This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2002 Travels October 7-20

MONDAY 7 OCTOBER – SUNDAY 20 OCTOBER     TOWNSVILLE

The two weeks here seemed to go by really quickly, without us doing a great deal that was interesting. It was hot, even at the coast, and that really sapped our energy and motivation.

Townsville, we already knew, from a brief time here in ’98, was a good sized city, with lots and lots of shops – in which we spent some time. After the previous months, I had a new appreciation of shops – and choices! I really enjoyed having a full range of goods available – especially foodstuffs. Even had my hair cut – months since it had been cut by a proper hairdresser, though John had managed a reasonable effort, a couple of times.

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From postcard of Townsville. Our caravan park was behind beach on right

We availed ourselves of the fishermens’ co-op store, across in South Townsville. Bought fish and prawns there, visiting a couple of times, and stocking up the freezebox before we left.

Diesel here was so much cheaper – our first refill cost 80cpl.

John played a number of games of bowls. With several bowls clubs in Townsville, he had no shortage of options to choose from. He won a pedestal fan, which we decided to take home.

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We walked along the Strand – the walking path through park lands, by the sea. Sometimes I walked the Strand on my own, navigating through some streets and parks from the caravan park, to reach the Strand. Sometimes I walked in the other direction, along Rowes Bay beach and Cape Pallarenda road. I had a new appreciation both of being by the sea, and being able to walk around freely and safely.

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The Strand

Along the Strand was a fabulous water playground, the likes of which I had not seen before. There were all sorts of imaginative ways of playing and getting wet, from gently little streams falling from a high mushroom shape, to a large and sudden dump of water from a big bucket. It might have been designed for children, but I was very tempted…….

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Water play area along the Strand

We took a day trip to Magnetic Island, which one could see across the bay from Townsville. Caught one of the regular ferries across there. John was not keen on hiring a little runabout so we could get around the Island, which I’d wanted to do. We only had a few hours over there, having gotten rather a late start in the morning.

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Magnetic Island. Mainland and Townsville in background

We caught a bus from the ferry landing around to Nelly Bay, and then walked about, a bit. That was about the extent of it – couldn’t say we really saw that much of the place, which has a number of permanent residents, who commute over to Townsville.

We visited a gallery that we walked past – had not set out originally to do so. They had some quite striking pottery. We finished up buying a large, bulbous vase/urn shaped piece by Peter Andersson, finished with a rough orange and earth colour surface. It would not have been my first choice, but John really liked it. We arranged for it to be sent home; we would contact them when we were there, to send it.

We attempted to contact the lass who was the cook at Adels, who we thought would be home from there, by now. But she wasn’t. We talked with her mother, though.

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Site at Rowe’s Bay

When we were driving around South Townsville one day, John saw an auction house/second hand dealer. He loves looking around such places, so in we went. We finished up buying a new porta-cot, at a very good price, to be a present for my daughter, whose first child is due in February. Some juggling about of contents allowed us to fit the porta-cot into Truck.

John’s older daughter was also to have her first child, in March. At least not staying on in Doomadgee would allow us to be closer to the daughters, at that time.

One late afternoon, the Army (there is a strong defense force presence in Townsville) had some sort of ceremonial event, held on a park area by the Strand. We saw, over preceding days, the setting up for this, blocking off some streets, erecting a little castle like structure, and the like. On the set afternoon, we parked as close as we could get and then walked some distance to watch. There was a fair sized crowd turned out for it, but we never did work out quite what it was all about! It seemed to be just a ceremony, with a lot of marching, but not all that interesting. However, I did like getting to meet the little white shetland pony that was the regimental mascot.

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Military event in park by the Strand

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One day, John was browsing through the Townsville paper, and saw an advertisement for workers wanted for the coming mango harvest season. NAP – North Australian Plantations – were advertising. John was off and away again! Enthusiastic – just as he had been about Doomadgee. He said that we had camped lots of times in the shade of mango trees, and it would be interesting to stick around, for once, for when the fruit was ripe, and for the harvest. He was really into money-making mode now!

I did not mind the idea, and our house sitter was very amenable to us staying away!

So, John phoned the given number. Although NAP had mango plantations around Townsville, their main farms and packing sheds were 50kms south, at Giru.

We were asked to drive down there, one day, for a brief interview, which we duly did. Were told that we would be contacted when the harvest began – probably early November. We would work in the packing shed at Giru. We would be paid by the hour, at what seemed a reasonable rate. The number of hours worked each day would vary with the ripening of the fruit.

It would be a “different” experience, anyway.

While we were down at Giru, checked out where we could bring the van, to stay. The initial option – a sort-of caravan place just out of Giru, seemed rather run down and not at all welcoming.

We drove further south – another 37kms – to Ayr, where we inspected a caravan park and decided that would suit us fine. We would just have to manage the commute to Giru.

Thus we were left with an uncertain amount of time to fill in, before starting work again. The idea of staying on in Townsville was not really attractive. It seemed better to use the time to do some tourist type exploring in other places – maybe even as far away as a day’s drive from Ayr. We focussed on the area to the south, because if the mango work did not happen, then we would still be on our way home.

We stayed a day longer than the two weeks in Townsville, to give John an extra game of bowls. On his way, he filled Truck – 82cpl.


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2002 Travels October 6

SUNDAY 6 OCTOBER   MOUNT SURPRISE TO TOWNSVILLE   550kms

Today was a really long and hot day of driving. We continued east to the Kennedy Development Road, then south east to Charters Towers, then east again to Townsville. Back in ’98, we’d spent time at Charters Towers, so didn’t feel the need to stop there again.

