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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #004

Editorial

I guess we're not quite into the on-the-road lifestyle yet in the sense that we've just done over a thousand kilometres in a week or so. The whole idea is that you take the time to smell the roses.

Still, we have been in a hurry to get north and see my Mum who is not well.

Normally of course one would stay south at this time of year as it gets quite hot in Queensland but I've lived up here before (inTownsville, much further north than Bundaberg where we're currently staying) so don't think it will be a problem.

In this issue we spend time in Brisbane and meet some of the friendly locals. Then we fix the recently broken stairs while staying with friends in Caboolture and finally make our way up to Bundaberg.

We've also been getting a lot of press and some time on the TV, it seems everyone wants to get a look at "Wothahellizat".

 

 

Thu 25 Oct 2001

We rise at 3AM and hit the road immediately. There is still a fair bit of heavy traffic but the drive is easy enough. We hit Brisbane at about 6AM and drive directly across town to a park we identified on the map as a likely spot to camp.

We park just off the Mt Cotton road and I get a motor bike out to recce the area. After riding around what seemed like half of Brisbane, I decide that a spot only 200m from the truck was the best.

The spot is right at the entrance a memorial park (actually a large area of native forest) and, for all intents and purposes, more like the middle of the bush than the middle of a capital city.

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Our camping spot near the park.

Tomorrow we want to go into town so I get back on the bike to scout for a railway station.

Tonight we appear on the ABC in their "Dimensions" program, nearly four minutes this time (only 1 minute on "Money"), at this rate we'll have our own show before long :-)

Fri 26 Oct

Ahh Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next...but on the following day it pisses it down.

Today we earmarked for a trip into town, it's raining but we want to go anyway, so we ride one of the bikes to a railway station and "train it" from there.

On reaching Roma Street station we place our packs and helmets in the computer-controlled lockers (they're so big I comment that they could double as emergency accommodation), these lockers cost $5 for 24 hours. Later we find lockers at the bus terminus under the Myer centre for $2.

All-in-all we didn't find anything of interest, a couple of bookshops and camera stores, but that's about it. I finally get to handle the new Minolta DiMage7, a new digital camera that looks great in the brochure. Well all I can say to digital camera manufacturers is "Keep trying".

We are on our way back to the station when a Harvey Norman electronics store catches our eye, we've been looking for a new stereo for the truck for a while, so thought we'd drop in and have a browse. Sure enough we do find a neat little unit and it is substantially reduced because it's the last one. We have it packed into three separate plastic bags, two of which fit into our back pack, and the third is held by Chris as we ride home from the station. It's raining Datsun Cogs and we we are both saturated when we get home, but the stereo survives.

After installing the new stereo it's still too early for dinner, so we have a snack, figuring to cook later.

Soon after, while laid back looking out at the rain, an umbrella popped up under the window. Underneath the umbrella was one of the locals with his dog. His first question is "How long are you going to stay" and his tone, while not unfriendly, certainly had that "what the hell are you doing here" edge to it. I said a couple of days then Chris appears and he seems to lighten up. We talk for a while, he has a really droll sense of humour and we get on well. Eventually he decides that the dog has had enough exercise, so he says goodbye.

An hour or so later there was the sound of a car approaching, it pulls up behind the truck and I am beginning to wonder if we are about to have an altercation with another local or a ranger, when our dog-walking friend pops his head around the corner. "I'm off to get some fish and chips" he says, "would you like some?", "Yes we would" I reply, "hang on I'll get you some..." I was about to say "money" but he said not to worry and sped off.

He returns after a while and hands me a bag from the local chippo, once again I offer to pay and once again he says not to worry about it. It seems we've made a friend.

Sat 27 Oct

"I can't believe I was just watching this on TV the other day and now here it is parked outside my place", says another local out walking her dogs.

A relaxing day is planned for today but I do want to check out Photo Continental, one of Australia's best photo shops, and find a camping spot closer to Scott and Chris' (our friends we came to Brisbane to see). At about 9AM I start the bike and am about to climb on when Chris asks if I can take the garbage and find a bin for it. I stuff the bags into my back pack and promptly forget about them.

