6-8 September: A great start to the week: birding, dolphin watching and deep blue skies.

Author: Mr A

Location: Tin Can Bay, the Fraser Coast, Queensland

We have had a great couple of days in an out of the way little coastal settlement with the unique name of Tin Can Bay, located on the Fraser Coast a few hundred kilometres north of the state’s capital Brisbane.

Unfortunately the origin of the town’s name seems to be unclear, but likely a corruption of what the traditional owners called things that grew there (tin-kung – a coastal vine). For us it is has a been a lovely quiet spot with walks along the beautiful coast, and of course a few birding opportunities in this area which is part of a RAMSAR wetland . We’ve walked both days following the Tin Can Bay Foreshore Bird Walk, with detailed signage following nearly ten kilometres of unspoilt coastline lined with paperbark and gum trees, that went right down to the edge of the crystal clear waters of the Great Sandy Strait.

A Sacred Kingfisher on the marina alongside Griffin and Schnapper Creeks
Coastgard boats along the creek side marina
Looking up the river
Mangroves at low tide

This would be a great place to get the kayak out, as finally we are finally south of the area where crocs are a hazard. Just swap that disappearing water hazard though for sharks stingers and stonefish (nasty) which are all still there waiting for the unsuspecting tourist, but in a kayak, you’re good. Unfortunately the wind was up and it was walking only.

Many lovely views framed by mangroves
A brief pause along the pathway
More lovely views
Stripes on the sand as the tide gently goes out
A female Scarlet Myzomela
Brown Honeyeater on a Grevillea
You can just see this Brown Honeyeater’s tongue as it stretches towards the flower
Rainbow Bee-eaters hunting for insects along the coast
A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo nesting in a tree hollow
A Little Corella nesting in another hollow

It was hard walking along this pristine coast, with blue skies and mid-twenties temperatures, to not think how much we will miss places like this when we move back to the UK early next year. But on the other hand, when I Googled the history of Tin Can Bay, there’s almost nothing, very different to what our future holds in the northern hemisphere. The original inhabitants of this Fraser Coast area have lived in it for thousands of years, and I’d love to know more about their lives, but sadly it’s still almost completely inaccessible to us white fellahs, and I really don’t want to read about another set of massacres, because that’s what there was.

One pretty unique attraction that Tin Can Bay has that it’s one of the few areas where wild dolphins come into to the beach to be hand fed.

I wasn’t totally comfortable with the idea of humanising wild creatures like this, and sure enough one Google search turns up this report from Action For Dolphins that claims (from a review of the research on the topic) that it leads to changes in behaviour where the dolphins become more aggressive towards other dolphins and humans, also reducing their maternal care time (which may account for the high death rate at the Money Mia feeding site we have been to in Western Australia?), and a number of other issues.

But I’m pretty sure there are also contrary points of view, with records of human-dolphin interactions in these parts for thousands of years. We decided to go along and be educated.

A humpback river dolphin swims in to see us
Smile for the camera! These teeth are made for fish eating
Mother and daughter swim in to join in the session

While these dolphins are fed small amounts of fish each morning (3kg per animal), this is a small fraction of the 15kg they need to consume daily and ensures they are not totally reliant on humans to survive. We gave them two small fish each.

The dolphins are so gentle, it is hard to believe they are wild
To see the video of the feeding click here

It’s my birthday this week, the sun is shrinking, and I am content as I gaze at this beautiful landscape, and enjoy the lack of crowds and the fresh air.

Motto for the week – enjoy the moment 🙂

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.

Thursday 26 April: Ticking off tasks & a night out

Author: Mrs A

Location: Hervey Bay, Queensland

Dave from Battery World was over bright and early to fit our new AGM batteries in the caravan, and to confirm how many amps the new folding solar panel was pumping in. We’ve bought the solar panel discounted as a demonstration model, so it had a little wear and tear which he promised to fix up.

Other tasks were ticked off during the morning, new gas for the BBQ, some storage boxes, a new iPad charger, other bits and pieces. Mr A had a brief doctor’s visit and collected a parcel we had delivered to a post office in town.

The parcel was a replacement air pump for our Packrafts. Our original rechargeable pump had malfunctioned within warranty, and we had exchanged it while we were in Brisbane. Unfortunately Mr A didn’t notice until we went to use it (hours from Brisbane) that they’d provided the wrong one. Thankfully the guys at Anaconda had been very helpful, and sent out a new rechargeable pump to Hervey Bay for us, and will allow us to drop the incorrect one at the next store we stumble across, probably in Rockhampton.

