Monday, March 29, 2010

Shhhhhhh.... Don’t tell anyone!

DAY SIX: PALM COVE - Monday 29th March 2010 8.30am

After Bas had fulfilled his dream and worn himself ragged riding the BMX around the Cairns skate park for a couple of hours in the drizzling rain, it was time to fulfil one of mine. We finally hit the road again at 9.30pm on Sunday and headed north towards Port Douglas to my dream destination – Palm Cove.

I stayed here a couple of years ago on an all-too-brief weekend visit to Cairns and Port Douglas for a friend’s birthday party. Back then I stayed at Peppers Resort but on my morning wander along the beach I discovered this incredible little caravan park on the exact same stretch of beachfront road as the swanky spa resorts. I vowed then to come back here one day when I got my own caravan and now here I am. Isn’t life wonderful?
We pulled in just after 10pm and the gate was open so we just parked and crashed. I went up to the office this morning to pay my $20 fee and get a key to the toilets. I apologised for not phoning ahead and explained that I hadn’t been able to find their details in any of the caravan park directories or on the net.

”I know”, the manager says with a sly smile, “That’s the way we like it”.

She gave me the number “for next time” but made me promise not to give it out to anyone, and I won’t, because just like this is the way I like it too.
I woke up this morning around 7am and went for a wander along the beach front esplanade taking lots of photos and wishing I could stay here forever. I’ve spotted a nice cafe where I plan to take Bas for a pancake breakfast when he wakes up, but today I think I’ll let him sleep in a bit. It’s overcast and rainy with a lovely sea breeze and we can hear the sound of the waves crashing just across the road from our camp site. We have a prime ocean frontage position with sea views for which the resort dwellers down the road would be paying hundreds of dollars a night. Silly fools!
The weather isn’t exactly beach worthy, and there’s still the feel of a recent cyclone about the place. But the coconut palms are a-swaying, the waves are a-crashing and in my little portable home we are high, dry and very cosy indeed.

We might as well linger and enjoy this moment because the long journey homeward starts today and we have 2,000 kilometres ahead of us. But we’ve both agreed that we’d love to do this again when we have a bit more time – take a few weeks and really get to see all those little beaches, waterholes and forests along the way. We’re also talking about the possibility of doing another trip out west sometime for a taste of red dirt, desert sunsets, the outback and big red rocks.
Yes, the bug has well and truly hit.....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We’ve come this far...


Bas had a great day at State Championships today. He was coming third in Triple Jump right up until the last jump when he was just pipped out by a boy from the Gold Coast and ended up placing a very respectable fourth with a jump of 10.79m. So I am a very proud Mummy today.

Not having to hang around for medal presentations, we opted to hit the road instead of staying the planned extra night in Townsville. Cairns is only 350km from Townsville and Bas was tempted by what he had heard was one of the best night-lit skate parks in Australia. On the way up we had a quick stop-over just outside of Townsville to visit a couple we had met on the Strand on Friday night with their to-die-for fully restored silver 1966 VC Valiant. The beach front Strand in Townsville on a Friday night is like a permanent car show with hot rods, restored classics and muscle cars all lining the street while their owners catch up, show off and share tips. After having stopped to admire the dreamy Val Shane kindly took a look under my car to see what the returning “Clunking” sound was all about. Apparently it was a missing sway bar rubber and was easily fixed and not a safety issue so that was a relief. He said if I picked up the part and brought it out to their place he would fix it for me and I could check out the rest of their classic car collection.

Seeing as they were on the way up north, we decided to take them up on their offer. Shane and Melissa and their new bubby Casey were only too happy to offer us a cold drink and a peek inside their very impressive garage – two more restored Valiants including a 1969 sky blue convertible with white roof and upholstery, a very gorgeous purple 1970 Dodge Charger a couple of projects on the go and still more works in progress around the back. Not bad at all. I took heaps of photos and promised to send them a copy of any articles I use them in.

