A Queensland Odyssey

Week Two

By Karen Johnson, for Out of the Kaje #4 (June/July 99)

Day 8 –Binna Burra to Brisbane

This was one morning that started far too early, when I got up at 5am to try to watch the sun rise. I thought you’d be able to see it from our balcony, but it faced in totally the wrong direction. I couldn’t see a thing, so I dressed and raced up to the main lawn to watch it there. The morning was beautifully peaceful, but the sunrise was insignificant. Then I went back and loaded the car etc. to be ready for the bush BBQ at 8.30am. We wanted to check out at 7.30am but we had to wait ages for someone to come and get us the bill, because they weren’t ready to do checkouts until after breakfast! We started walking to the clearing at 7.45 after a debate about whether or not to go, and it was lovely too, until Heather tripped and gouged a hole in me when she grabbed at me. The path wound through a wilderness of tropical palms, orchids and other natural wonders, and Heather was so busy admiring them that she hadn’t noticed the lianas growing across the path! We went on, and she fell again, but this time I wasn’t in front of her so she landed on a large, sharp rock. Ouch! It was quite nasty, so we had to go back to the Lodge with our tails between our legs. Surprisingly for a Lodge in the middle of nowhere (presumably abounding in natural hazards), the people at the desk weren’t set up to handle even a minor accident and had trouble finding any ice to keep down the swelling in Heather’s poor abused arm. They also refused to let us back into our cabin, so Heather was left to clean herself up using bottled water and tissues from the car!
Once we’d had some breakfast and Heather had recovered a bit, we started on our way to Brisbane, via Tamborine Mountain (a large plateau about halfway to the city). The road up to the plateau is very windy and steep, but there are some wonderful views from the top when it isn’t shrouded in smoke from burning off. In between the houses are five pocket-handkerchief National Parks. Each one is a microenvironment and they’re all very different, but all very beautiful. We visited each section for a tiny walk, and spent tons of money at a little macadamia nut factory.

Day 9 and 10 – Brisbane

I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about Brisbane as a place – I was there for a Star Trek convention (my first multi-day con, and great fun), so all I saw of the city was the three blocks between the Country Comfort Hotel where we were staying and the Mercure Hotel, where the action was.

Day 11 – Brisbane to Noosa

This was quite an easy day but the weather was very bad for Queensland in the Spring. It was very grey and humid, and we had to have the air-conditioner switched on all day, not because it was unbearably hot, but to dry the air out a bit as it entered the car.
The first touristy place we visited was the Big Pineapple, but before that we drove past the Glasshouse Mountains. The road runs very close to one little one, and you can just see the others in the distance. The best thing about the Big Pineapple is that entry’s free (though the various tours cost money). We went on the cane train and stopped in the little rainforest (more tropical palms, and impressively well done considering it’s all artificial), then we went in the nut mobile around the macadamia farm. I bought us a beautiful icecream – macadamia nut and ginger, dipped into crushed macadamias. Yummy! The only thing was we had to eat it very quickly because the nuts were trying to fall off. The last ride we went on was through Tomorrow’s Harvest’, which is a giant hydroponic greenhouse with a barge ride through it. A recording tells you about the history of the earth, and about what might happen in the future.
After the Big Pineapple, we went to the Ginger Factory at Yandina and had a look around (and some more ginger icecream. I wish you could get that flavour in Melbourne!) The rain started to come down while we were there, but we saw most of it. They have a Ginger Train running around the area (actually another cane train) with a commentary on the growing and processing of ginger. There are a lot of ducks and chickens roaming around, and the train driver throws food to them. It is funny to watch them racing after the train trying to grab the food. Since the train runs every half an hour you’d expect them to be too fat to waddle, but I suppose they run it off.
The motel at Noosa was lovely, and had a beautiful garden and pool, but since it was raining quite hard when we arrived, I couldn’t take advantage of either. Dinner came from a delivery service called ‘Café on Wheels.’ For a small charge they’ll pick up and deliver hot food from any restaurant or take-away shop in Noosa. What a good idea!

