18-24 March: Nomadic life has its moments…

Author: Mr A

Location(s): Nowra, Berry, Sydney, Morton National Park, Orange

Let’s set the scene here. We have our worldly goods scattered around various locations in Sydney and surrounds. Our house contents are stored in two big cages in a warehouse in western Sydney. Our caravan and kayak had been stored nearly 6 hours drive west of Sydney. Various other bits and pieces are with friends in Matraville and Forestville. Life was getting complicated. It was time to rationalise the logistics!

We have found a storage business in Nowra that will take our caravan, car, kayak and bikes, and it was all under cover, with access to top up solar power. Oh and the guy who runs it said if we want work doing on the car (we do) or caravan (we hope not) then he can drop off and help organise. Perfect!

We headed for Berry last week after our Jervis Bay jaunt, and spent a few days parked up next to our friends’ property, and loved being welcome recipients of their delicious home grown produce!. They are such good company, always up to something interesting in that lively community down there.

Then it was back down to Nowra to drop the caravan at its new storage home before we loaded all our gear for the next 7 months of our UK/Europe trip into the car and hightailed it to Matraville. I had my bi-annual eye health check and Catherine was off to talk at a medical conference in Brisbane.

Sometimes this lugging around gear gets a bit tiresome, then we think “all in a good cause!”.

Tassie immediately settled back into ‘city pad’ mode.

Solar cat recharging on the balcony

She has three sets of fur parents who love her dearly. She’s a lucky lady.

I dashed into the city and was relieved of $500 plus dollars and got the good news of no further deterioration in my eyesight. Medical expenses between the two of us are crazy and mostly not covered by Medicare or our private health insurance. No wonder there is such a strong correlation here between income and health. Still, we are glad we live in Australia not the US.

Our next task on the storage juggle list was to visit our stored house contents in western Sydney. We figured we needed to access the winter clothes bag having checked the temperature in England (a top temperature of 11 degrees centigrade anticipated for our arrival!) – we fly this coming Saturday, straight into the Brexit Storm!

Next job – collect the kayak and other bits was had left out at our friends property out at Canowindra. A 5-6 hr drive out into western NSW. I devised a cunning plan though, after reading about a overnight bike trip some people had done in the national park inland from Nowra. Mrs A was up in Brisbane at a conference, so I headed down to Nowra collected the bike, dusted off the bikepacking gear, and headed for the hills. Well, I couldn’t actually see the hills through the driving rain and fog. Was this a smart idea? I consulted with my more optimistic half. Mrs A said “the forecast looks like it’s better further inland”, so I applied the right foot and started winding my up into the very wet high country.

I parked up at a pub close to the start of the ride (handy hey?), and got the camping gear loaded on my beast of a bike.

Ready to head off…and the sun is shining!

I love that bike, and still smile every time I throw a leg over the saddle. I didn’t get away until mid afternoon, but the rain had held up so was feeling pretty perky. Well until I remembered I had forgotten one of the most essential items of gear…my tea mug! Oh no! I had snuck in some Tim Tams (yummy Aussie chocolate biscuits) for my favourite ritual on these solo trips of getting the tent pitched somewhere gorgeous and getting a brew on. Still I pressed on regardless and was thrilled that the maps app and routing a friend had sent me was working a treat.

One happy bike-packer!

The route traverses into the Morton National Park which stretches for just under 200,000 hectares through sandstone plateau country crisscrossed by gorges. I had been reading about a 5-day ride through it called ‘Attack of the Buns‘, but only had time for two half days. I’d picked the section that several people had commented was through especially stunning and wild country. They weren’t wrong.

I started dropping down towards a small stream I had read about in the trip write up. Well the small stream was now a grown up river after all the rain. I paused, checked the time and decided to camp just before it and see what the morning brought weather wise. My reading of the forecast was they had no clue. Weather up in the hills here is notoriously unpredictable.

The tent was soon up and the issue of the lack of mug solved – use my empty Pringle container! Yes it is all health foods on these trips without the conscience on my shoulder of the lovely Mrs A. Now I can definitely say, do not pour boiling hot liquid into a cardboard Pringle container. It all went horribly wrong and the much better Plan B of drinking out of my food bowl was implemented.

