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Page 53





More Midge Point then Sarina, Emu Park and Biloela.

More From Midge Point

Lounging around idyllic Midge Point was very peaceful but sometimes you have to buy in supplies. Midge Point had a new supermarket but choice was rather limited. The nearest small town was Proserpine, however a few kilometres further was the popular resort of Airlie Beach. To reach Airlie we would have to pass through Cannonvale where there was a new shopping centre. We decided to kill two birds (which turned into three) with one stone.

Frankly, Airlie Beach is not our favourite spot. When we stayed there we found it a picturesque location horribly ruined by development. This time we found even more development taking place; talk about killing the golden goose! But as we drove through Airlie we recalled a wonderful little café overlooking Shute Harbour (the third bird) which is a few kilometres beyond Airlie and totally unspoiled.

Shute Harbour

We visited Shute Harbour for lunch and this was the view from the café balcony. If you've seen it before on
these pages, you're right. We were here on Page 32, but I couldn't resist another picture. Well, could you?

The photo above doesn't even begin to do justice to the view from that café. Look to the right or the left and it's as beautiful. The small area which has been developed is completely enclosed by the Conway National Park so hopefully it will never be spoiled. The forest-covered hills opposite are part of that National Park.

Update: Within a week of writing the above, we read in the newspaper that there is a development planned for Shute Harbour that "would include 733 marina berths, 155 high density units and a five-storey resort complex". The residents are opposing the development. Good luck to them.

At least we saw it before they make it into a second Airlie Beach.

While staying at Midge Point we also visited Cape Hillsborough, calling in to spend a pleasant hour with our friend Michele Shea at the Old Station Tea House and Craft Gallery. Michele had very kindly let us use her tea house to access the internet when we stayed at Hillsborough last year (Page 33). It had been the closest location to our caravan where our modem could receive a signal.

And finally on Midge Point, did it live up to its name? No. There were 'mozzies' and sand flies, of course, but no worse than anywhere else on this coast.
Sarina

Leaving Midge Point we made a short(ish) hop to the town of Sarina for a one-night stop. Again we travelled through sugar country with the harvest in full swing and the mills working flat out. Sarina is a sugar town, but the region is also heavily into the mining and export of coal, or so the caravan park manager told me. I remarked that what Australia's coal industry desperately needs - to secure its long term future - is 'clean coal technology'.
"Oh, they wash it these days," he replied.
I looked at him, not sure if he was joking or not. I don't think he was.

We took the opportunity to drive along the coast and took a walk along Grasstree Beach. (Grasstrees used to called Black Boys but that name is no longer PC.) Near the water's edge we came across a starfish. We'd never seen one so large and wondered whether it was still alive, the tide having only receded a few metres.

Starfish

The starfish, its size illustrated by the inset. Real or rubber?

"Let's put it back in the water" suggested Pam.
"Good idea," I said. "Pick it up then."
"No, I didn't mean me," she replied.
Surprise, surprise.

Not knowing anything about starfish, I hadn't a clue whether it might sting. I got around that by picking up the sand on which it rested and carrying the lot out into the lovely warm water as far as I could before putting it gently down. I don't know what I expected to happen but nothing did. The sand quickly sank and the starfish floated on the surface, quite motionless other than rising and falling on the swell. While watching it, a nasty suspicion entered my mind. What if it's a child's beach toy made of rubber? A quick glance along the dunes didn't reveal a hidden camera or a crowd of people rolling about with laughter so I was somewhat reassured - but not totally. The waves were slowly taking the critter back towards the beach although it did appear to be slowly sinking. "You're on your own now, mate," I told it, and waded back to shore. We continued our walk, returning some forty minutes later to find the starfish again high and dry on the beach.

A later glance at the Internet informed us that there are over 1,800 varieties of starfish. A few pictures were shown but 'ours' wasn't recognisable amongst them. At least it definitely wasn't one of those Crown Of Thorns Starfish that reputedly damage the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the text was interesting: "They have no front or back: they can move in any direction without turning. Rather than using muscles to move their hundreds of tiny legs, starfish use a complex hydraulic system to move around or cling to rocks. The intake valve for this system is generally located on the top of the Starfish, just off centre . . . " It can be seen clearly on the photo above.

We continued our exploration of the coastline and found ourselves overlooking a huge coal export terminal.

Coal Port

Hay Point coal loading facility. Raw materials stocked up ready for export and conversion into
greenhouse gases. Waiting ships (top) seem suspended in the air.

