A Queensland Odyssey
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
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
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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