We arrived in "Oz" and immediately noticed the blistering heat emanating from the Brisbane tarmac... and it was only 7.30 in the morning; the same time we'd left NZ. Aren't the world's time zones magnificent but strange. We met Jane's brother who had come to meet us from what we believed was a few miles up the coast. Actually it was nearly 300 miles, a distance thought little of in this vast land. Petrol is only 60 cents a litre (about 30 pence) which helps a bit.
Bargara is way up from Brisbane and consequently experiences a fantastically equable climate. In their winter (June, July and August) the temperature drops to about 22 whilst in high summer, (December, January, February and March) the temperature is regularly over 30 often reaching 33. However there is always a slightly cooling breeze off the sea which helps.
The Pacific Ocean arrives off the coast as The Coral Sea and lovely big waves wash the coastline. The Australians take great care of their beaches and environment and all beaches have lifeguard lookouts, swimming allocated areas and plantations of palm trees, shaded picnic areas and fresh water showers. The beaches are surprisingly empty (the schools are back just now). Schools have 4 terms of 10 weeks each out here! Currently this is an experiment not liked by many.
We have tried and visited just about everything there is to try or visit in this area. One night we went to watch the baby turtles digging their way up through the sand from their eggs and their subsequent mad mass rush for the sea. Sad to report that less than 1 in 10,000 makes it to a full size turtle because of predators. Visitors must not assist the babies to reach the water as only by undertaking this trip do they ingest the local areas magnetic field which will lead them back here in 25 to 30 years time to lay their eggs! We have visited the Rum distillery. Rum is made from sugar molasses which is a waste product of the vast sugar production industry here. The masses of cane fields are fired in June/July; (a magnificent sight by all accounts) the vegetation is thus burnt off and the cane immediately reaped. Often this burning off is at night with the consequent fantastic night fires lighting up the land for miles around. Molasses is pumped to the distillery and the famous Bundaberg Rum is produced. We have tried it and happy to report it is a fine brew.
A well known local aviator who lived for a period of time in Southampton flew from London to Bundaberg way back in the l920s. So taken are they with Bert Hinkler's effort that they have moved his house from Southampton to Bundaberg, lock, stock, bricks and barrel. We have visited the house which is set up as a Hinkler museum. Strange to wander round a typical UK house in the middle of Australia. Most houses out here are single storey, raised up off the ground on stilts, covering a large area. They are beautifully kept and very elegant. The roads are very wide (almost 4 times the width of ours) The town of Bundaberg covers about the same area as Portsmouth and Southsea, but with only 30,000 population!!
Sad to say we have not yet seen a kangaroo other than in a local Zoo. The vision that I had of these things bouncing around the road side seems misplaced. However we have been promised a sight of one before we depart so here's hoping.
Our finest trip was a day outing to Lady Musgrave island. This is the southern most island of the Great Barrier Reef chain. The island itself is small, but surrounded by an enormous coral atoll over which you can snorkel or dive. The day trip also provided trips in various types of glass bottom boat to view the myriad of fish and underwater coral as well as snorkelling equipment. The massive trimaran boat takes you out there in 2+ hours and once there you are moored to a pontoon where all the various equipment you need is stored. Such a visit is a must for anyone visiting this part of Australia.
Quite honestly we have found this area so complete in all it's resources and activities that we have not needed to go further afield this time. Jane's brother's flat is immediately opposite a small wooden church built on stilts which has a service once a week at 8.30am. They have massive overhead fans to keep the air moving (no, no problems with windblown candles or sermon notes!!!) The local folk are most kind and eager to speak to the English (as most of them hail from the UK within the past 1 or 2 generations). We go into the hall for the traditional cup of tea or coffee after the service and are trying to form some kind of "bond" between the youth groups of St George's and youth here.
We are off to Sydney for a few days shortly before setting off on the last leg which is our South African visit. (Perhaps we will see the Spurgeons who have just arrived but they are staying long way South of Sydney at Narooma so it seems unlikely). In SA we hope to visit the site of the battle of Rorkes Drift (who saw the film Zulu?) and have a couple of days in a game reserve trying to see the big five (lion, rhino, elephant hippo and cheetah??). We will drive down from Johannesburg to Cape Town via the garden route and return to Jo'Berg by train to catch our return flight home; unfortunately the weather in SA is not as good as here - they are approaching their winter - so much of this lovely antipodean tan will have washed off by the time we return home at the end of April.
I hope there has been something of interest in this little travelogue to interest you. Australia is certainly a place to visit particularly if you have relatives who can put you up. The return flight can be as little as £475 if one is prepared to go at relatively short notice. If I get the chance I will finish with the third part of this great adventure with a description of our time in South Africa but this may have to be after our return.
written by Jane and Tony Rice-Oxley
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