Tag Archives: Mackay

Ramblings of a Beachcomber

Beach-Treasures Although the air was still a little cool from the night I could feel the warm sun on my skin. The calm water was so clear, little fish were easily seen swimming in front of the gently breaking waves. With hardly a cloud in the sky, the sun, already halfway to its highest point, sparkled off the water like fairy dust. I am a beachcomber and nothing brings me more joy than contemplating life’s wonders while wandering beside the ocean. I spent a month combing Far Beach (Mackay, Queensland, Australia) and the experience was truly inspiring.

People could always be seen walking along this beach, some relishing the gentle waves with feet in the water, some scattered further up the sand. On this vast expanse of shore it never felt crowded. I could only see a handful of people at a time, more than a few walking their dogs. The dogs were so happy, you could feel their smiles! During one walk I found myself watching a man who had a fishing line in the water, (rod butt stuck in the sand) as he casually threw his net to catch bait fish. His brown border collie madly ran up and down the beach, FLAT OUT! It would run, run, run just along the water’s edge, then stop, turn around and run, run, run back to the fisherman. I also witnessed a young boy laughing at his huge mastiff. The boy repeatedly pointed out fish in the shallows and that big floppy puppy would try its hardest to catch them, sticking its head under the water and coming up shaking and splashing water all over them both! The pure joy of these canine companions becoming contagious as I emotionally joined in their fun.

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Each morning I visited this beach the tide appeared lower, exposing more sandy beach. One morning, I couldn’t help but notice tire tracks in the sand, someone had been having fun! I saw more lovely dogs playing in the ocean, some new and some returning visitors. While beach combing along with some shells, drift wood and a feather, I found a fantastic little blue and red Hot Wheels car, but on this day another car seemed to have washed ashore! It was a huge four-wheel drive Jeep! It was this Jeep that had made the tire tracks, and obviously the driver had a little too much fun! Although tipped on its side with a smashed windscreen, you could see it had been a nice vehicle. The puppies in the area didn’t give it much attention at all; the ocean was far more interesting and fun!

I kept walking along and spotted an older fellow collecting yabbies, (a tiny crayfish), to use as bait. You do this by sticking a tube pump into the sand and sucking them out with a syringe like action. Then you push the sand out of the tube and pick out the yabbies. I went up to have a look at the yabbies and have a bit of a yarn with ‘Old Mate’. As I was chatting away I noticed another truck out in the surf. My new friend, Rod, said it had been there for at least 12 months now! They can’t get it out!

“Crazy hoons trying to go out too far and got stuck in the sand,” he suspected.

Rod was 80 years old and fished on this beach often, and you could tell he knew his stuff! You wouldn’t have guessed his age and I told him so.

He responded with a blunt “No, you wouldn’t.”

He had his yabbie plunger slung over his back and over his shoulder a small bag to put his fish and extra tackle in. With fishing pole in hand he headed down to an area that forms an inlet which looked like a river but, Rod said it doesn’t go in far and has no fresh water. I was hot on his heals! Just call me Liz-tag-along. Rod was happy to have me along and said we would have to be fast because the tide was coming in, stating, “It’s a big tide and it will be on us in no time.”

No word of a lie, he caught a nice sized whiting on his first cast! Brilliant! The water was getting higher, “we’ll have to be quick and move back in soon” he said as he cast out a second time. BAMM… he hooked a big brim! Go Rod! By then the water was up to the bottom of my shorts. So, we started walking back in. I made the mistake of walking on his right side (you need to be on the left side of a right-handed fisherman). He cast out again and hooked my hand!! Bloody hell! – SHEeeEEW – I pulled it out quickly and hid the tiny spot of blood. He joked that it was the first time he’d caught one of my species!Brim

I said “No, you didn’t catch me. I’m the one that got away.” I told him I knew it was my fault letting him off the hook twice! Rod said tomorrow would be better because it wouldn’t be such a big high tide. Today however, the tide kept coming in so, I took my leave, both of us saying we’d look for each other tomorrow.

As I was making my way back to shore the water rose to above my waist! I hadn’t expected that! As I sloshed back home I passed a few more playing puppies. A lady was using a Chuck-It to send a ball far out into the ocean for her border collie. She said she wanted to be a dog in her next life, HA! If you’re going to be a dog, be a beach dog! I made my way back past the crashed jeep which was now being swallowed by the tide.

