North Queensland to NSW

 

Day Twenty Two – Sunday – Townsville

Drove down to the Strand – passing both the old buildings where we used to work. Kerrie’s old Channel Seven building – a beautiful colonial style hotel with iron balustrades looked well preserved but sadly vacant/unused. The ABC offices were in the same place – but looked modernised. Met Otis, Chantelle and Djina at a restaurant on the Strand for brunch.

Original plan was to meet later and go to the Townsville show, but we were really tired and finding the heat and humidity debilitating so Otis and family went by themselves. We went to the supermarket to stock up on food etc, and then had a sleep in the apartment. We ate in and had an early night.

Day Twenty Three – Monday – Townsville

A public holiday – we met up with Otis and family at the Reef Aquarium which was new to us – built since we’d left.

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Had light lunch in the café. Watched ABC TV that night – Australian Story about cameraman who worked with Central Australian Aborigines then Four Corners on future of work and jobs. We soaked up the intelligent and informative viewing – like finding a waterhole in a desert after the appalling lack of good TV in New Zealand. This is why you do need a public broadcaster (and why neo-conservatives don’t like them – because it tackles difficult issues and reveals what’s going on and what the future holds!)

In the afternoon went to a suburban shopping centre in search of Myers store to find present for Djina – a plush panda chair and books. Success!

 

Day Twenty Four – Tuesday – Townsville

Otis has three days’ work starting today – so K and A decided to use the day to visit the art gallery and the museum.  First we went for a walk along the Strand which was very pleasant – shaded and with plenty of playgrounds and exercise stations. At the end we spotted a seafood restaurant called the Rockpool overlooking a seawater swimming area which we thought might be nice for a last night dinner with Otis and family. Back to the apartment for breakfast then we walked downtown and went to the Perc Tucker Memorial gallery which was showing a portrait exhibition – a biennial competition for artists from around the country. There were some excellent works there including people we recognised – and many we didn’t! Sixteen years away from Australia and 36 years since we left Townsville is a long time!! Perc Tucker was the Mayor when we worked here and now Perc Tucker is a distant memory.

After that we had a coffee and cake at a café between the aquarium and museum – good location beside the Ross River overlooking the marina but the café was sadly underwhelming, waste of a location. In fact, we were sitting right beside the marina and moored adjacent to the café was a two third-submerged timber ship from yesteryear – very odd.

The museum (another attraction which wasn’t here when we were working here) next door was wonderful, dedicated to the story of the HMS Pandora, a ship tasked with capturing the mutineers of the Bounty and taking them back to England for trial. They captured around 15-20 and were on their way back but foundered on the reef trying to find a passage through. A fascinating story really well told, made more so by a documentary on the marine archaeology within the exhibition.

 

Day Twenty Five – Wednesday – Townsville

Caught the ferry across to Magnetic Island at 8:45am. Ferry +Bus pass and took the bus around to the Horseshow Bay turn off. This is where the 4-5 km walk to the old WWII forts starts. Lovely walk through forest with great views over Arthur and Florence Bays. Fascinating history of how two 10 ton guns were hauled up and installed and the life of the garrison there to man them (including women). Never fired a shot except in practice and disappeared mysteriously at the end of the war – probably removed by US forces and dropped in the ocean as they did with war surplus in the Pacific islands.

Townsville was attacked by the Japanese which is why the guns were brought in to protect the city and the sailing passage inside the reef – Cleveland Bay. Great views from the two forts perched on hilltops overlooking the northern passage towards Palm Island. We saw a koala fast asleep in the crook of a tree, oblivious to walkers and photographers on our way back down. We carried on walking to Horseshoe Bay, had lunch, lounged on the beach and caught the bus back to ferry ( via Picnic Bay –  we stayed on for the ride).

Back at the apartment, went for a swim in the 30 metre plunge pool, then Andrew took the presents around to Otis’s house for Djina. Otis told me that the three day job had been completed in two days – so they were free the next day – so we decided we’d all go to the Billabong Sanctuary 20 minutes’ drive south of Townsville.

 

Day Twenty Six – Thursday – Townsville

We drove around to Otis’ house and all headed off to the Billabong Sanctuary, down the Bruce Highway. Nicely set up place with animal feeding – koalas, cassowaries, turtles and tame kangaroos lolloping around. Lots of crocs – including one biggish saltie with one eye that had been captured on the beach in front of the Strand !

