Upset Tummy in a Funny Dunny

Trip Start Jan 16, 2004
Trip End Sep 18, 2004

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Friday, August 20, 2004

We left you over a thousand kilometres ago in Townsville, so will take up the story from there, or just before actually. The awesome beast from the east, dream machine - call it what you will - was playing up. Many sighs and oohs ago we'd dropped by an auto electrician who'd diagnosed a knackered alternator, adding in appropriate mechanic / plumber / electrician tone

"trouble is, it's at the bottom of these Toyotas (sigh), eight hour job that" - standard talk for "expensive" I believe.

"Doesn't matter, Wicked Campers have given us the go ahead to drive on. If it blows up, he says it'll be on his head".

We drove on to Townsville, realising that we might have overlooked the fact that we'd be sitting over the engine when it blew up! Oh well, nearer Vic than I.

In Townsville we rang and arranged through Wicked Campers to meet mobile auto electrician, Noel Pearce, at the BP Garage (or servo as they call them here) where we'd been told we could stay ovenight for free. We had an hour till meeting him when I'd put the phone down. Meanwhile, Vicky had been caught, a sitting duck, by a tourist information volunteer armed with Bible sized questionnaire. The conversation lasted more than forty minutes and went something like this:

"How do you find the beaches?"

"I don't know, we've only just got here?"

"Is the town centre well spaced out?"

"I don't know, we've only just got here?"

This must have carried on for another twenty five questions or so, until eventually whole sections were disgarded N/A or the question took the form of

"I don't suppose you've been to the museum either?"

Correct! And after a conversation about his gratitude and no one having time for Bible sized questionnaires anymore, we rushed to the BP servo to meet our auto electrician.

Noel Pearce - a full seven minutes and thirty one seconds late - handed us a business card that promised "prompt" service, muttered something baout big job, eight hours and passed her fit for driving to Brisbane.

Did you know that Winston Churchill formed British Petroleum at the turn of the last century? Thought not - stick with me and you'll learn something. Anyway two birds, one stone. They refuelled his new oil fired battleships then, and now provide British citizens with an overnight car parking space in a far flung corner of the Empire - Genius! Actually it was more like three nights, we didn't see the "max 24hr stay" sign until the third morning.

At Giru, a short distance, but many years behind Townsville, I (James) woke and got out of the van at about seven thirty, to find a large, oldish, yokelish guy waiting for me.

"I was talking to that man over there in the toilets because I thought he was you"

"Oh" What else can you say? The guy he was referring to was a good fifty years older than me! There followed a very uneasy silence that was only broken when the silvered haired gentleman he had been talking to in the toilets saved me. On closer inspection, I'd wanted to have a word with this guy myself. He was the toilet roll thief we'd spotted running from the WC yesterday.

"You English then?" - strange, a most un Australian welcome.

"Ipswich, England not Ipswich, Brisbane"

Apart from trying to crack a bit of a funny, we've prefered to use this line after talking to an expat who thought us to be Australian and it a bit strange we'd travelled upto Cains via Mongolia. He spoke with an English accent, and besides, how were we to know that when he'd told us he lived in Warwick, there is a Warwick a few kilometres south west of Brisbane. Confusing yes, but you get the picture. A ten minute conversation with a pensioner at crossed purposes.

Anyhow, as you'd expect, the toilet roll thief had something to say for himself:

"So am I - Henley" - odd doesn't sound very Henley on Thames "You know the Junction near Witnesham".

That explains the accent, and probably the bluntness too, Henley is a small village a couple of minutes in to tractor country from Ipswich. And he hasn't lost the accent at all, despite a couple of years preparation for exile in Essex before he came to Australia in 1969. The temptation to tell the thieving gypsy that he'd been sent to Australia to reform, but that I'd turn my eye if he cared to put the toilet roll back, was very great indeed. It appears you can take the man out of Suffick, but you can't take Suffick out of the man.