Where did the water go?

Where did the water go?

Another day as I walked to the beach, the ocean appeared to have disappeared! OK, it was there but, I’m telling you, the water was a very long way out! It was clear to the horizon. Talk about contrast; I was amazed at how flat and wide the shore had become and the beach was almost deserted — very few people, very few dogs. I could see far out in the distance some dedicated dog owners who had ventured to the shoreline.

I walked along the beach taking more notice of the trees along the bank. Windswept and full of character, these old trees must take a beating at times. My observations were soon called back to the flat sand that had been revealed with the receding tide. It looked as though artists had been creating masterpieces and the sand was their canvas. Billions, I’m not exaggerating, billions of little balls, of rolled up sand dotted the beach for as far as the eye could see. The intricate patterns looked like oceanic fireworks!

I spotted my mate Rod, he was sucking yabbies. I was excited to see just how this was actually done. After a friendly greeting I joined in the fun, Rod would suck out some sand, dump it out and I helped pick up the little critters.Yabbie Sucking

“Watch out, you’ll feel it if they get you with their nippers” he warned. Rod said I was saving his back, poor old fellow, that’s a lot of bending down. In truth I was trying to earn a fish or two, maybe someday? Not that day sadly, because he didn’t catch any fish while I was with him. He did tell me who the sand artists were, turns out they’re solder crabs. He sucked one up with his yabbie gun and handed it to me. Apparently there are heaps of them and he told me if I look for them as the tide first starts to recede I will see millions! “That’s when you should see them.” he assured me. I’ll be doing that, I thought!

Yabbies in a canI definitely needed a tide chart!

That day a man was in our fishing spot. He made me giggle, in his blue ‘budgie smugglers’ (Australian for speedos). He shared a story with us about fishing in that location.

“I use a kayak to get across after the tide comes in, now…” he explained, “I use to swim across but, the last time I was swimming with about twenty whiting and a bull shark grabbed them and was pulling me back out. I had to let them go,” he said calmly. FAR OUT! I would think so! He didn’t mind a chat, telling story after story. Looking at the water coming in so fast it was like time-lapse photography I decided it was time for me to go! I made it back with dry shorts this time. I was thinking I should dress in such a way that I don’t mind getting wet. As long as I beat the sharks to the shore I’ll be all right! Right?

big CrabThe tide kept coming in erasing all the crab created masterpieces. More people and more dogs started showing up. They must have a tide chart! I managed to get an up close photo of a bigger crab on shore, but, was quickly photo bombed by a cute little puppy, which was just as curious about this crustacean.Photo Bomb

I could write a story about this beach every day and no two stories would be alike. The tide continued to come and go, at times withdrawing as far as a person could expect to walk in one day. Along with the tide, the people and the dogs vary, scattered about the sand and surf. I wonder if they notice how magnificently different the shore line creates itself each day.

The Jeep disappeared, leaving no evidence of its wild moonlit ride. Waves from the changing tide had already started to separate its pieces and the salty water of the sea had begun to rust its metal before it was removed.

Dscf2917One morning I was pleasantly surprised to hear bagpipes playing! It seemed they were being played just for me. In truth I think the bagpiper was trying to coax the water back to shore, it was an extremely low tide! He was playing a musical sonnet ‘Return of the Waves’.

I took Rods advice and was delighted to see swarms of Soldier Crabs clicking in regimental style, making their little sand balls in the receding tide. Looking like blue hard-shelled bubbles scurrying away as I approach.Solder Crab

Unfortunately, I didn’t see my friend Rod again. The last time we spoke he shared with me the story of his career with the railroad. “I worked for the railroad for forty-nine years, six months and thirty-nine days” he said proudly and with a mischievous smile he continued, “I didn’t quite make it 50 years.” I find myself wondering just what happened and why he didn’t cross the fifty year line. He started out as a porter, then became an engine cleaner and worked his way to driver. “I have driven steam engines, diesel and electric trains,” he explained. It fascinates me talking to older people, hearing how the world has changed around them and they have been able to keep up with it. I told this story to my mother on Skype and seeing her face shine from another hemisphere halfway around the world, I was grateful she has kept up with modern technology.

