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Page 23



Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and Back To Queensland.

Coffs Harbour.

We left Old Bar (Taree) after four days and moved up the coast to Lorikeet Holiday Park. This was another really nice park just north of Coffs Harbour and only two hundred kilometres from the Queensland border. No prizes for guessing where Lorikeet Park took its name from . . .

Lorikeets

At four o'clock each afternoon many dozen Rainbow Lorikeets appeared from nowhere to be fed.

Having set up camp we went for a stroll. It was but a short walk down a leafy path to the beach and the Coral Sea. There we bumped into another couple of new arrivals who were from Bull Creek, just eighteen kilometres (as the lorikeet flies) from where we live in Perth. Or perhaps that should be where we 'lived' as we've been travelling for sixteen months now with no plans to return in the foreseeable future.

On the day after our arrival we awoke to drumming rain which hardly ceased all day, so all we saw of the area was what was visible through the caravan windows. However, the next day was perfect and we drove into Coffs Harbour for a look around. The town was considerably larger than we expected and the harbour area was very pretty with islands just offshore and rows of moored yachts. A range of mountains behind the town completed the scene.

Coffs Harbour

The harbour at Coffs Harbour looking back from Muttonbird Island.

There were two artificial breakwaters to shelter the boats, one extending out to Muttonbird Island, thus forming a causeway. The island has been made a nature reserve to protect the breeding Muttonbirds (more formally Short-tailed Shearwaters) but there is free access across the causeway. There is also a path across the island with a lookout at the top and benches upon which geriatrics may rest. And this one did.

Coffs Harbour

Another view from the island showing new development pushing almost to the water's edge.

Before returning to the caravan we had a nice alfresco lunch. (Translation: We ate a ham roll sitting on a bench.) When we arrived home after a bit more exploring, we found we had new neighbours . . .

Kangaroos/T-shirt

            Left: No worries about these neighbours playing rap until 3 a.m.                          Right: Loved this T-shirt.

Ballina

We only stayed at Coffs Harbour for four nights and then moved north again to a park between Ballina and Byron Bay. The journey from Coffs Harbour again took us up the notorious Pacific Highway. Watching the television evening news we'd repeatedly seen footage of horrific crashes on this road. Some of the road is very good - but not much. Some is very bad. Much of the stretch we travelled that day was single lane each way, but every few kilometres there would be an added northbound lane to allow faster traffic to pass, then next time the added lane would be for the southbound traffic. We didn't experience any problems. As we often travel slower than the speed limit we always try and accommodate other traffic, particularly the heavy trucks. For example, as we approach the end of an overtaking section I check the mirror and if there's a truck not too far behind I slow down, flicking the stop lights, and allow the truck to pass before the road narrows. The 'truckie' usually signals his appreciation with a left-right flick of his indicators as he pulls clear.

The first day, after establishing our camp, we visited the town of Ballina (pronounced bal-in-a) to do some shopping. Pam was less than impressed with the Woolworth's store that we found. The check-out chick was full of 'flu and I amused myself by blocking the light beam across the rubber belt that moved the purchases towards the till so she had to reach further and further to pick up the next item to scan. She took it in good part and said she remembered me because I did the same thing last time we were in there. Oh yes?

She laughed at the design on my T-shirt and I told her about one that my grandson had emailed to me - pictured above. I'm into funny T-shirt slogans and this one really appealed to me. Anyway, I must have made a complete mess of describing it to her because she said she'd hate to have my job, she'd be scared stiff. After that I gave up all attempts at communication.

On our first trip with this caravan in 2004 we visited Denham, the most westerly town in Australia. Then, when we sailed to Cape York aboard the MV Trinity Bay, we stood on the most northerly point of Australia. While at Byron Bay we visited the beautiful Byron Cape Lighthouse and found ourselves at the most easterly point. We now only have to visit the most southerly point and we'll have the full set. That must be in the Southwest National Park in Tasmania. It could be a good while before we reach there.

Pam

Pam as far east as you can go without getting wet.

We came across the Byron Cape Lighthouse more by accident than design and were so glad we did. It was a well worth a visit though we didn't get to climb the stairs to the lamp. As is usual, the lighthouse was situated on a headland with breakers crashing onto fearsome rocks far below. The white building was spotlessly clean which is not so usual, salt spray being liable to attack any surface.

