Month: July 2019

592. Friday 26th July 2019. Wetlands, Ball Bay, Smalley’s Beach, Belmunda and Reliance Creek…

Thursday 25th July.

In the morning I went for a walk to the nearby wetlands reserve. I had a nice walk around the perimeter and watched the several groups of Magpie Geese camped on the low mounds around each pond.

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Magpie Geese, at rest and on patrol.

It seems they use a group safety system. While some sleep others seem to keep an eye over the flock while others seem to walk around like security guards. If anything causes concern, such as me walking 100 metres away, the walking guards honk while the watchers take up the call and if I get too close such as on the other side of the pond, they all take off, in silence, except for the noise of hundreds of wings flapping.250719 magpie geese1 Then on some signal they all land a few hundred metres away and go back to sleeping, watching or walking. 250719 magpie geese2Sometimes two or more birds take off or some come in to land. Never one bird alone. As there were several such groups, they all carried out the same routine as I approached.

I also caught sight of a pair of Brolgas (Australian Cranes) tippy toeing on the edges of the wetlands trying to be typically secretive as Brolgas appear to do.

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To me Brolgas always look like they are stalking or tracking something…which they probably are. I was hoping to see a courtship dance butbthis is probably an older married couple and they no longer go dancing.

I continued my wanderings across the places where I lived and played for many years. Re-visiting, re-living and in some way having a new experience with eyes that see differently.

Today I drove through Habana, then onto a gravel rural road to Yakapari and onto the Yakapari to Seaforth Road. Along the way I was also looking for abandoned houses and strange letterboxes.

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Abandoned farmhouse near Yakapari.

Often I want to stop when I see one of those items, there is nowhere to park the car and when I do find a place, the prospect of hiking back to the site does not appeal. At least in most cases it is on rural back-roads so frequent stopping is OK but trying to slow down and stop on a more populated road or even a main highway is nigh on impossible.

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another abandoned farmhouse near Yakapari.

Today I turned off just before Seaforth and drove to the sleepy village of Ball Bay. Most of the village is made up of permanents and the rest are weekenders. What quickly became obvious is this is a town where all the NO signs grow. No Parking, No camping, No stopping, No water, with other signs which ask you to report suspicious behaviour. Perhaps drug smugglers use the beach to umm err, smuggle.

The beach is a wide arc of rough muddy sand and looks uninviting at low tide and it seems everywhere I have gone these last three weeks it is low tide. Ball Bay has no appeal for me and I felt disinclined to photograph anything.

The village has no shops or other services. They have telephone but no town water or sewerage. They do have garbage collection.

After leaving Ball Bay I stopped to look at a rock feature which is the tall peak of an ancient volcanic caldera.

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I have no idea if this remnant of a volcanic caldera has a name but I will call it Ball Bay Peak. It will appear in several photos.

We have always called them jump ups but in reality are just the remains of the volcanic walls which have eroded at a slower pace than other parts. Looking at a Google Earth Photo it is plain to see the caldera outline with Ball Bay nestled into the sea side opening.,148.9927266,4173m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

Next stop was the little campground controlled by Queensland Parks and Wildlife at Smalley’s Beach.

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Smalley’s Beach

There are only 11 sites, all screened from each other by trees and shrubs and all with a view through those trees to the beach.

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Smalley’s Beach looking towards Ball Bay and Seaforth on the other isde of the hill.

I should mention the beach here is mainly shell grit but at the top of the beach the sand is more like a fine layer of clinging dust. Most of the beaches in this area have a similar dust like sand at the approach to the beach.

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Rocks spewed from an ancient volcano at Smalley’s Beach

There is a view across the coral sea to some of the lower Whitsunday Islands across a normally calm and placid expanse of sea. The southern end of the beach is covered with small boulders which seem to be remnants of spewed volcanic material from an insanely distant fiery past.

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Looking cross the bay from Smalley’s Beach towards islands in the Cumberland Group.

There are no facilities here so campers need to be self sufficient and must take all their rubbish with them as there are no garbage facilities either. Interestingly the people who come here are more often from overseas and have found the location by diligent research. Most Mackay locals would not have heard the name and if they have, could not tell you where it is. We camped here in our first motorhome, a converted Toyota Coaster bus way back in 2005. It is quite simply a congenial place to sit back, do nothing and veg out type of place. If you can find them, talk with your neighbours.

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Abandoned House at Smalleys Beach
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another abandoned house at Smalley’s Beach

Next up was Belmunda Beach.

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Belmunda looking across Sand Bay towards Cape Hillsborough.

This location is poorly signposted and is on a rough gravel road after turning off from another dry and dusty gravel road. It passes through two types of landscape. Sugar cane stretching off into the distance and low scrub on flat salt/clay pans in a flood prone zone.

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Knobbies Creek

Belmunda Beach is on a raised hillside above the low lying marsh area.

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Knobbies Creek.

People who live or weekend here need to be self sufficient. Most houses are really nothing more than rough huts. There is no electricity, no water, no sewerage and no garbage collection. I saw one sign to say the property was for sale and the main selling feature was the 12 volt system powered by batteries and solar panels. The tiny village is cut off during the annual wet season when flooding rain turns the normally placid Knobbies Creek into a kilometres wide angry raging flood.

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Knobbies Creek
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Free camping on Knobbies Creek near Belmunda.

To live here you need to be comfortable in your own skin and or hiding from the world. Or hiding from the law. Or both. There is not much to see or do here except fish. There are no facilities, not even a bench seat to have a lunch or even just somewhere to sit. Unlike Ball Bay there are no NO PARKING signs. In fact there is an absence of signs – unlike Ball Bay.

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Looking across the salt clay pans towards Ball Bay Peak.

Along the way I saw several abandoned houses worthy of stopping and taking photos.

By the way, it is mid winter and the temperature was around 24° with very little humidity. It is ideal weather except for the chilly south easterly breeze in the open.

From a high point on the high point of Belmunda I could see Cape Hillsborough across the bay in the distance. Then I saw what looked like a giant archway which I have never seen before and in fact did not know it existed.

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The mysterious cavern/arch near Cape Hillsborough. I spoke with my sisiter who has bushwalked around Cape Hillsborough far more than me and she never knew it was there. The tall shadowy almost volcanic looking island in the background is Brampton Island and or Carlisle Islands.

What the!!!

I thought maybe it was an optical illusion but it is real. I needed to do quite a lot of research and thanks to The Mackay Bushwalkers Club, Message Stick news letter I now know it seems there is no official name on a map. The Bushwalkers call it Cape Hillsborough Arch and Sea Cave. It seems even some of their members did not know it existed either. More details can be found here. and again here


Also from here I had a clear view of Brampton and Carlisle Islands. Here is a little video about Brampton.

Considering what I thought was a lack of something to photograph I still managed to take 94 photos today.

On the weight loss program I am pleased to announce my weight is now down to 74.3 Kg. My target? 72 Kg or less.

Friday 26th July

I spent the morning downloading photos, on-line research and writing up my notes from yesterday. Initially I thought I would spend all day doing the photos but the weather is so nice I decided it was time to get out.

I drove to Shoal Point and a little dirt road which leads to Hodges place, a property with many acres surrounding a house on a spit of land which could get washed away if it were not for the original Hodges building a huge rock wall near the house site. I found a parking spot just outside the fence and gates with the Private Property, No Entry signs posted. Another three cars were also parked here. It is not such a secret location. I had decided to walk to Reliance Creek to see what devastation has occurred over the last XX years. The walk from where I parked the car to the mouth of Reliance Creek is about 1 Klm.

