All posts by Ray M

About Ray M

Retired academic; engineering, addicted to cycling and travel.

A Long Diversion

Thursday 31st of August

Tenterfield to Tamworth

No Photos today as it is a travel day.

Last night was surprisingly mild, we didn’t need to have the Tangey heater on in the morning. As usual for the last few days, the morning was clear with a bright blue sky ( What other colour is there?), with no wind, and soon warmed up to a very pleasant 20 deg. We had packed the camper and were leaving Tenterfield at around 10.20 am heading southward towards Tamworth, 300 Km further on. The country south of Tenterfield is hilly granite country with the highway twisting and turning through valleys with tree covered hills on each side. The traffic on the road was not particularly dense, and we only saw a few caravans approaching heading north. Compared to the east coast highways, there is very little caravan traffic on the New England Highway, the road we were following south.

After a little over an hour of travelling we arrived at Glen Innes, and as it was about 11.30, we stopped beside a park in the town for a coffee and cake break. After this break Linda took over driving as we continued on to the next major town on the highway, Armidale. As we were just leaving Glenn Innes we noticed a large flashing sign beside the road announcing a serious accident somewhere further south. The sign was flashing too quickly regarding warnings about route changes due to the highway being closed to avoid the accident for us to read, we had no real chance to interpret the sign before we passed it, so we hoped that we would receive directions later on our journey.

Lots of steep hills and twisting road to traverse from Glen Innes onward, so the journey was not particularly fast. Very pretty scenery otherwise with the rolling hills and forest covered peaks, with sheep country in the valleys. Finally we came to the town of Uralla where we decided to stop for lunch. Linda and I had been to Uralla some years ago and stayed in a motel there. Nice town with some lovely restaurants as we remembered.

Uralla is in a valley, and as we rose up from the valley on the edge of town we came across the same warning sign as at Glen Innes re the serious accident closing the highway. A few hundred metres further on we were stopped at a barrier across the highway and directed to a detour to avoid the accident. The detour was about 50 Km in total length taking us south east to the town of Walcha on the Oxley Highway. Here we finally headed 80 Km due west to Tamworth along, again a very twisting and undulating road through quite scenic sheep county.

Linda had checked out tourist parks a day ago, and we decided on one that was highly recommended about 7 Km short of Tamworth city centre. We were able to obtain a nice powered and grassed site for our camper, and so set ourselves of for the next 2 nights at Tamworth. Having set up camp Linda and I drove into Tamworth for some essential, as usual, shopping for for for the next 2 days.

On return to camp we decided to join a group of fellow travellers (not of the Communist variety) for a few drinks around a warming fireplace at the park. Whilst chatting to our fellow travellers, one of the travellers spoke of the accident on the highway that had necessitated our detour via Walcha. Apparently a stolen car had crashed into a fuel truck. The driver of the stolen car was killed, and the fuel truck incinerated. As I understand, the driver of the truck survived. No wonder the highway was closed to traffic.

It was now time for dinner as the temperature here at Tamworth is plummeting towards zero. Another cold evening ahead in the New England Tablelands area of NSW. By the way, it is called ‘New England’, because the area has some, minor, resemblance to the countryside in old England. Lots of European trees around the place.

Legs Across the Border

Wednesday 30th of August

Tenterfield

It was another freezing cold last night, -3 deg was reported, but Linda and I were warm and snug in bed, though loath to arise due to the morning cold. We finally got the courage to leave our snug cocoon around 7.30am for the customary cup of tea, then breakfast. After breakfast we prepared ourselves in the usual manner for cycling, to take the ride up to the summit of Mt. McKenzie, 9 Km from Tenterfield.

Initially the going was good, a slight rising of the road through the pretty countryside at the base of Mt. McKenzie on a good made road. But as we got closer to the mountain, the road became steeper, and steeper, and steeper, such that we finally gave up trying to pedal up Mt. McKenzie, and walked for about 2 Km of the steepest part.

Finally we came to a turn-off on the road to the lookout on the mountain, still with 4 Km to go, but here we changed our minds on continuing onward, mainly because the road had turned to gravel, and Linda cannot ride gravel safely on her new bike due to its very narrow road tyres. Thus we took the decision to return for the ute and take that up to the summit. It took about half an hour of walking with the bikes to reach the gravel road; it took 7 minutes to descend. I estimated the walked part of the road had a 20% slope.

Back at camp Linda and I changed into ordinary street clothes and returned to Mt. McKenzie, this time to the summit and the lookout point there. Here we had magnificent views down to Tenterfield, and to the range of mountains on the Queensland side of the border. We could also see the town of Wallangarra, 16 Km to the north of Tenterfield. Moore on this town later.