 

We had been surprised to see signs along the Strand warning of crocodiles and hadn’t remembered that being a problem back in the 80’s. Stingers yes – but crocs? Maybe their numbers and range have increased since they’ve been protected? There had been the tragic case of a NZ woman taken while swimming in the sea (unwisely) near the Daintree north of Cairns only a few months ago. Djina was a bit crotchety with a cold so we stayed just a couple of hours then headed back to town. K and A rested up, Andrew had a swim – before we met up with the family at the Rockpool fish restaurant at 6pm for dinner.

 

Day Twenty Seven – Friday– Townsville/Brisbane

We packed up our things in the apartment, Andrew went for a final swim in the pool – very brisk! Then we headed out to the airport, dropped off the car – all good – and waited for Otis and family who were coming out to say farewell. It’s been great to catch up with them after so long – but it was time to say cheerio and head on to our next adventure. We landed in Brisbane at 1:30 and were met by Petra Prokop who took us home where we were staying for our second visit to this city. They kindly put on dinner and we bought some very nice NZ sauvignon blanc – Dog Point, which was delicious.

 

Day Twenty Eight – Saturday – Brisbane

We took Petra’s advice and caught the city cat at Teneriffe wharf for a trip up the river, through the heart of the city and on to University of Qld where the ferry turned around and went back. We couldn’t help noticing huge numbers of apartments and development along the river – wondering who was buying and living in them – retirees/young professionals?? On our return we hopped off at the South Bank, decided against going into a French festival (as Kerrie said – we were going to the ‘vrai’ thing next month!) and went on to visit the art gallery. An interesting mix of artworks – some great classics, some superb Aboriginal art – as well as some that was very colourful but rather crude in its brushwork – although the stories it depicted were obviously very important, by an elderly woman who had taken up painting late in life in her desire to capture the stories of her father and family from one of the remote islands off the north Australian coast. We had lunch at the gallery then caught a ferry home (thanks to Go cards loaned to us by Petra and Henry). That evening we took Henry and Petra out to dinner – at their favourite Indian curry restaurant – run by friends they’d met through their daughter Anna in her school days. The food was absolutely wonderful – it turned out they had lived in Auckland and owned a restaurant there – the wife had very fond memories of the city and New Zealand.

 

Day Twenty Nine  – Sunday – Brisbane

While Henry and Petra went to pick up Anna from the airport (returning from India), we walked along the river to New Farm – about half an hour along an excellent boardwalk/pathway for both walkers/runner and cyclists – who had to ring their bell on approach, most sensibly. On the way we saw various groups performing tai chi and other forms of movement exercise – which looked really good – especially in light of the British program on how to stay young featuring Angela Rippon, aged 72. Apparently dancing is much better for you than working out in a gym. We found a cute looking café at the wharf and stopped for breakfast before walking back. Caught up with our blog and chatted with Petra. In the evening, we were invited to dinner at Rod and Sue Davison’s – Sue picked us up around 5:30. Rod cooked us his speciality – Thai fish curry. Delicious. We reminisced about early days when Rod, Sue and Andrew had all worked on Palm Island – which is where they met – back in the mid-seventies. Sue reminded Andrew he’d been known as ‘umbrella man’ as he always walked around with an umbrella – just in case of a tropical downpour – very English! In some ways, so much has changed, yet in others attitudes towards Aborigines and life for them appears stuck in a rut, sadly. On the good news front – Rod announced that he’d decided to retire – or at least take a gap year which is very good to hear. Always a tough decision – but important to reflect and take stock of where you’re going from time to time.

 

Day Thirty – Monday – Brisbane

We caught the ferry into the city and picked up our hire car from Hertz in the city centre – again thanks to Stephanie at Brooker Travel – everything was arranged and no last minute hassles over insurance etc. Kerrie drove us out of town on the freeway adjusting to very different traffic conditions compared to the Northern Territory and even Townsville as we entered into the world of four lane traffic in each direction, trucks pushing up behind you in their hurry to make time and the inevitable congestion due to an accident that slowed everything down to a crawl for at least half an hour. We were headed towards the Gold Coast and Coolangatta to meet up with Kerrie’s sister Lynne and her two daughters, Rhianna and Karinya.

