Sunday, October 25, 2015

Heading home

After seven relaxing days at Airlie Beach we were on the road once again. We swam every day and gathered a few rays along the way.

Half an hour after leaving we joined the Bruce Highway at Proserpine as we continued on towards Mackay a further 124 km away. It wasn't long before we passed through Sarina as we continued south. It was another 64 km until we passed by Carmila. There is a free camp at Carmila Beach where we have stayed in the past.

18 km south of Carmilla we arrived at the small seaside settlement of Clairview. The Bruce Highway is only several hundred metres from the coast here. Its the only point along this highway where the coast can be seen from Bowen in the north to the Gold Coast in the south, which is a distance of just over 2000 km. Lucky for us that the tide was in because when it's out the mud flats don't look very appealing. There is caravan park here and if you are self sufficient you can camp right beside the beach. 

We spent about twenty minutes here before continuing on towards the turnoff to St Lawrence which is 6 km from the highway.

After passing the turnoff to St Lawrence for the past forty odd years we were quite surprised with this little town. The towns streets were very wide and reminded us a lot of Normanton in the gulf country. It wasn't until we read some of the history about the town that we could understand why.

The town is one of the oldest on the Queensland coast and was originally a main port and a very prosperous town. Gold and copper from the mines inland, along with cattle were exported from here. The towns growth however was short lived and its population rarely exceeded  250 people.

The courthouse was built in 1872 and is now the local Police Station. It has been repainted in its original colours: 
These pylons are all that remain from the original bridge:
And the new bridge over St Lawrence Creek:

 Our camp for the evening was a free camp several kilometres from town. There were toilets, a dump point, coin operated showers and water taps scattered throughout the area. It was quite a large area and when we stayed, there were about thirty groups camped here with plenty of room to spare.

Even though we didn't use any of the facilities we still left a $10 donation. Unfortunately many who arrived and then left early the next morning weren't going to part with even a gold coin donation. These type of people are the ones to thank when areas like this are closed down. Word is that the Isaac Regional Council will soon introduce fees here and at Carmila Beach, because they are providing a service and receiving nothing back in return.

Another early start as we left St Lawrence this morning just before 7:00. We were trying to get several hours under our belts before the strong winds returned. An hour later we passed by Marlborough with another 105 km until we arrived on the outskirts of Rockhampton. It took us ages getting through Rocky as we struck red lights at every intersection.

South of Rockhampton we were held up for about ten minutes waiting for an eight metre wide load heading north:

Now we were on the homeward stretch for the day. Our camp tonight was the Calliope River a further 108 km south. Its another free camp and we camped here on the 11th July on our way north. On that day there were more than sixty vans camped here but tonight we countered just thirty. 

Yet another early start as we left Calliope at 6:15 in an effort to beat the winds yet again. Our coffee break was taken at the free camp just north of Gin Gin. Our breaks are normally around 10:30 but because we left so early this break was taken at 8:30.

It wasn't long until we passed through Childers and then left the Bruce Highway at Howard as we took some minor roads through Takura before the final 22 km run into Hervey Bay. We camped at the Happy Wanderer caravan park just 400 metres from Shelley Beach.

Spent two days at Hervey Bay having a look around and would certainly come back here again once all the southerners have left. October and November would be the ideal time.  We swam on both days with the water being lovely and clear but just a little cooler than Airlie Beach. 

On one of our days we lunched at the Boat Club which overlooks the marina. Unfortunately I chose the fresh Hervey Bay scallops on a bed of rice with a mornay sauce and grilled cheddar cheese. What a mistake, it had absolutely no flavour. 

We made our way south to the Sunshine Coast without booking a site at the Maroochydore Beach holiday park. When we arrived just before midday we were surprised to find that just about all the sites were taken. School children on the Sunshine Coast were having a pupil free day on the preceding Monday making for a busy long weekend.
If we had arrived that afternoon then I'm sure we would have missed out all together. 

Our days here were mostly spent at the beach with two part days taken up visiting the Bushtracker factory at Kunda Park. 

After five days we headed south towards home. Our drive today was just 250 km but included driving south on the Sunshine Motorway and then down past the Gold Coast. These roads are always choked with traffic and these conditions continued until we crossed the Tweed River. From here it was just another 30 km until we arrived at the Yelgun rest area for the evening. 

Amazingly the caravan parking area is on sloping ground, so to level the van the 4wd is driven onto chocks to ensure a pleasant nights sleep.

The remaining 260 km home now takes extra time south of Grafton. Much of this road now has a speed limit of just 80 km/h with the upgrade to the Pacific Highway.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bushtracker for sale

Our December 2008 19 foot Bushtracker is for sale for $85,000.

We stopped in at the Bushtracker factory the other day to pick up some spare door locks and asked if we could look through some of the new vans. 