We hit the road again at about 3.30pm and after filling up pretty much drove straight to Cairns. This leg has definitely been the highlight of the whole trip so far. We passed lush mountain ranges and tropical rainforests that reminded me a bit of our part of the world in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. We’re hoping to pop in to Mission Beach on the way back down but today we just wanted to get here to say that we’d done it!

Well, we arrived here about an hour ago and thanks to our earlier planning and Google maps we soon found the beach front skate park right in the city on the Esplanade.
So Bas is out there on the BMX now absolutely loving it. He says he wants to move here and bring all his friends. I have parked the caravan right next to the park and am writing this at the table and lounge of the van. I’ve got the van door open so I can watch Bas as I write and the bright lights of the skate park are providing all the light I need. Our plan is to grab some dinner and head out to palm Cove Caravan Park which is only about half an hour out of town North for a good night’s sleep and for the experience of waking up on a palm lined beach in tropical North Queensland.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mega Road trip!

Sunshine Coast – Townsville (approx. 1600kms) Wednesday 24th - Friday 26th March 2010

For QLD Little Athletics State Championships 27-28th march

What a mission! On the morning of the day of our scheduled departure I had the car at the mechanics doing last minute repairs to the sway bar pin kit to eliminate an annoying clunking sound and was still running around trying to find the exact type of wheel and tyre to use as a spare for the 40-year old caravan. Finally, all set to go and my pay still hadn’t come through... panic!

Not able to postpone any longer with over 1,500 km ahead of me to get Bas to State athletics on Saturday, I hit the road at 4pm with assurances that my pay would be coming through that night.

DAY ONE: Sunshine Coast – Bundaberg (about 300km)
A relatively easy drive and my excitement at finally having got it all happening fuelled me for this, the relatively easy first leg of the journey. I found myself chuckling all the way up the Bruce Highway. I can’t believe it. I’ve been dreaming about this for so long; about getting an old caravan, doing her up and taking long road trips to discover more of the real Australia. Having seen so much of the world this way with my parents when I was young and having fond memories of those crazy adventures with my dad across Europe and Morocco, the gypsy urge runs deep and sometimes staying still for too long starts to feel like entrapment.

I phone ahead at our chosen caravan park at Bargara Beach Caravan Park just east of Bundaberg in the morning before we leave home. I’ve planned to head coastward off the Bruce Highway each night to make the tip a bit more fun for Bas who loves the beach and the surf. Bargara is right next to Mon Repos Beach turtle hatching grounds and I’ve booked us in to view the baby turtles start their 150-year lives on this very beach. Turtle season ends at the end of March. Unfortunately due to pay-waiting delays we don’t get in to Bargara until after 8pm and so we just missed the turtle tour, but we will definitely schedule that one in for next year...Bargara Beach Caravan Park was just perfect for us. I woke up to watch the sun rise over the beach while surfers caught the early morning waves just across from our camp. There is also a great little skate park next to the beach not 50 metres from our camp and I feel so excited for Bas who is yet to wake up and see all this.
When he does wake up at around 8am he goes straight to the skate park with his BMX while I prepare us a porridge and LSA mix breakfast. We have breakfast by the beach and then hit the surf with the boogie board for a couple of hours before packing up and leaving Bundaberg for the mega drive of the trip to Mackay.

DAY TWO: Bundaberg – Mackay (about 800km)
The initial excitement starts to wear off sometime during this drive – there’s a whole lot of nothing on the Bruce Highway between these towns and I start to regret my decision to push through so far in one hit. We pass though Gin Gin and straight through to Queensland’s cattle town Rockhampton. I have to stop and refuel three times during this leg of the journey and even cruising at 100 kph it seems to take forever and there’s not much to look at along the way. The stretch between Rockie and Mackay is so dull that the only thing interesting about it is the yellow reflective road signs that say: “Are we there yet?”, “Still a long way to go kids” and “How much longer dad? (and Mum)” and the squashed kangaroos on the road.
We veer off the Bruce Highway again to head out to Bucasia Beach caravan Park which is still very much suffering from the effects of last weekend’s cyclone. With coconut palms and a secluded beach it has a real tropical castaway island feel to it.
The Bucasia Beach caravan Park isn’t much to write about and for the price ($35 compared to $26-$30 a night for a powered site for the two of us everywhere else), the facilities were a tad under par. It pelted down rain that night and the new waterproofing job I’d only just had done on the caravan roof days before we left was put to the ultimate test. It passed with flying colours – the van stayed dry and the extra thick polyurethane coating doubles as a bonus sound muffler dulling the sound of rain on tin nicely.

