Friday, January 31, 2014

1 February 2014 - Riverside Caravan Village, Bli Bli, Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Gary from Darwin did get back to us, back and forth with questions and suggestions. We emailed him this and that and he stayed keen despite the logistics of the whole transaction. Friday morning saw us back in Maroochydore ordering two new rear tyres, suspecting that the vehicle would fail a Safety Certificate inspection without them, and a visit to the Queensland Transport Authority to talk through the hypothetical interstate transfer of a vehicle. We came away from the first with an appointment for the morrow and the second delighted to find that we would simply take the number plates from the vehicle and it would enter the Northern Territory as an unregistered vehicle. In some ways this sounded like a simple solution, although it is not quite what Gary had been thinking. We drove back up to Yandina in the afternoon to a garage he had organised to do a pre-purchase check and managed to pick-up some pre-sale tips from the mechanics ourselves.

While we continued to enjoy the balmy breezes of the Sunshine Coast, interspersed with the very occasional shower, the state further north was being bludgeoned by Cyclone Dylan. We had been concerned for our friends’ daughter and her family, who had recently moved to part of the low lying flood prone part of Townsville. We watched the news for a glimmer of hope and found that it had passed over the coast missing the larger metropolis, but still saw a lot of damage. The politicians called it a rehearsal for something that might come later; for now that was good news.

Later in the afternoon, after Gary had received the report from the Yandina garage, he rang to confirm that he wanted to go ahead with the purchase. We agreed to a price but were wary of confirming unconditionally. We were still not 100% about the caravan, the whole affair had been most unsatisfactory with the goal posts moving every time contact was made. We were now in a position of having to consider accommodation and rental cars but all relying on the caravan transfer going through on Monday.  It was all completely unsatisfactory.

This morning dawned fine and noisy with the wonderful birdlife of Bli Bli and the sounds of motor boats heading out early for Saturday fishing; we are right on the river which is really quite delightful. We headed back into Maroochydore where we had the new rear tyres fitted and were back home in time for lunch, even after a stop at the Bli Bli aquatic park where dozens were queuing up for a ski rope tow on the wonderful facility there. Elsewhere within the same park, children played in another swimming pond on an array of curious inflatable shapes and families picnicked beside yet other waterways inviting even more water activities. We were satisfied with five to ten minutes observation before travelling on across the river and into camp.

After lunch Chris gave Jess a call to check how her grandfather was and to see all was on track for Monday. She assured us that he had turned a corner and asked if we had received the email with the photo of the bank cheque her father had picked up from the bank? No? She would resend it right now! Yea, right.

Chris then rang Keith, the ever suffering Keith of Lowood who has had a variety of requests and calls from us as our plans have swung this way and that. We explained where we were at and that all options were now on the table: we would have the landcruiser to store, or the landcruiser and caravan to store or perhaps nothing at all. He was most understanding and cautioned us about the dodgy nature of bank cheques, once amongst the safest of financial transactions, now not necessarily so. He told us that he had been stung a couple of times; that made us feel really good, as you can well imagine.

Gary emailed through a sale agreement that mirrored the emailed resume of our communication to date, we tidied up some of the spelling and technicalities and emailed it back but hastened to emphasise that this was still all conditional on the caravan sale going through. Poor Gary! He has flights, transporters and banks to sort! Poor Keith! He will be worrying about which vehicles to move around to accommodate us, or not. Poor us! We have rental cars, Brisbane accommodation, Bli Bli accommodation, storage or not, to sort out!

We spent the afternoon growing piles out on our concrete pad; a pile for the charity shop, a pile to be offered to the pawnbroker, a pile to be left in the caravan and piles which were duly lowered into our Samoan suitcases. Samoan suitcases are of course those plastic woven tartan bags you buy for $3 in the variety stores, zip topped and stitched with little quality control. They are used by the poor or unsophisticated who travel in from the islands, hence the name, or by those who have no space for proper luggage, such as ourselves. When we purchased our air tickets in Morayfield, we joked about them to the woman in the travel agency; she was totally ignorant about these excellent pseudo suitcases. We explained how ours would be enhanced by the strapping of masking tape and security of rope. She was quite appalled! She had thought us better than that; more likely to chase image, than practicality.

The relieving manageress of the park came down and spent some time chatting with us, sympathising and telling stories that did little to cheer us up. So what with all the human interaction or lack of, today, along with the fact that a preliminary weigh-in of the luggage has made it quite clear that our music CDs and favourite books will have to be left for others, we can only hope that tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

30 January 2014 - Riverside Caravan Village, Bli Bli, Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Three days closer to departure than we were when I last posted an update. I would like to say that we are biding our time in cabin-style accommodation with our bank account fatter for the sale of our caravan, however the whole business remains sluggish and still not finalised. If we are being scammed, it is a most involved affair. Our buyers are in the midst of family crisis, a more senior member clinging to the edge of his life, and for them, the urgency of the caravan purchase is secondary to all else. Last night the lovely little Jess came to see us after work and told us how matters stand up at the hospital, how “Dad” is heading south despite the fact he is not officially to fly out of his work for another week. Family crisis take precedence and hopefully he can facilitate the material matters.

