We are here on Ariel in the Brisbane River getting our fill of city life
in one of Australia's most beautiful cities. The architects wanted to give it a
feeling of being outside while under roof. That is why all the arbors
with flowers and even an 80 meter long swimming pool with a white sandy
beach!! Besides we could not find a better place at such a great price
of only $50Aud a week for liveaboards!
Once we had Ariel tied firmly up to the pile moorings off the Botanical
Gardens in the Brisbane River,
we headed back up to Mooloolaba to pick up the 1992 Toyota Camry
'Djarrkamobile' which we purchased from Sarah and GB (s/v Djarrka) along with a few
camping items. We set off April 1st heading south to meet up with s/v
'Manana' at a camp ground in Glenn Innes. At night we almost froze to
death! But for the next two months, with new warmer bags, we had the
best time and stayed nice and warm and dry with rain only three times at
night in the 2 months. We found the Australian caravan parks very posh
for the most part, some with swimming pools, some hot tubs, one with a
grand buffet and one where all the campers gathered around a campfire to
sing Australian songs. It seems to be the Australians favorite way to
see the country.... or just a get away for the weekend. Prices for us
ranged from $15Aud to $25Aud a night. (80cent US = $1.00Aud) For a few
dollars more you can pitch your tent in front of a little cottage with
private toilet and shower called an en-suite.
Our route took us as high as Mt. Kosciuszko, as far south as Edan on the
south east coast and as far inland as Lightening Ridge the black opal
fields, a two day drive west of Brisbane. We stayed mainly in New South
Wales, Queensland and stopped at the capitol territory of Canberra. We
traveled over 6000km. Because we are traveling in the months of April
and May, the plan was to head south as fast as possible with fall coming
on then work our way north as winter sets in. Our first week was spent
"boat sitting' aboard the 37foot Caviler 'New Horizons' in Sydney. We
did all the sites and the Taronga Park Zoo to see the Komoto Dragon. It
was a great week ending with a visit to an old friends apartment
directly across from the ferry terminals with a view of the Sydney
Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. Once the owners of the boat returned
we went on a cruise in Sydney harbor and under the Bridge.... our week
From Sydney we followed my old bicycle inland route that I had done in
1987. Taking back roads we passed through the old town of Bundadoon and
on to Canberra. We enjoyed the fall leaves changing color and nights
listening to live jazz as well as visiting all the govt. buildings. At
the new Parliament House I got caught with pepper spray and Swiss Army
knife in my purse that caused a bit of a stir. All ended in a lot of
laughs and the return of my knife but with a warning that pepper spray
is NOT allowed into Aust. Just outside of Canberra is the Deep Space
Communication Center that was depicted in the movie 'The Dish' . It is
true story about the Australians communicating with the astronauts on
the first moon landing. It is also funny but not as funny as watching it
on the laptop in the tent, plugged into the power at a campsite!!!!
Jindabyne and the Snowline Caravan Park was our next stop just outside
Mt. Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain. We camped in piles of
yellow fallen leaves and soaked in the hot tubs, basked in the hot sauna
then cooked our meal in the warm inside camp kitchen. Next day we
climbed to the top of Mt. Kosiuszko in 70-100 km winds with gusts up to
200km. I think it might have been easier bicycling to the top but we
made it to the top only to have our cell phone come into range. It was
our friends on s/v Zephyr. They had just come into Edan on the NSW south
east coast after a horrific time crossing the Bass Straights. Next day
we were off through the ski town of Thredbo where we heard the ski lifts
were closed to hikers because of the high winds. This town is what Vail
and Telluride must have been like years ago, beautiful and quaint!!
Stopped for a look at the Snowy Mountain Scheme the hydroelectric
harnessing of power that supplies all the major towns in Australia
except Darwin and Perth. Fascinating!!
Next stop was Edan to give moral support to our fellow cruisers. s/v
Zephyr was fine but their friends on s/v Balvenie had popped their
transducer in high seas, winds up to 45kn on the nose at night with a
countercurrent in the Bass Straights. They found the fountain of water
that was rapidly filling their boat with freezing water and got it under
control. They both made it into Edan safely. It had taken them 6 months
for their journey sailing south to Tasmania and then only cruised the
east coast. Waiting for weather windows to return however was not good
but they were glad they had done it. It was then we decided we will be
happy to go to Tassi by car/ferry end of the year. In Ben Boyd Park we
went hiking along the coast where whales migrate north in Oct. & Nov.
and south in May and June. We missed the whales but did not miss the
Edan Killer Whale museum the best we had ever seen!
