18-25 September: Return to the country

Author: Mrs A

Location: Kenilworth and surrounds, Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland, Australia

Just when we thought our rainforest visiting days were over we decided to book in at the showgrounds in Kenilworth for a few days.

If you are unfamiliar with showgrounds (you may have noticed we have stayed on quite a few), a showground is a community run area of ground on which country shows – rodeos, livestock sales and comptitions and horse riding trials are held. Outside of major events, the land sits empty, so many towns have turned them into campgrounds, providing power and water to a number of sites as well as offering unpowered spots. We like them because they tend to be more bushy and spread out than caravan parks, and money earned from our fees goes back into improving the community facilities.

It was a breath of fresh air arriving in Kenilworth, after the frenzied school holidays crowds flocking to our Didillibah campsite, children keen to enjoy the water slides and jumping pillows on offer there. Although there were children around, mostly they were busy playing games on the oval or riding their bikes around the quiet driveways.

The overwhelming sound we first noticed was of birds in their hundreds, flocking to the flowering callistemon trees around the park. As well as Rainbow Lorikeets and Pale-headed Rosellas, there were dozens of tiny Scarlet Myzomelas, a challenge to see as they are so similar in colour to the flowers.

Bottlebrush flowers are clearly a favourite for these little red, black and white birds
Scarlet Myzomela
Hundreds of Rainbow Lorikeets flock here also to enjoy the sweet nectar
Another type of honeyeater, a Noisy Friarbird on Kniphofia flowers
Princess Tassie approved of the fine sunny weather we had here

Kenilworth is situated in a rural setting ringed by national parks and state forests in all directions, the green rolling hills reminding us somewhat of England on a fine sunny day. It sits in the Mary River valley, and the river itself runs just behind the showground.

Sunset from the campground

All this natural environment makes for a wildlife filled location and we ticked off more than 35 different species of bird just footsteps from our caravan!

A Brown Cuckoo Dove flies up from the woodland floor and eyes me suspiciously
One of several Laughing Kookaburras on the site which entertain us each evening with their cackling calls
Another Laughing Kookaburra
A Fan-tailed Cuckoo with its gorgeous bright eye

We were reminded in no uncertain terms that (despite the temperature reaching over 30 degrees centigrade on a couple of the days we were there) it is spring, and many of the birds were busy building nests, collecting food to feed young, and often in their vibrant mating colours. It is a great time to be spotting birds.

A pair of Maned Ducks have a very cute clutch of six chicks
A Blue-faced Honeyeater with a beak full of insects to feed its hungry family
Leaden Flycatcher – this one was collecting horse hair from the edge of the paddock, presumably to line a nest

In addition to the many birds around, on one walk we even spotted a large Australian Water Dragon, located where I had previously seen the ducklings. I was so worried that they were missing I checked to see whether duckling might be on the Water Dragon’s dinner list – fortunately not, they prefer insects and the odd baby mouse!

An Australian Water Dragon – this adult was about 1 metre long (nose to tip of tail). Their diet consists mostly of insects (though they will eat small mice) and they live for about 20 years

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The Mary River is about a 10 minute walk from the campsite, following a mown grass tree lined pathway which leads down to the river’s edge.

We came to this region back in 2018 when we organised a Zoner’s Muster at Kenilworth Camping, a farm camping area on the banks of this river further downstream. Back then we had paddled 4.5km in our inflatable pack rafts and had a great time with some of our Zoner (owners of Zone RV caravans) friends. So it was really fitting when our friends Phil and Libby, who had been there with us too, decided they hadn’t quite had enough of us in Noosa, and that they would drive up with their granddaughters, Ava and Hayley, for the day.

Hayley didn’t hesitate to jump in the river for a paddle, while Ava took time to learn how to skim stones. The water was definitely too shallow for kayaking and we certainly could not have managed the trip we did three and a half years ago.

Ava learning to skim stones while Hayley paddles in the shallow river

We were reminded that the river is home to more than fish, turtles and birds, when sharp-eyed Hayley pointed out a Red-bellied Black Snake slithering along the riverbank into the undergrowth. This one was just a baby – on another visit down to the water Mr A came rushing along the bank towards me ashen faced – a 2 metre long adult had just emerged from the water swiftly retreating into the reeds just centimetres in front of him. We steered clear from reeds and grasses after that!

Red-bellied Black-snake – venomous but shy unless they feel threatened

Mark and I visited the Mary River on a few occasions, every time rewarding us with new sightings – like these gorgeous Red-browed Firetails – tiny finches often heard but rarely seen.

Bath time for the flock
One very wet Firetail!

And little insect loving Red-backed Fairywrens flitting through the Casuarina trees (River Sheoaks) and grasses.

Looking magnificent in his breeding colours, a male Red-backed Fairywren
A female Red-backed Fairy Wren with not a speck of red to be seen
Red-backed Fairywren

The river is also home to many more traditional water lovers, including Little Pied Cormorants, Intermediate and Great Egrets, Herons, Dotterels and more.

