The tent!

The tent!
Two men!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pics from Grate Expectations, take 2

Morrie getting his signs ripped off and Ruth scmoozing to John

Grate Expectations

Set off from Cairns and travelled thru Mareeba and Dimbulah where  we chased down the baker whom we had helped at Cardwell after Cyclone Yasi. Then took alt. Savannah Way on dirt road for 120 odd ks thru Bullock Creek and into Mt Surprise which was back on the Savannah Way. And what a surprise it turned out to be! It seemed like a very good idea at the time for us to take Morrie not once but twice thru the high pressure vehicle washdown facility on the side of the road. Off we went feeling pretty chuffed that we'd managed to restore Morrie to his former glory and arrived in Georgetown for the night. "John, where are the 2 magnetic signs on your side of Morrie?" Oops, I wonder if they came off during Morrie's jacuzzi at Mount Surprise? Call to local police at Mount Surprise had him go down to the facility to check for missing signs but no luck. Next morning, straight into council chambers in Georgetown for further help. We needed someone to have a look under the grid/grate at the washdown. Enter Ruth. Job done. I have found your signs and have them here for collection. Return trip of 180ks to Mount Surprise and photo of Ruth after presentation of bottle of red for her trouble. You're a champion Ruth! Then on to Croydon, thru Normanton and now in Karumba at bottom of the Gulf and Oz's prawn capital. Before handing over to John, some free verse: Dead of night, far distant barking of dog, answered in the stillness by his mate. Gusts of early morning wind puff the tent sides like the cheeks of a chubby smiling kid whose eyes are bigger than his stomach.Warm. Still, yet mind racing........"To sleep, perchance to dream" Silence. Peace. Zzzzzzzz

Here's John now for the serious bit.

As we rumbled into the Georgetown caravan park we were greeted by Les.

Now, let me tell you a little about Les - normal looking cobber but the first thing that struck you was that he bought the shirt after he already had the shorts; the two different coloured thongs kind of went with paisley........" 'Ow yer goin? "...." Um good thanks......just two men and a tent thanks"

The laughter wouln't have been so disconcerting if it wasn't so derisive " Fifteen bucks will see youse both right " .a snap I thought, which of course was a temporary high as the amenities block renovations done in 1962 were in need of a little updating.

I asked Les about his career path from here and was he happy with the way Julia was spending the taxpayers coffers - he was at something of a loss to construct a thoughtful response to either but he did mention the barramudi fishing down in Johnson's creek.

Les also mentioned his cholesterol was 1 and his heart rate was 15 bpm....." No stress here yer see mate - I've got 2 pairs of shorts and my biggest decision, week in week out is whether to change from the lilac to the beige on Wensdee or Thursdee.....see that's how ya keep yer heart beat steady as "

I think that there's something in that for all of us.

The sun has now set, the crickets are chirping and the ocre township lights of Karumba are politely flickering in the distance.

I love this country.

PS Sign in amenities block: "Please put toilet lids down to keep the frogs out."

J & I...............

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adventure on the high seas (cont)

Anyhow, where was I? Oh yes, we were bound for Cairns but suddenly a dramatic turn of events..... We (that's the royal "We", ie the boat's captain) were asked to detour via Flinders Island Princess Charlotte Bay to pick up a disabled catamaran for carting (that's the right nautical word I reckon) to Cairns. Much excitement amongst the ship's passengers when we heeled to (that's again the right nautical term I reckon) 100 metres from the catamaran. Guess what its name was. San e t! Good eh! The skipper of the craft was highly agitated when hoisted aboard with his vessel, talking about the $15000 he or his insurance co would be forking out. His problem was he'd been living on the boat for 10 years and really didn't need this sort of stuff! Anyhow, after a precise and very professional rescue and crane hoist of the craft aboard our vessel we set off back on our voyage to Cairns arriving around 1pm. An emotional time for all as we farewelled Nola 1, Nola 2, Anne, John, Bert, Pere, Will, Gail, Elaine and all the other co-passengers, swearing undying love for all and promising never to forget our memorable time aboard. Sigh! The stuff dreams are made of! Washed Morrie, pumped up his tyres, bought groceries and returned to the camping ground we previously plonked down in to be greeted by mein hostess and welcomed back. How could she ever forget us! Tomorrow, after a bit of remedial attention to Morrie's dashboard, we leave for Normanton on our further circumnavigation of our wonderful continent. We have had a ball and are still talking!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adventure on the High Seas