We did a short 15km cycle along the mobility corridor – a paved pathway linking all the suburbs of Hervey Bay, all off road, some alongside main roads, but much running alongside parklands behind housing. We saw evidence of Hervey Bay’s ageing population with numerous elderly men whizzing their way along via mobility scooters. Most of them were also smoking as they went – I wondered whether this was a contributing cause of their predicament. At least they’re not trapped at home I suppose.

After showers, we dug out our fancy clothes from under the bed and strolled down to Coast, one of Hervey Bay’s top restaurants. It had been highly recommended by my hairdresser on Monday, as well as being #1 on TripAdvisor.We chose an interesting wine from the Eden Valley, absolutely delicious, and recommended by our sommelier who clearly knew her stuff. The Alejandro Saperavi was initially fruity on the palate but had a lovely dry finish, complimenting our menu choices perfectly.Our food commmenced with bite sized steamed buns containing fried chicken, sriracha mayonnaise and pickles, followed by a shared dish of fresh locally caught snapper with beetroot, apple, raddish, smoked almonds and pork scratching. Finally we shared a small portion of sticky beef short ribs with coconut and ginger caramel. All this came with two sides – triple cooked fat cut chips with a rosemary aoli and pan fried broccoli topped with chilli, garlic and anchovy oil. All dairy-free! Delicious, every bite.

Mr A concluded this feast with pumpkin cheesecake, honey spiced milk gelato and candied walnuts while I enjoyed a palate cleansing scoop of blood orange sorbet.

We stumbled home, had a great chat and giggle with some friends in Sydney over FaceTime (we have pretty good wifi in this park!) before falling into a blissful food coma for the night!

Wednesday 25 April: Anzac Day in the Bay

Author: Mr A

Location: Hervey Bay

Last night I had gone to bed thinking “I really should get up and go to the dawn service, that means a 4.50 wake up”, but drifted off without setting the alarm. At 4.50am precisely I woke up – I took it as a sign to get my bum out of bed and on the bike. Mrs A stirred and decided to come as well – excellent.

It was a dark ride down to to the park where the service would take place and we were running late, so again fate intervened and we arrived just as the first strains of the Last Post cut across the waking calls of the noisy rainbow lorikeets waking up for another day. I am ashamed to admit this is our first dawn service. Something has always got in the way, but not this time. I’m glad we went.It was a little window into life in Hervey Bay. It’s an economy based on whale watching tourism, although the biggest employment sector is healthcare. Perhaps this is reflective of what seems to be an older demographic. The town is experiencing a significant population boom, and is one of the top 10 fastest growing areas in Australia. Let’s hope there are jobs for those who want them.The rest of the day was spent pottering along the bay on our bikes, and a little siesta went down a treat. We are really enjoying the quiet pace of life in this friendly little town.

Tuesday 24 April – An expensive day in Hervey Bay

Author: Mrs A

Location: Hervey Bay, Fraser Coast, Queensland

Distance cycled: 22.25km

It was a perfect washing day, so that’s how our morning commenced, ticking off blankets, towels and sheets which needed their weekly freshen up. Mr A dropped off the car at Battery World so they could do an in depth investigation into why it was not charging the caravan properly. A staff member dropped him back at the caravan park and we prepared for a bike ride exploration of Hervey Bay.

An off-road cycleway follows the coast for several kilometres, commencing at Urandangi Pier to the south and leading to Point Vernon in the north. We’re staying in a suburb called Torquay (now where have I heard that name before?!) so we started there and headed north. It’s the first time in a long while (since South Australia) that we have seen flat water along the coast, the islands and reefs offshore calming the waves. The beaches are pristine and empty – it’s like a little paradise, a long way from the Hervey Bay I remember. I first visited this town 19 years ago as a backpacker – it has changed substantially since then, becoming more of a destination in its own right than just a hopping off point for Fraser Island.The pathway winds its way along the coast through picturesque scenery, through parklands and bush, along cliff tops and past mangroves. We had a small diversion to a bike shop on our way so Mr A could check out a strange clicking sound on his bike. The bearings had worn down and needed replacing. He later found someone to do the job on the spot for $55, for a 45 minute job. Certainly not Sydney prices!The expensive part of the day came later in the afternoon – our faulty plug and under-spec wiring in the car was replaced, we had to purchase three new batteries for the caravan (replacing the ones which had been damaged and no longer held a full charge), and a 160 watt portable solar panel…more than $2k in total spent – gulp! At least we are back on track again for getting off the grid without sleepless nights worrying whether our fridge will still be running in the morning.

