Spiders, Kiwis, Butch and Sausage

Aus is home for us and I fucking love the place. Some of the local flora and fauna can be a tad feisty but that only adds to the fun. Don’t like it? Please feel free to politely go away!

Spiders are feisty creatures, the males get a rough wake up call after the wedding night shenanigans, brings a whole new level of demand to the ‘was that good for you’ question.

Spider in this case has 2 legs, a big, beefy torso and Merv Hughes style facial decoration. We arrived in Coowonga in the middle of nowhere. Just a big bloody field where you can park your horse overnight for a princely $10. They also chuck in a fire barrel and a heap of hardwood to keep the friendly midges away. Spider’s function here revolves mainly around building stuff, mending stuff and annoying climate change whingers by chopping down hardwood trees for firewood. Aeroguard and several hundred degrees of fire pit did little to prevent hordes of airborne terrorists from joining in the fun. There is also a pretty scary looking longhorn bull wandering around the paddock as a gentle reminder not to use the bush as your own personal dunny. There is a dunny here from a bygone era, views and airflow awesome, plumbing and privacy need some attention. Maybe something for the Spider to have a squizz at. Spent 3 nights in the company of the Spider before blood levels started getting a bit low, took a dignified retreat to the chemist for antihistamines and pastures new.

Rosedale Pub is also in the middle of nowhere, owned and run by a couple of Kiwis, Dee and Mike. At 2pm on a Sunday arvo, the place was noisy and full to the brim with people getting on with some fairly professional levels of beverage consumption! The young lass in the kitchen got a tad lippy with the owner at lunch so we decided to have some fun. Slid the chef’s outfit on and popped the knife roll under my arm before marching into the kitchen as the new head chef. 10 minutes of Gordon Ramsay style abuse later we let the cat out of the bag and returned to the bar. Just in time to avoid the flying tongs and jug of icy water that landed square in the boss’s grinning face. Job done! Turns out we had also agreed to attend a BBQ the next day with a couple of other local identities, Butch and Sausage.

Butch and Sausage also live in a field in the middle of nowhere. Butch in a bloody big hanger with all of his boaty/farm toys. Sausage in a hut on stilts that slides on and off $130 grands worth of souped up truck. We have a dear friend called Sausage from school. Communal showers are part of the whole boarding school experience where dropped soap generally stays on the floor! This Sausage earned his name from the barbecued variety. After a particularly intense drinking session he had a bit of a tactical chunder, regurgitating an entire, unchewed pork sword for people’s enjoyment. Sausage is also well off the ADHD scale, taking great pleasure in racing the girls around the paddock and in the air with 4WD trucks without spilling a drop! A compound bow got an airing along with an FPV drone and firearms. Firearms, compound bow and 4WD vehicles somehow survived along with all participants, the drone has seen better days. Much fun had, back to the pub for a nightcap and Nurofen!

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Paronella Park

Around 1913, an ambitious Spaniard, José Paronella, sailed to Far North Queensland searching for a better life. Well over 100 years before an arrogant army of geriatric POMs decided that Earl Grey Tea, Big Ears & Co were more relevant than relationships with Europe. Maybe he was psychic and hopped onto a boat to the other side of the world.
He left his future wife at home, planning to accrue a large enough pile of cash to set themselves up. 13 years later, mission accomplished, he popped back to Spain to fetch the Mrs. Sadly for José, the future Mrs Paronella had got the shits. Apparently, she waited 10 years without a word so decided to make paella with some other chap. All was not lost, José hooks up with her younger sister and heads back to Oz to build his dream.

Although José’s letter writing skills were somewhat lacking, his vision and imagination were off the scale. Building his own castle next to a waterfall, planting about 7000 trees including avenues of Kauris, secret gardens through underground tunnels, entertainment areas, a cinema, ballroom and tennis court. The bloke also worked out in the 1930’s that hydroelectric power might be a good idea. Building his own system to power the property and feed electricity back to the local town. Maybe some of the imbeciles that we have in various levels of government could take a page out of his book rather than focus purely on subsidies for wind and solar, just a thought.

Sadly, the place was delivered a bit of a monstering from Mother Nature. Cyclones and floods took their toll. A large kitchen fire probably didn’t help and José met his maker in 1948. Fast forward 75 years and Paronella Park is heritage listed under new custodians reviving Paronella’s dream. Lots of work to be done here but difficult not to get swept up in the passion of owners past and present. Wished Mark all the best and continued on with our own dream.

