Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dalby - 27° 11' 48" S 151° 15' 28" E

Sam"s house
How did we get here?!!

Our nephew Sam is an agronomist working on the Darling Downs based in Dalby, a three hour drive from Palmwoods. A road trip was obviously required!

Bunya Pines
We piled into the Pajaro and headed west over the Great Divide through tropical rainforest, pastoral lands and crops of sorghum and mung beans. Chicken Parma at the local pub, a good night's sleep then off to explore the Bunya Mountains. The National Park includes the most westerly tropical rainforest in Queensland and the world's largest population of bunya pines. (Since bunya pines are endemic to South-East Queensland, this claim is not quite as impressive as it sounds!!)

Looking up through a Strangler fig
the original tree is long gone

It is stunning. A few degrees cooler than down on the plain making hiking very pleasant. We wandered through the towering bunya and hoop pines, marvelled at the 400-year-old strangler figs and were awed by the views. There are many hiking trail options, a quaint little Sunday market and any number of weekend houses to rent.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Double Island Point - 25° 59' 07" S 153° 09' 46" E

You need a pretty special beach to impress an Australian.

We are visiting Wendy and Graeme who live in Palmwoods, Queensland - near some of the more spectacular beaches in the world.  Hundreds of kilometers of tan-coloured sand awaits, every afternoon, every weekend, every holiday.  So, where do they go when they have guests from the other regions and they really want to impress?

They head here - Double Island Point.  The only way to get here is to:
  1. know about it
  2. own a four wheel drive vehicle
  3. drive 35 minutes north from Mooloolaba
  4. take a 3 minute long vehicle ferry ride across the river at Tewantin
  5. navigate the soft sand dunes that are famous for bogging unworthy vehicles
  6. drive for 20 minutes along this beach (which is a registered road with all road rules applicable and speed limits)
As we made our way to our eventual picnic spot, we zoomed along an east-facing beach, exposed to the full effect of the winds on the Pacific Ocean.  Waves would roll in, churning up sand as they have done for tens of thousands of years.  This beach and several kilometres behind it are mostly sand that is anchored in place by trees and hardy grasses.  Some of the dunes overlooking the beach are 80 - 90 metres high.  When an area gets exposed by erosion, it can make for an exhausting climb, but an exhilarating almost-freefall trip down.  We stopped and had a play at one of these erosion points - what fun!

We reached our picnic spot on a northwest (and protected) section of the Northshore.  Here, gentle waves lapped the sandy bay, left exposed by the low tide.  Deep tidal pools had fish (big and small) and other sea life in and around, including thousands of soldier crabs.  We parked our vehicles, dropped our tailgates and rotated between lunch, sunning ourselves and cooling off in the bathtub-temperature waters.  Beach chairs, eskies and shade awnings added the creature comforts that made us want to stay all day.  There were a few other locals at the kilometre-long bay, but we weren't in each others' way.

When the shadows began to lengthen and the tide began to come in, we had to make our way back while there was still some beach to drive on.

Along the beach at 60 km/h
Climbing up the dunes ...
... and nephews Tom and Sam coming back down.
The picnic site
off exploring tidal pools
Soldier crabs - thousands of 'em!
the picnic site
Tickner family portrait on the east beach
headed home

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Mornington Peninsula - 38° 27' 04" S 144° 57' 27" E

Cook St. in Flinders, long ago
General Store on the left
The Flinders of my childhood was a farming community where a few people from Melbourne had beach houses. My parents were dairy farmers, surrounded by other dairies, beef, orchards, strawberry farms, chickens and eggs. It was quite acceptable to trudge into the General Store in your gumboots and ask Mrs Commons 'do you have....?'  We went to the back of the store for dog and chook pellets, right for hardware and farm supplies (men's stuff)  and left for newspapers, the Commonwealth Bank, haberdashery and clothing (women's stuff). Clothing was limited to overalls and gumboots but that was the farmers uniform then. The beach houses were just that, small, mostly fibro shacks clustered around the golf course and over looking the thundering Bass Strait.

Roll forward a year or two! The dairies have gone as have most of the chickens, the eggs and the fibro shacks. The Peninsula now sports multi-million dollar holiday homes, boutique wineries and vineyards, chocolate factories, award winning restaurants, posh private golf courses, hot springs (who knew), and fancy shopping. We now have Masaratis and Lamborghinis in town and every other car is a Merc or BMW.  The Flinders General Store sells beautiful local produce and products at resort prices. Not a chook pellet in sight!

