Australia Zoo, Thursday 16 May 2019

We woke up early in anticipation of a big day out at Australia Zoo. What a blessing today was with sunny skies and only a brief shower. Ian walked Dexter along a mangrove board walk and a leash free area. We then took him to the nearby Caloundra Pet Resort for doggie daycare.

Australia Zoo is famous as the Home of the Crocodile Hunter–the late Steve Irwin. Australia Zoo is located on Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, one hour’s drive north of Brisbane. It is managed by Steve Irwin’s wife, Terri, and his daughter, Bindi, and son, Robert. Robert has grown up to be a wildlife photographer, and much of his work is for sale at the zoo. Australia Zoo is the major sponsor of the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors–a non-profit wildlife conservation charity established by Steve and Terri Irwin in 2002

There were 1200 animals and free interactive wildlife shows daily. There is the Wildlife Photo Studio where visitors can have their photos taken with a koala, snake or iguana. Children can visit the Australia Zoo Water Park to cool off. Visitors can book a hands-on animal encounter to pat a lemurs, have meerkats run all over them, or take a walk with a tiger or cheetah. Profits from these go towards Australia Zoo’s wildlife conservation efforts around the world.

Australia Zoo, here we come! We had visited the Sunshine Coast many times over the years, and now we finally had a chance to visit. The zoo is well patronized with many visitors in buses and cars, including several caravans and motorhomes. We parked Matilda alongside three other motorhomes.

Shortly after passing through the entry gate, we had our first adventure–a talk on Giant Aldabran Tortoises and a photo opportunity with Jarvis! Ian recalls he has a photo with a Giant Galapagos Tortoise taken at Taronga Zoo when Ian was only a few years old—must look out for it. Australia Zoo is trying to breed their Giant Tortoises, but it is slow going!

Ian & Katie with Jarvis the Giant Aldabran Tortoise

Ian enjoyed the dingoes, and we saw a couple of them being walked through the people coming in the gates. The binturong was an interesting looking animal—it is also known as a bear cat. We also saw a cheetah being walked by staff in the company of some paying guests.

Dingoes, Ian’s favourite dog
The binturong, or bear cat. Check out those whiskers!

We found it hard to follow the Australia Zoo’s schematic map. We tried to get to the tiger exhibit in time for an 11:00 am talk, but got hopelessly lost and ended up missing it. Several koalas were lazing around enjoying this bright sunny day and we just couldn’t help ourselves and patted one. We also patted a docile snake held by one of the animal handlers, and patted a docile kangaroo.

Docile kangaroo

We walked around Bindi’s Isalnd and saw lemurs. Further on we ended up in Africa, a savannah where giraffes, rhinos and zebras can roam free.  The meerkats are also in Africa, and seeing them reminded ourselves of our meerkat experience organized by our friend Michelle at Melbourne Zoo. While in Africa, we had a quick lunch of coffee, chips and ice-cream–not particularly healthy, but we enjoyed it.

Dinner time for the giraffes
A family(?) of rhinos
Meerkats on lookout, with rhinos in the background

We had a second opportunity to attend a talk on tigers, and this time we arrived well in advance, which was just as well because the limited seating filled up well before the talk started. We saw a Sumatran tiger being handled by two staff like a dog, except her treats were much larger. She ran up a tree for a chicken wing. As with dog training, positive reinforcement was the basis for the training. The audience was mesmerized, and it was definitely the highlight of our visit to the zoo.

A blind Sumatran tiger—not the one we saw perform
Well behaved Sumatran tiger

We had a top day in a well-run Zoo with very impressive landscaping. Attention to detail was extraordinary. Unfortunately, we missed the main show which included crocodiles at noon, but we felt that we had done well.

The gift shops promote Robert Irwin’s excellent photography. We bought a 2020 calendar featuring some of his work. Katie also bought a beautiful yellow color long sleeve shirt made of bamboo, designed by Steve’s wife, Terri.

We picked up Dexter on our way back to the Golden Beach Tourist Park. Dexter must have played with other dogs all day and looked thirsty and exhausted! We had leftover pizza for dinner, and we had an early night after a huge day.