"Blas me, a cuppal what come from Ipswich"

Had he listened very carefully as he wandered off cheered by thoughts of Adnams Ale and all things Suffolk, he would have heard "Lowestoft actually" It was only a whisper, but my well trained ear was ready for it. Incidentally the odd fella who had wanted to proposition me in the toilet block never did say what he'd wanted to say. We got in the van and drove a very long way!

Actually, we hadn't planned to drive as far as we did, but when another tourist information volunteer said we couldn't miss the turning to Wunjunga Beach, we were always going to. We'd gone there principally to see grass growing on the beach (a strange phenomenom indeed) but if we're more truthful, it was because the campsite was called Funny Dunny (dunny being slang for an outside toilet). The drop toilet creation in question wouldn't, we now know, be funny for those with the most regular bowels. Regular that is in the normal sense, and not regular interval sense that you might associated with my four visits that afternoon.

After a night in Wunjunga and two fairly uneventful days in Bowen, we made our way to Arlie Beach, where most boats set sail for the Whitsunday Islands. We went with a fine looking trawler/yacht conversion called "Summertime". We had a day or so before we sailed, and settled into the caravan park, where we found a couple driving another Wicked Campervan. We'd seen them several times coming down the coast and actually didn't like them that much, but resolved to let a couple of glasses of vino change that opinion later. And to be fair it did, they seemed alright, at least until the third glass that is. However we went to bed that night thinking they thay weren't so bad after all.

At five o'clock the following morning Jodie (sorry their names were Jodie and Ross) was banging on our door in tears. It turns that he is, in Jodie's words a lightweight of questionable parentage and had been drinking in the afternoon before we met them for the wine. When we left them he'd started arguing, Jodie left to stay in a motel, and then he tried to find her. Fortunately the police found him before he found anyone else, but at five in the morning all we had seen was a broken barrier on the cliff top road. It didn't look good, but no one could bring themselves to suggest he might have gone over the side.

To cut a long story short, Jodie had good reason to think that Ross might be dead. He spent the night in jail, appeared in court the following morning and was banned from driving on Queensland roads for six months (he can drive anywhere else in Austrlia!). The fine of twelve hundred dollars only applies if he should ever wish to re-enter Australia in the future, and will have to pay up on arrival. The last time we saw them, they'd just persuaded thrre young guys to drive (Jodie doesn't have her licence) and travel with them to Brisbane in a van that can legally only carry three persons. Twelve hundred dollars and counting.

From the moment we boarded "Summertime" we were pretty much soaked to the bone for two days. It started with the owner hosing his speedboat, and us, in the berth next door. They are not allowed to sail in winds aboce thirty knots according to the skipper, so conveniently for the forty eight hours, the wind hovered around twenty six / twenty seven knots. The islands themselves were lush green with forest and had the whitest, finest sand we've ever seen. Meanwhile the food onboard was some of the best we've had, although suspect that might be because we didn't have to lift a finger. We messed around on banana boats, walked on the islands and snorkelled above the reef. The skipper, Stuart, would usually give us a short chat about what we would be doing and always end it with a thumbs up followed by thumb and first finger in a circle to denote we were about to do something special. You probably had to be there, but we and the other twelve passengers found it funny.

Snorkelling above the reef is one of the most enjoyable things we've done, the vivid colours of fish, clams and coral like nothing the North Sea could produce. The fish, sometimes in large shoals, weren't scared at all by us being there and were withing touching distance. I swear the clam kept winking in "hello sailor" fashion. The photos appear to make the water look mirky and colours occasionally dull. Trust us though, it wasn't and they weren't.

Back on terra firma, but still rocking to the tune of a twenty six knot wind, we has some serious kilometres to make up. We started by heading south to Mackay before hanging a right to Eungulla National Park, where we were guaranteed to see a Platypus or two. It is a very shy nocternal creature only seen at sunrise and sunset. Our first attempt at sunset was ruined by a hundred or so other would be spotters, mostly clambering over the banks. We retired to our van and the hastilly prepared boy scout camp fire, setting an alarm for some insane hour in the morning.

