Due South

Well, it’s been an adventure packed few days and it’s going to be hard to top it, so we thought “why bother?” and turned our wee van around and headed south.
Well, that’s not strictly true, we’ve had a lot of fun going north, but we’ve saved a few rippers for the journey south so that it’s not all driving down highways to Sydney and the undiscovered territory beyond.
Before we left Mon Repos, we took a walk down the beach, and found this little nipper lying on his back in the sand. On our way to the ranger, she sprang back to life, so she’s in the sea somewhere, at least with a better chance of survival than back on the beach. Fair well wee girl, hopefully you’ll be back on those shores in thirty years time!

Rum, turtles and gingerbeer!

The only place you can get up close and personal to all three is Bundaberg. First stop was the Bundaberg rum distillery. The Bundy rum and the company’s advertising genius Bundy the polar bear are a bit of an Aussie legend that hasn’t really made it across the water because everytime the company expands to export, the Aussies just drink more! The most memorable aspect of the distillery tour was the overwhelming odour of molasses that is piped in from the sugar mill next door. That and the alcohol fumes are almost enough to make you feel tipsy before you even get to your free tasters, one of which was a very tasty rum liqueur with chocolate, coffee and caramel in it (when mixed with cream it is just as tasty as Baileys). With our insides suitably warmed from the rum we headed off for the barrel, where they make the Bundaberg ginger beer. We didn’t even bother with the tour this time – just raided the shop for gingerbeer and hit the road.
When dusk fell it was time for the highlight of the day. Walking from our campsite we arrived at the Mon Repos turtle rookery where, because it is exactly the right time of year, we were hoping to be lucky enough to see either a female turtle nesting or some hatchlings emerge from their eggs. Reading up on these magnificent animals at the information centre we learned about their threatened status (mainly from humans sadly – their lights, fishing, pollution etc). We also learned that we might be in for about a 4 hour wait for a turtle event. Lady luck must have been shining on us however because after just an hour we were ushered down to the beach where we walked along in pitch black to see a beautiful loggerhead female (K67838 or K for short) digging her nest. We then watched in awe as she began to lay her 4th clutch of eggs this season. After the first 20 or so eggs she didn’t even care that we were there and so we could take photos of this miracle of nature before us. By the time we had watched 133 eggs emerge we were beginning to feel how tired she must have been. While we were watching her set to the task of covering up her nest we were treated to another special sight – a tiny little hatchling appeared, as if my magic, from underneath a little boy. Oh my, were we also about to witness 100s of little hatchlings emerge? You could almost feel the excitement build in our little group. After careful checking of the perimeter the ranger concluded that this little fella was probably an escaped hatchling from the group next to us. She explained that he had probably been confused by our lights and gotten lost on his way to the sea. Bonus for us though- we got to feel this little beauty tickle our palms, which he fit into beautifully with room to spare!
Back to our heroic K who was still packing the sand tightly around her precious offspring, during this time and on her long walk / shuffle back to the sea she had to stop several times to rest (not surprising when you think this is the 4th time she has done this recently and she will not have been taking the time to feed properly). Finally we said farewell to K and waved her off into the sea but our adventure wasn’t over, we were about to play an important part in the conservation of this beautiful species. Ranger Jae dug up her nest and we helped to relocate the eggs to a safer nest further up the dunes. Si and I each carried 4 little turtle to bes up to their new nest. Unfortunately the odds are against these little guys as only 1 in 1000 make it to breeding age 🙁 However we hope that we have given our little 8 champs a fighting start. What a night.

Fraser Island – sand, sand, and more sand!

Well there certainly was a lot of it, but less to see than you would imagine. The place is covered in thick forest (some of it rainforest), along with fifty odd lakes, an abundance of fresh water creeks and a couple of rocks thrown in for good measure too. There is enough sand to cover the Sahara, given that Fraser Island is over 600 metres deep in sand, and the sahara only 20 metres.
Our leisurely tour took us to the Maheno shipwreck, a lump of rust that was a ocean liner in the 20’s, until some Japanese sailors tried to tow it. The Champagne pools were about as close to a natural jacuzzi as you could get, huge waves crash over into rock pools, leaving a white fizzing foam behind for you to wallow in, although the best bit was getting caught unexpectedly by a huge white wave!
Camp for the night was pure luxury compared to our campervan, with a proper bed and wooden floors in the tent, the only thing tent-like was the canvas. We didn’t even need to make our own food, now that’s what I call camping!
The next day brought us lounging around in the warm fresh water of Lake Wabby, with little fish sucking dead skin off my legs, Catfish swimming past, and the occasional turtle sticking it’s head up in the distance. Final stop for the day was Lake Allom, with it’s little turtles swimming next to the shore, hanging around with their little ET like heads sticking up, until we got in for a swim that is!
With all the wildlife and lakes it’s easy to see why the aborignals call it the paradise island! It certainly feels like we’ve been in paradise for the last few days. Sure beats work anyway 😉

Big Pineapples!

After a quick bodyboard to wake us up, we booked a trip to Fraser Island, and drove what must be our longest drive so far – 200kms non-stop. The only thing that did warrant a detour was the Big Pineapple, just as we left Mooloolaba. It has that 70’s kitsch about it, essentially a 3 storey plastic pineapple you can walk up the inside of, for great views over a couple of pineapple patches, and what has to be the most optimistically sized car park for said attraction.
Anyway, we’ve made it to Hervey Bay and are now raring to go on our little 2 day adventure to Fraser Island!

Australia Day & Zoo!