The rest is history and after several days contemplating our navels we placed a deposit on a 20 footer.

We never thought we would move away from the Tasmanian Oak timber look but have done just that. The new modern colour choices have really appealed to us and we have already chosen all our interior colours and our new layout.

Delivery of our new van is expected in July 2016.

Those who read our blog will know that our van was damaged by hail in November 2013. Insurance work and extras we paid for at the time were completed in May 2014 and include the following listed below.

·    • Total van re-skin. Changed to silver cladding 
• Dometic A & E Electric awning 
• Air-conditioner 
• Four seasons hatch 
• Windows above kitcken and cafĂ© dining 
• Roof mounted satellite dish 
• 12 volt hatch above ensuite 
• Vehicle Components liftmaster jack 
• Dual coloured LED lights on vans nearside 
• Sail track on offside 
• All interior lights replaced with LED lights currently being installed in new    Bushtracker vans 
• Fusion MS-AV600 marine stereo with IPOD/CD and MP3 connection 
• 24” TEAC LED TV on swing arm 
• Detachable TV mount and external connections under annex installed into fully fibre glassed external AV locker with DPP & 12VPP 
• 2 x silver Alpine external speakers 
• D035 hitch with dust cap 
• 2 x 12 volt Sirocco fans 
• 4 x 110 amp/h exide batteries installed 28 July 2015 
• Enerdrive 12v 60 amp ePOWER battery charger fully automatic multistage 19 October 2015 
• 2 x 9kg gas cyclinders 
• Rear taillights changed to LED 
• Weight distribution system 
• Main door with black surrounds 
• Bearing service 
• Underbody resprayed body sound deadener 
• All stove gas jets updated 
• New gas regulator 
• New toilet cassette 
• 4 x brand new tyres 

Original inclusions: 

• 2 x single beds with one longer than the other 
• Waeco 190 litre Danfross compressor driven fridge/freezer 
• Swift 500 series grill and oven 
• 12” commercial brakes 
• 4 x 90 litre water tanks 
• 4 x 135 watt solar panels 
• Diesel heater with two outlets (1 in ensuite) 
• Water sterilisation unit 
• Gas bayonet outlet with 3 metre lead 
• Winegard TV Antenna with Next G antenna 
• Autosat 2C roof mounted satellite dish 
• Alltec VAST satellite decoder 
• Connection for Austar/Foxtel 
• Cordless headphone system 
• AV switchbox 
• 4 x roof mounted Pioneer speakers 
• Subwoofer/amplifier system 
• 2 x rear stabilizer legs

With all the options listed above our 19′ Bushtracker van is fully self contained and includes the following options that allow us to travel and camp away from caravan parks:  4 x 125w solar panels, 4 x GRT AGM 100a/hr maintenance free batteries, 4 x 90 litre water tanks, Dometic diesel heater, 190 litre fridge/freezer. All these options including the 24″ LED TV and fully automatic Autosat satellite dish mounted on the roof use 12 volt power generated by the van. 

Contact me on 0438 319 284

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Towards Airlie Beach

Leaving Paronella Park we continued along the old Bruce Highway passing through Japoonvale before joining the Highway at Silkwood 24 km later. 

This road was very narrow in places and had many twist and turns which kept our speed down below 60 km/h. The scenery was just lovely with the mountains covered in mist from last nights rain and with beautiful green sugar cane farms lining the road.

Unfortunately the south easterly winds that have been blowing for the past week were still very strong and were playing havoc with our fuel consumption as we headed south. 

We were pleasantly surprised with the changes made along the foreshore at Cardwell and how large the town has grown. 
In the past I have always stopped and purchased a piece of crumbed fish from the BP servo on the highway. They are renowned for there fish, but unfortunately it wasn't all that long since having breakfast. 

We stopped just south of Ingham for our morning break before taking the bypass road around Townsville. From here it was 93 km south to Ayr and to our camp for tonight at Home Hill a further 11 km away. We had planned to camp at the showgrounds but a comment on Wikicamps suggested not to stay there because there wasn't any protection from the strong winds that were whipping up great clouds of dust.

Our next option was the RV comfort stop for vans behind the main street. Its a great incentive by the local council with free hot showers and toilets. It encourages people who stay to spend money in the town just like we did at the local supermarket. 

Yet another days driving into strong head winds. We left the highway and drove into Bowen which now has 'Bowenwood' painted on the towns water tower after parts of the film Australia were shot here. Fuel was very cheap at $122.9 cpl so we topped up the tanks before continuing on towards Airlie Beach. 

We are staying at the Big 4 at Cannonvale for five nights with two extra free nights thrown in.

Airlie Beach was almost like our second home during the 80's and 90's. We would visit here each year as we tried to escape the winters in Canberra. 

I started coming here during the 1970's when I was doing my diving courses with Barrier Reef Diving Services. I obtained my Divemaster certification in 1982 and the Barrier Reef is just a magical place to dive and photograph.