White-faced Heron standing statuesque on the riverbank
A tiny pair of Black-fronted Dotterels run energetically along the sand and gravel banks

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A short 10 minute drive from Kenilworth is a small area of ancient rainforest, home to the Fig Tree Walk. The boardwalk takes visitors on a short educational trail through the forest, explaining about the trees and the lifecycle within this special environment. Mark and I visited on two occasions, the second time bringing along Libby and Phil and the kids for an explore to finish their day out.

Stunning forest – Phil must be telling me a shocking story (else I am yawning!)
Group photo (Mr A is photographer)
Yes…keep on scrolling – this is a tall one! 150 years of growing, this tree is not yet finished…we feel dwarfed amongst its roots

An attempt to portray some of the majesty of the towering trees in the forest

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Mapleton National Park is located 24km west of Kenilworth and was the location for another trip during our week. We combined a couple of walks (map), hiking the short but picturesque Linda Garret Circuit and tagging on some of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk (just shy of 60km in total – we only did a couple of kilometres each way!).

Our walk starts with a lookout with views over the Obi Obi Valley
Looking across the valley

Amazingly I spotted another Tawny Frogmouth sleeping alongside the path – these nocturnal birds are not owls or related to them. They have a wide beak rather than hooked, designed for catching moths on the fly, and their feet are not talons, rather just designed for gripping a branch, more similar to a pigeon’s toes.

Tawny Frogmouth
A tiny Brown Thornbill, one of a flock spotted flitting energetically through the undergrowth hunting for insects
Mr A surrounded by palms
A gorgeous Lewin’s Honeyeater with its crescent yellow patch and creamy yellow gape (outer edge of mouth). Lewin’s Honeyeater is named after an English artist, John Lewin, who travelled to Australia in the early 1800s to paint the wildlife. He originally called this bird the ‘Yellow-eared Honeysucker’
Loving the intricacy of these roots

The walks in this area seemed to have fewer ground-dwelling birds, perhaps because the village is so close and domestic cats and maybe even foxes have killed them. There were plenty of yellow robins flitting through the trees though, chasing insects we disturbed on our walk.

Eastern Yellow Robin
Pale-yellow Robin

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Conondale National Park is also not far from Kenilworth. Just a 20 minute drive and you reach a 4WD only track, where three water crossings deliver you to Boolumba Creek Day use area. From there you can start the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk or chose from a selection of shorter routes.

Mr A crossing one of the creek beds

We visited on a couple of occasions, loving the area rich with untouched rainforest, the constant hum of insects and chatter of birds addictive.

Mr A ready for action on one of our walks to an old gold mine shaft (map)
Not a peaceful place, the rainforest is noisy, full of bird calls and the constant hum of insects
Hard to see, a ground dwelling Longrunner bird rummaging through the leaves
A gorgeous Crested Shrike-tit flies in for a visit
Photographing birds up in the trees
A Rufous Shrikethrush
Large-billed Scrubwren
A White-browed Scrubwren feeds its fledgling a rather large beetle
Many butterflies add a touch of colour to our walks
A Noisy Pitta – so exciting to capture this photo of this colourful ground dwelling bird in its natural habitat.

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Imbil State Forest and the Charlie Moreland Campground are about a 15 minute drive from Kenilworth, and another location you can walk from. We combined two short walks, the Little Yabba and Piccabeen circuits which took us away from the busy camping area (we estimated around 100 people by the number of caravans, whizz-bangs (camper vans!) camper trailers, and tents) and over a small creek and into the forest. Despite the crowds at the campground, once we left the small day visitor car park and crossed the creek, we didn’t see another human for more than 2 hours!

The birdlife was prolific, starting with more Scalet Myzomelas feeding as we crossed the water, and continuing as we spotted Golden Whistlers, fantails, Fairywrens and more.

Golden Whistler (female)

It didn’t look as though many people had recently taken the longer Piccabeen circuit, as we had to clamber over a recently fallen tree to continue round. It was worth it though, with several species of bird in the forest, and the temperature cooling as nature’s air conditioning kicked in.

Piccabeen Palms – these 20 metre tall trees are native and attract many birds
Brown Cuckoo-Dove – look at that magnificent tail!
A White-naped Honeyeater flies down to a rainforest stream
Mr A swamped by another rainforest giant
The views open up as we climb
Beautiful flowers

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On Friday we had a coincidental surprise visit from our friends Carol and Nick Gray, who had (unbeknownst to us) been having some work conducted on their caravan in Coolum Beach, and decided to camp here a few nights once they had their van back. We first met them when we were staying in the Margaret River in Western Australia back in 2017 on our first lap around Australia when they were interested in buying a. Zone. We showed them around our van and Mr A did such a good sales job they ended up buying one!

Although we have met up with them on several occasions over the years, this was the first time we had seen their new van, ironically on the same day we heard we had officially sold ours. It felt like our Australian travels had come full circle as we once again shared food and wine with our travelling friends.

A pair of Zones
Mark and Nick enjoy some Saturday night beers
A final farewell on Sunday morning – L-R: Mr A, Carol and Nick Gray, Mrs A

We enjoyed a couple of fun evenings with them before we headed off for our final week in our home on wheels.

