Byron Bay Wednesday 30th November 201

What a lovely place is Byron Bay! It has a much larger shopping area than I was expecting and a wonderful eclectic mix of shops. Much is New Age, crystals, incense, rainbow colored or natural clothing. There are several galleries, both photos and art, music shops and a general air of creativity.

In comparison to the North the beach is changed. Whilst still sandy it now has rock jutting through giving a feel of Cornwall.
There are some lovely walks around. We enjoyed going to the lighthouse despite it being a bit of a climb. From there we found the most Easterly point of Australia and saw 3 dolphins swimming far below our cliffs.



Atlantic Guest House proves to be a wonderful place to stay because it’s atmosphere seems to induce a family feel. While we are there we join many discussions about Australian life, the cost of living, deadly encounters with snakes and spiders, none of which prove to be deadly. We eat our own food but share a table and this binds us further together, many nationalities, many ages but all travelers.

Last day in Brisbane and the big push South continues 28/29th November 2011

My friend from Melbourne phoned up today to confirm the details of our stay in his house while he visits London: a whole month, such luxury!
Brisbane is the kind of city that just grows on you more and more.

For the first time I feel a little Christmassy. But in this heat it is still foreign and out of place. Christmas trees a going up everywhere but some are hardly realistic, even though they are fun.

We look at children’s clothing for our grandson but are horrified by the prices. A well known, international brand gives the price tag in many currencies. Whilst it is £15 in UK they have converted it to $AU 35 when we feel a closer match should be $22 at the current exchange rate. Crazy! How do young families live out here?
There seems to be a reasonable low end range of any goods you choose to mention and a large upper, luxury end but nothing in the middle.
So we abandon our first ideas for more fun typical tourist stuff with kangaroos, surfboards and koalas printed on.
The Brisbane Post Office is worth a mention as it has just been renovated and was fantastic. As well as selling sturdy boxes, wrapping, tape etc they were so friendly and helpful. I admit the whole present cost as much to send to UK as it did to buy but I loved the clean layout and well presented goods alongside the lovely lady who served us. Thank upon mystery lady!

Next stop is Byron Bay. we have secured a grown up version of a YHA. It is a bedroom to ourselves and a shared lounge, kitchen, bathroom but no-one under 25 is accepted. The photos are all white. “Schoolies” still take up lots of accommodation and are rainy attracted to Byron Bay. We are hit twice by them as last week it was Queensland schools, this week New South Wales and we have crossed the boundary.


Brisbane the weekend 26/27th November 2011

Brisbane grows on me. It is easy to navigate on foot, has many parks, good shopping centers and an outstanding South Bank.



It’s the first place I have come across this lizard. He is about 50 cm when fully grown and always found close to water. He is not at all worried by people or birds. Brisbane has lots of lovely park spaces, many of which include water features. They have to cope with the hilly disposition but are wonderful for walking.
South Bank and Roads with bikes




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    From the South Bank you recognize the impressive engineering required, cantilevering the roads over the river’s edge and ensuring that bikes get their pathways in isolation from the traffic. I loved to see the bridges plunging into between the sky scrapers Ina beautiful swoop.

    The South Bank is worth taking some time over. The Art Gallery is free and splendid but I wished they had more examples of Aboriginal art: what they did have was excellent.


    There is also the most amazing street beach which was such a fun place simply to watch!


    With its fair share of elegant shops, plus the usual city facilities, I rate Brisbane as a good place to stay.

    A Greyhound to Brisbane Friday 25th November 2011

    Greyhounds depend on their owner! These buses take on the same characteristics as their driver. Today we have a driver who is brusque, “There’s no toilet on this bus, so you’d better go now.”. I think he loved driving because I could see his face in the mirror, smiling as he went down the highway, but customer liaison probably could do with a bit of work.

    His clients, our fellow travelers were different, so was his coach. There were older people, some with families, some quite old, all sitting silently for 4 hours.

    You could tell we were reaching Brisbane. The countryside changed to a gentle roll, the trees became, as John called it, ‘recognizable shapes’ and then the suburbs began, acres of them.