I spend a couple of hours browsing the photo shop, leaving my helmet and pack on the floor so I could easily handle some equipment. Eventually I am all browsed out and, as I bend down to pick up my pack, I get a whiff of it. The contents were slightly on the nose to start with but the long hot ride to the shop, followed by a couple of hours inside, were enough to really set things off.

The exit from this shop is a supermarket checkout style, with a sign that says something like "The management reserve the right to inspect any bags as you pass through the checkout". I wizzed through with just the enough haste to avoid being asked, but not too much to appear as though I'd nicked something. Just as well, if the management had exercised their right of inspection, that shop would never have been the same.

I return to the truck, pick up Chris and we go in search of tomorrow's camping spot. The situation I predicted some time ago, that of not being able to park near one's friends, comes true as there was really nowhere to park the truck that is both level, near our friend's place, and not likely to cause a problem with the natives. We eventually find a spot on a side road under some 33kv power lines, about 3ks from our friends.

Later in the afternoon, while Chris is out for a stroll, a group of walkers descend on the park. They are from some local church group, and are out to see the wildflowers. As usual they are all very interested in the truck, and one woman seems very keen on the idea of motorhoming, so I give her the contact numbers for the CMCA and the local chapter.

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The Tingalpa Resevoir borders the park.

Yet another neighbour turns up, very likeable chap who has been building his own house. "They're never really finished" he says, and I agree. "We still haven't got the inside doors hung yet, except the dunny of course, the wife made me hang a door on the dunny". Well these things take time, and how long has he been building the house?, "Oh about twenty years".

Later he said they intended inviting us over for drinks but they were going to a champagne breakfast in the morning and needed an early start. He left saying that we should drop in next time we're in the area, and that he was returning to indulge in his other hobby, drinking his home brew.

Chris returned in a beat-up 47 series Landcruiser driven by a roughish looking fellow with one hand on the wheel and the other firmly grasping a beer. He was from South Australia, and had been driving around for hours looking for someone who lived on a street on map 57 of the Brisbane UBD.

These book-style maps are a pain in the arse as invariably the road you're following starts in map 23, then goes across to 24, drops down to the upper left corner of 45 before just touching on 46 and returning to 26 where it shoots straight up to 12, 12A and finally ends on an insert on map 13. Even in the lounge room it's impossible to keep fingers in all these pages, but you're usually trying to do this in a car while negotiating traffic in a strange city.

Anyway I figure out where he has to go, or at least how to get to map 57. "Thanks mate" he said, "I hope I've got enough to get me there", "Petrol?" I ask, "No beer".

He started a u-turn and my last image was that of the vehicle completing the turn through the bushes across the road, presumably because the driver's door had flown open and the hand he used to retrieve it was not the one holding the beer.

Sun 28 Oct

We left our little spot next to the park and drive to the place we recce'd yesterday. It's behind several houses, and as we are setting up the rig one of the owners pokes his head over the fence and asked "Is that Roman?", I almost replied "Yep we're roamin' 'round Australia" but decide to just answer in the negative.

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Our new camping spot complete with electricity :-)

Later we meet this person and he explains that he knows someone by the name of Roman who not only looked similar to me, but was known to purchase weird vehicles.

After that little bit of confusion is settled we extract a motorbike from the truck and ride around to Scott and Chris'. We spent several hours chewing the fat, then Scott suggests a night out on their boat. My Chris declined because she's not too good on boats, and Scott's Chris had to go to a party, so it becomes a boys adventure.

We drive to Manly, prep the boat (called "Eclipse", a 34ft launch or "stink boat" as they are somewhat unfairly called by the yatching fraternity) and head off to the southern end of Stradbroke Island (Straddie as the locals called it).

Within minutes I am splicing mainbraces, snubbing anchors, and bilging scuppers as though I was born to the life, it must be the new beard that brings out the sea dog in me, now if I could just get one of those caps with an embroided anchor...

Scott manages to get the boat out of the marina despite my help, and the trip starts smooth enough, but becomes quite rough as we cross the more open part of Morton Bay.