On Tuesday we had headed into Nambour with the back of the landcruiser loaded up with possessions ready to move to new homes. Having identified where the local Cash Converters were located, we attempted to park close by to facilitate the transfer of goods, some fragile, some heavy and all once precious. The only park that looked promising was half taken up by a small dilapidated vehicle parked at an odd angle spanning two spaces. I hopped out to ask the passenger if they could move the vehicle or if the driver was returning soon. This spaced-out yobbo shrugged, grunted and would probably have told me to F-off had I not resembled his grandmother. I returned to tell Chris who was double parked waiting for a satisfactory outcome, upon which he hopped out and had a go at the yobbo too. But no sense was forthcoming, and as we discussed later in the day, this was one of those moments that gun carrying Yanks are no doubt tempted to blow the creep out of his seat with whatever arms they happen to have in their handbag, glove-box or pocket. I for one would have been tempted and decided then and there that it was a very bad idea for civilians to carry arms. There would be mayhem out there; grumpy old people sorting out the useless brain-dead youth. Instead we inched into position, me doing the hand signals on the pavement as Chris manoevred in very cunningly. I should have let him back up another few millimetres and puncture the front of the car with our butty towball! But I didn’t. For all my wild talk, I am really the most civilised of human beings.

After all that, when we made our way into the air-conditioned Cash Converters, we found only a bank teller-like arrangement where a queue of similar yobbos were lining up to do what losers do in these places. Now we do frequent second hand stores, but this was simply the finance booth for those underhand dealings between ruthless sharks and gullible victims. The shark assured us he would come and see what we had to offer, when he had finished with this motley crew, however we could see we might be there until late in the afternoon if we were to await his attention. We left.

After wandering around Nambour to see what the town had to offer, little of which impressed apart from the potatoes at the IGA selling for a fraction of the price elsewhere, we headed home, catching sight of the Vinnies warehouse on the edge of town. We backed into their loading bay and donated all that we had intended for such a destination plus a whole lot that might have rendered up some monetary return elsewhere.That w as Tuesday.

We left our camp at Yandina yesterday morning, with no regrets and with as much trouble as we had settling in. Fortunately my strident directions to Chris as he inched out from our tight site brought assistance from a fellow camper. Men handle directions from other males far better than from their wives, so I stood aside and let the men sort it all out, which they eventually did, with much messing about. All of this should have alerted us to the fact this was to be yet another one of those days, if the previous night’s non-appearance of Jess and her mother and the promised cheque had not already done so. Over breakfast, we had received a call from the garage down in Forest Glen to advise that the chap who was scheduled to do the Safety Certificate inspection had called in sick, so we would have to do it another day. I am sure the poor girl on the other end of the telephone was taken aback by Chris’s exclamation of the S-word. There also followed other words, less expletive but no less cheerful. This was indeed a very bad start to the day.

I suggested we check out the garage up in Yandina which I had seen advertising the same service, when we walked up into the village a day or two ago, and then remained silent because continual nagging, albeit with brilliant ideas, was not likely to change the tone of the day.

We did stop by the aforementioned garage where Chris explained the day’s frustrations and the young man in charge was marvellously accommodating, and although he had time to fit us in immediately, the Gas Certificate was required first. So we headed the fifteen kilometres of so south down the Bruce Highway, arriving early for our 10.30 am appointment at the Caravan & RV Works.  Here we explained our dilemma which we considered, quite unfairly, that it was their fault given it was they who had insisted that the Truck & Trailer place around the corner was the place to go. To placate us, they told us to back the caravan into the workshop and they would see if the gasman could do it a little earlier. We sat in the cruiser reading the day’s newspaper, then Chris wandered about the caravan watching the dithering technician go about his work. He took hours and hours, or so it seemed as I remained in the hot vehicle, having read the whole newspaper cover to cover. At one point Chris came over muttering about the fact this pain-in-the-bum person insisted we need a new regulator. There was nothing wrong with the old one, hardly old at three years! Eventually it was done, the basic charge before GST the quoted $88, but then there were the official stickers at $12 each, the regulator, and half an hour’s labour charge, all adding up to an exorbitant $220. Selling a caravan is an expensive business here in Queensland and this was just for the gas certificate! Chris was furious, and made sure the sweet young girl behind the counter knew it. The morning was not going brilliantly at all. This would have been another of those occasions best avoided by gun-toting oldies.

We retraced our way back to Yandina, where the same lovely chap efficiently dealt with the safety certificate. This was the best thing that had happened all morning, or day so far, because it was not yet after midday. It was this lovely man who directed us to an auto electrician in Bli Bli, who operated from home up Flat Camp Road. There is nothing, simply nothing, flat about Flat Camp Road! We crawled up the steep narrow road and parked out on the road above a very steep property. Chris was directed by a small boy further down the hill where the workshop apparently was, but there was no one there. We were just pulling away when the same small boy came running out waving a smart-phone; he had Dad of the phone and would we like to speak to him. Despite the brilliant service, from the helpful lad and the warm voice at the end of the telephone, our trip was a waste of time. We headed down the other side of the hill, the driver muttering about “flat” roads, and headed for our new camp right in the centre of Bli Bli.

We spent the night still hooked up on a site through the fence from the road, lovely trees overhanging the caravan, and lovelier birds dropping love-notes all over the landcruiser. It was here that Jess came to tell us the family woes and try to resolve the where-to-from-here. Their lack of business acumen has been partly solved by advice from all comers; they are not prepared to pay until they have the caravan in hand. We were not prepared to hand over the caravan until the cheque was cleared, a three working day process according to our bank. Stalemate.

We have bowed to pressure but set a time and place for the handover and payment; midday on Monday and we will not be messed about any longer. We spoke frankly about the fact that this would have to go ahead even if Granddad had expired the day before, the hour before or even was in the process of taking his last breathes. We could stuff around no longer. I think she got the message. It is all a big load for this diminutive twenty two year old to deal with; hopefully her father will step in to the brink when he gets down from “up north”.