After an anxious few moments watching our mate Morrie being loaded aboard the good ship MV Trinity Bay at Seisia we cast off ((4 hours later when the tide was most favourable) and set course for Cairns. A comfortable cabin complete with 3 bunks (John just had to try the top one sporting the porthole) and a wash basin, with an en-suite (sort of) out the door and adjacent. The ship's passengers were a reasonably homogeneous (a bit like milk) lot of SADs (editor's note: See Australia and Dies courtesy of Tim Winton) so John and I were able to keep the masses entertained with games of Trivial Pursuit, etc. John did a stint as a stand-up comedian afetr dinner and his jokes were incredibly funny or at least that's what he told us. A lovely lady Nola (1, there were 2 of them) took a shine to one or other of us and arranged a sweep to guess the time of rescue of a stranded catamaran we had been called upon to assist (more later) with proceeds to go to our charities. To be continued.....

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cape York - Start to Finish

After 3 very relaxing days at Weipa with Darcy Hallam, the captain of the pilot boat at Weipa we set off for for the Cape proper.

Thunderbirds are go.

Wednesday took us from Weipa , East to Batavia Downs turning left to travel North up the Developmental Road. About 240 k's from Weipa saw us rumbling into Bramwell Homestead, adjacent to Bramwell station - 300,000 acres with 1700 head of cattle - an early and welcome stop after 264,000 corrugations which, at any speed are uncomfortable at best.

I had the meatballs and Ian had the steak - both tasted the same.

The next morning saw us onto the Old Telegraph Track ( TOTT  for us 4WD zealots ) - Palm Creek was strictly for people with not an ounce of fear in their veins as the photo wil attest:then had a look at Gunshot........ummm.......  same deal - see photos.

Cockatoo Creek crossing saw both John and Ian clench their buttocks, Ian more so as John was at the wheel ( Mother of Pearl ! )....but with the help of some people who had just done the crossing and some sage advice from the ever calm Ian, Morrie did us both proud - bonnet height but no dramas.

The ensuing corrugations saw our average speed at walking pace, in fact we were overtaken by an octogenerian butterfly called Cyril.

Fruit Bat Falls - very pretty and then onto Eliot/Twin Fals where we set up camp for the night - dashboard clips have been shaken from their mountings but all is OK. Already very happy to be thinking about not having to tackle the return journey to Cairns by road .

John's pasta Mondiale ( pasta, two types of tuna and you know that sauce that tastes like glue ) sat on our tummies for 3 days - all better now though.

After 3 more tricky creeks crossings - well done Ian - we rattled into Seisia ( near Bamaga ) at 3.34pm on Friday arvo immediately starting to swap war stories about the track. My word some people's vehicles are clearly indestructible or perhaps some exaggeration may have crept in.

Here's Ian.................

We awoke to the news on Saturday that a crocodile during the night hade munched a crab pot on the beach. Now this would not appear to be of the greatly startling variety of news except that our heads were less than 70 metres away safely (or were we?) tucked up in our trusty tent.

Then, at last, we headed for the "tip"(not rubbish, but the realiest northernmost part of mainland Oz) across another 40 ks of merciless corrugations. However, the reward was much much more than we could ever have expected....magic blue and green water, sandy beaches for miles, wonderful views and 3 motoX bikers hooning around on the beach. That last bit jarred somewhat! See photos.

Also checked out ruins of old WW2 bomber and plane debris and multiple fuel dumps outside Seisia.

Really pleased we were able to do 80% of TOTT with some reasonably challenging sections and crossings. Warning for novices: TOTT is well-named. It is OLD, it is a TRACK, but you can forget about the TELEGRAPH bit as that is almost non-existent. It is sometimes no wider than your truck and has been eroded/gouged out over the years.

Tomorrow we embark on a trip to Cairns, corrugation-free, on the good ship MV Trinity Bay. PTL and pass the wafers!

Talk soon!

J & I

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pics of the trip to Weipa......

John seems to be waiting for the trye to re-inflate itself while Ian takes a few casual eventually did change the tyre.
Darcy, our host here in Weipa preparing the seafood gourmet meal.

Thanks for the intro Gatz. team.

Thank you to all those generous spirited folk who have already made a donation;it is appreciated. All donations are individually recognised and will be provided with a fully tax deductible receipt

For those of you who did not catch it initially and would like to donate to Cure Cancer Australia and HMRI, the site is

Thank you for your interest and support.

J & I

17 and 18 July Coen to Weipa feeling flat?