BeautyTowards the end of my week of beach walking, I begun to see single delicate blue butterfly wings resting on the sand. I wonder if they are from butterflies that have ventured across the ocean from another land and fell dead in exhaustion just before reaching the tropical paradise only meters away. My wings, unlike the butterflies, are still strong! I have flown across the ocean with the aid of modern technology, no heroic adventure making the crossing in a rickety plane or dangerous tail ship. A privilege granted to me by the ‘older people’, like Rod and my mother who have come before, not only keeping up with but, creating a world advancing with new technology. I am free to explore the beaches and venture inland to a tropical paradise that promises new discoveries and exploration.

I hear adventure calling me in the breeze; though not much remains undiscovered, it will be new to me! The need for new encounters and new destinations is part of the makeup of every traveler and I am one of them! Filled with excitement, both Lynne and I, the Global Wanderers, will strive to spread our wings journeying, seeking and reporting on new discoveries during our explorations!

Thank you for reading the ramblings of my beachcombing ~ Travel On!!

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Travel On! Join us as we travel into the unknown.

¸.•♥ In-ƤЄƛƇЄ ~ ԼƠƔЄ ~ ԼIƓHƮ & ԼƛUgHƮЄr ☮ ♥ ★ ツ *。.☆

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Quest for the Elusive Platypus

All the signs are there ...The Quest Begins!

All the signs are there …The Quest Begins!

Knowing an early start was needed to increase our chances for a platypus sighting, the alarm woke us at 5am! All my research indicated dawn and dusk were the best times to see this incredibly shy mammal. Above the surrounding sugarcane planted fields lay our destination, Eungella National Park, Queensland. We climbed high up into the cloud-shrouded mountain range. The steep road wound up through a mossy, dense subtropical rain forest filled with eucalyptus and huge palm ferns.

Platypus SpottingBroken River is a popular place for platypus spotting and we arrived early, very early we thought, it was only 7:30am! Early! Only a few people were gathered at the platypus viewing platform. No one had seen any platypus—yet. We all stood at attention, still, quiet, searching the water almost breathlessly. In these beautiful surroundings it felt like we were in a spiritual space, a sacred site. Turtles, an eel and many duck-billed ducks were easily spotted. Suddenly gasps were heard, fingers pointed and excited energy ran through our small gathering—Awww—it was only a river rat. No bill, webbed feet or floppy tail.

Heading to the PoolsWe were vigilant, but to no avail. We explored the nearby waterways, running into fellow platypus seekers who had luck no better than ours. One man looked at his watch, “You’re too late”, he declared confidently. The sign said best morning viewing was from 4am to 8am and it was after eight by then. Feeling extreme disappointment we resigned ourselves to filling our day with other activities and returning between 3pm and 7pm for the prime evening viewing. We slunk to our car and drove off.

Global Wanderers once posted something about talking to the locals. What were we thinking giving up so soon? That’s not like us! Still shrouded in doubt as thick as the clouds enveloping this mountain we stepped into the local ‘Shop at the Top’.

Seeing our disappointment, Terry said emphatically, “Don’t believe what they say about not seeing them in the day, you can see them anytime”, and he proceeded to tell us about his secret spot.

Our clouds of doubt blown away; filled with new optimism and a spring in our step we turned back.

Hiking through the forest, alongside the river, we soon spotted the crop of rocks creating the small open pool Terry had told us about. We walked along its edge, found the perfect spot to scan the entire pool and stood motionless. Within minutes we saw a tiny steam of bubbles emerging from the bottom of the still water, followed by another and another! This is what we were looking for! Suddenly, gliding up to the surface so smoothly and quietly, barely noticeable, our platypus popped up! Had we not been so vigilant we could have easily missed it. Hooray! It was all I could do to silence my excitement! We had done it! With eyes bugged out and my smile wrapped from ear to ear, the platypus and I—BOTH silly looking critters!

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We observed at least two platypuses, (or platypi), bubbling and bobbing to the surface. After floating for only a few seconds, they would quickly duck-dive back down to feed on the bottom of the pool, leaving us scanning the surface again for more bubbles. Because of their ability to stay submerged for ten to twenty minutes at a time we continued our observation for over two hours, no one else in sight; this was our special treat alone! Grateful to our new friend, Terry, for igniting our persistence; we left fully satisfied. Our platypus quest complete, it must be time to leave Mackay!

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Travel On! Join us as we travel into the unknown.

¸.•♥ In-ƤЄƛƇЄ ~ ԼƠƔЄ ~ ԼIƓHƮ & ԼƛUgHƮЄr ☮ ♥ ★ ツ *。.☆

 

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Discovering Queensland’s Sugarcane Country

Lynne & Liz trying the sugarcane.