When we checked in here last night, we had explained our situation to management, and they said we could come and sort the detail tomorrow. Tomorrow has come and we cannot still guarantee anything! Fortunately Mr Manager has been through the same mill, and suggested we pay just for our powered site until the sale is supposed to take effect, and sort out the rest later. Perhaps he shares the same doubts and pessimism as my dear husband.

We took the caravan into Maroochydore this morning and had one of the dodgy indicator lights repaired, or rather replaced by one that does not exactly match the original. This is unfortunate but unavoidable. The auto electrician we dealt with was just marvellous; at one point he sent us off with the yellow pages and a map in his ramshackle courtesy car to buy the part from down to a wholesaler at Kawana Waters. Part way down we realised it was nearly out of petrol; fortunately we managed to find a petrol station before we found ourselves drawing to a spluttery roadside stop.

We came on back to Bli Bli, still feeling all fuzzy and warm, a rather rare experience these days, and set up camp on the site where in theory we will end our caravanning days. The birds are quite wonderful here in the park; I have brightly coloured orange and green lorikeets in the cane palms beside me, melodious magpies wandering about and a huge variety of others tucked up in the lush foliage making sure I never feel alone.

Chris lay down for a nap, the days all too much for us, and was woken just within the last half hour by a telephone call from Garry in Darwin. Garry is keen to buy our landcruiser and we are two days from taking it down from the online advertisement. He says he’ll fly down! Well, that has set the cat among the pigeons! What say he does give us the money and set out on the road back to Darwin and we are left here with a caravan and that deal fallen through! There seems no end to the uncertainties! Now if we were stinking rich, we could simply donate the whole lot to Vinnies, or the Salvos (who are currently making headlines here for the nasty things they did to little boys in bygone years – there is no end to these sick histories – forget donating to them!!) or a Hospice shop, and simply fly out. Now that would be something, wouldn’t it?

Monday, January 27, 2014

27 January 2014 - Yandina Caravan Park, Yandina, Sunshine Coast, Queensland

We have had a lovely day today, enjoying the statutory holiday doing something other than sitting about watching sport on television or sorting through gathered possessions.

Philomena, another of the newly released films since Christmas, was showing in Maroochydore, so we headed the twenty kilometres south east to this tourist destination immediately after breakfast and had no trouble finding parking at the shopping centre where the cinema is to be found. It was only about 8.45 am and there were few about; the supermarket did not open until 9 am, and apart from a few cafes open for the latte and cappuccino addicts, everything was closed, security roller doors pulled firmly down over entrances. 

Fishermen on Cornmeal Creek
This very large shopping centre, the Sunshine Plaza, which had so impressed me when we first arrived on the Sunshine Coast three years ago, looked decidedly tired without the melee of brightly dressed shoppers. And here on the Sunshine Coast, there is usually an air of permanent holidaymaking; folk dress in gaudy and cheery collections of the fashionable and unfashionable reflecting the bright sunshine which usually shines down upon this little paradise. Today there were only the early bird shoppers about, waiting outside the supermarket to shop, the few like us waiting for the cinema to open and curiously, four fishermen in two small boats trying their luck in the Cornmeal Creek, an inlet of the Maroochy River. The shopping centre is built across the creek in a manner that would surely never pass the bureaucratic consent labyrinths of today. A sign up on the boardwalk edge of the creek announced the life that lived in the murky depths below: White Breasted Swallows, Blue Faced Honeyeaters,  the Grey Teal and Pacific Black ducks, Black Flathead, Herring, Butter Bream, Yellow Fin Bream, and all within the shopping complex!

We absolutely loved the movie and would be delighted if Judi Dench won an Oscar for her performance, and hope that the story will be another nudge to those brainwashed by religion to re-examine their faith; that there is life beyond fantasy land and the puppeteers who control that world.

Escaping the very slightly busier centre after emerging from the cinema, we set off up along the Maroochy River, toward Bli Bli, a satellite settlement we had hoped to base ourselves before realising that the Australia Day weekend would fill the seaside accommodation of Queensland. As we drove up along the Bradman Way which morphs into the Don Low Way, I drew Chris’s attention to the fact we had picnicked here three years ago; he could not drag up the memory from the many we have accumulated during our incredible journey.

Bli Bli, pronounced Bligh-Bligh, has a population of over 6,200 and has a rather mixed history. The plaque at the entrance announces that it was established in 1868, but development was slow. Those early settlors felled the scrub and established grazing leases. By 1903, a significant area of the Bli Bli area was under cultivation with corn, potatoes and other vegetables, along with pawpaw, oranges and even coffee. But it was sugar cane that really took off, making Bli Bli, rising from the wetlands, the home of the Sunshine Coast sugar cane industry. A cane tramway was built to Deepwater in the vicinity of Bli Bli in 1912 and cane was grown in commercial quantities here by 1915. Extension of the tramway system in 1836 through Bli Bli ensured that sugarcane became the staple agricultural crop in the locality. The name is derived from the bastardised version of “billai billai”, the local lingo for “swamp oak”.

Aboriginal middens alerted Europeans entrepreneurs that there were oysters for the taking and by 1881, oysters were being harvested commercially at Bli Bli, collected by handpicking and dredging, and conveyed by cutter and steamship to Brisbane until the turn of the century. Then they were conveyed by motor launch to Yandina, where we are now. In 1903, the farming of oysters was commenced at Bli Bli and continues today.

In 1913, five acres of pineapples were planted, and a sawmill to cut timber into fruit cases was erected. Eight years later a shortage of timber gave rise to a pineapple cannery where the current caravan park is sited.

