Blues at Broadbeach

My Sister-in-law, Marie, is over from NZ visiting her sister, who lives on Queensland’s Gold Coast. We hadn’t expected to be any where near close by before Marie returns to NZ on 26th May. When we realised how close we were, we decided to make an unplanned stop in at the Gold Coast to catch up.

Why unplanned? Because the Gold Coast has a reputation of being spoilt by overpopulation. After being here for 4 days staying at Tallebudgera Creek, near Burleigh Heads, we’ve formed our own opinion – Wow!!! A big, big reminder that spectacular is rarely kept a secret, and the more spectacular, the more the crowds will gather in appreciation. We’re so pleased we didn’t bi-pass the Gold Coast.

We’re very close to Broadbeach, where a four day Blues Festival is happening this week-end. Again, Wow! and it’s all free. There’s several stages in different areas with a variety of Blues artists playing. The main mall area has been closed to traffic, and a big stage erected at one end complete with a huge screen for those who aren’t close enough to get a full appreciation of the artists up close.

The biggest name there is perhaps Eric Burden and the Animals. For those of you not old enough to have instant recall of The animals biggest claims to fame, you may still have had the pleasure of have hearing their biggest song – The House of the Rising Sun. Eric Burden is playing there today, but we had other plans for today, so will miss out on seeing him.

We did however spend a very pleasurable day there yesterday. We purchased ourselves  a bus pass and headed down there early where we walked from stage area to stage area enjoying all the different artists. While meandering between stages we grazed all the way from the dozens, or more likely, hundreds of food outlets. Perhaps that doesn’t read quite right – there were lots of food stalls and restaurants, and we did graze all day, but we by no means sampled hundreds, nor dozens, but a good few all the same. There were many, so many, that despite the crowds none were crowded, and each had to compete for their share of the market. Specials abounded.

Our favourite act of yesterday was a couple of older guys singing what I’d call real Delta style Blues, Dom Turner and Phil Wiggens. They both sang, Phil played the guitar, and Dom played the mouth organ. When I say he played the mouth organ, I really mean he played the mouth organ. He almost made it talk. I could have listened to them all day.

Dom Turner and Phil Wiggens - really, really good.

Dom Turner and Phil Wiggens – really, really good.

We wandered down to the beach for some cooling breeze mid afternoon. There were craft stalls lining the grassed area to browse through, and then beach volley ball to while away fifteen minutes or so.

Volley Ball on the beach.

Volley Ball on the beach.

I saw my first ever, ‘one man band’ – Uptown Brown. I’ve heard of a one man band, but never actually seen one in the flesh. The photo we snapped doesn’t do him justice. He stamped his feet according to how he wanted the two drums on his back to beat. I couldn’t count the amount of instruments he played solo, and couldn’t work out whether his act was funny, or brilliant. It was clever, that’s for sure and really something to have seen. It looked exhausting.

Photo doesn't do justice to Uptown Brown's one man band.

Photo doesn’t do justice to Uptown Brown’s one man band.

The Gold Coasts beautiful beaches have attracted the crowds. The crowds have built their hi rise flats and the area has become densely populated. The big density population allows for such things as a four day FREE Blues festival. Ya gotta love that! I know we did.

Advertisements

Northern NSW Coast

We’re spending our third and final night in Ballina, near the top of the NSW coast. The weathers been almost perfect, 25° days, moderate humidity, soft breezes, and cool, but not cold nights. Perhaps we’ve now caught up with the best of weather. We hope so.

This morning we took a trip into Byron Bay. In a lot of ways it absolutely lived up to its reputation – that of being stuck in a 60s time warp. The shops are full of flared trousers and jeans, some with embroidered hems, some with lace trim, and some left plain. Cafes have signs outside advertising their free trade coffee with signs such as, ‘in the name of love’. And home ware shops have plenty of ‘peace’ and ‘love’ signs amongst their flowery merchandise, and patchwork upholstered furniture.

It let itself down somewhat though as far as being truly reminiscent of the sixties. It cost us $8.00 to park for two hours. And it’s very clock governed. It was around 11.30, and as our parking was due to expire at around 12.15, we decided to have an early lunch. Repeatedly, we were told only breakfast was available, lunch isn’t available until noon. As we’d had breakfast many hours before, we opted for an icecream instead to keep us going till we arrived home.

