On our way to Lady Musgrave Island

Sitting still in one place finally lost its appeal, after 3 weeks of almost non-stop northerlies trapping us in the marina at Urangan Boat Harbour. We set off for Lady Musgrave Island at 3:30pm today, aiming to get there by mid morning tomorrow. The forecast is for light (8-12 knots) south easterlies tonight, but so far we’ve been treated to 15-20 knots of of the North East. A boisterous ride, what with a choppy beam sea and all, but making excellent miles. Not sure why we should want to arrive at 3am, as we can’t go into the lagoon until it’s well and truly light (it helps to be able to see the coral ‘bommies’). Hey ho, it’s bound to slow down through the night!

Fraser Island

We’ve just returned from a little driving expedition to Fraser Island: not a relaxing time as it turned out for poor Gerhard who had to get the Freelander across soft sand (actually it was the lack of clearance under the vehicle that was our problem). Subsequently we were confined to driving the eastern side of the island. This was no great burden – we saw the beautiful Cathedral Rocks, Indian Head, the Maheno wreck which has deteriorated significantly since we visited 18 months ago (photos below) and we swam in the Champagne Rock Pools – with fish sharing the pools with us as the ocean waves crashed in.

We saw one solitary dingo trotting along beach, and there was of course the mandatory jumping off sand dunes…

Whilst Gerhard and I might have been frustrated with the way things turned out I remarked that I felt sure the boys were delighted and their view of the trip would differ to ours. This proved to be the case. Their highlights were as follows:

  • a swimming pool to play in at the resort;
  • swimming in Champagne Rock Pools;
  • lots of unhealthy cereals for breakfast that you could help yourself to (Hugo); and
  • beds to sleep in and a bath.

So it was best to be content and enjoy the fact that the boys found the whole thing very enjoyable, especially hours of clambering all over their father in the pool.

Rather than risk the 17 kilometres of driving (or in our case not driving) through deep tracks and soft sand back to the ferry crossing at Wanggoolba Creek we decided to drive south and leave the island on the barge crossing from Inskip Point to Rainbow Beach. This was an easy enough drive between high and low tide although the last bit was a little challenging as we nipped around the southern tip of the island on shifting sand. With a sigh of relief we boarded the barge, with the knowledge that we just had the final 100m across the beach and then we were home and dry (or on sealed roads at any rate). It was going well with Gerhard flooring the car…and then the 4WD ahead of us slowed down. Result. We got stuck. There was quite a lot of swearing at this point. The boys sensibly engrossed themselves in whatever screen they could lay their hands on and I went off across the beach to talk one of the unsuspecting fishermen to come and give us a tow with their 4WD. As the 3 bearded fellows partook of their afternoon cans of beer and observed me trotting across the sand I challenged them not to turn and walk away from me, but to contribute to my marital harmony. Thankfully the humour worked, and after a few tense moments and failed attempts to pull the Freelander clear of the sand we were out…..and my bearded friend didn’t spill a drop of beer or even put his can down!

We got home late afternoon a bit weary and a bit frazzled. In time to unpack, pop some more supplies on board and head back out to Fraser Island the next day, but this time on board Sunny Spells.

Hervey Bay and environs hasn’t been quite all we’d hoped for…

It has all felt a bit hard work recently. Groundhog Day and wearisome, warm and overbearing in a boat. The marina water is over 30 degrees C so the temperature in the boat is affected by that as well as the surrounding air temperature. That combined with the fact that we feel as though we are living in some concrete trailer park. If I have cabin fever then small wonder G feels it too – he didn’t get to bolt to Sydney to see his friends the week before last. The wind keeps blowing from the north and so there’s nowhere to hide if we should take the boat into the Bay.

Gerhard has also had some of ‘my’ work to do, whilst I’ve dragged the boys through their school work (all whilst we sweat). We bought an air-conditioner, but it’s not as effective as I would like. We did try going for a bit of a look around on Thursday – to the much publicised markets and sights of Maryborough.

