John wanted to go driving. We had done very little driving and exploring since getting here, mostly because we did a lot of that in 2009, and there really wasn’t much that felt “undone”.
Went first to Taylors Beach, where we had stayed in 2009, because John had no recollection of that. It remained in my memory as a caravan park with small sites, not enough room for all the boats that campers squeezed into all available space, and where John, in giving me directions to reverse the caravan onto site, backed me neatly into a palm tree. Also, despite the name, there was no beach, just a river inlet.
When we got to Taylors Beach, John said he still really didn’t remember the place. Fair enough – it wasn’t a memorable stay.
We cruised past the caravan park, which still looked packed out, then stopped at a park area on the river edge. The tide was out, and moored boats were lying on the sand. We continued on.
The route took us through Halifax and on to Lucinda. John was fiddling about with his dash cam, the latest toy, which would not record for any length of time. It indicated that the battery was flat, which he couldn’t explain. I noticed there was no red light showing on the charger which was plugged into the cigarette lighter outlet, so John worked out that there was a charger problem. So he stopped fiddling with it whilst driving, and stopping regularly to try to fix it – for which I was grateful. That was tedious. I am definitely not a “gadget” person.
The big caravan park at Lucinda was full. We’d noted it four years ago as a good-looking park; one populated in the winter months by regulars who stay there every year for months at a time. I find such places can be “cliquey”, especially when so many of the people are into fishing and boats. It was academic for us now, anyway, because it doesn’t take dogs.
John did not feel like walking on the beach there, or taking the path and overhead stairs to go over the sugar wharf complex to the old barge jetty, where people fish and there are great views across the channel over to Hinchinbrook Island. So we cruised around in the car, looked at the village, then drove out the Dungeness road to the upmarket Hinchinbrook Cove Marina and Resort. That area was as we remembered it, with quite a Sunday crowd.
Back at Lucinda, bought lunch from the take away shop. John had a hamburger with the lot, for $11; he said it was great. I bought some chips, for $4 and two potato cakes, which cost $1 each. The chips were alright, not great, but the potato cakes were awful and I didn’t eat them.
We ate at a table in the very nice foreshore park, with its view of the long sugar loading wharf. There was a steady procession of caravans and motorhomes arriving, parking, and occupants going for a walk and look around. I wondered how many of these had assumed they would be able to get into the caravan park in such an out-of-the-way place, without a booking?
Drove back to Bus and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
Talked for a while with the fishing neighbours, who had done a lot of travel and fossicking. They recommended some caravan parks for when we head south again: Cape Palmerston, Woodgate and Kinka Beach.
A light tea was in order. Coleslaw, pineapple salad, followed by strawberries and yoghurt.
I texted daughter asking her to send our mail tomorrow. Once we left here, I didn’t know where we would be, or for how long……yet to be decided.
We got out of that site a good deal easier than we got in! Helped by the fact that the people on the opposite site had departed early. Their large 4WD and boat on its trailer, had been parked in the road in front of the site and they hadn’t offered to move it when we were trying to back in last week.
Won’t be going back to Taylors Beach. Apart from being unimpressed with the park, there wasn’t much for people like us to do in the area.
It was a rather routine run back to Townsville. There seemed to be a lot of vans going north. We were definitely bucking the trend.
We stopped at a produce stall near Ingham and bought passionfruit, beans, bananas, potatoes.
Woodlands Big 4 Holiday Park was the one I’d noted as looking good as we came north, recently. It was on the northern fringe of the city.
Our powered site was much better than I expected, given it had been the last one left. It cost $27 a night, after discount, for the week, and $31.50 for the extra night. It was quite large and easy to get into. There was no slab, just grass, which was fine by us. The site had afternoon shade. It backed onto a cabin and was not too far from the amenities, which were of the individual bathroom style – very new and very nice. TV reception was excellent, so John was happy, and there were three bars on the phone, so internet was alright too. The pool looked quite inviting too.
By the time we were set up, it was late afternoon. We went for a walk around the park. It had a number of permanent dwellers in a section away from us. There were a couple of rows of ensuite tourist sites, too, but those sites were much smaller than the one we were on.