We decided to wander down the coast road for a while – which was really disappointing. We went through Burleigh Heads which felt like a transplant from America – endless strips of stores, businesses, shops with neon signs – a mish-mash of consumption on a stick, ugly to look at and not a great entry point to the coast and Palm Beach. It didn’t get much better – as we went south. Saved by a nice café in Currumbin where we had a haloumi and roasted vegetable salad and a free coffee! Walked along the beach as the day faded, then drove south to Coolangatta. Bought a birthday card for Henry and a copy of Archaelogical Diggings, a magazine put out by the Seventh Day Adventists ! Surprisingly good – but as it turned out sadly the last edition as not making enough money. We caught up with Lynne and the two girls – and had dinner in a very nice Malay restaurant. Wonderful to catch up with them all after many years – in the case of the daughters probably more than two decades!

Karinya, the younger is 24 and off to England to meet up with her English boyfriend (waiting for her visa approval to come through – she’s been in touch with Jessica who is also heading to England shortly). Rhianna, 27 is managing a backpackers in Coolangatta – very successfully, she’s doing well and keen to advance her career in the hospitality industry. It sounds like she will head south to Newcastle to get some more upmarket experience and get some additional qualifications under her belt. She also has a boyfriend – who plays for the Warratahs and he too is moving south. Doubtless this will be a sad occasion for Lynne – but of course at some point we all have to let go of our children and see them on their way to new adventures.

Afterwards, we headed back to Brisbane – a ninety minute drive and thanks to an app on Petra’s phone that guided us back to their house – we arrived safely by 10:30pm

Day Thirty One – Tuesday – Brisbane

We repeated our walk to New Farm, and on our return Petra had cooked us a scrumptious breakfast of salmon, eggs and mushrooms. We spent the day catching up on our blog, downloading photos and reading. Petra took Kerrie on a trial run to get onto the freeway south which we will need to do tomorrow. That night, Anna and her boyfriend Stephen came over for dinner – lasagne. Great evening’s discussion about their trip to India and medical training with Kerrie recounting her experience as an OSCI actor.

Day Thirty Two – Wednesday – Brisbane/Coffs Harbour

We packed up and bid a fond farewell to Henry and Petra, saying how much we’d enjoyed our time together and hoping we can all meet up again much sooner next time.

We followed Petra’s instructions to the freeway – all good and set off for NSW and progressively cooler temperatures. Kerrie drove again – we listened to the storybook about the history and life on Australian cattle stations. Interesting in parts (the history) but dull and pedestrian in its descriptions of today’s world.

We looked for a coffee stop – picking the wrong one! We turned off at Brunswick Heads – a sad and sorry town that looked tired, neglected and woebegone. No sign here of the exciting technological vision of the future. We grabbed a take-away coffee and pressed on, passing through other settlements and towns on the Pacific Highway that didn’t look a great deal more prosperous. We saw sugar cane fields and the only impressive thing was Mt Warning on the horizon. We met up with Lynne at Woodburn Park – and followed her to her son Arrow’s home on the outskirts of Evans Head. He lives in a shed or barn that’s being converted into a sizable house. He had his daughter Amiah there – lively, imaginative and full of intelligent fun and curiosity.

Lynne had kindly prepared lunch – spinach pie – washed down with a cuppa. We walked down to the Evans river that borders the property. Afterwards we were entertained by Arrow’s two pet ‘cockies’, a 37 year old male and a five year old female – both captive bred and very tame. They were let out of their cage – but they never fly. The male was most amusing – talking and sneezing on demand.

Apparently the male likes girls and the female boys. Funny about that! They have a potential lifespan of more than a hundred years – so as Arrow said, they’ll likely outlast him – as he’s 33. We said goodbye around 3pm as we had to reach Coffs Harbour that night. We just made it around dusk at the Opal Cove Resort – a rather grand name for what it was! Still the room was clean and spacious. We ate in the restaurant, resort booked out as school holidays. Back in the room, Andrew watched the final match in the Origin series. NSW won – somewhat luckily due to a couple of contentious decisions – but they probably deserved it as they played more strongly.

The one disappointment – other than not having an ocean view – was that we had a connecting room and they’d put a young family next door who made a racket till about 10:30 and then the youngest (perhaps about 3) started up again at 5:30am. Argh. Kerrie lodged a formal complaint the next day but the response was to ask if we had requested a “quiet room”. We had also discovered that the ‘amazing deal’ we got through Agoda turned out to be the rack rate and that if we’d dealt with the resort directly they’d have given us another ten dollars off. Hmmm – we’re getting increasingly suspicious of the value of these online booking agencies. Brooker is looking very good by comparison.