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Mud Crabbing, Crocodiles, Cassowaries and other FNQ stuff

Mud crabs are always a good idea, catching the bastards however whilst maintaining a full quota of fingers and thumbs is another matter entirely. Also given the creeks here are infested with prehistoric eating machines, the risk of losing a finger or two pales into insignificance. The unwelcome appearance of another variety of mud is not recommended! Took the somewhat less risky, (And cleaner!), option of a trip to the fishmonger. Picked out the biggest bugger in the tank and returned 2 hours later when he was cleaned and cooked for our enjoyment. Delicious!

Smelling strongly of crab the next morning we went in search of larger beasts. Generally, I am not a fan of beasts in captivity, even less of a fan of the watching selfie stick waving muppets knock on the cages! Hartley’s Crocodile adventures was a bit different. Many of the animals in captivity had been relocated here for doing what thousands of years of instinct has taught them. Rex, had a bit of a taste for dog meat. The locals couldn’t work out why the bait in the croc trap disappeared every night. Turns out Rex patiently waited for fluffy and co to come for dinner and helped himself. Doug decided to make golf far more exciting by giving a few chaps on the 16th an underpant filling welcome. Up close and personal, these beasts are truly terrifying and majestic. Bumping into one in the wild without the benefit of a big fence is not going to end well. The place is also a home to 5000 or so smaller versions destined for the handbag and belt shop. $250 for a belt or another zero for a handbag, maybe not. 2 croc burgers please.

Cassowaries here too, kind of like emus on acid. Also relocated from the rainforest after interactions with motor vehicles. A variety of feisty looking snakes here as well as lizards and a fucking big Komodo Dragon. The day ends with watching Hagrid, a 400 kilo bundle of anger and attitude chasing one of the zookeepers around inside the cage. Happy this time to remain on the selfie stick side of the experience!
Off to the pub to watch the girls send the frogs packing. Slow start the next day croissants and a whine anyone?

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Our original plan was to get as far as Cape Tribulation before a gentle amble back South. My trusty co-pilot poo-pooed that idea and pointed us back North. A gentle 4 hours later we find ourselves in Cooktown. Seems like little has changed here since Captain Cook tried parking his boat on the Barrier Reef 250 odd years ago. The local fellas get on the piss nice and early, before falling over for a morning siesta waiting for the bottle shops to open. No cask wine available before 4pm, so bottles of vodka get tipped into one of the morning’s beer bottles with a dash of orange cordial. Ice and a slice with that Sir?

Away from the pavement style sleeping facilities, we found a campsite and plugged the horse in for a couple of nights. We spotted a walking loop around the town on the local map. Not much of a scale to go by, so whacked on the sandals and headed off. First obstacle was a cheeky creek by the botanical gardens. Given the quantity of crocodile warning signs in this part of the world, we took the slightly underpant filling crossing on a dodgy plank and scampered into the relative safety of the park. An hour or so later around the walk, sandals were proving a less than ideal choice where the nice gentle looking dotted line failed to indicate an iron man style challenge around most of its twisty inclines and descents! Fortunately, a full camelbak was a more sensible choice and we duly arrived at ‘grassy hill lookout’ where Captain Cook had a long think about his driving skills and pondered his awkward situation in 1770. Gentle hike back down to town and the campsite for a well earned dinner.

Took a waft around the museum the next day, pretty awesome reading some of Captain Cook’s log. Bumped into a couple of other grey nomads in the pub before grabbing some steak from the local IGA and heading back. ‘Steak’ was about 1.5 kilos of FNQ’s finest which was introduced to Mr Weber for our enjoyment. The grey nomads from the pub wafted in a couple of spots away from us and invited us over for pre dinner drinks. Drinks turned into dinner, chef’s jacket and hat came out, much cow consumed! Dinner morphed into drinks again. #vanlife

Took a gentle detour to the iconic Lions Den Hotel about half an hour out of Cooktown. Didn’t fancy the mud bath in the powered sites, so snuck into a dryish looking patch under the trees further away, perfect. Lions Den Hotel is well known to most who have ventured up here. The place looks like an old mining town bar with the walls plastered by stuff left by far more modern travellers. No WiFi, no phone reception. All day bar, all day pizzas, don’t mind if we do. Surprised but happy to find my local ginger beer from Brookie on tap, perfect for washing down seriously cheesy pizza! Bed beckoned before safely steering Fergie past the mud traps and back to the safety of the road.