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I cannot begin to imagine why an Australian Flag would be here. Time and weather have not treated it kindly. Those “sticks” in the sand are the remains of ancient mangrove roots. Newer mangroves can be seen in the background working on the slow recovery of land. It was fifficult walking among these sharp roots. Not only having to be careful where to put your feet as there are lots of small roots just slightly above the sand level. It is so easy to trip on them but worrying that if you fall one could impale you.

I should mention that between Shoal Point and Cape Hillsborough are three major creeks draining into the shallow Sand Bay. Reliance Creek is the first. It is quite a trudge along the beach at low tide as there are many obstacles of loose sand, shell grit, exposed dead roots of dead mangrove forests, deep mud, rocks and during the day the dry sand gets very hot on bare feet. The grittiness of the sand caused a blister on a big toe.

In September 2018 I walked most of the way and reported on a car which somehow manged to be driven to where it was finally bogged and irretrievable.

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I wrote about and photographed this car in September 2018. Time tide, the effects of salt water on metal and some mindless vandalism is helping to destroy what is left.

I can report the car is still there although there is much less of it now. I pushed on until I reached the mouth, which at the moment was a wide expanse of sand due to being at the bottom end of the tide.

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Mouth of Reliance Creek at low tide.

In 6 hours where I was standing would be under water as a 7 metre tide range returns.

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A small trickle of water still moves through from a side tributary of Reliance Creek.

It was quite eerie standing there below the bank with mangroves, mud banks and sand sand sand in all directions.

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A tributary with water still on the run out tide.

That and of course the knowledge this creek is a well known spot for Crocodiles.

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Niece Kelly netted a baby Crocodile here at high tide in September 2018. Where there are babies there are Mums and Dads. I kept a very wary eye looking for Crocs. The only footprints all along the sand bar of the mouth of the creek are mine. It makes for a lonely feeling.
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My great nephew Ollie holding a baby Crocodile his mum netted and brought aboard the boat last September. This was taken in Reliance Creek by my niece Kelly at a spot near where I was standing today at low tide.

My exploration was brief as in places the sand was deceptively soft and or like a quicksand with a very damp mud beneath the recently laid down surface of sand. I had not told anybody where I was going so I needed to take care. Not only Crocodiles live here but so do sharks, stingrays, stonefish, a variety of snakes and legions of mosquitoes and sandflies.

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That little raised portion of sand which clearly shows various tide levels is the direction I have to head to begin my long trek back to Shoal Point.
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Even from th sandy mouth of Reliance Creek I can see the monolith of Ball Bay Peak where I visited yesterday.
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This is a demarcation line between sand and mud where ancient mangrove beds are still just below te surface. In fact dig the sand and within a short dig you will encounter the mud and root beds.
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This is what is created by mangrove roots and where the mangroves have died ff but beneath the surface where mud was created the roots still form a mass strong enough to retian most of its foothold. Eventually the mangroves will return and start again.
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Blue Heron on mud flats at Reliance Creek.

691. Wednesday 24th July 2019. Mackay Harbour, Blacks Beach Spit, Hay Point, Half Tide, Salonika and Grasstree Beaches…


Monday 22nd July

On Friday I heard a Naval Ship was in Mackay Harbour. I drove to the harbour but it was gone. Most likely it was HMAS Melbourne on final manouvres and taking part in the joint US, Japan, Australian war games exercise at Shoalwater Bay. However a mock battle was staged on Queens Beach, Bowen today and several ships took part in that exercise.

So, I missed seeing the ship but did see a huge tanker being manouvred into a berth by two tugs.

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The tug boats were busy moving the ship into the wharf.

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The Pilot vessel stood by while all this was going on.

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The Pilot Boat was on standby although I do not know what it could do if something went wrong. Look at the tugs in the other photos, they are both connected to the ship by docking lines.

From the Harbour I went to Vines Creek area of North Mackay to see some boats which have been careened in the mangroves, presumably for repairs.

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Vines Creek is well known for boats, mainly older needing work that never seems to get completed as the amount of work increases by the square root of no work being done.

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While there I also saw another abandoned house to add to my collection.

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Abandoned house North Mackay.

This area of Mackay is a bit of an enigma with very large houses built of brick and fastidiously tidy stand alongside older houses well past their use by date, with loads of rubbish littering the front yards.

Tuesday 23rd July

Today I took a walk along a track to the Blacks Beach Spit.

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Blacks Beach Spit Track

The track is closed to vehicular traffic but has signs indicating distances and alternate paths to the beach.

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In the tropics it pays not to go to near some bushes. These things are a Green Ants nest. One touch on the outside and you will be swarmed by the frenzied biting ants. Not only from the nest but somehow every ant on every branch and on the ground somehow know that you are an intruder and you must be attacked at any cost. Their bodies also have a sticky substance that helps them to cling to skin and clothes.

I recall driving on this track many years ago and realistically although it is closed off I recall that it has not changed a great deal.

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Along the lonely Blacks Beach Spit Track there are several directional signs and several conveniently placed bench seats. I never saw another person on the track, the beach or even in the street where I parked the car.

The track skirts the sand dune area behind the beach front on one side and McCready’s Creek on the other.

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Notice the strong wall of roots put down by every mangrove plant. Each plant also has breather tubes. Debris collects around the roots and over time creates soil and the trees reclaim some land. It is also a wonderful aquatic breeding and feeding location.

All along the creek side is an almost impenetrable wall of mangroves while the dry sandy dune side is a mix of salt clay pans with, a few Pandanus, many Casuarina, Melaleuca in the more damp wetlands parts and a several Cabbage Palms.

The understory is thick grass much of it more than two metres tall. The entire area can be affected by higher than usual tides, Neap tides, King tides and cyclonic tidal surges.

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Different tides at different times during the year deposits debris and marks the high tides.

It is an amazing patch of native vegetation surround by suburbia. It is too easy to believe you are way out in the wilds of unexplored north Queensland. 230719 bench seat1I arrived at the mouth of the creek at low tide and still am amazed that what is all sand now will soon become a wild watercourse at high tide.

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At the end of The Spit, looking back to Dolphin Heads. Look how far the tide has gone out. Come back in 6 hours and the water would be up almost to this fallen tree.
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From Blacks Beach Spit to Dolphin Heads. An amazing tidal range. Note the two distinct levels of debris deposited by diferent big tides during the year.

Further up the creek where the mangroves are thick the banks can be quite steep mud. This is where the Crocodiles come out to sun themselves.

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Muddy tidal banks on McCready’s Creek near the mouth. This is Cocodile territory.

Wednesday 24th July

Over the last two weeks I have mentioned the many ships at anchor several Klms offshore, waiting their turn to be filled with coal. Today I visited the site of where the coal is stockpiled and delivered to those ships.

In fact there are two coal loaders, side by side stretching out about one Klm offshore. Both loaders operate independently but together form the biggest and most efficient coal loading facility in the world.

At a special viewing platform, provided by Hay Point/Dalrymple Bay you can see everything that is going on.

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Hay Point Coal Terminal Observation deck.

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Everything except being up close. However the huge scale of the facility is plain to see. Today I counted 27 ships sitting at sea while at least one ship was being loaded.240719 hay point2240719 hay point3240719 hay point4240719 hay point5

From here I then went to Half Tide Beach and Salonika Beach where I spent some time photographing the lagoon.

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Lagoon Salonika Beach.

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With the tide being out neither beach has anything interesting enough to photograph. The road ends at a wide sandy creek. Google Maps show a road and presumably a bridge on an as yet unmade road called Esplanade which continues through to Grasstree Beach. That road through mangrove wetlands does not exist.,149.2900195,2642m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x6bdbc5fa1b76f47b:0x2724b54c3c3c0d55!8m2!3d-21.32021!4d149.2931177?hl=en

I had to drive back through Half Tide and Hay Point and towards the Bruce Highway at Alligator Creek where I took the turn off to Grasstree Beach.

