NEWSFLASH! My book hits the road! Did you miss my Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise 'Downunder Dunnies' appearance? Watch the Video HERE!

Monday

Signs #1 - Fast Flowing Water


The graphics on this sign leave the reader in no doubt as to what will happen to the car if the road ahead is covered by water!  Signs like these are probably Australia's way of making up for being largely monolingual - although not all sign 'art' is so clear cut!! 

These signs are fairly common in the Wet Tropics north of Cairns, Queensland - that's because the annual rainfall is measured in metres, as is the water level over the road!

See you next time!

PS  Click on the photo for a closer look at the sign.

Friday

Only in OZ #1 - The Golden Gumboot, Tully, Queensland

The Golden Gumboot, Tully, Queensland
Yes, this is the fabulous Golden Gumboot in Tully, Queensland that my blog devotees will recall from previous posts

As it was pouring with rain both times we passed it on our 2010 trip, here's some photos I prepared earlier!  Yes, that is a frog crawling up the side.  Sadly, the photo doesn't show the bakery in the main street behind where we celebrated our viewing of this sugar cane farming town's bizarre achievement!

Originally, a rubber boot was awarded to Australia's wettest town, generally Tully, or one of the nearby towns of Innisfail to the south or Babinda to the north.  Oddly, rumour has it that Innisfail is apparently no longer a real contender after its official rain gauge was moved away from the public toilets ...

'Big Dreamers', a documentary shown on ABC TV shows how this awesome but controversial landmark evolved into what you can see today.  The mixed response from locals MAY be why the Golden Gumboot now has its own festival - possibly the only festival in the world to celebrate all things gumboot! 

Sugar Mill, Tully, Queensland
Interestingly (at least to Australian readers), the bottom of the Gumboot festival website shows politician Bob Katter tossing a gumboot, and he also figures in the 2010 program.  His current position in Australian politics may mean the Tully Golden Gumboot festival will now receive the international recognition it deserves.

Building a permanent Golden Gumboot implies that the award rightfully belongs in Tully - despite being out-rained by its sister town, Babinda in recent times!  Babinda may yet make good its threat to counteract the Golden Gumboot with a giant umbrella ...

However, the height of the gumboot actually commemorates the highest rainfall recorded by an OZ town -7.9 metres (311 inches) was the annual rainfall record recorded by Tully in 1950. 

Meanwhile, climb the Golden Gumboot's internal staircase for a fine view of the sugar mill (shown above on a rare rain-free day) - another claim to fame for Tully!

Only in OZ??  If not, prove me wrong!

Monday

Traveller SHAME Files #2 - The Cleaning Fairy

It's amazing to me that rational people who stopped believing in Santa and/or the Easter Bunny well before reaching adulthood apparently still believe in the Cleaning Fairy.  I say 'apparently', because while no one's actually TOLD me they believe in the Cleaning Fairy, I've observed a number of giveaways clearly showing that some people do!

Unsurprisingly, many of these clues can be found in or around Caravan Park and Campground amenities blocks.

I've pieced the clues together to build a profile of the Cleaning Fairy's tasks - from my observations s/he is perceived to be responsible for the following:
  • placing used cotton buds, dental floss and paper towels, empty containers, hair plugs etc into the bin
  • removing excess toothpaste and other unidentifiable detritus from the vanity surface and mirror
  • mopping up excess water and muddy footprints from the shower cubicle (mops generally supplied)
  • flushing used toilet paper (etc!) down the toilet
  • removing skid marks from the toilet bowl (brush generally supplied)
I wouldn't dare to suggest a demographic profile of Cleaning Fairy true believers ... but while they come in all shapes and sizes, there are a few key groups that appear more regularly than others.  I wonder if you can guess them?!?!

Responsibility for cleaning up ones mess in a shared ablutions block is contentious - although it shouldn't be.  When one is paying for the privilege of use, it's tempting to leave the cleaning up to the Cleaning Fairy.  But where does that leave fellow guests who are also paying to use the amenities?

I know you'll be shocked to hear that many travellers just don't give a damn!  Presumably because they believe the Cleaning Fairy will take care of it!  I mean, if they DON'T believe in the Cleaning Fairy, what's the alternative?  Their bathroom looks like this at home??  They have no respect for their fellow travellers???  They're in denial about their impact on their environment????

Or maybe they're just a bit simple.  After all, the amenities block is magically restored to its pristine state at least once a day, ergo there is a Cleaning Fairy.

Or maybe I'm the one in denial and the Cleaning Fairy ACTUALLY EXISTS!! 

ARRRGGGHHHHH!!!  If that's the case, someone tell me quick so I can stop cleaning up after myself too!!!

Stay clean!

Tuesday

Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #5 - Yorke Peninsula, SA

Here's a break from tradition - public amenities NOT surrounded by rocks, desert or barren spaces!!  No idea what I'm talking about?  Check out the other Scenic Public Toilets in this series, and all will become clear!

This amenities block near Brown's Beach in Innes National Park on the Southern Yorke Peninsula, South Australia is unaccountably in the middle of a field. 