Byron Cape Lighthouse

The Byron Cape Lighthouse was absolutely pristine. Not a stain despite the salt atmosphere.

Rocks

Some of the fearsome rocks which await any mariner unwise enough to ignore the warning light.

That evening a ferocious hail storm passed over our caravan park, inflicting damage to cars and caravans alike. It was very frightening, the noise was deafening and we couldn't believe that the plastic skylight hatches could possibly hold up, but they did.

Next morning our neighbours inspected their cars and caravans and many had sustained damage. We were no exception. In common with many others, our vinyl awning was peppered with small holes and our Pajero had several dents in the bonnet and roof. Those who fared worst had aluminium caravans which were covered in dimples. Our 'van is made of fibreglass which withstood the onslaught. The centre of our roof, however, is aluminium but we had no way of getting up there to inspect it.

Many insurance assessors called at the park that day. Since we were moving on to Brisbane in a couple of days we called ahead to the Jayco agent to see if they could replace the awning. They were fully booked for the following six months but did recommend another caravan repairer who was very obliging. He was prepared to fax our insurers a quote based only on our description of the damage. He then ordered the new awning as soon as he received approval from the insurers to whom we had already spoken. Unlike the damage, repairs don't happen overnight.

We realised how little we had to complain about when we watched the television news. The town of Katherine in the Northern Territory was partially under water and the Katherine River, already nineteen metres above its normal level, was still rising. This was a result of severe rain from what was left of Cyclone Larry which had devastated Innesfail in northern Queensland when it crossed the coast. Many people had been moved to higher ground and all road access to the town was closed.

It was only last year that we enjoyed a stay in Katherine (described on Page 8). There seemed little doubt that the beautiful Low Level Caravan Park at which we'd stayed twice would be inundated - it wasn't called 'Low Level' for nothing.

Katherine

A newspaper photograph of Katherine suffering the second 'once in every hundred years'
flood to hit the town in just eight years.

Jimboomba, Queensland

Once again it was time to hitch up the caravan and hit the Pacific Highway north. This stretch of the road was better, soon widening to become the Pacific Motorway. We were on our way back to spend Easter with Ross and Jan Taylor on the outskirts of Brisbane. Ross and Jan are great friends and we had been eagerly looking forward to seeing them again. Since our previous visit at Christmas they had been working on their caravan in preparation for joining us on the trip up the Queensland coast. This time they were to let their house so they had been exceptionally busy getting everything ready.

Screw in tyre

We, too, had some preparations to make. The car was overdue for a service and it needed new front tyres. That relieved us of having to look after that particular thousand dollars (Ouch!) and then I found a nice self-tapping screw snuggly embedded in one of the caravan tyres. The tyre wasn't leaking and I crossed my fingers as I pulled the screw out. Not a practical idea, pulling a stubborn screw out of a tyre with your fingers crossed, and it didn't help anyway. The tyre promptly deflated. However, this served as a wake-up call and, while I had the jack out, I inspected the other tyres and checked the wheel bearings for smooth operation. All were okay.

Of course there was still the awning to worry about. The insurance company had agreed to the cost of replacement but the new awning had to come all the way from Melbourne and we had to contend with the disruption caused by the Easter holidays closely followed by the Anzac public holiday. It didn't help when Jayco sent it to Tasmania by mistake, and the Queensland Labour Day holiday further exacerbated the delay.

With regard to the hail damage to the car, the insurers joyfully informed us that we'd have to pay a $250 excess and we'd lose our 50% no claims bonus. Additionally, we would lose the many rewards coming our way when our no claims bonus reached 55% in August. Suddenly those little dents didn't seem quite so important but you do wonder what you pay all that money for, year after year.

By the time we left Jimboomba there was a definite chill in the air at night; it was time to move north. The new awning had still not arrived after Jayco had sent it to Tasmania in error but we had run out of time. Ross and Jan had found a tenant for their house and were themselves leaving. So one morning found us hitching up the caravan for a rather interesting trip to Mooloolaba.
Alice and the Gateway Bridge

As usual, we relied on Alice, our GPS navigator, to guide us. All went according to plan until we joined the northbound carriageway of the Gateway Motorway which is a toll road. We duly stopped at the toll barrier and paid $2.40 before proceeding north, up and over the Gateway Bridge which spans the Brisbane River.