Norman no-mates tent

I rose in the pre-dawn darkness and checked the river. I was going to have wet shoes for the rest of the trip but so what. I packed the gear and set off when it was just light enough to see where I was treading. It was up to the hubs but I pushed through, and I’m so glad I did. The riding from here was stunning.

Stream? A full blown river more like!
Made it!

Friends ask me why I always do these trips solo. My response – I can go at my own slow pace, and when I see country like this I’m so glad I can take my time to just stop and look. Silver cobwebs were hanging across the scrub. Mist was hanging over the cliffs. Not a person to be seen. The stillness is just something else. No other voices to break the spell.

Magical morning mist, birds, wallabies and not another person…
Dew coated spider webs sparkling in the morning light

I rode the somewhat soggy track but it was pretty easy going and eventually reached a point mid morning where I reluctantly had to turn round.

So tempting to keep on going…
A stream or my pathway ahead? Thank goodness for fat tyres

Perhaps to some people it would have seemed a lot of effort to get the bike all loaded up for one night. But not for me. I love the chance to ride and reflect, listen, smell and feel the bush. I’m going to miss it in the UK and Europe, but it will be replaced with country so different to this, country shaped and filled by human endeavour.

It was a long drive to Canowindra and I was running out of daylight. You really don’t want to be on these country roads at dusk with kamikaze kangaroos about. My eyes are also not good for night driving. So kayak collected, I headed over to Orange, where a friend had recently moved back to from Manly. It was her birthday so a great excuse for a catch up. We had a lovely time, wine tasting and eating at a brilliant restaurant called Mr Lim. Check it out if you’re in town.

Pre dinner drink at the very fancy local RSL in Orange

All too quickly it was time to point the car back to Nowra and store it there until early November. It’s really happening…we’re off for a whole new adventure.

27-29 August: Back on the Fraser Coast in Tin Can Bay

Author: Mrs A

Location: Tin Can Bay, Queensland

Monday: We packed up and moved on from Seventeen-Seventy, heading south. Our destination was the bizarrely named Tin Can Bay, due east of Gympie and just north of Noosa.

The origins of its name are unclear, but there is some suspicion it is linked to an Aboriginal word which sounds similar to Tin Can – perhaps meaning mangroves, dugongs or vine with large ribbed leaves. I think it is very odd that nobody has recorded the reason for the name given it was only named in 1937.

We arrived early afternoon and set up in the campground. We’re in a quiet suburban location, surrounded by melaleuca trees and birds. We jumped on the bikes for an explore.

Tin Can Bay is known for its tame humpback dolphins which visit the point each morning for fish and to delight visitors young and old. It’s a fishing port, with a working marina. The bay itself is tidal, and we arrived at low tide to see boats strewn around the mud flats like stranded whales.

We remembered driving up Rainbow Beach near here with my mum a few years ago, before taking the ferry over to Fraser Island.

Tuesday: It was slow start to the day with Miss Tassie enjoying the sunshine and exploring our little garden site. We’ve no canine neighbours so she feels relatively safe here, though still quite shy of other people. The caravan is always her ‘safe Zone’ – any perception of danger and she rushes back inside.

Mr A and I decided we should get out and do some walking, and a little research online and we found the Cooloola Wilderness Trail started a short drive away. This trail is generally a 2-3 day hike all the way down to Elanda, on the outskirts of Noosa, but we thought we would try a 10km return walk just to stretch the legs.And what a beautiful walk it is. We are days away from the offical start of spring here (1st September) but the wildflowers were out in abundance.Several varieties of boronia, teatree, bottlebrush, peas, heath, eucalypts and more brightened our pathway, accompanied by the rhythmic hum of insects feeding on the nectar. It really was good for the soul and reminded us how much we love bush walking at this time of year.The pathway was well marked and predominantly white sand or grass, very easy walking with a couple of water crossings along the way. The landscape was quite open with good views to the east, across to the Great Sandy National Park.Even the trunks of the gum trees were beautiful!We stopped walking after around 5km when we saw the path dropping steeply downhill, remembering we had to turn around at some point and return via the same route.We definitely recommend getting out and enjoying the Australian bush at this time of year.

