Saturday, March 21, 2009

P2P rally; around and about in OZ

Port to Port rally boats in Bundaberg Port Marina - dressed and ready for inspection

We arrived in a flurry and a hurry from New Caledonia on the Port to Port Rally. The weather was kind to us - we travelled with Neptune and Songster, but we left a little later than some of the other yachts.

Luckily we managed to get a dock at the Bundaberg Port Marina and enjoyed a few days of relaxation and fun with our rally companions.

The Rally awards dinner was very informal although there was a DJ with music.

We enjoyed the social activities - a tour of the Bundaberg Rum factory, cane toad races, raffles and fund raisers.

Egg and spoon race

As the boats and people left Bundaberg we took the boat up river and docked in the Midtown Marina. Here we could get off the boat and walk into town - very conveneint and much easier than catching the bus to and fro at the downriver marina.

Currently the boat is moored up in the river in Bundaberg, Queensland, north of Brisbane. This is a sleepy little town, very pleasant although at the moment the weather here is hot and humid. They reckon that Bundaberg is just south of the cyclone area - let's hope so!

We are entertained by parrots screeching overhead - herons fishing along the river bank and at night hundreds of flying foxes glide silently over on their way to their feeding grounds.

Looking up river from shore at the Midtown Marina

We spent Christmas and New Year in New Zealand - having a great time with our friends and also exploring a little of the south island.

We bought a cheap but supremely adequate tent; an inflatable mattress and a simple cooking stove, rented a car in Brisbane and off we went! The idea camping in Australia seems to me to have two sides – one the idea that there are lots of creepy crawly creatures only too willing to share my space and the other that the climate is probably great for camping. We had heard that the campsites are fantastic, with barbecues and great showers and facilities everywhere. Luckily the tent was actually a tent shaped zip up mosquito net with a tent shaped lightweight rain hood over it, so we were able to keep it fully sealed at all times. (That was a particularly good idea when we came back one evening to find an enormous spider roosting in the ceiling – outside the netting!)

The first day found us in Byron’s Bay where we watched all those sleek young things parade the streets and surf in the ocean. The surf here is some of the best in the world – when we were at the beach in the morning there were only a few early birds up and out.

Lighthouse at Byron's Bay

Our brief visit to the lighthouse was interesting – Cape Byron is the Australian mainland's most easterly point. Mike spent a few minutes talking to the lads in the VMR building. The Volunteer Marine Radio is an organization that helps the local yachts and pleasure boats. They provide marine search and rescue and try to keep track of the vessels up and down the coast.

Byron Bay is located near some of the best examples of sub-tropical rainforest on the east coast of Australia. It is a favourite place for artists and we heard that all kinds of famous people have made their homes there or nearby. We saw a little of the forest and shouldn't have been so surprised that it was vastly different from the tropical forests that we have seen.

Somebody recommended a campsite at Momee Beach on the coast just north of Coff’s Harbour and it turned out to be the best place we stayed in (in my opinion). We had acres of tent area and only three campers there; a river frontage and the sea off to one side about 100 yards away. Great showers, an excellent kitchen area, a laundry room and, as promised, barbeques – these ones were free.
Tide is out - at Momee Beach

We made a brief stop into Coff’s Harbour as we knew it is a stopover for cruising boats and were amazed to see Three Ships in the marina. We had a pleasant visit with Fiona and Chris and lunch in town before we went our separate ways.

Kangaroo having an early morning wrestle at one of the campgrounds

Next we found a little place called Toronto – amazing! This was a small town on the side of Lake Mcquaire – supposedly the largest sea water lake in Australia. It is protected by a large sand bar (somebody said it was really a coal bar) as are many of the harbours We chatted with the ladies in the little railway station which is of historical interest and then quickly found a nearby bar so that we could have a ‘cold one’.

The following day we arrived in Sydney. Mike bought a GPS before we left (the devil’s invention) and it proved extremely efficient taking us through the city without passing through a toll route.

Oh it was hot in Sydney.

We were lucky enough to be able to stay in an apartment with Chris and Karen from Magic Carpet and we had a really nice time with them. trave to the downtown core area involved a hot bus ride or a hot train ride.

We did see the Opera House and the famous bridge, explored the area called The Rocks and took a ferry out to the famous Manly beaches! We watched the dragon races in Darling Harbour and enjoyed an interesting visit in the Maritime Museum.

Bodies browning on Manly beach

And we learned about the bush fires that had started in Victoria. What terrible devastation that caused – many homeless, lives lost, business burned to the ground. But how the Australian public rallied round – donations of money clothes and anything deemed useful poured in from all corners!

We drove past several areas of obvious devastation - stark and blackened trees on either side of the roads.

We were careful to check with the information centres to make sure that the areas we wanted to go through were open – many roads closed for fear of more destruction. While driving we did pass a few places where we could see the scorched and ravaged area – trees standing blackend and leafless for miles beyond our view.

After Sydney we set course, keeping more or less to the coast road, for Marlo where Don and Barbie - other cruiser friends of ours were staying. This was a very small and sleepy holiday/fishing village which was once an important port at the mouth of the Snowy River. It is located nearly 400 km east of Melbourne. Marlo developed into an important port between the 1850s and the 1880s when paddle steamers, schooners and ketches plied the lower reaches of the the river and the rich produce of the Snowy River valley was carried by sea to Melbourne. There seemed to be little to seeof the past sucess in Marlo however. We explored some of the local costline, collected shells from the beach and even tried a few cold and unsucessful minutes of fishing.

Curious creatures live in Australia. Kangaroo, wombats, koala I can receognise - but that mermaid has me baffled! Perhaps a creature that lives in Marlo?