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A modern free boat launching ramp with floating dock at Grasstree Creek.
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Grasstree Creek.
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Grasstree Creek

Grasstree Beach once upon a time had a small fishing fleet which used a safe anchorage in Grasstree Creek.

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Old fishing trawler jetty.

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Some boats remain but mostly private vessels use the rough jetties and home made facilities. Also located at Grasstree is a gold mine. Yes, a gold mine, perched atop Mount Haden which dominates the town.

Even from here, some twenty Klms further south from Hay Point, many of the coal ships can be seen anchored offshore.

Once upon a time I knew fishermen from Grasstree as I was a Marine Insurance Broke and insuring fishing boats was what I knew best. I knew there were several boats which operated from here. It was not so much a fleet as each boat had one owner but they all knew each other and co-operated with berthing and getting a catch to their market.240719 jetty2

One vessel owner, whose vessel was much better maintained than the others stood out as a tough but fair skipper. 240719 jetty3His crew had to agree to abide by the Rule of No D. That is the crew were not to bring aboard certain items which began with D. No Drugs, No Dames and no Drink. He was even known to turn a boat around when he found somebody with drugs. When the Government started buying back licences many of the less maintained boats stopped working and soon became derelicts and had to be hauled out or sold. While other boats stopped working he retained his licence and still fished. Now even he has gone, a victim of licence buyback and the importation of fresh, frozen and canned fish from Asian nations. Even the Aquaculture Fish Farm has closed as has the Fish and Chip shop which sold local fresh fish.


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Refrigerated truck Grasstree.
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Letterbox Grasstree.

I also found a couple of abandoned houses at Grasstree. I was not surprised.

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Abandoned house on outskirts of Grasstree.
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Abandoned house Half Tide.

690. Sunday 21st July 2019. Airlie Beach, a long walk and back to Mackay…


Saturday 20th July

Sister Enid and I drove to Airlie Beach for the weekend. We booked into the Mantra Club Crocodile Resort for the night.

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Club Croc at night
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Club Croc in the morning. Today’s photos will pear washed out and verexposed as the camera was still on hand held night landscape mode and somehow RW2 .

We had a few options to consider but that could be done while we walked from Cannonvale to Airlie Beach along the scenic mix of beachside pathway and boardwalk. (Just a little by the by. Once upon a time when I lived and worked here I would often go on a walk at lunchtime with Maria, my boss. Our office was located just up the road from Club Croc. We would walk along the coast boardwalk as far as Abel Point Marina then up to Shute Harbour Road and the long steep road and equally steep down the other side and back to the office. That was a good heart pumping walk.)

We started at the little park known as Cannonvale Beach Foreshore Reserve at Whisper Bay.

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VMR Breakwater and a place for a drink at a wedding.

At the outset we saw a wedding in progress at the small park beside the VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue) Station with a second wedding waiting for the same location.

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Wedding photo time.

The walk is made up of a few boardwalks which are built out over the rocks and at high tide is over the water.

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Turtle Boardwalk
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Cannonvale Beach. Frank & Donnis were married 10 years ago under the big trees where a van is parked.

The boardwalk is called Turtle Boardwalk.

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Bench Seat on Turtle Boardwalk looking across Whisper Bay to Peninsular Airle Beach
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From Turtle Boardwalk in front of Mirage Whitsunday. This is the view across Whisper Bay.
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Whisper Bay from VMR

The concrete pathways pass through an up market residential and exclusive holiday accommodation, Mirage Whitsunday, Marina Shores and the most exclusive of all, Peninsular Airlie Beach.

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Peninsular Airlie Beach Apartments. A quiet place on the rocks above the water.

Rental here is around $1,500 per night. The walk continues through the Abel Point Marina complex,

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This is a permanent fixture at the marina. A club house for travelling yachties to have a hot shower in a 5 star bathroom and a place for a coffee or cold drink on the top deck.
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This boat has my sisiter Enid name name on it.

along Shingley Beach followed by another boardwalk through Coral Sea Point and Resort Hotel,

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Coral Sea Point and Jetty and Coral Sea Resort.
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Damaged catamaran. Council has placed a notice on the hull giving 2 weeks to remove the “wreck” otherwise they will do so. To get it off this beach they will need to totally dismantle the boat.
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This root system from a dying Pandanus reminded us of Mary Queen of Scotts. She was behead for treason.

along the shore of Airlie Beach to The Lagoon

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View from Coral Sea Point, across Airle Bay with the hulk of Mandaly Hill looking over the bay. Enlarge and look closely and you can see the mansion at the very top of the hill. Most of that hillside is fenced and a priate gated estate some of which is sub divided into smaller lots. The estate is called Chesapeake. The mansion at the top was built by a wealthy businessman for a cost of around M$4 not including landscaing and roads. Later it was purchased by Don Algie who created the Hogs Breath Cafe empire with his partner, Ginger White.
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The Don Algie Mansion at the top of Cheseapeake.

where the path continues along the shoreline and to the Whitsunday Sailing Club and Port of Airlie Marina.

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Airlie Beach

The famous walk ends here but a new scenic footpath begins which meanders through the suburb of Jubilee Pocket and ends a few Klms away near the turnoff to Mandalay. The walk was around 4Klm and should have taken about 30 minutes. However we stopped to look at the scenery, take photos, watch weddings and look at the menu at every eatery along the way. We pretty much decided on the food selection and prices at the Breeze Bar as they had similar food options as the famous Fish D’Vine on the next corner but at a lesser price.

The return walk seeing everything in reverse and the time taken for an almost 10 Klm walk was just on three hours. Time for a shower and change and drive back into Airlie for dinner at the Breeze Bar.

Sunday 21st July

Woke to an overcast and damp morning with a 39 knot stiff southeasterly wind dashing any plans for a boat trip up the Proserpine River to look for Crocodiles. Enid’s son was in Airlie for a few days and had his boat and had planned a Crocodile adventure today but conditions were not favourable. Instead we played mini golf at the Big Frog Caravan ark where he is staying with friends and their children. The men have to keep the children busy as the wives have all gone to Bali for a week.

Enid then opted to do one of the Whitsunday Great Walks while I went on a photo excursion to Mandalay Bay and Funnel Bay.

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Outdoor Mandalay Chappel

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This boat was once a popular bareboat charter boat in the Whitsunday Escape Fleet.
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In among the mangroves at Mandalay.
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Flimsey jetty at Mandalay

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Funnel Bay. I photographed from this area about 10 years ago when the area was a challenging dirt road where very few people visited. Now it is a gated community and one house is spread over at least 4 blocks which prevented me from photographing from the same location.

funnel bay framed

After a quick coffee and sandwich we were on our way home but stopped at the turnoff to Cathu State Forest to photograph an abandoned house I saw on the drive to Airlie yesterday.

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Abandoned house at the turnoff to Cathu.
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Cane bins being filed with cut cane are then put on trucks and taken to a full rail head enroute to the nearest mill. Hills behind Yabarooin te background.

Arriving home I downloaded and reviewed all my photos from the weekend – all 174 of them.

What The!!!

Something is not the same with half my photo’s. I normally shoot only in a .JPEG format and usually photos are bright and sharp but today they are not. I recalled changing the camera settings last night to photograph the pool area at Club Croc. I set the camera to night time hand held mode. I now realise I had left the camera on settings and not changed back to shooting mode. For some reason the camera is now shooting in .RAW2 format. The first thing I realised is the file size. Normally each photo would be about 4Mb. RAW2 photos are about 14Mb. Just a quick look at the photos they look a bit washed out and although each file has more digital information to work with when editing, it seems the quality is missing. Actually on reflection because the camera was set to night mode, it seems my photos are over exposed.

