599. Sunday 25th March 2018. Driving for the Commonwealth Games, a surprise for the co-pilot and a tour along the coast…

Monday 19th March

Today the stitches in my eyebrow were removed. There now, that wasn’t so bad. Was it? No, but the surgery on my nose which followed was a bit more uncomfortable and I realise that I have a reaction  to the local anaesthetic which I understand is Xlylocaine and sometimes includes a mild dose of Adrenaline. I seem to get a weakness in the legs, a headache, swelling around the wound and nearby sites, bruising and a general feeling of being unwell. I need to discuss that with my doctor when I front up for the next bit of surgery.

Tuesday 20th March

Donnis was surprised by a visit from her daughter Alecia, sister Linda and her partner, her niece Simone and some friends from way back when. All arrived from Canada today. The surprise was planned about September 2017 and I had to keep the secret all these months. The shock and squeals and tears when Donnis saw all these people, in our lounge room when she emerged from the bedroom was worth waiting for.

Thursday 22nd March

Today was my first work day as a driver for the Commonwealth Games. My job was to collect 10 officials of the Ghana team and bring them to the Games Athletes Village for an inspection of their new accommodation. I drove a Toyota 12 seater Commuter Bus. Communication with the Ghana Officials was quite easy as it seems they were all, if not fluent, at least proficient in English. Before leaving their luxury hotel I politely informed them that wearing a seat belt in Australia is compulsory by law. They all belted up without protest.

The next job was to take 10 members of the Botswana Officials on a shopping excursion. Once I was issued with the car keys and rolled up to collect them we discovered they had been double booked and had already left.

Drat!

Most of the day was spent sitting around and waiting. Many of the athletes, their families and officials have not yet arrived. We had more drivers than people needing drivers. This will change over the next few days and we will be very busy once the games begin.

Friday 23rd March

Another day working for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

I drove the Botswana Team manager to Runaway Bay. Then I was assigned the transport desk in what is known as The Games Family Hotel (otherwise known as Sheraton Grande Mirage.) Wow! That is one delightfully fancy hotel on the beach. I spent two hours waiting for a family member to require a driver.

Alas, my time was wasted.

Sunday 25th March.

Today was busy.

I saw the doctor about my nose surgery as a blister or haematoma is growing inside. As well I wanted to discuss a way to get rid of my belly which stays the same even when I have lost weight elsewhere. A fasting blood test was carried out.

Afterwards I drove visiting Canadians, Fred and Peggy on a tour of the Gold Coast and northern NSW. First we stopped at Burleigh Heads and headed along the coast through Currumbin Beach, Kirra Beach, Coolangatta and the Dangar Point Light Station on  the border. From there we went to Fingal Heads in NSW to see the lighthouse and the Giants Staircase.

The headland itself was made from a lava flow from the now extinct Tweed Volcano. In fact the remnants of the Tweed Volcano stretch all the way into Queensland at least as far as Burleigh Heads where the same Basalt columns can be found. The rock composition in the area is mainly basalt or andesite. These formed into hexagonal columns on the headland and nearby Cook Island when molten lava flowed into the sea and cooled rapidly. About 500 metres offshore from the headland is Cook Island, a rocky uninhabited island first charted by James Cook in 1770 and is named after him. The stretch of water to the island is called the “Giants Causeway”, named after the famous Giants Causeway between Northern Ireland and Western Scotland. Cook Island was made a marine reserve in 1998 and fishing is prohibited in the waters nearby.

A provisional light station was established on the head in 1872 and in 1878 a proper lighthouse, built as a sandstone construction in a round design, was inaugurated.

lighthouse
The original Fingal Lighthouse and accompanying building…not the keepers cottage. Note the unique way of climbing to the lens deck.

It was part of a series of five such lighthouses established between 1878 and 1880. All the original lighthouse buildings including the keepers cottage are gone. Only a few foundations still exist almost hidden by the encroaching scrub. The lighthouse is fully automatic although checked and monitored on a regular basis.

We stopped for lunch at Kingscliff Surf Life Saving Club. The club uses the following as their dining motto. “Great food, comfortable surroundings, friendly staff and the best views in town.” I cannot argue with most of those comments except that the menu is mostly what I call club or pub food. That is, mostly deep fried food including chips.

Although Fred and Peggy were both gobsmacked with the coastal scenery the next destination was the highlight of the tour for them.

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Peggy and Fred at Byron Bay Lighthouse.

Byron Bay, the Easternmost point in Australia and first noted by Captain Cook in his epic 1770 voyage.

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First view of Byron Bay Lighthouse.
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Steep cliffs meant the lighthouse keeper needed to be a man of sober habits.

This was the first time I have stopped and parked at the lighthouse and discovered what a truly iconic building on a rugged clifftop this really is.

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Afternoon sunlight was ideal.

The lighthouse commenced operations in 1901 after a decision in 1890 to build the lighthouse and work commenced in 1899.

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Established 1901.

Snap snap snap went my trusty Panasonic DMC – FZ200 camera. It was having a great time dragging me around via the neck strap.250318 lighthouse4 I had no option other than to follow, scrambling up and down the myriad steps and staircases.

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The pathway is a favourite running track for activity and health conscious people. We watched as they ran up the hill from Byron the the lighthouse then down the tracks far as the top of the cliffs and then turn around and do it in reverse.

Spectacular seems to be a word which is bandied about by many writers.

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Keepers cottage on a challenging steep cliff.

In this case I really cannot think of another suitable word.

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Seeing the lighthouse through the grubby windows of the nearby keepers cottage.
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Even the Army Helicopter came by for a view flying about 50 metres above the water. As the nearest base in in Brisbane they could be part of the military presence in training to support the Commonwealth Games. Look closely and you can see two crew members sitting in front of the open hatch.

Byron Bay itself is a good size town with a modern hospital serving a large district. Most of the population is young backpackers and surfers all looking for a hedonistic lifestyle. The town is overly well endowed with night spots, eateries, coffee shops, bars, surf clothes stores and surfboard shops.

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Looking over the town of Byron Bay with a slowly setting sun, scudding rain clouds and reflected sunlight.

Leaving Byron Bay we drove home via Murwillumbah and over the Murwillumbah/Tweed/Nerang Range into Queensland in failing light where the speed limit was 60 KPH, the corners were 35 KPH and my passengers, not used to such roads, left finger imprints in the upholstery. My thought to take them for a drive up the mountains to Springwood and Binna Burra later in the week has been cancelled. The drive to those locations is steep and with twisting tight corners and even sections of road which are one way. I will have to plan another adventure for them.

I really enjoy being a driver and tour guide, sharing what I know about topical information and local history.

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