I'm on the right and the other photo is a macro shot I took of a starfish's tentacle. 

Instead of having dinner out at night we have been doing lunches. 
We enjoyed a beer and a pizza at Mr Bones Restaurant overlooking the lagoon:

Our view from the Airlie Beach Sailing Club. I had the coral trout and Ros enjoyed her chicken parma:

Sorrento Italian Restaurant is located overlooking the Abell Point Marina. We both enjoyed a pasta meal with Ros having the puttanesca penne (roasted vegetables and pesto). I enjoyed my prawn and spanner crab linguini and we shared a garlic and parmesan pizza bread.

The lagoon area at Airlie offers all year round swimming without the threat of  being bitten by 'Box Jellyfish' which are present in the waters in Northern Australia from October till May. It has really enhanced the foreshore, before the lagoon was constructed this whole area was just mud flats when the tide was out.

There is also a stinger enclosure just along from the sailing club:

Airlie Beach always looks great when the tide is in:

Shute Harbour used to be the only transit facility for people going to the Whitsunday Islands or doing day trips, but now all that has changed. 

Boats now depart from the Port of Airlie to the Whitsunday Islands.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Paronella Park - The story of a Spaniard's Dream

As we left Palm Cove at 8:30 the winds were still blowing like they had for the past four days. Unfortunately they were blowing from the south east which had us driving into a severe headwind.

Today's drive of 137 km sees us heading to Paronella Park which is situated 17 km south of Innisfail on a section of the old Bruce Highway beside Mena Creek Falls. 

Powered caravan accommodation is free if you purchase a ticket to tour the park. For the cost of $76.00 we were part of the day, night and hydro electric tours. They even through in free Wi-Fi. 

We received a very warm welcome from Mark Evans who shook our hands as we arrived. We found out later that he and his wife Judy actually owned the park. Talk about great PR.

Jose Paronella arrived in Australia from Spain in 1913. He was a pastry chef by trade, but he had a burning desire to build a castle. This desire came from stories told by his grandmother when he was young.

For eleven years he worked cutting cane on farms around Innisfail. He never spent his money on alcohol or gamble like the other cane cutters did, but saved every cent he could. With the money he saved he started buying cane farms which he would improve before selling. This is one of the ways he gained his wealth. He also entered into money lending to help increase his wealth.

With this money Jose purchased 13 acres of land in the rainforest next to Mena Creek Falls. 

He had promised to write to his financee Matilda who was in Spain but this never eventuated and when he returned to marry her after eleven years she had married someone else. He then married her younger sister Margarita and returned with her to Australia.

Before his grand plan could be put into place, Jose needed a way to move materials from the lower level to the higher level. He achieved this by building a grand 47 step staircase.

The picnic area beside the waterhole including the picnic tables.

He then built their stone cottage.

His castle was the focus point for the park. Its hard to understand how a pastry chef could achieve so much. In 1933 he installed the first Hydro Electric scheme in North Queensland to power his park and the castle grounds. 

The first two photos are taken from the entrance to the Hydro Plant.

The opening in this photo is the entrance to the hydro plant and the pipe below that returns the water back to the creek once it has passed through the turbine.

By 1935 he was ready to welcome the public.

Attached to the castle he designed an entertainment area which included a movie theatre.  On weekends this area was transformed into a ballroom with live bands.

More than 7000 trees were planted in 1933 including including the smooth barked Kauri pine that make up the Kauri Avenue.

The lower refreshment rooms were built and contained changing rooms for swimmers and overlooked the tennis courts which were built using crushed termite mounds.

In 1946 logs from a clearing upstream blocked the creek before descending over the falls and wrecking the refreshment rooms. The Paronellas were undaunted by this mishap and within six months were up and running again. 

Worse was to follow with Jose passing away in 1948 from stomach cancer. Wife Margarita, daughter Teresa and son Joe continued on. Margarita passed away in 1967 and Joe died of cancer in 1972 with the park eventually being sold in 1977. 

In 1979 a fire destroyed the castle and leaving just the Turret and walls. Plans are now underway to reopen the ballroom within the next three years and bring it back to its full glory.

In 1993 Mark and Judy Evans purchased the rundown park and have been slowly bringing it back to life. In 2009 the hydro turbine was refurbished and is once again providing enough power for the entire park.

In 1993 the park employed ten staff but that has now grown to sixty five. During the holiday season from June through to October Mark told us that they require between 200 to 300 visitors daily to make the park viable. 

Our night tour was booked for 8 pm. We had experienced some minor showers during the late afternoon. Just before our tour started the heavens opened with rain falling for the majority of the hour while doing the tour.

The castle with its original stained glass windows.

Mena Creek Falls.

The refreshment rooms with the fountain that is gravity fed from the stream.