Starting on Friday I have had a decadent food weekend. Friday I had fish and chips. Potatoes are a no no at the moment. Saturday I had a toasted sandwich, mashed potato and crackers. Sunday another toasted sandwich. When I weighed myself tonight I am still 75 Kg so have not put back on any weight.

689. Friday 19th July 2019. Air crash memorials, Blacks Beach, Shoal Point and a drama story…


Monday 15th July

Woke to a sunny day but with a chill wind blowing from the south west. Those south west and west winds are the puts, even here in the tropics. Can you believe it was 7° here in Mackay. I did not want to get out of bed. Moving my feet around only found cold sheets apart from where I had cocooned warmth during the night.

I decide to drive to McEwens Beach on the south side of Mackay.

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On my way to McEwens Beach there was a long line of traffic at a large roundabout at Bakers Creek. It seems the large Mainfreight truck had jackknifed going around all lanes had to be closed while two tow trucks managed to get it back onto the road in one piece.

This suburb of about 200 courageous souls has no facilities such as a shop. The nearest being on the highway 7 Klms away at the bottom end of Bakers Creek. The road narrows several times to a one lane road and traffic is forced to each put one wheel in the dirt when approaching each other. That’s fine and dandy in the daylight and the dry but when it is wet the dirt becomes slippery slidey as tyre tracks in the mud can attest. Much of the road passes through sugar cane on both sides of the road while the rest is now, politically correct, wetlands. One upon a time we called it swamp.

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Wetlands near McEwens Beach. A large varity of animals, birds and sea life call this home. Now that we have been educated to call them Wetlands instead of Swamps we now know they are a basic breeding ground for life.

What’s in a name? The birds love it whatever you call it. So do the mosquitoes and sandflies. The suburb is located on the extra wide mouth of the estuary of Alligator Creek as it drains into Sandringham Bay. The name Alligator was given back in the days when we did not know the difference between Alligators and Crocodiles. Australia only has Crocodiles. By the way there are several creeks with the misnomer of Alligator between Rockhampton to the south and Townsville in the north. In the distance I could easily see a dozen ships waiting to get to the Hay Point Coal Loading Terminal.

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From McEwens Beach at the mouth of Alligator Creek you can see some of the ships anchored and waiting to load with coal at Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal. I have seen more than 50 ships on some days.

Often it is possible to see 50 or more ships just offshore in good weather and bad. There is nowhere else to go but in cyclonic conditions the port facility is closed down and the ships are sent somewhere else, probably further south. Some years back, perhaps just before or just after to turn of the century, the local residents with waterfront properties complained bitterly to Mackay Council that due to several cyclones their waterfront was being eroded and they were losing some of their property. Council in a spirit of free spending poured huge amounts of money, labour and rocks into shoring up the eroded banks.

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At McEwens Beach these huge blocks of rock were installed along the waterfronto to stop erosion during cyclonic swells and tides. The staircase is the best access to the beach. BEACH??? Yes this is a beach of muddy sand. Alligaor creek drains from a huge area and spreads out far and wide. During tides which can be up to 6 metres, a large quanty of material is shifted.

All this for 200 residents! That said the properties are still intact with a nice rock retaining wall about 5 metres thick at the base and three metres thick at the top keeping the angry sea from reclaiming the land which it believes belongs to it.

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The netted swimming enclosure at McEwens Beach fares better than similar enclosures which directly face the ocean.

Leaving McEwens Beach I drove back to Bakers Creek to see the memorial to one of Australia’s worst air disasters. Two of Australia’s worst air disasters occurred in the Mackay district, one here at Bakers Creek and the other offshore at Illawong Beach at the end of the Mackay Airport Runway.

At Bakers Creek in June 1943 a US Army Flying Fortress crashed shortly after take off. It was returning soldiers who were on R&R leave in Mackay to the front at New Guinea. Forty men died in the crash and there was only one survivor. The plane was known as “Miss Every Morning Fixin because when it was withdrawn from active service in Darwin, 1,100 bullet holes were found in the body. The plane was always undergoing repairs. The reason for the crash remains a mystery. News of the crash was suppressed due to wartime censorship so full details were not released until late in 1945 when the war had ended.

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WWII Mackay Air Crash Disaster Memorial.

Next I drove to Illawong Beach where there is a second memorial to an air crash.

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Mackay Air Crash Disaster Memorial at Illawong Beach.

In June 1960 a Fokker Freindship, owned and operated by TAA crashed on approach to landing, killing all 29 on board. What made it worse was 9 schoolboys had joined the flight in Rockhampton and were on their way home for the weekend. The plane crashed somewhere between Round Top and Flat Top Islands about 7 Klms offshore.

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The islands known as Flat Top and Round Top, for obvious reasons. The plane crash was a few Klms offshore behind Round Top.

Several theories were put forward for what caused the crash but not one was conclusive enough. It also remains a mystery. The wreckage was not found until two days later in about 12 metres of water. A further two weeks went by before all wreckage and bodies were recovered.

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Same ships waiting but viewed from Illawong Beach.

Tuesday 16th July

In the cold morning with a chill south westerly blowing I went to Blacks Beach and tolerated the wind for a few minutes.

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Bench seat at Blacks Beach, another location where huge rock walls were built to stop erosion.
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View of Brampton Island from Blacks Beach. Note the choppy sea surface which here is partly protected by the Slade Point Headland.

After lunch I walked around Eimeo Beach Village finding it was out of the wind but still required a jacket to stay warm.

Wednesday 17th July

Another cold night and and even colder morning. It was 5° early this morning with another night of similar temps expected tonight.

Last night I weighed myself. 75 Kg. That is a weight loss of 7Kg since I started my diet and exercise routine. 7 Kg! Let me put that in perspective. My carry on bag when I flew here was 7Kg, the maximum allowable. That is a heavy bag to carry in your hand or on your back. That is the same as 7 bags of sugar or 14 500 gram tubs of butter.

In the morning I went to my old favourite, Shoal Point and walked northwards towards Reliance Creek. The tide was on its way out giving me some photo opportunities.

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Bench seat at Shoal Point overlooking Little Green Island. Believe it or not, at low tide you can walk to the island.

I sat on the sand for awhile with one of the oldest houses behind me. I recall visiting here many years ago when the man who owned the house had a seaplane. He would fly in at mid tide and taxi as far onto the sand as he could go. He lowered the wheels and used a tractor to tow the plane to his backyard rock retaining wall where it was tied down. When he wanted to fly he towed the plane to near the incoming tide, returned the tractor and sat in the plane doing his checks waiting for the tide to come in and the plane would float.

Those days are gone.

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Even here you can see the edge of the forest being reclaimed by the sea. Sometime in the future the tree will succumb to the forces of wind, erosion and tidal pressures and will topple to the ground. Note the other trees also suffering and dead.
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Shoal Point. I recall that once upon a time this tree was part of a forest of Paperbark Trees and this was the edge of the land. Now it is part of the ocean floor.
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Shoal Point waiting for the tide to reurn. Cape Hillsborough is in the background.

I noticed what looked like long ribbons of red on the sand in the distance. I thought it may be some sort of rope washed ashore from a fishing boat. I soon found it was a species of Pig Face, or Carpobrotus or Karkalla or Sea Fig or Beach Bananas.

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Red stemmed Pigface.

There are about 30 different varieties and I call them all Pig Face but this one with flaming red stems is new to me. Every part of this plant is edible and/or medicinal – the leaves can be used like Aloe Vera to lessen stings and burns of the skin, as well as eaten raw or cooked. Pigface has been eaten and used extensively by the peoples of Australia for as long as there’s been people here.

Thursday 18th July

Another cold night and morning with that nasty south westerly wind still making life colder than it ought to be.