Lynne & Liz trying the sugarcane.

Discovering and exploring the source of local economy can be an exciting adventure for any traveler. In Mackay, sugarcane and coal are the major sources of income and employment. As luck would have it, friends of ours, Malina and Pete, own a sugarcane farm, so, off we went with great excitement to get an up-close look at a working sugarcane farm! This adventure came with the added possibility of a platypus sighting in a nearby creek, which sweetened the deal beyond cane farming alone.

Pete Takagaki cleaning cane to taste.Dotted with individual family farm houses, the fields stretched out before us, tiered in layers representing the various stages of sugarcane growth. We reached the Takagaki family farm which has been passed down through four generations. Pete’s grandfather acquired the farm after emigrating from Japan in 1901. Although the farmers are now required to work outside the farm to supplement their income, the sugarcane provides for the land, the equipment and their basic needs. I couldn’t help but admire their love and dedication to a lifestyle that required more to sustain them than it could give. On arrival our host pulled out a pocket knife, cut a large stalk, carved its sides away and handed Lynne and me each a piece. Sinking our teeth into a stalk of this sweet fibrous sensation was a juicy delight.  Harvester

Clouds of white herons followed closely behind a tractor that was turning up the soil. This field would be allowed to sit fallow for a year after having given five seasons of abundant yields. I couldn’t resist and climbed up into the cab for a ‘once around’. The herons, now joined by hawks, dove behind us scooping up the insects that were being exposed. Continuing on our exploration we followed alongside a harvester; a powerful, multifunctional, Transformer-ish machine, being driven down the rows, chopping, separating and collecting the stalks of cane while simultaneously spitting out the scraps. The chopped stalks were discharged into a clever contraption pulled by a tractor. These tractors appeared alongside the harvester in smooth procession, with hardly a break.

They would deliver the cane, in their clever contraptions to a cane train and return, again and again. In the distance, steam rose from the Racecourse Mill’s boilers; the cane’s final destination. Approximately 400,000 tons of refined white sugar is produced here annually. The ingenuity of mankind was brilliantly on display, as a task that at one time broke that backs of hundreds of laborers has been transformed to a process accomplished by a few drivers.

Bandicoot

The herons and hawks were also in abundance for this operation, but, something else caught our eye.  It was a bandicoot running for its life! Trying to escape the jaws of the harvester, the little bandicoot scurried across the newly flattened terrain looking for cover. I screamed with excitement “A BANDICOOT!” I had never seen one so close. I had only ever seen a bandicoot once and at such a distance it was the size of a peanut, “that doesn’t even count”, I explained.  With that, barefooted Pete jumped out of the truck in an act reminiscent of The Crocodile Hunter, chased after the little critter and snatched it up. We were able to get a good look at this terrestrial marsupial omnivore, and give it a loving pat. I’m sure it would have bitten and scratched me to bits if given half the chance but, thankfully Pete held on tight.

Touring the farm-house and surrounding buildings we noticed how simple this existence seemed. It had been an eventful day out, filled with insights into a way of life that is rapidly fading. These pieces of land, cultivated by the same families for generations, require a love for the earth and an understanding of nature. Mal and Pete embrace the simple pleasures of life on a farm which, despite having to find additional work, affords them the time between harvests to travel the country in their caravan. During their journeys they have seen a variety of lifestyles but, in the end, they always return to the farm. We now understand more fully that when supplementing our food or drink, within the little granules there is much more than just sweetness, the sugar holds the dreams and hard work of generations of very sweet people! We hope that after reading this you will think of and appreciate the farmers who bring you that small spoonful of sugar, satisfying your sweet tooth.

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PS … I was grateful for the bandicoot sighting because despite our searching the creek, we had no luck finding a platypus. ~ Awwww!

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Travel On! Join us as we travel into the unknown.

¸.•♥ In-ƤЄƛƇЄ ~ ԼƠƔЄ ~ ԼIƓHƮ & ԼƛUgHƮЄr ☮ ♥ ★ ツ *。.☆

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The Land ‘Down Under’!

Australia's Got TalentThe name Australia comes from the Latin word, ‘Australis’ meaning ‘southern’. As the name would indicate we are now in the southern hemisphere, where the water goes down the drain backwards* and cars are driven on the left side of the road. Feeling flipped over, upside down and backwards we hit the ground running!