Tenterfield from Mt. McKenzie

The drive up to Mt. McKenzie can be continued onward through a number of sheep and farm properties to the north and then back to Tenterfield. As this circular drive was only around 20 Km extra, we decided to take it. The road runs through private property, but tourists are permitted to use the road providing they don’t leave the road or disturb stock. It was an interesting drive through sharply undulating countryside rather bare of trees, and with huge areas covered with granite boulders in all directions. It would be impossible to raise crops on such country, but sheep seem to thrive. The countryside reminded us of the high country down on the Victoria and NSW border that is snow covered in winter.

The Barren Countyrside

Finally after twisting and turning on the narrow but good gravel road, we made it back to Tenterfield in time for lunch. We had decided to try the local meat pies; Federation Pies, for lunch, so we called into a local bakery and purchased these local delicacies. Not bad pies, I’ve had better, but at least home made and not commercial mass produced rubbish.

The afternoon was still young, and we had rather tired ourselves out with the (not) cycling of Mt. McKenzie, so Linda and I decided not to cycle to Wallangarra as we had intended, but take the ute instead. As Wallangarra is only 16Km north of Tenterfield, the drive there took us about 20 minutes. What we had come to see at Wallangarra was the famous railway station that straddles the NSW/Qld border. As explained yesterday, this was the change of gauge point between the two railway systems, obviously Sir Henry Parks’ pleas for uniform rail gauges fell on deaf ears.

Wallangarra Railway Station
Legs Across the Border
(Qld to the left. NSW to the right)

When this inland rail link with Queensland fell into disuse in the late 20th century, the station at Wallangarra was left to become derelict. But government grants in the early 21st century enabled the station to be restored to its former glory. It now contains a licensed restaurant and a museum concerning this once important rail link. Again as explained yesterday, the Queensland government maintains a rail enthusiast vintage train link from Warwick to Wallangarra. The next train due is in early September.

Some Railway History

A couple of points of interest about the station besides its border line across the passenger platform, is the mixture of Queensland Railways and NSW Railways architecture. Queensland trains arrive on the north-west platform of the station, and NSW trains arrived on the south-east platform ( Left and right respectively in the photo ). The platform awning in Queensland followed their architectural dictates, and is a barrel awning. The NSW awning followed their’s, and is a flat cantilevered awning. Now you can easily pick sides. Another fact is that although the passenger interchange was basically in Queensland, the freight interchange was south of the station in NSW.

The Freight Platform
(Standard gauge left. Narrow gauge right)

Having photographed the station with its border line across the platforms, Linda and I drove back to Tenterfield for some shopping for tonight’s dinner, and the end of the day, and our last day in Tenterfield.

The Federated States of Australia

Tuesday 29th of August

Tenterfield

As predicted by the powers that be, the temperature here in Tenterfield dropped below zero sometime during the night. The water in the buckets thereof I keep outside the camper had layers of ice upon them. But since Linda and I had predicted the cold night and had reinstalled our doona on the bed, we had a nice warm night’s sleep. But once the sun rose in the morning, the temperature soon rose to a very pleasant 17 deg.

We had no specific plans for the day except to see some of the historic places and sights. around the town. But before any sight seeing we needed a new Tangey heater for the camper; our current one was not putting out the heat required to keep us warm last night before bed. So the first activity of the day was to call into a local hardware store and buy a new heater. As we had ridden our bikes into the town we had the hardware shop put the heater aside for us to collect later in the day.

Having purchased a heater and put in a couple of scrips for ‘older and wiser personages’ ailments at a local pharmacy, we walked the one main street of Tenterfield looking at the shops and businesses and the various historic buildings. This took about 3/4 of an hour, so our scripts should be ready, and they were, so we collected them then had a coffee at a local cafe’ before returning to our tourist park for lunch and to collect the washing Linda had done earlier in the morning.

Lunch over, Linda and I decided to walk to the nearby Railway Museum based at the once busy railway station. Before I describe the museum I should say a little about the railway history of communications between Sydney in NSW, and Brisbane in Qld, adding to what I said yesterday. The original railway route between the two Capitol cities of the then independent British colonies was inland from Newcastle north of Sydney, up through the Hunter Valley, then through the central highlands of NSW and then through here at Tenterfield, to the border town of Wallangarra. From Wallangarra the Queensland railway system ran up to Warwick, and then down the GDR to Brisbane. But as mentioned before, the NSW rail system was of Standard Gauge; 4′ 8.1/2″, and the Qld system of 3′ 6″, so a change of gauge at Wallangarra. The railway line through Tenterfield was thus a major transport route. Why I mention this again from yesterday’s report, is that something else we did later today has a bearing on this.