This morning I finally caught up with ex BIL John W. I caught John as he was preparing to collect some supplies for a coffee shop and cafe he owns in a shopping centre nearby. It is a busy coffee shop with a staff of around 4 to depending on the time of day. John sat down to chat when his phone rang. There was drama at the shop. It seems there was no gas. No gas for shopping centre. WT!!! There are normally 4 giant 45 Kg bottles which are used to supply to various stores but at this time of day it was the coffee shop most in need as they do deep frying and other cooking all on gas appliances. We drove to the centre and checked the gas bottles. All are empty. It seems the supplier has somehow forgotten to keep the bottles topped up and or replaced. They only have two trucks supplying gas for commercial premises. One was in Airlie Beach a 1.5 hour drive to the north and the other was at Moranbah a 2 hour drive to the west. It was lunch time and customers were queued to the door and getting annoyed. Those who wanted sandwiches or toasted sandwiches and coffee were getting served. Those who wanted the house specialities (Phillipino meals) were out of luck. John and I raced back to his house and collected a 9 Kg gas bottle and a gas burner and back to the store to get it set up. In the meantime the gas supplier had found another supplier willing to provide a 45 Kg bottle to get things working but it would be an hour before he arrived. That was my excitement for the morning.

John on the other hand had two days of excitement.

Here is the beginning of the story from RACQ CQ Rescue.

The rescue helicopter landed on the sandy shore of the island, 35km north-east of Mackay, to find a 7.3 metre catamaran beached, a man and his two dogs the sole occupants.
The sailor reported he’d been stranded since Saturday night after six foot waves blew in damaging the vessel and washing him ashore in the north-western bay of the island.
With plenty of supplies on board, he didn’t activate his EPIRB until today after he suffered a fall.
The gent refused transport as he didn’t want to leave his dogs and was late this afternoon being assisted by the good folk at Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR).

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Stranded with a damaged hull on Keswick Island. Thanks to the CQ Rescue Facebook site for the photo.

He and his poodles were rescued by VMR and brought back to Mackay but he was concerned the damage to the catamaran would involve a major recovery but in the meantime was concerned his boat would be stripped of all its goodies. Enter John who was asked if he knew somebody with a large boat capable of bringing loads of goods back. As luck was with him there was such a man in the coffee shop that day with a new Haines who was willing to bring home the belongings but on approaching the island it was found the conditions were too rough to attempt bring the boat onto the beach. While the skipper brought the boat close enough to shore to allow John and his friend to wade (actually it was more like swim ashore) in chest deep water to begin stripping everything off the catamaran. Meanwhile the skipper of the rescue Haines became seasick in the conditions. After most of the day was spent loading the Haines the trio spent a rough seasick passage back to Mackay.

After telling me the story John introduced me to the Catamaran owner and the Haines owner who are both regular diners at the coffee shop.

After lunch friends Ron and Eileen W from our motorhoming days arrived for a coffee and a catch up since our last meeting which after discussing realised it was early in 2013.

688. Sunday 14th July 2019. Pioneer Valley, Botanical Gardens and pizza…

The final post in this weeks 3 stage report.

Saturday 13th July

I spent the morning working on the Facebook Photo Group, Aussie Photography for Beginners of which I am the Administrator. It keeps me busy most days but I like to get active on other things too.

Today I drove through Marian, Mirani, Gargett, Septimus, Pinevale then detoured through to Pinnacle and back home again.

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A row of scooters, tricycles and bicycles line the driveway to a farm property. A similar line of bikes is on the other side.

Once more the plan was to find abandoned houses, farms and sheds and anything else which seemed interesting. I found at least one house in Septimus which has been abandoned.

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Abandoned house. Note the collapsing archway.

From the roadway I could see the curtains which have rotted away.

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Clearly you can see the rotting curtins and clearly see the slim photographer.

This brick veneer house had brick archways along what I would call the front verandah. It is obvious the bricks in the archway are beginning to pull away from the rest of the bricks. I could not help but wonder what else was wrong with the house and what caused the people to leave. Basically it was a house in the middle of cane paddocks with no neighbours on either side nor across the road. Further along the road I stopped at a long timber trestle bridge built specially for cane trains.

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Impressive trestle bridge at Septimus.

Although the trains are not big and heavy as for example a steam train loco they are still quite big and can be seen pulling up to 300 bins laden with cut cane. I then realised I was on the road to Pineval after which I did not expect to find many houses so turned off on the Septimus – Pinnacle Road.

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Somewhere along the Septimus – Pinnacle Road is yet another abandoned house.

A few Klms along the road I came across another abandoned house and a clay tennis court which must have been somebody’s pride and joy. Now it is a reminder that some of the wealth has left the area along with the people who lived and worked in the cane industry. Now the tennis court is stripped of its boundary netting and weeds have broken what was once a tidy well maintained clay court.

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A tennis court no more.

As I walked around taking my photograhs a large Kookaburra sat on a power line watching my every move.

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A curios Kookaburra.

Hmmm! The same thing happened at Dolphin Heads two days ago.

On my way to Pinnacle I considered going to Teemburra Dam – another impoundment of the Pioneer River – but honestly there is little to see and is only of interest to fishermen who have a boat.

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Abandoned house in Pinnacle

Once at Pinnacle I stopped to look at a couple of abandoned houses and once again reflected on what caused people to leave. Once upon a time in the last century, during a dim period in my life, I toyed with the idea of buying a house at Pinnacle or even Gargett and becoming a recluse. It was a relatively short dim period and toying with those types of ideas are unproductive. Looking back on those thoughts and the towns of Pinnacle and Gargett today I am pleased I moved on. Looking at the people who do live there, they all look old before their time. It could be a partial reason why there are so many abandoned houses in the area. A lack of social interaction, limited friends, limited to no facilities, no medical or dental facilities within 50 Klms, dispersed family even aging houses needing constant maintenace probably all contributed to a general feeling of isolation and malaise.

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Abandoned house in Pinnacle.

Most of these small communities have no shops or community halls or anything else to anchor people. The communities are quite a long way out from any type of commercial actvity and as fewer people are needed to plant and harvest the cane there are no jobs. Pinnacle is a bit different as it is on a main road and has a pub which is famous for its meat pies and has local bands playing on Saturday nights. There is a small art gallery and a community theatre which has stage productions a couple of times a year. Once upon a time there were special trains which came from Mackay to Pinnacle bringing loads of people for the Saturday performance. Meals and drinks were provided by the playhouse players at Intermission. The only other business is a small coffee and cake type bistro which only opens on weekends. From here I headed along the Eungella Road heading towards Mackay. I turned off at Marian and took the Marian – Hampden Road to the Bruce Highway past The Leap and turned off at Farleigh and then a back road to Habana where I found a colourful pond calling out to be photographed in the late afternoon sun.130719 habana pond 130719 habana pond1130719 habana pond2

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A reflective pond at Habana.

From there I was almost home when I found a stand of trees on a hill in an otherwise flat grassed pasture.

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Trees on a hill silhoueted by the setting sun.

The setting sun was making an interesting feature of the trees which were also calling out to be photographed.130719 plantation palms

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A roundabout on the back road to Plantation Palms.

Sunday 14th July

Woke to brilliant sunshine but very chilly indoors and even chillier outside in the shade with a nasty cold wind blowing from the south west – always a sure sign we are in for several cold clear days.

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Mackay Botanical Gardens

After lunch I wandered off to the botanical gardens for a few photos.

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View across what was once known as Wetlands Lagoon is now part of the Mackay Botanical Gardens.

