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.

250719 brolga
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.

250719 habana house
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.

250719 habana house1
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.

250719 ball bay peak
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.


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.

250719 smalleys beach3
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.

250719 smalleys beach1
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.

250719 smalley's beach house
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.

250719 constant creek4
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. https://www.mackay.bwq.org.au/Newsletters/August_2014.pdf and again here https://www.mackay.bwq.org.au/Newsletters/September_2015.pdf


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.

260719 flag
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.
260719 mud sand line
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.
260719 roots
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.

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