Tenterfield Station

The Tenterfield Railway Museum is based in the the very architecturally significant Railway Station. One of the features, still, of NSW stations is that the NSW railways promotes a garden competition with its Station Masters. For this reason, Tenterfield has a very beautiful station garden that is maintained by the museum. Besides the station gardens, the museum maintains a range of railway carriages and a steam locomotive, plus an impressive display of ‘ganger’ motorised trolleys. Each of the station rooms exhibits various historic displays of railway equipment, and photographic displays of railway operations in the area. In one room there is an impressive HO scale model of Tenterfield station and railway yards with scale locomotives traversing the model.

The Station Platform
Station and Displays from the Tracks

Having spent time on the station proper, Linda and I went for a walk through the extant railway yards, looking at the various aspects of railway operation still to be seen. The turn-table used to turn locomotives still exists and is connected to the yards. The railway line through Tenterfield ceased operation in the 1990’s and the tracks either side of the town torn up, so no trains can operate anymore to Tenterfield.

Train Lines To Nowhere

Enough of railways. As there was still plenty of time left in the day, the next thing Linda and I wanted to do, besides collecting out heater from the hardware store, was to visit the Sir Henry Parkes Museum in the centre of town. Sir Henry Parkes was the local Member of the NSW and also Premier of the state at various times. But what he is remembered for is being the ‘Father of Federation’. Prior to 1901, Australia was a collection of 6 separate colonies of Britain. Parkes was the main instigator of federating the 6 separate colonies of continental Australia into one single nation. He is remembered in Tenterfield for his inaugural speech on federation in 1889, that finally lead to federation in 1901. He was also a forceful proponent of a single railway gauge throughout the continent. Alas, in this he failed. An interesting aside to federation was that initially New Zealand was to be incorporated into the federation, but withdrew at the last moment.

Within the museum was many displays of Henry Parkes himself, his family, his ventures into politics, and naturally his advocacy of federation. Lots of pieces of Parkes’ own possessions. Lots of photos and paintings of the man, and lots of displays concerning the individual colonies and later states of Australia.

Sir Henry Parkes

Another famous person of Tenterfield was Major J. F. Thomas who was an officer in the British Army ( from The colony of NSW ) enlisted in the Boer War of 1899 – 1901 in South Africa. Major Thomas was a Lawyer, and was appointed by the British Army to act as Defence Council for Lieutenant Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, who was accused of torturing and executing innocent Boer prisoners. The charge of war crimes was a set-up by the British Army to find a scapegoat for the death of various Boer sympathisers. Morant was found guilty and executed by the British. In Australia, when evidence against Harry Morant was disclosed, Australians considered the whole episode an exercise in propaganda by the British and Morant innocent of all charges.

Having collected our heater and been to the Sir Henry Parks Museum, we returned to camp for the end of the day.

PS: I won the bet. The hotel was the ‘Railway Hotel’.

A Bet on an Hotel Name

Monday 28th of August

Fingal Head to Tenterfield

As I write at 5.30pm in the evening we have the Tangey Heater on in the camper, we are dressed in long pants, shoes and sox and jumpers, plus Linda had reinstated the doona onto our bed. We are in Tenterfield, high up in the New England Ranges part of New South Wales, and although we are but around 20 Km south of the Queensland border, the night temperature is predicted to drop below zero. This part of NSW is reputedly one of the coldest places in the state save for the snowfields down south near the Victorian border. Tomorrow is only expected to reach 17 deg. I suppose this is a gentle, ha! ha! reintroduction to when we get home in 3 weeks. Now back to the travels.

Despite it being a really beautiful morning at Fingal Point, sun shining, pleasant temperature, and the ocean a picture of calm, Linda and I were leaving for inland. Thus we were packed and leaving the Fingal Head tourist park a few minutes before 10am, with the intention of travelling to Tenterfield, around 250 Km from Tweed Heads. As it will not take a great amount of time to get to Tenterfield, we decided to take a scenic route rather than the more direct route using the motorway south and then the major inland highway.

Thus on leaving Fingal Head we took the road to Murwillimbah where we briefly called into the Tourist Information Bureau there to get a fridge magnet as a souvenir of our stay I this area. Having obtained a ‘Tweed’ magnet, we set off inland towards Kyogle, a major inland city located on the interstate rail route between Sydney and Brisbane. Murwillimbah is located directly below Mt Warning, a rather impressive lava dome ( of which I neglected to photograph ) named by, guess who? None other than our intrepid English naval explorer of the late 18th century, Cpt., James Cook, as Mt Warning is clearly visible from the ocean at Tweed Heads, and was from our tourist park at Fingal Head.

Leaving Murwillimbah the road became quite twisting and turning as it followed the banks of the Tweed River up into the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. The road followed the valleys of the Tweed River as it descended from its source in the mountain ranges. It also got noticeably smaller as we progressed; from a 150m wide tidal river at Murwillimbah, to a small creek after about 20 Km past there. It was a very picturesque journey along and up the valley of the Tweed River with the semi-tropical rainforests giving way to classical eucalypt forests as we climbed into the mountains.

