footloose and fancy free in oz

A bloke, his better half, and a 4WD truck, in the wild blue yonder of the red continent

Heading out of town, at last

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29 Jan – 23 Feb

As the rains passed, we made our way out of town. Since we have every intention of living on “island time” we were in no hurry to get far away fast, and made Bribie Island our first stop.

We’d often visited Bribie for day trips as it was the nearest surf beach (and, more to the point, the nearest beach that wasn’t the Gold Coast).

The first few days we made the surf beach at Woorall our temporary home. While it was a sad sight after the storm due to severe erosion (at places around 2.5 – 3m) and great loss of trees, it was a good place to ‘dry out’. We also deemed it a good place for our washing machine to pop its cherry.  (We’d purchased a dinky wee twin-tub machine that is very modest in its water and energy consumption and just fits into our outside storage bin/compartment ). Anyway, its maiden wash was pretty encouraging and I gladly gave it five stars. As for hanging the washing out to dry when you’re free-camping in public places  … well, that takes some getting used to. Having sheets and various items of clothing spread out on drying racks in the sun was a bit much given my penchant for privacy. It looked like the circus was moving into town and I was way out of my comfort zone.

But Bribie was a good first base camp for a number of reasons. In the past, we’d always been somewhat nonplussed about the place. On this occasion though, our experience was vastly different- probably because our head space had changed which meant we actually ‘got’ the vibe of the place. Also, we were super glad about all the wonderful bicycle paths on the island and used them daily for excursions.

The island vibe was endearing. We noticed that people greeted each other and always seemed to have time for a chat. The pace of life seemed better balanced. We had a number of pleasant encounters with very welcoming locals in and around Bongaree, and were invited to sunset drinks on the foreshore with a few residents who live there. It’s a very pleasant foreshore with a sandbank that is home to flocks of various migratory birds.

We also got chatting with a local who seemed to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the place. He made us appreciate the historic relevance of Bribie as the place where Matthew Flinders first made landfall with his trusted local ‘assistant’ Bongaree. I was also embarrassingly ignorant that the extraordinary and highly eccentric artist Ian Fairweather was among the more famous (some would say infamous) island residents. Incidentally, the Seaside Museum in Bongaree daily screens a wonderful documentary about the man – A Fairweather Man (check Title??). It’s a very touching and insightful portrait of one of Australia’s most famous and certainly most remarkable mid-century painters. If you have an interest in the arts (or enjoy a good documentary), I’d urge you to check it out!

Our view in Bongaree, Bribie


We’d visited the Glasshouse Mountains area before, but wanted to spend some time in the general area  before  visiting a festival further north and subsequently heading down the coast towards southern New South Wales.

In between showers, and sometimes in between dry spells, we managed a couple of excursions on our mountain bikes, visited the spectacular Mary Cairncross Park with its impressive virgin rain forest where we fed the ravenous local mosquito population, climbed Mt Ngungun, and – in search of a great spot to camp for the night – nearly got ourselves stuck in a gnarly bit of forest road where big trees had a habit of growing in all the wrong places.

In search of free WiFi and to save us from the bizarrely huge data accumulation on our mobile broadband stick (which is a story in itself) we went to the Beerwah library where we had a couple of Skype chats and responded to emails. Unfortunately the upload speed was throttled so severely the library closed before 40MB worth of photos could be uploaded onto Dropbox.

As we strolled through Beerwah, I couldn’t help noticing that so many of the people there somehow looked the same. Not wanting to throw stones in glass houses …  but the weird thing was, they all somehow had a striking resemblance with Humpty Dumpty. Maybe it’s something to do with a deep fondness for beer (it’s in the name, after all), but I’ve seriously never before seen that many human barrels, let alone in one place.
Glasshouse Mtns
Glasshouse Mountains


We slowly made our way towards the back country area beyond Kilcoy to attend the Earth Frequency Festival where the bloke and I were lucky enough to secure volunteer positions in lieu of festival tickets.

Beforehand we went to Maleny (to date our perhaps most favourite small town in Qld) and drove 10km to Lake Baroon (a “pocket dam”, whatever that is) where we rather enjoyed the SEQ Water owned day-stay picnic area. It was a Monday so it was all but deserted – we had the place to ourselves and soaked up the peace and quiet. In fact, we liked enough to try our luck camping just outside the gate that was locked at 6pm.  Luck was on our side and nobody moved us on.

After a couple of days we headed towards the ‘back of beyond’ otherwise known as the Earth Frequency Festival site. It took us along a pleasant route through a wee national park with the last 20kms being dirt road through a rather enchanted forest. It appeared so serene in the afternoon light that we simply had to stop there for the night. We had a superb spot, near a natural amphitheatre as it turned out, and were treated to an extraordinary bird chorus at dawn and dusk. However, the acoustic feast was accompanied – it must be said – by impolitely cool temperatures.

Call me gullible, but I was under the impression that subtropical Queensland was blessed with, well, subtropical temperatures. Based on current experience, I would say this clearly doesn’t seem to include the area surrounding the Sunshine Coast Hinterland which was more than just a tad frigid on this midsummer’s afternoon and evening. I sported a great crop of goose bumps and instantly hunted for my cardigan and the woollen blanket. Mind you, given all the rain we’d been having since we set off, I reminded myself to focus on the positive i.e. the (momentary) absence of precipitation and flooding in surrounding areas.

The four days of the festival were pretty much ‘off the hook’. We enjoyed the abundant live & DJ music that had us boogying through the nights, the fantastic eco/spiritual type workshops and a fabulous, most colourful and up-for-it crowd in a delightful natural hilltop and forest setting. Well yes, it was cold, and yes it rained (sometimes poured) but frankly, it barely registered given the awesomeness of this 24-hour-a-day festival.

We had planned to stay on site until the day after the festival, but in light of persistent heavy rain (and consequently the prospect of a very slow and muddy mass exodus), we departed around closing time to head towards, believe it or not, more rain.

Earth Freq
A teeny taste of the Earth Frequency crowd


By now we were tempted to stop listening to the weather forecast in Groundhog day fashion because we didn’t much like the picture that was emerging, namely that vast areas along the QLD and northern NSW coast were either cleaning up from very recent flooding, were currently flooded or were preparing for impending floods.

We did our best not to let it dampen our spirits but it did strike us as sub-optimal when it became clear that, courtesy of a seemingly endless series of “weather systems” all around us, there was practically nowhere dry to escape to.

So the decision was made to wait it out where we were by now, south of the Tweed Coast. Surely this weather can’t last forever. Besides, it seemed of dubious benefit to spend tank loads of fuel so we could be in another, inevitably equally wet location. Mind you, it did seem pretty bad around here with massive beach erosion (3m in the Gold Coast area), uprooted trees, flooding, road damage, not to mention lots of frizzy hair.

‘On-screen weather forecast’

In the midst of all this mayhem, the bloke in his infinite wisdom decided to drive along a very narrow road fringed with protruding trees, to look at the neighbourhood. No need to point out that it was against my better judgment, but suffice to say that one bit of road turned out to be too narrow for our outside light and one side panel. In other words, the bloke managed to make his mark on the camper. In doing so, he also turned me into a very grumpy and foul-mouthed bunny. ( If we had a swear jar at that point, its contents would most probably pay for the repair.)


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