Miss Tassie had a good explore of the caravan park this afternoon, her favourite locations tending to be my least – ie the dusty, dirty areas behind and under cabins, apparently all smelling intriguingly of mice and lizards. A sunny supervisory spot on a cushion was her preferred place of rest, as Mr A and I ran around servicing her needs and cleaning her palace. Oh what a life it would be to reincarnate as our blue Burmese Princess!

Monday 23 April: Hello Hervey Bay

Author: Mr A

Location: Bauple to Hervey Bay

Distance: 110km

We awoke to the very serene sounds of early morning in Bauple – the school bus disgorging not so eager looking students who shuffled along towards their educational revelations on a bright Monday morning. I was just trying to get Tassie to have a little stretch outside, unsuccessfully after a busy night of power sleeping, when a car pulled up right outside. A guy bounded out and with my city hat on, I wondered what we had done wrong. But no – he had come to check we had enjoyed our stay on their free RV camp. He owned an adjoining property and was himself building an RV park on his other property just outside of town. We chatted about the likely demand, and what customers are likely to be looking for. I am so enjoying this different pace of life in the country where strangers are still willing, and have the time, to talk to one another.

We headed down to the local museum, a really well presented showcase of local history. One exhibit of note was the 3 metre long crocodile skin, which was taken from an animal shot in the lower reaches of the Mary River, where we had been paddling yesterday. A reminder our paddling time is going to require a little more vigilance as we move further north in Queensland.Then after some hectic calling around to determine a supplier to help us with some battery charging issues, we headed for Battery World in Hervey Bay, a relatively short drive down the busy Bruce Highway.We were promptly met outside by a very polite technician who started to diagnose what was going on. I’m in no position to assess anyone’s technical skills but I can see when someone is clearly sincere about trying to help customers. That was Dan. Then the girls in the shop were just as helpful, one of whom even gave Catherine a lift to a hair appointment she was running late for. Finally we met one of the franchise owners Dave, who picked up where Dan had kicked off and soon had the issues isolated.

It looks like our car wasn’t charging the Zone’s batteries efficiently, and a faulty plug was located. Dave also spotted the wiring from the car wasn’t robust enough to carry the current, so needs to be resolved if we are to get better charging. These jobs are booked for tomorrow morning, so fingers crossed we can move up the coast spending more time off the grid and powered up.

So to end the day, Mrs A returns from the hairdressers looking like this – I could only say….wow!!!

Sunday 21 April: Off to macadamia country

Author: Mrs A

Location: Kenilworth, Maleny and Bauple, Queensland

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny beside the river in Kenilworth, and after a quick bite of breakfast and brief pack up of the Zone, Mr A and I jumped in the car and drove over to Maleny. It’s just over 30 minutes drive away, through stunning rainforest lined winding roads, a popular route with motorcyclists and sports cars, of which we saw several. Once in Maleny, we shivered – it was about 5 degrees colder than Kenilworth, and we were about to enter the fromagerie, a refrigerated room as part of the Maleny Food Co.

Sheep cheese supplies replenished, we popped over the road to the marketplace, where permanent little food stalls offer delights such as Vegan pies and pastries, Indian street food, cheese and meat platters, and the food that caught our eye, freshly cooked Greek lamb souvlaki. Delicious!Lunch enjoyed, we picked up a few other supplies in town before heading back to Kenilworth, hitching up and saying goodbye to our fellow Zoners.

Our first stop north was the town of Gympie, which had an RV dump point and water supplies. Usually water was charged at $1 for 200 litres, but the pay machine was broken, and we filled up a tank for free.

Onwards then to the little settlement of Bauple. Most people, even locals, have not heard of this sleepy village, but we had been told about it at our last Zoner catch up in Moonee Beach.Bauple is the ancestral home of the macadamia nut, discovered thousands of years ago by local aboriginals. There is a little museum here, a petrol station and free wifi for the residents between 9am and 12pm. There are even clean toilets for campers open beside the museum, complete with green tree frog!It’s extremely peaceful and Miss Tassie enjoyed a d.o.g free stroll around the area during the afternoon. We camped for free in the RV rest area with a lovely view across the park towards the hills in the distance, not another soul seen.