Yep, off we set from Coen in high spirits for the 260 k corrugated experience to Weipa. Morrie's unusual flatulence after a minor creek crossing proved to be a flat tyre, puncture mark invisible to naked eyes, so to speak. After a fair bit of heaving, grunting and high lift jacking we had the spare tyre on and off we set again somewhat more muted at the thought of another flat tyre bringing everything to a grinding halt. It was, however, not to be (PTL) and we arrived at Darcy Hallam's hacienda in Weipa without further ado. He prepared a beautiful meal of oysters, prawns and fish and we felt lucky to be alive, if not fortunate not to have exploded. Darcy is a lovely guy and a captain of the pilot boat in Weipa, bless his drawers.

This morning we were lucky to experience a classic belt and braces performance by a "lollipop" man in Weipa. He brought us to a halt at his crossing with his lollipop and then indicated to his mate 3 metres away that it was safe to cross with a sharp tootle on his mouth-activated whistle. Truly impressive! The good citizens of Weipa care very much for each other!

And so on to the tyre repair joint in Weipa where Peter treated us to the driest laconic humour we had so far experienced. John, please take up the story......

Picture in your mind Weipa Acme garage and sort of battery and tyre joint...............yep, that's it. Galvanised iron front, the BP sign had become flaccid and the reception area was the size of a small billiard table.

We employed our ingress tentatively as we were nervous and anxious about Morrie's flat tyre and the robustness of our future peregrinations. The three people in the reception area were already a little cramped but we befriended them as John makes eye contact and smiles with anyone with a pulse - Oscar, the Dad with the tats and the 30" waist James the two year old son - " Where's your nose James ? " said John 10 times.." Where's your nose? "............" This is your nose......." said John....10 times....but Oscar was clealrly becoming a little uneasy at this behaviour which - PTL - John identified but , I have to say just in the nick of time. The other cobber looked like a maths teacher but he drove a 1991 Peugot know the 1600cc jobbie that would not pull the skin off a God he was soooo proud of this heap of rubbish but we both were sensitive to this wayward love affair and encouraged him to go for the repco alternator although it was not a genuine Peugeot part.

He finally capitulated which shot us to the top of the queue.

" Pete " John said " It's about Morrie's tyre - it's flat and you look like an expert "............" That's yer first mistake " said Pete......kinda like Elliot Goblet.........but said Pete " I know my tyres...........yep....pick 'em a mile off - they're round and black ".

We knew straight away we were in good hands.

The round of golf at Royal and Ancient Weipa would not have been so long if it was only 30 degrees and the lunch menu did include a salad sandwich but the Smiths crisps and the 34 degree heat mixed with the bore water was a prescription that, fortunately was only the domain of elite athletes.........Ged and Christine, Christine still don't fully realise how fortunate they are.

The highlight was the phone call on the 10th from Elliot Goblet " Yer tyre's fixed and ready for discharge from hospital ".........well, talk about laugh, but, nay , the laughter was muted as we still had reservations about Elmer ( who we had glanced briefly at the 8.15am rendevous ) and his capacity to identify the tyre's malady.

We rolled back into the forecourt of Weipa BP Acme at 3.17pm, hot and sweaty after a gruelling 18 holes and ,lo and behold the whole thing turned to gold. Yes, we had run over a sharp rock, punctured the tyre but repairable, Pete ( Elliot Goblet ) made a donation and Elmer threw Morrie onto the hoist with arresting professionalism and put everything back together like all the King's horses and all the King's men with Humpty Dumpty.

The egress would have been wonderful after parting with only 40 clams save for the fact that Elliot Goblet took a shine to Ian's erudite approach to the whole thing and took about 29 minutes to tell Ian his life story - it would have been more comfortable for John if this joint had even a crude dunny.

Mr Goblet went close to being included in the Henderson Christmas letter and made another donation for wasting Ian's time.

Darcy's steak and salad went down a treat tonight after our luncheon of crisps.

Good night.............I think I'll have a Bundy and coke.......haven't had one for about twenty years.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

14 July - 16 July - Terrorising the Mieschs at Lake Tinaroo

We headed off from our rather nice van park in Cairns Central and employed our egress with what can now only be described as consistent efficiency. We wended our way up through the tablelands, through Mareeba - which was preparing itself for its annual rodeo - and onto Miesch central at Lake Tinaroo.
We walked, laughed and cried as we heard the story of Mr Debel, a local mechanic getting mugged three days prior by a druggie - then he said." This is my wife Heather "...and I said " Hello Heather " and then she said..........."Yes it has been nice weather ".....when you're a little crazy you know a lot of extra stuff and when you're a little deaf, that's handy too, but the two don't necessarily row in the same direction.

Chris and Val have a great set up and we were well looked after - chicken curry and a little Sav. Blonk.