Some kilometres later, as we neared the next interchange, Alice instructed us to exit left. To be honest, I hadn't studied the route properly or warning bells would have rung. Instead I blindly followed Alice's instructions as she took us around a loop and onto a motorway access ramp. Only when it was too late did I realise we were back on the Gateway Motorway but going south instead of north. There was nothing for it but to carry on, back over the Gateway Bridge to the toll barrier where we had to pay another $2.40 to pass through. At the next interchange we exited left, crossed over the motorway and rejoined it on the northbound side. And, yes, there ahead of us was that damned toll barrier yet again. For the third time we paid up $2.40 to get through. After that Alice took us on to Mooloolaba without a hitch.

So what had gone wrong? Alice had been soundly vituperated during the remainder of the journey - but was it really her fault? Actually, no, it wasn't. I had entered a 'waypoint' on the Gateway Bridge without thinking that Alice regards the motorway as two separate one-way roads. I had placed the waypoint on the southbound side so Alice took us to that point by the only possible route. Sorry, Alice.

When friend Ross heard the story of how we had dragged the caravan up and down the motorway, paying a toll each time, he laughed till his sides hurt.

Mooloolaba

I do have trouble with these Queensland place names! Mooloolaba is pronounced muh-loola-bah with the emphasis on the 'loola'. The caravan park was on a thin sliver of land, shaped rather like a scorpions tail, which separates the Mooloolah River estuary from the Coral Sea. Once again we could hear the breakers crashing onto the beach as we lay in bed. How awful, I hear you cry, I do hope it didn't keep you awake. Rest assured, Gentle Reader, rest assured.

No Cycling Sign

Seven o'clock the next morning saw us striding along the sea front where, to our surprise, we found many runners, swimmers, cyclists and walkers, singly and in pairs. The sun was shining, the air was warm and all was right with the world.

As people approached we smiled brightly and prepared to greet them with a cheery Good morning. But time after time they avoided eye contact, staring straight ahead or looking away. Many looked so miserable you'd have thought it was Monday morning, not Saturday. Women in pairs would be chatting with such animation it wasn't surprising they didn't notice our existence. Men in pairs would grunt a response to something the other had said. Married couples walked in silence. Only a council worker with a broom greeted us with a big smile.

Bicycles now fitted with ejector seats?

This was a well-to-do area and perhaps the residents of the Sunshine Coast thought they were too good to acknowledge the existence of two carefree nomads; they certainly gave that impression. We decided to have some fun. As they approached we looked straight at them and smiled brightly. This put them in a quandry - should they return our smiles or would they still pretend they couldn't see us? Most compromised by turning up the corner of their mouths a little then glancing quickly away as though embarrassed. We then advanced to stage two; when they were still a couple of metres away we smiled straight at them and called, "Good morning, beautiful day!" That got them. Without appearing downright churlish, what could they do? Some made the best of it by pretending they had been going to greet us anyway while others just grunted.

Mooloolaba

Mooloolaba beach and esplanade at seven o'clock on a Sunday morning

Mooloolaba is a beautiful place with modern high-rise development set far enough back from the beach to allow room for an esplanade bordered by lots of green grass, trees and walking paths to run between. Expensive shops, restaurants and cafés abound. It is all very clean and bright, set off by the sunshine, white sand and Coral Sea. So why did the residents all look so miserable? Were they all worrying too much about their mortgages to enjoy it?

Signs

A couple of unusual signs we saw along the beachfront.

'Hoon' is an Australian word. It means a stupid person, especially one who is a show-off (in this case behind the wheel of a car). It is, however, a colloquial expression thus not one you would expect to see on a road sign. And anyway, the sign had expired a week prior to this picture being taken.

