)

We check out the pretty location only previously seen as wall-to-wall campers over Christmas, on that slow trip to Melbourne. Mystery Bay – and it seems there was one. 10th October 1880 five men were looking for gold in the area. What happened? Where did they go? Apparently the hole in their boat, when it was found had been bashed inward, instead of damage outward from hitting a reef or rocks.

From Steven Lang’s An Accidental Terrorist …Hitching out of Melbourne that morning, heading for Sydney, he’d taken the wrong road…The only thing he’d been sure of was that he was leaving. It wasn’t until he’d got a lift from a RAAF man going to Sale the he’d realized he was on the Coast Road, not the Hume, and even he hadn’t considered he would have to go through Eden. It was only later, when he had passed Orbost, and then Cann River, when they came to the turn-off to Mallacoota, the Bellbird Hotel slipping by amongst the tall trees that it came home to him…

Coast road heading to Orbost
Coast road heading to Orbost – not the Hume highway

Note to confused protagonist, big mistake. How could you confuse the Hume Highway with the coast road? But that aside, it is eerie to read the progress of such a highway, merely as ticking off the names. On two fronts, familiar to us as twice travelled that way on purpose, yet without the depth that going beyond only the main highway grants.

We spent the day beach lazing; ‘I could live here, can we stay another day…’ sort of place. I notice Rod buries smelly things in the sand. We shared majestic scenery and lovely water with a total of three people. But we already know this is a completely different place in the depth of Christmas school holidays. Plus later on our southward journey from Queensland we will talk to someone who lived in the area while their husband was an international piolet. She found it very difficult to be more than that woman from Sydney. Or the one who did not want a proposed development to happen.

One of the first differences we have noticed is in the call of bell-birds now we are back in NSW. Surely we’d heard them in Tasmania; had they been there? New nature noises and the number of stops needed due to road works on the major highway.

Paynesville founder

To Paynesville

To honour the brother-in-law we must go to the town bearing his name. But this isn’t the only reason for our visit – on the previous slow trip south (one week Sydney to Melbourne) we’d heard about the scenery and location. Now we sit in the sunny board walked shoreline and make the call to Christopher Payne. My sister and her husband are entertaining friends ashore from around the world cruise. ‘They must be fabulously well off?’ No they are just spending the inheritance.

One ferry we watched but didn’t do – over the lake to Raymond Island from Paynesville

Paynesville is another hamlet on the Gippsland lakes system – pretty, with a history of plentiful fishing and Bacchus like harvests. Boats, specially built herewith a shallow draft and low sides that would allow the heavy nets to be pulled aboard. Boats are a big part of local activities. A ferry still plies between the shore and Raymond Island, $10 a car for a distance I estimate is about 200meters. Free for pedestrians. Before the train lines (which are now rail trails) steamers used to connect villages and even as far as Melbourne. Now road transport has replaced other methods. You can still use the rail lines but on cycles or horseback. Rod talks about using these major trails to perhaps go one way or the other, even explore the Great Ocean Road, maybe something we can do later in the with our Great Roads Road Trip.

Eagle Point - Gippsland lakes
How it all used to look, way back when.

We explore Eagle Point and The Bluff Lookout which makes the scope of the Gippsland lakes evident. Our little self-drive tour also included heading down Dawson’s Point. (Memories of the 2nd head of English Keanan College) A narrow spit of land jutting out towards the Silt jetties. We encounter historical information about the area being settled in 1800s. The police station at Eagle Point built in 1864.  imagesJEY9IHGY

A must stop is Bumberrah Orchard. Signs say, ‘don’t squeeze the fruit’ as this is not a self-serve store. Here we stock up on pears, peaches and nectarines. A young guy from here who spent a great deal of time in Coffs Harbor, and looks like a Coffs local says he couldn’t find permanent work. He is a chef and baker but could only find part time, casual work, so took a positon in Port Hedland at a mine site. Now he owns both a house and boat; loves Metung, the beach, and has a job.  untitled (246)

Our host Dorothy at Maeburn Cottages is a South African who lived in NZ at Lake Taupo, then the Kapiti coast, and then showed truly transient colors by moving to the Gold Coast. ‘but it was too hot, and we couldn’t run the business from there, so they moved to Metung. Now run the cottages and a clothing shop at Paynsville. ‘No need to take a water bottle everywhere here, and people can be asked to work at the cottages without a huge call-out fee.’

Metung headlands – out into the Gippsland lakes