I'm not really sure what area this toilet block is meant to service, but the view is spectacular.  Although not really close to either, it's well worth the walk from the beach or the road.  I guess 'conveniences' is a relative term - one would only be walking if one wasn't desperate.

Maybe it's designed for opportunists ie 'look, there's a loo, may as well go now'.  Or perhaps those subject to pavlovian responses ie 'look there's a loo, what a coincidence, I needed to go anyway'.  Or maybe it's just a teaser for people like me who want to know why.  There's no campground within cooee either - perhaps the owner of the paddock wants to develop one, and this is the first step!  

You could do worse than do your business here - on a clear day you can see exactly why this hidden corner of South Australia is a hot tourist spot just waiting to happen!

Wednesday

The Bowen Curse

After a hiatus of 2 weeks with virtually no rain, we left Cairns and the Wet Tropics in blinding drizzle and headed south for Bowen - where the dry season is actually dry!  Or so we thought ...

The trifecta of towns - Babinda, Innisfail and Tully - with claims to be Australia's wettest (and rainfall measured in metres) certainly lived up to their claims, with drizzle, rain and cloud so low it virtually hit the windscreen.  While Tully holds the official 'Golden Gumboot' award - and has built one to commemorate this dubious honour - our money is on Innisfail.  My mate actually recalls a time we visited when it WASN'T raining - back in the early 90's - a record not broken as we passed through, despite the rain thinning to a heavy drizzle, and even a moment or two shortly after leaving the city limits when it almost wasn't raining at all!  This completed the Wet Tropics loop we started some weeks ago!!

As we played 'spot the hire car', the rain, interspersed with stoppages for cane trains, random roadworks and what must be a full time job mowing the verges, meant we spent most of the time either going slow or stopped completely.  But spotting the government 'how good are we' type signs littering the Bruce Highway provided an amusing diversion, as well as raising important questions about political advertising and wise stewardship of taxpayers money.  While I'd question why 11 signs are required (1 State, 10 Federal) on one particular 50 km stretch to draw one's attention to government funded upgrades, initiatives and general improvement programs, who am I to grill the collective wisdom of the people's elected mouthpieces?  We also found a school that DIDN'T have a 'Nation Building Project' sign, and wondered what they'd done wrong ... but I digress!

The scenery south of Cairns is pretty spectacular with magnificent rainforest heavily cloaking Mounts Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker, Queensland's two highest mountains.  But, the only heavy cloaks on the mountains this day were made of mist, cloud and drizzle, meaning they were virtually invisible!!  Incidentally, Mt Bartle Frere has been known to have a rainfall of 12+ metres (what's a few centimetres between friends?) but in a 'drought' year, it can plummet to around 4.5 metres.

But, days like this are necessary to make the Wet Tropics what they are...

Bowen, home of the famous mango and arguably one of the driest spots along this stretch of the coast, has no such excuse.  According to the weather forecast, an extensive rain event was due along almost the entire east coast of Queensland later that night.  Given Bowen's reputation, we stopped just down the road from the 'Bowen Arrow' motel (!!), with a deceptive calm that lulled us into thinking whatever happened wouldn't be quite so bad in Bowen.  But ... a few hours later, we were hit with a wild and scary combination of rain, wind, thunder, lightning and flying coconut palm fronds, lasting for what seemed like several hours.  If I'd been able to uncover my eyes and unblock my ears, I would have looked at my watch to tell you for how long it actually lasted - which would undoubtedly sound a little less dramatic.  But what I DO know is the ensuing rain actually DID last for hours, conveniently finishing just before the official rain gauge recording time ie 9:00am!  I believe it's Bowens highest August daily rainfall figure ever, so I guess it was a privilege to live through it ...

We really should have known better.  On our last visit to Bowen nearly 12 years ago, a wild and scary combination of rain, wind, thunder, lightning and flying coconut palm fronds that lasted several hours also hit unexpectedly.

But we've vowed to return.  Bowen's a terrific spot - gotta love a town with two bakeries, and arguably the best mango cheesecake in the land.  But you'll have to wait and see whether the Bowen curse strikes again for three in a row, or whether we make it 3rd time lucky!

Stay dry!!  See you next time!!

Saturday

OZ Top Spot #1 Gunlom, Kakadu NP, NT

Awesome isn't a strong enough word to describe the grandeur of Gunlom (part of Waterfall Creek), deep within Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory (NT).  So ... for once, I'll let the pictures do the talking!  Well ... some of it, anyway!

A highlight of our 2008 trip to the NT, Gunlom's delights don't all come easily - the steep, rocky 1km walk to the pools at the top of the waterfall probably shouldn't be done in 35 degree heat, or at the hottest time of the day! 

It's not for the fainthearted - or the unfit - either. But ... not to be outdone by the Grey Nomad grandmother with foot problems who'd told me all about how she'd managed the climb the day before, I cast those concerns aside and headed for the top. 

All I wanted to do when I reached the top was plunge into the pool to cool off - at any cost!  So, dumping my backpack into a random rocky crag, casting outer clothing aside and pushing hapless tourists out of my way, I did!! 

