Friday, 31 August 2018

1770 and Agnes Water

You'd think a place known as "The Birthplace of Queensland" would have tourists flocking to it but because the towns of 1770 and Agnes Water are a little diversion from the main highway, they don't see the high volume of traffic and tourists that other coastal towns see.  

I only stayed two nights, I wish it had been longer.  There's such unspoilt beauty there.  It has everything a traveller needs yet not many venture there.  I'd hate to see tourists flock there in droves yet I can't understand why they don't.  If I'd known how beautiful it was it would have been on my Bucket List.  Instead, I've driven past the turn off I don't know how many times, but typical of those who have big distances to travel, have never taken the time to make the detour.

The two little towns almost merge into one, they are just 8km apart.  I stayed in Agnes Water where most of the cafes and shops are, not that there are a lot.  The town of 1770 is a protected area so all future building has ceased.  It looks like it is still in the pristine condition it was in 1770 when Captain Cook landed there.  Like all children educated in Australia, I know the story of Cook's discovery of Australia but Captain would have difficulty recognising Botany Bay these days, with its hills covered with high rises and busy roads.

Here, when you poke around the beaches and creeks and headlands, you can imagine it unchanged for thousands of years.  The story goes that Cook went ashore for the second time in Australia near Round Hill Head.  He noted in his book many pelicans were there as well as a species of bustards which they shot and ate.  They considered it the best bird they had eaten since leaving England and named the inlet Bustard Bay in its honour.  I saw pelicans in the distance but no bustards.  

The place enjoys the tropical climate of the north of Australia but without the heavy rainfall of the far north.  The weather was ideal when I was there at the end of May.  It has stunning beaches - with surf (although the sea was flat when I was there).  It's the most northern beach along the Queensland coast to have it.  Further north the Great Barrier Reef protects the coast.  And it's far enough south to be free of those cursed stingers.

Winter sunbathing at 1770

I just loved the boarded walkway along the estuary, just before the road enters Joseph Banks Regional Park.  

It's obviously a popular picnic area and a credit to the council that maintains it.   A council worker was there cleaning the barbeques when I strolled there one morning.  He was also replenishing the wood supply.  He was a man happy in his labour, whistling as he worked and only too happy to have a chat.  A great ambassador for the area. 

I returned that evening to sit under this tree and enjoy fish and chips.  I spent as much time looking up at the tree's gnarly branches as I did looking out at the view.

I've had too many distractions these past few days.  Hopefully will get the photos from the national park posted in the next few days.  None of them do justice to the area.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Family time

I guess it was like when my father's older sisters came to visit when we were kids.  Dad was the fourth youngest in his family of 14 and my brother Terry is the second youngest in our family of 12.  I'm the oldest and my sister, Tricia who was travelling with me on my road trip, is fifth.  I always thought my paternal senior aunts were soooo old.  I think of them as sitting sedately in a lounge chair, skillfully balancing a cup of tea on their lap, smiling benignly as we sat around on our best behaviour, thinking we were being judged, praying we wouldn't say or do the wrong thing and shame the family.  They were always beautifully groomed, complete with hat, gloves and stockings.  A touch of rouge and a little lippy.  

I suppose the appearance of old(er) age hasn't changed. Our dress standards may have slipped but I hope my generation of senior aunts are not seen as quite so distant.  I thought I saw something of myself reflected in my brother's 15-year-old younger daughter, an interest of what life must have been like "back in the old days".  A polite smile of respect for a much older relative.  Strange to think that I am that person now.  I'm going to start behaving appropriately very soon - I promise!

Terry and his family have made their home in Gladstone, 550 km north of Brisbane, my eventual destination. Like Townsville, it is reliant on the mining industry and seems to be suffering from the downturn in mining in Australia.  Although the port still looked busy to an outsider. I wonder if it retains its world's fourth largest coal exporting terminal status?  One upon a time it was a grain port, but those days are long gone, although it is still a multi-commodity port and exports coal, alumina, aluminium, cement products, sodium cyanide and ammonium nitrate.

Its also a stepping off point for the south end of the Great Barrier Reef and its islands and reefs. 

I've posted about Gladstone before (here), when I last visited in September, 14.

My brother and his wife make good tour guides.  I was impressed by the East Shores Water Park which wins my prize for the best of the foreshore water parks we had seen.  It seems every major beach town has to have one and Gladstone can be very proud of theirs.

It has numerous public amenities including BBQs, pools with fountains, changing rooms, tables and seats. All nicely landscaped, overlooking the harbour and beside a pleasant walkway.

Tricia flew home to Brisbane from Gladstone so from here on south I was on my own.  Back to my usual mode of slow, solo travel, side roads and many stops for photos.  Thanks, Trish for keeping me on the right side of the road and reminding me of the road rules.  We had some good times!

At roadworks, on the road to Bundaberg

Friday, 24 August 2018

Nearly half way there

I'd have liked to stay longer in Proserpine and revisited more of my old haunts but time was passing and we were still not quite halfway through our journey.  The day was well underway when we left and we didn't linger in Mackay as we headed further south.  My sister suggested we spend at the night at Sarina Beach.  That was a good idea.  Our motel room opened on to the grassed area beside the beach.  And it had a lovely little restaurant on site so we didn't have to go looking for a meal. 

