Category Archives: Road Trips

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 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.

More Woolgoolga Wonders

From Theroux’s The Old Patagonian Express …Pretend I am someone who has never travelled anywhere – I want to know what these places are like. We have 3 days to feel what this little town is really like, and to pretend we’ve never been there before. Tough when you know how the roads connect, but at least the brand new Pacific by-pass has changed things. Now there are more chances to see the nets that protect the precious blueberry bushes.


We can walk the beaches, which are preferred method for getting to the town. I decide to bring a plastic bag and be aneco-warrior collecting random bits of plastic. There was a documentary about the birds that were found to have hundreds of bits of rubber in their stomachs. Even a problem out there in the Pacific, will I be able to find this junk away from populated centers? First problem is that plastic bags are used to remove doggie-poo, beware pulling a bag out of the beach sand it could already contain a brown surprise. Yuck!

Woolgoolga town beach
What more does Rod need, perfect siting on beach.

The local fruit and vege shop means we can stock up on tropical delights. But paying $15 for tiny school prawns seems unnecessary when you can secure prepared delights at White Salt. I find myself alphabetically rearranging books in Waterside Office, time to get outside!

This place bears a name which is derived for the first people’s name a black apple tree.

Part of the major coastal trail that extends some 60km.

Gnarly paper back trees between the shore, lakes and highway.

We find lots of hermit crabs in the shore break. There are points where you can access the beach in 4wheel drives, and there are plenty of dogs running about. This is where we encounter the trusty companion who waits while their human surfs, galloping up to say hello to us, before returning to its waiting place.

Woolgoolga NSW
Looking from the tower back towards Lakeside caravan park

Samuel asked, ‘when is Anzac day?’ How can that be – after years in the Australian education system. Even the Bushies have a special run to ‘do it for the troops.’ Being able to run along the soft sand, kick our shoes off and sink into the pebbly edge is pleasurable compared to what soldiers go through in the dust of Afghanistan, jungles of Vietnam or beaches of Gallipoli. Being that Rod could have been sent to Vietnam we can respect the efforts of our defense services this one day.

Heard on the day, ‘busier than a drum band on Anzac day.’

Building clouds, thunder and eventually rain; those Kookaburras were right.

On the Road again

Leaving Sydney to Woolgoolga – departing early by 5am to avoid the traffic through the Northern suburbs. Being a newcomer to Sydney I couldn’t believe a lack in alternatives to winding through Pymble, Turramurra and even up to Hornsby once you were on the M whatever number. The roads follow ridge tops, loose and gain lanes creating bottlenecks: why is there not a lovely straight, traffic flowing freeway?

Woolgoolga vegetation
What a tree!

We discover the loyalty discounts that can be had by booking somewhere you’ve already stayed. Always a pleasure to take in the bush that surrounds Lakeside cabins, just out of Woolgoolga. We spot a stingray in the waters of Lake Hearn. Kookaburras perched on the trees watching us, watching them. But luckily they do not cackle as this according to Rod, ‘would mean it’s going to rain’. They do become our alarm clock at 5.40am. Wind on the town beach erased the swim-sun-fun factor.

Our visit to this familiar half way between Brisbane and Sydney spot aligns with both Anzac day (right) and the Curry Fest. The latter billed as, ‘the sights, sounds and aromas….a day for the senses…’preparation includes the arrival of banks of porta-loos (left). We’d already been instructed by our neighbour, ‘to get a curry there,’ on a previous business, but the festival gave us a chance to multi-indulge.

This small town has a huge Indian population owing to the presence of major Sikh temples, it’s called …The missing piece of Paradise…a title to which I am inclined to agree. untitled (259)Apparently Punjab immigrants came to work on the local farms in the 1940s. Obviously they liked it and stayed. I note that they own 90% of the banana plantations. Is that the same for the other major crop – blueberries? Pickers accommodation is to be had in town at $120 per week in a shared house, including wifi (jobs found on sites like Gumtree apparently) Bit of a weedy garden, but right on the beach.

All sorts of long overdue upgrades are underway on the Pacific Highway. One of the largest road infrastructure projects in NSW. I search for some figures of what is being spent to by-pass traffic around all those black spots like Urunga, (still sporting the scars of recent trucks crashing into buildings incidents) but seems only sections are aligned to numbers, $820 million for south of Kempsey. There is even a 51 page document about the Woolgoolga to Ballina section at etc etc etc.