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I conclude my post with a poem which was displayed at a reserve near the Fig Tree Walk, which feels quite poignant at this time when our life and travels in Australia are nearing the end.

We are certain there will be ‘boulders’ in our future, as there have been in our past. It is always good to be reminded that these boulders do fade with time and become much smaller issues, with somewhat smoother edges.

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15-18 September: Preparing to sell our beloved Zone RV caravan – another migration milestone coming up

Author: Mr A

Location: Diddillibah, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

As we prepare to sell our lovely luxury apartment on wheels, the Zone RV caravan, a service was required. Off down the coast we went, saying goodbye (for now) to Noosa and the friends who live there. We had booked a couple of nights at a new caravan park on the Sunshine coast, at somewhere fairly challenging to pronounce called Diddillilbah, which we soon morphed into Diddely-squat, which was a bit unfair as it was quite a decent site with large pitches and a nice restaurant in the park itself. But not really our cup of tea, purely functional, we prefer being out in the bush more. But our caravan service was scheduled just round the corner with the marvellous Suncoast Caravan Service. Our friends who used to work at our caravan manufacturer, Zone RV, both work there now. The power couple of the Sunshine Coast Caravan Industry, Marsha and Rhys Gehrke.

Its a serious business getting a van serviced 🙂

Our home was handed our home over to these capable hands, and we spent the day based at our caravan site in our Oztent Screen-house (wonderful bit of kit!). Tassie is not a fan though, I think she senses we want her to settle in there so with perfect feline logic does the opposite. Instead she based herself on her sheep’s wool futon in the car with the windows open! We took it in turns to head out for bike rides and food.

We picked our van up that night, with new bearings and other stuff I have no idea of the function of, all fixed up and ready for a lucky owner to snap up when it is advertised.

Our luxury ‘Surry Hills apartment’ on wheels

The caravan park was a good base to cycle from, with a mostly traffic free route along the Maroochy River.

Boats on the Maroochy River
Maroochy River
Ancestors (Cash & Davis, 2016) – a tribute to local timber workers, when the river was a conduit for the industry intertwined with a recognition of the local Aboriginal history.
Chambers Island – a conservation reserve linked to the land by a footbridge
Walking over to Chambers Island – and no I’m not scratching my bottom!
They like their brightly coloured boats on this river!

The next morning we had a catch up with friends we knew from Sydney who had moved up to the Sunnshine Coast a few years ago (Peter and Valerie). Always a pleasure with these guys, and what a breakfast spot! It was interesting to hear about how they had gone about integrating into a new community, something we are working out how we will do when we move.

Concluding a fine breakfast at Mykies by the Bay

That night was another catch up with Rhys and Marsha and their family. That was a cracking dinner at the campsite restaurant I have to say. Rhys and Marsha are going to be selling our van for us (all enquires to Marsha please via: Marsha.gehrke AT gmail.com). I just didn’t think there was much point towing a van that was built on the Sunny Coast, is registered there as well, and has a specialist like Rhys who knows this brand inside out on hand to do any upgrades a customer might like. Whereas Sydney is still locked down, so a harder environment to sell it in. So let’s see how it goes. It means we will be emptying and cleaning the van at our friends’ house up here next week, then shipping the contents back to Sydney.

Of course no plan will necessarily survive contact with the enemy, in this case lockdowns, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that the border with NSW just holds the virus back another two weeks. Catherine has an important medical procedure at a Brisbane hospital on the 5th of October, which is likely to be cancelled should lockdowns come.

Talking about lockdowns, and lockouts in the case of people trying to return home across Australian state or international borders, there’s something I feel very strongly about I want to air to anyone who is willing to read on while I mount my soap box.

I am appalled at the lack of compassion being shown to Australian citizens who are trying get permission to return to their home state, when celebrities and the well heeled seem to be able to come and go as they please. Every week I read of another case where someone has been denied permission to go home, and it’s always the poor and powerless, it would seem. This story documents two contrasting examples of how are travel rules are being so differently applied, and turned my stomach over once again.

This is an Australia that I am increasingly not recognising as the one I fell in love with and pledged my citizenship vows to. The country that was proud to say they looked after each other, with a hearty dose of egalitarian mateship. Yet around our friends I see nothing but kindness and compassion for others, and usually amongst those we meet around the campsites. So is it just some of our politicians, driven by what they think will make them popular amongst their voters on the next morning’s news cycle, who give so little weight to those in need? Or is the lack of humanity within our the leadership of our institutions who have to implement their policies, and who seem to encourage so little discretionary compassion from their staff? I don’t know. But it doesn’t make me proud to be Australian when I read these tales of suffering, and then read about another celebrity given an apparent free pass to roam at will. And don’t get me started on our treatment of refugees! Not much evidence of compassion there either.

Soapbox dismounted, but if you feel as I do, why not let your MP know (you can find out who and how best to contact them, here), if you are an Australian citizen. I have regularly communicated with our Federal member, and her office has encouraged me to keep feedback coming. Mind you, she is an independent! And a compassionate voice in our parliament.

