Monday, July 29, 2013

We commence heading south

As we have all our camping gear with us we still had a pretty full load as we left Townsville and followed the Bruce Highway south.  We hadn't hurried in the day as we wanted to walk Jessie and do the final clean of the house so it was after 1 pm before we hit the road.  We had no specific plans for the coming days but knew that we had ten nights before we were due in Brisbane to commence a further house sit.  We have travelled this route previously, so decided where possible we would stay in areas that we haven’t stayed before.  This would mean bypassing the ever popular Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays!  Using a direct route, the trip from Townsville to Brisbane is about 1400 kilometers but we are likely to zig zag somewhat and will certainly do more than that.

We were tempted to stop at the first town (Ayr) which is 100 kilometers south of Townsville.  They have a lovely wide shopping strip which had appealed to me during our earlier visit but it was quite windy and we decided hardly tent putting up weather.  You can tell that we had got out of the habit of camping after five weeks in a lovely home so it always takes a while to get motivated!  We continued south to Bowen and called it a day after a journey of just 200 kilometers.  We had previously visited the waterfront at Bowen so this time decided to find a camping spot at the beach area.  We booked into Queens Beach Tourist Village – it seemed a purpose build caravan park for long term grey nomads!  The majority of the number plates on the vehicles were Victorian so we weren't completely out of place.  The park has recently been increased in size to accommodation the influx of caravans for the winter months.  We had a lovely site and walking through the park we counted about five other tents and they were all Black Wolf just like ours so we were quite out of place.

There are a number of caravan parks at Queens Beach and it is obviously a popular spot for both locals and visitors.  The beach is netted for the stingers so swimming is safe, and there are BBQ’s and facilities along the long beach front.  The area is extremely popular for fishing so no wonder the grey nomads stay for months at a time.  Our stay was short however, as we only stayed overnight but that provided entertainment for the caravaners to watch us erect and take down our tent so expertly.  

 We did take the opportunity to meander along the coast and visit the lookout and popular Horseshoe Bay with the huge boulders at each end of the sheltered bay.  There are at least eight caravan parks in Bowen (with one caravan park right at the point) and apparently to get a site without booking in Bowen was unusual as the area is so popular.

 After exploring some of Bowen we again joined the Bruce Highway heading south.  The road is a trip through the sugar cane, with the cane bordering both sides of the road for as far as the eye can see.

We had decided that we were reasonably happy to have one night stops rather than long days in the car we next stop was Mackay.  So our trip today was another two hundred kilometers.  We had not booked into a park so had to try a couple before we could get a booking – we never anticipated this.  We stayed at the Big 4 down by the port.  This park has recently had new management and was undergoing extensive renovations.  The tenting area had new ensuite facilities, with kitchen and BBQ areas and was very nice.  We were camped next to a wetland area but fortunately there were no mosquitos.  We visited the new marina area and then made our way into the city.  The city now has a population of around 110,000 and is vibrant with the mining industry just on its doorstep and the long standing sugar industry providing a great base for the area.  The main shopping area is adjacent to the Pioneer River and the river walk is a popular past-time with restaurants, picnic facilities and a three tiered lagoon providing stinger free swimming.  The lagoon was closed for annual maintenance when we were in town but we did enjoy walking the river walk.  Again we only stayed overnight – it was getting cooler by the day and it was threatening to rain and in fact we took the tent down in light drizzle.

Our drive south continued through the sugar cane – we stopped briefly at Sarina where there is a sugar cane mill situated close to the highway.  They do offer tours but as we were passing through on a Saturday we were out of luck.  Just north of Sarina is the biggest coal distribution terminal in the world.  I would assume it would be about right to say that the majority of the working population are employees of either the mill or at the coal terminal.  The total population of Sarina is just 3500.

We broke our pattern of 200 kilometers per day today by travelling over 350 kilometers to Yeppoon.  We had previously seen the signposts to Yeppoon last year but had bypassed so this was our opportunity to visit.  Yeppoon is just thirty kilometers coastal from Rockhampton and is a popular holiday spot for both locals.  Fortunately we got a booking at a nice caravan park and once again were amongst the Victorians.  Our neighbours on both sides had travelled up from Victoria to spend a few weeks in the winter and each year they rebooked for next year.  Our tent looked very out of place amongst the caravans!  We didn’t mind – we are very comfortable in the tent and we booked in for a couple of nights.  It rained very heavily the first night but fortunately we didn't get any rain inside the tent and the site soon dried out.

