Category Archives: Travel – Oz

August 2014 in the Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland was our holiday destination in August 2014. The usual suspects gathered together (Cairns airport) from where we all caught the plane to Proserpine, close to Airlie Beach where the boat would be hired.

After half a day of training with our sail-guide, we had the boat to ourselves and off we went, spending the first night moored in Nara Inlet.  For the next week we cruised about on the catamaran Skeddaddle, sticking to the west coast of the island group.  Unfortunately, the weather was not always favourable for sailing, but this did not stop us from having a great time relaxing on the deck, reading, swimming and even fishing!  No fish were ever close to becoming a meal for us.

After a week of just kicking back, we returned the boat to its rightful owners and found ourselves driving up the Queensland coast for another week of touring and sight-seeing along this beautiful piece of Australian coastline.  We got as far north as Cape Tribulation.  The feature event for my money was the cable car ride and the steam train journey back from Kuranda.

A remarkable case of serendipity occurred while we were walking around in the rainforests nearby to Kuranda. A couple of years ago, the sailing trip we had just finished had been experienced and extensively documented by a friend of mine from Adelaide, Ian Collett. While on the boat, we enjoyed reading Ian’s blogging and comments about the Whitsundays. Now, here I was traipsing along one of the tracks I looked up to see a familiar figure coming towards me from the opposite direction. Of all people! It was Ian! Here we were, from Sydney, in a remote rainforest in Queensland and I almost literally bump into Ian (from Adelaide) who was sight seeing with friends. Unbelievable, but true.

Northern Territory travels

June/July 2012 saw Ruth, Ray, Lee and me fly from Sydney to Darwin where we began our tour around the Nitmuluk/Kakadu National Park/Litchfield Park areas. This took us three weeks of driving around in a rented Landcruiser going as far south as Katherine at the start, then, heading back up north we criss-crossed the various regions to visit points of interest. Numerous towns were visited, staying in motels, hotels, cabins and resorts depending on what is available at the time. Pine Creek, Jabiru, Cooinda, Gunlom, Jim Jim – the list seems endless now, trying to remember it all.

There were plenty of things to keep us fully occupied for the time we were there. At one stage Ray, Ruth and Lee took a four day, three night hike out of Nitmuluk Park while I lazed around in my cabin reading, editing our movie records and touring the local area. See, it was my job to act as driver and meet them when they arrived at the other end of the track some 60 Kms to the north. I did the noble thing and sacrificed the pleasure of hiking across hot desert, up hill and down dale in order to fulfill this obligation. Meanwhile I took the easy way and had a helicopter ride up the Katherine Gorge and explored the surrounds while having the car to myself.

Our tour included boat trips, day hikes, swimming in water holes and the usual gawping at Aboriginal Rock Art. At one stage, Ray’s cousin took us out to Billabong Lagoon fishing all day. Only one poor unfortunate cat-fish was hooked – the sum total of our entire efforts for the day – and even this fish was thrown back after photographic records had been made.

One of the highlights was a visit to the wildlife park about 60 Km south of Darwin where we were treated to a “Birds of Prey” performance of well trained birds that swooped, squawked and behaved in clever ways on cue with the trainer.

On the other hand, as a non-event that was stupendously mindless, we were just in time to witness the thrills of the Darwin Beer Can Regatta (cheers, rowdy applause). I didn’t get it, I’m afraid. This exclusive piece of uniquely Territorian culture passeth all understanding.

We saw plenty of evidence that Darwin copped a thrashing from the Japanese in World War II. The Air Museum is full of history on this score, as is the Military Museum. There was also quite a bit to see out in the open away from museums. We came across remnants of the anti-submarine nets on the western side of Darwin Harbour, as well as the remains of gun emplacements. We also took a tour through the underground oil storage facilities – large underground tanks intended to store fuel during the war. These were hand-hewed out of the rock, but were never used during the war. My own view is that the punishment that Darwin received as a result of the war has been largely unspoken, untold and undersold – the rest of Australia would be shocked if they knew the extent of it back then.

Waratah township romances Valentines Visitors

Meeting the locals in Waratah

So how good is that? We met the locals in Waratah (Tasmania) in a cafe in and had such a great night.

Ray, Lee, Ruth and I spent February 14 2012 (Valentines Day) being wined and dined with a group of locals. What a great night. The locals became friendly and told us some stories about the place that we would never have heard otherwise. More than one bottle of wine was consumed over a period of three hours. We heard the story of how the town of Waratah prospered with the rise nd fall of the tin mine. We heard how the closure of the school was a devastating blow to the community, about the way the town had developed since tin mining was no more part of the town’s economy, and about various other features of the town.

Where else could we have had such a special night for Valentines Day?  Next day we visited Sue, one of the locals we met, at her home where she very graciously showed us her garden which was an absolute delight.  Waratah was a very pleasant surprise for us all and was well worth the visit.

Ray, Ruth, me and Lee at the Waratah cafe

Fixing the BSA

BSA frame with engine out and my Yamaha XS 650 in the background

About eighteen months ago Ruth and I went for a ride on the BSA Lightning I have stabled in the garage. I love this old bike, but like all vintage machines, it requires constant maintenence – sometimes more than others. On this occasion, we were about half an hour into our ride when the engine started to develop some alarming rattles. Not good. So we took it home and there it stayed – until recently. Now I have pulled the engine out of the frame and it is in parts stored in cardboard boxes.

Me cleaning the BSA barrels

For those who care to know, it turns out the camshaft was showing significant wear on one of the lobes, and there was evidence that one of the tappets was bent – seized in its housing in all likelihood. I surmised that the cause was due to a failing oil pump, because when I examined the pump it was showing signs of falling apart!
So, several hundred dollars worth of spare parts later, I am now ready to put the whole thing back together. Currently I’m waiting for some spare parts from my supplier – British Spares.

The BSA Cylinder head
The BSA Cylinder head

Touring Tasmania

Ruth and me at Herod's Gap
Ruth and me at Herod's Gap

Yesterday we arrived in Launceston after nearly two weeks of touring around. We’ve walked up Cradle Mountain, done the Walls of Jerusalem (gasp!) and ridden a pushbike on Maria Island. We’ve looked around Freycinet and (some of) walked over to Wineglass Bay and back. I was the one that wimped out on that due to having already had my fill of walking with the Jerusalem thing. Lee and Ruth are irrepressible though – if there’s a walk to be done, they do it.

< /b>
< /b>
< /b>
< /b>

Coffee in Sheffield Tasmania
Coffee in Sheffield
At left is a photo of Ray, Lee and Ruth testing the quality of coffee available in Sheffield.

The trip to Launceston from Freycinet was particularly exciting as we were caught in the middle of some record rains in the north eastern region of Tas.  Roads were cut and we were prevented from passing in some places due to a washed out bridge and water over the road.

Me and Mandy
Me and Mandy in front of her place

While in the Freycinet area we visited my sister Mandy who lives near Swansea.  It had been some months since we last saw each other in Adelaide, so the time spent with each other was very enjoyable.

Eventually we arrived at Launceston where it was still raining, but so much as to threaten road travel.  Our day was spent exploring the Tamar Valley, with the highlight being a visit to Beaconsville, where the museum explained all the events of 2006 when the mining disaster occured there.