If we just keep quiet, our political leaders will think they have a free pass.

Zali Steggall: Federal Member for Warringah (our home base on the Northern Beaches of Sydney)

Thank you for reading. Soapbox dismounted.

9-15 September: A 65th birthday to remember

Author: Mrs A

Location: Noosa, Queensland, Australia

It had been a while in the planning, but finally we had made it to Mr A’s birthday celebration in Noosa. The past few weeks we had been anxiously watching the news, half anticipating another lockdown in the area, breathing a sigh of relief as once again Queensland recorded no community cases of COVID-19 and everything remained open.

While we were disappointed that plan A had failed to come to fruition (renting a house with three couples from NSW for a long weekend – they are all locked down and unable to travel), plan B was coming along nicely.

We arrived at our campsite in Tewantin on the Wednesday evening, and hadn’t been there long before our friends Phil and Libby arrived from Brisbane. This is a couple we had met when we first started travelling, through our common ownership of a Zone RV off-road caravan. We’ve remained friends ever since and caught up on several occasions. We had a lovely BBQ dinner while we caught up on news.

The following morning was Mr A’s birthday. After several surprise calls, we drove a short way to the Noosa River and launched our inflatable kayak beside the North Shore Ferry for a paddle. It was a beautifully calm morning, not too warm and a few birds around, including Striated Herons, White-faced Herons, Pied Cormorants, and Mangrove Honeyeaters.

Thanks to Libby for this shot of Team Anderson
65th birthday morning paddle

It was a fine morning out, and we returned for a light lunch and a few more calls.

The birthday celebrations continued that evening, commencing with early evening cocktails at Noosa Beach House and then walking a short way to a much anticipated dinner at Bang Bang, joined by more Queensland based friends, Ray and Wendy, Brian and Caroline who are local to Noosa, and Tania who had come up from Brisbane.

A chilli margarita for Mr A
Delicious food and a superb cake from Fiona’s Fancies

It was so good to catch up with everyone, and I think we did a good job of seeing in Mr A’s 65th birthday.

Friday’s celebratory activity was an afternoon’s sunset cruise on the Noosa River, where we were joined by Ray and Wendy as well as another couple we have met through our travelling lives, Rhys and Marsha.

It was almost a disaster! Though a series of miscommunications, Mr A had received the message that the boat was licensed rather than BYO, and we had not brought along any beverages for the two hour cruise. As we watched the other cruising guests jump aboard carrying beer and wine, we realised with a sinking feeling that was not the case.

One of our quick witted friends, Marsha, spotted that we were moored beside a bar and gave them a quick call to see whether they sold alcohol to take away. Thankfully the answer was yes, and a case of beer and three bottles of wine were swiftly procured. The cruise was saved!

Smiling faces on the sunset cruise
Sunset on the Noosa River
Where else would you rather be?

The evening was topped off with a lovely meal at the Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club.

Feeling a little dusty on Saturday morning, Libby and Phil joined us on an outing to Eumundi Markets, about a half hour drive west of Noosa. Originating in 1979 as a small collection of stalls, this market now takes over most of the village of Eumundi on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and attracts artists from all across the region.

Japanese pancakes were the order of the day and helped cure the fuzzy heads, and then a wander around the other stalls. I purchased a gorgeous hand crafted bracelet made from an antique silver fork (by Noosa Artisan) which will bring back lovely memories of this time.

Eumundi Markets

A local Lebanese restaurant provided our dining experience for the evening, and we were again joined by our friends Ray and Wendy.

Taste of Istanbul – interesting menu but a little squished with poor acoustics

It wasn’t just a hedonistic week of eating and drinking, mind you. We did have a few outings to look for birds and were even fortunate enough to spot a Tawny Frogmouth (a nocturnal insect eating bird, usually only spotted near streetlights at night, catching moths).

Tawny Frogmouth enjoying the afternoon sunshine
Tawny Frogmouth – usually very well disguised in the day, their feathers making them look like a piece of wood.
A Black-faced Cuckooshrike
Red-backed Fairywren
A Purple-breasted Swamp Hen
Blue-faced Honeyeater

Noosa’s Sunday morning Organic Farmer’s Market is a must-visit location if you enjoy high quality food, with endless supplies of fresh-from the farmer fruit, vegetables, and many other food-based goodies. We had been on previous visits and made certain to not miss it this time.

Our friends Phil and Libby also knew the couple running Cedar Creek Farm’s stall selling all kinds of jams, preserves and sauces, most being sugar-free (and no artificial sweeteners or preservatives) and packed full of interesting native ingredients. We left with some tasty sounding salad dressing, lime chutney and a home made tomato ketchup.

Mr A’s eye was captured by a Portuguese Tart stand. Portugal is still on our wish list to visit- we were meant to be travelling though there last year, when the dreaded C-19 struck and changed our plans – and these custard tarts are a national delicacy there. He purchased a pack of four…two for him and sharing two with Libby. They got the seal of approval from both parties apparently well deserving of their good reputation for being authentically Portuguese.

