This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2009 Travels June 25


It was another basically clear day.

John settled in, after breakfast, to install Access on his laptop. He also decided to install it on mine – just in case I might want it one day – and ran into strife, probably due to the accumulation on it of old programs and bits left from the time of dial-up internet. After all, it dated back quite a way, having been his, before being superceded by his latest one.

Eventually, he had to phone Telstra for help and after a bit of frustrating redirection, managed to find an operative who helped him to get it to work, I must say that John usually got, with some persistence, really good help from that company. I reckon their file on him might be interesting, though!

I did a load of washing while all that was happening.

After an early lunch, John went off to bowls at Mystic Park. I defrosted the fridge, made some soup, spent time on the computer, had a swim in the pool.

Google image of Rollingstone Caravan Park, showing the lagoons, with camping area between them and the ocean

I had some discussion with a neighbour about places to visit, further north, and checked out various options from my books and information leaflets. I thought Taylors Beach might be our next stop – the “beach” part sounded promising, and it had a pool. Nearby Forrest Beach, which had also been recommended, did not. According to the neighbour, Lucinda, also in that area, had a big and popular caravan park, but was very much geared to the boating and fishing fraternity.

John reported that the bowls was “just ok” but with no further explanation.

Soup for tea.

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2009 Travels June 24


Weather-wise, a good clear day.

We left the park about 10am, for a sightseeing day. But first, to the PO – and the parcel was finally there!

Took the Mt Spec Road, that climbs up the range to the village of Paluma.

Stopped first at Little Crystal Creek ,where a lovely old arched bridge carried the road over the creek.

The bridge was built in the 1930’s. It seemed too grand for the location, but was picturesque in its rainforest setting.

Little Crystal Creek bridge

The creek there was a series of small waterfalls and rock pools.

Cascades at Little Crystal Creek bridge

We spent about an hour, rock hopping up and down the creek.

It was a lovely spot and would have been quite worthwhile as an outing destination all by itself. But we were headed further afield.

The 11kms of road from Little Crystal Creek up to Paluma was the stuff of my nightmares. It was narrow – barely wide enough for two vehicles, in most parts. It was steep, and had long, vertical drops, right off the road verge, mostly with no guard rails at all. There was no shortage of right-angles and hairpin bends. Also, a sign warned of possible rock falls. It had the lot!

Right behind the sign was a vertical drop…..

At one point, we encountered a Campbells Coaches bus, coming the other way and we both slowed and squeezed past. He was on the side with the steep drop, at least we had a rock wall beside us. I wouldn’t want to be a bus driver on that road. Hell – I didn’t even want to be in our car on that road! There was also someone towing a fair-sized caravan down the mountain, and a couple of camper trailer rigs. I was really surprised that towing anything on that road was allowed.

Not much wiggle room….

As we climbed, there were some spectacular views across the coastal plains to the ocean.

I was very relieved when we reached the top of the range and there began to be solid ground on both sides of the road again. But, at the back of my mind was the thought that what goes up…….and down was the side with the abyss beside it. I had already quietly consulted the Road Atlas to see if there was an alternative route. Without taking unsealed minor back roads and a detour of a couple of hundred kms, there wasn’t!

We turned off the Mt Spec Road just before Paluma village to go to McClellands Lookout, at the top of the range. It was a pleasant place, with great views out over the coastal plains to the ocean. It was a bit hazy, though.

Distant ocean and islands seen from McClellands Lookout

Unfortunately, the beauty of the place was marred by three Ugly Yank backpacker types, who were sitting in the middle of the grassed picnic area. This was not large enough for us to get far enough away from them and the loud and raucous music they were playing on a portable player, which drowned out the plentiful bird noises. Still, it provided an interesting behavioural study for us, as we ate our sandwiches. There was one man and two females – all in their 20’s. The two females were notably overweight and – to me – very unattractive – but both very much in competition for his interest. One of the girls was particularly loud and raucous and her “conversation” incredibly vacuous – and we could hear it all, too clearly. For all the notice they took of the beautiful surroundings, and the views, they might as well have been lunching in the centre of Townsville!

We were also amused by the antics of a couple of “bush chookies” – our term for scrub turkeys. Much more attractive than our human company.

Coastal plain and interesting cloud line

On in Truck, to Paluma village. John spotted a sign “Pottery”, so detoured up to it, despite my warning that it was dangerous to take me near a pottery. All I can say is that I didn’t spend as much as I would have liked to.