Pacific Highway
About time for Pacific highway improvements

Fantastic landmark at the highest ocean lookout, even more elevated as it’s painted on the water tank. Must be visible for miles out to sea. Nice touch with the yellow submarine. (featured image)

Augmented Post

Taking a chance to catch up with some of my own images –

Missed some of the major information about the Giant Koala on Phillip Island, apparently he even had a name ‘Bruce’.

Thanks to my Big Things edited by David Clarke …5 metre high monster…welcomes travelers to Koala Park Resort on Phillip Island … local artist and sculptor Jason Monet .. had completed cow, bull and calf outside the dairy center…9 tonnes of imported American Oregon held together by dowelling – not a single nail, piece of wire nor any glue was used. Unveiled in Nov 1985.

Later repairs involved plaster, papier mache and glue, then fiberglass and being painted its current grey colour.  (featured image)

Taking a chance to catch up with some of my own images –

I didn’t know that at dusk his eyes light up too – that’s just creepy.

Phillip sland Chocolate factory
Chocolate balls view.

We also saw those “monet…” (he he he) cattle. See there was chocolate balls. They don’t make the Big Things categories because they are only slightly larger than life. There is a scale involved in being classified as a Big Thing.

These fantastic murals seen at Rhyll missed out too. Kenny loves wall art.

Rhyll murals Phillip Island Victoria
Kenny loves wall art

I am sure that the famous bridge onto PI would have made a bridges entry somewhere, just in case here it is. Must get some trivia details – 640m = 2,100 foot in concrete. Original wooden bridge was built in 1938.


Coles Bay Tasmania

Isolation Problems

Elephant pass made us aware of difficulties caused by being hundreds of kms away from the conveniences taken for granted in the big city. But we had already encountered our own problem.

Eureka Fruit Farm near the spikey bridge solve the limited eftpos/credit card problem by stating that their fruit, including plums that look too perfect, ‘right around the island, and widely through the net.’ They must be able to access broadband.

Blue Book shop St Helens Tasmania
Aptly named blue book shop

In the blue building book shop I swap my read novels for the first time. Out of the range of electronic reading and in areas where people don’t have a lot of money to spend on luxuries like reading materials, used bookshops and a willingness to exchange or negotiate on price means stocked used bookshops. My problem is the rows of romance and thrillers don’t motivate.

Our cash card returns a ‘cancelled’ reading and won’t work at all. Luckily there is a Commonwealth bank in town and we are able to sort that out and return to purchase essential groceries. Phew crises averted.

Efforts to find accommodation down the road, in places like Coles Bay where there seem plenty of cottages and B & Bs is a hassle. You need to book over the net, and then get instructions on where to find the key. But we do not have precise dates, so we have to do the rounds. Signs are highly visible, but with no mobile coverage you can’t ring. We are told later, ‘if you can see Swansea, you can get a signal.’ This comms black-out means letting family know anything is also touch and go. We resort to text messages warning of poor reception and calling when the damn thing tells us with those little bars. Often this involves combining a walk with search for phone reception area.

East Coast Tasmania
Lots of berry farms, lots of space between towns.

Shopping could mean paying huge prices, petrol, luxuries like ice-cream, they set their own fees. We decide that a pizza sold from an oven at a breakfast-lunch café would make a nice change. They sell these from an oven with window facing the street. But it seems this is a weekend luxury. So back to the drawing board, and cruising past sell out stock in the one very small supermarket. CBC runs a monopoly in the Coles Bay area. $2 a litre for petrol, 20c for shopping bags, even $4 for a magnum ice cream. We decide to spoil ourselves anyway after the long 11km walk. Someone passing says, ‘they’ll make you fat…’ As we sit on the tailgate. No, you’re wrong, inactivity will, the stranger forgot to factor in our 5 hours serious bush walk. Not long ago this supermarket establishment burnt down, I was told. Likely this was a disgruntled tourist. Which left me wondering what did the locals do? Community means big shopping trips into Launceston or Hobart includes being given a list from neighbors. Or ingenuity when making repairs to properties, the chatty manager tells us, ‘you can’t just pop out to the hardware shop’.

Perhaps these things are why so many businesses are for sale, or have folded.

Coles Bay fire
Someone thought prices were too high and expressed their disgust

Opposed to that was the ancient buildings of Enstone park, Scamander. Visible from the highway were ancient stone buildings looking like they were something out of an English country manor magazine – an establishment that has granted an economic return to occupants since 8-8-1868. (Feng Shui with all those 8s).

Enstone Swansea
Typical settlers cottage – Tasmania