We headed north up the Sapphire Coast Hwy to Narooma and just inland
from there we discovered the tiny town of Tilba Tilba. Now, here,just
inland from the sea we noticed the beginning of some incredible
countryside. There were miles of rolling green hills with little ponds
in between and narrow but nice roads. Tilba Tilba has a one lane road
with little shops full of articles from all over the world as well as
local crafts and a cheese factory. The cheese is out of this world! On
weekends many of the small towns have markets of fruit and vegetables as
well as crafts which we always stopped at for a taste of local
atmosphere. It was fun!
We passed by some of the bigger towns as we went back along the coast at
Bateman's Bay. Local sailors tell us this bay is hard to come into by
boat due to the shoals at the entrance. We only saw one other cruiser we
knew once we left Sydney. It is a long way down with few good stops...
but a fascinating area inland. Another text message here (thank goodness
for cell phones) found us not far from Ulladulla the next good port up
from Edan and our friends on s/v 'New Horizons' now heading home to
Melbourne. Well, a few die hards were still out there! We camped just
north of Ulladulla for two days to visit with them and realized that the
Bendalong Point Tourist Park we were in, was the best place in Australia
to feed stingrays. When the fishermen come in to clean their catch you
can actually touch the rays as they come right up in the shallow water
almost onto the beach. Amazing!!
Zig zagging back inland from the sea once again we stopped at one of the
many winery's for wine tasting. One good one was Coolangatta Estates
once one of the old convict camps. It was very posh and you could even
stay in some of the buildings that housed the prisoners. But we
continued on to Kangaroo Valley were the population is only 300! Again
the old houses were now antique shops and galleries. One had the most
beautiful huge wooden rocking horses and another pottery of funny faces
both very unique. It is also the home of Australia's oldest suspension
bridge. In this same area is Morton National Park with some great walks
with beautiful Fitzroy Falls and views of the Yarrunga ranges which
looked so very remote yet we are only a short distance from the coast
and the populous areas.
We must always keep in mind that Australia, a country the size of
continental USA has only 20 million people compared to our 300 million.
Many of the drives are like going back in time to the days of one lane
country roads and very little traffic. Good thing as the road out of the
valley down into Albion Park was extremely winding and steep. But here
we stopped to see the Microlights and aerowasp helicopters. The
microlight has a fixed wing like a hang glider. Would have been a great
way to get off the mountain....maybe next time....we'll leave that up in
Back on the coast near Woolongong we discovered Nan Tien the largest
Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. We also noticed that we had
left our camera battery charger back at the campground a day away. So
back we went but this time discovering a huge beautiful intrecately
carved Hindu Temple. The Buddhist temple had a huge cheap vegetarian
meal at lunch time. The day was never wasted and Steve was excited to
pass by Bald Mountain,in Stanwell Park, a big hang gliding center on the
coast, fortunately too windy to fly.....WHEW!!
As we traveled into the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney, we read that
the name comes from the blue haze that rises up in the morning due to
the forest of Blue Gum Trees. Here we enjoyed some great hikes, passed
up the skyline ride and zig zag rail to hike down then climb up the 1040
steps past the famous Three Sisters rock formations. We enjoyed the
quaint town of Leura and in Katoomba where the Grand Carrington Hotel
gave us respite from our sore muscles by having a nice hot cappuccino in
the warm lounge before heading back to the tent. We got into routines
like this in many areas especially stops for cappuccino and always in a
quaint interesting coffee shops which are everywhere.
There are also tourist Information centers in many towns that have
special marked 'Tourist Routes' which we took often. From the Blue Mts.
to the Hawksbury River areas we stopped many times to visit historical
houses and towns such as Mt. Victoria and Hartly that goes back to the
days of gold digging and convict gangs. One of the prettiest areas was
at Mt. Wilson a small village of stately houses and parks made special
by the red, and yellow fall leaves turning color. There were also fresh
picked apples in the area and cooler days, a sign that winter was near.
The tourist office recommended camping at the Butterfly farm near
Windsor with one of the best and largest exhibits. We also met Joey the
tame Sulfer Crested cockatoo that we hand fed. On the way we stopped at
a Trout Farm for smoked trout and then pitched our tent along the
Hawksbury River. The morning mist rising off the river was a site.....
never to be forgotten!!
Once back on the Central Coast Region just north of Sydney beginning at
a town called The Entrance, we were into more traffic but also beautiful
lakes. There is Lake Macquarie the largest salt water lake in Australia
and the beautiful Norah Head lighthouse still open for guests to sleep
in the caretakers house. But we pitched our tent instead in Stockton a
quiet place with only the sound of the sea across the river from the big
city of Newcastle and took the evening ferry into town for dinner. We
also found the RSL's (Return Servicemen League) the best meals as well
as at the local Bowling clubs. Here you get a choice of set meals for
usually under $8US and always balanced and plentiful.