And this is where we headed today after we lunched across the river at Muller Park. And it was here that we received our first response to the reduced price for our landcruiser; a cash offer with little quizzing, an offer of $3,000 less that asked. Again it is obvious that we have offered our beloved chariot for a price too low. The refreshed advertisement has been online for a mere twenty four hours.

We called into the caravan park and chatted with the pommie-accented receptionist who is the wife of an ex-Kiwi from places-we-are-familiar-with; we secured a powered site for the days that follow the certification process that will hopefully not only take place but be finalised on Wednesday, and those that will be required when our beloved caravan is gone to new ownership and we are reduced to living in cabins and other-people things. We paid a deposit of $50 for the most airy-fairy accommodation arrangement we have ever entered into; a mix of drive-through powered site for Wednesday to accommodate a possible revisit to the garage for the required certification, a loose date for a transfer into a cabin and an even looser arrangement as far as a leaving date. Mandy was marvellous; what more could we say.

Views from Dunethin Rock
We headed back to Yandina, via the Nambour access road, turning off toward Yandina over undulating low hills crossing from one river lowland to another until we happened upon a turn off to Dunethin Rock, a granite outcrop marginally above the Maroochy River. We alighted from the landcruiser and climbed to the various mounds from where we had a variety of views, north and east to a far coastal settlement which we decided was probably Marcoola. Here, like many of the places we have wandered through in the past few days, was a fine mango tree, hanging with abundant ripe fruit, some of which had already fallen and lay rotting on the ground. I suggested to Chris that we rescue a few fallen fruit for personal consumption; however he is as unenthused as I about this sickly sweet fibrous yellow fruit.

South Maroochy River at Yandina
We were soon back in Yandina and the afternoon was still very early. Chris suggested we wander across the river which seems in most to be little more than a chain of ponds, and up into the township for some exercise, however we did not get far before the heavens opened and we were driven under the shelter of the verandahs. The rain eventually eased and we wandered around the block, past the now notorious Yandina Pub and back up to the new shopping block. We wandered up and down the aisles of the bland new supermarket, hoping to find semi-prepared products that required only the addition of boiled water fresh from the kettle, preplanning our last few days in poorly appointed (but cheap) accommodation. None such exists, yet I am sure I saw advertisements for foods that would qualify as such, on the television back in New Zealand five years ago or so; I should have paid more attention. Instead we settled for a couple of bottles of wine from the equally band new liquor outlet; there seems to be much to celebrate these days, or to lament.

The infamous Yandina Pub
The day has been full of ups and downs all day; the film was fabulous, we received that unacceptable cash offer by telephone for the landcruiser, an email from Keith of Lowood offering storage and control of the sale of the same vehicle and an inquiry from New Zealanders interested in buying the complete rig. We have booked our next stage of accommodation and learned that the hotel we have booked in Brisbane from which to launch our final flight, offers the most minimal of facilities and is not really adequate at all. As Chris said to his daughter last night during our long Skype chat, leaving New Zealand three years ago was a whole lot easier than leaving Australia now for the return. Then we had backup and support from family and friends, here we are on our own. However I should be more positive; people leave countries every day with the burden of asset transfer; at least they speak English here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

26 January 2014 - Yandina Caravan Park, Yandina, Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Happy Aussie Day! That’s what a sign outside a shop in Caboolture said last week. When I suggested that I should greet my husband on waking with that, he said that was too stupid, however given that the cheapie shops are full of flag themed undies, bras, hats and all manner of items you might be able to attach to either your body or your car, it would not surprise me that it was de rigeur in some patriotic bedrooms about the country this morning.

Here on the Sunshine Coast, the official forecast suggests occasional showers and that is what we had yesterday, or at least, the skies spent yesterday trying to rain, a few spits here and there, with little more until last night when there was success. Last night brought real rain; how lovely is the sound of the rain on the roof when one is tucked up safe from floods, in the middle of bird-filled bushy gardens. The amenities block is home to dozens of geckos as they so often are; the night before I spied a small domestic cat attempting to catch some of these agile critters in the neglected playground. Despite the fact that little has been done to improve this caravan park since we last stayed, it has a charm here beside the South Maroochy River.

The camp is full, visitors flowing in and out, and here on our site we have been busy spring clearing; yes, clearing not cleaning yet. I am sure we have removed at least one tonne of “stuff” out of the caravan, some into the back of the landcruiser for transport to the Op Shop in Nambour; we did the first of several drop offs yesterday morning. The reduction of the caravan’s weight has been mainly due to the precious paper souvenirs, maps, booklets and books, maps, fact sheets, maps, bird leaflets, maps, discarded with great reluctance.

Jess turned up yesterday morning with a bundle of cash in hand, representing a rather paltry but well-meant deposit for the purchase of the caravan. She brought along yet another relative to see what “Mum” and “Dad” were buying, this time Auntie Donna. “Auntie” who is not the partner of the “Uncle” we met on the initial viewing, also has caravanning experience and they all reckon they will have “Mum” and “Dad” sorted out without our instruction. In theory final payment will arrive on Tuesday but we will not hand the caravan over for at least another week. These folk are most trusting, non-business like, and dismissive of the formal agreement we had drafted out in preparation for yesterday’s visit; Auntie told Jess the van looked brand new and everyone is happy to deal with us, who, in theory, could scarper with the money and the caravan. However while we have booked to fly Emirates who allow a greater luggage weight, a two and a half tonne caravan might be rather excessive! And of course, we would have all of you to answer to.