    With the notable exemption of Sydney Opera House (I bet you could tell me some more!) Australians are unlikely to win many architectural prizes. It’s kit housing, if you are lucky with good decorative iron work or an attractive arch on domestic buildings. These suburbs have a lack of civic status or public art, plenty of billboards, of course, loud and garish mostly. The entrance of Brisbane strikes me as a Spaghetti Junction which is still being constructed.

    It’s not helped by the flat we have chosen. It is definitely the most grimy, the carpet makes me feel itchy, the sofa is sticky with grease and dirt. The lighting is atrocious and creates a dimness even when the sun shines. Over the kitchen units an unprotected fluorescent light of 1.5 meters length glares at face height. But it has a washing machine and tumble drier and I set to with our clothes.

    We’ve just heard that our Byron Bay accommodation had fallen through too, but we are looking forward to melbourne where an ex-colleague of mine, a guy I trained as a Graduate Teacher, has offered me his house for a month. That’s amazing!


    Fraser Island Thursday 24th November 2011

    Fraser Island is entirely made of sand! It’s 76 km long and has a variety of eco-systems. Jo, our tour guide from Fraser Island Day Tours (run by Greg not a huge multi-national), drives a 4WD with a skill and assurance which is dazzling! She takes no prisoners on the road and has strong opinions about the Island, giant corporation sharks, and independent drivers who fail to cope with the arduous conditions. She talks for Australia and I wonder if the young Spanish couple can keep up. There are only 6 of us with a couple from Scotland. During our tour we experienced a torrential storm for over 30 minutes before the sun returned. Jo drove through the sand track, now greased with rain with such confidence, making this a thrilling part of the day.

    Jo’s passion begins before we’ve even gotten into her vehicle. She believes in “by the people, for the people and from the people”, dingos, dreamtime, spirituality and respect. She is incredibly knowledgable, having lived on Fraser Island for 3 years and a great campaigner and educator. I grow to like her very much over the day.

    The barge ferry has a ship’s cat on board who has never left since being a kitten. His job is to stop swiftlets from nesting. His duties include being stroked by all passengers, tolerating children, and he volunteers to go inboard the small dingy when the hull needs cleaning, just for the ride.

    This is one of those times when photos can only tell you how beautiful the place is.

    20111224-123114.jpg freshwater streams run soundlessly through the rainforest on clear sandy beds.


    There’s abundant birdlife, but Kookaburras are happy to be photographed.


    Despite the threatening storm clouds the white silica sand refuses to be dulled the pure freshwater lake remains turquoise.

    There is evidence of the treacherous currents, mind you, this ship was also used for bomb practice!

    Dingos here are of the purest blood.

    There is incredible beauty on this island. It has refreshed me totally and renewed my thirst to learn of new places.

    Too much travel and missing home 22nd and 23rd November 2011

    I’m glad to be leaving this Motel in Rockingham, even though it means getting up at 4.30 and walking for half an hour though the crepuscular damp following last night’s rain. The Greyhound, taking us on the next leg of our journey, is full of sleeping 18-26 year olds. They have already comsumed all the air, making nests of comfort in towels, cushions and sweet wrappers. The coach rocks empty water bottles and dangling legs in the dark, curtains closed against the muted dawn.

    I’m trying to prettify it with my words, but it was not romantic: it was chaotic, grim and awkward climbing of sleeping bodies in the dark, nudging slumbering people to sit upland stop taking up two seats- this Greyhound is full to capacity. And it smelt!

    John and I edge our way down the coach and face the prospect of sitting separately for 7 hours.

    Luckily at 1770, a small surfing town, many of them rouse themselves and leave, tumbling out blinking. It’s got to be a good surf school, I can’t see much else to recommend the place, judging solely from the Greyhound stop. Blond girls take up a few of the spare places but we can now sit together and I begin to feel more comfortable. We watch ‘Marmaduke’ a film about a Great Dane; quite mindless.

    We get off at Hervey Bay. It’s a big shopping centre and bus station. Our luck changes as the only bus is just leaving and it’s going our way. Better still they drop us directly outside our new apartment, which is lovely. A real flat with rooms, well equipped and a large balcony.


