Thursday, August 27, 2015

27 August - Home Sweet Home

Amazingly we are home. This wasn't the plan but just the way things worked out. We left Toukley Service Centre, north of Sydney at 02:00 after catching a few hours of sleep. This enabled us to navigate around Sydney and on to the M7 with very little traffic. Unfortunately we encountered a fair bit of fog but by 04:00 we reached the next large service centre about 40 km along the Hume Highway. Once again we parked the rig amongst all the large trucks and some other caravans and caught another couple of hours sleep. By 7:00 we were on the road again expecting to reach Bombala or maybe Cann River. We were expecting heavy rain but did not really encounter much more than fine drizzle. Our friends John and Sandra who were travelling from their home in Paynesville to Sydney got in touch and we were able to have a coffee together in Cooma which was great. By the time we reached the coast at Cann River the weather was quite good and we carried on to Lakes Entrance. At Lakes were within 150 km of home and although it meant arriving in the dark the temptation to continue on home was too good to resist. All went well until we reached Stratford. At that point it became dark and the heavens opened to some of the heaviest rain I've experienced. This made the final 60km ride home a 'white knuckle' experience as there are long stretches of roadwork in progress.
So, after a very long day which really started in Nambucca Heads in NSW we made it home. It is cold and wet here and something we haven't experienced for quite a while. Still it is nice to be home. There will be a motorcycle ride the minute this damn rain stops.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

25 August - Nambucca Heads NSW

A glorious day here in Nambucca Heads, NSW, probably our last and against all expectation given the rain and thunderstorms yesterday. This beautiful little town is located on the mouth of the Nambucca river about 60km south of Coffs Harbour. Our caravan park is situated in what must be one of the most beautiful spots on earth. In the above photo the park is in the foreground.
We're using the warm weather to dry out all the damp gear from yesterday which gave us plenty of time to drive into town and up to the local lookout for some great views of the surroundings.
Managed to capture some stunning panoramas which I will process properly when we get home. The limited space and resolution available in Blogger would not do them justice.
As we resume our trek south tomorrow we expect the weather to get much colder and wetter so our stay here in Nambucca is our last real holiday destination. Our progress home will be dictated somewhat by the weather.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

23 August - Yamba - New South Wales

After a little bit of rain overnight, we woke to a beautiful sunny day here in Yamba. For our last Sunday on this trip we enjoyed a 'bacon and eggs' breakfast before setting of to explore this wonderful little seaside town.
After a good look around we decided that this must be one of the best holiday destinations in Australia. Being located on the mouth of the Clarence river, the estuarine environment is absolutely superb and the town has experienced just enough development to make it attractive to a wide range of holiday makers including families and fishermen.
As well as quiet protected beaches there was also plenty of action for surfers, and the more adventurous holiday makers. Add to this beautiful parks and some interesting historical buildings and you have a place we could easily spend a week or two.

Our caravan park is located on the waterfront and the area is a favoured haunt of the local pelicans who no doubt get plenty of food from the local fisherman cleaning their catch. By mid afternoon these wonderful birds are busy enjoying the sea breezes and spend hours riding the winds just above our heads. Later in the afternoon when the fishing boats are expected to return they all flock to the fish cleaning stations for their supper. They seem to be very tame and approachable and I had no trouble taking lots of closeup photos of them.
I really enjoyed just sitting there and watching them wait patiently for the evening catch.

According to the weather bureau, today brings a long run of fine weather to an end. It seems we should expect rain all the way down the east coast for the next few days. Accordingly, I think our adventure is drawing to a close. Tomorrow after we get our windscreen fixed in Coffs Harbour, we will continue to make our way south and re-assess our plans on a daily basis. If cold and wet weather persists we'll put in some longer drives and go home.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

22 August - Yamba - New South Wales

We left Forest Glen this morning right on 09:00. The Forest Glen Resort where we stayed has an onsite restaurant called Spirit of Tibet. We had dinner there last night with another couple from the adjacent caravan and had a great meal and a good time. Our target for today was Yamba which is a beautiful little seaside town located on the mouth of the Clarence River. We made good time and by noon we were on the outskirts of Ballina and we couldn't resist calling in for one of our favourite dining experience - Mango and Macadamia Pancakes at the Macadamia Castle.
Over the years we have called in here many times to enjoy these unique pancakes and this time was no different. The carpark is always full but with a bit of perseverance we always manage to squeeze our rig in somewhere.
Suitably fortified we were ready to tackle the remaining 90kms or so to Yamba where we managed to secure an ensuite site at the Blue Dolphin Resort. We were introduced to Yamba and this caravan park by our friends Jim and Irene some years back and we are looking forward to spending a day here tomorrow - the forecast is for a warm, fine day.
The only negative today was that we suffered a chipped windscreen caused by a stone thrown up by a passing truck this morning. Contacted our insurer and we are booked to get it repaired when we pass through Coff's Harbour on Monday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