More edible goodies at the Noosa Farmer’s Market

On our final day we took the Tewantin Ferry over to Noosa North Shore to walk some of the Cooloola Great Walk. We only tackled just over 8km return of the 102km long hike, and felt a slight pang of envy as we passed a 20-something lady heading off laden with her backpack, a whole 5 day solo adventure ahead of her on this picturesque track.

Partial team photo at the beginning
Phil is master of team selfies, and managed to capture us all in one frame

It was a beautiful walk, taking us through paper bark gum trees and along sandy and swamp lined pathways covered in spring wildflowers.

Wendy and Libby head off down a shady path lined by paper bark trees
Spring flowers including an about-to-burst tree orchid

The walk emerged on the pristine Teewah Beach, and we followed the coast a short way. The sand was so fine is squeaked, somewhat like the fine snowdrifts I recall in my childhood. Walking along the hard sand on the water’s edge, occasionally dashing up the beach to escape an unruly wave, our footsteps crunching over shells, helping to contribute to future grains of sand.

Mark and Wendy on Teewah Beach
A flock of Common Terns fly past…the water looks mighty tempting

It is hard to recognise we might never again visit this area, walk on this beach, smell this clean salty air…we try to remember and capture it through all our senses.

On our final evening we joined Ray and Wendy at the Sunset Bar over the Noosa River for drinks and snacks as the sun went down.

Laughs to complete the day
Ray, Mr A and Phil glowing in the setting sun
Phil and one of his now world famous group selfies

This past week has been so special because of those people we have spent time with. We have been so privileged to have found such lovely friends during our time in Australia. Ultimately, this is what really tugs at the heartstrings, every time we say goodbye to people with whom we have made so many fabulous memories, not knowing when (or often even if) we might see them again.

But we stand by our decision to make the move to England next year. New adventures await us in the northern hemisphere, new friends to be made, and fresh memories with our families to be created. We’re excited about what 2022 holds for us!

17-28 January: North to where the air is clean

Author: Mrs A

Location: Sydney, Newcastle and New Italy, NSW to Noosa, Queensland

Our last post left off while I was having more steroid injections in my neck. Regular followers may recall I had some bad news 6 weeks previously, with my airway closing by about 40%. Well, the good news from this appointment was abundant. Not only had the injections worked to reverse the scarring, but my airway was about 90% open. Even my doctor could hardly believe the results. We drove away from Sydney in torrential rain literally breathing a sigh of relief knowing we could enjoy the next few weeks touring without worrying.

Our first stop was Newcastle, a couple of hours north of Sydney, where we spent a fun evening catching up over beers, wine and curry with our friends Chris and Karen in their new-to-them home. Saturday morning saw us pull away early and start heading north, a roadside rest area in a tiny settlement called New Italy our destination for the night.

Feeling pleased we’re in a four wheel drive as we drive through floods in northern NSW

The rain brought with it some slightly cooler temperatures, and we enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep in our comfortable Zone, sheltered from the weather and all outside.

We continued our journey up into Queensland, switching our watches back an hour as we crossed the border and headed to Twin Waters where we pulled up outside the home of some fellow Zone owners, Peter and Mary. They kindly invited the three of us into their air conditioned home – Tassie wasted no time settling in and after a tour around the premises looking for geckos relaxed for a nap on their bed.

Fine overnight parking in Twin Waters just south of Coolum Beach

Monday morning we dropped off the caravan at the Zone factory for a service in Coolum, and continued in the car up to Noosaville to stay with our friends Wendy and Ray.

Our friends are about to trade in their waterfront apartment for one with broader sweeping views of lake, river and bush, so we made the most of the Noosa River views for the last time. Their landlord has put the apartment up for sale in all its original 1970s glory. It needs substantial renovations and upgrading – the owner wants a couple of million dollars for it, if you have some spare cash…

We were treated to a fabulous sunset on our first night…

A very special sunset

And on our second night a very dramatic storm which we watched roll in from the west:

Glimmers of the setting sun just visible under the storm front as it looms over
Drama in the skies
Hundreds of lighting strikes

During the days, Mark and I made use of being surrounded by water to get out on the kayak, exploring the river and lake, investigating some of the sand islands and inlets in the Noosa River mouth. The water really is the best place to be at this time of year, with the humidity at 70% and upwards with days over 30 degrees centigrade.

We saw giant sea eagles and a pair of curious chestnut winged brahminy kites hunting along the waterways, stingrays and spotted leopard rays cruising along the shallow waters looking for food.

Interesting mangrove lined waterways, rich in bird life and many rays
Beautiful beaches and warm waters for swimming – no that’s not a beer – a cup of herbal tea!

A showery morning saw us heading out to the national park for a walk, the rain quite refreshing as we hiked through 12km of beautiful scenery.

Rainforest looking its tropical best in this weather, with a strangler fig winding its way down its host tree and scribbly bark trees shining white
Our loop walk tools us back into Noosa via the coast
A well disguised koala dozes high up in a eucalyptus tree

We enjoyed many delicious meals at home with the multi million dollar view, but also went out one evening to Parkridge, near Ray and Wendy’s soon to be new home, at a restaurant called Fish. We had great seafood accompanied by a very tasty riesling.