Some insane hour turned out to be about sixish. At the riverside there was only one other couple. After a short time, the first Platypus appeared not morre than a metre or two away. as quietly as a digital camera will allow, I lined up the head, with it's bright yellow eyes and long leathery bill. At the point at which I should have had the perfect picture, came a loud clunk and bright flash more reminiscent of a 1950's flashbulb effort. The only other people by the riverside had cocked up our photo! We pushed them in.

Further up river, we repeated the procedure until such time the platypus filled the small screen of our digital camera. The following clunks and zooms were from our camera. The batteries had run out! We changed them and waited, and waited, and waited until the Platypus was near enough to get a decent photo. And then, from nowhere, came three or four ducks - of the local park variety - quacking loudly enough to startle the third Platypus. So we stoned the ducks with the dud batteries and left in a huff. Ofcourse, we didn't actually stone any ducks or push anybody into the river, and to honest would be a little disappointed if you'd thought we had, but we did, or atleast James did, throw a wobbly of toys out of pram proportions. As I tried to explain at the time, it doesn't matter that we've got a picture of the Platypus from the bridge. We should of had a photo from a matter of yards!

We drove to Rockhampton and then Bundaberg, a fair distance, to visit the Bundaberg Rum Factory (known affectionately as Bundy to the Aussie's). It was closed. We drove to Agnes Water and Town of 1770, both beautiful small towns. There were no vacancies at the campsites. Driving on, we reached Hervey Bay (or as I prefer to call it, Burp), opened the door and were greeted by the most enormous burp. And then a another from the same guy. Lovely. And then another and another, both from the most unsuspecting people. We found Bideford St, Truro St and Torquay Beach, believing we were lost in the depths of the west country, until the guiding lights of James St and Miller St (not joking) took us back to the main road, out of Burp, and to Gympie, our next stop.

At Tin Can Bay, the brochure boasted "stay in Tin Can Bay, where the Dolphins play". We're still undecided about this one, but would you tell people that your only tourist attraction had disappeared? Well, in the vein of disappointment that had clouded our last few days, we found ourselves in Tin Can Bay to feed a Dolphin that wasn't there.

Two days later we finally pulled into the driveway of Djuana's (a friend of James' family) house. We went into the town had something to eat and returned to the same driveway to meet Ernie and Olive, who look after the house when Djuana isn't there. We pulled into the driveway once more ready to put our feet up for a while. That was until Ernie came running around corner gesturing that we had just parked in the next door neighbours driveway - oops. The awesome camper would not neccesarilly be that welcome either, expensive cars parked at the front and luxurious speed boats moored at the back are order of the day in Noosa.

A few days later we dropped the beast in Brisbane, via Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo, before catching the coach back to Noosa. The zoo is home to the appropriately named "Aggro" and in the Crocoseum, a play on words for a small stadium in which to watch the feeding, similarly crazy handlers managed to splash enough water to make sure that the croc lived upto his name.

Back in Noosa, we shared the house with a couple of young lads, Arnie and Vijay. We've all become really god freinds, but they do tend to fight quite a bit, and have threatened to jump from the upsairs landing rail into the hallway on more than one occasion. Positively mad, but lovely with it. The house was amazing (thankyou Djuana) and we settled into everyday Australian life and male dominated weekends in which you can watch Rugby League, Union and Aussie Rules Football pretty much all day bar half an hours worth of "The Bill".

I would have said we were flying to New Zealand on Sunday, but as you might have guessed already, we're in New Zealand finishing off this travelpod. We should have finished this in Noosa Library just before we'd left for Brisbane but ran out of time. I'll spare you New Zealand for another time, and are worried we might even be home before I can tell just how good the meat pies are here.

We land at Heathrow early in the morning od 18th September!
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