Total Roadtrip Distance so far… 8,166km
We were up early and made the most of the facilities and free breakfast before packing up the van. We were sad to say goodbye to Hervey Bay as we filled up the petrol tank and headed back out on the open road. We were looking forward to a good stint of driving but this didn’t happen. Every twenty minutes or sometimes more often than this, we came across road works! The roads must be in a terrible state after all the flooding or something because there seems to be roadworks everywhere!
We arrived in Bundaberg at lunchtime and woah it was hot here. Guessing it’s going to get even hotter the further north we go. We popped into the visitor centre to buy our tickets for Mon Repos that night
. This is a turtle rookery where from November to late March, loggerhead and other marine turtles come to lay their eggs. Anne-Marie was particularly looking forward to this! We drove out to the free rest area “Sharon Nature Park” where we chilled out and cooked some dinner. We met an Australian middle-ages couple who loved chatting! They just couldn’t get enough of it! It came to the point where we were actually eating our dinner and the man came back to talk to us about Northern Ireland as well as the current state of the Irish government. We really do seem to attract the middle aged and retired people! Ah they were lovely people though and offered us the use of their generator to charge anything we needed. Having been in the YHA in Hervey Bay we were all charged up but they were lovely people really.
After dinner and quickly washing up we were back in the van to head to Mon Repos. It was less than a half hour drive and we arrived there just before 6:30pm. We didn’t have to wait very long in the queue before they opened up the centre, gave us our stickers and ran through the rules. We were in Group 2 and were called at about 7:15pm to go down to the beach with our ranger for the evening. What we witnessed this evening was truly amazing! No words can describe it! We were brought to a nest where the nestlings had hatched below the sand surface a few days ago but were beginning to make their way to the surface
. It was a Flatback turtles nest so it was even more amazing and special as they are a lot rarer here. They usually see Loggerhead Turtles here. We watched in amazement as the nestlings poked their tiny heads out of the sand surface and then pulled themselves out with the strength of their tiny legs. They came out alone, in pairs, threes and fours. After the first 16 or so the rangers picked some up to bring around the group to get a quick photo of. We weren’t allowed to film or take photos while they were coming up out of the sand as it would distract their natural instincts of following the lowest level of natural light i.e. the horizon. More nestlings continued to surface and in total that evening we witnessed 24 of them making their way out and towards the light. They use the light of the horizon to make their way to the sea which brings them out to the open ocean. Because these were Flatback Turtles and quite rare the rangers were secluding them in an enclosed space so that they could bring them up to the research centre. At the research centre they would photograph and measure them before bringing them back to the beach to be released back into the wild.
The next thing we experienced that night was the releasing of five Green Turtle hatchlings. The Green Turtle is even rarer than the Flathead Turtle here so this was very special. They needed volunteers to create a tunnel of light from the dunes to the sea and well Anne-Marie was straight up their with our torch! It was truly special watching as the tiny nestlings made their way out to the open ocean. Incredible! We’ve had some other moments of utter awe on this trip and this has certainly been added to them.
The following day we headed for the Bundaberg Rum Distillery
. We arrived just in time for the 10am guided tour. It was one of the best distillery/winery/brewery tours that we’ve done. Our guide Sam brought us out through this working distillery. We were brought into the molasses storehouse as well as the storage buildings containing the fermenting tanks. We also got to see where the vats are kept. Each vat contains $6 million worth of alcohol and they have hundreds of them on site. There is an electric fence surrounding the whole area and measures have been put in place to prevent any disasters such as the fire that was started by lightning back in the 1930’s. The tour brought us through the workings of this distillery as well as the history before bringing us to the bottling department. We didn’t actually get to see any bottling in progress as they’re preparing for the launch of a new rum this weekend. The final part of the trip was of course the tasting! We were able to choose any two free drinks from a selection of the Bundaberg range. We reckon we’ve developed a taste for this stuff and will be looking out for it in Ireland in the coming years as the company continues to go global!