Cheers! Gorgeous meal and company

On Saturday evening Mark and I were met at the private jetty by our friends Brian and Caroline (former Sydneysiders who moved up here several years ago), who wizzed us out via motorboat to their houseboat on the river. There we enjoyed a glass of wine and a BBQ as the sun went down across the water. Life’s not too bad, is it?

Caroline and I catching up on news
Hamish and Hannah help Brian bring the boat in after a run back to shore to get the all essential matches for the BBQ!
A fine view from the back of the boat

We finished off our week with Ray and Wendy, enjoying a fine Australia Day with a visit to Noosa farmer’s markets in the morning, a jump in the surf at Sunshine Beach, delicious lunch and a sunset dinner on the balcony.

We never tired of this dinner view
Enjoying an end of day beer
A glass of rosé for me
And another fine sunset to see in the new week

What an incredible few days we have had. We feel so privileged by the kindness shown to us – not only by longtime friends, but by generous strangers who welcomed us into their home simply because we made the same choice of caravan. It must be something in the Zoner water.

It’s been hot and humid in Queensland, which was as we expected, but not completely unbearable (as long as you can escape into some air conditioning!). We’ve still had an amazing time, explored on foot and by water, seen some wonderful sunsets, birds and wildlife. It’s one hard area to leave, but now it’s time to start heading south, back towards Sydney. Goodbye Noosaville, I’m sure we’ll be back.

We’re sure Miss Tassie will miss this view too…

3-4 September: Heading south & back into NSW

Author: Mrs A

Monday – Location: Noosa to Coolum Beach, then to Brisbane

We were all sad to say farewell to our friends Ray and Wendy in Noosa, particularly Tassie, who had become accustomed to her choice of laps and enjoyed her days relaxing on the daybed watching the activity on the river. But it was time to collect our Zone from its couple of days of pampering and head on our way.

We called into Belmondo’s on the way out of Noosa, finding ourselves spending a ridiculous amount of money on a handful of items, before heading south to Coolum, the home of Zone.

Before long, we were pulling away, and heading on the highway south to stay the night with our fellow Zoners, Libby and Phil.We had a brief whirlwind of time to transfer our cases and food back into the caravan, dig out the smart clothes and get changed, before the four of us drove into Brisbane for the evening.

The weather has been tumultuous – really cold for Brisbane (about 15 degrees centigrade!) and wet – but as we arrived at South Bank the clouds lifted to give us a fabulous display across the river into the city.After this, we parted ways, Phil and Libby ending up at a pub helping celebrate a nephew’s birthday, while Mr A and I joined three lovely ladies for dinner in a French restaurant beside the water.

I’ve been invited to talk at the Australian Society of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery here in Brisbane next March regarding my work with the rare disease I have, idiopathic subglottic stenosis. Two of the ladies we met were paediatric ENT surgeons here in Brisbane, and the third worked at a pharmaceutical company, supplying equipment for the surgeons, and a sponsor for the event.

We had a lovely evening, delicious food, and I got to talk about a cause very close to my heart (and airway!). I’m looking forward to next year’s event already and all the good it can potentially do.

Our very generous hosts collected us at the end of our meal, and whisked us back to their home for warm drinks and conversation. Such incredible kindness from friends we only met for the first time in March this year!

Tuesday – location: Brisbane, Samford – Queensland and Woombah, New South Wales

Breakfast was our first port of call, the four of us heading down into the nearby village of Samford to Phil and Libby’s favourite café, Black Sheep. Delicious Eggs Benedict for three, and a breakfast wrap for me, and we were all happy campers, definitely not in need of lunch today!

We had a chance to admire the five plus acre property we’re staying on, full of birds, rolling hills and bushland – just beautiful – before our hosts escorted us on our way via their secret route to the main road south.

There followed a stressful few hours on the M1 motorway, packed full of tailgating semitrailers and road trains going much too fast for the wet conditions.

We finally pulled off the road at the little settlement of Woombah, breathing a sigh of relief as we left behind the noise and the traffic and set up camp in a site with a fabulous view.We have probably driven past this area a dozen times without any awareness of what’s here, but it’s a lovely rural settlement sat on the banks of the Clarence River close to the estuary. There are over 100 islands in the wide river here, the nearest to us being Goodwood Island.

In need of fresh air and exercise, we set up camp, donned our rain coats and headed off for a walk.The sun was starting to set so we only went a couple of kilometres, crossing over the bridge to Goodwood Island and checking out the wet sugar cane fields before returning for the evening.More rain and thunder entertained us, a novelty after the dry and drought of the inland areas. Sadly, it seems the rain is sticking to the coast, not helping out the farmers this time.

We’ll continue our journey south tomorrow, and with a continued forecast of rain, have not made any plans for where we might end up…all part of the adventure!

