Brisbane bane

Saturday 15th November 2014.     Day 68

On our visit to the Powerhouse yesterday we had noticed Potted Potter, a comedy duo performing all seven Harry Potter novels on seventy minutes, an intriguing proposition to say the least. In sorting out today’s programme we thought it would be a good way to spend an evening. To balance our time we therefore decided to go out into Brisbane after lunch, then make our way to the venue to dine before the performance. This decided we booked two tickets online and then Eric sorted the photos for the blog while Joyce did the washing, some packing and prepared lunch.

We headed out at 1.30pm along Ann Street to look at some of the sights we had yet to cover. We had already seen some of the disruption caused by the summit but were not fully prepared for the full impact. Queues of traffic waiting to cross junctions, queues of people waiting to cross junctions and street barriers that restricted access to certain streets, all orchestrated by a large number of police with attendant paramedics, were the order of the day. As we waited to cross streets the occasional cavalcade of swish cars swished past, accompanied by large numbers of police outriders.

To make the tourist’s day even worse many places were shut for the day. Our first disappointment was that the Anglican cathedral, St John’s, was closed and the 2pm tour cancelled, so we admired the exterior and moved on. We popped into the Brisbane Arcade, decorated for Christmas complete with a gorgeous green and gold tree (which did seem incongruous in 39 C heat). We made our way to George Square and City Hall, and then decided to move to the Maritime Museum, using the free City Hopper ferry, which we caught at North Quay. This was our second disappointment as it too was closed. All around were packs of police on mountain bikes, clearly the G20 was the opportunity for police outward bound activities what with riding inflatable boats, bikes, horses and trail bikes. Dodging the sea of blue cyclists we walked into South Bank Park, through Street’s beach, complete with sand. Finding a chocolate café Joyce enjoyed an iced expresso chocolate while Eric was introduced to the delights of a lemon and mint granita (upmarket Mr Frosty) while watching groups of police, eight or ten strong, strolling around. Clearly this was the walking part of their adventure.

After our refreshment, Joyce had a paddle and we found a shady spot to lie and relax, before again boarding the ferry. Eric had underestimated the ferry travel time and the walk to the theatre from Sydney Street pier (thankfully the sun had set and there was a cooling breeze) so it was pushing 7.00pm when we arrived. The second restaurant we tried promised to supply a steak sandwich in ten minutes, which they did, so we were fed and watered just in time for the performance.

The entertainment was pure delight, a laugh from start to finish. Put on by two English performers it had wit, flair and a game of quidditch. Once finished we walked back to the pier and caught the ferry back to North Quay, admiring the lights of the city, starting with the light effects on the Story Bridge. Walking to George Square, where there was another light display for the G20, we passed a Myers store with its windows decorated for Christmas with Santa and the three bears. From here we walked to Central Station and caught the train back to Fortitude Valley, not wincing at the price as we were exhausted after our walks and needing to get ready for tomorrow.

Sunday 16th November 2014   Day 6    Dinky drive

We had booked a car hire from the airport for 10.00am and used our return ticket to travel to the Domestic Airport station. A phone call was needed to arrange a shuttle bus pick up, as the car hire base was south of the airport. Picking up the car was again straightforward, if a little time consuming, and by 11.00am we were heading north in our 3 door white compact car.

We stopped for cold drinks at King’s beach Caloundra, which had a gently sloping beach, rock pools at the edges of the bay and an open air swimming pool. We stopped briefly at nearby Shelly beach, which had more rock pools and following the coastline we visited Kawano beach, a long sandy beach, and then stopped for lunch at Port Cartwright in Buddina, overlooking Mooloolabah. Definitely a delightful area to return to.

From here we eschewed the A1, Bruce Highway, our gps directed us north on more rural roads to Noosa Heads, where we had a short stroll in the National Park along the cliffs to the viewpoint at Boiling Pans, where waves breaking along the crenulated raised beach platform created jets of water.

Having enjoyed the scenery we resumed our journey, finally reaching Hervey Bay via Maryborough at 6.15pm to find the motel reception closed. After a phone call we rescued our key from a safety deposit box and made ourselves at home, then popped out to enjoy an Italian meal just a few steps away.

Monday 17th November 2014.   Day 70 Dingo disappointment

Our two day trip to Fraser Island began with a pick up at 7.25am from outside the motel. On checking out at 7.00am Eric was delighted to find that not only could we leave the car at the motel we could keep our room, as we were booked back into it Tuesday night and this shed a deal of hassle.