Maryborough was an important nineteenth century town. The creator of Mary Poppins heralds from Maryborough and some poor woman dresses up as Mary Poppins everyday and gives guided tours and assists with daily firing of a cannon – it was over 30 degrees at 10 in the morning: I hope she is paid well for her work.

The streets were once the home of silk merchants, merchant banks and opium dens. Settled in 1847 it was once one was one of Australia’s largest and busiest ports.
Whilst it was lovely and there were a lot of lovely people that we met, we weren’t that impressed with the historical town.

From Maryborough ( over-warm and a little deflated) we headed to the sights of Burrum Heads only to find a very pretty river mouth and sandy beach and ……not a lot else other than a caravan park. I then checked the highlights that were listed in my tourist brochure: the skateboard park, the community hall and the library! Ah, not exactly brimming over with culture. Coming from the Cotswolds with your village local built over 600 years ago and a church mentioned in the Doomsday book does mean you set your sights a little high!

On Saturday we found ourselves at the water park again, and this time the boys got to have a go on ‘flip side’ some wacky surfboard ride thing. They were delighted.

At the water park I continue to feel as though I stick out like a sore thumb ….I really must ask Santa for a shed load of tattoos for Christmas! Huge ones down the thigh seem to be the go around here. I also seem to be half the size of most of the female population – but I’m fast rectifying that. I must stop eating and drinking and get up to do some exercise before it gets hot and humid: unfortunately it will require me to be out before 5.30am so it’s not looking good!

We then moved on to visit a shark exhibition. We’ve driven past a few times and have been fascinated. We thought it might be air conditioned so off we went.

We paid the hefty $40 for a rather bizarre shark experience – where this chap has spent his life-time hunting and killing Great White sharks. His whole exhibition is dedicated to his passionate belief and his cause that the shark should not be protected. It was a very strange combination of macabre, biased, highly subjective, gruesome and hysterically funny exhibition.

Vic Hislop’s Shark show is a dedication to the fact that some sharks kill a lot of other animals and so in his opinion should be killed in order to help protect other creatures and the many humans that encounter shark attacks every year. There are walls adorned with gruesome photos and lists of actual or presumed victims of shark attacks, and there are some pretty amateur videos of Vic catching sharks and displaying the contents of the sharks’ stomachs.

Our objective throughout this visit was to spot the spelling or grammatical mistake/s. The exhibition did not let us down: how can you spell the word ‘cartilage’ two different ways in the same sentence??! Oh, and on that note, has no one told the person who built the very nice “Norfolk Appartments” in Maryborough – and has the whole bloody sign beautifully made and everything – that you only have one ‘p’ in apartments? May the dear lord help us… Oscar and Hugo can spell apartments correctly – I’ve checked!
Anyway, as G and I sat discussing our frustrations with the last couple of weeks over our obligatory sundowners, I did say that despite our reservations the boys seem as happy-as-Larry:

  • they love trotting around the marina – and knowing people and where everything is;
  • Wet-side water park is their home from home;
  • they both said how amazing the day going to Maryborough and Burrum Heads was – there were so many exciting things to see and do; and
  • yesterday’s highlight was the horrendous shark display ( which incidentally I failed to mention contained 3 frozen sharks and a lot of air freshener which G pointed out was clearly to cover up the reeking ‘rotting fish odour’).

So, you never can tell. What ‘fluffs our duvet’ clearly is not necessarily what makes the boys happy.

We are now on Fraser Island …. And that’s a whole different story which I’ll leave for another day. But we will have a family meeting this evening to give the boys a chance to remind us that what we think is a not very exciting and in fact quite tedious day is not necessarily the case when you are aged 8 and 9!

1770 and Agnes Waters

We sailed out of 1770 on a sunny Sunday morning. After hours of deliberation by Gerhard regarding tides and the swing of the boat (and of those around us) and how he was going to raise the two separate anchors. It was clearly quite a challenge for him but from my point of view at the helm it seemed to go quite smoothly. He then just had to navigate us down the river and back out to sea.