Scott doesn't like it because he is steering and the rolling of the boat makes it difficult. I don't like it because my beer keeps sliding across the deck.

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Scott pilots the boat into the sunset, well away from the sunset actually.

I am reading the charts and we get talking about the navigation marks and how they're used. I ask Scott if the lights on these marks ever failed, and he said yes, but he had never encountered one that wasn't working.

Not half an hour later we are cruising at about 7 knots when, in the dim light cast by the boat's running lights, I notice an unlit mark to our right, "Is that supposed to be a green mark?" I asked. Scott took one look, "Oh shit" he exclaims, "we're supposed to be on the other side of that".

After years of boating in Morton bay, without ever encountering a non-working light on a mark, Scott finally does so minutes after I asked about the problem.

We find a nice quite spot in the lee of Straddie, cook tea, sink a few beers and hit the sack. It's perfectly calm as we doze off but Scott tells me that during the night things got rough. I wouldn't know, I was too busy wondering if in fact it was the bilge, and not the mainbrace, that I should have spliced.

Mon 29 Oct

We rise at about 5AM, there's very high wispy clouds and I comment that this usually means bad weather coming. A quick consultation of the "Instant Weather Guide" confirms this, so we set off.

We sail north to Peel Island, drop anchor, launch the dinghy and motor over to the island. Walking along a track lined with enormous Aloe Vera plants we reach an interesting convict ruin that looks like it's right out of the "Papillion" movie. Nearby is an old and derelict stone jetty with it's very own wreck.

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View from the front of the boat. Peel Island on the left, Stradbroke on the horizon.

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View from the stern.

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The dinghy pulled up near the old jetty.

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The old prison, like something out of "Papillion".

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Massive Aloe Vera plants line the track.

Returning to the boat we decide to go see how the "other half" live in the expensive waterside houses at Raby Bay.

We cruise the canals and, although the houses are immaculate, this sort of thing doesn't do much for me these days. It used to, at one time we were into the perfect house, complete with accessories, but not any more. When I look at them now all I see is a massive mortgage.

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One of the expensive houses in Raby Bay.

And speaking of expensive things, Scott has a law that can be used to determine the amount you are likely to pay at a restaurant, and the likelihood that you will still be hungry when you get home and have to knock up some sandwiches.

Scott's Law of Restaurants
The difference between the amount on your plate, and the amount on the bill, is directly proportional to the size of the pepper grinder used by the waiter.

Take this law and use it well.

Tue 30 Oct

I return to Photo Continental to buy some goodies, and while I'm in that part of town, I browse the massive Garden City shopping centre.

On returning to the truck and relaxing with a cuppa, a 4WD comes to a rapid stop next to us and the driver gets out. "How long are you staying?" he asked. Thinking that he was about to have a go at us about camping here, I replied that we were leaving in the morning (which we are anyway).

"Oh" he said, "I was going to offer the use of my block of land down at Cleveland, it slopes off to the bay but there's a flat spot at the top and the views are great." We thank him and he gives us his phone number so we could get in touch next time we're in town.

Later, the neighbour who thought I was Roman, comes over, "How long are you staying?", "We're leaving in the morning", "Oh my misses would like to have a look, we're going to build a bus", once again no problems, just interest.

So far, while camping in Brisbane, we've encountered half a dozen people that live right next to, or quite close to, where we're parked, and not one has had a problem with it. Quite the reverse, not only has everyone been interested but we've been offered camping spots and asked over for a drink, someone even bought us fish and chips. Friendly these Queenslanders.

Wed 31 Oct

We leave early (about 6AM) to avoid the rush hour but not early enough as it happens, there is still a lot of traffic. Fortunately we only have a short trip to get on the Gateway Motorway, then it's plain sailing (oops, just can't shake those nautical terms).

Driving north we watch the banked up traffic heading towards Brisbane (and presumably work) and we thank goodness we decided to leave the rat race and hit the road.

A ute full of building materials passes us then cuts in too close, on the rear window is a sign that says "JESUS", funny, that's exactly what I said when he cut in.