Refuelled at the Lynd Junction Roadhouse – 97cpl.

The Kennedy Development Road was still a single strip of bitumen, but being Sunday we did not meet much oncoming traffic on it.

Booked into the Rowes Bay Caravan Park, in Townsville – chosen because it was across a road from the beach. It was $20 a night, but with the 7th night free.

The park was a mix of tourist and permanent sites, which were all fairly small. There was quite a backpacker presence there, but it was adequate for our needs.

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1998 Travels May 24

SUNDAY 24 MAY   AIRLIE BEACH TO TOWNSVILLE   285kms

All initially went well in the getting away process – until John had van and Truck just hitched up, but we still had to deal with the chains,  and the last minute things. So we were sticking out into the roadway – a non-through road for the sites further along from us. In a typical occurrence of Murphy’s Law, another rig was ready to go, and impatient. John went to back up for a metre or so, to get the right angle to pull van out. Truck would not go into reverse! He could not go forward as he was right up against a pole with a fire hose. Eventually, after much anxiety, he did get it into reverse, after engaging low range. It was a real hassle. We had to finish the pack up with the van parked some distance from our site, but at least pointing forwards! When tested again, there was still the problem with reverse.

We wondered  whether the gearbox has somehow been stuffed up with all the sand and salt, driving on Fraser Island. We were worrying, because this could be very costly. Also because we can’t stay here – will have to get the vehicle checked out by a Landrover dealer – it is still under warranty. But we were concerned that all the gears might go, whilst we are trying to get to somewhere with a dealer.

We took the back road from Cannon Valley, through Strathdickie, to the Bruce Highway, then on north. We did not drive into Bowen – the highway skirts the edge. Our Truck manual lists a dealer in Townsville, so that has become today’s goal.

The country we drove through today seemed drier than further south, with tall grassland between more widely spaced trees. It was mostly cattle country, interspersed with a few areas of sugar cane. The highway mostly ran parallel to inland ranges; occasionally we went through low gaps where there was higher ground on the coastal side, too.

Between Home Hill and Ayr, we crossed the really wide Burdekin River, on a high up silver steel bridge that looked like something from an old Meccano set. The metal framework extended over the top of the bridge, as well as up the sides. The bridge roadway is not all that wide, so there is not much room between passing vehicles. The bridge is over 1km long. There was a sugar mill just before the bridge, too.

We stopped for lunch at an excellent picnic area and rest stop on the outskirts of Ayr, making sure we did not need to reverse to get out again.

At Townsville, went into the Big 4 Walkabout Palms Caravan Park. It was the first park we came to, on our side of the highway, one where John could pull over, still facing forward, while I went in to see if they could take us. We paid $15.30 a night; they were fine about us not knowing how long we’d be staying. We were able to select our own site, too.

John decided we would attempt to reverse onto a nice, shaded, slabbed site. We could have driven straight through onto a grassed, not so nice one. I was told to try the reversing, on his instructions. I did get it into reverse, but it was not easy and I had to fiddle with High and Low Range to do it. I am wondering if that big clunk on Fraser is related to this? Anyway, we got the van onto our good site, and all set up.

The park office is in a big 24-hour roadhouse and we were given free coffee and biscuits – a nice touch. John indulged himself with a dim sim too.

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A worried 285 km drive today

We ventured out to go for a drive through the city, partly to locate the Landrover place where John will take Truck tomorrow. Townsville is so much bigger than I expected – 130,000 people! It is by far the biggest tropical city in Australia. I think I envisaged something like Mackay – certainly smaller than Darwin. So I am amazed. It is a sprawling place. There seems to be a lot of water lying about, and swamps. The Ross River flows through town – guess that is where the virus comes from? Certainly looks a happy place for mosquitoes!

Drove past the Landrover dealer – easy to find. Continued on to the sea front Strand, parked Truck, and walked along it. Part was footpath, part sand. We saw some very imaginative landscaping of a cliff face that backs onto part of the waterfront, with a man-made waterfall dropping some 20 metres into a fern grotto.

It was a very pleasant walk in the afternoon sea breeze. There were lots of tropical type smells. We walked past the Seabreeze Hotel where there was some sort of big and raucous event happening – it looked like some form of stripping and musical chairs!

There is much evidence of storm damage from earlier in the year. In January, while we were staying in Ballarat, the aftermath of a cyclone brought really heavy rain, over several days. Something like a metre of rain fell, parts of the city were under 3 metres of water and there was enormous damage. Great chunks of the sea wall and pavement area have been eroded and undermined.

There is a big marina at one end of the Strand.

Magnetic Island is just offshore – it looks big.

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Magnetic Island from the Strand at Townsville

Just before sunset, we drove up Castle Hill. This is a big, rocky monolith, some 286 metres high, that juts out of the surrounding flat ground. Townsville city splits around and surrounds it. Castle Hill is a real landmark for Townsville. A steep and winding sealed road goes up it. There were lots of people walking or running up and down its several kms length. The view from the top was excellent, and lovely as the lights started to come on, and there were some sunset colours.

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Sunset from Castle Hill – looking over Rowes Bay

Back at the van, tea was fries, mushrooms, steak, spinach. There was some of the latter left over – I must try to find a recipe for leftover spinach! Suppose I could freeze it.