The beach at Byron Bay almost rivalled Cable Beach in Broome. We wished we’d packed our bathers, as i think we may have managed to get in for a bit of swim. Never mind, eating on our ice cream overlooking the beach was a pretty good second.

Ballina is a much bigger than I’d thought. It has most of the main stores, in fact Pauls in at Bunnings now for some male retail therapy. We’re on the north side of the town, only three miles from Lennox Head. Lennox Head is a much smaller, understated version of Byron. The beach doesn’t look as good for swimming, but it’s been a fabulous walking beach for us while we’ve been here.

Tomorrow we’re heading to the Gold Coast. My sister -in-law, Marie is over from NZ visiting her sister who lives in Burleigh Heads. We didn’t think we’d be any where near this far up, so didn’t think we were going to get a chance to catch up. But here we are – into Queensland tomorrow. We’ve booked a caravan site at Tallabudgera Creek near Marie’s sister’s place for a week. Apparently it’s within walking distance. Since booking I’ve read reviews on things to do in the Gold Coast, and Burleigh Heads beach is listed as the number one thing to do – bonus! And second bonus, the caravan park gets good reviews as well, and offers 7 nights for the price of 5. How good’s that!

We’re settling into our life on wheels again very, very nicely. However, we’re still waiting to hear if Paul’s dad’s house sale is going to go through. The last of the enginneers and surveyors tests have now been completed for the buyer. A number of problems have been found, and some are quite significant. The buyer is awaiting the outcome from his bank to see if they will still approve his mortgage. It’s a bit scary to be feeling so settled into this wonderful life again, knowing that if the bank comes back with an unfavourable response, it will be snatched from us, and postponed again. We can only but hope, and live each day in the glorious sunny moments currently available to us. We will know for sure any day now.

Reflections

I’m sitting on the banks of a billabong at Corindi Park typing this. It’s almost 4pm and the birds are starting to come in for the night. This is our third (and last) night at this little oasis, and if this evening is the same as the past two evenings, the next two to three hours will see literally thousands of birds descend to the trees in and around the billabong. After the birds quiet down for the night, the stars come out, and if the birds number in the thousands, the visible stars must quadruple that at least.

What a camp spot - and tonight we have it to ourselves.

What a camp spot – and tonight we have it to ourselves.

Corindi Park is a private property of 22 acres. The owners obviously love and care for their property very much, and encourage a multitude of fauna to share their land. There’s several billabongs on the property, some with small water lilies and others with big lily blooms amongst the lily pads. Sitting outside our caravan as the sun goes down, watching the wading birds bobbing on top and around the lily pads, and listening to the evening bird song grow in volume as the visiting birds settle in for the night will make a lasting memory.

Roos sharing our camping space - check out the joey in the pouch.

Roos sharing our camping space – check out the joey in the pouch.

The billabong is so still, allowing reflections in the water to shine clearly.

Silver trunked trees surrounding our billabong.

Silver trunked trees surrounding our billabong.

Like a mirror.

Like a mirror.

The sun rises over the water hole opposite our caravan in the morning. In the afternoon as the sun sinks behind our van, the dying rays light up the trees giving them an orange glow that rivals the prettiest of autumn colours.

The setting sun reflecting on the trees.

The setting sun reflecting on the trees.

Today, we drove from here to Elland near Grafton and visited Abbey. Abbey is the gorgeous red heeler whom we had the pleasure of looking after along with her canine friend Riley, 22 cows, Charlie the rooster and his little harem of chooks, and several wild birds and parrots. For those of you who have been following this blog, you may remember our 6 – 7 weeks on the hobby farm. We remember it well, it was the stand out high-light of our first year on the road. Sadly, only Abbey remains of the two dogs and the chooks. It was around 120km round trip to see Abbey, testament to how special a dog she is. We wondered if she would remember us as clearly as we remember her. I think she did.

Remember Abbey.

Remember Abbey.