We loved 1770 but I’m not sure we will find ourselves there again – not on Sunny Spells at any rate: the sand bars and the depth of the river (or lack thereof) made it a challenging and restless week for Gerhard.

On a very positive note though we loved 1770 and Agnes Waters. It was quiet and quaint, friendly and stunning. We walked the headland where Captain Cook on HMS Endeavour first landed (24 May 1770 – hence the town’s name) on what was to become Queensland. As the boys and I walked along a lovely rocky path cut through tropical bush with occasional wooden bridges crossing creeks ( or the bed of a creek at any rate) I commented on how it must have felt to be Captain Cook and Joseph Banks landing here for the first time ( you know, trying to do the whole ‘education in the field’ bit, and to take their minds off how hot and humid it was). Hugo was suitably impressed …”did Captain Cook build all of these bridges and paths as well Mum?”. Bless him…

The local council have made a super effort with board walks and footpaths along the river’s edge with signs pointing out the different plants, fish and bird life that Cook had noted in his ship’s log. I also noted that having come ashore on 24 May Cook and his crew set sail again at 4am the next day. What a pity; they missed out, failing to enjoy the lovely beach and surrounding area.

I was also fascinated to read that it wasn’t until 1987 that Agnes Waters got its first commercial motel. The then dirt road was graded twice yearly and the motel owner travelled to Bundaberg every week to bring back bread, milk and vast quantities of ice for local residents since electricity did not reach Agnes Waters until 1987!! That’s really not that long ago! Bookings for the motel could only be made via VHF radio at Round Head point and you just hoped someone had relayed the message down to the motel owner. Incredible!

The river had mangroves along it, enormous pelicans swooping in, fish jumping and the ever welcoming warning signs about the dangerous stone fish. We did not explore the stunning sand bars and ‘beaches’ that become so evident at low tide. Whilst picturesque and clearly a source of tourism income, they were not our ‘friend’, more a source of concern and something to be wary of. We therefore did not explore – but they were spectacular in the evening light, with Bustard Head lighthouse in the distance.

We all enjoyed our surf lesson on Agnes Waters beach. Gerhard of course was standing on his first attempt. Oscar did extremely well also managing some wobbly stands. Hugo was up on his knees but claiming to be standing and performing somersaults thanks to his vivid imagination and penchant for story-telling! I came up the rear – not unlike a large walrus and whilst I will continue to try and surf I think I probably require something the size of a banqueting table to actually get myself up on my feet.
We used subsequent days on the beach to ‘hone’ our surfing skills, and to Hugo’s credit, once he was put onto our big board, he got straight up. He was quite a way away from me up the beach but I swear I could still see his big grin and ‘whoop’ of delight!

On our last evening we had one of our ‘family meetings’, as proposed by Oscar. It’s helpful to reflect on the positive things about our trip so far and to also allow the boys to feel some ownership of the adventure and an opportunity to raise any concerns. Hugo introduced the concept of ‘he who holds the pencil gets to speak’ (a very useful idea presumably learnt from his Bilgola class teacher) – which is highly amusing when the chairman (Gerhard) talks during Hugo’s pencil time and results in Hugo waving the pencil and pulling amusing faces to indicate that Dad has just broken the rules. (He has a lot to learn!).

There were typical discussions regarding highlights: snorkeling, surf lessons, big fish, playing with Dad in the surf and the beaches. In terms of requests for the next few weeks they included: cycling, more exercise, more visiting places away from the coast, more chocolate croissants and visiting the Italian restaurant at Hervey Bay and most importantly.. Please, no more catching fish – we’re sick of eating fish!

So, after a stunning day’s sailing from 1770 to Bundaberg (which was unexpected: we thought we would be bashing into a bit of a southerly) we tied up just before dark. A long but positive day. We plan to cast off and set sail for Hervey Bay at 4 in the morning. Happy days …