19 August - Forest Glen - Sunshine Coast - Queensland

After a great visit with family we left Gympie yesterday to move down to the Sunshine Coast. When we tried booking into all our usual caravan parks we found they were all full, probably with Victorian refugees fleeing the cold weather. We finally found a site in the Forest Glen Big4 which is quite close to Maroochydore. We are here for 4 nights. It was great catching up and it was also wonderful to meet the newest addition to the family - Tilly. She's an incredibly affectionate and calm dog who continually had us in stitches while we were there.
Today it is Wednesday which means one thing around here - a visit to the Eumundie Market which opens on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
We have visited this market many times over the years and we always enjoy the live music, the coffee and food and the incredible range of quality items for sale. The highlight for me is always a visit to the German Sausage Hut for a  bockwurst with sauerkraut.
The market always features a range of musicians providing live music of a very high quality and today was no exception. I particularly enjoyed this old guy playing live guitar music with his dog sitting on top of the guitar.
I also spend some time listening to a fantastic girl singer accompanying herself on the guitar
as well as a young man performing some excellent blues music.
By noon our bellies were full, our feet were sore and it was time to go. The good weather here continues and we'll decide what to do day by day.

Friday, August 14, 2015

14 August - Gympie, Qld

We arrived in Gympie at noon yesterday. Our van is parked on the front lawn of my sister's place and this is the part of the trip where we enjoy a few days of family catchup time. We enjoyed another beautiful sunny day here and this afternoon I wandered around the streets of Gympie looking to capture some of the architectural aspects. Gympie was a bustling gold mining town from the 1870's onwards and it shows in the quality of some of the civic buildings.
Of course over the last 70 or 80 years many of the old buildings have been covered up with ugly aluminium and glass facades but if you look up above the shops in the main street there are still quite a few verandahs with lacework ornamentation.
Really enjoyed just strolling around and chatting with some of the locals and capturing just the odd detail here and there.
We'll probably be here in Gympie until Tuesday morning when we move onto Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

12 August - Hervey Bay - Fraser Coast - Queensland

Nothing much to report from today - a bit of shopping and another visit to the French Bakehouse.
This evening while Rosa was cooking dinner I went for a walk along the beach hoping to get just one more photo which captures the mood here in the evening. All the bustle is gone, and people are quietly walking through the parks or along the beach. Of course the mood is somewhat shattered by the evening cacophony of thousands of rosellas and parakeets preparing for the night in the trees along the seashore. Managed a few interesting images and at the risk of boring everyone with another sunset, this is my pick of the bunch.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

11 August - Hervey Bay

A very relaxing day in Hervey Bay. The fantastic weather continues and we spent most of the day kicking back and reading. In the afternoon I remember thinking how well a good French patisserie would do here and the more I thought about it it seemed obvious that someone would have already thought of it. So I fired up Google and sure enough about 2 km up the road was The French Bakehouse. Twenty minutes later we were enjoying a coffee with cherry filled croissants - outstanding. Yesterday while driving around we spotted an Italian restaurant - Viva Italiano so this evening we decided to try that out too. It's located right on the beach and when we arrived there we were just in time to see the sun go down. Quickly grabbed the camera and took the shot. One more day in Hervey Bay and then on to Gympie.

Monday, August 10, 2015

10 August - Hervey Bay, Fraser Coast, Qld

After some of the long drives we've completed on this trip it was a nice change this morning, leaving Bundaberg knowing we only had to travel 120km to our next destination - Hervey Bay. The weather just continues to be brilliant and when we pulled into the Fraser Lodge Tourist Park, it felt like we were coming home even though it has been about 7 years since we were last here. Apart from miles of glorious beaches and waterfront picnic and play areas, Hervey Bay is a very popular jumping off point for visits to Fraser Island, whale watching and deep sea fishing tours and even short flights to the Great Barrier Reef.