Returning to camp we had a couple of hours’ rest before deciding to do some more exploring on two wheels. We rode up to the marina and followed the point around, finishing another 10km circuit before dinner.

Wednesday: The day commenced with a little US trip planning, continued with a bbq brunch, and proceeded with a great deal of cleaning inside and out.

The mobile apartment is off to its birthplace tomorrow for a long weekend, having a little TLC from the Zone crew for its latest service. Meanwhile, the three of us are off to Noosa for some civilisation with friends.

24-26 August: A weekend in Agnes Water and 1770

Author: Mr A

Location: Seventeen-Seventy, Queensland

Friday: Leaving Cania Gorge behind we headed towards the coast, our destination being the tiny settlement of Seventeen Seventy, so named after it was discovered that Captain Cook made his second landfall in Australia here in…that’s right…1770.

We arrived in time to get the bikes off and explore, it was a short ride down the road and this spectacular view confronted us.So good to be back by the ocean again, with those lovely smells of the sea air, the calm waters of the Coral Sea exuding a tranquility that we just soaked up, over a cold beer.I did smile though on seeing this cafe perched in a car park, next to the road, when the other side of the building was…..…this view! I don’t think 1770 has quite made it into 2018 – and that’s part of its appeal.

Saturday: Again we were off on the bikes down to the beach at the back of our caravan park, then a great ride along the sand to Agnes Water a few kilometres down the beach.This was a little less sleepy, with a few shops and restaurants, one of which we had been told was going to be offering an Indian focused menu tonight. A booking was made – this little business is clearly making an effort to do something a bit different. A range of speciality teas lined the walls that almost rivalled our selection in the Zone!

We pottered back to our camp down the bike path and spent a very productive afternoon organising more of our upcoming US trip and being taken on an exploration by Princess Tassie. Then it was back to Cafe Discovery for their take on Indian food. A beef vindaloo and chicken tikka masala went down a treat.

Sunday: Rain in the night! So exciting! We haven’t heard that soothing pitter patter on the roof for so long. We made it down to the markets and back via the lookout in 1770 before the thunderstorm started in earnest. A great little market as well, lots of locals and grey nomads alike picking up these fresh fruit and veg so totally absent from any supermarkets we had seen for weeks.We decided to brave the weather and headed out for a walk, so glad we did. The first short walk we did through a paper bark forest was magical with the sun making the dripping vegetation just sparkle. Then it was a 6km coastal walk, although the weather then closed in and it really started to throw it down, complete with thunder and lightning.Back to the park and a quiet Sunday night (when isn’t it nowadays!) and plans made for our departure tomorrow.

Well done Agnes Water and Seventeen-Seventy.

18-19 August: Biking around Barcaldine

Author: Mr A

Location: Barcaldine, Queensland

Saturday: Wevoted for a two day stay here – feeling the driving distances since Darwin a bit – sore eyes. So we settled in to a cosy little park that only has space for less than 10 vans. Very nicely kept with a tea house adjacent.

Barcaldine is a sleepy little place, it just doesn’t have the vibe of Winton. No welcoming pubs with outdoor seating, just the usual closed dark entrances with a glimpse of pokies inside. So we gave them a miss, and just had a 10km ride round on the bikes.

Not a great deal here that interested us, although the town does boast the start of the Australian union movement, celebrated with a fine monument in town that made us look twice – the Tree of Knowledge encompasses a Ghost Gum tree which stood on this site as a silent witness to the union struggles. The wooden blades represent the blades of the shearers and pastoralists who made up those first workers in 1891, and clink melodically in the breeze. But we just couldn’t imagine what you would do for the weeks that some people are clearly spending here! There are four caravan parks in town, and no shops that seem to cater for them. What do all these nomads do here? Some on our camp look very settled in. Each to their own I guess.

Sunday: We had a cruisey 9km ride around some wetlands on the edge of the sand hills that now seem to be encroaching on the edge of town as the climate changes.Then a very chilled out day, concluding with a Goan fish curry courtesy of Mrs A’s fair hands. Well I have now graduated to kitchen assistant preparing the garlic, turmeric, ginger and blending up with pestle and mortar. Its a start!