Most of this coal is bound for China and Japan. There was a promotional video running at the viewing platform and though I wasn't paying it too much attention I did hear the soundtrack proclaim that coal trains that are two kilometres long can unload in fifteen minutes without stopping.

Pam counted over thirty colliers waiting at sea to dock and load. Did you notice them in the photo above? They appeared to be hovering in the sky - have another look. We could see four ships tied up and loading.

Helicopter

A French-built Eurocopter AS.350B2A, the pilot's helicopter, returns to its pad.

Attention Caravanners

Ever since buying the caravan I have been trying to find a good system for mounting a driver's door extension mirror. There are many attachments commercially available but not many which satisfy our criteria which are:
  1. The extension arm must be sufficiently long to provide a clear view of traffic behind the caravan.
  2. The mirror must not vibrate excessively.

Caravan Mirror

Naturally, the more you try to satisfy the first condition, the worse the second one becomes. We eventually found a good compromise which held the mirror firmly in all three axes by adding a second magnetic pad and bracing arm.

The down side is, of course, the cost. These magnetic pads are close to $100 each. Even so, I'm very relieved that I now have this arrangement which makes towing so much more relaxing. A quick glance at the mirror is all that's required then I can concentrate on the road again. The previous arm being shorter, I used to have to perform contortions to try and make out what was behind the caravan, often having to weave the car slightly to achieve that.

Since the pads pull off the door easily, there's only one butterfly nut under the car's normal mirror to slacken and the whole rig comes off. I always leather off the contact surface of the pads and the door before re-attaching the extension mirror and there's been no hint of damage to the paintwork.
Emu Park

We left Sarina at about 07:30 just as the morning mist was burning off and were setting up at Bell Park, 342 km to the south east, by 12:30 after a pleasant and uneventful journey. As in Cairns, it was like coming home to old friends - and soon some new ones. Now most people think I'm crazy and they're probably right, but I was really happy to see that the bats were still there and as numerous as ever.

Bat

This young lady had a small hole through her left wing and, I think, a baby clinging to her breast.

To avoid confusion I'd better explain that Emu Park is the name of the little town; Bell Park is its caravan park. I tend to use both names for the caravan park. It was great to see Jim and Susie Waterman again - Jim runs the park. Don't ever come to Bell Park if you're an overly-sensitive person as you're likely to get ribbed unmercifully or acquire a (possibly uncomplimentary) nickname. It's all good natured, though, and it's a very happy park.

Jim

Two Emu Park characters - "Dingo Bill"(left) and the caravan park manager, Jim Waterman.
Bill gets his name from the little Dingo earth mover he operates - nothing to do with wild dogs.

Jim's unique personality makes Bell Park the fun place it is. And, yes Jim, this "photo" is a fake made up from three different images taken with a Canon 350D, naturally. What else? (Jim's a Nikon devotee.)

Regarding nicknames, as mentioned in the picture caption, there's "Dingo Bill", also "Penguin Pete" (a different Pete), "Tiger" and "Shorty". One poor Irish girl called Carmel had not been in the park five minutes before she became "Carnal". All credit to Carmel, she took it in good part. As I mentioned, it's all good natured and there's a very happy atmosphere in the park - especially at Happy Hour.
A Late Picture from Cairns

Cool Waters


Thanks to our old mate, John Stone, I can include a recently received picture of some of the gang from Cool Waters Holiday Park in Cairns. John took it during a "Morning Tea" session as we all piled on the calories. Almost every Thursday morning the management provided a seemingly unlimited quantity of buttered scones with jam and heaps of cream, plus tea and coffee. All it cost us was a donation to charity.

Highlighted in bright colour are some of our friends because a colourful lot they are! Left to right:

•  Ross Taylor in horizontal stripes.
•  An unknown bloke in blue (not with us).
•  Terri-Anne Walton, daughter of Ross and Jan Taylor.
•  Between Terri and Pam is Jan Taylor, hiding from the camera.
•  Pam in a white top.
•  Rhonda Stone in a tangerine top.
•  Pat Crowe in a black top. Pat is the mother of Dwayne who, with his wife Sue, runs the park.

Missing spouses are:
•  John Stone (taking the photo).
•  Terry Crowe (he wasn't far away).
•  Me (I think I was taking photos too).
Emu Park continued.

The days passed very happily in Emu Park. The outlook from the caravan was of the Coral Sea through a gap in the foliage which was all that separated the park from the beach. There were islands dotted about and the sound of the waves breaking onto the beach was always with us.