The pick up worked well and we travelled to River Heads to catch the Fraser Island barge across to the biggest sand island in the world. Once across we joined our guide, Kev, who was a font of knowledge about the island, which is a depositional feature created by wave and wind action. Over 200 metres of sand has accumulated as a series of dunes which supports closed canopy forest, adapted to low nutrient conditions. There are no sealed roads on the island and 4 wd vehicles are essential to navigate the narrow sand tracks. Wildlife is dominated by birds, with small nocturnal marsupials and a significant number of dingoes, which we hoped to see. In fact there were reports of aggressive dingo attacks in the areas we were visiting. All through our visit we were encouraged to be ‘dingo aware’.

From the ferry port we drove via Central Station (an old logging camp) to McKenzie Lake, a perched freshwater lake fed by springwater from the groundwater under the dunes. It is an idyllic sport with crystal clear water lapping on brilliant white sand, set against the green of the forest. We much enjoyed our swim, another place well worth returning to.

Returning to Central Station we walked along the side of a creek, again crystal clear water running over white sand. Eric was fortunate to see a goanna crossing the creek on a fallen tree, just in front of him. He was equally fortunate not to be hit by a 5 metre branch of a tree which broke off from a tree 5 metres away from him upslope. Joyce was several metres in front of Eric, heard the cracking behind her and ran forward, then after it crashed, turned back to check Eric and the remainder of the group were all ok.

We then travelled to the Eurong resort for an excellent buffet lunch with an extensive range of hot and cold food. Afterwards we drove a short distance along the compacted sand of the beach on the east of the island to access Webby lake. This has been created by a sand blow blocking a creek. The level path had been flooded so the trip to the lake now involved a 2.3km walk over the active dune. Joyce declined the opportunity but Eric enjoyed the “stroll” and the swim in the freshwater pool. The bus driver took Joyce back to the resort where she was able to check into the room and then enjoy an ice cream by the pool.

Eric returned absolutely exhausted, having thoroughly enjoyed the “stroll” and lake, agreeing that Joyce would not have managed the hike over sand dunes. After a short rest we had dinner before retiring for a very early night’s sleep. Dingo sightings: 0.

Tuesday 18th November 2014. Day 71 Dingo dearth.

Breakfast at 7.00am and away by just after 8.00am. Today we travelled further along the eastern beach. We took advantage of a light aircraft trip to enjoy the island from above and to see many of the 40 lakes. Taking off and landing on the beach was an amazing experience. The coach stopped 10 kilometres up the beach and we landed right next to it.

We then visited the wreck of the SS Maheno, which was driven ashore during a cyclone while under tow to the scrap yard. Our next stop was the multi hued sands of Red Canyon, then a paddle in the Champagne Pools on Middle Pont, not at their best as they were full of sand and with the sea below the level for waves to create the champagne effect, except in one spot. We had morning coffee here before climbing Indian Head for an excellent view of the three headlands formed from thinly rock outcrop, a basalt, on the island, which acts as an anchor point for the sand deposits.

Lunch at the picnic tables at the Cathedral resort followed then a paddle and swim in Eli Creek to complete our visit. It had been cloudy all day, but short spells of sunshine reminded us of how hot it could be in the sun. We had some time back at the Eurong resort, had an ice cream and walked on to the beach and then Eric wandered alone along the beach, breaking the first rule of dingo awareness.

We then had a bone crunching return journey across the island to tha ferry port and sailed back to the mainland beneath the black canopy of a cumulo-nimbus cloud, which dutifully performed with heavy rain and spectacular lightning as we were driven back to our motel.

Not needing to check in we went straight to our room then drove out to find dinner, steak and duck in a Chinese establishment further along the Esplanade. Dingoes spotted today: 0.

Wednesday 19th November 2014   Day 72   Crossing Capricorn

Our next trips are booked from Airlie Beach, almost 900 kilometres to the north so we have two long driving days ahead. Leaving the motel just after 9.00 am we tried to find the tourist information to obtain maps of the next stage in the journey. Google maps let us down as there was no sign of any such place at the designated location. Mapless, but under gps guidance, we headed west and then turned north as we joined the A1, Bruce Highway.

Although the road is only single carriageway, with sections for overtaking, the lack of serious traffic means that a high average speed of 100 km/hour can be maintained on the open road. The route travels through forest, pastoral land and large areas of sugar cane production and the land is generally flat, although some hills are encountered. It generally runs inland and to reach the coast can involve significant detours.

