PETER and ANN FROST send a postcard from their holiday in Australia
Here we are in Queensland, home of the amazing Cane Toad – lick its back for a quick fix. Giant fruit bats hang in the trees and two foot gauge railway tracks are everywhere including in the middle of the road to take away the sugar harvest.
We were out on the Daintree river today but failed to spot any of the salt water crocodiles. Apparently one ate a British fisherman only last week. The unfortunate old chap had been warned not to fish in the same place two days running.
He had ignored the advice and a cunning old salt-water croc had sneaked up behind him and pushed him into the river and finished him off.
It’s a bit of a one horse town is Daintree. This part of Oz is very hot and quite humid so the air con in the motorhome is a real blessing.
The main highway drive South from Brisbane is dreadful, seventy kilometres of high rise tower hotels and urban sprawl spoiling amazing surfing beaches. Any thought of eco tourism has been kicked into touch down here – this the Costa Del Oz.
This evening however we are resting at delightful Byron Bay, the most easterly point of mainland Australia. Talk here on Clarke’s campsite, which has its own beach 50 yards from our pitch, is that humpbacks and southern right whales have been seen from the silver sands during the day and better sightings can be had from the lighthouse.
We watched a humpback swimming past the beach but missed the pod of eleven sighted from the lighthouse this morning. The lighthouse keeps a log of whale sightings and the score for this year’s migation south is over 1300.
Between 1954 and the world moratorium in 1962 Byron Bay would have had a fleet of a couple of hundred converted ex-war Fairmile motor torpedo boats with harpoon guns driving the whales into the Bay to be killed and processed into fertilizer and animal feed.
Today Byron is hippy-town. The kind of place where TR on your shopping list is more likely to be a tarot reading than a toilet roll.
Lunch today was at the Brunswick Fisherman’s Co-op and obeyed the Frosty rule for eating fish – it is always best when you can see the boats that caught it from your table.
This was a huge wet fishmonger with oysters, prawns and a huge variety of white fish we had never heard of with a chippy in the corner where they would fry what you had bought.
Peter had his first Spanner Crab – No we hadn’t heard of it either. It was a big bugger with lots of white meat in the body and small but sweet claws and it cost just a fiver. Ann went for the fish and chips – just as popular in Oz as in England. Her fish was actually squid!
Went to Bangalow where our mates Ben and Clare Hitchcock lived briefly. What a posh little town with a bowling green and everything. Could have been in Hertfordshire.
We are grilling Kangaroo steaks tonight on our motorhome’s slide-out outside barbecue but we still haven’t seen a kangaroo in the wild. Ironic or what?
There are bush turkeys scratching about on site and we took some pix of a great iguana today. We also visited a erotic fruit farm and tasted several fruit we had never heard of but we bought mulberries.
Great scam here with road tolls. They are camera operated and you can only pay by phone or on-line, only you can’t – at least we can’t – the phone cuts us off and the web site is impenetrable, we have only three days to pay or we get a big fine. I think its a stealth tax on tourists. (Stop press we paid.)
By the way the landing card when you reach Oz still asks if you have a criminal record. We didn’t realise you still needed one. But on that subject…
Peter got breathalysed. It was three in the morning and we had just staggered out of the Waltzing Matilda Tavern where Peter had been biting the neck off a few tubes with some sheep shearers and Ann was chatting up a bunch of swarthy Jackaroos… asking them to show her their billabongs and stroking their jumbucks.
Or was it actually four thirty in the afternoon on the road back from the delightful Edwardian resorts of Ramsgate, Margate, Scarborough and Brighton where we had been watching a game of Croquet – and you thought Aussies wrestled salt water crocs and stingrays – when all the traffic was pulled over into a lay-by and every driver was breathalysed.
“We are trying to cut down on Friday afternoon knock off drinking the polite policeman told us. I was clear. The allowed level is about half that in the UK.
Today the papers and TV news are full of a Roman Catholic priest who has just given the highest ever blood breathalizer test result – about 20 times the limit – two doctors have said he should be dead.
These very pretty very middle class dormitory towns are just north of Brisbane and full of very handsome Queenslander houses – all filigree balconies and corrugated iron roofs.
The towns are on a sand island attached to the mainland in Moreton Bay where the famous and delicious bugs come from. This was the site of the convict settlement established for 45 of the worse criminals from Botany Bay. They set up the town of Brisbane.
We had a day in Brisbane and really enjoyed the Australian Art in The Queensland Gallery. The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) was a bit disappointing. The weather however was awful. We had a couple of hours of monsoon rain and the evening papers and tv news had ‘Christmas card’ views of some suburbs that had drifts of metre deep ‘snow’ that was in fact hailstones. Wow.
We flew to Adelaide today and we haven’t yet told you about Kyogle and Toowoomba. Perhaps our favourite Aussie towns so far.
Both were very refined – rather like the hill stations of the Raj. Toowoomba is 700 metres above sea level and cool and airy. These towns served the old and vast sheep and cattle stations, today huge railway stockyards are now deserted but the atmosphere remains.
It is still an important agricultural centre mostly now cattle as the sheep have gone.
The Cobb and Co museum in Toowoomba helped us understand what life in the outback must have been like. Still not seen a kangaroo, a wombat, a Koala. But did see a huge dragon lizard outside the art gallery.
Oz is not what we thought it would be. But’s that is why you travel and we are loving it.
The road out of Adelaide is long straight and lined with dry desert and almost dried up lakes at this time of year. It is always a surprise the amount of water, river courses and flood warning signs in this basically arid country.
Next part of our journey took us to the old whaling stations and spectacular sea stacks of the Great Ocean Highway., – what a wonderful drive, it must be one of the best in the world.
Still no bloody kangaroos but we did see our first emus today. And then surprise surprise we spot first one then four more of Skippy’s best mates.
Ann got some good pictures and it was a good job as we would see no more on the whole of our trip.
We avoided Melbourne but left the coast to take the dry red route to Sidney. We visited Ned Kelly country and the Gold field towns and the legendary Gungagai of song and legend.
All too soon we were in Sydney. 31 degrees and a wonderful city so different to the rest of Oz. Sydney opera house, the harbour bridge and Bondi beach, what more could you want.
This article first published in 2012