6-7 August: Uluru National Park

Author: Mr A

Location: Yulara & Uluru National Park

Monday: Riding The Rock!

Catherine had heard that you could now cycle around the rock – one of the many changes since climbing it has been finally banned.

We lost no time after setting up camp to throw the bikes on the back of the car and head into Uluru National Park. It’s only 20km away by road, but we wanted to avoid the testosterone fuelled drivers who are often behind the wheel of a big four wheel drive for the first time after a rental from Alice. Combine those folk with the foreign tourists who have forgotten which side of the road we drive on here (as we encountered driving into the park just as one was driving the wrong way down the park check-in road!)…No…a few minutes loading the bikes was worth it.We left for our ride from the Cultural Centre and followed our noses as there were no signs for a cycling path, but there was this rather large rock to head for.We joined the pain path around the rock and checked the signage, it only showed walkers, but there were bike hire companies around and plenty of tyre marks, so off we went.Riding a bike always brings a grin to our faces wherever we are, but to be riding along under this brilliant blue sky, dwarfed by this towering red rock…breathtaking. We just couldn’t stop ogling this magnificent scenery. Neither of us are in any way spiritual, but we both felt this to be the closest we could get, just sitting quietly looking up at this massive granite monolith towering over us.

Miss Tassie also enjoyed the awesomeness of the Red Centre on an explore of the dunes near where we camped. When was the last time you saw a Burmese cat in front to Uluru, eh?

Tuesday: Visiting Kata Tjuta

A 45km drive in the morning, minus the caravan, took us to Kata Tjuta, which European explorers renamed The Olgas. This area contains an unusual geological formation of a series of large domed granite rocks, which in this crystal clear desert air, looks so spectacular against the almost perennially deep blue sky.The short walk we did here was one of the most enjoyable we have done from a scenic perspective for ages. It’s called the Valley of the Winds walk, and takes you up through the domes and in a 7km circuit.(Below, a friendly Grey Shrike-Thrush which accompanied us on our walk)We could easily have spent a few more days here, but we are now on a bit of deadline, given we have lost a couple of weeks from our itinerary. So soon it was time to pack up and move on.

23-26 July: To Berry Springs and Darwin

Author: Mrs A

Location: Berry Springs, Northern Territory

Monday: It was a busy morning of packing up while Mr A took the Landcruiser into Katherine to get the wheel alignment checked (standard check post new shocks). Finally we took off up the highway, about a three hour drive to Berry Springs.

Berry Springs is a tiny rural settlement located about 60km south of Darwin. These days it is primarily a jumping off point for Litchfield National Park, Berry Springs Nature Park and the Territory Wildlife Park.

Our park is located beside Lake Barden, a horseshoe shaped lake designed specifically for waterskiing – no action here at the moment though, just lots of birds and a few crocodiles apparently (hopefully of the freshwater variety!).Checking in for 10 days, I believe we have one of the best sites in the park. Nice and shady, grassy with no neighbours for about 15 metres. Better still, we had barely set up when the campground managers came over with three boxes of wine – our Vinomofo and Ross Hill deliveries have made it safely. Sadly the Tscharke wine delivery made it in a leaking crumpled mess to the Berry Springs Post Office with just enough time for the courier to photograph it and then take it away again. Will we ever get to try this wine? Third time lucky we hope…

Tuesday: Mark finished off his packing and we loaded up the car with his case plus our poor punctured bike tyres to take them into Darwin. Forty-five minutes later we were pulling up outside Cycle Zone (we thought it was an appropriate name!) and dropping them off. It seems my bike is going to be a simple (if costly) fix, but Mr A`s Surly tyres will need a bit more thought.

We then went off to find lunch – TripAdvisor came to the rescue here, and we were soon calling into the Magic Wok Restaurant. There, we selected raw vegetables and meat from a selection (a wide variety including buffalo, crocodile, emu, kangaroo and other interesting choices), chose a sauce and a noodle or rice. You pay depending on the weight of your plates. We both decided on seafood laksa, which was outstanding.

