“I’d like to tell my story,”
Said one of them so young and bold
I’d like to tell my story
Before I turn into gold”.
From A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes by Leonard Cohen
I started “Travels with Mr Gato” when we lived in France. My first quote was some lines including “Where do All These Highways Go” from Leonard Cohen’s song “Stories from the Street”. It seems fitting that I end this trip (which is really just a hiatus while Scout works out our next expedition) with some more of Leonard Cohen’s words. Well I hope you have enjoyed this story but more importantly I’ve liked to tell this story though I would never for one moment think I’m turning into gold!
We had a loose plan to return to the coast at Bundaberg that involved a couple of stops in the country, a final week at Bargara before returning to the Sunny Coast and home. Bargara is a seaside tourist town 15 kms from Bundaberg with a couple of caravan parks on the beach and a small town centre based around the pub and cafes. We had stayed there before and enjoyed the quiet beachside ambience, the bike paths and cafe scene. First we had to get there. The next 120kms took us from Emerald across country via Blackwater and Dingo – both coal towns. Blackwater has a large museum on the main road into town dedicated to the coal industry. Dingo went by in a blink. This tiny crossroad town was the birthplace and home of Ben Hunt the current St George Illawara and Australian rugby league player. We know this because there is a big sign on the highway asking the question and the answer is on a sign a couple of kms further on. No points though for working out the origins of the town’s name. Dingo is also the home of the annual World Dingo Trap Throwing Competition, held in conjunction with a country race day in August. The traps are tossed like a hammer throw, with the record currently standing at 48 metres. We are going back next August. To be fair there is some lovely grazing country and waterways nearby and campers enjoy riverside camping and fishing in the Blackdown Tablelands National Park.
It was time to turn south towards Biloela with an overnight stop at Dululu. We had picked this overnighter because the description of a small town free camp on the junction of the Burnett Highway going east and the Leichart Highway going west sounded interesting. The only accurate part was small. Effectively there is nothing in Dululu but a dozen houses, a recreation area (the campground) and a burnt down pub. We walked around it in five minutes. The pub (destroyed in 2015) is being restored as a private residence which does look like it will be quite impressive. But in a dead town with more dogs and campers than residents? Nevertheless the afternoon and night there was fun and the evening sunset and cloudless night sky a bonus. We were befriended by what seemed to be a stray dog seriously resembling a pitbull which gave Scout some nervous moments. This fellow decided to settle himself in beside us that night as we enjoyed the clear night and a quiet meal. We decided he may have been the camp security.
Some 70 kms south of Dululu lies the pastoral town of Biloela. It services the local cattle grazier community and surprised as a well appointed and attractive country Queensland town. Biloela, population 5,800, has the meaning “cockatoo” in the local Gangula language and there were plenty around as we stopped for our usual morning pie before turning east for the 120 kms run towards Rockhampton and the coast. We hit the Bruce Highway at the township of Calliope and our next overnight stop at Calliope River rest area. Scout decided on this stop from the very good Camping Australia book which we have used throughout our trip. Some of the stops are good, some are ok and some ordinary. Calliope River turned out to be one of the better spots. We camped on the cliffs on the topside of the river overlooking the south river bank from on high. A great position poised over the bridge and looking down the river. While there is a 48 hour stay limit the lower bank was full with caravans and campers and family groups. We put this down to the closeness to the coast and Gladstone. There was plenty of fishing, swimming and boating going on despite the crocodile activity signs. On asking one such sportsman we got the answer that a crocodile hadn’t been seen there for over a month. Good luck to them.
Only downside was that the toilets were on the other side and it took a one km bike ride across the bridge if we wanted to use them. Scout of course had to explore the whole area on her bike arriving back with a punctured tyre. We had ridden hundreds of kms on our bikes and this was the first puncture since Jurien Bay in April. We had to be happy with this.