Yesterday morning Chris asked if I had heard the gunshots during the night; I had not, but it did remind us that Yandina has been in the news recently concerning types who might try a pot shot or two on their enemies if they had a mind to. I have already mentioned the legislative change to sweep up the bikie riff-raff and how it has not gone down well with law abiding citizens who like to ride motorbikes. Well, it was here at the local pub that the Yandina Five gathered to pass the time of day; two were members of the Rebels gang and the other three, sundry associates. One of the latter was simply delivering a pizza to his mates who happened to be together in public, so he said, and there were great public cries from his wife who lamented her husband could not share the joys of Christmas with his young family while he whiled away his days in jail. Family snaps suggested the perfect family, not unlike any of ours, but when the truth came out, he had a list of crimes, drug related and the like, to keep him locked up for life. It seems that this new law, when used with discretion, is indeed netting the targeted fish. Anyway, that is Yandina’s latest claim to fame and it’s where we too are hanging about.

Today we have seen the end of the Santos Tour DownUnder, the last of the Aussie-Pommie cricket is being played out, dozens of well-deserving folk have been awarded Australia Day gongs, not least the latest Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, the women’s Australian Open has been won by the first Chinese, Li Na and tonight, we will no doubt see Raphael Nadal twitch and twirl and win his way through to yet another Grand Slam title. And then it will be over, for sport at last, and life in our little world will return to normal, or at least as much as it can in this crazy whirl of The Leaving.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

24 January 2014 - Yandina Caravan Park, Yandina, Sunshine Coast, Queensland

It rained heavily through the evening, the creek bed behind us quickly filling; I moved our shoes and other items from ground level under the awning into the caravan. I had visions of the last of our sandals being swept down through the flooded drains, into Lagoon Creek and out into Deception Bay, to join the flotsam and jetsam that these Queensland downpours must surely bring.

However by the morning, the floodwater, shallow as it was, had receded and we were able to pack up camp with no adverse effects.

We bade farewell to our eighty one year old recently divorced neighbour who travels with his dog in a wide and well-appointed bus-motorhome towing a Toyota ute. His story is an interesting one and probably best not told here, but indicative of those we meet on the road.

We bade farewell to the Geordie woman who is staying with her working husband, and two sons travelling separately with their families, all working on the same infrastructure project. This lady is not a happy immigrant and pines for “home”; a couple of trips back to return for good were also unsatisfactory. She was on her phone at 6 am this morning, her harsh accent travelling through the clear morning air. I pity her husband, surely long suffering with such a wife, but probably too much said.

And finally we bade farewell to the couple who are trying to sell their bus-motorhome, car on trailer in tow. The grass has grown long under their rig; they were already here when we arrived. But unlike the raven haired witch next door, this woman always has a cheery wave from the doorstep where she sits and smokes and watches the mornings arrive; she and her paunchy husband are a far happier pair.

I had predicted problems with manoeuvring out of our corner through the packed jumble of motorhomes, caravans and vehicle, but my worries were superfluous. Worrying is something I seem to be doing a lot of these days! We were out and on the road just in time for the rain; we joined the heavy traffic on the Bruce Highway with wiper blades working overtime.

I seem to recall Tomtom telling us the distance to our next camp was only sixty four kilometres away, and all on good roads, or at least amongst the best Queensland has to offer. As we neared the turn off to Buderim and beyond, we decided to check out a caravan service place at Forest Glen we recalled from an earlier trip through. There we booked in to have the gas certificate sorted next week. Here in Australia, or should I say, Queensland, vehicles, caravans and trailers do not need a six monthly or annual warrant of fitness, or “roadworthy” as my husband always calls them. Instead you have to have a safety certificate, which is basically the same, before sale, or no ownership transfer can be formalised, and with caravans, a gas certificate as well. At about $100 a pop, this means about $300 to be spent by us the vendor, for the entire rig. Still, I guess if you consider that we have avoided the more regular checks, it probably all comes out to about the same cost.

We were also given the name of a truck and trailer service outfit who are in cahoots with the RV repair people; we telephoned them and made an appointment to dovetail with the first on next Wednesday.

It was still too early to check into this caravan park, so we drove up into the town centre of Yandina. A freshly painted sign reminded us that eight thousand people call Yandina home and we noted that a brand new shopping centre had risen from the ground in our absence, part of it open for business and sporting a smart IGA sign. We should be well served while we are here, although as we did wander about the centre, finding a branch of our bank which is useful except that it will be shut for much of our stay here, Yandina does seem to lack a charity shop; we may have to drive down to Nambour with our donated goods.

Arriving at the camp, we found the same friendly family in charge, but offering accommodation at an increase of 20%. Perhaps this is simply a seasonal matter and we were here at a different time of the year? But we did receive our loyalty 10% discount, before Mrs Manager noted that our loyalty card had expired a month ago. Fortunately she accepted the deed was done and we thought ourselves fortunate in that, but unfortunate that our membership had expired at this late stage of our travels.

Once down in the bowels of the caravan area, we were soon reminded that the sites here are tight at best. In fact our neighbour was initially allocated this one, and refused to take it. However after Chris spent some time with his pruning saw and a ball of string, we had our space sorted and we are cosily tucked between the pretty cane palms and walled garden beds. The drainage is as it was last time, slow to say the least, but we have water, and power to drive the overworked air-conditioner and of course the equally overworked television set. This afternoon there is the Santos Tour Down Under, the fourth of the one day cricket matches between the Australian and ever-beaten Poms, and the Australian Tennis Open…. It is nearly as busy as my head is these days!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

23 January 2014 - Caboolture Showground, Caboolture, Queensland

Last week the folk in the west, and then the south, of the country endured record breaking heat waves; this week it arrived here, albeit a little diluted. Temperatures have climbed from 34 to 36 degrees and we have spent much of our down time holed up in the caravan, air-conditioner pumping away, the profit margin for the show-grounds shrinking daily as we all did the same.