We spent this afternoon getting re-acquainted with the area. As we have visited Fraser Island on a number of occasions and experienced whale watching out of Airlie Beach we'll probably use our time here for relaxing and finding some good places to eat. We wound up the day in glorious fashion. Gourmet fish and chips and a bottle of Giesen Sauvignon Blanc on the beach watching the sunset - unbelievable. Will try to get more photos tomorrow - we are here for three nights.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

9 August - Bundaberg, Qld

We are spending a couple of days in Bundaberg, home of the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery. Our original plan was to go to Hervey Bay, but we found out that with the glorious weather all the caravan sites were booked out over the weekend.
Another beautiful Queensland day today in Bundaberg. Drove into town this morning and had breakfast at a nice little cafe in the city. Bacon and eggs on Turkish bread and finally some decent coffee. After attending to a few maintenance tasks around the campsite, we decided to explore some of the beach side villages around Bundaberg and found some wonderful spots such as Elliott Heads.
Lots of people around everywhere including locals as well as refugees from Victoria.
It is such a pleasure to be able to walk and enjoy the sunshine and the views and to watch other folks just enjoying it too.
This great weather is bringing out all the motorcyclists as well and it reminded me how much I'm missing my bikes. Tomorrow morning we are off to Hervey Bay for three days and then we reach Gympie.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

6 August - Rockhampton Qld

After a cool night it is another perfect day here in Rockhampton. We decided today to take a drive to Yeppoon a nearby beach resort but just after breakfast I happened to glance at the rear tyres on the Pajero to discover they were almost completely bald. The front ones look OK. This was quite a surprise because I don't think they've done 25,000km. I'll have to check the exact details when I get home but in any case these tyres are the worst wearing tyres I've ever bought. So the morning was spent sourcing new tyres this morning and Bob Jane came to the rescue. By noon we were back on the road and headed off to Yeppoon. We were last here in 2007 and then it seemed like a bit of a backwater to us - everything looked a bit shabby and worn out.  Things have changed in 8 years and we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of quality development that has occurred. Yeppoon is located on Keppel Bay and the Keppel islands are just across the water - altogether a beautiful setting.
We then drove along the coast through a number of little coastal towns with great views of the ocean.

At Emu Park we visited the Singing Ship. This is a large ship like sculpture which as air vents located in the rock below. When there is a wind, and wave action below pushes air into the vents the Singing Ship starts to 'sing'. It contains a number of pipes tuned to different notes and the overall effect is to produce wonderful harmonies. 

Only light winds today but we could still hear it. Would love to come back during a storm. We've decided to stay in Rockhampton for another day which means we'll move to Hervey Bay on Saturday - we're reluctant to leave this beautiful weather.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

5 August - Rockhampton, QLD

We're tucked away very comfortably in our little home away from home here in Rockhampton. The caravan park is a tropical paradise and in the evenings the trees are full of noisy birds getting ready for the night's rest. Rockhampton is a beautiful city and evidence of past and current wealth from gold mining and beef cattle is everywhere in the form of stately old buildings. This morning we visited the nearby gold mining town of Mt Morgan. Mining began here in 1882 and continued for nearly 100 years.
Many historic buildings associated with the mine still abound and a daily mine tour is available. The little town is also littered with interesting old buildings including the first school to open in Queensland. This old hotel, while it has seen better days, still shows signs of its former glory.
Rockhampton is located on the Fitzroy river which runs right through the middle of the city. Many of the city's most spectacular buildings are located along the river front and in the afternoon we took a leisurely walk along the river.
This old hotel, currently being renovated is a great example of some of the beautiful buildings in Rockhampton.
Tomorrow we plan to take a drive to the nearby beach resort of Yeppoon.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

2 August - Longreach Qld

We left Winton early this morning for the relatively short trek (180km) to Longreach. After hours of driving through some of the most desolate country in the grip of drought, coming into Longreach is a pleasant surprise. It's a beautiful little town which has catered really well for its caravanning visitors. Once we had set ourselves up in the Longreach Tourist Park our first planned visit was to the Australian Stockmans Hall of Fame. This fantastic architect designed complex, houses a wealth of information and artifacts tracing the settling of this outback region of Australia by sheep and cattle farmers. Some of the local cattle and sheep stations are larger than many European countries and have always endured very harsh conditions to raise cattle and sheep.
The Hall of Fame is beautifully presented and it would be easy to spend a couple of days here to do it justice. After a quick lunch at the Hall of Fame we then visited the Qantas Founders Museum. QANTAS or the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service was founded in 1920 by three Australian airmen returning from WW1, right hear in Winton and the first services flew from here in Longreach. The original QANTAS hangar and workshops form the basis a terrific museum commemorating those early days of aviation.
The DeHavilland aircraft featured here was the first plane ever operated by QANTAS.
The company also owned and operated Catelina flying boats and the museum features a beautiful example of this iconic plane.
The museum also has a complete Boeing 747 (Bunbury) the first one purchased by QANTAS.
The aircraft in this photo was the first to feature a toilet. Note the pilot is located in an open cockpit at the rear and the passengers are in an enclosed cabin at the front. Once again, a very interesting destination and well worth at least a half day visit.
We finished the day by attending a show/dinner evening featuring lots of horse riding and whip cracking. Our trip  back to the coast continues tomorrow.