Off to Mossman to do the water in/out thing then Palm Cove about 300km South. Off we go again!

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Yoga and Meditation and Spa retreat with Bels and Amber

Got a message from a yoga chum of ours wondering if we were anywhere near Cairns. An hour or so’s drive in the wrong direction didn’t seem too arduous, so off we headed to Palm Cove. 

Bels and Amber had popped up here for a relaxing weekend of yoga, meditation and a cocktail or two. Yoga and meditation were popped on hold for day one which ended up in the rooftop spa. Enough said. There was a look of concern as a letter from building management came under the door the next morning. Turns out it was just a heads up for a wedding that evening. Security would be on site and festivities would cease by 10.30. Excellent, we can whack the tunes up a level or two! Negronis for brekky?

Nipped into the local Coles for dinner. A serving of duck with a few yummies was the order of the evening. Wobbled back to to our bus for a detox!

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Mud wrestling with Fergie

Never mud wrestle with a pig! You will both get covered in shit but the pig will enjoy it.
This mantra generally applies when dealing with imbeciles. Sadly, I have to accept the imbecile sticker for this one.

Having stayed at Tablelands previously, we thought we were booked into the same spot. Sadly not. We were ushered towards a mud pit down a nasty looking road, no thank you! Option 2 was pretty level, albeit on some pretty spongy turf. Turns out that pretty spongy turf and 4.5 tonnes of front wheel drive Fergie are a bad mix. Zero traction, fucked with a capital F. Tried bunging a few planks of wood under the front wheels to give them some traction, a handful of matchsticks would probably have been more use. The campsite owner pops over with a couple of fairly hardcore traction track thingys together with some local bush lad with a shovel.

Long story short, the local bush lad/shovel/track thingy combo did the trick and I scampered to safety.
Morals to the story!
1. When in doubt, fuck off and park somewhere else.

2. When ‘A Bloke from the bush’ offers help. He probably knows what he is up to in this sort of situation. I headed off to the local for a slab of thank you. His words when I get back, “You don’t need to do this mate, it’s just what I do” Bloody oath mate. Beers, respect and heartfelt thanks from us both. Beautiful human.

Off for some yoga and spa treatments in Palm Cove in the morning

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Mossman, Daintree and Cape Tribulation

After the fun and games that was Port Douglas, time to get back on track and head North again. The horse was a touch thirsty and the smelly fluid box was beginning to emit some alarming warnings! Found a dump point in Mossman before heading up the hill to Tablelands campground for a cane toad and active wear free afternoon and a chance to smash out a couple of loads of washing.

Up bright and early, (ish!), in the morning, clean jocks on, and off we go. Followed the sign for the tourist trail to Daintree and ended up in the queue for the ferry! Never mind, when in Rome! Crossing a croc infested river on a little ferry is an unnerving experience. A couple of lads with gondola poles would probably have more horsepower than this thing. Happily and safely we reached the other side and pressed on. Driving through a rainforest is a first for us, utterly awesome as we dragged Fergie’s oversized arse through the narrow roads. Decided not to have a swim in the local waterhole but more than tempted to shove a few noisy children in to test the ‘safe’ to swim notices.
Didn’t fancy risking going much further so parked Fergie in the Cape Trib carpark and headed off on foot. Cape Trib for those who have not been here is a point on the map rather than a small town. Pub, motel and booked out caravan park is the sum of its parts. Except of course for an unreal beach and spectacular views over the Coral Sea. Took a nice long hike up the beach and back and whacked the drone up for a few pictures.

Turns out that booking an overnight berth up here is a bit of a must with pretty much everything booked out for at least a week ahead. Didn’t fancy playing dodgems with the local wildlife as the sun was setting so ended up paying a small fortune to park in a field masquerading as a camp ground.
Found a cheeky free spot the next day so parked Fergie up and went exploring. Needing a piss in croc country is an awkward situation. Getting caught with the Hampton out in public is generally frowned upon. Legging it down the beach with 500 kilos of prehistoric eating machine in hot pursuit is unlikely to make repacking the aforementioned Hampton any easier! Made it safely back to the van, locked the doors and checked underpants for impact. Turns out that camping in the middle of a rainforest is fucking noisy! All manner of nocturnal beasts generally scampering about in their quests for food and fun. Was almost a relief when the sun came up and a gentle trip back to the ferry. The awesomeness and raw beauty of this place cannot be underestimated.