As you can see from the trees, there was a stiff breeze that evening.

There were only a couple of people to be seen on the beach.

The next day we had a long drive ahead of us, but what a great spot it would have been to spend some time.

We couldn't help but notice that we were leaving the lush tropics behind and passing through dry cattle country.  And I do mean dry!  I think there is added beauty to the countryside when the grass takes on a parchment colour.   It just needs a derelict building to make it the perfect place to waste time with a camera (or in my case a phone as I still hadn't solved my camera problem). 

My sister found my habit of stopping the car suddenly to take a photo when something caught my eye rather disconcerting, so I warned her when we started across the dry, arid plains that it was likely to happen.  And sure enough, I couldn't resist this sight:

Or this:

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Beer, lunch and much laughter

Having a beer with an old mate on a Sunday morning sounds a bit close to impropriety but that's one thing I've never worried too much about, so when that was the time that suited an old mate best, that is how it was.  And what a pleasure it was to wish Ron a happy 80th birthday with a coldie.  And an added pleasure to see two other old guys I used to work with.  I'd better say that quietly because a couple of them aren't much older than me.  

As quite often happens in areas that are big in tourism, there are hidden gems.  So many tourists who visit the Whitsundays think the only places to see are Airlie Beach and the nearby islands.  I don't want to detract from them but there is so much more to see.  You need to get in a car and drive to the northern side of the Whitsundays (about 50 kms) to see a couple of real gems, Dingo Beach and Hydeaway Bay.

My sister and I had already decided that we wanted to re-visit the area and were lucky enough to be able to combine a visit with Sunday lunch with my friends, Bill and Linda's family and friends celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.  It had been a long time between lunches at the Dingo Beach pub, the food was definitely a bit more upmarket than it used to be but the atmosphere was the same.  A local entertainer who has been a part of the music scene for many years delighted our group with knowing every 60s song we could come up with.  The other diners didn't seem to mind!

All was quiet at the pub the next morning

After a fun night with friends playing pool amid lots of hilarity, we stayed the night with Bill and Linda at Hydeaway Bay. There couldn't be a lovelier place to wake.    There are a few more houses scattered along the beachfront and in the nearby hills than there used to be but not that many really.  It retains an air of peace and tranquility.  
Local going fishing

We took a morning drive further around the coast.  

Netted enclosure to keep swimmers safe from stingers

There were sad sights, too.  The previous day I had been saddened by the sight of buildings in Proserpine still not repaired after Cyclone Debbie in 2017.  There were reminders of the cyclone here, too.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Old haunts

Once we left Townsville, I was eager to get to Proserpine and the Whitsundays.  I first went to Proserpine as a bright-eyed 20 year old, I'd met my husband-to-be there and we had returned to live there after we were married and again to spend the winter of 1973, before leaving to make our home in New Zealand.   With my family grown and left the nest, I returned again, on my own, to live and work there in the mid to late 1990s.  I always think that I "found" myself during that time.  It had been an extremely contented period of my life.  I lived alone, in a beautiful setting and I (almost) overcame my fear of snakes and spiders. My job was quite difficult and at times I found it very stressful, I came to accept my limitations and acknowledge that I had some useful skills.  Most importantly, I think, I came to accept myself.  

And I always had lovely friends, right from my first arrival.  I was keen to see Bill and Linda who had been constant friends for so long.  As it turned out, we arrived on the weekend of their 50th wedding anniversary.  That came as a surprise, as I was there when pretty young Linda took the eye of young Bill, the son of the farmer my boyfriend (husband-to-be) worked for.  50 years ago?  Surely not!  Their children had planned a surprise weekend away for them but we arrived in time for a quick catch up before they left and when their daughter arrived to whisk them away, she slipped us the details of where they would be and when we could meet up with them.   “Make yourself at home. Nothing’s changed much.”   Ah, the comfort of old friendships!

Familiar sights - Bill and Linda's stockyards, above and their cattle, below

I knew the area around Airlie Beach would have grown, of course.  It's about as touristy a place as you can find anywhere in Queensland but how much it had grown did come as a surprise.   The urban sprawl almost reaches to Bill and Linda's farm and there are houses near to theirs where once there were just paddocks and hills.

One thing that looked the same was the little inlet that runs from the beach to the main street, a glorified drain really.

When I had last been there, the debate was raging about the proposed lagoon for the waterfront.  One had to be careful not to get entangled in the strong emotions, for and against.  The beach itself was small, not all that attractive and mostly empty due to the abundance of stingers, almost all year round.  The lagoon was always going to happen, I think.

I didn't get a half decent photo of it.  It was late afternoon with a stiff breeze ruffling the surface.

My sister had said she wanted to do a boat trip around the islands while we were there and I never take any convincing to muck around on boats, so we booked an adventure on the Providence, a 62 foot gaff-rigged schooner, with a maximum capacity of 24 passengers, a much better choice for us than one of the many fast and noisy boats on offer.  We chose well.

