Page 52

Heading South to Cardwell and Midge Point.

Since leaving Page 51 we travelled south, back to Cairns, where we stayed for two more weeks catching up with friends, both old and new.
Potty People

What was I saying about "a splash of dementia" being a prerequisite for our lifestyle? Before leaving Cairns I was convinced it was true. For example, a very nice gentleman from a neighbouring caravan went for his morning shower and was soaking wet before he noticed that he was still wearing all his clothes.

On a different occasion, towards the end of happy hour, another neighbour who was a martial arts expert told us all - without a trace of embarrassment - that he wore his wife's discarded knickers!

Then there's my very own Pam. She went to the hairdressers for a trim and returned with purple streaks through her hair. Two hours after she'd come back she asked me what I thought of it and I hadn't even noticed! My felony was compounded because a complete stranger had approached her in a supermarket and said how much she liked it. (Probably on the hairdresser's payroll, of course.)

Pam with purple streaks

Pam with purple streaks.

Then, quite apart from falling naked from the doctor's examination table and rolling around the surgery tangled in the curtain, she lost a bed sheet.

Having stripped the beds and remade them with clean linen she asked me to carry the washing to the laundry where she placed it in a machine and set it to wash. Twenty minutes later we returned, retrieved the finished load and hung it on the line to dry. It was then that Pam noticed that a fitted sheet was missing. We checked the laundry basket and the caravan but couldn't find it. It must have been left in the machine. When you're five foot nothing it's hard to peer into a washing machine that's mounted on a raised step.

"Don't worry," I said, "I'll go back and get it." (I was still trying to recover brownie points after failing to notice her hair.)

Arriving at the laundry, every machine was empty except one - the one I wanted to check. That one was just beginning a new wash with somebody else's clothes in it so, after a surreptitious peep under the lid, I sat down to wait. Twenty minutes later a lady arrived to empty the machine. I got up to see if our sheet was there . . . then quickly sat down again. It's not quite the thing to watch a lady remove her washing from a machine, is it?

Then Pam arrived too, thinking that aliens had stolen first her sheet, then her husband. To end this already too-long story, the sheet wasn't in the washing machine, it was on Pam's bed. She'd put the clean fitted sheet over the top of it.

Another time she was watching television and I was reading. She kept increasing the volume until it became extremely distracting.
"Do you have to have that thing so loud" I yelled to her.
She lifted off one earphone of the headset she was wearing.
"Can you hear it?" she asked.
"Can I hear it? I'm almost deaf! Those headphones don't work unless you plug them into the television."
"Oh, . . . I wondered why I couldn't hear it properly."

Also, people keep moving our car while she's in the supermarket so she has to search for it. "One day I'm going to come out early and catch them," she says.

Of course, Pam isn't the only one in this caravan to do daft things, but if you think I'm telling you stories about the other one you've got rocks in your head.

A Very Expensive Bit of Pottery

I told you that we had both axles on the caravan replaced, didn't I? Two men spent all day on the job, also cleaning and greasing the wheel bearings, replacing two brake drums, one pair of brake shoes and all four electro magnets. The cost was a very fair $1,250.

While in Cairns our old mate, Ross Taylor, bought a new satellite dish and decoder box for his TV. The price, a mere $500.

The same day I had a broken tooth crowned which took the dentist about an hour and a half. The cost, an extortionate $1,705. And, no, it's not solid gold with inset diamonds, it's just a white ceramic thing glued to the stump of the broken tooth.

Anyone for dental college?


We escaped from Cairns as soon as possible before either of us broke another tooth. Our next port of call was a little coastal town called Cardwell. My first question in a caravan park is usually, "What are the water restrictions?"
In Cardwell the response was, "None. Where other places measure their annual rainfall in millimetres, he we measure ours in metres. We average seven metres of rain a year."
Seven metres!
Perth's average is less than one metre (approximately 860 mm). As we were to be travelling south into much drier climes and this park was willing to lend a ladder, I took the opportunity to scrub the caravan roof which was black with leaf mould in places.

We were camped just across the road from the beach in a pleasantly quiet park with plenty of trees. The outlook from the beach was of Hinchinbrook Island, crowned with peaks, rising from the Coral Sea.

Hinchinbrook Island

The rugged skyline of Hinchinbrook Island formed a backdrop for two windswept palms.

Walking along the shore we found plenty of coconuts lying in the sand but no other humans; we had the place to ourselves. Even the little town was quiet and as there was nothing of particular interest to catch our attention, this seems a good opportunity to tell you something which may be of benefit.

Don't Believe Everything The Banks Tell You

Let me ask, have you ever paid a regular bill by Direct Debit from your credit card account? It's a very convenient way of paying such bills. But have you ever tried to cancel a Direct Debit?

Our experience concerned an internet service provider (I.S.P.).  Due to some difficulties we had decided to change to a new I.S.P. The old one had been paid monthly by Direct Debit and the bank continued to debit our account after we'd requested the old I.S.P. to cancel. The company was being difficult, insisting that we provide, in writing, all sorts of technical details which we didn't have - but they already did have! How crazy is that? They were very hard to contact by phone so we went to the nearest branch of our bank and asked for the Direct Debit to be cancelled, explaining the reason for our request. From there the conversation went something like this:

"I'm sorry, we can't cancel a Direct Debit."
"Why not?"
"Because you signed an authority."
"Yes I did. And now I'm withdrawing that authority."
"You can't do that, only the merchant concerned can cancel a Direct Debit."
"But that's ridiculous. It's my money, not the banks, and I'm instructing you not to pay any more of my money to this merchant."
"I'm sorry, there's nothing the bank can do. Even if we cancel your credit card and open a new account there's no guarantee the debit won't transfer to it."

