Monday, January 6, 2014

6 January 2014 - Caboolture Showground, Caboolture, Queensland

Today we went to Bribie Island; with an open ended time schedule, we headed off with lunch packed in the eski and maps of the entire Moreton Bay on hand. We had few expectations and little fore-knowledge other than understanding that the island lay just over twenty kilometres due east of us and that most of it was inaccessible to us, despite the bridge connection.

We spent about six hours on the island and have spoken of the possibility of returning whilst in the area, so needless to say, it more than met expectations.

Back across Pumicestone Passage
Bribie Island is one of many forming shelter for Moreton Bay, more particular the northern part of the Bay and access through to Brisbane, hence its importance during World War II. The island is thirty four kilometres long, stretching from the south more or less where it is bridged, all the way to the north adjacent to Coloundra, and eight kilometres at its widest, separated from the mainland by Pumicestone Passage. In the northern reaches of the passage, little more than tongues of shallow water off Golden Beach immediately to the south of Caloundra, only wading birds and kayakers can pass through to the sea; we saw this when we explored the Sunshine Coast in mid-August 2012. The ocean side of the island is sheltered from the south east by Moreton Island and while it boasts surf beaches, the breaks are small and hardly worth the effort of even bringing your flutter board.

Of the whole area, 148 square kilometres, over fifty five square kilometres is national park and about another third of the island taken up with forestry plantations. The national park was established in 1994 and is accessible only by permit. Camping areas are at a premium at this time of the year, so had we wanted to drag the caravan up through the soft sandy tracks, we would have been unlikely to find space.

The southern section of the island where the national park does not work its geographical fingers, is densely populated, with a surprising 17,057 souls counted in the 2011 census, living in 9,574 dwellings, an average household of 2.2 persons, giving credence to our observations today; over half the population are over fifty five years old, in contrast to the median age of all Australians of thirty seven years; interesting is it not?

These mature folk live in the main suburbs of Bongaree, named after Matthew Flinders aboriginal guide who travelled here in 1799 mistaking Bribie Island for the mainland, Woorim, home to the token surf beach, and Bellara and Banksia Beach which boast the most delightful residential areas around a myriad of canals. 

Can't get enough of these birds
Arriving on the island, we made our way to the Information Centre where we spent some time chatting with an expatriate New Zealander and learning about the charms of Bribie Island and the Caboolture area generally. We drove up along the inland shore as far as White Patch, where an Aboriginal Reserve was set up in 1877, although by 1897, most of the population had died. However in the 2011 census, referred to above, 305 residents identified as having Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander heritage, which proves, as it does over and over again, that the Aboriginal people were resilient despite the adversity of European invasion.

Permanent settlement of the island did not really occur until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1901 a fish cannery was opened at the northern end of the island. Holiday makers came in their thousands from Brisbane for day trips, and campers for holidays. A school was opened in the 1920s at about the same time as a telephone link and a bowling club. By then a car ferry barge was operating but it was not until 1963 that the connecting bridge was constructed and duly opened for business.

At Banksia Beach, we wandered one way and then the other along the esplanade, admiring the wonderful birdlife including the now identified Eastern Curlews, probing the sandy shore with their long curved ibis-like beaks. Bright coloured parrots darted about the trees through the parks and we heard the first of the days thunder, rumbling about to the north. From here, looking to the north west, the odd silhouettes of the Glass House Mountains stood above the hazy horizon; they really are a fascinating sight.

Heading south again, we stopped at the Community Arts Centre, closed today, but still offering parking space for those wanting to walk along the edge of the National Park. Here we took the Banksia Trail, along a narrow sandy track through low grass trees and open banksia woods. It was late morning and the day was heating up, more from the humidity than the actual temperature; it was still only about 30 degrees.

Along the Banksia Trail
We headed across to the south east coast of the island and sat in the landcruiser above the beach, eating and trying to identify the far off land masses. Lightning forked far off to the north, thunder continued to roll around us and yet it still did not rain. Immediately in front of us was a sign asking that people stay off the eroding sand dunes. A middle aged chap arrived with his two sons, and promptly climbed through the fence and down toward the waves, further eroding the bank. Earlier we had watched as two separate dog owners had taken their charges onto the bird-crowded beach despite the No Dogs Allowed signs; they are a retrograde lot here on Bribie Island.

Here at Woorim there is evidence of the important role Bribie Island played during the last World War. Not only were fortifications constructed as part of the defence of South East Queensland, but the area was evacuated of residents and used as a training zone for Australian soldiers.

Thirsty Ibis
Back on the south western shore, we called into the beach at Bongaree, south of the bridge and where there is a significant jetty. It was here where all those tourists from Brisbane used to disembark. The Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company established the first island tourist resort in Queensland on Bribie Island in 1911, although a service had been set up earlier in 1901. During the golden years of steamship trips to the island, up to seven ships were tied up at the jetty at one time. Interestingly in 1917, the competitive destination of Umbigumbi opened. Nowadays it is known as Surfers Paradise.

Today dozens upon dozens of holiday makers were enjoying this charming beach, so suitable for children, fishermen, and boaties. Elderly folk on mobility scooters sped along the footpath, flags flying, and we chuckled to think that we might do the same in another twenty or forty years. We popped into the Scottish Restaurant for a refreshing soft serve before heading back across to the mainland and toward home.

After a little rain, from our camp
No sooner did we arrive at the shopping centre at Central Lakes, than the rain started. The glum woman at the supermarket checkout lamented the storm had not arrived despite our protestations. She told us that the outside temperature on Saturday had been 50 degrees; this did not really surprise us. I suspect she was menopausal; nothing was going to cheer her up.

This evening the skies have finally opened up, although not to the extent they have further afield. There have been reports of flash flooding and lifted roofs; we were just glad to have the temperatures drop. There were apparently 15,000 lightning strikes around here within two hours, a gobsmacking fact until Chris assured me that lightning strikes all about the place all the time. I still think that was amazing.
There are still strong wind warnings featuring across the screen but I do think we have had the worst of it. The ditch running behind us, busy with grazing ibis when we returned to camp this afternoon, is now a deep creek, but I suspect it will be dry again by morning.

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