She's a beautiful boat.  Regardless of my age, I'm susceptible to the charms of friendly, smiling, handsome young men and even more so when they are competent skippers and have the good grace to flirt with the oldest lady on board.  And let's not forget the Scottish accent.  Thank you, young Keiran, for an unforgettable day.

Airlie Beach 

We left Abel Point Marina in reasonable weather, the water was a little choppy but not too bad.  But we hadn't gone far when the dark clouds rolled in and rain coats were handed out to all on board. T
he Whitsundays consists of 74 islands, many of which are uninhabited, and I was pleased that I could remember the names of a few as we sailed by.   We were headed for Whitehaven Beach which constantly appears on the list of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world.  The rain finally arrived while we were on the beach so the crystal white silica sand didn't have its usual sparkle and the water not quite the usual turquoise colour.  The area had been badly affected by Cyclone Debbie in 2017 and it had changed the shape of the beach which now appears to be shorter and wider than it used to be.  Some of the white sand could be seen on the beach of one of the neighbouring islands.

My sister, Tricia setting off for a walk along the beach.

The side of the island where tourist boats unload their passengers on to the beach, is a total contrast, very rocky and rough but at least the spindly trees offered some shelter from the rain while we waited for the dingy to arrive to ferry us back to the boat.

The rain really set in on our way back.  A typical tropical downpour, very heavy.  All cameras and phones had been stowed away below for safety, so I missed the opportunity to try to capture one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.  The heavy rain flattened the sea and the raindrops hitting on the surface of the water turned it into a milky pale blue with the splash of the raindrops creating a foggy, misty appearance.  Such ethereal beauty!  I totally forgot that I was wringing wet and chilled to the bone.

That sight alone would have made the trip memorable but, added to that was the rogue waves.  We had been meandering along sedately under sail, Keiran telling me about his upcoming trip home to Scotland, how he was looking forward to a hug from his Da, when he broke off mid-speech and called out, "Hang on, folks." and we were looking into a 4 metre wall of grey water.  We were barely over that huge wave before being confronted with another.  I'm thankful that I was at the stern of the boat, I can't imagine how scarey that must have been for those up front.  My one and only experience of a rogue wave!  And they are rare in the Whitsundays.

Sunday, 12 August 2018


I've never been a fan of Townsville.  I had a bad experience there when I was 19, got food poisoning and had to postpone a flight because of it.  I felt desperately ill and was alone.  And then the wheels on the second plane didn't come down until the very last moment when we were coming in to land in Richmond, a very small airport in North West Queensland with no emergency services. By that time all the passengers had been drilled in crash landing procedures and had bent forward gripping pillows over our heads, ready to kiss our backsides goodbye.   Strange, that experience didn't put me off flying, I just blamed Townsville!  

Regardless, I had booked us in for a two-night stay because I have old, old friends who live there, friends who I haven't seen for a very long time.  

My friend, Loretta already had four young children when I first met her, when I was pregnant with my first child.  I was new to Mt Isa, didn't know a soul - and a long way from home and a mother's advice.  What a Godsend she was.  She even drove me to the hospital when it was time to give birth.  With her third child leaning out the window excitedly shouting, "Pauline's having a baby" to all and sundry.  That lightened my mood considerably.  Loretta and her children brightened my life for the whole seven years we lived in Mt Isa.  

We'd lost touch, as you do.  The last time I'd seen her was in the late 70s but thanks to the power of Facebook her daughter, Karen found me.  Can you imagine my delight to see the pair of them again?  I've come to the conclusion that very few of us change much over the years.  Loretta is no longer young and healthy but the essence of her, the spark, is still the same.  The gentle smile remains.  And young Karen, now a grandmother - it was a delight to see the cheeky little child shining through.  

A young friend I also caught up with, the daughter of other old friends from the same era, as luck would have it, practises Reiki and laid her hands on my foot and back.  Well, laid them all over actually but they are the bits that were giving me grief.  My arthritic accelerator foot had been aching more each day and my equally arthritic back was objecting to the hours at the wheel.  That girl has magic hands, the difference she made to my foot was amazing and she definitely eased my back. 

Townsville from Castle Hill.  

There were high school children conducting a survey when we visited.  These three girls were the charm offensive, seemed to be getting at least three times more interviews than the boys.  You can see why.  Aren't they delightful?

Townsville seemed to be economically depressed, as if going through tough times.  Our hotel was in the middle of the city, just around the corner from what used to be the busiest street in town for socialising.  It was practically deserted, shops and restaurants weren't busy, there was very little foot traffic.  Apparently, there is a high unemployment rate as a result of a downturn in the Aussie mining industry.  Like a lot of places that rely on mining, it seems to be on the wrong end of the boom or bust cycle.

A safe swimming lagoon is at one end of The Strand, along the waterfront

The Strand offers a pleasant walking path - and plenty of picnic tables

Children's water park, along The Strand

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Mountain stream

The dreaded lurgi has had me in its grasp.  It was the first cold I've had since I retired and I'd forgotten how miserable it can be.  

How I wished I could be back in North Queensland enjoying the serenity of a gently flowing rocky mountain stream.  Strange, the colour seems to have gone from my photos.  Maybe it is just my bleary eyes!