Journey 7 – Townsville in OZ

The Journey

Next up was Townsville (obviously named by someone devoid of all imagination). It was Sunday and most shops were closed up. The main drag was typical Oz with shop fronts reminiscent of the Wild West – with verandas and awnings and some street art and murals. The natives were extremely friendly.

We wandered the waterfront promenade spotting lorikeets and black cockatoos, sculptures, and sprawling fig trees with dangling roots and branches, and stared at the empty cool sparkling sea bedecked with warnings about death from stingers. It looked so alluring with empty yellow sand and cool sparkling water, like a tantalising mirage.

It was apparent that the sea was a death trap. Not only were the crystal clear waters inviting but they were also deadly.  Below their surface lurked a millions deadly creatures with fangs and venom and stings all waiting to pounce. Even the sand was duplicitous. One step onto it and you were bombardment with sufficient UV to set up a dozen melanomas. There were signs about that too. We settled for a pleasant stroll in the shade and torpid heat with cooling breaks for iced coffee and beer.

Bearing in mind our experience at Hamilton we scaled the mountain (well 12 metres short of a real mountain) but this time in a shared taxi, which was a lot less strenuous, to see the great views over the sprawling city and out towards Magnetic Island (so named because Captain Cook’s compasses all went haywire when they sailed close – a feat that nobody else has been able to repeat) on one side and the mountains on the other.

Then it was a stroll through the botanical gardens with incredible birds, one with vivid blue markings, and great trees and plants, before heading back to the seafront for a last beer and hopping back on board.

It was a bit like being in suspended animation. I did not feel that the trip had really got going yet – not until we’d finally cleared the shores of Oz and were heading out into less familiar places. Townsville was fine but nothing outstanding.

Journey Pt. 6 – Oz – Hamilton Island

The Journey

It was a novel way to be leaving Sydney as the forked smoking stack slid under the harbour bridge, seemingly grazing the metal struts, like the flukes of a giant metallic whale. The gloom of the clouds threatened a tropical storm and the Opera House was already lit up as we glided past. It looked atmospheric in the heavy light.

We were loose.

We were consumed by the ritual of the voyage, reading, exercising and eating, writing, watching the sea slide by and peering into the infinity of ocean that surrounded us. At night we gave ourselves over to the throb of the screws and the lethargic yawing, pitching, rolling and staggering of the ship. We rocked and rolled to a physical lullaby.

To our left the shores of NSW slowly rose and fell on the horizon as a low smudge of hills looking so low against the immense sea that it was easy to imagine it being inundated.

Already we have stocked up our Vit D batteries and are about to explode. We are restraining ourselves with fortitude in the face of mountains of victuals and ethanoic concoctions.

Two days cruising the Gold Coast like Cook before (though I bet he did not have the luxuries or company we have) and then we strike shore to invade Hamilton Island!

We crashed straight through the Great Barrier Reef (we have a few fragments in our cabin) to ensconce ourselves among the rich kids regatta at the yacht club but soon headed off into the bush for secret pebble coves overhung with tropical Queensland flora. It was forty plus degrees (hot enough to boil eggs) and humidity was 130% so, dripping sweat and with limited water, we set off up the mountain of Passage Peak with superb views of the Whitsunday islands (should have been the Whitmondays but Cook didn’t put the clocks forward). Dehydrated and scorched we tramped back through forests of grass ferns to the nearest bar and stocked up on fluids.

After a beer and lunch we boarded a bus and headed off to town. It was pleasant enough but away from the hinterland it felt like a rick kids playground with buggies and jet-skies.

A week after we left a hurricane came through and flattened it.

Journey Pt. 4 – Oz – South West Rocks

The Journey


Journey 4 – South West Rocks.

Every journey begins with a soundtrack. The soundtrack to this one was laughter. Loading up the van with enough wine to sink a tank we headed off to South West Rocks. Taking turns to drive as we motored along past the parades of gum trees and arid bush, stopping in a little town with sidewalks and rails resembling some cowboy town to catch an Ozzy health meal of pie and ketchup – the ketchup being one of your five a day!


We arrived in the afternoon and stopped in South West Rocks for some provisions and directions. The rollers were tumbling in on a rocky bay with yellow sand beach. Butcher birds stalked us, a huge golden orb spider sat patiently in its web, an ibis strutted past, and down the road, near to where we were staying a mob of kangaroos were grazing, one with a large joey in her pouch staring at us suspiciously.

We walked up the hill overlooking the bay and watched the honey-eaters, butcher birds and kangaroos. The bay looked magnificent with its rocks and yellow sand.

That night we went out lamping, wading across the shallow water to find ghost crabs scurrying across the sand, then into the bush for swamp wallabys, bats in the trees, insects and spiders spinning their webs.

