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QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA – Friday 16th to Thursday 29th April 2004


Bob & Shirley’s ‘Yetaboon’ Pilgrimage


[Reporter: Gerry PECK; Photographer: Margaret PECK; ‘EadItter: George MILLIE]



Days Four & Five – Queanbeyan


Monday 19th April

We took Bob and Shirley back to Brisbane Airport Domestic Terminal. They were going to visit with Bob's cousin Olive, who lives nearby in Queanbeyan, just over the border into NSW from Canberra in the ACT, for a couple of days and had to fly to Canberra, the national capital, some 1,600 km away.



Day Six – Coochiemudlo Island


Wednesday 21st April

After a hiatus of two days, we picked Bob and Shirley up from the Domestic Terminal at Brisbane Airport; they had flown with Virgin Blue and the flight was spot-on for punctuality. Their faces lit up with relief as they spotted us waiting by the exit ramp into the main terminal concourse. The trip to Canberra and Queanbeyan, an unqualified success, had indeed served to clear up many anomalies that Bob had recalled from his childhood, especially as his cousin’s husband turned out to be someone that Bob knew from his schooldays. As far as they were both concerned, the detour down south had been very much worth the effort.


Maggie and I had arranged to take them across to Coochiemudlo Island, smallest of all the inhabited islands in Moreton Bay and, being just under a kilometre offshore, the closest to the mainland. Less than a square mile in area it is a perfect miniature of all the others and can be reached by waterbus for less than $3 single fare. Most of the Islanders use this means of accessing the mainland for work or shopping trips, and a converted landing craft also does the Coochie trip, so for around $30 return fare you can take a car over to the Island. Rarely using the larger craft most Islanders keep a good car on the mainland and an old “bomb” on the Island.


‘Popeye’ and ‘Brutus’ aboard the waterbus on the way to Coochiemudlo Island


It was just after 14.00 hrs when we alighted on “Coochie”. We headed for the general store first up and surrounded a hot dog each. After the heady excitement of my plastic chair folding under me, we wandered back to the jetty and caught the island minibus. This is presently being driven by a retired lady who regales visitors with facts, figures and anecdotes about the island and its interesting history. We covered every aspect of the island during this drive, from its picturesque setting in the bay, its 9-hole golf course, the very varied architecture of the islanders’ homes, which range from humble timber shacks through to log cabins and some very palatial and ultra modern edifices. Oddly enough, the disparate styles and varying degrees of opulence do not clash at all.


We took in the views from the modest cliffs opposite the mainland at Victoria point, checked out the remnants of mangrove swamp and the pristine forested area that has been left as a permanent reminder of what the island looked like prior to settlement. The tide was on the rise for the return journey by waterbus so the sandbanks visible on the outward trip were no longer so much in evidence. By the time we got back to our place by way of the route through from Redlands Shire, aptly named because of its rich, blood-red soil, Bob and Shirley were ready for their evening repast and a reasonably early night.



Day Seven – The Gold Coast


Thursday 22nd April

Earmarked for a trip down south to the Gold Coast, after a good breakfast we headed off down the Pacific Highway, an eight-lane freeway (four each way) that links Queensland and New South Wales. We were headed for a locality known as Labrador where there is an outstanding shopping mall known as Harbour Town. We got bogged-down in the first two stores that you pass as you walk into the precinct. Bob and Shirley were just fascinated by the variety and low prices of the goods and clothes displayed. Needless to say, they began to pile up so many purchases that Bob had to head back to the car and stow them safely away as they would have been a nuisance to carry around with us.


Bob, Shirley and Gerry take the weight off their feet at Harbour Town Mall, Labrador


We walked slowly through the complex, set up as an external mall rather than an indoor one, and decided to partake of lunch at one of the many reasonably priced eating establishments within the mall. After a prolonged study of the various types of cuisine on offer, it was unanimously decided that a seafood basket would be the way to go. These were priced at just $9.50 a serve (A$1 = UK 42p), the food was served up on large china dishes shaped like the bottom-half of a clam shell and the portions were prodigiously sized. Whiting “fingers” in batter, prawns, calamari rings, scallops and sea food bites, along with a generous serve of crisp, golden chips garnished with a side salad, was altogether very impressive.


