Sep 26, 2010

Mareeba Qld

We have visited and stayed at the Rodeo grounds at Mareeba three years ago and loved the area for it's location and the low cost no frills camping, We paid for a week to start with but have extended that for another week as we are in no rush to move on.

The week we have been here we have taken a few drives around the area, one out to Mt Molloy and on out to Daintree, the last time we were around there was when we had the kids with us doing what our eldest daughter described in her diary as the 'Holiday from Hell', this time there were no complaining voices in the back seat but nothing much else had changed with the countryside as beautiful as we remembered.

Locally we went to the Mareeba Coffee House and took in the tastings of coffee & chocolate, they have a great display of all types of Coffee paraphernalia which is worth the visit. If your fortunate to be an old fart you will have a seniors card and get in for $12pp, if your still young like us it costs $19pp but included you do get a $5pp discount of anything purchased and a free re-entry card for as many times as you like.

Another day we drove down to Kuranda and visited the markets, a couple of stores caught my fancy, one was the Global Gypsey's which struck a chord with me as we are doing something similar but not on a Global size, well not yet anyway, the other was a great display of dinosaur exhibits and ancient fossils, an excellent display for the cost of a donation. We then drove down onto Cairns which does nothing for me at all, though i am sure Vickie would like to wander around the shops. Without stopping we drove back to Mareeba via Gordonvale and the Gillies Highway back to Atherton which like the Kennedy Highway we went down on was twisty and steep.

Saturday was spent at Yunguburra and in particular the Markets, Yunguburra is a lovely scenic small town, property values have discovered the area and prices to buy around here are not cheap. We both enjoyed the markets, i found a specialty knife stall with a range of Schrade pocket knives for sale, i couldn't resist buying a Heritage H194 'Old Timer'. Schrade were a well known American knife manufacturer that went out of business 7 years ago after 100 years of knife making. The knifes are quick becoming collectors items with values increasing.

Today was mainly spent doing jobs and cleaning the van, this evening we were treated to another lovely sunset with the build up of rain clouds and hundreds of Brolga's flying back to the lake.

Sep 17, 2010

Lake Tinnaroo

Lake Tinnaroo, What a beautiful place.

Whilst we were camped at the Bushtracker Muster at Herberton i mentioned that we would be camping out at Tinnaroo after the muster, Muzza & Judy, Noel & Denise, & Roscoe & Chris were also keen so we all drove out to do a recce and decided that Fong On Bay would best suit us. Being a Qld National Park all bookings are either placed via the net or by phone, as it turned out the system was down for the weekend but 1st thing Monday morning i got on and booked some space for us. Fong On Bay has a maximum limit of approx 250 campers and with the School Holidays coming up the following weekend we were hoping to get in before the rush.

Muzza & Judy and ourselves booked for 4 days and the others booked for 3, arriving at Fong On Bay on Wednesday we were relieved to see the place nearly empty, on the track in we met two other Bushtrackers leaving and apart from them there was only two other tents set up but things were to change come Friday afternoon with a steady procession of cars and boats arriving for the weekend and holidays.

The weather for the 1st 2 days was hot & clear sky's, we were all monitoring our solar systems and all it took was one of us to call out "26.7 amps coming in & 13.5 volts" and the rest of us were checking and calling out similar figures, it was good fun and kept us all on our toes. All the vans produced very similar results and we all had fully charged batteries.

We set our camp up in a square and had a central area for our fire's, at one stage we had Muzza's 'GRUNTER', Roscoe's 'MICKEY MOUSE', Noel's 'TANKARD' and our 'KIMBLE' fires all going in competition. Noel & I agreed that our's were the best & the most simple of designs, Muz & Roscoe agreed to disagree, it was all good fun.

The 2nd night it was agreed that we would have a progressive dinner with each of the girls making something. It was a meal fit for any restaurant, with soup for entree, mains consisted of Thai Chicken & Cheesy Meatballs and desert was sticky date pudding. Let me say that 'camping tucker' is not boring with the talents of these girls.