We had caught up with my parents and both boys on Sunday night, after having consumed too much wine, which is never very clever, however a catch up is a catch up and always very welcome, for me anyway.

On Wednesday, after much discussion and debate, we ordered just the one solar panel charging unit from Solar Panel Xpress, deciding to settle for outside storage after all and hope that the hail in 2014 would stay away from wherever we settle the rig into storage; Pollyanna thinking perhaps, but better for the struggling bank account.

That night we received a telephone call from a young woman named Jess who was interested to check out the rig for her parents. She asked sensible questions and when learned that we were moving out on Friday morning, asked if they could call and see us after work.

It was also Wednesday when we learned that Longreach and Barcaldine had been drought declared, added to the growing number of rural centres struggling with almost a year’s absence of rain. This brings the total for Queensland to 65% of the land mass as being drought declared, as of now; the State Government are to hand out a $20 million assistance package. The announcement was made on a station which had been host to the same event and same response less than ten years ago. While I personally am not in favour of hand-outs to failing manufacturing industries such as those suggested for Holden, Ford and Ardmona SPC, you have to ask yourself how this differs from a hand out to the “poor farmers”? And while one might say the latter has arisen from “an act of God” and the former to human mis-management, a signal that the company should be allowed to fail, should one also suggest that it was better the land be abandoned to the whims of the weather and wild ones who were out there before farmers attempted their control. Life is full of complexities and I obviously have far too much time on my hands to consider and wonder such matters.

On Thursday morning, after a walk up into the town in the stinking heat, we picked up the solar panel, morally obliged to do so even if it might well turn out to be superfluous to our requirements.

The afternoon was spent flicking between the Santos Tour Down Under, the cycling race being played out in the lovely rural areas around Adelaide, now familiar to us, and yet another surprise turn up for the books at the Australian Open. The night before we had watched as four time champion Novak Djokovic was knocked out of the tournament by Stan Wawrinka. “Who?” you ask, as I did.   The big names were dropping like flies and the fresh youth like Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who dreams of dating that silly little baby boy singer. “Who?” you ask, and well you might.

Came the evening and the arrival of Jess, with her mother and uncle, the latter armed with a bottle of beer. There are certain things in life that inflame me, turn the looney-switch, or whatever you might call it, and callers armed with their own half eaten or drunk refreshments in hand are one of them. Uncle was off to a bad start; the whole visit was off to a bad start. But surprise, surprise, by the time they left, the deal was virtually done, all but for a call to Jess’s father away working on mining infrastructure. I was gobsmacked and could not believe that they had made up their mind so quickly; obviously our price drop had been too extreme. I should add here that we are speaking only of a caravan sale; they were not interested in our sturdy workhorse Toyota.

Of course, nothing was absolutely settled and we should have dismissed the whole affair, at least until confirmation arrived, but conversation all evening turned back to the impending sale and all that involved. Sleep was disturbed, not by the sticky heat, or the noisy thunder storms all around the region, but by the compilation of lists in my head. In fact we were both awake early this morning, unable to sleep and so gave up trying to and sat over an early breakfast, still discussing the “what ifs”.

Jess was on the ball too, her call coming through to us while we were still sitting over our coffee; “Mum” had spoken with “Dad”, and they wanted to go ahead with the purchase. They would get back to us again later in the morning after “Mum” had been to the bank. And so they did.

So needless to say, our previous plans, not Plan A or B but that which has been formulated more recently, to store the rig for future use, look like being scrapped, every one of them! On the strength of this “gentlemen’s agreement”, we dropped off our Nullabor gold clubs and a couple of other bits rattling around in the rear of the landcruiser, at the local Lifeline charity shop, the first of many visits there will be before we fly out in just over two weeks’ time.

This morning, we indicated to young Jess who seems to be the main-controller in all this, that we would be somewhere on the Sunshine Coast tomorrow so that agreements can be formalised. Alas, I have been unable to find any vacancies; Australia Day falls on Sunday, the following day the public holiday and every man and his dog are making the most of the last long weekend of the high summer. Thankfully I have managed to secure a site at Yandina, a camp we were last at in about July 2012.

The landcruiser has been listed for sale, our appointment with the storage people further north cancelled and the first of many lists made. We have crazy times ahead!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

19 January 2014 - Caboolture Showground, Caboolture, Queensland

I was thinking about those who might happen for the first time upon this blog, and see that we have barely moved from the South East Queensland area since 5 December; Ipswich, Lowood, Marburg, Caboolture, round and round the mulberry bush and travel behaviour which is most unlike that which preceded and has occupied us and the pages of this bog over the past three years. So all I can say to that newbie, is that we have not always passed our days in such uneventful fashion and I would urge you to flick back to the days and weeks, months and years preceding these last slow Queensland days, and then pass judgement. I will repeat here that this was set up to record our trip for posterity and our own old age, and to keep our immediate family in touch with our whereabouts, not to endlessly entertain. It has however turned into exactly that for many thousands of armchair travellers, some who have put their own gypsy days on hold, some who wish they had done it all before their hips or knees gave out, and some who still plan to set off when they have done this, that or the other. The days have remained warm here at Caboolture, the thermometer still about 30 or 32 degrees, the breezes and occasional very light shower give relief when needed and it is altogether very pleasant.