As we tucked into this very tasty feed, a possum charged up the trunk of the palm tree next to where we sat. It remained clinging to the palm trunk just above head-height for several minutes before carefully picking its way between the sharp spines at the base of the fronds adorning the top of the palm tree. The café provided us with a chilled bottle of water with which we gratefully slaked our respective thirsts, and oddly enough, this complemented the meal better than a glass of wine or beer might have done.


Lunch out of the way, we returned to the car and headed off down the Gold Coast highway towards Currumbin, about 10 km from to the NSW border where all the so-called ‘Mexicans’ live - (“South of the border, down Mexico way”). Along the way, as we entered the area known as Surfers Paradise, the Langleys were startled to see the starting grid for the Gold Coast “Indy” race appear on the road surface. Manfully resisting the temptation to ‘floor it’ and madly gun my 1.5 litre motor, I crawled along at a speed designed to give them a chance to eyeball the shops and magnificent high-rise buildings that abound in Surfers. The road wends its way under the monorail that services the patrons wishing to go to the huge Jupiter’s Casino complex; unfortunately there was no sign of the train as we swept beneath the track. Passing on through Mermaid Waters, Miami and Palm Beach, (Bob and Shirley have been to Florida but missed those places there) we passed the beautiful little coves that distinguish this part of the Gold Coast, eventually reaching our destination, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.


The first disappointment was that UK Pensioner concession cards were not valid for the entry discount offered to Aussie pensioners. Progressing into the sanctuary we were greeted by “closed for refurbishment” notices on several exhibits and the entire place had a slightly rundown appearance. On that basis the repairs were no doubt well due! Bob and Shirley were nevertheless very interested in the reptile house exhibits including the world’s most dangerous terrestrial snakes - the deadliest, the ‘Fierce Snake’ or Inland Taipan, and the world’s most dangerous snake, the Coastal Taipan, growing to a length of 4 metres is notoriously aggressive if disturbed or provoked.


We rode the miniature train running through the complex to the first “show” of the afternoon, a free-flight display by some of Australia’s raptors, including two species of Eagle, two Owls, a Kite and a Falcon. The most impressive was the Wedge-tailed Eagle with a wing span close to 7 ft across. The “whoosh” of air as it swept very low over the audience was very formidable, as were its huge talons as it “braked” and stretched out its legs prior to landing on the wrist proffered by its handler. Nearby, a small compound contained two Tasmanian Devils, some Echidnas and a few Wombats. The Echidnas were being fed on what looked like some sort mince which they ‘scarfed’ up on their very long and presumably very sticky tongues. The Wombats had some choice vegetables and some pellets, while the Devils were each putting away a dead rat, the strength of their jaws being very evident as they fed.


From here we walked through the complex so that we could see some of the more exotic rare birds and of course watch the Koalas being given some Manna Gum leaves for their afternoon feed. The Roos’ enclosure was next and almost all of the mob of Kangaroos were waiting patiently for their grub, which consisted, or so it seemed to us, of the very plain pellets earlier enjoyed by the Wombats. Wishing to participate in the feeding of the wild Rainbow Lorikeets, we headed for the pick-up point for the train. During the ten minutes or so that we were waiting, we were all subjected to the sight of the culmination of a Kangaroo courtship. Much stamina and enthusiasm was displayed.


We reached the area to which the wild Lorikeets come as feeding time approaches. There seemed to be only a small flock of the birds hanging about, so we all became instant pessimists, expecting to see very little action taking place. As it turned out we were quite wrong because, some four minutes or so after the issuing of the tin plates that visitors are given in which the honey-based solution was to be held, the birds began to land on people. Bob soon had seven on his plate and arms and then, believe it or not an eighth on his head! Figuring that the longer the birds stayed on a person, the more likely the odds that one of us would cop a packet, we took some photos and then set off for home as the early evening progressed. We made good time via the Pacific Highway’s four homeward bound lanes.


Bob feeding the Rainbow Lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (note the one perched on his head)



Day Eight – Another FEOFA Reunion


Published: April 2004