The fridge seemed to have worked normally today. Grrrr!
I made Atlantic salmon patties for tea.
There was a program called MasterChef on TV tonight, that we watched for the first time. I was probably the last person in the nation to discover it, given my usual lack of interest in things TV. But I really enjoyed it. They cooked a whole salmon and a chocolate-y dessert. I kept thinking that, back in 2005, when I was trying to convert this home cook into a professional seeming remote area caterer, I really could have done with having watched a program like this! Not that I had whole Atlantic salmon – or any Atlantic salmon, for that matter, but I might have picked up some good tips for the whole barramundi and threadfin salmon that I did have up there. I would continue to watch that program, for sure.
Another “in” day today, although the fridge appeared to be working fairly normally again. I was almost in two minds about whether we did need to go back to Townsville. As far as John was concerned though, it was a done deal.
He spent much of the day inside, on the computer.
I sat outside, doing the usual things – diary, reading, sewing – and watching new arrivals trying to fit onto these difficult sites. Every one I saw had difficulties – which made me feel a bit better about our less than glorious efforts of the other day.
Late in the afternoon, we went for a walk up to the inlet and along it, on a road beside it, for a little way. It was not very far, but John was battling. He was now also worried about a knee hurting too. Possibly he was trying to compensate for the hip, and that had affected the knee. Wearing our elastic knee brace bandage seemed to help.
Then we packed up the awning and outside stuff, so it wouldn’t be wet to pack away in the morning.
I didn’t sleep well last night. Sometime, during my waking periods, I became aware that the fridge was not behaving properly. Then, of course, I couldn’t sleep, but kept listening to it. Seemed to me that it was running for far too long, then starting up again far too quickly – even making allowances for the heat.
In the morning, John agreed with me. Naturally, it was a public holiday today in Ingham, for the Show. Rather than wait until Monday to try to find someone who might be able to deal with it, he started phoning refrigeration places in Townsville. One gave him the name of a place that would work on our type of fridge. John booked it in for Monday.
We are going back to bloody Townsville!
He also managed to get us into the Woodlands Caravan Park – for EIGHT days! It was the V8 Super Car Race period and they told him it was the last spot they had.
I hadn’t envisaged going back there at all, let alone for so long. But I guessed, just like last time, it allowed plenty of time for the repair work and, if I was being uncharitable, for lots of bowls.
I phoned Cardwell and cancelled my bookings. The tour company said they would hold the deposit money I’d paid by card, against a future Hinchinbrook trip. Right now, that possibility seemed a tad on the optimistic side, given the way this trip was going!
I did not want to do any driving trips today, having decided to turn the fridge on and off manually. There was too much cold stuff in there to fit in the outside Chescold, and I really didn’t want to lose my frozen seafood and meat, if it could be helped.
The fridge was very iced up – probably from all that extra running, so I defrosted it. Didn’t make much difference.
I reminded John that we had a spare thermostat, left from 2007, when we’d bought one and didn’t need it. He’d forgotten all about that, but after a search, found it in “his” cupboard of bits and pieces. He phoned the Melbourne dealer in Vitrifrigo parts and ordered a new fan too, to be sent up to us in Townsville, asap.
John drove into Halifax, where shops were still open, and bought some glue. He wanted to do some repair patching to the flyscreen meshes on the poptop openings. Insects like moths and flies had, over time, gotten into the van, then died trying to get out the screened top openings. The bodies fell down to where the fixed mesh met the canvas zip-up flap. Then some birds have thought they’d spied an easy feed, and pecked holes in the mesh from outside! John cut little squares of plastic mesh that he carried for this purpose, and glued them over the holes. Not particularly pretty, but effective – and needed in these areas of midges.
I read, sewed, operated the fridge, then cooked barra in beer batter for tea. Very good it was, too.
The humidity here, and the day/night temperature range, was causing much condensation under the awning roof overnight, and in the mornings, until the sun dried it off, it dripped onto everything below. That would normally include me, sitting outside with my morning coffee and juice!