DAY THREE: Mackay – Townsville (about 500km)
Despite intermittent rain bas and I hit the beach in the morning with the boogie board for a couple of hours – Bas swam over to his very own a sand island while I collected shells and driftwood along the beach.
We packed up and gave the caravan a good scrubbing to get rid of all the bugs we had collected from the night before’s drive and hit the road at around 11am again – destination Townsville.We made a quick detour off the highway around half way to see the famed Airlie beach and have a quick swim and discovered that Airlie Beach isn’t a beach at all but a bay, full of boats, yachts and with a string of pretty green island in the distance and lots of quaint-looking shops and eateries and kind of like Noosa with lots and lots of tourists. Bas and I agreed that it was not our cup of tea at all, made a quick U-turn and decided to push on through to Townsville.

We get to Bowen and take the compulsory photo of the van in front of the big mango – and set off once more. We arrived at Rowes bay Caravan Park in Townsville last night at 6pm and it’s beautiful. The facilities make the last park look like a slum. Immaculate toilet blocks, well-uquipped camp kitchen with fridges, stoves, toasters and kettles supplied. It has lots and lots of trees, palms and greenery and a real homely feel to it. It reminds me of my old caravan park, the Village Caravan Park in Park Ridge, Brisbane. Once again, we are right across the road from the beach but alas there are no waves. Bas declares that a beach without surf is not a beach at all in his opinion and I agree that they should call them bays or harbours instead. But we are also two minutes drive to the city, the strand and the sporting complex, and that, after all, is the real reason we came on this trip at all.

Bas competed in Long Jump today and came a very respectable fifth with a jump of 5.16m. Tomorrow he has Triple Jump. We are happily ensconced in our caravan and loving the road-tripping life.

The bonus for me with this trip is being able to share it with my son. Not having travelled as much as me, he did not initially share my excitement for this trip. He’d have rather flown up. I couldn’t afford the fares so it wasn’t a choice. “It’ll be fun”, I cajoled. I knew he’d soon discover that it is. And he has. We arrived in Townsville yesterday after three days driving and two awesome coastal detour stop-overs. Now he’s hassling me to take an extra day and keep going up to Cairns and I must admit I’m tempted...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Custom car shows rock!

My new boss can't work out what it is about the whole custom (or if you wanna be really cool, you can call it "kustom") thing is all about. He knows that I want to write a heap of articles about my obsession with custom culture; restored classic cars, caravans, the whole rockabilly, retro, pin-up girl, burlesque thing. He swears that I'm the only nut that is even interested in that kind of thing and I'm doing my darndest to convince him otherwise. It's only been two weeks - give me time!

Anyway we went to the Morayfield Custom car Show on the weekend and I got to see some of the sweetest looking rides around. I'm not sure what was contributing more to the general humidity - the days of incessant rain we've had, or the combined drool of hundreds of jealous punters like me seriously contemplating ditching the late model Commodore for something a bit more stylish and original like a restored EH - in hot pink of course!
I'm no bogan and I'll admit that my knowledge of mechanics doesn't extend much beyond the ability to change a tyre and check the oil and water, but seeing goregous rides like that makes me want to learn. I was really impressed with how many of the owners of these restored beauties did a lot of the work themselves, and no, they weren't all mechanics, spray painters or professional upholsterers - to most of them this was their hobby -something they did on the weekends and in betwen working at regular 9-5 type jobs - a very expensive labour of love. Now where do I find myself a man like that? And if I did, would he love the car more than me? Would I get jealous of the amount of time he spent tinkering in the garage instead of tinkering on me?
Note to self: must look up basic mechanics courses for chicks.