Len Cook, the potter, had an impressive exhibiting and collections resume. His wall plaques were of particular note. He used an anagama  oven to achieve some very unusual glazed effects. He and John talked pottery kilns and wood fired pizza ovens for a while. That gave me time to browse the items for sale. I decided it was an absolute must to buy one of the unique wall plaques, that had designs on them inspired by the Great Barrier Reef environment. The one I chose had a coral-like pattern on it. A highly glazed small blue vase, with a pattern of small birds in flight, just jumped out at me, too.

Barrier Reef inspired wall plaque I bought at Paluma pottery

The rainforest environment around the pottery was superb, with much bird life. Len put some banana pieces  in tree forks and we watched birds come in for a feed on them – Satin Bowerbird, catbird, honeyeaters. There was a bower in his garden; this one had a collection of blue items.

After rather reluctantly leaving the pottery, with our treasures, we drove on through the village, which was really just a small collection of older cottage style houses, and a couple of community facilities. We debated whether to drive on another 12kms or so, to have a look at Lake Paluma and its camping area, but decided that – as there was no way we would venture up here with the van – there was not much point. We would be better served by going walking.

The Rainforest Walk appealed – it started in the village and was only about 650kms loop.

It was very dim in there and definitely rainforest.

Very dim on the Rainforest Walk

Apparently Paluma, at 1000 metres,  is the highest altitude rainforest village in Australia. Len had told us that it was really damp up there in the wet season. I could certainly imagine it being in the clouds for extended periods.

Rainforest aerial tree roots
The Rainforest Walk track

Then it was time to face the descent to sea level. I did not enjoy the drive down the mountain, at all. The vertiginous drops were on my side – very close on my side! There was, mostly, not even a flimsy rail at the edge. It was very high on the short list of the scariest rides I’d ever had. Being on the outside of the road, I kept fearing we’d meet someone taking a corner too wide, coming the other way. But of course,  obviously, we made it down.

I loved Paluma and would really like to explore around up there some more, but was very doubtful I could do that road again. Not even for more of Len’s pottery. The road aside, it was an excellent day’s outing.

I made a squid based stir fry, with rice, for tea. More of the produce from the Townsville fish co-op shop, that I’d frozen.

John had to phone our house sitters, after tea, about something or other. They had lived for many years in Townsville and told him that fatal accidents involving the drops along that Mt Spec Road were fairly common!

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2009 Travels June 23


It was a fine day. The islands out in Halifax Bay appeared hazy, but maybe that was normal, here.

After breakfast, drove to Rollingstone PO again. Still no parcel.

From there, explored three pockets of housing development along and off the Balgal Beach Road, which went to the coast, south of the Rollingstone hamlet. Each pocket of housing was separated by little creeks, swampy areas and mangroves.

First of all, there was Mystic Sands, where John already knew there was a bowls club. No getting away from them, was there? Of course, he had to call in there, and booked himself in for a game on Thursday, and maybe another at the weekend.

Balgal Beach itself was in two clusters, one part way along from Mystic Sands, and the other lot where the road ended at a sizeable creek. This was where the Fishermans Landing was, and the well-known free camping area, where there was, supposedly, a 48 hour stay limit.

Inlet at Balgal Beach

We spent some time having a good look around the free camp area. The camp area was incredibly crowded. In several instances, gensets were going less than a metre from the next rig. New arrivals cruised round, looking in vain for a space. I suspected one had to be here very early, and be lucky. There were not many free camping areas to be found along the coast, that were right by beaches and a fishing creek, hence the popularity of this one. But it would be far too squeezy and unregulated for me. And, given the mangroves around the inlet creek, probably too many sandflies too.

Sandfly territory – and maybe snappy critters too….

There were a number of rigs parked along the Esplanade that led to the free camp area. It was hard to tell if they were there for a short visit, like us, or hoping to stay there overnight, despite the signs banning camping along there. I suspected some of the home owners of the houses along the Esplanade might be rather disgruntled by the rigs getting in the way of their lovely ocean views! 

The signs at the camp area – and at Bushy Parker camp area – state the 48 hour stay limit, and also that there was only one such stay per week – but I wondered to what extent this was enforced? Certainly, some of the set-ups in this free camp area looked to have been there longer than just two days.

The store at the Fishermans Landing was very busy doing its take away trade. The fish and chips looked very tempting – but the battered fish was listed at $8.50 a piece!

Having now seen Balgal Beach, I was pleased we were in our more expensive caravan park. Much less crowded. No generators chugging away right under our windows. Much less dust. Safe swimming. Worth the money!

