This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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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.

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2009 Travels June 15


John left before 8am to take Truck to the brake service place.

I washed the bedding.

Truck and driver were back again quite soon. The problem was not the “servo” (don’t ask me), as the guy had assumed, on Friday. The issue appeared to be the vacuum pump. Some sort of test measured at 7, when it should have been over 20. Naturally, that was a part that our incompetent mechanic had actually replaced – and charged a heap for – just before we left home.

When John had gone back to him, from Bendigo, the man must have realized what the problem would be – either he couldn’t be bothered dealing with it, or he didn’t want to admit that he’d stuffed up, somehow.

John was furious, all over again. Apparently, there was a chance that the camshaft might need replacing, but if that was the case, then Mr Incompetent should have been able to figure that out, too. I didn’t know what a camshaft does, but didn’t think it had anything to do with brakes?

So, we still had a brake problem…..

When we were in Charters Towers, nephew M told John about a place in Townsville called All Old Landrovers, where the guy was a devotee of the brand. John phoned him; he was very busy but said John could take Truck there tomorrow at 9.30am, he would supervise and John could do at least some of the work. He said he had the required parts there. Hmmm…..this could be interesting…..

We walked to Castletown shops. Browsed. At a bookshop, John bought Access for Dummies – he’s keen to learn Access. I bought five paperbacks in one of those 5 for $…… We consumed Gloria Jean coffees – a win for me since John considers buying coffee a waste of money. He bought a new computer game – no comment! We went to check out mobile phones  because ours had stopped holding any charge for long.

Then we went back to the van, to ponder phone options. After lunch, John went back to the shop and got a new phone. It didn’t cost, he said, because we were still in plan, but he upped the plan to $30 a month, so it did actually cost us! He also bought a pre-paid phone card for the old phone – that means I will now have my own phone. In going through the manual for the new phone, realized we could have just bought a new battery for the old phone. How dumb are we? Oh well, the new phone was a much improved model – it “talked” the numbers input and had bigger keys.

Another view of our rather small site

A few days ago, John had phoned our doctor to write a new Celebrex script for him. He had phoned our house sitters at the same time, to ask if they could collect the script from doctor, and send it in the next mail bag. He also asked them to find and send his Access book, from home. Today, said Access book turned up in his stash of stuff in the van, so he had to call them back and apologize if they were still looking for it! They were very obliging sitters…..

It was a day of lots of phone calls. One also went to our computer person, about upgrading Windows, and that was duly arranged. I didn’t know why that could not have been arranged before we left home…

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2009 Travels June 13


My brother was turning 60 today. Didn’t know if he would be all that cheerful about the milestone.

It was a beautiful morning. Townsville was getting daytime temperatures in the mid to high 20’s. That’s more like a proper winter holiday! Last night, we hardly needed the doona – and the bedsocks had been put away again.

Almost warm enough for this – pool at the caravan park

I was up early, John later.

After breakfast, I walked to the Castletown shopping complex, further along Woolcock Street, but in the same block as the park – a very large block it was. I bought the weekend papers, milk, a new mascara. But my best and most essential purchase was a detailed street directory of Townsville! I browsed in a big bookshop. Wandering around the shops on my own, with no pressure to hurry, was delightful.

When I eventually returned to the van, it was to find that John had phoned a bowls club and put both our names down for a game this afternoon. Then he decided that I wouldn’t be back in time and phoned them again, to take my name off the list. Good – very good.

He went off to the North Ward Bowls Club, over near the Strand and the beach. I silently wished him luck trying to find his way there.

I read the papers and did some computing. I had been trying to record this trip as a blog, on a free site, but had found the program difficult, and hadn’t been able to incorporate photos into it. I wasn’t sure whether to persevere, or perhaps try to get a site designed for me. It was really frustrating, because I had intended to post about this trip, as we went.

John got back about 6pm. His afternoon, and game, had been “alright”.

Fish and salad dinner. Watched TV – football.