Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's tiring being this relaxed

Since our last posting we have been busy as you can imagine; relaxing, fishing, sightseeing. We moved on from Maleny because the rain didn’t look like it was going to let up much, so we packed up the tent whilst we had a dry spell and went about 40 minutes up the road. This move gave us better access to the coast, Noosa, Maroochyadore, and Moololaba.
We were so taken with Noosa Harbour we decided to rent a small boat for a few hours and go fishing. Cassandra and Wendy caught fish called Tripods; this was in reference to the aerial type protrusion sticking out of its head. After fishing we headed to a local surf beach, this swim for Johnathan and Cassandra was a chore and a half, as the current was really strong and the gap between the swim flags was only about 5 metres wide. Every time you went under a wave you came up almost outside the flags and had to try and get back in. This type of swimming is outside my ability and likes (I dislike surf beaches) so I didn’t swim. So later we found out about another beach where you can float with the current. So we headed to Bulcock Beach at Caloundra and because it is the outlet to sea it is sheltered and has no waves but it has a good current. Basically we walked up the beach, got in the water, floated down to the entrance, got out and did it all over again. Was fun most of the time with the exception of the fish fleeing? I was contentedly floating when all of a sudden the fish (little tidlers) come towards us in schools, but leaping from the water (like a Mexican wave). I got very scared as Johnathan said they were doing this because something bigger was chasing them. My immediate thoughts went “shark”, but Johnathan assured me it wasn’t that big. I am still here, so whatever it was, it obviously didn’t like the look of our backsides floating in the water, ‘oh what a relief’.
We have found another walk through quite different forest again, this one was right in the middle of a populated area but you would never have known it was in the ‘burbs’. It followed a creek and was very peaceful. Some guy was swimming in the rock pool and it was obvious he didn’t see us as a few minutes after we moved up the track he let out a Tarzan call to which Cassandra and I to burst out laughing. We tried to encourage Johnathan to reply but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

We have even jumped on the tourist wagon and decided to spend money doing the tourist thing, so we visited the Ginger Factory, which was very interesting and informative and very impressive for presentation.

We have since stayed privately; basically we stay with a host who provides accommodation, food and ablutions etc in exchange for work. We were lucky as the host was only working us a couple of hours a day which freed us up to do our own thing later in the day.
Johnathan was gardening and I painted. Cassandra did her school work so this was good as it doesn’t interrupt our own time later. There was also a young Korean lad staying there and we took him fishing, his first time and he landed a big fish. The look on his face was classic.
Our host Andrew turned tour guide and took us down to a set of lakes only used by locals, 4WD access only. Beaut, we were the only ones there in the middle of a forest. Driving back we encountered our first kangaroos in the wild when two bounded across our path. On the way there we also glimpsed the rear of a dingo escaping the scene too.
Andrews place was set on 30 acres of eucalypts about 35kms out of Gympie, the place just teamed with wild life, he had King Parrots coming down to feed on seeds he left out and he had a resident python that lived under the floor.
While in Gympie we went panning for gold and Wendy got gold fever when we struck gold (tiny flecks, but gold it was).
From there we travelled to Kingaroy. While there we walked the Bunya Mountains, where Bunya trees drop 10kg seed pods, carrying up to 100 seeds bigger than walnuts. We went skinny dipping ("no Johnathan, only you went skinny dipping") at Coombar Falls, the falls were dry but the rock pool was very deep, it looked very ancient with some weird grass trees. (Photo attached).
We walked an abandoned train tunnel at Muntapa, well not totally abandoned as it is now home to 8000 micro bats. They let us know they were there too, flying all over the place swooping very close to heads and faces so we quickly retreated. It was so dark it was just a case of pointing the camera towards the roof and pushing the button. Some photos turned out really well.
Next place we stopped for the night was at Archers Crossing on the Condamine River. The river looked like a shallow thick chocolate milkshake. This was 10kms down a dirt road, free camping, yeeha, no power, toilets or water, no cost. It was fantastic, teaming with Wallaroos. (Cross between Kangaroos and wallabies)That night we christened the outback toilet and outback shower we had got, sheer luxury. (Dallas the shower runs off a boats bilge pump) We did not see or hear a single soul the whole time.
The next two nights we free camped at the Chinchilla Weir. Love this free camping, this site was luxury as we had toilets and even got power (all for free).
The drought has really hit hard here and the weir was only a patch on its former glory, gone are the fishing and sightseeing tours, the ski lane had 6 foot of weeds growing in it.

Oh forgot to mention, we went fossicking again whilst in Chinchilla and found Jurassic aged fossilized trees (petrified wood). Way cool, we now have our own pick for fossicking. We might strike it rich later as there are sapphires and all sorts of gems to be found here in Oz.
Chinchilla was a neat little town, we went into town to fill up our water supplies free at the info centre, swim at the local pool then use their hot showers and use their library and get free internet access, we also took advantage of the numerous picnic tables in town to eat our cereal breakfast once we got fresh milk.