 

Day Thirty Three – Thursday – Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie

We went for a walk along Hills Beach, the beach at the rear of the resort (which was 15kms from Coffs Harbour). It was decidedly cold and the beach was hard walking as it was very soft underfoot. It was actually not a great resort drawcard as there were warning signs up everywhere that it had rips and was not patrolled. Back for a buffet breakfast and then hit the road. Had to endure massive roadworks expanding the Pacific Hwy to a dual carriageway on much of the drive, with jaw dropping budgets such as $840,000,000 – whatever happened to reducing road transportation?

Arrived at Port Macquarie as guys putting in new kitchen granite benches finish up. Harry, A and K drive to Sea Acres rainforest centre for lunch of toasted sandwiches, soup and cappuccinos. Much catching up and conversation about the recent election, the dire situation confronting the world due to neo-conservatism, inequality between rich and poor and the misguided response of those worst effected in choosing the likes of Pauline Hansen as their saviour!! We decided to postpone the rainforest walk until tomorrow. Dinner in that night, take away delivered from Moo’s Thai Glass house restaurant.

 

Day Thirty Four – Friday – Port Macquarie

A short drive to the nearby Sea Acres rainforest centre where Harry used to work until four years ago. We walked around the 1.3 km boardwalk with Harry as our guide.

It had been funded under a Hawke/Richardson Federal Labor initiative and we reflected on how the days when governments had the vision to implement these kinds of projects to preserve native forest and provide a facility for public benefit seem to be sadly a thing of the past. Now if it doesn’t make money or benefit a private company it doesn’t make the grade. Yet one of the things that makes Port Macquarie such an attractive town (apparently the fastest growing one in NSW) is the fact that it is buffered north and south by native forest (Sea Acres is one of the last patches of coastal rainforest in the state). Beauty and aesthetics – which don’t feature on neo-conservative’s spreadsheets or list of important things to consider or fund in life – do add value, do create centres of excellence and are attractors for people who do want more out of life than shopping centres and fast food outlets! This town is a clear example of that.

Harry showed signs he had written and created during his time at the centre – really nicely done.

Had a coffee to reflect on the walk.

An afternoon seeing parts of the town and learning about its convict history. That night we were guests of Moo at her Thai restaurant – a sumptuous feast of curry, prawns, squid and sizzling chicken!

 

Day Thirty Five  – Saturday – Port Macquarie

A slightly overcast and drizzly day – but decided to go ahead with our plan to do the coastal walk that starts at the old lighthouse on a headland to the south of PM and follows beaches and coast through to the town. Harry was heavily involved in promoting and branding the walk in 2010, liaising with the council to secure their involvement. Harry designed and wrote the key signs and researched their content.

A really wonderful walk with views up and down the coast, historical insights about Aboriginal use and occupation, naming of three hills as Three Brothers – in a remarkable co-incidence when Cook sailed by charting the coast in the 1770s he also named the three hills ‘three brothers’, and later European settlement.

Moo joined us at Shelly Beach where we sheltered from the rain with a hot cuppa, then pressed on. Fortunately, the rain eased and the sun came through in occasional dribs and drabs. Part of the walk went along the beach bordering the Sea Acres rainforest. We stopped for our sandwich lunch at a look out – at one point a sign told how people were stationed to signal to ships whether it was safe to try and enter the river mouth and dock as the sand bar was very shallow and the passage was treacherous.

The last part of the walk took us along the breakwater beside the river with some of the rocks colourfully painted with signs. Moo stopped off to visit her restaurant, the three of us pressed on to the car – all up a delightful 9 km walk.

Back home, we rested up as Harry had suggested that we go out and listen to some live music. Moo had to work in her restaurant unfortunately so it was just the three of us. We drove to Kendall, about thirty minutes away where the Wauchope Arts Trust hosted an evening of folk music in the local hall. The main performer was Matt – a local guitarist and song writer who grew up in Wauchope. He was excellent – with a strong influence of Spanish flamenco style, but creating his own fusion. Some sets were instrumental, some with a singer and some with two accompanists on base and drums. Most enjoyable. It’s always refreshing to experience live music – whatever your tastes.

 Thirty Six – Sunday – Port Macquarie

A domestic day – washing and cooking. Kerrie and I offered to do some of our specialties. Kerrie made her classic date cake and Andrew his hummus.

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In between – we caught up with the blog. In the evening we took Harry and Moo out to dinner at a seafood restaurant on the edge of the river, watching a heron spear small fish off a boat mooring. Very quiet being a Sunday evening but the food was good and the company excellent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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