Vickie & i have two Hobie Kayak's, one an inflatible and the other a hard plastic version and i soon had them both set up and ready to take out the Opera House nets to catch a feed of Red Claw, we all produced a different bait to put in the nets, from can's of cat food, dog biscuits, potatoe, rockmelon, avacado, banana. Noel even bought out some clams. All baits caught something but the dog biscuits ruled supreme with the most caught.

We managed to catch enough in the 1st couple of days to have a 'RED CLAW' cooking night, one of Judy's many talents lay in cooking and she made us all a lovely Paella consisiting of Fish, Pork, Prawns & red Claw with rice, she also prepared some with Garlic sauce and Vickie boiled the rest up. Denise made a lovely loaf of bread to accompany it. To top it all off Judy excelled again with the most delicious Mocha Cheese Cake.

Saturday, it was raining this morning as Vickie and i went out to collect all the nets. Another dozen nice sized Red Claw which we gave to Judy. Noel & Denise and Roscoe & Chris have left us but not before we again compared solar inputs, not quite as significant as the day before but it didn't stop the competition with calls of "1.6 amps coming in" and "I can beat that 1.7 amps"

Fong On Bay has filled up with tents in most places, some young pups have been doing bog laps in their utes and cutting up the grass which is a shame, where is the Ranger when you need one.

We are camped near a nest that a Little Curlew is sitting on, these birds have the most painful sounding call, it sounds like a child in distress and they have a habit of calling out in the middle of the night, we are also expecting to hear the Doof Doof music belting out from the camps later in the evening. Tomorrow morning we leave with Muz & Judy heading back down to Malandra to visit friends and us onto Mareeba where we will camp at the Rodeo grounds for a week and catch up with some chores & mail.

Sep 13, 2010

Normanton - Herberton BOG Muster

We stayed at the Normanton Tourist Park, we were greeted by Warren a young lad about 12 - 13 years of age. Warrens family come from Brisbane and have only had the park for 12 weeks and he has fitted in really well. He took me around in a golf cart to show me what sites they had and then back at the office he took care of the booking in and credit card payment. This Kid has a future in hospitality.

We stayed two nights at the park, it was hot and we both used the 25mt swimming pool to cool off, i did have an artesian spa which was very relaxing and almost nodded off.

Another BT owner was parked beside us and we had a chat before they left the next day. I went and visited and Purple Pub and had a beer and unlike me i put $5 on the pokie machines and lost. We have been to Normanton previously when the Rodeo was on and had a great time and there wasn't much for us to see or do whilst we were there, we did spend some time in the Visitor Information Centre, a great place to spend a few hours relaxing in the Airconditiond comfort reading the info and browzing the libary.

We didn't bother cooking one night and bought Barra & chips from one of the local cafe's which was very nice & plentiful. Down on the river i threw a few lures about from the boat ramp, being careful not to get to close to the waters edge as the area is renowned for Saltwater Crocs, Their is a concrete replica in the main street of Krys Croc a huge 8.63mt Croc that was shot by a lady back in 1957, a true dinosaur.

Leaving Normanton we headed to Georgetown, another nice country town we had visited previously. We particularly wanted to get some meat from the Butcher Shop as it has a good reputation and one we can vouch for. This Butchery is certainly not fancy, no shop window and nothing on display, the owner has been there for many years and has the business for sale and nothing had changed in the 3 years since we last called in.
We have eaten the lamb chops & steaks and they were superb, we wish we had of bought twice as much.

We stayed the night in one of two van parks in town, $15 a night unpowered away from everyone else it was nice and relaxing watching the birds around us. I started to think about some mates who were attending the Bushtracker Owners Group Muster at Herberton and sent some a message to find out what their plans were and how long they were hanging around, the messages came back that some were there for another 5 nights and some were leaving in 2 days time, so we decided to hook up the next morning and head to Herberton.

We arrived later that day and caught up with the many people we know and met a few owners whom we didn't know. The venue was a great one, Tepon Horse Park is a lrge area with all amenities required to cater for around 60 Bushtrackers. A few had already left before we got there and over the next few days it has thinned out where now there are only about 10 Vans left. We have our mates Lloyd & Heather, Muzza & Judy, Noel & Denise, Rob & Glenda & Rosco & Chris close by and happy hours are spent around a large camp fire.