View

The Washer-up's View From Our Caravan Window.

In one sense our contentedness was a warning sign because we found ourselves wanting to stay longer than the two weeks which we had allocated. Well, why not? you may ask. One reason was that we had to be in Sydney to meet up with my visiting brother and his wife in a few weeks. Besides, despite all the places in Australia that we have now visited, there are still vast areas waiting to be explored. So, having established the reasons why we were not able to linger longer in Emu Park, we extended our stay for a further two weeks. In fact, we even checked the price of real estate along the coast. Scary - both the fact that we checked the prices and the prices themselves. Sadly this area is earmarked for 'development' and the property prices already reflect that.

So the days drifted by in this idyllic setting, time only marked by the interval until the next Happy Hour. Each dusk the big bats stopped their noisy squabbling and began flying around the colony before heading off in a scattered stream, silent silhouettes flapping steadily westward. Occasionally we'd hear them returning in the stillness of the early hours, their passing only betrayed by the "woosh, woosh, woosh" of their wings.
Who Says Size Isn't Important?

Just before leaving Emu Park some new neighbours moved in next door. We've seen big caravans in the past but this "5th wheeler" was by far the biggest.

5th Wheeler

The insignificant little caravan in the background is ours.

Slide out

Just take a look at this beauty! Once it was correctly parked, hydraulic jacks extended down from each corner, lifting the wheels clear of the ground and levelling the trailer. The lounge and bedroom walls slid out hydraulically to greatly increase the interior space (see right) and looking at it from further away revealed that both rooms had a separate air conditioner on the roof. But that wasn't all. Because the living accommodation was at the top, the door on the side opened into a hydraulic lift! Would you believe that? A caravan with its own elevator! I would hardly have been surprised to find an olympic swimming pool or tennis court in there too. It certainly gave a new meaning to the word 'camping'.

Later, Pam was talking to some new arrivals in the park. They asked which was our caravan. She pointed out the giant and - as their eyes widened - she told them that our 'van was just behind it.

A truck licence was required to drive this leviathan and a logbook had to be kept, as applies to any truck of that size. As might be expected, all the residents of the park looked upon this mobile home with a great deal of interest, curiosity and not a little envy. But t'was us who got invited to inspect the interior.

It was fully self-contained with a five hundred litre water tank and built-in 240 volt electrical generator with the control panel conveniently placed behind cupboard doors. When the generator motor was started up we could barely hear it.

Lift Control Panel

Left: Pam descending in the elevator.                                             Right: The electrical control panel.

As you might expect, there was a fully automatic satellite dish - none of this aligning it with a compass and setting the angle of elevation manually. The interior was very impressive as the picture below shows. Where is the bedroom? Through a short corridor behind the camera. It, too, expanded out to make enough space for a queen sized bed, wardrobes and a small office. Between the living and sleeping areas were the shower and toilet.

Interior

Everything to the left of the wood panelled floor - the lounge area - slides in at
the press of a button until the trailer sides are flush for travelling.

Well, enough drooling over the biggest motorhome we ever saw. All too soon our day of departure was upon us and this time we resisted the strong urge to stay at Emu Park for a little longer. The friendliness shown to us by so many people was quite overwhelming, and that was by no means limited to the people in the caravan park. Farewells are never easy but once we finally hit the road we relaxed and got into 'travelling mode' again. In many ways these days of moving on through the wide open spaces of Australia are the days I enjoy most. Unfortunately I can't say the same for Pam who is not the world's best traveller. However, with a short stop every couple of hours she manages well and doesn't complain.

Sometimes we pass something that makes us smile . . .

Ute for hire
Biloela.

Our next stop was a three day visit to the open-cut coal mining town of Biloela (pronounced Bill O'Wheeler). The name is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning white cockatoo.

How can I describe the White Cockatoo Caravan Park? Most of the residents were shift workers at the coal mine so trying to sleep after 6 a.m. was a waste of time - it was like camping in a transport depot with vehicles constantly arriving and departing. Additionally there was a mess hall a few metres from our 'van where breakfast was served from 5 a.m. for those preparing to leave for work and later for those returning. Just outside the park ran two busy roads separated by a railway line. What a contrast to Emu Park where all that could be heard were the birds and the breakers on the beach. Yes folks, we were back in the world of commerce and industry.

Continued on the next page.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 53 was completed on 20 May 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.