About 20 Km past Murwillimbah we came to the very small, and very pretty town of Uki where we decided to stop for a late morning coffee and cake, taking about half an hour over said coffee and cake enjoying the sunshine and warmth on the verandah of the cafe’. From Uki onward the road began to climb quite steeply into the GDR, twisting and turning along and up the sides of the valleys. It was not a fast run in the ute. Despite the posted speed limit of 80 Kph, I could only maintain around 60 – 70 Kph because of the curves and steep ascents. Despite this slow progress, the drive was very pretty as we travelled through the eucalypt forests to the summit. Unfortunately the twisting nature of the road precluded me stopping to take photographs.

Uki and Mt Warning

Once on top of the first set of ranges, we then descended into the valley in which Kyogle is located. At last we could travel at highway speeds as we passed through Kyogle and then south towards Casino, where we once again turned west award towards Tenterfield. Linda was rather glad that we were in a flat wide valley with straight roads as she gets rather car sick with too much twisting and turning. Our travel route consultant Mr., Google had indicated a short cut we should take to availed the large city of Casino, but neglected to mention that the route entailed some sections of gravel road. As we wanted to avoid gravel and dirt roads to protect our expensive bicycles, we got temporarily route bamboozled on the short cut, and ended up in the outskirts of Casino which we had wanted to avoid.

From the outskirts of Casino we headed west award along a good major highway that later became a slow twisting and steeply climbing highway up into the New England Tablelands. We stopped outside Casino on this highway for lunch before heading into the hills. Due to Linda’s dislike of twisting routes she decided to have a sleep as I drove the tortuous route up into the Tablelands. Again, as with the route from Murwillimbah to Kyogle, it was a very pretty and scenic drive that I appreciated and Lind dreamt of.

Finally at around 2.45 pm we came to Tenterfield. Linda was awake by now and directed me to a tourist park that had been recommended as the best in the town. Here we checked in and were given a grassed site for the camper. Inland prices are a lot less than along the popular coastal regions: Fingal Head, $45 per night. Tenterfield, $ 29 per night. The park is in the grounds of what was once an hotel near the now closed railway station. I haven’t checked yet with the park proprietors, but I’ll put a bet on at 10:1 odds that the pub was called ‘The Railway Hotel’.

Railway History for those interested: The main railway connection between Sydney and Brisbane once passed through Tenterfield to the town of Wallangarra, about 20 Km north of Tenterfield. At Wallangarra the railways of the two states met, but of, as explained earlier, different gauges. Hence the Wallangarra station was a ‘change of gauge’ and hence ‘change of train’ point on the interstate trip between Sydney and Brisbane. To ensue that 19th century colonial feelings were not hurt, Wallangarra station sits exactly across the NSW/Qld border. In fact there is a line of tiles across the station platform showing the actual border. NSW trains no longer run through Tenterfield to Wallangarra, but Queensland Railways still run enthusiast specials from Warwick to Wallangarra.

Enough railway history, back to today’s travels. Having set up camp, met our next door caravan neighbours and played with their dog, Linda and I drove the kilometre into the town centre to buy the makings of tonight’s dinner.

Take the Last Bike to Pottsville

Sunday 27th of August

Tweed Heads

Today was our planned long ride down to Pottsville and back. But before we set off on this cycling journey, Linda washed our bed linen. When this was washed and on the line drying, Linda and I dressed as usual for cycling and set off around 10.30am for the 29 Km ride down the coast to Pottsville. The ride as far as Carabita Beach was the same as a few days ago, bike paths all the way.

An interesting feature of this part of the ride as far as I was concerned was a dead straight line of concrete posts starting at the north end of the Kingscliff park through which we were cycling, and continued in this straight line until halted by the presence of the road bordering the east side of the park. Yesterday afternoon on our cycling to the NSW/Qld border, one of these posts was straddling the border line at the headland lighthouse. I had read an inscription on one of these posts on returning from the Kingscliff Markets yesterday, informing me that it was a surveyors base line. Without confirming what I am about to say; that border marker would be on the same dead straight line as the posts in the Kingscliff park. The line so formed by these markers is the base line from which surveys of NSW would be referenced. The line was also running exactly north-south.

The Survey Base Line Posts (Centre left)
It looks like one post in this photo, but it is about 10 of them in that dead straight line.

