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Merry Christmas – enjoy the holidays!

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Hi all,

 

We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!

 

We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

 

Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia.  After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.

 

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We cruised through the Central Highlands before returning to the coast. We ate beef in Rockhampton, drank rum in Bundaberg, then caught a ferry to Fraser Island. We gave the Troopy a 4WD workout at Landcruiser Mountain Park and watched the rain clouds come in on the Sunshine Coast.

 

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We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city.  As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!

 

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We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour.  Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.

 

 

We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.

 

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Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.

 

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We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

 

With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.

 

 

Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home.  On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.

 

Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy.  We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.

 

We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.

 

Thanks for all your support,

 

Dave & Juz

 

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City Profile : Mackay

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Our visit to Mackay was unfortunately brief but we believe we managed to see most of what the city had to offer, as well as the surrounding attractions.  We spent the morning to the west, exploring Eungella National Park before seeing the sights in Mackay and admiring their beautiful art deco buildings.  We then ventured south to Sarina to check out the Big Cane Toad before heading inland towards the Central Highlands.

 

Mackay sits on the Pioneer River about 970km north of Brisbane.  It’s considered to be the sugar capital of Australia because the region produces more than a third of Australia’s sugar cane, but the same can be said for the Burdekin Shire.  The city was named after John Mackay, who led an expedition through the valley in 1860.  Since then, Mackay has been hit with destructive cyclones, the deadly Bubonic plague, and severe flooding.  These days, its economy is based on coal mining, sugar cane and tourism, as it’s close to the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef and Eungella National Park.

 

Things To See And Do

Bluewater Lagoon

This was our first stop in Mackay.  A free, three tiered swimming pool with a slide, BBQ facilities and no jelly fish.  It’s also the perfect opportunity to have a shower and clean up.

 

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Queens Park

We had a quick stroll through Queens Park, and watched a few kookaburras terrorise a sun bird.  Because it was the weekend, their Orchid House was closed, but we managed to peep through the cracks.

 

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Mackay Marina Village

Just north of the city is the Marina Village, a district with residential blocks, restaurants, cafes and pubs, as well as the Pine Islet Lighthouse.  This little kerosene lighthouse was constructed in 1885 and was operational for a hundred years in the Pine Isles. It was the last kerosene lighthouse to operate in Australia.

 

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Sarina

About 30 minutes south of Mackay is Sarina, a small town with a sugar mill and the Big Cane Toad.  This is one of the ugliest Big Things we have come across, and it sits right in the middle of the main street.

 

Eungella National Park & Finch Hatton Gorge

West from Mackay, the road passes through Marian and Mirani.  The Melba House in Marian is home to the visitor information centre, and was also the home of acclaimed opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (for one year in 1883).  We drove through on a Sunday and both towns were holding markets.  We stopped to see the local wares and scored a few fishing lures for cheap.

 

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By the time we completed the steep climb to Eungella, it was midday and we knew there was no chance of spotting a platypus, but we made the most of our time anyway.  Markets were on in Eungella town and after sampling some bliss balls and visiting the lookout, we went to check out the national park.

 

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Camping is available there, which is great if you want to catch the platypussies frolicking in the calm waters of the Broken River in the early hours of dawn or in the late afternoon.

 

On our way back to Mackay, we stopped by Finch-Hatton Gorge for a refreshing swim.  Unfortuantely, after the 1.4km walk to Araluen Falls, we discovered that the water was a little too refreshing.  Nobody likes getting their eyes poked out…

 

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Big Things : The Big Cane Toad, Sarina QLD

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The Big Cane Toad in Sarina, which is affectionately called Buffy, was built in 1983 out of Papier Mache for a float that participated in the Apex Sugar Festival Parade.  The toad was eventually set in fibreglass and now sits in the centre of town.  We reckon this might be the ugliest Big Thing we’ve seen!

 

The cane toad is an amphibian that was introduced to Australia in 1935 to control pest insects that were affecting the sugar cane industry.  As it turned out, the can toads were more interested in reproducing at a prolific rate than eating the pests, so by 1941, they had become a massive problem.  Their scientific name used to be bufo marinus, hence the name Buffy, but it has since changed to rhinella marina.

 

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