Final Chapter - Noosa to Melbourne

A Pelican floating around on Lake Glenbawn

Link to a few hundred pictures here:

This is definetly the last part of the travel blog from our trip around Australia, there may be a special short post with some facts and figures to encourage people a trip like this is within reach or to book a holiday to Fiji or Thailand with a 5 star hotel and impeccable service rather than cooking noodles and pasta for a year on a puny gas stove.

Last leg of our journey, a dash down the coast from Noosa to Melbourne

Leaving Tin Can Bay we only had a vague plan for the last couple of weeks of our travels, we had said we would be back in Melbourne by Christmas so had a fair distance to travel and a few things left on our “must-do” list before we arrived home.

I had very hazy memories of Noosa from a trip many many years ago, I recalled it was a nice little town by some fantastic beaches, a great place to stop and relax maybe. My memories were certainly “hazy” as Noosa is now a busy beach side resort town with a thriving population and a myriad of expensive shops to practice retail therapy.

The beaches and headland are still amazing although there is tremendous parking pressure everyone around town, we failed to find a spot for our truck and ended up doing a couple of "drive throughs" before snagging a parking spot for a quick walk down at Noosa Spit, where the river meets the ocean. We were there at the weekend and it was packed with families enjoying the sun, sand and water. Apart from feeling there were too many people around it looked like a great family spot.

We were fortunate to also catch up with Michael, Vicki and Katie again, first at the Eumundi Markets and then the next day over a long lazy BBQ lunch. We had been to a number of small town markets on our travels, but the size and scale of the Eumundi markets was something to behold, full of colour, passion and life (plus some lunch, ice creams and a refreshing drink at the old pub), a real revelation and well worth stopping by if you are in Noosa or the Sunshine coast.

Our BBQ lunch was also a farewell to Michael as he would be going to the UK for a while to help out with some family business, so we ate and drunk, enjoyed the pool in their AirBNB house and acted like Galahs for the day. We arranged to meet up with Vicki and Katie in a week or so and go fossicking for sapphires in Inverell.

Leaving Noosa the next day we headed south through Brisbane and up to Lamington National Park, one of my favourite parks with amazing walking tracks, birdlife and scenery. We topped up supplies on the way up to Lamington, we were staying at Binna Burra Lodge campground, a throwback to the golden days of bush walking in the 1930’s and 40’s. It is an authentic slice of history and the walking tracks and guided ranger talks/walks were a real highlight of our stay.

The campground at Binna Burra is not the prettiest by any stretch of the imagination, throw in some rain, wind and low cloud over the mountains it didn’t initially feel like it would be a great experience. But it is a fantastic place, the birdlife, the walks, the scenery and the ambiance creating an unforgettable experience for all of us. Binna Burra has a number of rangers on staff to help people get the most from the location, we were fortunate to have Ranger Katie guide us on a night spotlighting walk, and a couple of presentations in the library on the snakes, spiders and birdlife in the area. Truly wonderful.

On the spotlighting walk we were shown some Funnel Web spiders, their webs carefully camouflaged on the trunk of a tree, we learnt the females can live for >25 years, the males don’t last that long as they often get eaten by the females if food is scarce.

We also saw Tawny Frog Mouth Owls, heard Fruit Bats and trod carefully in case there were any snakes out and about. We completed a number of the walks, took heaps of pictures of forest, fungi and birds. Incredible place.

All too soon we were heading down the mountain towards Byron Bay for a couple of days, although the mountain road still had one trick up its sleeve as we slowly descended down the range.

Halfway down the mountain we heard a tremendous crash and felt like we had been hit by something, looking in my mirrors I was horrified to see our 85L camping fridge hanging out of the trailer and this had smashed into the rock face on the passenger side. The trailer door had come undone (my fault for not securing it properly) and then the fridge slid out and the rest is history. The fridge slide was broken beyond repair and fridge was battered, a little worse for wear but still functional. (Fridge for sale, one careful owner?).

Arriving in Byron we set up the tent and had to move the fridge out of the trailer for the remainder of our trip, fortunately only another 2 weeks but a little painful and ironic reminder that not all goes smoothly on our travels.

Byron Bay was busy, the old hippy capital of NSW but also the eastern most point of mainland Australia at Cape Byron. We wanted to visit and tick this off the list to join Steep Point (Western most Point), Cape York (Northern most point) and Wilson’s Prom (Southern most point, visited many times in the past).

We really enjoyed the walk around Cape Byron, up to the lighthouse and headland but were a bit miffed at having to pay for parking, we could not remember the last time we had paid for parking, maybe Fremantle back in April 2018?

We only stayed in Byron for a couple of nights, we were on a timeline to meet up with Vicki and Katie to go fossicking around Inverell, we settled on the small town of Tingha close by for our campground and proximity to some “free” fossicking sites.

Tingha is a really small town on the way to somewhere else, but the locals seemed friendly and a little eclectic as almost everyone was chasing Sapphires in one way or another.

Our camp site hosts were full of information and offered to guide us all the next day to a couple of locations where we would likely find some Garnets, Sapphires and other crystals like “Jelly Bean Quartz”, smoky Quartz and others, they had a great collection from their fossicking activities but I noted they were still working, so had not found the “motherlode”.

Citrine Crystals and Jelly Beans

We arrived midday, Vicki and Katie a couple of hours later and set up camp full of nervous excitement. The girls were happily reunited and before long were sorting through the loose stones in the campground and finding some really nice crystals, especially Jelly Bean Quartz.