Once past Kingscliff we again followed the route of a few days ago to Carabita Beach where we paused for coffee and cake at a cafe’ there. Having had our refreshments, Linda and I then continued on into the unknown wilds Pottsvilleward. Not really, we had driven down to Pottsville a few days ago, so we were just cycling the same route we had taken by car. Half way between Carabita Beach and Pottsville is the small town of Hastings Point, a very pretty town on a shallow estuary with a lovely safe beach for kiddies on the estuary channel. One thing we observed when passed Kingscliff was that vacancies were available at the tourist parks en-route, and that the price of fuel increased the further one went south of Kingscliff.

At around 12.30 we finally reached the small town of Pottsville. But rather than stop for lunch we continued on south along the beachfront road for another 5 Km, before returning to Pottsville for some lunch. Like Kingscliff and Carabita Beach, there is a lot of housing development in Pottsville, both permanent and holiday homes. As we were first entering Pottsville from the north we passed by the Pottsville Sporting and Services Club, so we decided to go there for a substantial lunch and the have a scrap dinner tonight.

The Club was well patronised today as there was a Lawn Bowls competition in full swing, and a huge audience watching a boxing match on the giant TV screen in the club’s main bar. Bowls is not energetic enough for Linda and I, and we both detest boxing as a brutal ‘sport’, so we had no interest in either. Because of the large crowds at the club it took a while for our lunch to come, but once we got the huge meal, we enjoyed it accordingly. One thing about the sporting and services clubs in NSW is the huge meals one can obtain for a small price.

Having had our lunch, we set off along the same route we had arrived, back to Fingal Point. Lots of foot and other cycle traffic on the cycle paths during our out and return journeys, more so than the other day most likely because it was a fine sunny day, and a Sunday. One thing that struck Linda and I as we were cycling today, and the other days, was the complete disregard of many NSW cyclists to wearing cycling helmets. Perhaps they are not compulsory in NSW as they are in both Victoria and Queensland? Stupid if this is the case, as wearing a helmet has saved my life twice in the last 10 years.

A Long Way to Not Too Far

Saturday 26th of August

Tweed Heads

Linda and I slept reasonably well last night despite the wind continually slapping a frond of the coconut palm beside our camper on the canvas roof. We arose from bed around 7.15am for pre breakfast tea, the great panacea, then breakfast and a showers for each of us as we had not showered since Thursday. I was wondering why our neighbours were aavoiding our presence!

On our bike travels of Thursday we had seen advertisements for the Kingscliff Market at the local TAFE for Saturday, so or first excursion for the day by bicycle was to this market. On our return yesterday from Murwillimbah I had noted the way to the Kingscliff TAFE as I was doing the rounds of the roundabout whilst slightly lost. So we set out along the road following the Tweed River to said roundabout, this time not getting lost, and followed the directions to the Kingscliff TAFE. It was not a good decision to take this route as it was very busy with traffic on a fairly narrow road and one did not feel too safe with the closeness of NSW drivers to us. Nevertheless, with pounding hearts we finally arrived at the Kingscliff TAFE and the market therein.

We secured our bikes to an immovable lamp post at the TAFE grounds and walked around the various stalls there; mostly produce stalls, and perused the various items they had for sale. As we had ridden our bikes to the market we had limited space in my rear carrier bag for any produce, thus having perused what was available, we made our judicious purchases; raw honey, home made marmalade, prosciutto, sausages for dinner tonight, and a hot salami for me. In the middle of making these selective purchases, we enjoyed a coffee from a local coffee producer. An interesting tasting for me was of raw sugar cane juice, I’ve never had it before, it was very nice; sweet like sugar as one would expect, but with other nice background tastes.

Kingscliff TAFE Market

Having made our limited purchases at the Kingscliff TAFE Market, we made the very sober decision to return via the coastal bike paths to Fingal Head because of the heavy traffic we had encountered on the way to the market. Whilst cycling along the coastal Cycleway we came to another foreshore market in Kingscliff. The TAFE market was mainly food items, this one was food, plus arts and crafts, tarot readings and such nonsense, and some very nice clothing. Linda and I had some Dutch Pancakes for lunch whilst there before continuing on back to Fingal Head. Interestingly, as we were awaiting our pancakes we fell into conversation with a bloke about the intelligence of Australian Magpies. Thinking nothing more of this we continued a leisurely tour of the market. At one point we came upon this same bloke; he had a stall selling herbal remedies for various ailments. One of his lines was turmeric milk that our friend Keith, of cycling fame, was using to assist with a ‘blokes problem’ Keith has. I mentioned this to the stall holder and he backed up the claims friend Keith has for the health benefits of turmeric. Interesting!

Back at Fingal Head after a safe route back, Linda and I had lunch and then decided on another bicycle ride for the day, this time to the border of NSW/Queensland as marked by the lighthouse at Tweed Heads. Consulting the Tweed Council cycling map we had obtained, we followed the directions therein to the border marker. Sounds simple, but our journey did entail some circuitous bike paths, some very steep hills, then some misinterpretation of the maps on my part, to finally find us at the border marker/lighthouse. One part of the journey near the marker was a very, very steep hill one had to climb on the bikes. I made it…, just. Linda piked out and walked it.