Both the hobby farm at Elland with the happiest domesticated animals i’ve ever seen, and this gorgeous property causes one to reflect on life in cities as opposed to life in both the oasis of Corindi Park, and the Nirvana at Elland. What comes to mind are words similar to those in the song by Dianna Ross, ‘Reflections of, the way life used to be’, or in this case, ‘Reflections of, the way life aught to be.’ Cares and worries have no place here, and one can feel their worries drifting away and being replaced by the most amazing feelings of peace.

We are so grateful that the owners of these two properties have allowed us the privilege of having a small taste of their little patches of paradise.

Lemon Tree Passage – Port Stephens

We’re almost at the end of a week long stay overlooking the beautiful Tilligerry Creek – beautiful some days, but still a bit to far south for great weather at this time of year.

We’ve enjoyed pretty sunsets,

late afternoon over Tilligery Creek.

late afternoon over Tilligery Creek.

and walks along the creek enjoying the tranquility.

Boats anchored on the creek.

Boats anchored on the creek.

We’ve had some lovely happy hours with friends, and shared meals. It’s been lovely to catch up. Paul’s taken on board some of Bruce’s ideas for small improvements to the van, and I’m sure thats visa versa. So, a few minor tweaks to our accommodation are on the horizon.

Pauls given the van a much needed clean, including cut and polishing the roof, and has put a glaze on the rest of the van. The fibreglass tends to get chalky if ignored, particularly on the roof and nose cone, so 6 months in open storage had left it looking worse for wear. All shiny now, looks like a new van. Not all for just cosmetics though. We’re sure when it’s shiny it helps reduce wind drag slightly giving improved mileage, and it definitely reduces dead bug adherence.

When the winds not blowing the water is so calm, like a mirror pond.

Blue skies, blue waters, and check out those mast reflections.

Blue skies, blue waters, and check out those mast reflections.

But, the wind is often up, make it to cold to enjoy sitting out in the evening. We thought we’d caught up to the more pleasant weather, but not quite yet. So, our tentative plans to start meandering up the coast from here are postponed and we’ll again put some miles under the wheels. All the little nooks and crannies of this coast will await our return for exploration at more seasonal time of year. Next stop, just north of Coffs Harbour for a few days, then on towards Queensland. The weather’s looking good north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast, so I think we’ll just have to bite the bullet and get there sooner rather than later.

Tonight we share Wendy and Bruce’s hospitality for the last time in this area. We’ve been promised one of Wendy’s famous cheesecakes, albeit an adapted recipe more suited to being made in a caravan. If you haven’t had one of Wendy’s cheesecakes – well, you’re missing something special. She’s up there with the best of cheesecake maker.

I’m sure we’ll catch up again somewhere further up in Queensland but for now, we leave tomorrow.

A trip on a paddle steamer

We had a pleasant little paddle steamer trip up the river from Echuca to Morrison’s Winery where we had a lovely lunch.

Our Paddle Steamer

Our Paddle Steamer

Paul and I.

Paul and I.

Amazing to see the workings of the paddle steamer, which brought to mind the saying, ‘running like a well oiled machine’.

The engineer stocking the fire.

The engineer stocking the fire.

I even got to steer the ship.

First mate Chris!

First mate Chris!

After a two day dash we’re now camped at Koala Shores caravan park, in Port Stephens. Our friends Bruce and Wendy are also here, so as well as enjoying the peaceful tranquility of the Tilligery creek, we’re enjoying the company of old friends.

Now camped on the shores of Tilligery creek.

Now camped on the shores of Tilligery creek.

Today, it’s warm and balmy prior to the arrival of some rain tomorrow. Only one day though, then it’ll be a return to more pleasant days we think. I think we’ve finally caught up to the weather we’ve been seeking and can now start to meander slowly up the coast, with time to stop and smell the roses (or to try and spot koalas). So far no luck at Koala spotting, a really pleasant walk though trying.

Echuca/Moama – The mighty Murray

We’ve been staying at the Merool on the Murray, caravan park, in Moama. Echuca and Moama are twin towns joined by the Murray River. The Moama side of the town on the north side of the river is in NSW, the Echuca side is on the southern side of the river and is in Victoria.

The Mighty River, at end of summer low level.

The Mighty River, at end of summer low level.