We have filled our time in by catching up with some cleaning & maintainance, a drive to Atherton & Lake Tinnaroo and a visit to a Sunday Markets. The weather during the day is warm & sunny but late afternoon we have been getting some light rain and cool nights, great for sleeping.

We all have to be out by tomorrow and 4 of us are going to Lake Tinnaroo and try our luck at catching some Red Claw.

Sep 7, 2010

Frank MacDonald R.I.P

Frank Ross MacDonald - 9th July 1942 – 5th September 2010

Father's Day 2010 will always be remembered by us, here we all were camped along the Gregory River wishing each other Fathers day not knowing that our friend Frank passed away that day.

As we got into phone range the messages started to come through, one from Franks number with a message from Marg, Franks wife asking us to call. We knew then that the news would not be good and it was with huge sadness we spoke to Marg and heard the worst.

We knew Frank was not well and suffering from Malignant Mesothelioma, he had been diagnosed some 20 months earlier and not given a long time to live. We called often to find out how he was but always Frank would just say he was fine and was more interested in hearing what we were up to. He was under going treatment and on the phone sounded as fit as ever, Frank was a champion Kayaker winning many long distance endurance races and he sounded like he could still pull a few races off, but Frank was also great at disguising how he really was and it was only Marg that would give us the updated news on how he was progressing.

We 1st met Frank`N`Marg back when we owned our Ultimate Camper in 2002, we had travelled down the East Coast and pulled into a van park at Lakes Entrance, we spotted this small framed, bald headed, very fit looking bloke with his equally fit looking but with much more hair wife next to their Ultimate Camper and we wandered over for a chat, we were soon all chatting away like old friends. We stayed in touch and over the years we have caught up with them at the Coorong SA, Broome WA, South West Rocks NSW, Burdekin Qld and also at our home in WA when they called in for a visit.

After a few years they chose to sell their Ultimate and buy a Kedron Caravan and as things turned out they bought our mate Kimbo's ATV, it's a small World, It was Frank who caused us to call our gas bottle fire pot the KIMBLE Pot as Kimbo had made it for us and unbekown to Frank he had been calling Kimbo - Kimble all the time he was doing negotiations to buy his Van, so the KIMBLE Pot it will always be.

Due to Franks illness they decided to sell the caravan and convert their Cruiser Ute to a 6 wheeler and fit a Northstar slide on camper to it. Marg was doing most of the driving now and it made it easier for both of them. Their last big trip was to Tasmania which they enjoyed but Frank was tired and sleeping a lot of the time. Frank always enjoyed talking about his latest camping set up and the dream was still strong to get out there, deep down i think he was setting things up for Marg as he knew that he wouldn't have long.

My 2nd last phone call with Frank was not a happy one, Frank was not his usual up beat self and we could feel the sadness in his voice as he passed the phone to Marg. I followed the call up a couple of weeks later to hear him back to his cheerful self and was told that his new medication was making him feel better. That was two weeks ago and now Frank has gone.

We always hoped like hell that Frank would beat this insideous disease but it was not to be.

You were a hell of a fighter Frank, if it had been a measly 100klm Kayak race you would have blitzed them, some fights we just cannot win and we will miss you and miss hearing your cheery voice.

In Heaven with Jimmy his beloved Jack Russell. Rest In Peace Frank.

Miss Me – But Let Me Go

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little – but not too long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that we once shared
Miss Me – But Let Me Go.

For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone
It’s all part of the Master’s plan
A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss Me – But Let Me Go

Author Unknown

Borroloola - Gulf Savannah - Gregory River

Left Lorrella Springs and the night was spent along side another river, another camp fire and a 100 million starry night, you just do not see night sky's like you see out in the bush when your away from the towns & cities.

Headed into Borroloola without thinking it was Sunday and everything apart from one store and servo was closed, Vickie did a small shop and was astounded at what it cost, the price you pay for being isolated. Fuel was $1.77 for diesel and as we needed that as well it was an expensive stop. Looking back i made an error of judgement, we should have gone out to King Ash Bay and camped and checked it out but i was in the 'no boat, so why bother' stage and didn't bother. Always next time i say.

Leaving Borroloola we headed to Wollogorang just before the Qld border. Crossing interstate we gave each other the high five and remarked that it was only in April that we were in Qld, Do we move too fast?? Haha ......