Not very interested in the big cities we usually stayed out on the back
roads. That is where we found Lemon Tree Passage inside the bay at Port
Stephens, a place s/v Zephyr had anchored. It is a great stop for
cruisers and also for it's great guided walk though Tilligerry park
looking for wild Koala's. Graham, a naturalist with the park was a
fantastic guide pointing out and explaining about every plant and bird
we came upon. And..oh yes, we saw a Twany Frog Mouth bird, got buzzed by
a Scaley Breasted Lorikeet and saw two huge Koala's.....so were not
Coff's Harbor is also a great cruisers stop over as the Marina is very
nice and quaint. We visited two Australian friends homes, one I had not
seen in 30 years and both back in the hills behind Coff's. It was an
interesting time getting to see how the Aussie live and getting
reacquainted. Then a call from s/v Zephyr again. This time they were
bombarded with hail stones while anchored in Ulladulla harbor. The golf
ball and tennis balls size hailed pelted 52 holes through their bimini.
Something to be missed!!!
But this area along the coast, seemed to be a bit of a throw back to the
60's with Byron Bay being a big surfing area. The lighthouse here was
magnificent. We got a call from other cruisers on the Gold Coast camping
at Main Beach for the weekend and waiting for the big Santurary Cove
Boat Show. This was the fun part of 'land cruising' meeting up with
fellow cruisers, all now in their own little modes of transport. One had
a very nice van which a lot of cruisers opted for and another with an
Australian made TVAN that opens to a tent and pulled behind a tricked
out Land Cruiser one of the best vehicles we were told for buying and
reselling. We had a great time and discovered that we would all be
heading 'Outback' around the same time, Aug. and Sept and may all even
meet up in Alice Springs Sept.17th for the famous boat race held every
year on the DRY Todd river...Henley on Todd!!
The weather was now getting nicer as we headed north, surfers out in
force as we are now near the Queensland/NSW border. Here the popular
Lamington National Park, on the rim of an ancient volcano and only a
short drive inland from the Gold Coast, was recommended by many
cruisers. We found the park lodge at Bina Burra with a log fire in the
fireplace so comforting that we never made it down to the famous Tree
Top walk at O'Rielly...but that is for another time! From there we
climbed up an "escarpment" that runs parallel with the coast for almost
200km. It is an area so spectacular in views overlooking the coast with
the skyscrapers and beaches stretched out for miles north and south.
This is a big hang gliding area also. Uh Oh! We spent hours watching
them fly off into the green valleys below. Steve got all the info for
getting a license but in the end came down to earth and decided the
$1800A was too much. Mt. Tambourine and the gallery walk at Eagle
Heights occupied another day. If we had not been told about some of
these areas we may have missed them altogether. There is just too much
And finally skirting Brisbane (still not ready to return to Ariel) we
continued on north to another area overlooking Mooloolaba and only
20min. away from that wonderful cruiser city we knew so well. The Glass
House Mountains fool everyone, thinking this is the place, but we
haven't had a chance to check them out we were so busy enjoying what
lies behind them. Still on the escarpment, more incredible little towns
with crafts and galleries high up in the cool air overlooking the
extensive beaches below. The town of Montville is the center but Melany
and Mapleton are also very nice. We enjoyed ourselves so much we went
down to Mooloolaba, picked up a couple cruisers who don't have a car and
returned with them the very next day. Our last days ended staying with
friends in their beautiful new house in Noosa Heads and of course
another AM market (Wed. & Sat.) nearby at the famous and one of the best
in Australia... Eumundi Market!!!
Well it has been a good trip, even squeezed in a trip to the Darling
Downs area and the beginning of the 5,300km long barrier dingo fence on
the way to Lightning Ridge to 'noodle on the mullock heaps' for black
opal. Our noodling only got us a few pieces of potch but the characters
and atmosphere were enough to get us fired up to head deeper into the
outback to Coober Pedy. All in good time! LR is a two day trip from
Brisbane but worth every minute to get that feeling of being 'outback'.
It was getting cold at night but we warmed up by soaking in the 'hot'
spring bore just out of town. The night sky of the outback is
breathtaking, so many stars in the southern hemisphere.
Next trip......the Outback!!
We had a great trip....and would I change anything....yes, we are
purchasing a little electric heater for the tent for those cold mornings
outback! Otherwise we loved the camping out closer to the nature we