The next day was baking and we snorkelled in the estuary with the tropical fish, avoiding all sharks.

That evening the bay, though devoid of whales due to the season, provided the ideal sunset to sip wine by. Sitting around, chatting, laughing and playing guitar. Life doesn’t get much better.

The next day we decided a walk through the bush up the headland might be in order. Smothered in sunscreen with dampened hats and water bottles we headed off on the trail, up rocks and around outcrops, through scrub and wood. It was hotter, harder and longer than anticipated. What started as a two hour stroll developed into a five hour jaunt in which our water ran out. You can sure get through a lot in that heat. We survived and the views were spectacular. We then rewarded ourselves the most sumptuous meal I can ever remember – a large cool beer, frozen yoghourt and chunky chips with mayonnaise – heaven.

The area was wonderful, the rocky coastline amazing and the wildlife spectacular. Old fifties style diners, kookaburras splashing in the waterbath, lorikeets in the palm trees, incredible scenery, flocks of cattle egrets, swimming in the clear warm water, geckos and cicadas providing a background music, sunsets lighting up the bays, guitars strumming, films playing and friends to share it with.

South West Rocks rock.

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Journey Pt. 3 – Oz and Newcastle

The Journey

Journey 3 – Oz and Newcastle

When you are weary after a long haul flight and your mouth feels gritty and rancid as if you’ve been sucking gorgonzola cheese through a sweaty sock, your eyes are stinging with fatigue and your body has a strange, unreal hum, there is nothing better than finally getting through customs and out into the foyer to find the beaming face of a friend waiting to give you the biggest bear-hug in the world


Welcome to Oz. The temperature is hot – like pressing 40 – but the fizzy is on ice and the pool is cool. What could be better. We’ve only been going three days and the cold and drizzle are already a fading memory.

Unfortunately the heat was such that camping in the outback would have been a misery. Plans were altered. Instead we spent time soaking up rays, covered in more sunscreen than is present in most nuclear shelters, and lurking in the pool with bubbly, food and cockatoos!

When it was too hot we visited the cool of the local jail where they locked up the desperate,

and drowned our sorrows with shakes. We visited the bay of caves and crawled through tunnels as the surf pounded in.

We visited Art galleries.

There were cool walks by the lake as the sunsets and ice-creams dripped into the water – one leaving stains of orange and red and the other splashes of chocolate,

as roosting Corellas chattered in the trees and we consumed unknown fish and necked wine.

We sought the magnificent cuckoo, tracked down the huge mighty owl, marvelled at the splendour of lorikeets, saw the fruit bats hanging and hunted the water dragons.

We walked the cliffs and stood on rocks while mighty rollers crashed into the rock and sprayed us.

We rose early to walk along beaches laden with friendly dog walkers or breakfasted at the boogie hole with friends, swimming and laughing while the populace slept around us and a pair of kestels watched from the top of a lamppost.

We walked through shaded woods, observed by kookaburras and noisy mynahs.

We ate oysters, drank more wine and had a big music jamboree on the porch with frogmouths looking on.

We saw a giant huntsman the size of a house whose feet were in the front room while his body was in the hall, who could run like lightning but who was eventually caught and expelled.

We circuited the lake and watched the black swans, pelicans and plovers while two heron performed a mating dance for us.

We danced all evening to the Red Hot Potatoes who blasted out their brass reggae, jazz and soul. We listened to the mighty performance of Emma Rugg.

New friends, lots of music and frolics. We put the world right again.

No time was left unfilled, no seconds wasted. No senses unsated. No sensation unfulfilled.

The hot scent and dust of Australia seeped into us. At dusk we watched the Cockatoos noisily go to roost like a mobile wrecking crew and the fruit bats took to the sky. The possums tail protruded from his nest in the heat and the scent of flowers and gum tree filled the hot air.

Learning to snorkel in the pool as we drank more fizz and ate delicious barbies. Visiting an old cinema to sit with a glass of wine and an ice-cream in a vintage seat.

What could be nicer!!

We are well and crazy in Newcastle Australia!  The music thumps. The new friends grin a lot. The country is wonderful. The wildlife is colourful and plentiful (though becoming scarcer by the day). Pete  and Trudie are keeping us busy!!

The wildlife sanctuary with wombats, wallabys, koalas and lorikeets.

The Wetlands with the nesting ibis and egrets, parrots, swallows and geese.

We have not been bitten by sharks, spiders, crocodiles, scorpions, snakes, box jellyfish, rabid dogs or sting rays. We have had the odd mossy bite though. We can cope.

We’ve been swimming, snorkelling, walking, climbing and seeing an array of amazing things! It has been hot – 45 degrees. But now it is cooler. We are heading off for the outback!