What better way to celebrate Australia Day with the Australians than to go to Australia Zoo! As signs proclaim everywhere around the zoo, it’s the home of the crocodile hunter, the late Steve Irwin. The title is well earned, going by the number of crocs there, and the fact that each one has a bit of background explaining where and when each was caught by Steve. The zoo definitely has a different feel to other zoos, it’s all about getting close and experiencing the animals, so that you learn to love them and hopefully help protect them too. Each of the keepers exudes the same enthusiasm and love for the animals, and it’s good to know that the animals come first too.
The first animals we see are huge tortoises, they used to have one originally caught by Charles Darwin, that lived to 175 years old! Around the corner were three elephants waiting to be fed by the crowd, including us. With my piece of carrot swapped for elephant snot, we moved on to the Crocoseum, a huge arena with snake, bird and crocodile shows, all done by those enthusiastic keepers!
To round off Australia day, we ended up having a barbie with some Aussies in our campsite next to the beach whilst watching fireworks off in the distance, now I don’t think it gets more Australian than that!


Our whistlestop tour of Brisbane was completed with a trip to Mount Coot-tha, offering views over the city and beyond, and more importantly a road all the way to the top. Next stop was the Glasshouse Mountains, a set of 9 or so steep peaks sticking up from the otherwise flat plain. Most of the peaks require mountain climbing experiene to attempt, which left us with Mount Ngungun, described as “easy” by the guide. Well, if that’s easy I’m glad we didn’t attempt the others as we still ended up on all fours during our ascent, but the views more than made up for it!


The best way to start off the day in a new city is to have coffee with a local and Jon the Pom (Si’s Mum’s self-named friend) was full of useful facts and tips to send us on our way. It feels very strange to be in a city again but luckily Brisbane seems quite laid back and not at all as hectic as Sydney. Our day was spent with a brief forray into the museum followed by a long walk along the river.
Si ‘the thrill seeker’ Gormley is as we speak climbing the Story bridge (I’ll let him tell you the story!). I left him to it, not because I’m a big chicken but because I wasn’t wearing the right shoes – what a shame! For my slightly more tame adventure I hopped on the river cat for a sunset cruise. I must have timed it just right as the many bends in the river made it feel as though there were at least two sunsets, one on each side of the river, and for once, even I, was snap happy.
Bridge climb update – as Caroline “wrong shoes” McFadyen has said, I’ve just done the Story Bridge twilight climb, in lieu of the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, which was just too hard to book! The bridge is actually more Australian than the Sydney bridge, built by the same man, but of Australian materials, so I reckon it’s more of an Aussie adventure (it’s named after a civil servant called Story, not exciting but I thought I’d put your mind at rest…). After being decked out in jumpsuit and harnessed into what was essentially a belt with no hope of holding me up if I did fall, we began the climb. The first section underneath the road showed how much the bridge could rattle and shake, not exactly inspiring confidence, but as soon as we were above the road it was all fine. Views from the top stretched as far as New South Wales and the Great Dividing Range – either it was an exceptionally good view, or Brisbane isn’t far north. The sun set behind the Brisbane skyscrapers, turning the sky orange then crimson before dusk, when the night became the realm of the flying foxes which gave the cityscape an almost prehistoric touch. With that, it was time to climb down, just as it was getting too dark. I’ve now climbed 33% of the climbable bridges in the world…

15000 glowing bums

Mount Tamberine is home to a species of glow worm, which we did think about trying to find in the wild last night, but the lure of the camp fire was just too great. It’s a good job that we didn’t, as people fumbling around in the dark and shining torches trying to see them have caused numbers to decrease. So, taking the easy, and environmentally sound option we visited the glow worm caves of a local winery. Inside there were about 15000 glowing bottoms of a fly larvae, each trying to catch a fly or two. After up to 12 months feeding as a larvae, the fly has about a week to mate and lay eggs – that’s some preparation.
From a tourist perspective, the pitch black cave was peppered with tiny green dots, and as eyes adjusted it was like the night sky, which is a good thing as that’s what attracts the flies!
Photos weren’t allowed, so the true to life representation from the leaflet is attached, and I’ll leave you with the glow worm ditty:
I wish I was a glow-worm
a glow-worm’s never glum
‘cos how can you be grumpy
when the sun shines out your bum!

Sitting around the camp fire

There’s few things better than camping next to an open fire. Beyond proving my manly instincts to create a fire, and the smoke keeping insects at bay, nothing beats having your legs slowly toasted as the embers burn.
Simply put, it’s not so bad to be returning to camping after our wee escape yesterday. We’ve edged slightly north in the Queensland hinterland to Mount Tamberine, and have been surprised at just how cool it is, given that we’re closer to the tropics than before. The rainforests are still there, as are the numerous waterfalls, with one even hinting that the elusive platypus were to be found nearby, although we settled for spotting a koala dozing up a tree.
Anyway, the embers are smouldering now, and the moon is poking out between the clouds, time to get to bed!

Rain, forest, retreat!

I’m sure something is trying to tell us not to go inland, the last two attempts have ended up with heavy rain, and us scurrying back to the coast. So, with a spring in our step after our relaxing day yesterday (Caroline wasn’t happy until she went to the doctor who said her thumb was fine), we made for the hills to Springbook National Park, site of many waterfalls and rainforest.
The Purlingbrook Falls were all you could ask of falling water, including a walkway going behind the falls (look for the blue dot on the picture), which were so tall that the fall was spray by the time it reached the bottom. A short walk further on promised water pools, and just as we reached about as far as you could get from the car park, the heavens opened, rainforest style. Within 30 seconds we were soaked through, but the fun kind of soaked where the rain is warm. After the 5km squelch back, we were changed into nice dry clothes, but noticed there weren’t any campsites nearby, not that the thought of camping in such rain again was that appealing, so a with Caroline haggling the price down, we retreated to a mountain chalet complete with spa pool. Bliss doesn’t begin to describe the comfort in comparison to the van, although I’m sure just the sofa would have sufficed…