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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 : Rockhampton

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We had the pleasure of having nearly two days to spend in Rockhampton.  Located along the Fitzroy River in the Capricorn Coast region, Rockhampton has a laid back atmosphere, friendly hospitality and gorgeous buildings.  It has a moderate population of around 120,000 people and gets approximately 300 days of sunshine a year.

 

Our first stop was a book exchange, where we dumped a bunch of books that we had finished reading, and exchanged them for new ones.  We then strolled around town to see the sights.

 

History

The Rockhampton region was discovered by the Archer Brothers, Charles and William, who were out looking for grazing lands in 1853.  Two years later, a settlement grew alongside the Fitzroy River, which was used to ship in supplies.  Further up the river was a rock bar that prevented further exploration of the river, and that’s how Rockhampton got its name.

 

The settlement grew fast and Rockhampton was declared a town in 1858.   One year later, gold was discovered in Canoona and miners rushed over from far and wide to find their fortune.  Once the rush had died down, many people chose to stay in Rockhampton, adding to its already blooming population, and by the 1870s, Rockhampton had become the main port for the central Queensland hinterland.  By 1902, Rockhampton had become a city.  In 1909, a passenger tramway started operating, but because riding steam trams in the tropics was an uncomfortably hot and humid experience, they were replaced with a bus network 30 years later.

 

These days, Rockhampton’s main industry is still grazing, particularly cattle, and it is considered to be the Beef Capital of Australia.  Every three years, Beef Week happens – a major event that brings cowboys in from far and wide to showcase their beef and share ideas.  There are several life-sized bull statues around the city that represent the various breeds that graze in the surrounding area.  The one at the southern entrance of Rockhampton is the Brahman Bull and was erected in 2000.

 

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For people who aren’t as enthusiastic about cattle as the folks wearing cowboy hats, jeans and leather boots – like us – scoring a $5 Thursday special steak at Giddy Goat Bar suits just fine.  You get a 300g scotch fillet steak for $5 plus $1 for sides, which include salad, coleslaw, chips, onion rings or the sauce of your choice.  While it isn’t the most amazing steak you’ll ever eat, we were seriously impressed with this value.

 

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Things to See and Do

Tropic of Capricorn

As you enter Rockhampton from the south, you’ll pass the Spire Visitor Information Centre that sits on the Tropic of Capricorn.  Once you’ve got all your maps and brochures, stand by the big silver spire for a photo.

 

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Rockhampton Zoo

The botanic gardens in Rockhampton are 145 years old and have recently been awarded heritage listing.  Within them is a free zoo full of native and exotic animals.  Apart from wombats, crocodiles and dingoes, we also saw chimpanzees and otters.  The best time to go is at feeding time, which is between 2:45pm and 3:20pm.  You might even get the chance to pat a koala.

 

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While we were at the dingo enclosure, we noticed only one dingo.  A family arrived, mum was pushing a pram and dad was holding his little daughter’s hand.  Suddenly, two more dingos appear from the bushes and they all eagerly come up to the fence at full attention.  Dave says, “Here they come. They must have smelt the baby.”  After a small pause, he added, “Sorry about the inappropriate joke.”  “That’s ok,” says mum with a guffaw, “it was funny.”

 

Capricorn Caves

Just over 20km north of Rockhampton are the Capricorn Caves.  Queensland’s oldest tourist attraction, the limestone caves formed from an ancient coral reef around 400 million years ago. Tours through the caves run regularly throughout the day, but they have a certain twist to them that is unique to the Capricorn Caves.  Go and check them out!

 

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Coastal Drive

This is a drive that will take you to the coastal towns about 40km east of Rockhampton.  Yeppoon is the biggest town along the drive, and when we were there, there was still evidence of Cyclone Marcia, which blew through just three months earlier in February 2015.

 

 

We had a quick stroll along the Esplanade that overlooks Main Beach and poked our heads through the ‘Spirit of Yeppoon’, which is more affectionately known by locals as the Arsehole of Yeppoon.