On the list of necessities for any traveler is accommodation, transportation and communication. Fortunately during our first month in Australia, family and friends opened their homes providing us with beds, couches and even a camper, parked in a front yard. After visiting a few used car dealerships, with no luck, we spotted a Subaru Outback for sale on the side of the road. An Outback in the outback, brilliant! With the first two essentials crossed off our list we easily acquired a mobile phone and a portable wi-fi device, we were all set to begin our Aussie adventure!

Huge Aussie Prawns

Of course food is also an important necessity and we were both devouring some of the best seafood in the world! Not to mention the Aussie meat pies and other culinary wonders only found in Australia like the thick, yeasty Vegemite and the yummy sweet desserts; pavlova and lamingtons.

After we arrived in Sydney, we had no plans of what to do or where to go but, family and friends lived along the coast further north so this seemed to be our next logical step. All the while we kept our eyes and minds searching for whatever presented itself as a guide towards the future. Trusting in the journey is a skill Lynne and I have fine-tuned during our world travels. Looking for synchronicities and whatever shows up in our proverbial headlights, is how we roll!

Kangaroo MaleThe koala, kangaroo, emu, kookaburra and platypus are all animals found in no other country than Australia and in the first few weeks of our adventure we saw them all. Except that is, for the elusive platypus! When the early explorers first revealed this unique semi-aquatic monotreme, (mammal that lay eggs), to the world, it was thought to be a joke—Aussies having a go at the English by sewing a duck bill onto a rat—but it turned out to be authentic! The search for a platypus seemed like a lofty goal and a good reason to head further North, in the direction of their habitat. Well, that and a job offer for Lynne in Mackay, Queensland, which could help fund our expedition. Lynne’s brother, Peter, and his family also live up north in Mackay which cemented the platypus idea, that was ‘showing up’ as to how we should proceed.

Spy HoppingOff we went, driving north from New South Wales to Queensland. As luck would have it, whale season along the east coast was in full swing, (July through October). We stopped in to visit some longtime friends who live near Brisbane and were treated to an ocean adventure in their boat, to search of Humpbacks! It was a phenomenal success and not only did we spot over a dozen whales splashing, breaching, spy hoping, tail wagging and flipper flapping, we also saw a huge sea turtle and a heap of flying fish! We had been on whale watching charters before but nothing can compare to this smaller boat which afforded us an up close and personal encounter, on the same level as these majestic beings!

We now find ourselves in Mackay; sugarcane and coal mining country. We have moved into a fully furnished studio unit at the Ocean Resort Village (not as flash as it sounds). We seem to have it all, tropical gardens, swimming pool, air-conditioning, cable TV and wi-fi, all this and beach front access to boot! What we don’t have, however, is a platypus sighting! Not yet anyway! Bless Lynne’s heart for working, but, it seriously cuts into our platypus discovery time! Rest assured, we will find our platypus and moving towards this end, we are certain to discover additional adventures here in northeast Queensland!

Some interesting facts about Australia:

The Australian Coat of Arms has a kangaroo and an emu on it. The reason being they can’t go backwards, they can only walk/hop forward, similar to the country’s forward movement into the future.

Most of Australia’s exotic flora and fauna cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Australia is known as the ‘island continent’ and is the only continent on earth to be occupied by one nation. It is also the flattest continent in the world.

Some of Australia’s most prolific inventions are the bionic ear, black box flight recorder, clothes line, notepad and stubby (beer) holder.

The land masses of Australia and the United States America are comparable, however, their estimated populations are not. The United States of America has approximately 313 million people, while Australia has approximately 23 million, 90% of whom live on the coast.

*You find both counterclockwise and clockwise flowing drains in both hemispheres. Some people would like you to believe that the Coriolis force affects the flow of water down the drain in sinks, bathtubs, or toilet bowls but, it’s not true! The Coriolis force is simply too weak to affect such small bodies of water. The Coriolis Effect is the observed curved path of moving objects relative to the surface of the Earth. Hurricanes however, are affected. Hurricane winds move counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere.

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Travel On! Join us as we travel into the unknown.

¸.•♥ In-ƤЄƛƇЄ ~ ԼƠƔЄ ~ ԼIƓHƮ & ԼƛUgHƮЄr ☮ ♥ ★ ツ *。.☆

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