Linda Stradling the Border
(Qld to the left, NSW to the right)

From the border marker we could clearly see the beach at Fingal Head, the strange (sand pump) structure, and our tourist park not 4 Km in a straight line from the marker. It has taken 18 Km via the roads to get 4 Km from camp. Oh yes! The Tweed River intervenes.

So Close. But Oh so Far!

Linda and I were then needing a coffee refuel, so taking the direct, rather than the circuitous route from the NSW/Queensland border, we found a place, rival to the Golden Arches, for a coffee and cake, before taking the hilly route back to our tourist park at Fingal Head. On the way back we called into the very small Fingal Head general store for a cold bottle of white wine which we imbibed on return whilst watching a pod of whales about a kilometre off the beach. For dinner tonight we are having the sausages we purchased at the Kingscliff TAFE market.

It’s the Last Train to Pottsville….

Friday 25th of August

Fingal Head

It had been a windy night last night and at various times Linda had been awoken by a scraping sound on the roof of the camper. On arising around 7am I checked out the noise that was still occurring. It was the fronds of the coconut palm beside our camper hitting upon the roof with the wind. Can’t do much about it as I would probably be evicted from the tourist park for mutilating one of their trees if I modified the of ending branch.

We had thought of doing a bike ride up into the Gold Coast in Queensland as it is only about a 5 Km ride to cross into Queensland. But first Linda had the ubiquitous washing to do before we could go anywhere. Washing done. Wind getting stronger from the south. Forget the ride, we will go for a drive somewhere. Ride tomorrow…, maybe. It was now around 11am, so we decided on a walk along the beachfront to the actual Fingal Head; a rocky Promontory about half a kilometre to the south of us.

It was a pleasant walk through a thicket of screw palms and banksias to a path that lead out onto the Promontory. On the promontory is the Fingal Head lighthouse that has been there since the late 19th century. The lighthouse was once tended, and the foundation remains of the lighthouse keeper’s cottage can be seen near the lighthouse. The lighthouse is now fully automatic, and warning of the rocky shoals extending out from Fingal Head. The actual lighthouse is quite short, 7m in fact, as the promontory is quite high above the surrounding ocean.

It was now lunchtime, so Linda and I walked back along the beach to our camper and had a light lunch before deciding where to drive today. We decided on a drive down the coast through Kingscliff and Cabarita Beach and on down to Pottsville. It was a pleasant drive, this time to Cabarita Beach we drove through the housing estates that we passed in front of last Wednesday. Lots of housing all over the place and extending somewhat inland, all very new and modern, but slow to drive through due to numerous roundabouts.

From Cabarita Beach to Pottsville there is more bush land and less development, though Pottsville itself is a reasonable sized town. From here Linda and I decided to travel inland about 30 Km to a largish town; Murwillimbah on the banks of the Tweed River. To get there from Pottsville we had to pass through some hilly and pretty countryside, and then up and over a range of hill that are part of the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. At one point we crossed over a railway line that has been abandoned, that was once part of the NSW railway system; a Standard Gauge railway rather than the Narrow Gauge of Queensland, that once ran to Murwillimbah.

Murwillimbah is a large town, maybe around 15 000 people who’s main industry is sugar. The Tweed River valley is lined with sugar cane farms and a major sugar refinery is located in the town. As we had some shopping to do for tonight’s dinner we decided to stop in Murwillimbah, firstly for a refreshing cup of coffee, and then the shopping for tonight’s dinner. Having coffee’d and shop’d we took the easy way back to Fingal Head following the Tweed River. About 7 Km short of Fingal Head we joined the Pacific Motorway for about 2 Km, and then left it to take a back road to Fingal Head. Unfortunately I missed a vital turn-off after leaving the motorway, so did a confusing (for traffic following) circle of the exit/entrance to the motorway. Having sorted myself out, we were back in Fingal Head about 5 minutes later.

It was now around 3 pm, so Linda and I decided on a walk along the beach to the entrance to the Tweed River, same walk as I did a few days ago up to the strange structure jutting out into the ocean. On approaching the structure I spied a fisherman, for it was a ‘he’, nearby, so I questioned him on the structure: It is a series of sand pumps that extract sand from the ocean bed, and pump it to the nearby beaches in Queensland, to keep the beaches…, as beaches. ( The Gold Coast beaches are a favourite playground in Australia, so the beaches there must be kept in tip top condition. ) There is a road leading from the settlement of Fingal Head of to the Tweed River entrance, so Linda and I walk back along this road rather than back along the beach as along the road we were sheltered from the quite strong wind. It was then time for dinner.

