Updated: Jul 2, 2020
This dark and cloudy morning I sat next to the window sipping a coffee and listening to Ricky fucking Gervais via Twitter, going on about how you should never begin a novel by talking about the weather or by using profanity. I’ve been trying to get into the mood to write this blog piece for weeks so thank you Ricky for the inspiration!
Look at where I’m living! I’m living on the Sunshine Coast not too far from beautiful Coolum Beach, pictured below. I’m very happy to be here.
The Sunshine Coast and Mission Beach are around 1,500km apart, so maybe you’re wondering why I am now so much further south than was originally planned? Well part of the reason is that I have an addiction to driving (obviously), but mostly it was due to the humidity in the north. Who would have thought the tropics would be humid huh?? So let’s go back to my 14-day isolation at the Rainforest Motel in Mission Beach, Northern Queensland…
Axle (above) was keeping an eye on me most days to make sure I didn’t escape the motel room. He belongs to Len and Sue who manage the motel and is a retired working sheep dog. I think he enjoyed making sure I was kept in my ‘cage’ during the day and by night he was kept busy hunting the cane toads and lizards that were trying to go about their business through the ferns and branches around the property. When Axle was off duty I would be visited by various sized lizards either scaling the walls and roof of the patio, or grabbing some sun.
14 days went along quite quickly which I think was due to the mammoth journey to Mission Beach from Adelaide of which I’d just experienced, so it was luxurious to have my own bathroom, shower, double bed and cooking facilities. It also gave me time to recover and get some proper sleep as well as write the previous blog addition.
Towards the end of the isolation period I was starting to miss doing one of my favourite things to do which is to walk around and check stuff out. When my release date came I promptly took myself on a nice long walk around Mission Beach which is usually heavy with tourist activity, but the lockdown had made that impossible and the streets were almost silent. I didn’t mind the quiet except that I had this underlying feeling that I was ‘on the run’ and half expected to be caught and returned to my room. (Complete with a very disappointed Axle waiting at the door, thumping his tail impatiently!) But of course that didn’t happen and I was able to experience one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in almost complete solitude.
The texture shown on the beach is made by the crabs. There are loads of them all digging for shelter in the sand. They roll the sand into balls and eject them onto the beach, creating the patterns. If you are lucky enough to be one of the first people on the beach before feet trample it away, you’ll see it.
Mission Beach is situated in the Cassowary Coast region of Queensland. The region is named after a rather prehistoric looking animal, the Cassowary, similar looking to an Emu but with a bit more colour around its head. (Picture included below of a Cassowary sculpture.) There are many signs along the roads leading in and out of Mission Beach warning drivers to beware and look out for Cassowaries crossing the road. They are endangered and the pride of the area, so good luck to you if you take one out! Unfortunately I didn’t see one during my stay, but it’s not unusual for people to see them around the place up there.
Here are a few random facts about Mission Beach:
· Popular tourist destination with beautiful Dunk Island only 4km offshore
· Home to the Cassowary, if provoked can be one of the most dangerous birds to humans
· Home to season one of ‘The Real Housewives of Melbourne’, can also be considered dangerous to humans
During the final week of isolation I had been looking into where I could take up residence in my camper once it was done. I wanted to stay in Mission Beach and whilst Len & Sue had offered me to stay on at the Rainforest Motel for a great rate, I really wanted to get back into living in the camper. After all, that’s what it was for, plus it really needed a good clean out after the journey up from South Australia. I found a local campsite called Bali Hai just south of Mission Beach in a place called Wongaling Beach where the managers were willing to accept people in my situation. Located across the road from the ocean and offering a great weekly rate I thought I’d found my final living place for the rest of the winter.
Now it wasn’t the midges that made themselves at home inside the camper each evening at sundown, easily accessing the van with their tiny bodies through the fly screens; nor the huge horse flies that would almost without fail each day greet me first thing in the morning as I put one sleepy foot outside the camper onto the grass to make my way to the bathroom block. It wasn’t the St. Andrews spiders that made themselves at home next to electric sockets, water taps, any structure that they find really; the wasps that started to build a nest inside the rubber stopper on my van tailgate one afternoon, nor the deadly heart-attack inducing jellyfish that lived in the ocean across the road… The last straw was the constant humidity that would only subside enough to enable proper sleep for around 5 or 6 hours each night. The place was amazingly beautiful, but after limited sleep for a week and having to shut the van windows at sundown or else suffer midges or heavy doses of insect spray throughout the evening… it was time to head further south.
My description of the critters living at the campsite is accurate although slightly exaggerated, so to compensate please enjoy the pictures below which highlight the beauty of the area. Had I been able to stick around for another month or so I’m told the humidity would subside and the jellyfish would leave the waters making it possible to swim. I evacuated before the jellyfish did.