30 August – 2 September: Noosa…we love yer!

Author: Mr A

Location: Noosaville, Noosa River, Queensland

Thursday: We left Tin Can Bay to drive down to Coolum and drop our van off at Zone for a service. I was reflecting on how well things had gone as we approach the final leg of this trip….Lo and behold, a logging truck approaches on the other side of the road, and suddenly there’s a big crash as a massive stone puts a hole in our windscreen and showers Catherine and Tassie with shards of glass!

We quickly paint the broken area with nail polish lacquer to prevent the cracks spreading. A phone call to NRMA and a repair is easily organised. It could have been a lot nastier if the windscreen had totally shattered.

We arrived at Zone and ran through the job sheet of minor warranty work and service items, then left them to it and headed up to Noosa. Our friends who live there had invited us to stay with them for the weekend. Just driving along the river to their place brought back so many happy memories from our last stay here on the way up the coast back in April.

We all piled into their car and headed for lunch to one of our favourite spots in town, Belmondo’s, a deli on steroids. You can find every kind of produce here and lunch was a taste sensation after so many outback miles of fine food deprivation!

Back at Wendy and Ray’s apartment, the next treat is a quick trip out on their boat up the river. The water is pristine after weeks with no rain.We chat about our plan to come and rent here when we have had enough of our full time nomadic phase. It certainly is nice to be in an apartment again with endless water on tap and a toilet I don’t have to empty every morning! Tassie also approves, taking up her position on the day bed watching the non-stop action on the river. Watching the sunset turn the water to red, we both feel that we want to see this view a LOT more.

Friday: The windscreen repairer made short work of popping in a new one, and we are ready to roll. We met up with some fellow Zoners in the evening, plus Caroline and Brian, with their lovely kids, Hannah and Hamish, who we knew from Sydney before they took the plunge and moved up here. It was a great evening, and reminds us how much we miss friends being on the road and constantly travelling.

Saturday: We headed off to the Eumundi markets, we had loved them last time we visited and had some present buying to do.All sorts of local folk are selling their wares, or cooking up tasty treats. We could so get used to this life!

Back in Noosa we had a bit of a special dinner planned with our fabulous hosts. A new restaurant had just opened up down the road, so we gave it a whirl. What awesome food, very innovative taste combinations right from the pre-dinner coacktails. I had a cheeky little number containing bourbon, Shiraz (yes!) sugar and lemon. Delicious – check out YoYo next time you’re up this way.Sunday: A little worse for wear this morning, it was market time again – this time at the local Noosa farmers market. It seems the whole town turns out to buy their weekly fruit and veg, so you can see it is a bit of a social catch up as well. The food we buy is all just so yummy. Fresh olives with flavours that just leap out at you. Nitrate free bacon. Oranges and apples that are bursting with juice.

Our hosts again take us out on their boat and we pull up onto the white sand at the mouth of the river and wander down the beach. It’s just simply the most beautiful lifestyle I can imagine.We come back and pile into the fresh produce for lunch.

No wonder everyone we meet here is so friendly and jolly. Yes, its an expensive area to live in compared to other parts of Queensland, but if you can afford it why wouldn’t you try it? It will be interesting to be here through the hot and muggy three months of summer though. Let’s see…

To finish off the weekend we went to the Sunset Bar for a couple of drinks…guess why they called it that?What a view. Great beer on tap, free live music, good bar service. I could enjoy making this a regular Sunday night catch up spot with friends!

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.

Saturday 20 April – Markets and a Zone meet up

Author: Mr A

Location: Eumundi & Kenilworth

We had heard so many good things about the Eumundi markets, it was time to see for ourselves what all the fuss was about. Apparently they started with a couple setting up a craft stall, and have grown to over 650 stalls with over 1.6 million visitors a year. I love their branding: ‘Make it, bake it, grow it or sow it”. Every kind of artisan product can be found here, with an emphasis on locally made and grown.We were soon sampling a plate of Tibetan dumplings, I had an Argentinian empanada which was simply delicious, also some dairy free donuts packed to go. We then spotted the Japanese pancake stall, we had not seen these since Sydney. Wow…a taste sensation.Suitably sated we picked up a small bowl from a pottery stall we could use a mortar, plenty of peanuts and chillies to grind up for our Pad Thai creation for instance.

Some unusual stalls caught our eye, a woman sporting a snake around her middle for instance! Musicians were everywhere, and pretty accomplished ones at that.

What a great market! All too soon we thought we should head back to camp, we decided one more run down the Mary river was called for.We all then started to prepare the camp for tonight’s visitors from Zone RV. They had kindly offered to give up their Saturday afternoon and evening and have a bit of a chat with us about our experiences with their products and service.It was great to hear Dave Biggar, one of the directors, talk about some of the initiatives they are taking to mature their build processes and strive to offer even an more consistent quality experience to their new customers. He was joined by key members of the Zone team in customer support, systems improvement and marketing. There were 14 customers there, and all of us really appreciated the effort the team made to come and meet us and openly discuss where they were at as a business and seek input from us on their initiatives.One of the customers, Phil Clem, had a surprise for everyone as darkness drew in. He had brought along an enormous hollow tree trunk to burn on the campfire, and had taken the trouble to carve out ‘Zone RV’ into the side with a chainsaw, so when the fire really got going the letters shone out. What a star.