Getting Lost

Thursday 24th of August

Tweed Heads

It was a fine cool morning as Linda and I arose from bed around 7.30am. Last night I had phoned an old friend from Victoria who was now living nearby on the Gold Coast and arranged to meet her today for lunch at the Currumbin RSL. So there was not much for us to do until around mid day when we planned to leave for Currumbin. Linda played on her Padovie, whilst I continued reading my book on the life of Bert Hinkler of aviation fame. We had also decided to spend a few extra days here at Fingal Head as we are basically on our way home, but have 20 days in which to cover around 2000 Km, so we arranged this with the management here at the tourist park before heading up the motorway to Currumbin.

Prior to setting out for Currumbin I had checked out its location on Linda’s Padovie and Mr., Google’s Maps, and noted how to get there. Despite this check, I got a little lost around Currumbin, and only by sheer dint of recognising some landmarks from previous journeys in the region did we find our way to the Currumbin RSL.

On arrival at the RSL we soon found our friend Liz Williamson awaiting us in the RSL dining room. Linda and I have not seen Liz for about 3 years so there was plenty to talk about over lunch for the 2 hours we were with her at the RSL. We had also hoped to meet up with another long lost friend who lives closer to Brisbane, but she is currently, as I write, shifting home to the north of Brisbane city and is thus indisposed. We will catch up with Carol Williamson ( Yes. They are sisters in law ) next time we are up this way.

Having had an enjoyable lunch with Liz at the Currumbin RSL, we said good bye to her and headed back to our tourist park at Fingal Head. Back at camp I suggested to Linda that we take a walk along the beach outside our camper, but on looking skyward and to the west, dark clouds could be seen in the distance and getting closer. And sure enough, around 20 minutes later, a thunderstorm passed overhead giving us the first heavy rains we have experienced since leaving Cessnock in the Hunter Valley in early May. We were thus confined to our camper for the next hour. More reading and playing on the Padovie.

Since we had quite a substantial lunch with Liz at the Currumbin RSL, we will only be having a snack dinner tonight.

Lubricants

Wednesday 23rd of August

Fingal Head

Linda an I awoke, as usual, just before 7am. It is very light here at 7am as we are just above the eastern extremity of the Australian continent, so it is light early in the morning and dark early at night. The most eastern extremity is at Byron Bay, about 100 Km south of here. Linda, for whatever reason, was feeling a little ‘off’ this morning with a headache, and I too was visiting the small room more often than is usual; probably something we ate yesterday. Nevertheless we decided to do some gentle bike riding in the late morning, in the meantime sitting around reading and awaiting Linda’s headache to pass.

Finally, dressed as usual for cycling, we set off on a ride of indeterminate length, the length depending upon how we felt. Luckily the coastal country around Tweed Heads, and Fingal Head, is flat, so cycling was not going to be difficult. This we set off around 11 am with the intention of heading southward for whatever distance suited. The Tweed Council have set up a large network of cycle paths in their administrative area, and had produced a pamphlet showing the numerous routes around their shire. Having got one of these from this tourist park management, we selected the coastal path that is well sign posted for about 30 Km south of Tweed Heads.

We had a really pleasant ride, firstly along the southern bank of the Tweed River, and then a not too busy road to the coastal cycle path. The coastal path we followed was through parklands all the way, dividing the residential areas from the beach. The cycle path was made all the way so there was no riding over gravel or sand, and this made travel easy. We weren’t in a hurry, so we cycled at around 16 Kph average speed. A little while after setting out we came to the town of Kingscliff, not that there is any open rural areas between towns here as the coast is totally built up.

As far as Kingscliff we had cycled through grassy parklands with trees here and there; mainly Screw Palms and Banksias. Lots of shelters in the park and BBQ areas, and change grooms for swimmers. At Kingscliff proper we had to travel on the roadway, but with a car speed limit of 40 Kph, traffic islands, and chicanes, it was a safe ride along the main street of Kingscliff. Like many coastal towns Kingscliff has numerous cafe’s, restaurants, pubs, and other necessary retail outlets, and naturally, housing both holiday and residential.

Cadgen Creek, Kingscliff

At Kingscliff we had to cross the Cadgen Creek which entailed following a boardwalk along the banks of the creek to a major road bridge. It might be called a ‘creek’ up here, at home in central Victoria it would be called a wide river. Having crossed the creek the bike path took us through some coastal bush land. No more grassed parklands, but dense coastal bush, and again mainly Screw Palms and Banksias. It was pleasant cycling through this bush land as there was no wind and lots of shade.