Took a baby detour on the way out for a bit of a mooch around Mossman Gorge. Holy crap again! The magic and beauty of the rainforest is on full display here. Managed an hour or so walk before the rain stopped play.

Took refuge in Daintree Village and parked the horse up opposite the pub!

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Port Douglas

10 days and almost 2000km since collecting Fergie, weather looking a little perkier, so time to slow down. Port Douglas looked like a possible stop for a couple of days a few walks and some misbehaviour!

Once again, the trusty park4night app comes up trumps with a car park right next to the Marina, pretty much in the middle of town. Took a gentle amble around the clifftop pathways and generally checked out the surrounding area. Handy facilities close by for numbers greater than one, a stack of bars, even a Coles a few minutes walk away. Don’t mind if we do!

Enjoyed a gentle feed in the fading sun and noticed a sign in the pub over the road. “Cane Toad Racing Tonight” Sounds like a hoot, tickets bought. I have raced many a strange species over the years, lobsters, hermit crabs, beetles, mice, (Including mouse vs Monitor Lizard!), sheep and frogs but never a toad. Let alone an invasive, poisonous one. Only in Australia! fun! Turns out the toads in the racing paddock were generally far smaller and far less poisonous looking than many of the ones stalking around town in activewear looking for kisses. Back in the pub, there is a pre-race bid to be the jockey, generally ending anywhere between $50 and $100 to ‘ride’ one of these. A bunch of toads wearing coloured hair ties for ID are popped into the starting bucket. Donald Jump, Aussie Aussie Aussie, Gay Freddo, camel toad and a few others. Each jockey is issued a ‘whip’, (One of those annoying party, blow/noise things), to encourage your investment over the edge of the table. Then it is just a matter of catching the slippery bastard before it makes a dash for the NSW border. Pop it into the winning basket first to win! Easy!
Five, four, three, two, one, GO! Mayhem as each jockey gives their party blower full throttle. About half make a bolt for it. The other half looking more like their activewear wearing mates, standing around in the middle of the bar area waiting for another arse tickle. All toads generally end up in the winning basket and prizes are awarded. A can of Great Northern seems to be the main prize. Why pay less?

Much fun had, took the 25 metre walk back to our digs.

Bit of a potter about town the next day followed up by another round of racing in the evening.
Turns out that overnight stays in the carpark are not strictly legal with a round of running with the rangers a strong possibility. Fortunately no unwelcome rangers, (Or toads), disturbed us so took a detour around an army of tree ants for an mooch around the local Sunday market. Noticed these two potential Darwin Award recipients who wandered past the sign for a bit of a paddle! Good luck with that!

Time to go, off to Mossman

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Coolum Beach to Cairns

Our home for the next six weeks, Fergie, has had a pretty cushy first two years of life. Road trips seem to have existed as gentle wafts between official campsites with associated power, water and easy access to restaurants. This is likely to be a bit of a smack on the arse. Campsites will be for filling up with water, fast charging mobile devices, smashing out a load or two of laundry and giving J4x access to hair straighteners and her beloved Dyson! First stop Coles to fill the fridge with goodies and general BBQ dirtying things.
Off we go. Bugger all plans, just need to be back on the Sunny Coast 1 September. Pointed the beast North and pressed the go forwards pedal. Given Fergie’s lack of real life experience, the contents of the water tank were unlikely to be helpful in our quest to ban numbers greater than one from the dunny so popped into a tourist info place to find clean water and somewhere to flush the water tank. The lovely people in the tourist office had heaps of info, sadly, none of any fucking use whatsoever! Got on the blower and booked ourselves in Poona Palms Holiday Park about 150km North.

Water in/water out checklist ticked. Power attached. Whacked half a cow onto the BBQ and chilled out for the night. Incredibly comfy bed, no more faffing around climbing up ladders into the cubby hole above the cabin for us.

Lazy start for us and a couple of visits to the facilities to liberate the aforementioned cow. Hervey Bay is only about an hour North, so booted up the trusty park4night app to check out free spots for the night. park4night guided us around Scotland and Spain in our quest to pay as little as possible in camping fees last year. Shady/flat area on the edge of a car park ticks the boxes, bloody oath! Took a bit of a wander around town then out on the awesome pier before settling in for dinner. Up the next morning and happy to discover that Fergie’s overnight thirst for battery power was minimal. Also, the rooftop solar panels were happily getting on with the business of refilling the batteries. Quick stop at the local shopping centre for a crap and purchase a few bits for the kitchen before getting back on the road.