    The beach is just at the end of the road and is great for swimming. It is the strangest thing for me to swim in water that is hotter than the air temperature. I shower in water that is colder than this! But it is free from stingers and from sharks which infest the water on the other side of Fraser Island.


    But food shopping is a great disappointment. There is very little fresh vegetable to be had nearby, meat is all frozen or cured in some way and I am left uninspired for our meal tonight. We have rarely taken the restaurant option because we need to live within our means. I’m tired of not having a few staples in my kitchen, herbs, spices, even flour and eggs. When traveling we need to start from scratch each time.

    Exhausted from two days of 7 hour coach travel we sleep well and enjoy another lazy day in paradise. But I am missing my home, my friends, my cats, my daughters. As I sleep I almost feel my thee moggies snuggle against my form in their usual positions before John turfs them out and down to the kitchen for the night.

    News from home is too headline. I know they are safe and doing well but I miss the in-depth conversations putting the world to rights over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. People we meet on the road are wonderful, but we never get past the superficial level of conversation, the ‘getting-to-know-you’ phase before it is time to move on.

    Facebook comments are quips, emails tell me that our life is easier to write about than that at home because “nothing unusual is happening”.

    I’m tired!

    A rest and a great leap South 21st and 22nd November 2011

    Brian has been a wonderful host. He recounted the preparations required when they announced the cyclone. Each year, everything to be battened down, external shelves cleared: it takes a week, but that’s all you’ve got before it comes. All along the coast we have heard’ and seen evidence of the chaos and damage a cyclone can cause from the one that hit Australia in February. It took Brian a week to clear up, despite his precautions.

    That unusual sound we heard at Magnetic, did indeed come from Flying Foxes, or Fruit Bats. But what an idiot I am! The name tells you they don’t need ultrasound for locating insects. They don’t eat insects! They eat fruit! The constant chatter, a cross between Punch and Judy and Mickey mouse voices,is them arguing about who should eat the best fruit.

    We have so loved Coral Point Lodge, at Shute harbour, that we spend a whole day doing nothing but relaxing there and admiring the beautiful views.

    But the time has come to make a move South. Suddenly we being to feel a deadline! We want to be in Melbourne by early December to meet with a friend’s parents and be handed over a house for a month! So we sit for 7 hours in a Greyhound which takes us to Rockingham.

    Movies in Greyhounds are sporadic and at the whim of the driver. Luckily, our driver picks a good one to pass the time, The Bourne Identity. To our amusement the Greyhound gets sick and needs two new batteries. Sure enough a van with “dog doctor” turns up to oblige.


    It was an half hour walk to our motel in Rockingham. Although along main roads, the pavements often gave out and, pulling our cases was hard work. The motel was out of the movies! Crinkled up dirty carpet, lack of any plates but a microwave provided, and a plastic shower curtain that Psycho would be proud of. Still the sheets were clean and we arrived at 7.45 and had to leave by 5 next morning. Making breakfast in mugs was a hoot!

    Onwards South, we are actually making some movement along our map of Australia. Hooray!

    South Molle Whitsunday Islands Saturday 19th November 2011

    South Molle is not one of the fashionable Whitsunday Islands but the price of a day tour is very good value! It’s the sort of place that has seen better days and seems quite deserted but I thought it wonderful. About 8 of us alighted from the ferry on a long wooden jetty leading to a white coral beach with some fine white sand. The resort itself has tennis courts and a golf course, an Olympic sized swimming pool and a small jetty off the dining room designed for romantic evening meals. However, apart from the girl who greeted us and one other I did not see a member of staff, or another guest.


    John and I set off for Spion Kop, rated number one walk by Australia’s National Geographic. I can see why! It constantly changes, from Eucalyptus forest, to rain forest, to wide grass lands which are windy and exposed to the full heat of the day. At times, the amazing quality of blue hits you from both sides as the sea spreads itself before you as a jewel.

    At the Kop itself, a stunning view awaits of a dozen islands with clear sight of Cook’s Witsunday passage and navigation.