We stop for breakfast at the new Burpengarry BP truckstop, wow what a setup, you feel like you're in an airport terminal. After a quick meal we attempt to do our tax (today is the last day to get it in) but soon realise that we have the wrong forms. Oh well, I guess it's back to the accountant.

We head off, and soon arrive at Peter & Marie's in the small town of Elimbah, just north of Caboolture. What a hive of activity, concrete pipes, trucks, forklifts, workshops and of course, Slineway, their International S-line and Ford hybrid off-road motor home.

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Peter & Marie's "backyard".

Thu 1 Nov

I spend the day fixing the stairs and talking to Dave. Dave can build or fix just about anything and runs a business doing just that from Peter's shed. Dave is also a Harley rider, a keen photographer, and a real interesting character to boot.

We've been looking at the tyre wear on the rear of the truck and both Dave and Peter feel that it's caused by badly aligned axles, so tomorrow we'll measure them and hopefully find the problem.

We're parked under pine trees and the ground is covered with needles, it's very dry around here at present and, while grinding, I got to thinking about the possibility of starting a fire with the grinder or welder. I smartly lift the rechargeable water extinguisher from the back of the truck, pressurise it and place it nearby.

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Fixing the truck's broken stairs.

Fri 2 Nov

A fairly relaxing day in the morning, after lunch we move the truck into the shed so Dave can measure the axles to see if they're square. We start by measuring the rear axle centres with trammels, and they are parallel.

Then we pull the wheels off, drop plumb lines to the ground, and measure the distances from the front to rear axles. There is 12mm difference which will cause the truck to crab on the road, and indeed this is the behaviour that Chris has reported.

This however is not the cause of our tyre wear and Dave suggests that we add some shockies to the rear axle. We won't do it now but plan to be back this way in a few weeks and will probably do it then.

Dave is also a keen photographer and wants to hit the road, so we spend several hours through the day chatting and going through the actions of using a large format camera.

At about 4PM we decide it's time to leave, so we say our goodbyes and head up the highway. Peter has already reported that there is a lot of motor homes at the Glass House Mountains (or just "Glasshouse" as it's known locally) sports oval just ten or so kilometres up the road, so when we see them we stop to check out the scene. It's the Brisbane Sunshine Wanderers having a rally, so we stop for the night.

Sat 3 Nov

Up early and off for a walk. Chris said that there were some shops not far up the highway, so I find a path heading north and follow it. Before long I'm in the town of Glasshouse and following my nose to the bakery. I choose a loaf and the girl asks if I want it sliced. Before I can answer she says "Oh it's too warm to slice", that'll do just fine I reply.

We left Peter & Marie's late afternoon yesterday because I reasoned that if we where there in the morning we would wind up chatting 'till morning tea, then having a snack, then chatting again, and then we "Might as well have lunch now" etc etc. Before we know it we will have spent another day.

So my plan was to set off and, even if we only went a few kilometres, park on the side of the road and get an early start. Well the plan worked well, right up to the time when we pulled into the Brisbane Sunshine Wanderers rally last night. By the time we've talked to half the attendees this morning, shown one couple around our rig, and in turn been shown around theirs, it was 10:30. So much for an early start.

Anyway we finally get away (after refusing a coffee, something pretty much unheard of for me) and hit the road. There are very few places to stop on the road to Gympie and I am starving so we have a sandwich in a not very pleasant spot on the side of the road, then move on.

At about 8k south of Gympie we encounter a large roadhouse/shopping centre (for want of a better description) and pull over for a cuppa. About half way through my coffee I fall asleep. I wake several hours later, meanwhile Chris has explored a very nice picnic area next to the roadhouse (and earmarked it as a future camping spot). We drive on, eventually stopping at a park near Maryborough on the banks of the Mary River.

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CMCA?, not quite but we camped down the road anyway.

Sun 4 Nov

After a morning tea break at Childers we turn off the Bruce Highway and drive to Bundaberg. We bypass the main street and finally arrive at Bargara mid morning, pulling up behind my parents retirement village.

We'll be here for the next few weeks.

 

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