It was another slow morning, as John slept in.
I went for a long walk around the streets of the village. It was hot, but the exercise was welcome. I noticed that the grid of streets all had “fish” names – Grunter, Groper, John Dory, Herring, Bream and the like. The village seemed to be a mix of holiday homes and permanently occupied ones – the latter probably in the minority.
After lunch we drove back through the intriguing sugar cane country to have another look around Dungeness and Lucinda. We spent a while at the Dungeness boat launch area, watching boats come and go.
At that time of the day most were coming in. It was interesting, watching the different types of boats – and especially the differing levels of competency of the drivers, at getting them back in! That was actually very entertaining, though I suspect some of the less competent mariners did not appreciate the audience.
Then back to camp, so John could head off in good time for his early evening bowls. He bought a Subway tea in Ingham, first. I had soup for tea, and some cheese and biccies.
I phoned Cardwell and booked into a caravan park there, for five nights, and also booked a boat trip to Hinchinbrook Island, for next Tuesday.
I had a very welcome email from friend M, who was over in the west again this year, with another set of travelling friends. She said they had reached Kalgoorlie ok, after bad weather and head winds across the Nullarbor. Tomorrow they were heading to Wiluna, and thence up the Canning Stock Route to Halls Creek. That was going to be an adventure, that would take them at least three weeks. We had, months ago, thought about joining that planned trip, but John was not keen. He didn’t trust the mechanical state of Truck, this year, to tackle the sand dunes and rough surfaces of the Canning. He also felt that demanding driving would be too hard on the problematic hips. It was a pity, but understandable. However, M’s email did make me wish that we were going, too!
John enjoyed the evening of bowls, and the people he met at the club. Very positive.
In the morning, John got involved in trying to use his Access program to make bowls records.
I wrote up the diary, read, sewed, walked around the caravan park – that did not take long. Disappointingly, from this park, the only walking options seem to involve walking around the streets of the settlement – and not on footpaths either, just on the road edge or on nature strips.
Had an early lunch and then set off for some serious tourist adventures – hopefully.
As we got to Halifax, John decided we must stop at a fishing tackle shop he saw, so he could have a browse in same. I waited in Truck. He came back with a prawn peeling device that looked like it might just work.
Just out of Halifax, saw a cane train pulling “different” carriages, like small vats, instead of the usual wire sided containers of cane. Realized they were carrying processed sugar from a mill to the bulk ship-loading facility at Lucinda. We could see raw sugar around the top opening on some of the vats, where it had spilt over in loading.
We got ahead of the train at one point, so I got the chance to get out of Truck to take some photos. The driver waved and hooted at me – I guess it was some variety in his slow, tootly journey.
It had already become evident to us, firstly, that there were heaps of cane railway crossings on these district roads, and secondly, that often these did not have a great line of sight. Cane trains travelled fairly slowly, but I wondered how many crossing collisions with cars there were, in an average cane season?
From Halifax, took the Lucinda road, and as we came into that village, turned left to go out to Dungeness to have a look. Here, on a tidal inlet connected to the Herbert River, there was a large resort-type development, a small number of houses, and a boat launch ramp.
The channel between Dungeness and Hinchinbrook Island was fairly narrow and the island loomed large across it.
With some cloud down over the mountainous top of Hinchinbrook Island, it looked brooding and mysterious.
Dungeness was an attractive spot – pity it had no caravan or camping facilities.
We walked around the boat ramp area and took photos and just generally admired the place.
Then drove the few kms back to Lucinda. The good-sized caravan park there looked totally full. Lots of boats there too, but the internal roads were a lot wider than at Taylors Beach, so it was not so much of an obstacle course. It was, clearly, also a winter destination for lots of “fishy” people. The blurb in my tourist brochure described it as an oceanfront caravan park, but this ignored the existence of a large park between it and the sea!
Any views of Hinchinbrook Island from Lucinda – which would have been spectacular – were obscured by the 5.6km long sugar loading conveyor pier and the associated train unloading and sugar storage facilities. It was all quite industrial.