Two days after we arrived in Mooloolaba, Ross and Jan joined us and parked their caravan next to ours. Ross made a much neater job of parking their 'van than I had. We had shunted back and forward many times to get snuggly alongside the concrete pad - then realised the caravan door was on the opposite side so we had to start over. By this time all our neighbours had emerged to watch and offer conflicting advice. After the fiasco on the Gateway Bridge you might think this would be the last straw but these days we just laugh and accept these little hitches as part of life.

I suppose everybody on the planet as now heard of Steve Irwin the crocodile hunter, the man who wrestles crocodiles and over-uses the exclamation, Crikey!. Well Steve Irwin owns the Australia Zoo which isn't far from Mooloolaba (Muh-loola-bah, remember?). This zoo has had very good reports and is a 'must see' for visitors to the area so, of course, we went.

The zoo provides free coaches for visitors from nearby towns. This was very nice as it collected us from almost outside the caravan park and was only a half hour journey. The Australia Zoo covers seventy acres and employs four hundred people. It is extremely well organised with shows of various animals throughout the day. Steve Irwin loves his animals and his infectious enthusiasm has obviously rubbed off on his staff. We watched two full-grown tigers playing with toys, jumping from one platform to another and frolicking on the grass with their trainers. The affection of the handlers was clearly reciprocated. They were more like overgrown kittens than ferocious killers and obviously loved performing.

Tigers

The brochure describes them as 'drop dead beautiful' tigers - and aren't they just!

Not so affectionate was the crocodile that followed the tigers - a reptile little changed since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. It responded to the stimuli from the trainers, not from any desire to please, but because it had learned that food would follow. Whether lunch was a dead chicken or a careless handler mattered little to this cold-blooded killing machine.

Crocodile

Like sharks, crocodiles are no threat . . . unless we humans venture into their environment.


Python

Recognise the reptile in this picture - the one wearing the watch?

Below is a 'collage' of some of the critters we saw at Steve Irwin's zoo.

Collage from Zoo

Elephants, Tasmanian Tiger, Crocodile
Snake, Koala, Goat
Rock Wallaby, Kangaroos, 175 year old Tortoise
Dingo, Tiger

One day we were invited for a barbecue with friends who live near Mooloolaba. Nev and Liz were touring the Northern Territory at the same time as us and we met up in several places and spent many jolly Happy Hours together. Nev and Liz reside in a retirement resort and we were impressed by the facilities provided and the nice layout of the village. It is the sort of place we may live in one day but, of course, we're much too young at present. In the evening, after the barbecue, we watched the dress rehearsal of a mime show the village residents were to present the following Saturday. Hey, this was one good show! I couldn't believe that the performers were aged between about fifty five and eighty. It was also hard to believe that this was an amateur group - they really were excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed the show. Liz was going to try and send me some digital pictures of the show - what about it Lizzie?

Just before we left Mooloolaba we learned that our new caravan awning had arrived in Brisbane after its journey from Melbourne via Tasmania. We decided to travel south back to Brisbane, have it fitted, then chase Ross and Jan north to Hervey Bay. This made it quite a day for us, especially as it decided to rain, but all went smoothly and we arrived in time for Happy Hour. Hervey Bay, by the way, is pronounced as Harvey Bay. Okay, okay, well how is Derby pronounced in Australia?

As must be apparent by now, Happy Hours are the focus of our lives everywhere we go, and also the main reason for our increasing bulk despite all our other efforts to placate the bathroom scales. In fact, Ross and Jan had to walk back from one of their cycle rides after several spokes on Ross's rear wheel gave way and the wheel buckled. But don't tell him I told you.

Now I think it's time we moved on to Page 24 where, no doubt, we'll have many more Happy Hours. We'll soon need to aquaint ourselves with both A.A. and Jenny Craig.

Explanatory Note to YOU, Dear Reader. These pages were originally written some years ago. At that time I didn't know a lot about running a web site; still don't, actually. Also our computer and my camera were inferior to the equipment we have now. Thus I cringe when I look back at the early pages. I have slowly been updating and reformatting those pages and this is as far as I've got; it's a very time consuming and tedious task. To complicate matters further, our screen size has altered twice as we upgraded our computer since we set off in December 2004.

Why am I telling you this? Because when you click below to go forward you'll be back on a page from the early stages so be warned.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 23 was completed on 31 March 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.