Some years ago, near the turn of the century,  1993 to be precise, the South Sea Islander Community were granted lands and funds at the end of what was then known as The Lagoons. It is now all incorporated into the Botanical Gardens. They built a wonderful large “hut” but in my opinion it is a large hall. At the time it had a thatched roof and walls.  A disgruntled person or persons set fire to the hut.  Only the thatched exterior burned and left the steel walls and roof intact. Nowadays the roof is entirely steel with no sign of the thatching. Some walls have bits of thatching intact but in the main those walls are as bare as the roof. 140719 ssi hutThe hut is still in regular use by the SSI community, especially for weddings.

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A water feature called Finch Hatton Creek.

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Later I went to my daughter Averyl for dinner. As I was leaving Plantation Palms I saw a huge flock of water birds circing and circling the area. I have never seen a flock of birds in such huge numbers.

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A flock of birds over the wetlands at Plantation Palms.

Averyl made pizza in the Weber BBQ and made the dough from scratch. I ate 3 slices which was one slice more than I should have. I did not have the heart to tell her I have not been eating carbs for almost 2 months.

Once home I weighed myself and came in at 75.2 Kg. That’s a drop of another .2Kg since early in the week so I suppose a little carbs did not hurt. My self imposed target of 72 Kg before my birthday in September is looking like a possibility and maybe even break the 70 Kg barrier.

687. Friday 13th July 2019. Ooooh. Friday 13th. All Good. More criss crossing the Pioneer Valley and Sunset Bay sunsets…

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Once again due to the sheer volume of photos this week is spread over three posts another will follow asap when I finish editing photos.

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Thursday 11th July

This morning I went for a walk to the Rosewood Drive Reserve – Constructed Wetlands – a partially man made water reserve with walking trails around and through the wetlands and all the honking, chittering, whistling, quacking birds including a family of black swans.

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Another park bench with a view.

This reserve was made by the developers of Plantation Palms along with assistance from Mackay Regional Council.

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Park bench view of the wetlands.

It was land owned by the developer which was simply unsuitable for housing and too expensive/declined by council, to fill it. It therefore remains wetlands which drain into McCready’s Creek which itself empties into Slade Bay and is bounded by Blacks Beach on one side and Slade Point on the other.

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A picture paints a thousand words.
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Windmill at Plantation Palms.

In the afternoon I continued with my re-exploring Mackay and finding places I have not been to, took no notice of or finding for a second time. Today I followed the Pioneer River from Glenella through Foulden, Erakala, Dumbleton, to Conningsby and return via the same route. Most of those places are place names on a map although generally there are small clusters of houses, small hobby farms and or large sugar cane farms.120719 sunset8

First stop was Dumbleton Rocks Weir on the Pioneer River.

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This is Dumbleton Rocks Weir and it is easy to see how it got its name. Avid fishermen (sometimes you could call them rabid) have to hike across canefields and down a steep heavily vegetated, snake infested bank to reach the rocks on the other side. It seems that is where all the best Barramundi fishing can be had.

The Pioneer River has four storage dams along its meandering route with Dumbleton being the last before some tidal influence begins to turn the water salty. Most of Mackay’s water supply comes from here where it is pumped to the treatment plant at West Mackay and from there pumped to 29 Reservoirs around the city.

My main reason for travelling this route is to seek out unusual homes and or abandoned farms, sheds or houses. I followed the Yaraju – Yakapari Road as far as the Nebia – Conningsby Road and then as far as the Bruce Highway before backtracking to see what I missed on my first run.

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Abandoned house at Conningsby.

I found what I was looking for and made a mental note to remember some of the back roads as a shortcut to elsewhere further up the Pioneer Valley.

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Abandoned house at Dumbleton.

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Same house in closeup.

In the evening I had dinner with my sister Enid at her daughter Kelly’s house. Her two young active boys, Cooper and Ollie were there. They are fun boys and love to explore, play and ask questions.120719 sunset7

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Sunset over Sunset Bay looking to Bucasia.

Friday 12th July.120719 sunset6

In the morning I spent time with daughter Averyl and granddaughter Shelby.120719 sunset5

Late in the afternoon I drove to Dolphin Heads which looks across Sunset Bay to Eimeo, Bucasia, Shoal Point, Little Green Island and the beginning of the Whitsunday Passage where at least a dozen of the 73 Whitsunday Islands can be seen.120719 sunset4120719 bucasia1

Once upon a time, Brampton Island was the jewel in the crown at the bottom end of the islands and a cruise boat (as well as flights) took day visitors and guests to and from the island. The island was well known for its entertainment, accomodation, food, great walking tracks, isolated beaches, fabulous snorkelling, one of the best fringing reefs accessible from the beach, legendary fishing, fabulous view and a small golf course. Now it is closed and although a resident caretaker carries out some basic maintenance it is doubtful it will ever become a resort again. At least with the current facilities.120719 sunset2120719 sunset1120719 bucasia2

However my reason for coming here was to take Sunset photos across Sunset Bay.120719 sunset2 framed

Mission accomplished.120719 sunset

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St Bess and Keswick Islands seen from Dolphin Heads.
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Trying to take a hand held photo of the moon while on full zoom needs a monumental effort to hold the camera steady.
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Shoal Point, Little Green Island and the beginning of the Whitsunday Passage Islands.
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A Kookaburra kept an eye on me while I took 70 photos.

686. Wednesday 10th July 2019. Investigating the Mackay Coastline and the Pioneer Valley…

I have been so active with investigating and researching and travelling and photographing that I have ended up with too many photos for the one post. Instead I will create three posts to spread out the photos. That said there are still many photos in this post.

Monday 8th July.

Today I took a drive into the Habana Valley which is on the way to nowhere.

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I can find no history of who made this wall of volcanic stones pulled from the surrounding fields. Like the stone walls in Kiama NSW it could be 200 years old or no more than 20. Like Kiama it is a favourite place for snakes.

In recent years sugar cane plantations were subdivided and sold as 5 acre lots so that once rolling hills of sugar cane have given way to rolling hills of grass dotted with large houses.

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Bits and pieces make this woman letterbox.

Habana is one site within the Mackay district which used slave labour, known as Blackbirding, a practice of enticing or kidnapping men and women from The Solomon Islands and working them in the canefields for little pay and poor conditions. The practise began about 1863 and continued until 1904 when it was outlawed. Many were repatriated to their homes in the Pacific Islands but many were not. Blackbirds were brought into Brisbane and sold to various sugar can farms along the coast from Maryborough to Port Douglas. Some were sold and sent to the New South Wales cane towns. Those that remained integrated into society and in fact some of the roads around Habana are named after Solomon Islanders. Descendants have mostly stayed in the area and married locally.

I cannot say Habana was once a thriving community as I could not find any evidence of shops but Habana like many other small communities around Mackay have experienced fluctuating fortunes and mostly those fluctuations have been progressively down.

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another abandoned Habana load.
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Everything seems to be abandoned in Habana.

At the height of the sugar boom, cane was cut by hand and cutters came from all over Australia for the harvest. A famous book was written about the fortunes of the time, Summer of the 17th Doll, written by Ray Lawler. The book was made into a stage play and a Hollywood movie starring Ernest Borgnine.

After hand cutting came cane harvesters where almost every land owner had their own harvester. Repairs and fabrication were carried out by local businesses. Soon it was simpler to have a harvesting contractor carry out the harvest and land owners no longer needed to purchase a harvester which sat idle for 8 months of the year.

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This was once a busy engineering motor mechanics business.

Gradually the local engineering firms and fabricators had less and less work and soon closed their doors.

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This was once a busy fabrication works making and repairing implements for farm machinery.

People also moved away. Habana is such a community in the throes of dying but will probably last a little longer as the urban sprawl and the need to have 5 acres of lawn means people will buy blocks of land and build their expensive homes with large ride on mowers. Cane is still grown and harvested in the area which can being sent by rail to the mill at Farleigh. Cane train lines still criss cross the area.