There was no public access along the jetty structure that carried the sugar way out to where the ocean was deep enough for ships to dock. The structure was so long we couldn’t see its end.
There was a staircase and walkway across the sugar terminal installations, that gave foot access to a landing and fishing jetty beyond. It might have been the village’s main jetty before the sugar facility was built but there was no vehicle access to it now. We did the trek across to the jetty. There were great views from that, of the Island and the opening of the Hinchinbrook Channel.
The afternoon light on the water made it very photogenic.
There was also a walking path along the Lucinda foreshore, but we didn’t do that.
Had to drive back to Ingham. I needed to shop for some of the ingredients needed for the pineapple salad that John fancied for tea – chillies, cashews, fish sauce and coriander. He also bought a couple of casks of wine.
Decided to go for a walk at the Tyto Wetlands. It was almost 5pm by then, though, so too late to do the full circuit and dawdle to spot birds. We walked to the first viewing point, past some indigenous boys – about 10-12 years old – who were swimming in one of the ponds. They were also using stakes – that had been nearby young tree supports – to dig up mussels and try to “spear” some little wallabies grazing nearby. I could not imagine that the wetlands staff were happy about such activities, but maybe they could not do anything to prevent same.
John was not walking well. Maybe another day we would be able to do more, here.
Refuelled Truck and went back to camp.
It took me until almost 7pm to get the salads made for tea – pineapple and potato ones. Late meal for us. There was a definite smell of cooking fish around the caravan park!
After tea, John spent time on the computer, I read.
TUESDAY 30 JUNE ROLLINGSTONE TO TAYLORS BEACH 125KMS
Today was quite a cloudy day and rather humid.
We were up very early again, for the same reasons as yesterday. The diminished number of children had not resulted in diminished noise. As well, the group had offloaded their own private washing machine from one of the vehicles and set it up, out in the open. That had begun being used well before 7am.
The psychology of larger groups in an environment like a campground is interesting – a form of collective bullying of “lesser” campers, the ones who are only in pairs or singles.
Hitching up the van did not go smoothly. We were far enough forward on the front slope of the site that, when the handbrake was let off – which it had to be so that I could guide and wiggle the Treg coupling into its slot on Truck – one van wheel rolled off its levelling block. That wasn’t a problem in itself as the van only moved a short distance, but the jockey wheel also moved – off the base board, and turned itself sideways.
We then had a “discussion” about how much harder it was going to be, then, to get the van on – made worse because I had wanted us to push the van back a bit, off the slope, in the first place. So the one of us who was dogmatic that it was not going to be so hard, got told to do the hitching – and I would do the backing!
Unfortunately, I was not as good as John at holding Truck on the clutch and inching backwards, so in the end he took over the backing again. One of the guys from the family group came over to help push the van around, and all got hitched. I was very grateful to him. But nothing more was said about it being easy! We hadn’t had one of these hitch issues for a long time.
We called in at the pineapple farm on the way past, and stocked up with a couple. John liked to have them for breakfast.
The drive north was very attractive, through the sugar cane areas, with the mountain range to the west becoming higher and sharper.
Ingham was a somewhat bigger town than I had expected. We must have driven through it, in 1998, but I did not remember it.
We took the turn off to Forrest Beach, to have a look at that, in case Taylors Beach – where I’d phoned yesterday to book – wasn’t suitable. We found the beach at Forrest Beach long and lovely. It looked a great beach for walking, and the outlook to the south was excellent.
There was a little village township there – Allingham – with a few shops. The caravan park was part of a hotel-motel complex, but down an access track so somewhat separate. It was small, but looked alright. The amenities were basic, and only fairly clean. The park was just behind the beach dunes. Some of the sites had views to sea, and there was a walk track to the beach. It would certainly have been ok to stay at.
We continued on to Taylors Beach. Did not have to go all the way back into Ingham, but were able to turn off onto a back road to Halifax, at the large Victoria Sugar Mill. Judging from the smoking chimneys, it was working. The road took us through the surrounding Victoria Estate, that contained substantial houses – maybe for mill workers?