We are still undecided about the demise of the rig, and that is mainly because the For Sale advertisements remain on-line, and one always hopes for a miracle. In the meantime, I sort through files and cupboards, discarding unnecessary items and deciding what can stay with the caravan and what will come back to New Zealand with us.

Water Lilies
The other morning we popped over the Bruce Highway to Solar Xpress and checked out portable solar panels, regulators and leads required for storing the rig long term. The wherewithal for this all adds up in dollars, which has caused us re-evaluate whether we want to go down the indoor or outdoor storage options. There is less than a week to decide what we will do about this because there is no guarantee that we will be able to source the materials and expertise once we leave the service hub of Caboolture.

Yesterday we spent most of the morning wandering about the Centenary Lakes, just off the road to Morayfield. We have passed by the park many times since settling ourselves into Caboolture, however it was only today that we made the effort to check it out. There seems to be little in the way on information about the park; area, history and such like, the kind of facts I like. However I can tell you what we found. 

Hatted water bird
Several lakes have been formed adjacent to the Caboolture River, enough water diverted for a gentle flow through these lakes which are at varying levels, creating small waterfalls between. Surrounded by trees, and punctuated by small islands, they are a refuge for wildlife and today we saw ducks, ibis, geese, purple swamp hens, coots, dusky moorhens, brush turkeys, corellas, peewees, crows, willy-wagtails, water dragons, a couple of turtles, a metre long finned eel and a goose-like bird with a bundle of fluff on its head. Concrete pathways wind their way up and down the slopes, around through the clusters of vegetation and around the lakes. Designated wedding areas can be reserved for the Big Day, but brides must take care not to step in the bird poo. Netball and tennis courts, a BMX track and all manner of other sports fields are also within the park area. Returning to the car, we wandered along the riverside in the shade of big trees and then spied a substantial structure across the river, a walking bridge beckoning us for further exploration. 

We stood high above the deep brown river and wished we had our kayak with us, a safe whim given that it is currently in the custody of our older grandchildren across the Tasman. The path upriver led us for several kilometres through charming riverside parklands until we emerged onto an off-leash dog exercise area where we chatted with a charming man while being loved to death by his juvenile sheep dog, who licked and leapt despite our efforts to keep him at arm’s length. I refer here to the dog, not the man. 

Given that I do wax lyrical about the abundant birdlife here in Australia, it was interesting to hear this same man tell us a related tale. He and his wife have a friend from the Philippines, an immigrant who apart from embracing her new country, is always going on about the marvellous fauna, as I do. Apparently much of the birdlife in the Philippines has fallen prey to predators, hungry humans, and so these islands of lush tropical vegetation are strangely quiet of avian call. Well, that was her story anyway, and it certainly gave us pause for thought. I was going to tell him about the wood pigeons, or kereru, falling into Maori cooking pots, but thought we could easily end up chatting all day and the sun was hot, despite our sandals and sunhats.

The Centenary Lakes are one of Caboolture’s best kept secrets! I did manage to learn that in 2011 the whole area had been flooded under two metres of water, although these days you would never guess it.

Needless to say the morning was quite gone by the time we made our way back home, to find the tennis greats still at it down in Melbourne, but in better temperatures than the four preceding days. And on the subject of the heat in Victoria, we have been dismayed to learn of the fires consuming large swathes of the lovely countryside around the Grampians, with little hope of being brought under control anytime soon.

This morning dawned extra early; the magpies’ harmonies on the caravan roof were quite delightful, but about two hours too soon; I could have done with a lie-in. We bade each other a “Happy Wedding Anniversary”, enjoyed our cereal and coffee then set off across the showgrounds to the Sunday Country Markets. There were certainly more customers today than when we last bothered a couple of weeks ago, and more stalls, a fact that was only obvious by the area taken up, but otherwise there was little difference. We purchased a few vegetables and took our daily exercise up and down the aisles, dodging the assortment of locals who had come to do the same. Observing the clientele was as fascinating as checking out the stalls; they were certainly an odd lot today. But I guess we all are.

After packing away our purchases, we decided to head out for the morning, or for however long the drive would take. I packed the eski and we headed eastwards across the Bruce Highway but turned south from the Bribie Island Road to Beachmere, another settlement on Deception Bay.

Neighbours here in the park during our first week of stay headed there when their three weeks were up, and today we saw that our more recent neighbours, also Clarks, but with no “e”, had also moved there. This Lions Camping Ground seems to be the place you go between your allotted time here at Caboolture. We will break the trend. 

Beachmere's beach
Beachmere surprised us with its size and charm; with about 4,000 inhabitants it has a decent shopping centre including a good sized IGA, so one could easily hang out there for a week or so if you were in the hanging-about mood. The tide was in and so the beach was little more than a very narrow strip of sand for a short space in front of the “town” area. Further south, a cement wall holds back erosion and prevents the creep of mangroves, although here where there is a sizeable off-leash dog park, the land disappears into the mangrove swamps, no doubt home to all manner of creepy crawlies.

After checking out the mangroves and reading about the Lyngbya majuscule, a toxic algae bloom plaguing the bay, we were not inclined to even paddle our feet in the water. On the beach proper, we were further repelled when we saw a large number of jellyfish both on the wet sand and being tossed around in the surf, such as it was.

We followed the road on returning to the Bribie Island Road further east, then turned south again to Godwin Beach. Here the beach was marginally more attractive although the population who might find it so, somewhat smaller, so we carried on around to Sandstone Point. 