After a night in Bundaberg (move along nothing to see here) we drove the 15kms to the coastal town of Bargara. It is a little facetious to wipe Bundaberg in such a quick fashion. It is a city of 70,000 people and the centre of a large sugar growing region. Like all sugar growing areas in Queensland it was built upon near slave labour blackbirded from the Pacific Islands – the Solomons, New Caledonia and Vanuatu in particular. Interestingly South Pacific labour particularly from Vanuatu still plays a large part in harvesting produce (mangoes, tomatoes and other fruit) in the region and the N.T. but now under a controlled visa system. Fondly named Bundy, the city is also the location of the famous Bundaberg rum and ginger beer distillery. But I digress. We settled into the Bargara Beach Holiday Park and as it was the last days of the school holidays about 1,000 other campers welcomed us. This park has to be the largest in Queensland and we did regret the first two days there as it was jampacked. We woke up Monday confident the park would clear out only to find it was Queensland Labour Day. Queensland has two labour days each year when there is a labour state government pared back to one when there is an LNP state government. Funny that. Regardless things righted themselves the next day and we enjoyed a quiet week beside the Coral Sea. There is a fantastic bike path network along this coast and we enjoyed long rides north to Burnett Heads and south to Elliot Heads (worth a few days visit next trip).
The major nearby attraction though is Mon Repos Conservation Park, home to the Mon Repos Turtle Centre. Mon Repos beach at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef is a major nesting site for the loggerhead turtle. Loggerheads hatched at Mon Repos have been found as far away as South America, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The species exists worldwide but is listed as endangered in Australia facing such hazards as boat propellers, getting tangled in crab pots and light pollution. Adults shy away from lighted areas reducing egg laying opportunities while hatchlings will move towards light when hatched rather than down beach to the water. These turtles once hatched will remain at sea for up to 15 years before returning to the same beach they were hatched on to breed. Doesn’t nature surprise you everytime. Unfortunately less and less adults are returning due to ending as commercial fishing bycatch and becoming entangled in marine debris. So keep your plastic out of the sea folks. Mon Repos and the turtle centre is a major conservation and study centre and a couple of hours can easily be spent here. From November to March guided night tours allow the public to experience the hatchling run to the sea. So worth it.
After nine months we were coming to the end of our trip. Sadly we packed Mr Gato for the final time and prepared for one last four hour drive south to the Sunshine Coast and home. Tears flowed (figuratively of course) as we pulled out of Bargara Beach Camp and pointed Mr Gato’s nose towards the Bruce Highway and home.
2 thoughts on “Back to the Queensland Coast”
Hello Margaret and Mike:- Hope your home was in good order on your return after such a wonderful tour of Australia over the last 9 or so months in Mr Gato. We will miss your descriptive weekly emails (I have put each one in the Archive file for future reference) that took us to so many parts of our great country, that very few people would ever have the opportunity of visiting. A great credit to you both for making such a big effort when the opportunity arose. Growing up, my parents were always keen to do a trip during the school holidays, so we did quite a lot in Australia, especially between Sydney and Townsville, but nothing like what you have done. I guess you are busy unpacking and settling back in again and getting things back in place. The worse part after returning from a lovely long holiday. We have celebrated a few family birthdays recently with 2 more this month. Andrew has felt well enough to do a few things here in the Unit for the first time in ages and I am kept busy doing what has to be done. Recently I got back to tennis with my Sydney friends, for the first time in 4 years since my knee problems, so I look forward to Fridays and catching up with them over lunch after tennis. I wonder who will win the Presidency!!!!!!! It’s going to be a battle, but I can’t see Trump giving up. As it is getting late I will close now, hoping you are both well and fit. With love and best wishes from both of us as always. Thea.
done. No doubt you are now busy unpacking etc. settling in and getting things back to normal – the worse part after a lovely long holiday. We are both well and busy celebrating various birthdays within the families and Andrew has been fixing things here in the unit over the last couple of weeks, something he hasn’t been well enough to do for ages, so that is a plus. I am always busy doing what’s got to be done and I look forward to Friday’s now that I am back on the tennis court with my old Sydney friends, for the first time in 4 years since my knee problems. I wonder who is going to get the Presidency of USA !!!!!!!! it doesn’t surprise me that it is closer than expected. As it is getting late, I will close now and hope this finds you well and fit. With love and best wishes from both of us as always. Thea.
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Leonard Cohen- loved his words and voice.