It's now Friday and we headed off to Cooktown via the ' coast road ' where Morrie had his first test - e deflated his tyres to 35 psi and comfortably motored through Mossman, the Daintree and across the ferry....great country side - this is Australia kids ........soak it up.

Hit Cooktown at 4.45pm with a well below average repast at the bowlo.........put $10 through a pokie but didn't know how to work the machine; the lady who helped us would have ben helpful if she was not so drunk and angry at losing all her money.

Reached Coen after Morrie's first real test of corrugations (he passed) but discovered a chip in the windscreen (patched) and then busted our mallet hammering tent pegs into granite rock tent floor. Photo will attest.

Short interlude: a day in the life of a "tenter". Wake up, head for amenities block/ablutions. Hazard 1: losing soap in shower along floor to adjacent shower stall. Hazard 2: drying feet sufficiently to avoid wetting shorts being donned. Hazard 3: forgetting item(s) critical to successful ablution and having to return to tent to collect. Return to Morrie for breakfast of cereal and fruit from wonderful fridge (I'd marry it if I could!). Then strike tent remembering to don gloves first and collect 12 (count them, 12) tent pegs, fold tent, fold plastic, shove in Morrie with other stuff, hit road, to do this all again in reverse upon reaching that day's destination. A simple life, a bit like your first car, say, a Toyota Yaris, then graduating over time and the years eventually to a Lexus (or the camping equivalent of a 30 metre Winnebago with tv dish, showers, kitchen, spa, pool room, a lap pool, 5 bedrooms, multiple chaises longues, a drawing room, a smoking room, etc etc).

And now a short PS to the short interlude (Are you still there?): getting to sleep in tent. Sleeping bag or inner only? Blanket or no blanket? Read book or not? If so, head light required. But head light on newly washed hair may result in hat hair. Is that rain or wind outside? Leave tent up in am or pack it wet for drying out at next stop? Drift off to sleep thinking how bloody lucky we are to be doing this..... zzzz. Land of Nod. Sigh!   (Should I get a life or find a job?!)

I have just returned from the Coen pub where I paid $25, yes $25 for a VB six pack - don't tell Christine.

Ginger red dirt, wonderful scenery, the heartland of Australia - God - I love this country.

Thanks for listening.J & I

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paronella Park and Barrelling towards Cairns

It's Tuesday and we left the Gats about 9am with lotsa beautiful fish fillets - we were royally looked after by team Gatkowski - thank you - aimed towards Bingil Bay, ended up at Mission Beach camping area - a lady from Narooma liked Ian quite a lot but I sorted it..........called in at Cardwell where Ian did a week of intensive SES work after Yasi hoping to see how the baker he had helped was travelling but .......sad news..he had, after his second cyclone, Larry then Yasi, moved to Dimboola and the bakery was empty.

 Cardwell to Tully still showing the scars of Yasi but after 5 months starting to show signs of recovery.

It's now Wednesday and another snifter of a day on the track - 7.02am rise with sprinkles of rain but don't worry Uncle , we got your tent down lickety split and into Morrie before it started to rain with purpose.

Spent an hour at Paronella Park just South of Innisfail - an extraordinary thing really - this 26 year old cobber called called Jose ( Joe to his mates ) built this wonderful monument to his dream in about 8 years starting in 1929 - he was a little bullfighter who emigrated from Spain to FNQ on a whim.....
but , despite floods, neglect and perhaps a lack of money this place is still worth a visit - thanks Mel.

Now in a rather nice caravan park in Cairns central with a visit planned tomorrow to terrorise Chris and Val Miesch who I have known for 43 years.....Mother of Pearl!  They have a great hacienda on the edge of Lake of Australia's overlooked nirvanas.

Meanwhile we are mingling with 10,000 other grey nomads per night..........heaven on a stick.

Thanks for listening..............we love this country................

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bowen July 10 2011 - Gloucester Island in background

With Ted and Sue Gatkowski and Koorelah, their boat in the background......right in front of Monte's.....a great lunch spot and holiday resort...........