Soon it was time to drop Mark to the airport for his flight to Perth and onward to the UK. I jumped in to the driver`s seat for the first time in a long while and drove on back to Berry Springs to chill out with my furry housemate.

Wednesday: for me a day of washing and working – doing analysis on some research I have conducted while travelling. Mid afternoon I got a message from Mark to say he had safely made it into London and was on the train travelling across the city. It all seemed so fast!

Miss Tassie did a little exploring, deciding the nearby lake is ideal for sunbathing.

Thursday: I received a message early to let me know my bike was ready to collect, so I decided to spend the morning writing my report and then head back into Darwin in the afternoon. Annoyingly our lovely new washing machine decided to start pumping out error codes, and I spent an hour trying to sort that out..not solved yet.

I drove into Darwin, relieved at the nice quiet roads and easy parking outside the bike shop. My tyres are now tubeless, so now hopefully no more punctures. I am really looking forward to jumping on my bike for an explore. Mark`s bike tyres are still in the workshop.

Given I was already in town, I decided to hang around and check out the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. I last went to those when I was up here backpacking 19 years ago. Being a little early, I walked around the coast to the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, dipping my toes in the Timor Sea along the way.

The museum is well worth a visit. It not only covers the Northern Territory`s natural history (with an extensive collection of fossils and taxidermy), a display and recordings of Cyclone Tracey in the 1970s (which instill fear into anyone listening to the 200 mile an hour winds ripping apart the flimsy wood and corrugated iron homes), but also the history of settlement. It is this which is quite shocking when viewed through today`s eyes.In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Northern Territory was quite a tough and unruly place to live. The climate is challenging to say the least, and settlers trying to grow crops were also stymied by poor soils, high temperatures and rainfall followed by drought. Aboriginal people largely carried on their usual life, with some being employed by pastoralists and hotel operators, and as stockmen, hunters and laborers.

In 1911 that all changed with several policies introduced as part of the`White Australia`goal. Aboriginal people were suddenly severely restricted in their movement, and it is at around this time children were removed from Aboriginal families and placed into missions, especially if they were of mixed decent. There was an assumption that Aboriginal people would simply `become extinct` while the children could be assimilated into white society – a shocking perception given what we know now about the continuous occupation of Australia by Aboriginal communities for up to 60,000 years. This policy continued right up until the 1970s.As you leave the museum and see young Aboriginal people sprawled drunk over the pavement, you see that it is now sadly alcohol addiction and a lack of sense of belonging which is killing them.

On to more cheery things…The Mindil Beach Market consists predominantly of food vendors, surrounded by jewellery, artwork and some clothing stalls. There is a good atmosphere with live music being played and plenty of visitors.I had an early dinner and purchased a raw gluten-free, dairy-free cake (Mark’s worst nightmare!) as a treat for dessert before returning to Berry Springs for the evening.

8-9 July: Georgetown and the attack of the bindi

Author: Mr A

Location: Georgetown, Outback Queensland

Sunday: Georgetown does have an excellent information centre, and very kindly they helped me with some printing of flight itineraries for the the UK dash back. They also have a brilliant (no pun intended) gemstone and mineral collection. On from there we cycled to the only tourist activity we could see in the town itself, a 6km walk/ride along the outskirts of town.We mostly followed the dry river bed, and all was going well, until that dreaded exclamation from Mrs A “Oh no….puncture”. I nipped back to camp on my bike, and returned with the car. Mrs A was soon loaded up with her bike and returned to camp, where we spent the next 3 hours picking bindi spikes out of both of our tyres! I’ve never ridden in this type of country before, so was pretty shocked how it has destroyed even my thick tyres. At least my tubeless set up kept me inflated, well until I started picking out the thorns! We are now going to have the petite (but usually very reliable) MTB that Catherine rides converted to a tubeless set up as well. Definitely worth it. So no more riding until we get to Darwin in a couple of weeks.

Another beautiful “big sky” sunset, as I call them, and the three of us (fur child included) watched it with a much needed glass of wine. These have been a tough few days, with all the hassle of sorting out our caravan to try and get mobile again, then organising everything in the UK connected with my mother’s funeral.At least we have good phone signal here in tiny little Georgetown. It’s been an experience, and makes you realise from talking to the locals, what are some of the challenges of living in a remote area. No doctors, dentists, supermarkets (one of the petrol stations stocks some basic supplies). Or any other trappings we take for granted in the city – restaurants, hairdressers, clothes shops etc. And even this place isn’t remote by some Australian standards, ie. it has tarmac road access!