The road from the highway to the park passed by a pineapple farm. I’d never really thought about how pineapples grew on their plants – if pressed, I’d have said in clumps, up the tree, like bananas. So I was really surprised the first time I saw the fruits standing up on the end of stalks, on low plants. The farm had roadside sales, so we stopped in and bought a pineapple.

Pineapples growing

After lunch I went for a swim in the pool. Around 2pm was seeming like it got me in ahead of most other people, so it was a very tranquil swim and laze about under the waterfall. I couldn’t interest the other half, though – computer games were much more his thing.

After the swim, I sat outside the van and sewed. It was really quite a tranquil place, for a caravan park.

The campground water supply was off, intermittently, from mid afternoon, until after dark. There had been a warning notice posted, saying “Water off from 3am to 12pm” – hmmmm…..not much help.

I cooked BBQ lamb chops for tea, in the electric frypan. They were extremely tough. I had expected better from the Emerald butcher.

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2009 Travels June 22


It was a cloudy day.

We had to do the full pack up this morning. Left about 9.30am.

I had thought The Lakes was fine for our purposes, nice and central, but John said he wouldn’t want to stay there again. He couldn’t really give a reason why, just “a feeling”. That was the third park we’d stayed at in this town. The first, behind a roadhouse on the southern edge, back in 1998, didn’t really draw us back. The second, Rowe’s Bay, I liked for its closeness to beach walking and the Strand, but it was rather too much backpacker inhabited. As we were heading north, saw a Big 4 park on the outskirts that looked alright, as we passed. Filed that one away for future reference, should we need it.

The drive to Rollingstone was very pleasant. There was a mix of the scrubby woodland native to this area, and farmland. The ranges off to the west added interest. The railway paralleled the highway, at times; there was always variety in looking out for trains.

View to the west from the highway

As soon as we turned off the highway onto the road to the caravan park, we had to cross the railway line. We were held up there, by workers installing flashing lights on the crossing. A good idea, given the volume of traffic to the park, as well as the farms and houses along the road, and the fact that – with the crossing straight after a turn one way and a big bend the other, it wasn’t easy to see trains coming.

The Rollingstone Beach Caravan park was at the end of the road, with an impressive entrance. That augured well for its standard.

I paid $31.50, after discount, for a powered site. While we were at Reception I was able to order the newspapers for the whole week. Pleasing, as there were no nearby shops.

It was an unusually laid out park. Between the office and the sites there was a large lagoon complex, and then the sites and cabins were between the lagoons and the sea. I wondered if it had been a fish farm, in another life? It was very well groomed, with lovely green lawns. The lagoon ponds were aerated and had milk fish and barra in them – lots of quite big fish. I actually wondered if they’d ever had a crocodile wander up from the sea to chance its luck in the lagoons?

Our site was fairly small, but we considered ourselves lucky to get one at all, with the long weekend for the Townsville Show coming up. There was a walkway alongside our site, which made the neighbour on that side a bit further away. From our outside area, down the access road in front, we could see the sea and distant islands.

The beach was nothing special, but at least there was one. But there were mangroves not too far away, and definitely there were midges!

Halifax Bay, from the beach at Rollingstone

After setting up, we drove back to the highway, and south again for a couple of kms, to the Rollingstone township – really just a hamlet. John had directed that his computer update parcel be sent here, but it had not yet arrived.

Nearby was the Bushy Parker free camp area. It looked a large and pleasant parkland type area; there were not very many campers there.

After lunch, I couldn’t resist sampling the superb, resort lagoon style pool. It was huge, with a waterfall at one end. The water was cold, but pleasant. I envisaged regular returns to the pool.

There was quite a spectacular build up of clouds over the nearby range.

We went for a walk along the beach towards the north. The tide was out, so it was a bit smelly. Once away from the groomed frontage of the caravan park, the beach was backed by scrub, some swamps; there were little creeks and places where the mangroves came right to the water. We could see some houses set in the scrub – acreage beach front blocks had driveways off the road we came along to the park. The houses mostly seemed pretty shack like. The beach area along there seemed rather “croccy” to me. Later, we were told that a croc had been known to nest in the mangrove and scrub area along there.

For tea, I cooked potatoes in foil in the electric frypan, with the lid on, for a while, then opened it up and cooked steaks and tomatoes in there too. A good meal.

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2009 Travels June 21


Today was the shortest day – and our last in Townsville.

There was lots of cloud about in the morning, and it was very humid.

We went to the Showgrounds Markets, for fresh produce. Found them grottier than the Cotters Markets had been, and they didn’t have many more fresh produce stalls, which surprised me. But there were enough for us to get most of what we’d hoped for.