The caravan park we’re staying at is beautifully located away from the towns and situated on 63 acres with the river forming a horseshoe around the whole park. The park is lovely, and oh so cheap – only $20 for week nights, and a couple of dollars more on the week-end. When parks are this cheap there’s a tendency to wonder, what’s wrong? In this case absolutely nothing.

Theres only a small amount of caravan sites. Most of the park is either privately owned holiday homes, or holiday cottages for rent.

Rental cottages in our caravan park.

Rental cottages in our caravan park.

There’s also a number of house boats to rent. Wow! do they ever get the imagination fired up. Many of them are 4 – 6 bedroomed, each room with it’s own ensuite bathroom. And huge spa baths on the deck for the same amount of occupants. Just imagine, drifting slowly on the Murray, glass of champagne in hand as you sit in a spa bath on the deck of your houseboat. The gum trees drifting by, and surrounded by palms – yes they even have potted palms on deck.

P1040899

House boats for rent, or to dream about.

There’s an award winning winery/restaurant, Morrisons, next door. Its all so beautiful.

Echuca/Moama is apparently Australia’s favourite retirement destination, surpassing all coastal destinations. Walking around the caravan park and along the banks of the Murray each morning perhaps provides the answer as to the reason why. The area is full of stunning Red River Gums, beautiful to look at, and the strong Eucalyptus smell……. I always wondered why this area would be so popular as the winters can get quite cold. Now I think I know the answer – it’s in the smell I’m sure. Before the cold sets in, people must become totally addicted and tranquillised by the heady smell of the trees, then they must just chill like koalas. That’s my explanation anyway.

Red River Gums lining the banks of the River.

Red River Gums lining the banks of the River.

The cold is coming though, and although we’re finding the heady scent of the Eucalyptus is quite addictive, it’s not yet had time to tranquillise us. So, we’re upping wheels tomorrow and putting a big dash on to catch up with the warmer weather towards the top of NSW. Today, for our last day here, we’re heading into town to pick up a paddle steamer to bring us to Morrison’s award winning restaurant for lunch. Seems silly when the restaurant is walking distance from our park, but we’ve never been on a paddle steamer before, and that’s a must when in Echuca.

Ballarat

We had a pleasant four days in Ballarat, mainly visiting the re-created 1850’s gold mining town, Sovereign Hill. We bought a two day pass, and needed almost every minute of it.

The main street of the re-created 1850's Sovereign Hill.

The main street of the re-created 1850’s Sovereign Hill.

The costumed towns people go a long way to creating a life like atmosphere. Some of them are working in the shops, while some are just wandering around the town, going about their business, much as I’m sure they would have been at the time.

A 'towns woman' wandering in the garden of one of the houses.

A ‘towns woman’ wandering in the garden of one of the houses.

School children visit on school camps staying for a couple of days in the accommodation on site. They swap their clothes for clothing similar to what would have been worn at the time, and apparently attend a replica 1850s school for the duration (no doubt minus ‘the cane’ though i should imagine).

School children having a break from their lessons.

School children having a break from their lessons.

They have a daily parade of Red Coats through the town finished off with musket firing. It’s quite a spectacular.

The Redcoats adding to the atmosphere.

The Redcoats adding to the atmosphere.

There’s gold mines, and a small river for gold panning. Apparently, they even add some gold to the stream for people who want to try their hands at gold panning. Finders/Keepers too, so I imagine it’s very small specks and nuggets.

Visitors panning for gold.

Visitors panning for gold.

The accommodation for the miners was basic and grim, particularly for the Chinese miners.

Miners accommodation.

Miners accommodation.

Crude furnishings.

Crude furnishings.

Re-created entertainment hadn’t been forgotten. We tried our hand at the old time ten pin bowling alley.

Slightly different style required to what we're used to.

Slightly different style required to what we’re used to.

Ball's away!

Ball’s away!

For our last day there we had planned to take a look at the botanical gardens, and finish off with a 6km walk around a pretty lake opposite. Alas it was raining, so we made do with a look at the indoor begonia display in the gardens, then returned to our caravan for a game of cards. However, the gardens and the lake looked very enticing, so we’ve written a note to ourselves for our next visit (perhaps next year, or the year after that, or even the year after that – one day.)