It seemed a fun and educative night was had by all, and we were very grateful for the effort they made to come out and visit. Their journey to being a leader in the industry has not been an easy one. They have pushed the boundaries on design with materials and finish. That doesn’t come easily, and clearly there have been some significant hurdles along the way. But these guys have pushed through and are now at the stage where they just need to bed down this innovation with robust processes allowing on time, on spec builds at the lowest cost to them and their customers. We think they will do it, and are proud to have been a small part of their journey.

Friday 20 April: Paddling the Mary River

Author: Mrs A

Location: Kenilworth, Queensland

Friday morning dawned bright and sunny, so Mr A, Phil, Greg and I drove up into Kenilworth to find somewhere upstream to drop our kayaks and Packrafts in. After a little hunting around plus Googling someone else’s kayaking blog we found a park beside the show ground with water access and off we went.Greg had only paddled a Canadian canoe in the past, so the sit on top kayak was a new experience for him, but he did really well. We took our time, enjoying the scenery and birds, mostly letting the current guide us down the gravel races (we prefer to call them rapids!)Rainbow bee eaters, cormorants, black kites, red backed wrens…the list of birdlife was endless and made the paddle even more interesting.The Mary River and its surrounding valley was saved from being flooded for a reservoir by the discovery of an extremely rare fish. The Australian Lungfish is only naturally present in this river and one other in Australia. Lungfish fossils were found in New South Wales which date back 100 million years, virtually unchanged, making this creature a living fossil and really important ecologically.

The river is also the only known home of a turtle which breathes through its tail – one of the top 25 most endangered turtles in the world! A very special place indeed.We had a great hour or so paddling downstream 4.5km, finishing up at our camp for showers. Greg then dropped us back at our car and Mr A and I drove to the Kenilworth Hotel (pub). As we walked in we discovered the Sunshine Coast Ukulele Festival was on in town with the pub hosting some of the performances. It’s funny how you can spot a ukulele player – rainbow coloured tie died outfits and funny crocheted hats! Some performances were better than others, but we avoided the stage and found a table inside.

It wasn’t long before Andrew Pitcher, one of Mr A’s old work colleagues (his boss from SAP) arrived to meet us. The first thing he said to me was ‘You’re much shorter than I remember!’. Hah! Must be that last time we met I was in heels after work – that feels like a lifetime ago. We had a lovely catch up, learning all about his life as a developer around these parts.After a great feed, Mr A and I farewelled Andrew and headed back to camp to catch up with the next batch of Zoners who had arrived.

The fire was lit and out came the wine of course for an evening of getting to know one another and learning about the adventures people had enjoyed.

Wednesday 18 April: The conquest of Mount Tinbeerwah

Author: Mrs A

Location: Cooroibah, Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Despite a forecast of showers, we decided to head out on the bikes today and explore some of the local area on two wheels. Cooroibah is literally surrounded by the Noosa hinterland’s forests, reserves and National Parks, with many well maintained mountain bike trails, ranging from easy, through intermediate and up to black – the most challenging.

The rain held off for the first half an hour, but then came on in showers, mostly torrential, cooling us down on a still 27 degree centigrade day.We rode down Gyndier Drive, a locked gate road winding up through the forest. The route is used as part of the Noosa triathlon and twice a year the site for road and race cars which enter the Noosa Hill Climb, with 14 corners to race through – just us there today though, on our private road.

As we came out of the end of the drive we could see that ahead was Mount Tinbeerwah which had a lookout I was keen to climb up to. Mount Tinbeerwah had always been in our sights the past few days down in Noosa, looming to the west like a giant pyramid. We cycled along the access road, catching a glimpse of the lookout appearing very high and far away.

My first thought was ‘I can’t get up there!’…and then my stubbornness kicked in and I was determined to make it. Everything seemed to be against us, as the rain fell down as hail, and then in ridiculously heavy torrents. The road was mostly unpaved and the orange mud ran down in rivers, making the surface sticky and slippery as well as it already being extremely steep. We kept on going. Finally, we reached the carpark with some relief, and the rain stopped!We left the bikes leaning in the car park, hoping nobody would steal them, and hiked up the final kilometre to the summit, with fabulous views over Noosa Heads and the next rain shower heading our way.We enjoyed the view, then retraced our steps (wheels?) a short way before heading through the forest along an ‘easy’ route.I’m certain it is easy when dry, but the wet conditions had us slipping and sliding sideways down the tracks, thankfully staying upright. It was a short way from the end of this track back to our caravan, with just over 20km under our belts. Boiled eggs & Marmite soldiers burned off I think!

After a bite of lunch and hot showers, we headed off into Noosa so Mr A could successfully buy some swimming goggles, and then to the Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club to catch up with some more friends who live in the area.

Brian and Caroline used to live near to us in Sydney, before making the move to the Noosa hinterland back in 2009. Almost a decade later, they’ve brought up two gorgeous children and are very happy in the area. It was so nice to see them and hear how things are going.We headed back to camp for a relaxed evening. We move on from here tomorrow…