We stopped at Hells Gate and went in to see if they sold ice creams but no they didn't, i did buy a stubby cooler though. 50klms further on we took the track into KingFisher Camp, part of the Bowthorn Station. We had been here back in 2007 with our mates Kimbo & Ned and it was just as lovely again this time, we got the Kayak's in the water - No Salt Water Croc's here - that they are aware of ;-) and we had 3 lovely days peddling up and sown the river catching small Archer Fish & Black Bream.
No luck with the Cherabin or Red Claw though.

Where we camped we had quite a few Kimberley Karavan owners and we got on well with all of them and spent our evening's around a fire. One of the couples were very keen to check out our van as they were thinking of ordering a BT. They left after our 2nd night and we were then joined by a Jeff a late staying KK owner and Steve & Stephanie who tow a Kedron Top Ender with an extended 100 series Cruiser so it was another late night chatting around the camp fire. One day we were out Kayaking and i spotted a Blue Winged Kookaburra strung up in the tall paper bark trees by some fishing line, the poor thing was caught and hanging upside down. I went and got the Ute and came back with some strong fishing line and a sinker, it took me about 45mins of throwing the weighted line up and catching hold of the line and breaking it free, some luck also had me dislodge the lure that was caught in the tree and holding the bird. Finally i freed the bird and i was able to catch it on the ground and remove the rest of the line, it sat there with it's wing hanging for an hour before it recovered enough and flew off. It was a good feeling.

3 nights and we should have stayed longer, our drive to Adels Grove to book in for a stay at Lawn Hill National Park was a failure, we were unaware that we needed to book to stay at the Gorge and that the park was booked out even though we were told by other campers that there appeared to be plenty of space. We were told that the earliest vacancy was in two days time so I then made another mistake and booked into the Grove for two nights which was not what Vickie wanted to do, If we couldnt get into Lawn Hill then she wasn't interested in staying, As it turned out our allocated site already had campers on it so i went back and ask for a refund as we had changed our mind. I was greeted by Linda the not so pleasent person behind the counter who told me i would incur a $20 Admin Fee for cancellation, after some discussion on my part i told Linda we would stay - BUT move off the campers from our 'allocated' site, she could see it was not a winning situation so she reluctantly gave us a refund.

77klms down the track we came across Gregory River, what a beautiful place to camp. Just a klm away from the Gregory Downs Hotel we were able to camp right next to the fast flowing water on a bank of river stones, No Dust and next to a river!! we were in heaven. Vickie and i didn't waste anythime in getting in for a swim, the water though shallow in parts was flowing very quickly and we were soon walking up the river a few hundred metres and floating back further down 1/2 a klm or so. Vickie called the 1st bend in the river crutch corner as she copped a bruise on her thigh. It didn't stop us though and we soon thought of our life jackets and started wearing them to give us extra bouyancy.

The only way this could get any better was to be sharing it with good friends and that's exactly what happened. Life long mates of ours had recently bought a BT and were heading slowly back to WA, we had arranged to meet somewhere along our travels and as luck had it this was to be the place. Geoff & Vickie Parker pulled up next to us and the next 5 days we had the best fun swimming and catching up with all our news, family & travels and checking out their lovely new Van & V8 Toyota Ute, they sure are a popular tow vehicle.

We compared everything with our usual shit stirring nature, the early morning greeting was usually '12.6' Volts Mick what's your's plus a thousand other jibe's all in good fun, great friends and we hope to catch up with them and do an extended trip with them at some stage, but BOY can Vickie P talk !!!! After 3 nights we were also joined by Stephen & Stef whom we met at KFC, they fitted right in and stayed two nights with us, at one stage i strung a rope across the river and we were all in and holding on like a big bunch of kids, great fun - great company.

With Steve & Stef leaving yesterday, Parkers and ourselves almost did the same but we decided one more night as it was just to nice a place to leave. Today we did leave with Geoff & Vickie heading West and us now at Normanton where i have spent all evening catching up with emails and phone messages, the saddest of which was the news that our friend Frank MacDonald had passed away after suffering the past 20 months from cancer. A very sad day and our thoughts are with his wife Marg.