Certain that the teller was wrong, we went to another branch of the bank. The story was the same. Unless the merchant cancelled the arrangement, the bank would merrily go on paying him our money for ever and there wasn't a lot we could do about it. After considerable stress we finally got the I.S.P. to cancel the payments.

While in Cairns, Pam came across the May 2007 issue of the consumer magazine, "Choice", which had previously published a letter from a reader with a similar problem. That letter had prompted a response from Katherine Lane, the Principal Solicitor of the Consumer Credit Legal Centre. Katherine wrote:

"In (the reader's) letter he said a direct debit can't be cancelled "via the bank but must be done by informing the business". Banks (and merchants) often say this to customers but it's not correct. A consumer can cancel a direct debit by providing written notice to the bank. Written notice should also be given to the merchant (the business). If a bank processes a direct debit after notice is given, the debit is unauthorised and the consumer can seek a refund of this amount from the bank."

For more information and sample letters to use, consumers can go to: www.cclcnsw.org.au.

Meet Bob and Joe

The picture below is cobbled together from two photographs. The main one was an old digital picture of my grandson, Joe (left). I scanned an even older colour print of his father (my son Bob) when he was about the same age and superimposed Bob next to Joe. Certainly it's easy enough to see it's a fake but it's interesting nevertheless. Ginger hair aside, do you see a resemblance? Fooling around with photographs is fun, especially when a father and son can be placed together and compared at the same age.

Bob and Joe

Father and son. Joe (left) with his dad, Bob.

Midge Point

But back to our travels. On leaving Cardwell we travelled 460 kilometres south through sugar country where the harvest was in full swing. On either side of the road the cane grew ten feet tall and all the little cane locomotives were busy either hauling loaded wagons to the mills or returning long strings of empty wagons to the cane fields. In the towns, each sugar mill belched clouds of white steam from a wide stack, and grey smoke from an adjacent smaller stack. When we passed downwind of a mill we could smell the cloying sweet odour of hot sugar.

We were moving to a beachside holiday park that had been recommended to us in Cairns. We'd not previously heard of Midge Point and were very happy to find it was everything that had been claimed. Far from busy roads and traffic noise, the park was cut into virgin rainforest and was only a few metres back from the beach.

Midge Point Beach

It's hard to believe that the caravan is among the trees, just a few metres back from the beach.

Caravan in bush

Now you can understand why the caravan was invisible from the sea and the air (see below).

From sun-up to sunset the only sound was the song of the birds. On our first day we went for a walk on the beach and were amazed to see large armies of little blue crabs scurrying along ahead of us.

Crab army

The little blue crabs scurrying ahead of us as we walked.

If we got too close for comfort the number of crabs dwindled rapidly until there wasn't one to be seen. Each individual turned onto its side and used its legs to scoop the sand out of the way, turning in circles and disappearing below the surface.

Crabs burrowing

The little crabs turned on their sides and within seconds disappeared into the sand.

Most of the crabs - none much larger than a thumb nail - were a pale metallic blue with black markings on top and silver panels on their sides, though a few were larger with black shells and gold coloured side markings.

Black and gold crabs

Most of the crabs were pale blue but a few were larger with black and gold shells.

As we walked along the shore I was mindful that it wasn't impossible that there could be estuarine crocodiles in the area. I kept a constant vigil, ready to sacrifice Pam at a moment's notice.

One afternoon we heard the sound of an ultralight aircraft taking off from the beach. After a while I couldn't resist any longer and, grabbing my camera, I wandered down to have a look. There was neither sight nor sound of an aircraft when I arrived so I had a stroll along the sand. The tide was about 600 metres out and I couldn't see another living soul. Soon I found what I was looking for; two tyre tracks, too far apart to be from a car, with a smaller track between them. Aeroplane! I followed the tracks to where the 'plane had turned and noticed a car parked in the trees at the edge of the beach with several people standing near it. Conclusion: The aircraft will return and this is where it will stop.

And so it came to pass. Two men left the aircraft and walked over to the people near the car. I sidled over to the little aeroplane and took some photographs.

Ultralight plane

It was a tiny thing with two seats and a 'pusher' propeller driven by a twin cylinder two-stroke engine.

I gradually became bolder and went to peer into the cockpit. It was very simple and I was soon so engrossed that I didn't hear footsteps approaching. It was the pilot, Ian. We had a lot in common and were soon firm friends. "Would you like a flight?" he asked. What a silly question!

Soon we were cruising over the caravan park where I was surprised and disappointed to discover that nearly all the caravans - including ours - were out of sight beneath the tree canopy.

Birds eye view of caravan park

The caravan park from the air. The toilet block is in the lower left and our caravan's position is marked by an X.
What appear to be two shadows across the picture are the wing bracing wires on the 'plane.

Ian asked me if I wanted to take the controls. That was two silly questions within ten minutes. The aircraft was very easy to fly and I was soon flying with my left hand while taking photos with my right. We flew around for a while then Ian did some low level flying along the beach . . .

Aircraft Shadow on Beach

We raced our shadow but couldn't beat it. All too soon it was over and after a steep sideslip,
Ian put her down as gently as a baby.

Back in the caravan Pam wouldn't believe me at first but after seeing the photos, called me a 'jammy beggar'.

Midge Point from the air

Australia's best kept secret, the remote hamlet of Midge Point.

And that one last picture of Midge Point, northern Queensland, brings me to my quota for Page 52. See you (hopefully) on Page 53.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 52 was completed on 20 May 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.