 

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Rosslyn Bay is south of Yeppoon and is home to one of the largest marinas in Northern Queensland, the Keppel Bay Marina.  Overlooking the marina is Double Head, a volcanic plug formed by lava around 70 million years ago and exposed as the rock around it was worn away over time.  As we cruised along, we crossed the bridge over Causeway Lake, a shallow lake that’s good for fishing and photo opportunities at sunset.

 

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Another great stop is Emu Park.  Go and see the Singing Ship – a commemoration of the explorations of Captain James Cook.  It’s a sculpture that stands on a hill and overlooks the ocean, which is the perfect place for it to be.  As the ocean breezes reach the ship, fluted pipes make pretty sounds.

 

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Information & Accommodation

The Spire Visitor Information Centre is located on the Tropic of Capricorn and is open daily from 9am to 5pm.

 

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Quality budget accommodation is available at Rockhampton YHA.  For more information or to book yourself a bed, visit their website.

 

 

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Attraction : Capricorn Caves

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The Capricorn Caves are only 30 minutes north of Rockhampton and are Queensland’s longest running tourist attraction.  Set in limestone that formed millions of years ago, the caves have been open for exploration since the 1880s.  Marvel at hanging fig tree roots that have split rock in search of water, glistening limestone formations that have formed over thousands of years, or enjoy the acoustics of the Cathedral Cave.

 

Our tour of the caves started on the right foot, with plenty of light hearted jokes from our tour guide.  She was knowledgeable and fun, answered all our questions about the caves, and we especially enjoyed our self-guided adventure out of the cave.

 

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The History

The caves were discovered in 1882 by the sons of a Norwegian man named John Olsen while they were out looking for some runaway horses.  They told their dad, and John soon opened it as a tourist attraction.  People from near and far would dress in their finest attire and go into the depths of the cave to explore with a lantern.  Later on, the caves were mined for guano.  Some chambers had over a metre of compacted guano and about 6 tonnes was taken out and sold as fertiliser.

 

In 1988, the Olsen family sold the property to Ken and Ann Augusteyn, who applied for an environmental management policy to protect the caves.  The Capricorn Caves has an advanced ecotourism certification and has won several Queensland tourism awards.

 

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The Caves

The limestone in the caves is 390 million years old and was originally growing coral under the sea.  When the limestone was exposed, acidic rain created cracks and dissolved the calcite in the limestone to form caves.  The airflow through the caves makes them evaporative and therefore relatively dry, which means it takes stalactites 100 years to grow just one centimetre.  There are more than 1.5 kms of underground passages connecting the caves together.

 

The various wildlife inside the caves includes butterflies, moths and microbats – sometimes even ghost bats and pythons that come in to eat the micro bats.  There is also a rare fern – the tectaria devexa – that calls the caves its one and only home.

 

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The Cathedral Cave is the most popular chamber – so popular in fact that they hold around 30 weddings there every year.  There are pews lined up with an aisle that the bride can walk down, and many singers have visited the cave and commented on how perfect the acoustics are – comparable to the Sydney Opera house.

 

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Another beautiful feature of the caves is the gentle beam of light that shines into the largest chamber.  During the summer solstice, the sun lines up perfectly overhead, projecting a beam of light into the cave.  It’s seen as a magical event – some people bring crystals to recharge, while others propose to their lovers, and occasionally, a disco ball is spun in the sunlight.

 

The Essentials

Capricorn Caves is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 8:30am to 6pm.  The Cathedral tour runs every hour from 9am until 4pm, but if you’re after something a little more daring, they also offer adventure caving, abseiling and rock climbing.  There’s even a high ropes course and geo tour.

 

They’re available for functions such as weddings and parties, and there’s a van park onsite for visitors wanting to spend the night.  For more information, visit their website: http://www.capricorncaves.com.au/

 

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