Phillip Island is on the southern coast of Victoria – we stayed for one night and unfortunately missed seeing the tiny fairy penguins that have made the area famous. We traveled on to visit Marion and Dave from the sailing yacht Sashay Two and had a very pleasant dinner with them in a marina not too far from the small town of Hastings. They gave us some useful tips about our future passage up the coast from Bundagerg to Darwin.

The man from Snowy River

By this time we had covered many, many highway miles; we made the return trip over a more inland route, passing straight through Melbourne and making our way across the Snowy Mountains and the Kosciuszko National Park.

We stoped overnight in Wodonga – a camp site located almost on the highway so that we were awake much of the night, imagining those road trains (sometimes four long trailers to one cab!) churning past our tent flap!

Hume Dam is located on the River Murray, upstream of Wodonga. Construction of Hume Dam started in 1919 andwhen construction was finished in 1936, Hume Dam was the biggest dam in the Southern Hemisphere and among the largest in the world.

In 1957, a 50 megawatt hydro-electric station was incorporated into Hume Dam to generate power. There is adequate power to fulfil the demands of about 5 300 average homes making it the largest hydroelectric power station in Australia.

This is part of the vast acareage claimed by the waters of the damn. one can see the tops of trees and some green grass - but this area has been suffering from a drought for almost a decade.

The mountain road and Kosciuszko National Park claims to be the most beautiful country - glacial lakes, limestone caves, grasslands and woodlands. In winter it hosts some of Australia's best skiing conditions. Mount Kosciuszko is the highest point in Australia at 2,228 metres and there are several small villages and towns catering to the winter trade.
Our next stop was Jindabyne where we treated ourselves to a hotel room – actually it was a suite – obviously perfect for winter skiing visitors We didn’t realise it at the time but the huge lake is man-made, has good fishing and is great for swimming and sailing in summer. Jindabyne town and the population there is completely new, having been relocated when the Snowy Mountains Scheme dammed the Snowy River and drowned the original settlement.

Driving could be difficult if all these creatures were found in a small area. Australia is so vast one is lucky to see even one of them in the wild
Canberra was a bit of a dud for us – we were there on a Sunday for a start – they obviously all go home off to their weekend retreats as the street downtown ere completely deserted. The d…d GPS wouldn’t take us to any of the places that I had hoped at least to pass by, so we left in a flurry of somewhat unkind words. (What was said to whom, by whom, about whom I will leave to your imagination!)

It rained in Port Macquarie. We stayed in a very pleasant motel and watched TV

Windsor turned out to be a lovely little place and I think one could have spent a little more time there. As it was still pouring so wet we took a hotel room again (joy – soft beds – TV, kettle to hand for making tea)

The town is on the bank of the Hawkesbury River, the Hawkesbury Valley was discovered in 1789 by Governor Arthur Phillip while searching for fertile farmland to grow food for the struggling Sydney (convict) settlement. Later, land grants of about 30 acres each were awarded to 22 settlers. In 1810 the township of Windsor was established (previously known as Green Hills). Windsor became an important river port and the lifeline of the early Sydney settlement as the colony's granary.

Colourful parrots in the garden

Our last visit was to see Heather and Kayden in Surfer’s paradise – or near by anyway. (Kayden is a keen surfer – mike was surprised to count 7 boards) We found their lovely house tucked away and hidden between luscious trees and foliage on the side of a hill. Although it is in the heart of a residential area it was difficult to believe, as it was very quiet and secluded. Mike and I had a couple of lazy days – catching up on household tasks like folding the tent and other items, cleaning out the car, running a much needed vacuum over it, and generally enjoying a bit of a break. It was really nice to see them both – we enjoyed their company.

On the road again, we stopped once on the way to Bundaberg and found ourselves back on the boat before nightfall the following day. It was nice to be home, but my – it was hot again! And so humid!

Bundaberg, well-known for its sugar has a population of about 43 000, and is about 350 kilometres north of Brisbane and is at the southernmost access point to the Great Barrier Reef. The only thing going for this place are the sugar cane fields – they stretch for miles and miles. The cane grows as high as a house. Hopefully we will get out before the factories start processing and we get all messed up! The huge storage and bulk terminal facility at Port Bundaberg, right next to the big marina where we will shortly haul out, can store over 300,000 tons of sugar.
From the Hummock, a 100m 'high' hill nearby – jokingly called Bundaberg mountain, there is a good view of the green irrigated sugar-cane plantations. Miles upon miles upon miles of sugar cane. In the town itself there are a few of handsome Victorian buildings and there are a couple of shopping malls and the usual big box stores.

A highlight of my time here was a couple of visits to Mon Repos - a turtle sanctuary and reasearch centre. There is a very short video here - it takes seconds to show what we saw over two visits and about three hours at the sanctuary. We went at night in November - and waited as the research volunteers looked for turtles coming out of the water to lay eggs. When they found a turtle a party of tourists were allowed down to the beach to see her laying eggs. we had to wait for ages, but when we did finally get on the beach, we not only saw our grand lady laying eggs - we were able to help in moving them to another nest. On the second occasion we went at night again, but this time in February. This time we went onto the beach 0(in controlled groups again) and watched as the baby turtles dug themselves out of their nests. They were coralled intil all the little ones were out of the ground and then allowed to scrable dow to the ocean. About 130 eggs are laid and here nearly all the eggs survive, but the little turtles have so many enemies that only one in 100 survives to return 20 or 30 years later.

1770 is a small place - a tourist destination for those that want to explore the nearby islands. There is a popular surf beach there as well. The main reason it iexists is becasue Captian Cook stopped here - dropped anchor in the bay and decisied it was a good place to stay. Hence the town name - 1770.

A highlight of our time here was a couple of visits to Mon Repos - a turtle sanctuary and reasearch centre. There is a very short video here - it takes seconds to show what we saw over two visits and about three hours at the sanctuary

Australia 09