We drove to a sports store where John had seen a 10% discount sale advertised. Bought him long and short Skins, for bowls. The theory was that these eased the pressure on his hip and he would not be so sore and tired after a game.

Drove out to Cape Pallarenda, where we had not been before. There were quite extensive beaches out there, and it seemed much closer to Magnetic Island. Some people were fishing, but no action was happening for them.

Magnetic Island from Pallarenda beach

We wandered around and explored a little. There was a good outlook back towards the city with Castle Hill behind it.

This really shows how Castle Hill looms over Townsville

The suburb of Pallarenda, on the way to the Cape, was rather an oasis and appeared quite upmarket and exclusive.

John wanted to have a look at the airport, so we drove in there. Yes, there was a car park, a terminal building, some runways beyond, but no planes. Now he’d been there!

We’d intended to then go to the top of Castle Hill – by vehicle, not walking or running, as a number of locals did! However, I couldn’t find the way, because the  road that was the access, according to my map, we found was closed for new bridge works. There were no signs about alternative routes, so we gave up. Had driven up there years ago, anyway.

That was it for the day. John really had to make an effort, these days, to do much  “tourist stuff”, although he usually enjoyed same when he did.

Cape Pallarenda

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2009 Travels June 20


There was some cloud about. I walked to the Castletown shops for the weekend papers.

After lunch, drove to the Strand. Being the weekend, there were lots of people out and about and it was harder to get parking. We had to go some way up a side street for it.

Walked on the Strand. There were a couple of weddings happening – great setting for them.

Sat for a while and watched children enjoying the brilliant water playground that was a feature. I wished I could magically transport the three grandchildren here – they would adore it.

Back at camp, I made an Asian style prawn salad for tea.

I did regret having made our booking here for such a long period. It had seemed the right thing at the time, with the uncertainty over how long Truck repairs would take, and with the busy season pressure on bookings – school holidays and the like. But the time here was dragging for me, and I was conscious of all those lovely other places we could be exploring.

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2009 Travels June 19


In the morning, we drove across to the fishermen’s marina fish shop and bought barra and prawns.

Looking across towards the industrial areas and the river mouth – and one incongruous highrise.

We played bowls in the afternoon, at the Jubilee Club. A and S were there too. I did not enjoy the time, playing with John as my skip. It is perfectly obvious to me if my bowl is too wide, narrow, short or long. I did not need it pointed out. I also knew, in theory, how to fix the next one, without exasperated instructions. OK, the execution might not work out as planned/hoped, but at least I did try. Enough about that!

I cooked the barra for tea. John went and bought chips to go with it, from the nearby Red Rooster shop.

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2009 Travels June 18


The day was cloudy at times. It almost seemed like it might rain, but didn’t.

After breakfast, we walked to the Castletown shops, for assorted “stuff”.

John arranged to bowl at Thuringowa, and phoned A’s husband, S, to persuade him to go too. They arrived after our early lunch. A left S with John, for transport, and she drove us to the Jubilee Club, only a few blocks away. There, we sat round for over an hour, before the game started. Not being into daytime drinking, smoking or playing pokies, this sort of wasted time always annoyed me.

The rest of the afternoon was alright, with games of reasonable standard. Because it was social bowls, they decided the prize would go to whichever team had won by the smallest margin. That was my team, because we had won by 1. The prize was $7 – and it had cost me $8 to play! They were not generous with prizes, here!

John and S got back to the van soon after us, and we sat having a pleasant chat session for a while. They, and some others from our home club, always stayed at a caravan park on the eastern edge of town – it was a bit cheaper, they said.

As afternoon tea had been served to us both, at bowls, we only felt like a light tea. I made up my fall back Asian style soup – packet chicken noodle, enhanced with ham, spring onions, tinned creamed corn, sesame oil and strands of egg.

After tea, I read and John played his new computer game, which he deemed alright.

Then a curlew started its eerie calling, nearby. From the back window, I could see that it was on the grass right behind the van. John tried to sneak out to watch it more closely, but it ran off. It can be so hard to actually see curlews. They camouflage really well and are usually shy, so we felt quite privileged. But I hoped it did not start up again in the middle of the night. Whilst I loved their calls, now that I knew what was making the screaming, it was still not a pleasant way to be jolted out of sleep.

Places where curlews hang out – and the lake behind the park

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2009 Travels June 17


Some cumulus built up over the ranges behind Townsville, through the day, but then cleared away. It became more humid.

In the morning, John messed about on the computer, doing stuff related to his coming role in our bowls club, as a teams selector. I read and sewed.