Agnes Waters had been mentioned as pretty awesome and about three hours drive. park4night identified a handy car park for the night, perfect. Sadly we arrived at the same time as an army of construction workers reworking the entire beach front. Never mind, parked up overlooking a tranquil lake, whacked a chook on the barbie and got on the piss!

Rockhampton next, 225km about two and a half hours. Our handy Scrooge app takes us to a plot at the top of Mount Archer, overlooking the town. Had a nasty encounter with a big mouse spider whilst having a piss in the bush, so retreated to the BBQ and got stuck into a leg of lamb!

Fergie’s legs are getting a proper stretching and they/them (!) responded with a hissy fit! Big warning lights in a Motorhome are never welcome. Instructions like ‘Check Engine’ and ‘Check Gearbox’ are as welcome Mr Whippy and his smelly chums. Oh, hang on, I’ll pop the bonnet. Yup, both there! Parked up and waited for the RAC man to arrive. He duly arrives moaning about Fiat vehicles and starts checking Fergie’s private parts. Like most who identify as they/them, Fergie’s original private parts are still present and correct, functioning as designed. RAC Man delivers a spot of electric shock treatment, problem solved. Maybe a message in there for the woke brigade!

Couple of hours delay then off to Barracrab Camp site another couple of hundred K’s away for water and stuff! Sadly, the water here is bore water and saltier than a packet of Smith’s finest. One tap for filling the kettle and fuck all else! Water tanks now drier than a Nun’s nasty and the weather has decided on rain for a few days. Not just rain, but 60kmph winds. Didn’t fancy any of that malarkey so pressed on to Mackay.

Visiting Trish and Ken had always been the plan on this long awaited trip. Covid, family and Europe visits put a kybosh on this until recently!! Sadly however Trish passed away before we ever made it!  But we still kept to our word and met up with Ken, seeing where they built their new life together.  As we all know life is so short and for Ken losing Trish at such a young age is totally devastating. Ken welcomed us with open arms and we plugged our van in for the night and proceeded to have a tour of Mackay, thanks to Judy, Ken’s private driver aka good friend of both Trish and Ken.Dinner at Mackay bowlo was delicious!! Thanks Ken- see you next time 🙏❤️

Quick hour and a half dash in the pissing rain to Prosperpine. Free spot in the middle of town was quickly turning into a Motorhome sized mud wrestling pit so stayed the night and got cracking again in the morning.

Weather still less than friendly so took a long, slow drive to Forrest Beach about 400km up the road. What a find, a beautiful area right by the beach for independent horses (self contained vans for those who have just tuned in!) Our horse was very happy, plenty of water and rest place, we were happy with hot showers, clean loos and even had a plug point in the bathroom.  Locals very welcoming $15 for the night!! 

Now we’re really heading into the tropics! Off to Bramston Beach another 200k’s up the road. Lush, green and stunning scenery! Exactly what we were hoping for! Headed to a campsite that was way too hippy for us. Generally not a fan of soap dodging, dopeheads, all this offered was muddy sloping field, and a fat hippy chick, brain damaged by more than an occasional puff! Plus a shed for joining in with other spaced out musos for their daily jamming session. Wild cassowaries are apparently a regular sight here, the only brightly coloured bird we saw was a fat one in a loud shirt. No thanks, we headed straight back out, wheels spinning to escape being bogged!!! continued driving to the beach and found ourselves a beautiful spot right on the beach!! Showers and loos clean, filled horse up, very happy!! 

Off to Port Douglas next, bloody oath

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After the last ear shattering experience, we found a couple of alternative horses and decided on Fergie in Coolum Beach. Not far from where the MoonBears live. Hopped onto the train from Brisvegas and headed North for a night with them.

Arrived early the morning to meet Fergie.

Fergie is a 25 foot, 2 year old. Who, according to owners David and Kellie, identifies as they/them! Not too fussed about the whole they/them thing, but genuinely happy with Fergie’s sleek, shiny lines and slide out queen sized bed. All the bells and whistles on board. Solar panels on the roof. Big fridge/freezer, oven, grill, cooktop, microwave. Heaps of storage. Porcelain dunny and sink, lovely gas powered shower, even a washing machine and a barbie that plugs into the Fergie’s gas system! Don’t mind if we do.

Obligatory checks complete, time to hit the road.

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