Monday was a day spent organising more of my travel arrangements – booking transfers in the UK, getting menus sorted for the wake, and the myriad of other things that come with a last minute trip of this nature. The great thing is with an iPad and a 4G phone signal, its pretty easy. How times have changed.I have to say I have become a fan of Flight Centre today. I booked through them and they have provided superlative service, so easy to get hold of a real person and talk to them. As compared to going through Qantas, where I spent 45mins on hold trying to even speak to their call centre to resolve an issue. And Flight centre were cheaper for the same tickets. Excellent.

25-26 June: Hiking and biking around Atherton

Author: Mr A

Location: Atherton Tablelands

Monday: With yet another grey day looming we dragged ourselves out of the cosy Zone before we were tempted to cancel all activities and just veg out. We drove the sort distance down Herbeton, a small town with a strong history of mining. The town’s museum told the story of how tin had been dredged there until the 80’s. Mining doesn’t enthrall me but suitably educated we tackled one of the walks around the area. If only the clouds had lifted, which they did when we had finished, it would have been great views across the range.

Tuesday: The next day was yet another grey and drizzly start, and again we forced ourselves out, this time on the bikes. There’s a rail trail leading almost from the campsite into Atherton, so we slithered our way along that as the rain got harder. It was time to beat a tactical withdrawal to a coffee shop and pile some hot chocolates and cakes down us. Suitably fortified we decided to carry on as the rain had stopped.It was actually a great ride initially through a countryside of rolling hills, then we headed round a loop on some tarmac and back to base via a series of local mountain bike trails through the rainforest, ticking off just over 35km.A curry was called for after all that exertion, so our fellow Zoner Ken drove us into Atherton and we we finished our stay here with a great feed. We have really enjoyed the tablelands, apart from the weather, but tomorrow its time to head back down to the coast.

21-22 June: An introduction to the delights of the Atherton Tablelands

Author: Mr A

Location: Cooktown to Mareeba then Atherton

Thursday: For the first time since we left Sydney in March, I pointed our nose south. Cooktown would be as far north as we would go on this trip, saving the raw beauty and corrugations of Cape York for another time.

So on the drive from Cooktown to Mareeba we were mostly retracing our steps, and was nearly the last drive we would ever do. The sides of the valley narrowed and steepened right to the little bit of hard shoulder, and Catherine suddenly shouts out “COW!!!!!”

There it was right on the hard shoulder, looking all wide eyed and about to bolt in front of us, as it had nowhere else to go. Coming the other way was a huge road train. It is moments like this that make outback touring so…..interesting. I swerved out a bit, the sway control kicked in and kept me from fishtailing, and the road train answered with a big horn, he had nowhere to go either. Somehow the three of us managed to all pass each other without touching. Jeez that was close.

I tend to drive around 80-85km/hour on most roads. If I had been going any faster I think this blog would have come to an untimely end. I will continue to drive below the speed limit with an eye in the rear view camera and move over as soon as I safely can let other vehicles past.Mareeba didn’t tempt us in to town, and it had a very uninspiring campsite as well, so after the using the time to clean sheets, clothes, truck and Zone we decided to head off to Atherton, the main town up here on the tablelands.

Friday: We decided to divert on the way, to check out Australia’s “Distillery of the year”. I was intrigued. The sun had yet to strike the yard arm, so some may say a trifle early for strong liqueur, but what the heck.

The Mount Uncle Distillery sits in the middle of a banana plantation, and a farm that grows most of the ingredients for their products. They distill a range of spirits and liqueurs, so we decided to taste the vodka, two of the gins and the whiskey. Did you know that gin is vodka with juniper added? We didn’t! And these guys are adding a range of other locally grown botanicals such as mint and myrtle. They were all delicious, we would have brought some whiskey but at $170 for the cheapest…..pass.