After lunch, we drove to Garbutt and collected a bag of mail from home, from the PO there.

Continued on to the Strand, found a place to park, and then walked along it, as far as where a very natural looking, but man-made waterfall, cascades down the face of a rock cutting.

The waterfall by the Strand

John needed to rest a couple of times along the way, and he turned back when we were level with the falls. I kept going, on past the Customs House and former Queens Hotel – very well preserved and lovely old buildings. I’d really wanted to have a wander through the older, historic part of the city and – whilst this wasn’t a wander, at least it was a taste. I enjoyed being able to walk at a really brisk pace.

Retracing the way, I soon caught back up with John, who had stopped to watch machines at work replacing the eroded beach sands. We walked out onto the Fishing Jetty and sat out there for a while, watching a guy netting bait and cruelly leaving little fish to die on the floor of the jetty.

The Fishing Jetty and Castle Hill

Back at camp, investigated the mail bag contents. It contained the notice of my fortnightly pension payment. It was not going to make me rich. In fact, it wouldn’t even cover the caravan park fees for a fortnight – but it was a bonus I had not been expecting at all, so I was not complaining.

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2009 Travels June 16


Today, I became an old-age pensioner! Well, an old-age part-pensioner. Did I feel old? No – but I remembered a time when people I knew who were pensioners, seemed old!

Off John and Truck went. I did some more washing. They were back by 11.30 – all fixed. The Landrover man had quickly identified that the brake booster unit – a big, round, thing just under the bonnet – had a couple of almost microscopic cracks in it – metal fatigue. He had one in stock, so it had been quick to replace. All up, cost $360. John was very pleased. He said the brakes felt excellent.

Now that the Truck issues were resolved, I phoned the caravan park at Rollingstone, to book us in there for a week, after our time here was up. We had not been there before, and it seemed like it would be a good base to explore the surrounding country. Also, not too much further on, in case there did turn out to be more issues with Truck. I’d kind of lost some faith, this trip.

After lunch, went for a drive, with the aim of visiting Townsville’s northern beaches. We diverted off to look at Bushland Beach, a site of new sub-divisions, where we were attracted to tour a display home that was open. Chatted with the salesman about building methods up here, land subdivision, and Townsville’s development and spread in general. The salesman estimated that, to build that sort of house, put in a shed for John and a pool – essential in this sort of climate in summer – we’d need about a 750 square metre block, and we’d be up for northwards of $500,000. Yikes! Keeping our Melbourne base. where we had all the above except the warmer weather, still looked the better option. We had a bigger garden at home, as well, to grow our summer vegies.

Whilst in the area, went to have a look at the beach. Thought it looked pretty ordinary, with mangrove stands at each end. To me, mangroves equal sandflies, which equal undesirable place to be. It made a pretty photo, though.

Bushland Beach at low tide – mangroves in the distance

Drove back to town, where we parked at Kissing Point – great name! Later research indicated it was named for a similarly called place in Sydney. Nothing romantic: the NSW version was the furthest point up the Parramatta River that boats could reach before their keels kissed the bottom. I preferred the romantic connotations my imagination had come up with.

From there, we walked along the Strand – Townsville’s wonderfully attractive parklands and path along the waterfront – as far as the Fishing Jetty. This was not much distance. John was very slow today, and needed rests along the way.

Magnetic island from the Strand

Whilst walking we gazed at the assorted beach front apartments, and played the game of saying which one we’d buy, if we won a lottery. A winter holiday apartment…… with seriously magic views over the Strand and out to Magnetic Island and the other islands. But then decided that, if we had that sort of money, we would just rent, short-term, and thus not be tied to any one place. Dream on!

The Strand – and apartments with a great view

The Council had done an excellent job of developing and landscaping the Strand area and making it a wonderful resource for people of all ages. At intervals, there were metal sculptures of sea creatures – convenient resting places for the slow one. The wild weather earlier in the year had done some damage along the beachfront that was still being repaired.

One is a dugong….

Even though Townsville did not have the image of a tourist town, there was really quite a lot here to see and do. I found it a very pleasant place.

Back to the van then, and the making of fried rice for tea.

There was an unexpected phone call. from A, a lady from our home bowls club. She and her husband spent some of each winter here, as did quite a few bowlers from our club. She’d picked up from someone from Sunday’s bowls, that we were here. She asked me to play bowls on Thursday, at the Jubilee Club. I assumed it was mixed, and agreed. Then, it became clear it was a women’s only afternoon. Blindsided! John was very amused. He said he’d find a game for himself somewhere else.