Whilst Flinders is no longer the town I grew up in, we rather liked some of the perks of progress. Our favourites being:
  • The cycling - there are so many kilometres of fabulous riding on lovely, well maintain paved roads. The drivers are courteous and we even have a switchback hill climb, Arthur's Seat. Arthur's Seat rises 300 vertical metres in just over 3km. We didn't ride this, although the we did the gentler climb up 'the back way' on Purves Road!
  • The hiking - from the Two Bays Walking Trail to the hikes up and down from the various beaches.
  • The beaches - hundreds of them ranging from the calm, kid-friendly beaches of Port Phillip Bay such as McCrae and Sorrento to the thundering surf beaches of Gunnamatta. Those requiring a hike down the cliff or sand dune to those with full vehicle access and a pier to jump off!
  • The National Parks - my parents' overlook Greens Bush NP with its kangaroos and grass trees. We explored the Point Nepean NP which was once a quarantine station and military base at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.  The entrance to is a notorious 3km wide stretch of known as The Rip. Even today, pilots are required on ships going into the Port of Melbourne and yachties will only attempt the entry on slack tide.  Now it can be explored by foot or bike (we did both). The old gunnery posts with their lookouts and tunnels protecting Melbourne are well maintained and fabulous. And an interesting fact, the first Commonwealth shots fired in both WWI and WWII were from Point Nepean!
  • The wines - The Peninsula is considered a cool climate wine region and does a particularly tasty Pinot Noir.  Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Tempranillo are also considered rather good. Our favourite was the Secco Splendido from Quealeys Wines in Balnarring.
It is odd, despite growing up in Flinders and spending roughly three months in the region, we are leaving with the feeling that we have left some of the best of The Peninsula unexplored! But one thing is certain, we will be back!

Flinders today - General Store on the left
Kangaroos in the garden!
on the Two Bays Walking Track
grass trees on our bushwalk
more kangaroos
sandy trail to the beach
parasail launch pad above Flinders back beach
relaxing at Fingal beach
Simon and Angus play beach cricket
Kate on the cliff above Flinders pier
fun with the kiddies at Dromana beach

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Great Ocean Road - 38° 29' 33" S 142° 41' 08" E

The Great Ocean Road is considered one of the world's great drives for a reason. It is stunning! So, on our way back from Horsham, we drove its full 243km from Allansford in the west to Torquay, stopping overnight in Apollo Bay.

Getting there really was half the fun.  We twisted our way through the Grampians, taking seldom-used roads through the flat farming land of Victoria.  Big gumtrees were often planted as windbreaks along the roads and on our drive the provided a beautiful shaded canopy as we pootled along. Popping out near Childer's Cove, the prairie suddenly dropped away to a pounding surf.

The Great Ocean Road was built as a memorial to the fallen soldiers in World War I, it is a wonderful tribute.  Sean was very impressed that the road was almost completely paid for before workers started construction.  The RSL (Returned Servicemen's League) had done a two year campaign and raised 81,000 British Pounds.  The rest of the funding was brought in through tolls (two shillings per vehicle) on the road over the next fourteen years.  Originally built, the drive was harrowing.  It was one way, due to the narrow sections along steep cliffs and it had few places for white-knuckled drivers to pull over and enjoy the view.  Over the years it has been widened and many viewpoints added.

From the Shipwreck Coast to the Surf Coast, we wound along the top of sheer cliffs, along sandy beaches, through rainforest and the devastation of fire. Fires on Christmas Day had destroyed over 100 houses and tracks of bush in Wye River and Separation Creek. It must have been terrifying, one road in, one road out. Fortunately, the towns were evacuated early and no one was injured.

Despite the Twelve Apostles dwindling in number as the pounding surf of The Southern Ocean erodes them away, they remain a stunning and iconic. We spotted koalas, echidnas, wallabies and any number of cockatoos, parrots, rosellas and other brightly coloured native birds.

And as a fitting end to a fabulous few days, we caught the ferry across the Rip from Queenscliff to Sorrento landing back in Flinders in time for lamb roast!

Australia has prairies - who knew?
a rural general store
awesome wave viewing
incentive to stay on the pathways
a view from one lookout

Koalas are easy to spot when they are along the road
much harder to spot in the trees of Cape Otoway

magical sandy bays along the way