More water lilies
Again, the beach frontage here is minimal, although with a large grassy picnic area. A few were fishing from the narrow shoreline and from here, as from Godwin and Beachmere, there were views out across the bay to Bribie Island, Moreton Island and down to Scarborough where we had driven about a week ago.

But Sandstone Point is a delightful residential area, smart in an understated sort of way. It too has a population of about 4,000 and a small modern shopping area. Location and neighbours would make it a lovely spot to live, although we did not check out the real estate prices. Instead we stopped beside a park area, adjacent to the small shopping centre, and wandered around the lake on a concrete pathway through the melaleucas, ooh-ing and aah-ing about the water lilies. Flowers and leaf stalks stood high above the lake level, and above the more motley variety of lilies we had encountered in Caboolture’s Centenary Lakes yesterday. These were simply splendid, and all topped off by a graceful grey heron rising across the lake in front of us, followed by an elegant white Great Egret. What a scene!  Noisy crows in the trees above us agreed; it was all worth crowing about.

Pumicestone Passage shoreline
Soon we were back on the Bribie Island Road, emerging immediately to the west of the bridge approach. We chose not to join the great stream of traffic heading onto Bribie Island for the day, but instead to call into the marina area, or more particularly, Kal-Ma-Kuta Park at Ningi. Here we watched small craft setting out into Pumicestone Passage, or returning from an early mornings fishing attempt. Apparently the fish were there, but most not big enough to be taken. There were a surprising number of families with small children fishing from the shore, and as I watched one little fellow lamenting his caught line, I thought of our own little grandchildren waiting for us back in New Zealand.

It was barely past 11.30 am so we decided to head home, and there we sat under our own awning to enjoy our picnic lunch, to the accompaniment of a juvenile magpie. He sat on a branch just through the fence singing his heart out, no doubt sent there to do so by his parents to go practice. He has some way to go yet.

 Pork chops have been pulled out of the freezer for dinner, a bottle of wine on chill and the chef is taking in some more of the tennis before he starts preparing dinner. I did catch myself a good one nearly twenty years ago; husband that is.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

16 January 2014 - Caboolture Showground, Caboolture, Queensland

Perhaps the winds are blowing from a different direction to when we first arrived and I remarked how un-intrusive the busy rail was to us here in the showgrounds. Nowadays it seems noisy and particularly inconsiderate early in the morning when I would prefer to sleep beyond daybreak. Serve me right for tempting fate!
Tuesday here, as I think it is New Zealand, is Discount Day at the cinemas, although when I was working I did not have occasion to take advantage of such little pleasures. This week we toddled along to “Saving Mr Banks”, the fourth new release seen over the holiday period; such indulgence! Interestingly I had read about Helen Lyndon Goff in one of the many books I have been devouring of late and taken an avid interest of the movie’s reviews as a result. So I went with preconceptions, unlike my husband who was dragged along under sufferance. “Mary Poppins”? “Walt Disney”? What was this all about? Thankfully, he had to agree that not only was it so much better than expectations; he enjoyed it immensely. So there is another recommendation to the reader, if you are a movie-goer like we are when we happen to be in the right place at the right time.

It was Tuesday too that we did some serious homework on storage for the rig, abandoning hope of any reasonable sale transaction. I had spent a restless night struggling with packing up, in my dreams and half-dream state, and felt sick about the whole unresolved state of affairs. 

But then just to keep all options open, we re-posted our For Sale advertisement, dropping the price, and promptly received a call, which resulted in a viewing yesterday morning. Mike and Jean looked the caravan over, but not as diligently or as enthusiastically as Robert and Jacky had when they travelled up to Ipswich from the Gold Coast about a month ago. We were left wondering if they were keen or not, and kept on with the correspondence with the various storage businesses in the picture. Unlike Robert and his wife who followed up with a delightful email, Mike and Jean have remained silent, but then perhaps, just perhaps, they are chewing it all over.

And then this morning over breakfast we decided to drive down to Morayfield and book our flight home, and so we did. Now we have a date, a little over three weeks out, with time for miracles to occur in the interim. We have paid for a third week here at the showgrounds, as much as you are allowed, however I suspect some of our fellow campers have been swung some leniency; the grass has grown long under their caravans. After that we will head north to call in on some folk offering storage, those who have accommodated a rig like ours belonging to Pauline and Neil. We still have Keith at Lowood up our sleeve if we are unimpressed, and there are great lengths of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail un-walked. So our days here in Australia may be numbered but they are still an open book in some regard.

In the meantime, the tennis continues in Melbourne, in 41 degree heat, with spectators and players dropping like flies. Tomorrow there is to be little reprieve although I see the temperature is to be almost twenty degrees lower the following day; an extreme change. Of course in the northern hemisphere folk in the States and across the globe at similar latitudes have been struggling with 46 degrees below, and down in the Antarctic, icebreakers lie trapped in ice thicker than they have experienced before. This global warming is indeed an wonder!

I am continuing to enjoy the wonderful birdlife here at our camp; we are becoming quite familiar with Caboolture, and the busy life that goes on around us here, including the pistol club; thanks to my reader who enlightened me about this. The flying foxes are safe after all!

In fact today has been an excellent day so far; the temperatures remain below 30 degrees, our return flight is organised and most surprisingly, our vehicle registration labels have arrived at the post office, as organised by yours truly. This is always a small miracle when dealing with bureaucrats and the changing of official details here in Australia. We should be celebrating with a bottle of wine but instead will settle for a cup of tea; just the thing for a hot day.