We have reached Drillham our destination on this our first leg of the trip and we are stopping here for a week to rest and visit with Lynn & Gary, more free camping.
Don’t bother looking on the map, you probably won’t find it.
It is 27 odd km’s out of Miles and it is called the ‘gateway to the outback’.
Today we watched a flock of Emus graze along the plains.
The cast iron camp oven has finally been christened, Wendy & Cassandra made our first batch of damper. We all sat round the fire and ate it under the stars, what a life. The sky out here where there are no street lights is expansive; you can see the Milky Way and millions of other stars. We have been also looking for satellites which travel across the sky like moving stars.
Life is becoming very relaxed and simple and we are learning heaps of things which will assist us in the future. Today we found out how to use that grubby brown water (picture runny chocolate instant pudding) from the rivers, drop a teaspoon of ALUM in the water let it settle and pour off the clean surface water, then you can do the dishes and shower in it.

Well it’s time to look for some jobs now to supplement the next leg of the journey, which we are yet to plan, possibly further into the outback. We will write again soon.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Faster than a speeding bullet

The countryside around here is beautiful and in some places very dramatic. We have moved 1 hour north of Brisbane to stay at a place called Maleny. It is about 20 minutes from Australia Zoo (the main road to the zoo has been named after Steve Urwin as a tribute).
We have been on a Tiki tour around the district and saw some awesome sights. Unfortunately the rain has continued intermittently, but someone told us today this is the worst year for rain on the Coast. The weather is very tropical so even though it is raining you can be sweating profusely, (a very uncomfortable feeling). Just after you have showered you are ready for another. Anyway back to the Tiki touring.
We went for drive to look around and these Australians have some weird ideas about roads. Rather than going around a hill, they go straight up it. We encountered a road with a sign prohibiting trucks and caravans. Why? We asked each other. However the question did not go unanswered for very long because within 2 minutes we were heading UP, at a 35 to 40* angle, with a cliff face all the way to the top, straight outside the passenger side window. A good 10 minutes of white knuckles and shallow breathing. It was just amazing I couldn’t believe it. Mind you half the reason is they have built their towns/villages on the top of mountain ranges.
One place which is very quaint and aimed at tourists with themed shopping (ie India shop, Irish shop, Africa shop) was situated along the top of a range with the shops and houses placed half on land and the other half on stilts overhanging the side of the hills. Makes for awesome views but not sure how comfortable I would be in one especially after the landslides in NZ.
We also had spectacular views from another range, of the Glasshouse Mountains, which was breathtaking and a photo is attached.
We have also got out of the vehicle (of course) and walked. We found a reserve which is a remnant of an original rainforest. So very cool, we were walking along and Cassandra spotted some movement and there across our path ran little kangaroo thingys (later to be renamed by their real biological name of Pademelon (a small bush wallaby) we were lucky because during the walk we were graced with the presence of Pademelon about 7 times and they seemed to have no real fear of us.
Another walk we took ended in a nice peaceful lunch, NOT. We sat down at the picnic table and the magpies came and then through the shadowed bush I saw a lizard/dragon type thing about the size of a small cat. We all oo’ed and arh’ed about how cool it was, then we began to prepare lunch, ‘tomato sandwiches’. Suddenly, ‘faster than a speeding bullet’ Johnathan is standing up on the picnic table, very quickly followed by Cassandra. I was a bit slow catching on but made an effort to raise my feet off the ground and almost fell off the seat. What’s the matter? Johnathan thought he was going to be attacked, because the lizard covered the ground between itself and us at the table (about 2-3 metres) in a split second and then set an attack pose (or so we thought). When all had calmed down and before Johnathan got down a photo was taken and is attached for your amusement.
We found out the lizard was actually just begging for food because as soon as Johnathan threw him a piece of tomato he was on it. (Johnathan feed him in an effort to distance him from us, not to be kind.) Despite a moment of fear it gave a decent laugh, although we aren’t in any hurry to repeat the experience. We found another walk which took us to the top of a waterfall and a swimable rockpool, which only Cassandra and Johnathan braved; it was too murky for me. Lovely location, whilst they swam I roamed and saw my first live snake sliding along a rock face. Later the same day we saw two more snakes asleep in a tree and as the adage goes "poke it with a stick to see if it’s alive". It wasn’t me or Cassandra though, but Johnathan who violated those poor little snakes slumber. I have to admit he did however have the decency to jump like heck when the snake raised it head and slithered off.
Our adventures in Australia continue and we remain happy and anticipatory.