Yeppoon is on the Capricorn Coast and is one of a string of seaside communities and is popular with holiday makers both land and water based.  We spent a very pleasant hour or so down at the marina looking at the various boats moored there and watching one being launched. 

We continued around the coast and watched some guys fishing off the rocks – the cliffs were certainly huge as you will see from the photo of the car taken in front of them.  Fortunately there was a break in the cliffs allowing access to the water where the guys were fishing.  No swimming in this area though.

We continued following the Scenic Highway a further twenty odd kilometers down to Emu Park where we stayed last year.  The monument of the “Singing Ship” is very popular and commemorates the historical explorations of Captain James Cook in the area.  A gentle sea breeze (which always seems to be present) produces a musical sound coming through the fluted pipes of the monument.  Emu Park has beautiful beaches on both sides of the Singing Ship park.

Back at Yeppoon we headed back down to the Esplanade – it is beautifully set out as is the case in all the coastal towns we have visited.  Unfortunately there was a cold wind blowing so we didn't stay too long but it didn’t seem to be bothering lots of others who were having picnics on the foreshore and skate boarding etc.  The esplanade and main street seems to be mainly made up of cafes and restaurants and so to keep up with the Jones we joined them and had dinner out.  Very pleasant.

Time to pack up again, and this time we did it with an audience but at least it wasn't raining.  Although it was tempting to have a third night we would have had to shift sites to do so and that wasn't going to happen so we decided to pay a visit to Seventeen Seventy.  We had watched a short segment on the television program “Getaway” some time ago on this area so now was our opportunity to pay a visit.  It was really the name as much as anything else that caught our attention.  So it was back to the Bruce Highway, and driving through Rockhampton (which is another place we have never stopped at only passed through – perhaps next time) and continued down the highway and then back out to the coast – a distance of about 275 kilometers.  We passed through the another popular holiday spot called Agnes Water and then about three kilometers further to 1770 which is a holiday village bordered on three sides by the ocean.  One of the facts known about the village of 1770 is that it is the second landing of James Cook in Australia which was in May 1770 and therefore where the name came from – very original I must say.

We followed the road to the point and then followed the track through the Joseph Banks Environment Park.  There are rugged granite rocks and the waves were certainly hitting them with force.  Just as we commenced the track Peter saw a snake crossing the path in front of him – unfortunately we were too slow with the camera.  We certainly watched where we put our feet as we continued walking!  The view of the beaches below was lovely and it was easy to see why it is such a popular holiday spot. 

We made our way back down the hill past the holiday homes and the couple of cafes opposite the beach boardwalk and it was time to find a caravan park.  The first one, right on the foreshore was fully booked, the same with the second but fortunately we could get a site for one night at the third – obviously a very popular holiday spot and it wasn't still school holidays.  This camping ground wasn't beachfront but they did have a walking track to the beach so off we wandered.  It was more like a 4wd track, and in fact wide enough most of the way to take the Patrol, but after about twenty minutes of walking we made it to the beach. 

The caravan park had really good facilities, especially for those tenting, and we were able to cook our meal in the well equipped outside kitchen and mix with other visitors.  It was really pleasant but we had planned on only staying one night so next morning we packed up again and drove via the inland road to Bundaberg.  Here we met up with a New Zealand friend and her daughter who had arrived in Bundaberg just a couple of weeks earlier as her husband had accepted a job in the area.  It was good to meet up with Tasha and Brianna and to know that they were settling well.  I also have a cousin who lives in Bundaberg but unfortunately she was working the full day so we were unable to meet up in our timeframe as we were heading on down to Hervey Bay.  Fortunately we had spent time with Elaine and Arnie last year when we were in the area so perhaps will be back another time.

Back on to the Highway and then another diversion into Hervey Bay where we met up with Ann and Geoff who are relatives of Peters.  We stayed in Hervey Bay for a couple of nights as we hadn’t really explore the area last year so booked into a caravan park on the esplanade so that we could enjoy some walks.  There was an access to the beach just near the tent site and it was interesting to see a flock of pelicans on the sand. 

We had a leisurely day, enjoying a long walk along the esplanade in the evening and again in the morning and also visiting the marina where we had had lunch with Ann and Geoff last year.  This time we made use of the waterfront BBQ facilities and did a cook up – pretty good way to enjoy lunch.  In the afternoon we visited with Ann and Geoff and enjoyed catching up with them.  Although the rain had settled in, we declined an offer to stay with Ann and Geoff, as we were confident we would be dry in our tent and wanted to be out of town early the next day.  We were booked on an early barge to visit Fraser Island where we would spend the next three days.

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