    Perhaps it was ambitious of us to continue our walk to the other end of the island and ‘sandy beach’, which turned out to be made if pure bleached chunks of coral and impossible to look at or walk on in the intense heat, although rather disappointing by the time the camera had altered the affect with its aperture setting!


    By the end of our walk we actually had to ration drinking water! When we got back to the resort we were thankful to have enough time for a swim.


    Shute Harbour Friday 18th November 2011

    Woken around 6 a.m. with the dawn chorus of parrokeets, it occurs to me that each day the birds, and other animals, display a new noise! Last night for example, I was waiting for the possum to emerge from the waste bin. I knew he was in there because I could hear him banging about eating our melon skins.

    When I heard this chattering sound which I could only attribute to the fruit bats, or flying foxes, which were flying round the sodium glare of the toilet block light. Maybe they locate moths through the reflected sound of his own chatter? I thought bats used high frequency to find their food, not Punch and Judy noises.

    We’ve been on the road (!) for a month now and packing has become second nature. There’s a little sadness in leaving Magnetic Island but the bus, the ferry and the Greyhound call us onward.

    Arlie Beach is as I suspected a very ‘happening’ place, full of tourists, youth, huge new complexes exploiting every available space along the hillside. I’m really glad we could not find a place to stay here: we move by taxi to Shute Harbour. It will be isolated and food shopping will be a logistical nightmare but…there’s a bus service, who cares?

    Turns out to be quite a long road which climbs steeply to a magnificent view on three sides over Coral Reef Point and azure sea.


    At times it is so clear you can see the coral beds through the sea, a pinkish brown. On all sides islands, thick with deep green, fringed in places with soft cream beaches, or on the harbour, yachts moored. Our all in one room is well equipped with kitchen, etc and opens onto a private patio with a gorgeous view of the harbour itself. As the day progresses the colours change.


    Every one here is incredibly kind. Our host drives us down the hill to catch the bus. The bus driver stops outside the supermarket instead of the approved stop, because he says we only have half an hour before the last bus back. On our return the driver is happy to be flagged down because we nearly missed him, we are collected by car again on our return to the apartment.

    Apparently, it is ‘schoolies’ week when the Sixth formers celebrate the end of school with beach holidays and Arlie Bay is a favorite destination. They parade their relationships, their beauty and their energy along the sea front and that is why we could not find a place to stay there! Probably for the best I think!

    Radical Bay Magnetic Island Thursday 17th November 2011

    Beyond Balding Bay is Radical Bay. The magic of Magnetic Island is the number of beautiful bays around its accessible coastline. Radical is less isolated than Balding as there is a rough road leading from the Forts bus stop which is suitable for cars, but it also shares a steeply stepped footpath from Horseshoe, with Balding Bay. I loved this path for its variety and because it gave me a sense of adventure, through the sheer effort of walking it!

    I have very fond memories of this path too, from 13 years ago when I crossed it with my daughter.

    Balding bay offers very little shade as it is lined by boulders, but its remote quality is outstanding and makes it my favorite. Radical bay has good shade from coconut trees and from rubber trees. The hinterland also has frangipani trees and sporadic low growing flowers which dot the dry earth in a miracle of nature.

    We arrived after 50 minutes of steep path. Sweet was just pouring off me from the heat of the day and it was only just 9 o’clock! I was desperate for a seat! It’s not just my age! There were some, younger than me, who said they had turned back because it was so hot!

    The colours of azure blue, deep tropical green and the palest hue of gold sand make a perfect picture.


    Despite a few moments of an unexpected sudden heavy shower, we stayed for hours. Enjoying the firm sand at the water’s edge, the shade of the trees, the steady turnover of visitors, never more than 4 at any one time. By one o’clock we knew we were in a cleft stick! Burn despite the factor 30, or walk 50 minutes uphill in the hottest sun we’d had for a while.

    We chose the latter, awarding ourselves long cold showers and longer cold drinks when we got back to Bungalow Bay YHA.

    I love Magnetic Island. It seems a special place to me. It may be the wildlife we’ve seen, the beautiful beaches, or the fact it brought back some very good memories for me. We leave tomorrow but I’ll look back on this as a very special island.