After the recent heavy rain the ground is very boggy so finding a parking spot, off the road, dry and not subject to getting bogged was a challenge.

Just a word on weight loss. Tonight my weight is down to 75.4 Kg. That is a loss of 6.6 Kg since I started dieting but the most loss of weight came about by reducing carbs and sugar and lots of exercise. I am now wearing trousers which have not fit since at least 2012. Even they are beginning to fall down. Soon I will need to got to a smaller trouser size.

Tuesday 9th July

Yay! The sun WAS shining. By the time I got dressed and out the door for a walk along Eimeo Beach a light drizzle had begun. Aaah! What the heck. I went anyway.

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View of St Bees Island from Eimeo.

By the time I arrived at the beach the drizzle had stopped.

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Low tide, St Bees Island seen from Dolphin Heads.

I did a few laps of the beach and a wander around the old fishing village.

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Low tide, St Bees Island seen from Dolphin Heads.
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Bench seat overlooking the mouth of Eimeo Creek where it drains into Sunset Bay.
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Unique doorway/gateway to a property at Eimeo. You do not have to be eccentric to live in Eimeo Village…but it helps.
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View over Sunset Bay at Eimeo Village.

There is not a lot of history for the suburb. In 1870 a Jeremiah Armitage took bought 150 acres of waterfront land primarily or perhaps by design, for the purposes of timber getting and milling. He quickly changed tactics and planted 9 acres of fruit – that is, mangoes and coconuts and built a guest house which is today the site of the Pacific Hotel Eimeo with multi million dollar stunning views across Sunset Bay.

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Pacific Hotel in Eimeo.
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This boat was under repair in June 2011. Note the cleared area around the boat.
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Same boat, same location, worse condition. The mangroves are reclaiming the land and there seems to be more work needed.

Mid morning I headed out for a circuit which would take in the villages or towns of Homebush, Eton, North Eton, Kinchant Dam, Marian and Pleystowe. I wanted to look for old buildings either still in use, abandoned or used occassionally.

First stop was The Pub In the Scrub or The Pub in the Cane Paddocks or the correct name is The General Gordon Hotel, Homebush.

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General Gordon Hotel at Homebush. Note the ladies of the night on the upper verandah.

The hotel was built by CSR ( Colonial Sugar Refinery) way back in 1883. It is basically surrounded by sugar cane paddocks including across the road.

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There is no nearby houses, or town or even a village. The General Gordon Hotel is surrounded by sugar cane.

It is quite some distance out of town. Town? Well, it is not really a town so much, it is a community, including a Primary School and a bunch of houses and precious little else. Back to the hotel. It was named after the famous Major General Charles George Gordon who died in the battle of Khartoum in 1885. Today the hotel looks tired, and run down and needing much tender loving care but the people in the trucks and utes and cars which pull up for a cold beer all day do not seem to mind. Out the back a level area is set aside for campers who pay $5 a night and share the hotel bathroom. I recall many years ago stopping here for a cold beer and a counter lunch and at that time noticed all the dusty musty memorabilia lining the walls and ceilings. Nothing has changed.

A little further along the road was my next stop, Homebush Mission Hall (still a fair way out of Homebush) built in 1892. This is where the Blackbird story I mentioned yesterday fits into today’s travels. Many indentured labourers (slaves) could not read or write and were not permitted to attend any local churches. The Presbyterian Church built this hall in 1892 on land donated by CSR. The idea was to teach reading, writing and Christianity to the Islanders. In 1997 the building was granted a Queensland Heritage Listing which has done little to maintain the building or encourage its use. There were several Mission Halls built in the Mackay – Sarina area but as far as I know this is the only hall still in existence and apparently being used on a semi regular basis, mainly by the South Sea Islander Community.

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Heritage listed Mission Hall at Homebush.

Next stop was Homebush itself which as mentioned is little more than a Primary School and a few homes. I should mention that stretching as far as the eye can see in any direction is sugar cane which is, in most cases, almost ready for harvesting.

Across the street is an abandoned house with abandoned furniture all exposed to the elements and slowly being taken over by mould and rot.

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Abandoned, decaying and rotting at Homebush.

Following the road to an intersection I found this is the Peak Downs Highway just outside of Eton, another cane growing and harvesting town. In fact for about 100 Klms north and south and west of Mackay is almost exclusively cane farms. I found an abandoned home just on the edge of town.

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Eton abanodoned house.

I always wonder what led to families leaving a house which is gradually being taken over by trees, bushes, grasses and the elements and will eventually become one with nature. Unless somebody buys the land and bulldozes it first.

Next up was North Eton on my way to Kinchant Dam for lunch.

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What is this naturally air conditioned Victorian bus doing at North Eton?

Not so many years ago I remember there was a sugar cane mill here as there were many such mills scattered throughout the valley. There were too many mills so began a series of closures and all that remains is a large chimney which serves no purpose other than as a reminder of once upon a time. Other small towns which closed their mills have nothing left except perhaps a plaque marking a site. Since leaving the house this morning I can safely say I have never been out of sight of sugar cane growing along the highway, in suburbs and right up to house fence lines.

Mackay is Sugar Cane.

I stopped at Kinchant Dam for lunch. The dam was built in 1977 to provide water water for irrigation and town water. There is a camp ground / resort at the dam and it advertises itself as a quiet place to relax. When up to 50 skis boats are roaring around on weekends it is anything but quiet. Today WAS quiet with only one underpowered boat towing somebody on a belly board.

I chose the narrow road to Marian where I once again found abandoned houses one coming into town and one as I was leaving.

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Marian abandoned house.

Marian still has an active mill. Soon when the harvest is in full swing the mill will become fully operational and will “crush” around the clock. The paddocks of cane, growing three to four metres high will be harvested and for a few months will be ploughed fields ready for planting.

By now I was on the Mackay – Eungella Road and my next stop was Pleystowe where I found another abandoned house.

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Pleystowe abandoned house.

Pleystowe still has an active mill but the town itself has gradually deteriorated and the one remaining general store has also closed and become abandoned. I suppose if I walked around the nearby narrow roads I would find more abandoned houses. The mill is now the centre of activity but only during the crush. Pleystowe is only a dozen Klms from Mackay where two large shopping centres cater for needs while Marian also boasts a smaller shopping centre and Walkerston only 3 Klms away now has an ultra modern shopping centre. An interesting feature along this stretch of road between Pleystowe and the Walkerston turnoff is long rows of Mango trees lining each side of the road. It is quite pretty normally but during Mango season the fruit drops to the road and is squashed by passing traffic. The smell of rotting fruit is a sickly sweet offence to the aural senses. Luckily there are few houses in that stretch of road. I should mention the Mango’s are known as Commons and nobody eats them anymore, they are too stringy but are good for pickling. That is why the fruit is not picked.

Wednesday 10th July

This morning I went to Bucasia Beach for a walk.

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Bucasia Beach, Eimeo Headland, Sunset Bay and St Bess Island under storm cloud.

It is 10 times the size of Eimeo Beach so it was easy to set up a brisk pace and keep that pace for a good distance.

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Bucasia Beach with once fabulous tourist destination, Brampton Island in the background.

I should mention sand on tropical beaches especially those that are protected by an outer reef. That is, all beaches north of Agnes Waters which only have waves when big storms whip up the seas over a short distance.

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Bucasia swimming enclosure. Late September, council will supply mesh and other materials. Local volunteer labour will install to make a stinger free swimming enclosure. The mesh will only last until May unless a cyclone has destroyed it beforehand.

The sand is coarser and grittier than beaches say on the Gold Coast.

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Brampton Island from Bucasia.