Day 12 – Noosa to Hervey Bay

We didn’t have to rush this morning because Hervey Bay is only about 2 hours from Noosa, so we went and looked at the National Park before we left. There is a very nice little rainforest walk which goes right from the carpark, and lets you see some big trees etc. It was hot in the sun, but pleasantly cool up under the trees, and the rainforest was beautifully green and lush. It also seemed to be full of wildlife. Without even trying, I saw a yellow robin of some description and a bunch of brush turkeys. I also heard a catbird calling, and now I know how it got its name. It is unmistakably a bird that said ‘mee-owww’. When we came out of the rainforest a family of goannas was sunning itself on the grass, and I got some good goanna photos. They weren’t very big, but they were very tame and used to people, so everyone staring at them didn’t fuss them.
After our national park stroll, we went across the street and had an early lunch (or by their menu late breakfast), in an open-air café. Tropical greenery, tropical fruit, a tropical breeze, and no hurry to go anywhere – bliss! We also went up to the lookout above the Park, which gave us a terrific view of Noosa and its surrounds, leading to much taking of panoramic photos (unlike Gundagai, the sun was shining, the sky was clear and the water was blue.) Most of Noosa fades into the green background, but the big American hotel stood out a mile - it’s bright pink!

Day 13 – Hervey Bay/Fraser Island

Today we went on our tour of Fraser Island. The island itself is every bit as fascinating as we’d been led to believe, but the tour conditions were somewhat primitive. Because it was school holidays the tour was seriously overbooked, so instead of the nice comfortable air-conditioned vehicle we’d been promised we had to spend the day in a hot, smelly, uncomfortable, reconditioned school bus! Needless to say, we weren’t impressed. Since then, we’ve heard that the tours from Noosa are much better-run, and actually show you a lot more rainforest, so if you’re thinking about going...
The barge to Fraser Island is very slow, but it doesn’t rock much. I was a bit worried about sailing, but the sandy strait is as calm as a millpond. It does take one hour each way though. The barge landed us at the top part of Fraser Island, as far north as anyone is allowed to go, and the busses picked us up from there. Because the whole island is made of sand, all the roads on Fraser Island are sand tracks, and they are extremely bumpy. We were driving two days after a heavy downpour and we were still bounced around all over the place.
Fraser Island is the largest Sand Island in the world. There’s only one outcrop of rock on the whole island – all the rest is sand covered in leaf litter. This leaf litter supports a lush range of vegetation in the Southern part of the island, and a more scrubby style towards the north. Most tourists don’t bother with this section of the island, but it was full of blackboys and miniature banksias, stunted by their harsh environment. There are a number of floating lakes too, which have formed in places where the leaf litter has formed a solid base to hold the water in. We stopped at one of these lakes, and had a swim (well, I had a paddle.) The water was stained brown with tannin, but it’s extremely pure and very cold.
After a buffet lunch at a place called The Retreat, we moved onto the Eastern Beach. Our next stop was a famous shipwreck called the Maheno. It ran aground 75 years ago, and it’s still there though in rather less good condition than it once was. People used to be able to climb into the hull of the ship, and I’ve seen photos of people posing at the portholes etc. but now it is considered far too dangerous and everyone’s warned to stay off. I took a bunch of photos, and then we drove up to the Pinnacles. They’re not very much to look at compared to the Coloured Sands further south, but they are supposed to have religious significance to the aborigines of the area. We stopped at Happy Valley for afternoon tea, and then drove back to the beach via the rain forest. Our motel had no pool (shame, I would have loved a swim and for once I had the time for it) and no restaurant facilities, so dinner was a curry from a restaurant which does free deliveries. There was far more than we could eat, but it was delicious.

Day 14 – Hervey Bay to Bundaberg

This morning Heather wanted to go early, and we actually got away from Hervey Bay at 9.30am. Before we left, we drove along the foreshore from Unungan to Point Vernon to see what we could see. From the end of the point you can see all the way to Bundaberg, or where the coast part of Bundaberg is anyway. The actual town is inland, on the river, and it has a number of coastal satellite towns about 10km away. One of these is home to a large colony of turtles, and another, Port Bundaberg is where the tourist boats go out.
It takes about 1½ hours to drive to Bundaberg, so we arrived at around 11am. We stopped at a shopping centre so I could try to get a new summer dress or skirt, but they didn’t have any. The racks were still full of jumpers etc. as though it were the middle of winter!
Bundaberg is home to the Bundaberg Rum factory, and if you go on a tour you get free samples, but Heather wasn’t interested. Instead we went to a small fruit winery, where the owner seemed to be the sort who fancies his own product a bit more than is good for him. We bought some ginger wine, and tasted passion fruit, plum, strawberry and mango wine too. We went to the Botanical Gardens, but they’ve only been there for a few years so they’re not really worth looking at yet. There are three museums in the grounds, but they were all closed for the day.
Bundaberg is an unusual place because you can drive right through the botanical gardens and also through the Queens Park, which is a large reserve running alongside the river. The map showed a scenic drive but it wasn’t labelled  so you could just drive down any path that took your fancy!

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