(For those interested, the dead Ray pictured is common to tropical coastal waters and is a White Spotted Eagle Ray. It would usually have a long tail with spines, but the local crabs were quickly taking care of it.)
I booked myself into a campsite for a week in the town of Maryborough to experience the area and see if it was an ideal fit to stay for the winter. Each campsite I contacted varied slightly on how they were dealing with Covid-19. Some were completely closed, some would only take travelling workers on local work projects, and others would accept travellers like me who were permanently living in a vehicle. The Maryborough campsite allocated me a powered site that came with a small exclusive en-suite. It contained a toilet, shower and laundry sized sink. Perfect. I set up after burying a smelly, dead cane toad that was tainting the area and settled in for the stay.
It was much less humid some 1300km south of Mission Beach and it was so nice to be getting proper sleep again. I spent the first few days at this new campsite doing some minor repairs on the van, getting it properly cleaned out and also going for some shorts walks around the town.
There was a family in the permanent/long term site next to mine that had 2 young children who were quite loud and lively. They were quiet during the night but the days would be filled with varying degrees of tantrums and arguments accompanied by loud bangs from within the caravan. I was also having unexpected daily encounters with different animals in the en-suite. One day I was sitting on the loo when I thought I heard something behind me along the floor. I thought nothing of it until I caught movement from the corner of my eye and discovered a large cane toad trying to keep out of trouble behind the toilet. It was fine, I tried not to disturb it too much and figured it would leave during the night, which it did. But as one guest leaves another arrives and this time it was a green tree frog taking up residence in the sink overflow drain. I quite liked this visitor actually and let it be as much as possible, but started to wonder about what other animals might try to take refuge next.
Here are a few random facts about Maryborough:
· Largest port in Australia by the early 1900’s
· Only place in Australia that suffered an outbreak of the pneumonic plague
· Campsite has trees that stink like onions
It was around this time that I started looking online for work around the state, and also started to consider renting a small apartment or studio for the rest of the winter. With free camping places being unreliable to stay at during the lockdown, campsites turning out to be not ideal longer-term places to live plus with the rates I was paying at the campsites already, I figured it was worth looking at the cost of renting a small apartment or studio for the rest of the winter. I guess all those years of living on a luxury motorhome in Europe have turned me into a bit of a lightweight!
It became apparent that most of the job opportunities were closer to Brisbane along with the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. The Sunshine Coast was the closest being only 2 hours south and I had some very good memories of that area from a previous holiday back in late 2011, so that became my focus. I found 2 studio style apartments for a very good rate that were available immediately, and arranged with the local agents to take a look at them.
‘The Sunshine Coast, Coolum Beach.’
Fast-forward to now, I’m writing this blog in my studio/hotel style accommodation in Marcoola Beach on the Sunshine Coast. I was successful in securing a 6-month lease that includes access to the hotel swimming pool, gym, underground secure parking and all within a stone’s throw of the beach. WIN!
Since I moved in I’ve managed to find someone to steam clean the underside of the van removing the thick layer of dried mud that was smashed into it from the boggy outback Queensland tracks, and all the dead crickets from the roads around Mt Isa. I’ve polished the paint and had it roadworthy approved for Queensland state registration. That van has truly done me proud. Now it has an easier life being driven once a week to the supermarket and the occasional trip to check out some of the local area. Below are some pictures of Coolum Beach and my upgraded lodgings.
I’ve been settled into the place for exactly 3 weeks today and I absolutely love it. I’ve bought a second hand bicycle and am doing daily trips along the coast, making the most of the Queensland weather and cycling to cafes around the area. No, no Lycra, just a ‘Long live rock n roll’ Beat The Street t-shirt which does the job just fine!
It feels great to be living a healthy lifestyle; I’m sleeping and eating well, enjoying the beach and the relaxed way of life that seems the norm here. The beach is still home to crabs and after sitting on the sand for a few minutes and keeping still you can see them venture out of their holes. The other day I was sitting watching the waves and a crab appeared making a direct run for my towel. It was a windy day and I think it was looking for shelter, so it headed straight under the towel and stayed there until I stood up to leave. I felt bad taking the towel away, it panicked and then started heading for my feet to hide under, following me until it couldn’t keep up anymore. It’s cool having so many different creatures around, so long as I can go back to my studio and get a break from them when I want to!
My US visa application seems to be on track for success sometime later this year and it looks like I may have (hopefully) picked up a 6-month work contract as a heavy vehicle driver examiner along the Sunshine Coast starting in July. (Quite a backlog of tests to clear since Covid-19 put a stop to them.)
It has certainly been an adventure since leaving Adelaide at the end of March to arriving and settling into the Sunshine Coast some 5-6 weeks later and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Here’s to life grabbing you by the balls and being happy to go along for the ride!