Bowen central, days 9 and 10 10 - 11 July

A short trip today into Bowen to stay with good friends of John's, Sue and Ted Gatkowski and their son Adam. Within 1.5 hours we were aboard their craft Koorelah travelling at 70 kph (twin Suzuki 175 hp outboard motors) to lunch across the bay opposite Gloucester Island to Monte's, a Bowen icon, for lunch. Trawled for Spanish mackerel without success but what fantastic scenery and jade green waters. Later that night we got up close and personal to the pilotage operations for Abbot Point coal loader and saw off a bloody great ship full of the finest Bowen coal. The next day we spent some time with Adam discussing our trip to Bamaga, toured Bowen and saw the old Catalina ramp and site as well as many of the scenes and scenery out of the Baz Luhrman film Australia (Nic and Hugh) which was set in this very town. Nearly touched by greatness! Huge thanks to all the Gats for their great hospitality and wonderful memories, with pics to prove it, of New Guinea (before it flew solo) back in the 70s. A few musings: why is camping area toilet paper of single ply? John's and my conversations are on the improve and extraordinarily stimulating. Example:" Jeez it's a big country, John!" "Yeah". Life is nice. More later so please watch this space and tell your friends.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Two clowns by a creek

The Proserpine Possie ( How do you spell the mongrel ? )

We are now on the bank of the O' Connell River which is 20k's south of Proserpine - after a 450k drive from Yeppoon - Morrie performing admirably - about 10.5L/100K.........we are going to terrorise our friends Sue and Ted Gatkowski tomorrow and, unless kicked out, Monday as well...........beautiful weather - 7 -25 degrees......

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lesley Dam and Karinya

We left Mr Green's at 8.42am on Monday morning full of anticipation and trepidation; it was our FIRST REAL TENT NIGHT.
We meandered through Tenterfield, where we slammed down a salad roll and then onto Warwick - we filled up there - 9.5 L/100k....not bad - well done Morrie. We then headed for a snifter of a camping area at Leslie dam - 18k's west of Warwick....2 stars and $19.50 a night for a powered site....see lit with flint - steak, mushrooms and 2kgs of peas - those little surprise peas certainly do surprise you with their expansion -  a lot more than the Incredible Hulk. Anna's pots were perfect for the task....and Roger's LED light a winner......thanks you two.

Next morning saw Mrs Schofield's wonderful chicken minnestrone soup warm our cockles - thanks Di.

That day we left at 8.30am through Towoomba - after a local tour and a good look at Fairholme - liked your school a lot Darby.

Then onto Mel's property near Taroom; arrived at 4.07pm where we were greeted by Mel and her mother Narelle - we have been spoilt ever since.

Day 1 at Karinya saw us mustering cattle, cleaning their water troughs at 7.30am and having a good look over the place - not the whole 50,000 acres impressive set up. Tried to start the old Hi Lux but as auto electricians we made good cattle musterers - kinda like Rowdy Yates. We also weighed, inooculated and ear tagged about 3876 head of hang on...we meant 87 head.

The result of the State of Origin was offset considerably by the quality of the cuisine, the red wine and the open fire.

Today saw us repair some leather chairs, hang pictures, do a few odd jobs and much gardening - we love lawn tractors.......................another night of hell in front of the fire sipping a red.

Tomorrow we head off to this space.............

Check these photos...............

J & I

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The First Two Days

Morrie covered his first 243 k's admirably.

Arrived at Geoff Green's farm at 2.55pm on Saturday; went for a tour of the farm - in good shape - all the Black Angus seemed to be happy as Larry, and he's pretty happy.

Geoff' has transformed the farm in four years to a world class operation.

A beautiful gourmet pizza night at the Schoefield's but what we couldn't work out was how Trent mangaed to entertain 3 beautiful women simultaneously.........but that's another story. Thank you to the Schoefield team for the generous donations.

Today we sprung out of bed at 7am and we were fencing by 8.30am.........finished at 5.10pm...................repaired about 2600k's of fence.......We were good.

A quick tour of Tamworth which from all appearances is prospering - the new Equine centre is impressive.

A quick Jack and coke at the Aero club with Simon, Sally and Toby and home to the Green mansion for gourmet bbq tandoori chicken...............thanks's tough so far.....................

Our first two tent nights were wonderful but the real thing  is upon us please God.

Friday, July 1, 2011

D day!

Well here we are at D Day after a thorough check of the vehicle ("Morrie") yesterday including: High lift jack operation:check; puncture repair practice:check; trial pack of Morrie:check. Now compartmentalise your lives into groceries, toiletries, work gear, shoes, electrical bumph, reading material, maps and guides, etc, cooking materials, clothing, you get the drift. Thought: do I need those undergarments or will they just take up much needed space? Should I go commando? No, potential ugly scenes, decorum required. Shove it all in and shed on the way if necessary. What did I forget? Don't worry. Buy it on the way if necessary. Now, using all the crooks and nannies you can find, stuff remaining gear into Morrie and let's hit the road. Tamworth then Taroom here we come! Why did the painters have to arrive at home a few days before we left and why did we need to get rid of 2 cubic metres of soil from a tub on the terrace 1/2 an hour before we left Sydney? Life! "If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run......" We're outa here! Watch this space ............ Posted by Ian