Accommodation: $3235.50 (6 days of caravan parks recently blows out the total)
Eventually it was time to move on and we went to Kawana Island near Mooloolaba to visit with Julie's friend Vita, who almost became her sister in law, and that was near enough for Julie to say she is her sister in law. We got to sleep in a real bed (thanks Abby for giving up your bed for us and sleeping on the fold out bed).
The night we arrived Vita had organised a feast and Vita's daughter Samantha and her husband Davin came over with their boxer, Harken.
In the morning we went for a walk with Vita along the canal and over the bridge for a swim at the beach. It was here a seed was planted in Glen's head that they needed body boards as the waves were pretty hard to catch. After a shower we went with Vita, Abby and Samantha up the mountains to Maleny where Glen had coffee and gelato at Colin James Ice Cream. They weigh the coffee there. The river that runs through town (supposedly) has platypus but we didn't see any. What we did see was lots of water dragons of varying sizes as wee crossed the river to check out the markets. Our next stop was Montville which easily rivals Eimeo Hotel as the best view in Australia. We missed the lunch service so had cake and coffee with an amazing backdrop. That night we had roadkill (flat) chicken and lots of wine.
A school day for Abby the next day so we started with coffee at Vita's new work where she was to start later in the week and when she turned off to take Abby to school we drove up the coast and had a swim at Coolum Beach. Here the waves were easy to catch and a backpacker wanted to know how Glen caught waves as he was impressed that Glen flew past him while he struggled to be carried more than a few metres. At Noosa we went for a walk through the National Park to the practically deserted Tea Tree Bay beach where the waves were again hard to catch. Glen had been hanging out for waves all the way down the coast as we haven't had any since mid-way up Western Australia due to the reefs - and he hasn't had a go at kite surfing which looks exciting and is popular in the areas protected from the swell. It was during our walk through the shops at Noosa that the seed of an idea germinated when Glen saw how cheap a body board could be. Who cares if he rarely uses it?
The following day we jumped in the car to drive 100km to Brisbane to see Glen's daughter Brooke play softball. We hadn't seen her for 11 months so it was nice of the navy to send her (almost) to us. We watched her play 2 games then drove back to Mooloolaba that night. We got back a little late to do anything so had a quiet night with a couple of drinks.
On the Wednesday we attended a presentation for Classic Holidays in the morning and won a weeks holiday for $199 then drove to Brisbane to watch Brooke in the afternoon. She was off for most of the game so we only got to see one at bat and an innings at third before lightning stopped play. It pelted down and Julie got soaked on her way to the car. Back at Vita's we went out for Thai food and had a good night with Vita, Samantha and Abby. More wine :0 Brooke got picked to play in the ADF v Brisbane Reps game on the Saturday.
Brooke's birthday was the next day and we would have loved to spend time with her but she was working playing softball and her time wasn't her own. Glen had a guy come to put on the new gas struts on the trailer At 1400N (140kg) to compress them and the heavy floor of the camper to struggle with it wasn't worth the risk doing it ourselves. Turns out Glen had to use the high lift jack to compress the struts as the guy couldn't do it with his equipment. He did have a tool to hold it compressed but that scratched the paint off the strut… bugger than reminds me I have to touch up the paint so it doesn't rust… After a swim in Vita's pool we went out to the shops and bought a couple of boogie boards! before going out that night for fish and chips in Mooloolaba. Vita's son, Andrew, who went to Moorebank High came for a visit that evening. Early the next morning we set off for Brisbane once again to watch Brooke play. Brooke's safe hands at first made a few outs but the rep players were all so good and after an hour the mercy rule was applied. They all had a good time and softball was the winner anyway :)
We left Brooke with her colleagues and went back to Vita's and introduced the family to the joys of a K-Mart run. Julie set the $2 challenge and Abby embraced the concept. Vita was slow to start but ended up scooping the pool with a number of rounds by having the item voted as best. A fun afternoon where, while many were left behind, a few bargains were acquired as being must haves. It's amazing how you didn't even know you needed it before it was for sale in K-Mart for $2. Samantha actually found things she really needed for more than $2 and came home with three stools for her kitchen.
The next morning we got up relatively early (bloody early for us and did you realise Qld hasn't got daylight saving and it's light before 5am so we wake up that time but thankfully fall asleep again?) and went to the beach to try out the new boogie boards! Julie did pretty well but Glen still needs some practice. We met Vita and family for coffee before stocking up at the shops. Vita was home from work when we got back so we hitched up the camper and said our goodbyes and headed off. We had a great time and stayed much longer than we had originally planned. Our camp that night was at Beenleigh. In the morning we decided to duck into Beenleigh shopping centre which is next door to the free camp as we forgot to buy a couple of buckets for the oil change when we were at the shops the day before. STUPIDLY they have height restriction bars over their acres of open air parking. Why would a place so close to a free camp exclude the grey nomads and their caravans and 4wd owners from their car parks? Surely that's a lot of their business.
