So, about a month ago I wrote about having no excuse on not catching up with updates here on our blog. I still have no excuse but definitely seem to have lost my writing mojo. Hopefully our readers (both of you) will forgive the lack of posts and will not get too annoyed with the sudden bombardment of updates as I now try to get up to speed.
Perhaps the biggest event since last writing here is that the kids and I actually flew back to Perth for a whirlwind visit. It was all very last-minute. The abbreviated version is that we have extended the amount of time we plan to take to complete our lap of Oz and there were a number of things that needed to be addressed. Including the likelihood of my parents not seeing the kids for 18 months (Paul’s parents spent some fantastic time with us in Darwin). So, with Paul remaining in Hobart to work (someones gotta), the four of us turned up unannounced on our family’s doorsteps for a surprise catch up.
It is interesting that before heading ‘home’ I had been feeling a little unsettled and thought that maybe it was a little bit of homesickness. Once I knew I was heading back to Perth I was very excited and in particular felt drawn to driving past our house, for reasons I cant articulate. What I hadn’t anticipated was the reaction I felt when I did see the house. It was a total let down – kind of a shoulder shrug and ‘meh’ moment. It was then I realised that, for the time being at least, our home is where the five of us choose to be – together and happy. It’s just geography.
OK, enough of the weirdo psycho-babble.
Due to our time constraint (needing to be in Sydney in two weeks) we knew that the final leg of our QLD tour was going to be quick and inevitably places would be missed. Rather than being disappointed on what we wouldn’t see we tried to prioritise what we wanted to see.
On our way to Rockhampton a quick detour through Yeppoon was made. We had heard that it was a must see from many other travellers. It was indeed a nice place with a beautiful beach and the typical touristy cafe strip. From here you can access the Keppel Islands and explore the Southern Great Barrier Reef. It was pouring with rain while we were there and we were actually escorted off of the beach by Surf Lifesavers due to lightning in the area! In nearby Emu Park there is Singing Ship monument built to commemorate the Bi-centenary of Captain Cook ‘discovering’ the area in 1770. There are a number of pipes in the ship which are supposed to ‘sing’ as wind passes through or round them but unfortunately there was no singing when we visited. Apparently in the base of the monument is a time capsule which is to be opened on the 300th year anniversary. So, if you’re in the area in 2070 – why not pop in for a look!
Rockhampton is the ‘Beef Capital’ of Australia which goes someway to explain the number of bull statues spread throughout the city. In fact, in May this year, it is host to an extravaganza called Beef Australia 2012. The city has a lot of other things on offer for travellers including a free zoo at the South Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, a heritage route checking out some impressive architecture, lots of art galleries and the Cliff Kershaw Gardens. We also visited one of the two visitor centres and saw one of the most amazing collections of clocks ever.
We were lucky enough to experience some much appreciated Rocky hospitality of our own. The lovely Gill Family (whom we first caught up with in Broome)kindly put us up for the evening. Not only did they let us park Stan park on their driveway, they also fed us and allowed us take advantage of their lovely hot shower (there may also have been a glass of wine or two). Tanya and Tony spent a number of months on the road last year on their own Oz Odyssey but unfortunately had to cut it short. Fingers crossed they get back on the road sometime soon – c’mon Tony, you know you want to!
I have to laugh because when we pulled out of their driveway Tanya had a shot and said “So, I’ll be reading about this sometime in February then?” Well, naturally I acted all indignant and said something along the lines of ‘ppfffttttt!!!’ and intended to get cracking and prove her wrong by at least a month, indeed I did – just not the month I intended!
The following week of our travels, although rushed, can definitely be considered a very exciting time of the trip. Our next stop was Bundaberg which is another lovely place to visit. A couple of hours were spent at The Bundaberg Barrel which is the home of Bundaberg Brewed Drinks and famous for its ginger beer. Here (for $28.50) we did the interactive True Brew tour which was just great. It wasn’t a long tour but very hands on and an interesting way of learning about ginger beer and its history. The hologram show was fun and the kids are still reciting one liners from it now. Included in the price was a tasting of all 14 of the beverages produced here. The drinks were very nice and the tastings very generous. In fact due to the consumption of so many fizzy drinks in such a short period of time you can imagine the hilarity of the noises emanating from us once we made it back to the safety of Patricia. It’s also worth taking a walk past the factory where there are a couple of areas you can see onto the factory floor – we loved watching hundreds of bottles whizzing by on conveyor belts.
Before leaving Perth last year I had read about Mon Repos Turtle Experiences near Bundaberg and had been looking forward to going here for some time. What made it even more special was that our visit coincided with Ben’s 11th birthday and hopefully gave him an experience that he’ll never forget. I wont.
Between November and March numerous turtles visit the beach at Mon Repos to lay eggs. It is possible to visit here and although not guaranteed to happen on your visit, you get taken down to the water’s edge to (hopefully) witness turtles either laying eggs or later in the season watch the hatchlings make their way to the sand’s surface and then into the ocean.
The experience cost us $24.30 for the whole family and we booked a number of weeks in advance. Luckily for us a number of turtles came onto the beach the night we were there and we were privileged to watch a beautiful Loggerhead Turtle lay over 100 eggs. The kids were literally close enough that they could have reached out and caught the eggs in their hands! It was pretty special! After watching the turtle lay her eggs (we all got to touch one) she was measured and tagged and then we formed a line behind her and escorted her back into the ocean. It really was very moving and the fact that it was raining and windy didn’t matter at all. It is now one of our goals to head back that way another time and hopefully get to watch baby turtles hatch and emerge from the sand.
Unfortunately the camera decided to play up this night and we missed some amazing shots but we did get a certificate to say how long we waited (1.5 hours), what type of turtle we saw and also a few other details about that particular turtle. It was also an added bonus to share the experience with a friend that left Perth a number of years ago who we literally bumped into as we waited in line at the rookery. We hadn’t seen Emma for over five years so it was a thrill to unexpectedly catch up with her – and on her honeymoon too! Glad we got to experience it with you Emma & Kevin.
Our last port of call before leaving was the Bundaberg Rum Distillery. Now we are not really rum drinkers but it didn’t seem right to be in Bundaberg and not visit here. We didn’t go on any of the tours available but were luckily enough to be given a sample of their Royal Liqueur (not usually the done thing if not on the tour) and it was heavenly! It incorporates rum, coffee and chocolate. We bought three bottles with the intention of taking them back to Perth to share with friends as it is only available online or from the distillery but two bottles have mysteriously evaporated!
Sticking to the coast our next stop was Tin Can Bay. From here we planned on heading over to Fraser Island for a camping experience on the worlds largest sand island, what we hadn’t counted on was the foul weather.
In two minds about how to tackle Fraser Island we took advantage of any breaks in the weather to potter about in the bay and had great fun letting off some cabin fever energy as well as chasing some of the many hermit crabs crawling around.
One morning we decided to head on down to the daily dolphin feeding, where for $5 everyone has the opportunity to feed a dolphin. We have been up and close with dolphins both at Bunbury and Monkey Mia but have not as yet fed them and this was something the kids were keen to do. There is a pod of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins that visit the bay, two of which come in for the feeding. The feeding is regulated and lots of background information is provided about the area and its dolphins.
To put a couple of photos of Fraser Island and write a paragraph about it in this post would be doing it an extreme injustice so next time I’ll write how the rain gods held off long enough for us to tear around Fraser Island (totally within the speed limit of course) and how this amazing place became a must return to destination.