It is also more of a brown colour rather than light yellow or even white found further south.

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Brampton and Carlisle Islands.

The sand also has lots of shell fragments and small pebbles.

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Eimeo Creek and the legend of storms past.

Most beaches have lots of pumice stone which floats and always seems to sit on top the sand as well.

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Weird catamaran. Eimeo Creek darins to mud flats at low tide. It is a great place for pumping for yabbies for bait.

Pumice is formed by frothy volcanic lava which sets quickly when making contact with the water, trapping little air pockets and creating a stone which floats. My guess would be this pumice arrives on our beaches from the active volcanoes around New Guinea. Add to this mix the debris which spews out of creeks and rivers during heavy rainfall. Material such as leaves, twigs, branches, tree roots and mangrove seeds. 100719 eimeo creek1Then of course there are the bodies of shell fish such as crab and skeletons of fish. The water temp here in winter is warmer than summer water temps down south. Is it any wonder then that I have always called the waters in the tropics a “soup”.

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Eimeo Creek matching canoes.

In the afternoon I drove to Shoal Point for a wander among the rocks and shoals.

Leiutenant James Cook first encountered these shoals in the ship ENDEAVOUR on 2nd June 1770. The actual shoals lie about 200 metres offshore and were named Blackwood Shoals by the Survey Ship HMS FLY in 1843 and Llewellyn Shoal by the Survey Ship SS LLEWELLYN in 1879. Subsequently the spit of land became Shoal Point.

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Shrub growing from the rock deliniating the norther end of Bucasia Beach and the beginning of Shoal Point.

Tonight I attended Rock and Roll classes and found my confidence shattered by a different teaching method and far too many people. I was told the numbers were down by about 50% tonight as it is state of origin night. One thing I did learn is to maintain my beat and footwork. My teacher for tonight suggested I practise footwork with appropriate music while I am doing things around the house. Well okey dokey then, one, two backstep, step. One, two backstep, step. Do it until it becomes automatic. One, two, backstep, step. One, two Backstep, Backstep. Oooh darnit. Got out of step already.

685. Sunday 7th July 2019. Lost car keys, fly to Mackay, wet weather, Lamberts Lookout and Cape Hillsborough…

Monday 1st July

Today was a sort of quiet day with some last minute items such as an appointment for Donnis to investigate a new “pillow” for her CPAP Machine.

Later I packed my suitcase and carry on bag for my flight tomorrow.

Oh! Have I not mentioned this before? Many moons ago we had agreed to travel to Mackay to house/cat sit for my sister Sandra. Initially I thought we would drive. Then after a little thought we decided to fly and use Sandra’s car to get around. Then thinking further we thought perhaps the car was the best option as we could then extend the month long house sit and travel further to north Queensland and do the Daintree area, then the Atherton Tablelands area and home via an inland route. Just a couple of weeks ago, Donnis son Peter was diagnosed with throat cancer and has surgery scheduled for 18th July. Donnis feels she would be of more help to Peter leading up to, during and post operative by staying home than by travelling. So, back to the original plan. I will fly to Mackay she will stay home.

We packed and re-packed my cases until we were within weight and size limits. I am now ready for my flight.

Tuesday 2nd July

We spent the morning just doing fiddly stuff at home. Our car keys were missing. I reviewed our outside CCTV and determined the last time the car was used and from there determined the most likely place the keys would be. We found them in an unlikely place but without the CCTV it would have taken a lot longer to find.

We left home at 4pm and traffic was medium on the M1 and arrived at Brisbane airport by 5pm. While I checked in Donnis left and drove to Peters house where she will stay for the night. My flight was delayed by 30 minutes but still arrived on time in Mackay.

How can that happen?

Wednesday 3rd June.

Sandra and Dave both went to work today. Dave came home at midday and he and I went shopping for groceries. How exciting is that?

About 10pm we suddenly had no internet connection. After checking a few possibilities I believe it is the ancient Netgear modem which has failed. We will see what the situation is like in the morning.

Thursday 4th July

To start the day on a good note I checked the modem. Still no internet signal. Sandra called Telstra and passed the phone to me. I talked with the techie and he agrees it is the modem. He ordered another which should be here tomorrow. I also had Sandra authorise me to access the account to set up the new modem and account when it arrives.

Sandra and Dave were then delivered to Mackay airport on time for their flight to Brisbane and tomorrow they fly to Italy via Hong Kong and Germany.

Tonight I had dinner with sister Enid.

The weather forecast for the next 4 days is not good. Unseasonal strong winds and about 300mm of rain with some local flooding predicted.

Sigh! Any plans we had for a bush walk at Cape Hillsborough on Saturday may be put on hold.

Friday 5th July

What a long day. Strong winds and constant rain. I could not leave the house because I was waiting on delivery of a new modem.

I read until I was sick of reading.

I watched dreary daytime TV and kept turning it off in boredom.

I could not watch Netfliks because I had no internet.

I edited a few photos.

The modem arrived 3pm and was installed in about 10 minutes but a glitch occurred which took another 2 hours to resolve.


Saturday 6th July

Rain came and went most of the day. There were periods between long drizzly bouts of rain and heavy downpours when we could get outside and be invigorated by the strong southerly wind. Sister Enid picked me up after lunch and we went to Lamberts Beach at Slade Point whereupon we climbed the steep wet muddy slippery goat track to the lookout.

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View from Lamberts Lookout across Lamberts Beach and on to Mackay Harbour with Roand Top and Flat Top Islands in the distance.

Of course there is a road to the top but why drive when you can have an adventure? 060719 slade point060719 slade point1

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Water Tower at Slade Point.

One track was a bit close to the steep edge of the rocks but the wind was blowing us away from the edge.

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This and the following 6 photos shows the jumble of rocks which is an unusual high point on the Mackay coast located at Lamberts Lookout Slade Point.

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The overcast conditions and the salt haze did not do much for good photos but it was worth the climb followed by a walk along the beach then to Enid’s son, Aarons house. 060719 lookout rocks4060719 lookout rocks3We had a visit with Aaron, wife Megan and daughters Tilley and Asher.060719 lookout rocks2060719 lookout rocks1060719 lookout rocks

Sunday 7th July

After good continuing rain overnight, it continued during the day, on and off. Mostly to be a nuisance. Enid and I decided to go to Cape Hillsborough where I have not been for many years.

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Cape Hillsborough Beach looking north.

It rained all the way and continued to rain as we braved a walk along the beach and up into a hiking track.

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Cape Hillsborough Beach looking south.

Cape Hillsborough is a geologically diverse area of volcanic landscapes with distinct lava seams separated by layers of volcanic ash and pyroclastic materials. Volcanic hills at either end of the beach provide wonderful walking tracks. The entire area was formed by a series of massive volcanic explosions 34 million years ago. Today we decided to to the short version to what is known as double beach lookout and return along the same route.

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Wedge Island
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Cape Hillsborough

Along the way there are at least three bat caves although none were in residence today. The stubby volcanic Wedge Islands just offshore can be accessed by a land bridge at low tide.

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Little Wedge Island

Some of the older rocks on which the volcano rests can be seen on the tidal causeway linking Wedge Island. They are impure limestones with shell fragments that accumulated in a narrow, elongate fresh-water basin. More bat caves can be found on the islands. The Coastal Sheartail Bat is only seen in small clusters of 2 to 5 bats and are rated as Near Threatened.

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One of several bat caves at Cape Hillsborough

The beaches along this stretch of coastline are notable for the shimmering flakes of mica which have been eroded from granite. The nearest granite is in the Pioneer Valley west of Mackay. Fine weather and more time and armed with a bit of information this is a wonderful area to explore.

Tomorrow begins a brand new week of exploration.