Driving down the coast with no real plan as usual we decided to detour to Springbrook as the sign indicated they have waterfalls. Julie is a bit partial to waterfalls after a bushwalk down waterfall way early in our courting… Waterfalls were why we bought a 4WD after the "loved that car but zero ground clearance" Peugeot couldn't cross a creek on our way to see Tianjara Falls via the Wandandian Road but I digress… We drove up into the mountains and found the Springbrook area to be beautiful. There are steep drops giving rise to a number of waterfalls and stunning lookouts with views to the coast and the incredulously tall buildings perched by the sea. One lookout is called "Best of All Lookout" and that's a pretty big call when close by is Wunburra Lookout, Canyon Lookout, Hardy's Lookout and Purling Brook which Glen liked best. Stopping at the old school reveals a stump of a 1000 year old tree cut down by hand in a morning by 2 guys as it was too close to the school built just a year before. Incredibly fit guys but no thought from the school builders who could have moved the school 50m and this 1000 year old tree would be alive today. They were loggers not environmentalists and in most areas of the country our only surviving old trees are the ones deemed to imperfect to log. Interestingly the Queensland Secretary of Forests in the early 1900s purposely set aside vast tracts of land to remain untouched for the following generations of children. Rainbow and Twin Falls were flowing and picturesque but from pictures in flood they can be impressive too. Goomoolahra Falls has the reputation as the wettest picnic area in the country with 3m of rainfall annually. It was warm and sunny while we were there but we had a thunderstorm that night while camped at nearby Mount Nimmel Lodge.
It was at Mount Nimmel that we packed up wet for only the third time in this year of camping. Heading back to the coast we dropped in to Elephant Rock at Currumbin Beach. It was blowing a gale! We sheltered in the surf club café for coffee and cake as the wind howled at the windows and sand blew down the beach. On top of Elephant Rock the wind was making the uprights in the aluminium railing vibrate like guitar strings and the resonant sound increased with each strong gust. Back in NSW now and following our Top 101 Beaches book our next stop was Norries Head. From the headland the water looked very inviting so we walked down to the beach. As we stood in the water two fighter jets flew low and fast past the headland. The planes would have passed about 20m away from where we stood just 10 minutes before. Bugger, that would have been fantastic! Rainbow Bay Beach was next on the agenda before free camping at Yelgun. The next day we went to Brunswick Heads and visited the bakery on the advice of fellow campers, surfed at the beach then swam in the river where the water was crystal clear BUT the water is noticeably cooler now as we head south even allowing for the rain and wind. Glen would like to stay here in the future and we almost doubled back to stay here but the caravan parks were expensive, not that nice and not on the beach. :(
In Byron Bay we dropped in to Byron Music to see ex Moorebank teacher, Nick Sergi. In spite of him being an inspiring teacher with accolades from staff and students he gave it up and bought a music shop in Byron Bay. Pleasingly the sea change was fantastic for him and he hasn't looked back! The business has grown, he has added a music school and even has a recording studio. Also way cool is the company car - a kombi van! We were also fortunate enough to meet Nick's lovely wife and child while we were there. He seems to be living the dream too, it's just his dream doesn't have a camper trailer attached.
After checking out Suffolk Park beach we drove through to Ballina and had dinner in the pub as it was raining. On our way to the rest area we photographed the giant prawn, which is pretty much obligatory.
Oil change the following morning, luckily it had stopped raining and we were camped on bitumen and didn't have any puddles to contend with.
With rain and thunderstorms predicted for the next few days we decided to hole up in a caravan park with the awning up. But where? Glen wanted to stop at Brunswick Heads but we ended up at Evans Heads. Glen's uncle used to run the caravan park there in the late 60s. Glen could have sworn the river was the other side of the park. It's nothing like what he remembered (assuming we've got the right park as there is only one in town) but the many years since that one day he spent there must have clouded his memory - either that or the quantity of alcohol we've consumed. We spent the afternoon at the beach and that evening we got hammered with a thunderstorm which dumped huge quantities of water on the roof and under it with the wind. We battened down the hatches and, after offering help to fellow campers who's tarp had collapsed, retreated inside where we stayed dry. It was dry the next day and the cloud had disappeared by lunch time. We did the lookout, had coffee and bought some meat. We swam and relaxed. We slept and walked and we surfed the waves on our boogie boards. We even did some baking in the oven in the camp kitchen. Brownies and the best banana cake ever! Being a North Coast Holiday Park we decided to actually plan the next few days as our 7th night would be free if we stayed in one of their parks. Nambucca Heads and Forster here we come! Free camps are few and far between here if you like to stay at a beach.
Sunday we packed up and left Evans Heads. On our drive down the coast we stopped in at Iluka. Nice little town and a fish shop with genuine 1970s prices! $5.50 for fish and chips!
We are currently camped at the Headlands Caravan Park at Nambucca Heads in a lovely shaded spot. It's a fair walk down the hill to the beach but it's a lovely quiet park, well maintained with lots of gardens and grass. No idea why this isn't packed as the park at Evans Head was filling up more and more when we stayed. Fresh prawns and steak for dinner after a walk along the V Wall this afternoon. The V Wall is the breakwater but it is covered in art work from passers-by. Had to put a jumper on at night… We are getting too far south! :(