Our first stop was in the town of Childers where we found a nice café for morning coffee. We admired the old buildings, including the old pharmacy and the federal hotel and visited the historical village.

Our next stop was Tannum Sands, which was less than impressive. We found a bakery to buy Eric a pie for lunch, Joyce was disappointed to find they had a very limited bakery range and went next door to buy bananas and apples, these were also poor quality. Not somewhere to be recommended. We eventually found a picnic table by a pretty lake with lots of water lilies, on Boyne Island. After lunch we drove to see the largest Alumina smelter in the southern hemisphere, narrowly missing the sewage works. We then visited Auckland Point in Gladstone, to take in the panorama of extensive port infrastructure for handling coal and aggregate exports and in contrast an attractive marina, watersports and parkland, donated by the coal exporters.

Our overnight stop was Rockhampton and just south of the town we passed 23.5o south, putting us back into the tropics and on the Capricorn coast. Once settled in to our motel we drove to Quay Street to find a restaurant, this one offering $10 steaks followed by a stroll along the riverside to admire the old buildings at night. An approaching thunderstorm encouraged us to return to our room where an early night was enforced by a prolonged power cut, following a series of rehearsals, as the storm passed over.

Thursday 20th November 2014   Day 73

Away by 8.15am for an even longer drive. We diverted to Emu Park and Rosslyn Bay where we visited the viewpoints on Double Head to admire the horizontal hexagonal jointing in a basalt plug.

After buying coffee in Yepoon we rejoined the A1 stopping at Sarina Beach for lunch in a beachfront café. On leaving Sarina we crossed the Hamilton Plains, with evidence of tower karst. Eric gazed wistfully at the signs for the Capricorn caves as we drove past, but time did not allow a visit. Reaching MacKay we saw a greater concentration of sugar cane activity, with many narrow gauge rail crossings and the warning to ‘give way to cane trains’. We then drove to our B&B in Airlie Beach, arriving just after 6.00pm.

Friday 21st November 2014   Day 74   Whitsunday wending

We had heard great things about the Whitsunday islands and today was our chance to test out the recommendations. Our pickup was set at 6.30am, a few streets away from our accommodation and we were up in good time, woken by the penetrating squawks of the local rainbow lorikeets. We found the point with no problem but at 6.30am we received a phone call asking where we were, as the bus was waiting at the Airlie Apartments. As it turned out we had passed this point, and the bus, on our way. Having resolved this matter the bus whisked us to Port Airlie where we boarded the 7.00am ferry which took us to Daydream Island and then Hamilton Island before depositing us on Whitehaven beach on Whitsunday Island itself, which is across the Whitsunday passage named by Captain Cook in 1770.

This routing took us through a maze of islands with long strips of beaches set against the green of the forests on the slopes behind. We saw a number of up market resorts and a variety of marina, each acting as a refuge for a wide variety of vessels, including some very large gin palaces. Whitehaven beach is a stunning 7 kilometres of brilliant white sand, very fine grains of quartz not coral, lapped by azure waters and it took no urging for us to disembark and to find a patch of shade from which to enjoy the views and a couple of swims in the warmest waters. Thankfully there were no stingers but we did see some small and medium sized fish on the shallows. This beach was voted as the best remote beach in Australia, while Wineglass Bay in Tasmania was number two.

All too soon the ferry, which had anchored off shore in the interim, was ready to leave and we completed the circumnavigation of Whitsunday Island, enjoying the undisputed beauty of the scenery, helped by the blazing tropical sunshine. We returned to Daydream Island where we had the afternoon to enjoy the resort. Walking to the south end of the island we saw what looked like a shark, with a black tipped fin and tail. Joyce enjoyed a swim in the swimming pool, while Eric dozed in the shade. Lunch at the Boathouse Bakery followed then more relaxing in the shade by the pool. We then walked back towards the ferry pier via a nature walk which took us high along the west side of the island. Reaching the other part of the resort we admired the local wallaby family grazing on the lawn, one mother with her joey headfirst in her pouch with one leg and its tail poking out, and the sea water lagoon with patches of coral and its variety of sea creatures, including some very large rays, before spending the last few minutes of our stay relaxing on mermaid beach, close to the three mermaid statues.

At 5.00pm the ferry left for Airlie Beach, where a bus returned us to the correct location, a short walk from our room

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