Plans were made to have a couple of full days fossicking, firstly with a local guide and then a day at a different location with the promise of finding Sapphires in the local area.

Of course, things didn’t go quite to plan, Sophie contracted a stomach bug (food poisoning?) and so spent the next three days being quite sick and in no condition to go out and fossick, so we stayed at camp while Vicki, Helen, Zoe and Katie went off to find their fortunes. They came back towards the end of the day, covered in dust from all the digging and sifting but complete with happy faces and a fair selection of crystals, mainly smoky quartz from memory. There was a fair bit of anticipation for the next day’s digging at Billabong Blue Sapphire Fossicking Park nearby.

Sophie & I had another quiet day at the campground while the fossicking crew went off to find their gems, they were away most of the day but came back covered in even more dust and grime of possaible but with big smiles and small boxes of precious gem stones they had found during the day. None of the stones were true gem quality but there were a few Star Sapphires that could be cut to make into nice jewellery as a keepsake of the adventures. There was cheap talk around the dinner table, over a glass of wine, about buying tumbling machines to polish our rocks and joining Lapidary clubs to learn about the art of getting stones cut and set. Time will tell.

Next day was a gentle pack up day as we rolled southwards towards Sydney, one last night camping together at Lake Glenbawn, well we would camp and Vicki would sensibly stay in a cabin for their last night on the road as the weather promised rain and it would be no fun packing up wet canvas.

When we arrived at Lake Glenbawn, we discovered it was like a "campground that time had forgot", the cabins were “old, budget units”, pretty sure leftover from the contruction of the nearby dam wall, and the campground was full of acres and acres of uneven ground, not ideal for our camper trailer.

The summer weather was promising a storm and later that evening we were treated to a full scale thunderstorm and heavy rainfall, this was to continue for the rest of our trip and we had afternoon storms in Patonga and Lane Cove in the Sydney region.

It was a bit of an odd end to the trip for Vicki and Katie, they left next morning to head into Sydney and home, while we were due to stay another two days. The lake is a mecca for fishermen (with boats) and water skiing / Jet skiing enthusiasts, not really the natural camping experience I was hoping for.

So after a day full of thunderstorms passing through and threatening to inundate our tent, we decided to leave a day early and head to Patonga Beach.

Patonga Creek

Patonga Beach is quite close to Sydney as the crow flies, but far enough away to be a real beach/holiday resort town at the southern end of the Central coast. The day we arrived we found a busy, bustling campground but with a really friendly, family oriented atmosphere. As we parked the trailer we had several offers of help to set up the tent, everyone was watching as a summer storm rolled in and the heavens opened.

Fortunately after a year of practice we had the tent and supporting walls up and secure just before the rain came, it was terrific to hear the thunder booming around the sandstone ranges and even more terrific as the tent didn’t leak.

We had a relaxed few days at Patonga, enjoying the afternoon storms, watched as our neighbours BBQ was engulfed in a sudden downpour of almost biblical proportions, helped them clear up after their gazebo shelter was destroyed in a fierce wind squall and generally relaxed around this quaint part of the world so close to Sydney. We caught up with Steve & Kerri for lunch one day and fished a little one other afternoon, still no fish for dinner and I think both Steve & I need to go back to fishing basics before we meet again.

And then it was off into Sydney for a couple of days catching up with a few friends and my older brother before finally heading down the Hume Highway for Melbourne.

Sydney was fun, we drove into the city, wandered around the Botanical Gardens and the Opera House, acted like real tourists gawping at Luna Park in North Sydney and were entertained with good conversation and fabulous hosts on the north shore.

Our last evening in Sydney was spent running for cover from yet another summer rain storm as it passed over Manly Beach, we had been entreated to gorgeous rainbows driving through Mossman and down the Spit Bridge. We caught up one last time with Vicki and Katie for dinner in the famous Steyne Hotel in Manly, we all got pretty drenched running from the cars to the pub but giggled at this unlikely end to our journeys together. A few last pictures, a hug and a promise to stay in touch and visit and that was it, trip over.

Evening storm passing over Manly Beach

Apart from the small matter of a 880km drive from Sydney to Melbourne, and one final campsite of our trip on the side of Lake Hume. And of course there would be one final twist in the weather just to remind us never to take anything for granted when living under canvas.

The campground near Ebden on Lake Hume was absolutely stunning in the late afternoon sun as we pulled in for our last night, it was to be a quick overnight stop so no canopy set up, just the tent. Then the wind started to blow, and blow, enough to make sure we had to add extra pegs, poles and ropes to secure the tent. It made cooking next to impossible and I was pretty sure our last supper may well be undercooked pasta. The wind strengthened and made for an uncomfortable night listening to the tent flapping in the breeze, morning came and although the wind eased a little there was no point trying to cook, not even a coffee to get me going.

Our last meal on the road was breakfast in a small café in Wodonga, a cup of coffee, some scrambled eggs and a croissant or two. Then the Hume highway for the final 350kms and home just after lunchtime.

The trip was done, not quite the ending we had imagined a year ago but it was good to be back, great to see my boys again and seemed so unbelievably easy just to put a kettle on and make a cup of tea to celebrate our homecoming.

A real bed at last

Best regards

Roy, Helen, Sophie & Zoe Newbury.

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