We were told by the lady presenting them that they made a whiskey from a single barrel which has just one won “a double gold medal in Melbourne, competing against over 150 others”. I was intrigued so tried to check on their website – apart from a bunch of typos and repeated content there was no reference to the award.

A Google search revealed a Facebook video with no content whatsoever. If you are going to ask customers to pay $500 for a bottle of something, you would expect a bit of collateral to be available. But no…apparently a Chinese actor walked in last month and brought 14 bottles! Perhaps he was taken with the name – “The BBC ” – full name “The Big Black Cock”.Moving on, we called in at our first fruit and veggie shop on the tablelands. If you’re not au fait with the area then you should know it is famous for its basalt soils and temperate climate that encourages an incredible range of produce. Almost everything seems to grow up here!

Anyway, we sampled locally gown macadamias, peanuts and chocolates and came away with a goody bag containing not one fruit or vegetable…..because we had found out a local market was on tomorrow.

After much debate, we had decided to go for a Big 4 caravan park in Atherton. We aren’t usually a big fan of these places but this one is an absolute cracker. We have a huge grassy site looking onto a forest, with birds everywhere, clean facilities and a nearby rail train into town (which of course we had to explore)….….And then…we spot another Zone parked by us. So we all introduce ourselves and it turns out the Zoner (Ken, owner of #101) was someone I had already previously messaged to meet up in Cairns, as I had seen he had just picked up his van.

Drinks were called for, and much comparing of notes. Every time we meet another Zoner they always turn out to be lovely people. What is about the product or company that attracts such likeable people? To be honest we haven’t met many people on the road around happy hours that we would go out of our way to see again. But Zoners…always good 🙂

6 & 7 June: Regrouping in Cairns

Author: Mrs A

Location: Cairns, Queensland

Wednesday morning we said farewell to our picturesque campsite and took off a short way up the coast to Cairns. Unfortunately real life continues on and we had a few tasks to tick off in Queensland’s second biggest city.

We rushed up ready to get a new washing machine installed in the caravan, as ours had some issues. It had been a struggle but the guys at Zone had managed to squeeze us an appointment at a caravan repairers. Sadly we then heard that TNT, the courier company, had failed to pick it up in time and that it would be delayed. We couldn’t get another appointment for another month.

Disappointed, we checked in at our campground and used the campsite washing machines.

We had been exchanging a few emails with a couple of Zoners, Frank and Wendy who live up this way, and they brightened our day by suggesting we come over to their apartment for drinks and nibbles and join them for dinner at the local boat club. So we decided to go along.

Of course as fate would have it, the washing machine arrived at the caravan repairers shortly after they’d given away our slot, so we picked it up and Frank and Wendy kindly agreed we could store it at their apartment until we return to Cairns in a few weeks’ time.

We had a lovely evening with our new friends, with lots of tips shared in preparation for their trip up to Cape York, and for us and our trip to Cape Tribulation.

Thursday morning we decided to jump on our bikes for an explore of one of the bike trails that started near our campground. As always it was great to whiz along completely free from traffic, through some pretty lovely scenery.Returning to the caravan we found a pair of Ulysses Butterflies fluttering around the Zone – attracted to flowers planted specifically to entice these beautiful insects. Such a treat to see them.We had booked the Toyota Landcruiser in for its 100,000 km service and so dropped it into the workshop while we went into the city.

We suspect not many caravaners have a selection of 10 or more choices of fresh tea, but that’s us – we have a wide variety of herbal and fruit tisanes in our kitchen. We called into T2 to top up our supplies – over $100 later we left with teas which should see us through until our return to Sydney, and headed to our next appointment – the hairdressers.

Hairdressers are always a challenge while travelling – you have to rely purely on Google reviews and hope they are honest and accurate. I picked one that was nice and central with plenty of good reviews, and off we both went. Fortunately it was an excellent choice, and we both left very happy with our newly trimmed manes. If you need a cut in Cairns, head to Pulse – Craig Roberts did a great job on both of us.The service did not reveal anything untoward on the car and gave us peace of mind for the next few weeks. We have booked it back in to get new shocks when we return to Cairns at the end of the month.

Tomorrow we commence our journey further north to Newell Beach near Mossman.