The turn off onto the Taylors Beach Road was just before Halifax. The cane farms gave way to bush, swamps and mangroves each side of the road, which made me dubious, but then the scrub opened out and a sizeable village appeared.
We followed signs through the village to the boat ramp, on an inlet, to see what the waterfront was like. It was disappointing. There was no long, open ocean frontage, like at Forrest Beach, but a big tidal inlet. The tide was out, and there were lots of sand bars and a few small, sandy beach areas. The open sea was visible a way to the left of the boat ramp. John reckoned this would be a good place to stay. Whereas I’d had visions of long beach walks, he seemed to suddenly have visions of fishing in the inlet.
The caravan park office was the general store for the village as well. Our powered site cost $27 a night. On the phone, I’d booked for five nights and when checking in was told the site was not available for any longer. So, five days only it would be.
The site was a hard one to back on to, not helped by a narrow internal road partly filled by parked boats and vehicles, due to the sites themselves being quite small.
We adopted our usual van siting procedure – John outside the vehicle, directing me driving. John’s first attempt at directing me onto the site was fine – but we were on the wrong side of the slab! When doing this, I just do as I’m directed, even when I know the directions were wrong – it usually worked well, and saved a lot of recriminations. On the second attempt, it was hard to get lined up at the right angle or distance from the slab, in a narrow space between it and a line of palm trees. It took a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. Truck could not be angled to a straight line because of the boat and vehicle obstacle occupying half the roadway across from our site. Then, John said to go back, I did – and backed the corner of the van into a palm tree! It turned out he’d only been looking up one side. It put a little dent in the back edge beading. Then, we were too far from the slab edge, so after unhitching we manhandled the van ourselves to get it lined up better.
It was definitely not one of our better van days!
One boundary of the park, behind the sites opposite us, was mangrove scrub, so I was fairly certain we’d have to be alert for sandflies, later in the day.
A reason I’d chosen here – from the information in the promo leaflets – was that this place had a pool. I was hoping for something pleasant-seeming to swim in, like Rollingstone’s had been. But the pool here was a small, concrete edged rectangle, smaller than our pool at home. Whilst clean, it did not really look enticing. So I decided from the outset that this had not been one of my better choices. It was definitely a park for travellers with boats, as well as vans.
But we did have five bar phone coverage, and hence internet.
Set up, had lunch, then John wanted to drive back to Ingham to investigate bowls possibilities.
We drove to Halifax first, since we had to pass close by it anyway. It was a very small place, more of a village really. Drove through its main street, then went back the way we’d come and on towards Ingham.
Saw lots of cane trains working in the area. For most of our outing, we were driving on roads through tall and “flowering” cane.
Occasionally, there were glimpses of the wide and muddy Herbert River, through the scrub beside the road to our right. There was another sugar mill across the river – Macknade – belching smoke.
Drove to the Ingham Information Centre, with its adjacent Tyto Wetlands. It was a very modern and well done Information Centre, with heaps of information about birds, especially the wetland ones. I bought a book about walks in the area north of Townsville, for $20, and picked up lots of information material. A man volunteering at the Centre was also a bowler, and told John there were two clubs in the area. That was one more than John had expected! The one in Ingham played social bowls on Thursday nights, so he decided to investigate that.
The Tyto Wetlands walk looked interesting, but would have to wait for another time when we were wearing more suitable footwear, and when investigating bowls was not so pressing.
Found the bowls club, where John went and put his name down for Thursday night.
Drove back to Halifax, the way we had come in, then across the Herbert River – there was a good view of it from the bridge – to go and investigate the bowls club at MacKnade, which was the other one John had been told of. We meandered all around small roads through cane farms and around the sugar mill area, and eventually found the club, in the most unlikely location of right at the mill. There was no one there, but John went and read the information posted on their notice board.
We had seen a lot of bowls clubs in our travels, but never one sited quite like this one!
Then back to camp.
Tea was Mongolian lamb and rice noodles.
We hadn’t won last night’s $100 million lotto draw – drat!