Once I'd recovered, I could appreciate the magnificent rewards of this fabulous spot.


The pools at the top are clear, cool and offer amazing views over the edge to the pool below the drop to the falls. 

If you're foolish enough to stand at the edge and look over, that is.  I guess this proves I did!  And how high was the drop upon which I was standing?


AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!

Yep, it's pretty high!

To put you in the picture - you can see the lip where the water goes over the falls in the top photo above - and in the one above.

You can see the pool at the bottom in the middle photo - and also at the bottom of the one above.

What you can't see is the assistance from my mate without whom I'd never have considered even approaching the edge.  Steadier nerves than mine are required for such an undertaking.

But ... it's the adrenaline rush that helps make this an awe-inspiring Oz Top Spot!

Enjoy!

Monday

Traveller SHAME Files #1 - The Dingo Trap

During my travels I've observed - and been on the receiving end of - some odd behaviours.  Of course during this time I've more than likely caused many a 'what the ...' moment myself ...  The shame files aren't about ALL travellers - they're about the ones who indulge in behaviours that annoy, aggravate and irritate fellow travellers most of whom would agree that these be stopped or banned!!

I'm not sure whether true or not, but in Australia, dingo mythology says a dingo will chew off a limb rather than remain caught in a trap.  The term 'dingo trap' has therefore become synonymous with going to great lengths to escape from an unpleasant or distasteful situation.  And what better situation than the sense of entrapment when faced with a fellow traveller who just doesn't know when to shut up? 

With the possible exception of a clutch of young adults arriving back at their crowded tent in the site next to you after a night out drinking, the dingo trap is highly likely to be a Southern Grey Nomad (aka GN)!

Over the years, I've heard all about children, grandchildren, and other random relatives I don't know.  Numerous rig modification technicalities have been explained to me, along with the pros and cons of technological advances in the caravanning world.  Then there's travelogue wars where travel destinations are a badge of honour, sometimes accompanied by outright hostilities about the 'best' spots to visit.  I've learned that I haven't yet lived because I've not visited a particular GN favourite spot, or even worse - visited AND hated it!  And while I realise that sharing a resume of health problems isn't exclusive to GNs, it can be harder to take when juxtaposed with the fabulous locations in which I'm hearing them.

But individually, none of these really qualify as dingo traps. 

Why?  Several crucial elements characterise a true dingo trap, all of which must be present!  These include:
  1. inappropriate timing;
  2. irrelevance;
  3. insensitivity to signs of disinterest;
  4. indifference to response (if any) from listener; and
  5. interaction not required!
The effect is magnified significantly where the GN has an accomplice.

And if there's any doubt, ask yourself the ultimate test question - would I rather chew my arm off to escape?  Or continue to listen?

I KNEW I was in the middle of a dingo trap when we were working through our packing up routine prior to an early departure and a woman from the neighbouring caravan (lets call her Brenda) wandered over in her dressing gown, coffee in hand and small dog in tow.  The dog immediately started doing what dogs do around our tyres.  Before I could respond (ie kick it out of the way), Brenda spoke without preamble.

'We used to have a camper exactly like that,' she stated as puddles started appearing around the tyres.  I wasn't quite sure how to respond, so made a non-committal noise and kept on with the routine.  'We hated it,' she continued.

'Well, we're very happy with ours,' I replied, wondering where this was all heading.

'No,' she continued as if I hadn't spoken, 'you don't want a camper like this.  What you want is to trade it in for one like ours,' she stated, indicating their standard caravan.

I moved to the other side of the trailer for my next task, reiterating that our trailer suited us so well, we'd actually lived in it for 18 months.  Undeterred, she followed me round, calling to her husband.

'Bob, come over here and tell these people why we upgraded from what they've got to a caravan,' she cried as I surreptitiously tried to nudge the dog away from the tyres.  Bob obediently trotted over, and joined her in invading my personal space.

I told Bob we were very happy with our trailer.

Bob proceeded to list the reasons they'd upgraded - this included everything that had EVER gone wrong with their trailer.

I reiterated that our trailer hadn't had any of those problems, and suited us very well.

Brenda then repeated everything Bob had just said, adding 'there's much more space for the dogs.'

I advised Bob and Brenda we didn't have, and never would have, pets on the road as they made such a mess.  I also advised we were in a bit of a hurry and had hoped to get away by 8:30 (5 minutes ago).

Bob and Brenda simultaneously started listing the benefits of having their pets with them on the road, and how their lives had been transformed by all being together in their caravan.

I don't know for how much longer this would have gone on had my mate not asked loudly and irritably when I was going to finish.  This didn't deter Bob and Brenda one bit, but I ignored their diatribes, finished the routine and got in the car.  We drove off while they were still talking.

My mate said that was the only way he could think of to get away from them.  He was right!

Can you match the dingo trap elements with the relevant parts of the example above?  I bet you can!!  Furthermore, I bet you can think of an example (or two) of your own ...

Happy travels!!
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