After about 2 Km of this bush land cycling, rather fancy ( read expensive ) homes appeard on the inland side of the cycle path, and a little further on, a resort or two. Despite the housing to our right the path still meandered through the bush land separating the houses from the ocean beach. All very pleasant really. At last we came back to the main coastal roadway, not the main highway as that is some kilometres inland, but a main road connecting the small coastal towns such as Kingscliff. Once on this main road it was a 2 kilometre ride along the road on a dedicated cycle lane to the next town; Cabarita Beach. As it was now around 1pm we decided to terminate our meandering here and have lunch before returning the way we have come, to Fingal Head.

Like Kingscliff, Cabarita Beach is a mixed residential and holiday destination. Lots of cafe’s etc. After our lunch at a Japanese Cafe, we visited the local supermarket to get the odd thing for tonight’s dinner, and some ‘personal lubricant’ for my bum. Yes folks, if you are a serious cyclist the application of a ‘personal lubricant’ to the nether regions makes cycling much more comfortable, and it of course has ‘other’ applications. Fed and lubricated we returned to Fingal Head.

Linda and I  saw a couple of interesting things of an ornithological nature on our return ride. Firstly, whilst recrossing the Cadgen Creek we saw a very rare bird; a Sand Stone Curlew, a wadding bird, and one of only around 30 known Sand Stone Curlew’s in New South Wales. Took a photo naturally. And whilst at the entrance to Cadgen Creek at Kingscliff, we saw a Sea Eagle nest up a pole and two Sea Eagles sitting on a Coast Guard antenna nearby.

Sea Eagle Nest
The Very Rare Beach Stone Curlew

Back at our camp Linda was still feeling a little off, so stayed in camp whilst I went for a walk along the lovely surf beach right outside our camper. From our vantage point we could see a rather large wharf like structure to the northern end of the beach at the actual Fingal Head, so I wanted to find out what it was. It looked close, so a short walk was envisaged. It was not close, it was about 4 Km along the beach. I did walk to it and took a few photos, but I am slightly mystified as to what the structure’s purpose is. It is, some form of loading facility for liquids, but what liquids? JP1 for the Coolangatta Aerodrome perhaps?

The Strange Structure

Having walked 8 Km along the beach, a pleasant walk all the same, I returned to our camper at the tourist park for dinner.

Southward Bound (Again)

Tuesday 22nd of August

Caloundra to Fingal Head

Travel day, so no photographs.

Today is a day of travel southward to Fingal Head near the border of Queensland and New South Wales around the Gold Coast area. Linda and I were packed and ready to leave Keith and Jean at their apartment at Caloundra just before 10am, so we bid them good bye and thanked them for putting us up for the last four nights, then set off through Caloundra shopping precinct where we called into a garage to refuel the ute before heading west along the same route Keith and I took yesterday to the Pacific Motorway. Here we joined the motorway and headed south towards the Gold Coast.

It was an easy drive south as the motorway bypasses Brisbane City to the east and then continues on all the way down to the Gold Coast and into New South Wales. About 30 Km after joining the motorway at Caloundra it becomes an 8 lane motorway, so there was absolutely no hold ups as we passed by Brisbane. At around 11.30 we had reached Yatala, about 40 Km south of Brisbane, and here we pulled off the motorway for a coffee break and some lunch before continuing onward.

At around 1.30pm we crossed the Queensland border into New South Wales and continued on for about 20 kilometres before we turned off the motorway a little south of Tweed Heads after crossing the Tweed River. The twin cities of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta form the ocean border of Queensland and New South Wales; Coolangatta is in Queensland, and Tweed Heads in NSW. There is actually a street called Boundary St., in these two cities where those living on the north side are in Queensland, and those on the south side in NSW. Another interesting border fact is that the Coolangatta Aerodrome sits on the boundary; south end of the runway in NSW, north end in Queensland.

Off the motorway we turned north-east along a wide and long sand spit separating the Tweed River from the Pacific Ocean, to the small settlement of Fingal Head. I had phoned the tourist park here early this morning and secured us a site for the camper for the next 4 nights. We usually try and secure a grassed ‘tent’ site for our camper, and what we were allocated was a lovely site right on the ocean beach. We look out of the camper doorway onto the beach and the Pacific Ocean. The ocean is quite loud with the surf ( real surf this time as we had left the protection of the Great Barrier Reef after Bundaberg ) crashing upon the beautiful sandy beach, so I hope my theory expounded some weeks ago about the sound of the surf lulling one into sleep applies.

Having set up camp Linda and I needed to do the usual requisite food shopping, so we drove the 6 Km or so into Tweed Heads and a local shopping mall for this food shopping spree. We then returned to Fingal Head and a walk along the beach before returning to camp and tonight’s dinner.

Linda and I have some friends who live in this area, so we will be visiting them over the next few days before once again heading southward and homeward, but at a leisurely pace.