Sunshine Coast, Thursday 9 to Saturday 18 May 2019

Grant was a flatmate of Ian’s brother, Alan, when Alan lived in Port Douglas. Alan and Grant became good friends, and used to go skiing years later. We got to know Grant when he visited Alan in hospital in 2004, shortly before Alan died of cancer. We have become close friends with Grant  and his parents, Margaret and Peter, and eventually also with Jacqui, who he married 10 years ago. Grant is a cabinet maker by trade, but he is also a highly skilled sculptor. He still works in cabinet making with his business partner and friend, Marty, who we also know, but renovating and building recreational vehicles also occupies a lot of his time. Grant has fixed our CUB camper trailer, twice!

Grant’s Jack Daniels bottle
Grant’s snake mirror, with part of a snake table in the reflection
Grant’s hammer letterbox

We had arranged to look after Grant and Jacqui’s place while they went away on an anniversary long weekend from Friday to Monday with their dogs, Pepper and Sully, to Woodgate Beach. We had agreed to arrive at Grant and Jacqui’s place at North Arm at 4:00 pm on the Thursday so that Grant could have a good day working on building a motor home.

It did not take long to drive from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast, so we camped for a few hours at a shady spot near Aussie World and had Beefy pies, coffee and tea for lunch. Ian practised his ukulele at this very tranquil spot. We also bought a family apple pie to take to North Arm.

We arrived at North Arm at the agreed time, and Grant and Ian considered options for parking Matilda. There had been heavy rain over several weeks, and much of the ground on the property was soft. We eventually parked Matilda on a concrete slab behind Grant’s shed, and we were able to get 240V connected.

Jacqui came home with lots of shopping for their trip away. As all of us were very tired, Ian got some takeaway from a Thai restaurant at Yandina for dinner. He enjoyed driving Grant’s Pathfinder into Yandina. The Pathfinder was our first real 4WD vehicle, and we sold it to Grant, who took a liking for it when we first bought it and Grant was still living in Buderim.

Grant & Jacqui with their old truck in the background

We got up a bit later than usual on Friday morning and we had showers and breakfast in Matilda. Grant had put up a gate to keep the sheep (brother and sister) away from our camping spot and Dexter in. Grant and Jacqui then set off to Woodgate Beach with Pepper and Sully in the Pathfinder.

View of Grant & Jacqui’s property from our campsite. That is our grey water hose in the foreground, not a snake.

Marty, Grant’s workmate arrived to supervise the unloading of a truck full of cabinet making materials. Ian has known Marty almost as long as Grant, and they had a good chat. Marty had a bit of a go at Ian’s new travelling gitar. Ian took Dexter for a walk down side road, met an elderly woman with a red cattle dog that we met last time when we were in North Arm, about 16 months ago.

Ian took Grant’s ute into Yandina to shop at IGA. He bought a microwavable fish fillet pack and we had it for dinner with brown rice and quinoa. We watched some TV inside Matilda and hit the sack early. The weather had been humid with showers.

On Saturday we did some planning for the next week or so. We were keen to visit Australia Zoo, which is at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, but we needed to find doggie daycare for Dexter. Ian also contacted Jenny, who we met on our Kimberley trip in 2015 and who lives at Tewantin. Jenny was very pleased to hear from us after all these years, and she and her husband invited us to their house for lunch on Friday. We also received an invitation for lunch on Sunday with Jamie and Denise.

As the afternoon’s sun was out, Ian and Katie could not resist the temptation of playing their ukuleles on the back of Grant’s old truck. This reminded us of a rock and roll scene in the 70s. We were very impressed with Grant’s creativity.

Katie practising the ukulele on the back of Grant’s truck

We had a Beefy’s chicken and veggie pie and barbecued pumpkin slices for dinner, and some apple pie for dessert.

On Sunday, we moved Matilda off of her concrete slab, across the damp ground and up the driveway with no problems. We were off to visit Jamie and Denise at Woombye. Jamie was Katie’s colleague when they both worked at Hornsby Council. Jamie married Denise and moved to Woombye, and they have twin sons, Luke and Ryan. Their boys have grown up so fast–we saw them as babies when Jamie and Denise visited us a few years ago. they have also adopted an 8 year-old dog called Arnie (or Arnold when is not a good dog).

Jamie prepared a tapas for lunch with haloumi, marinated prawns and lamb, asparagus, tomatoes, smoked salmon, toasted Turkish bread, dolmades, home grown parsleys, chillies, and sun-dried tomatoes. Starters were white and blue cheese and salami. It was a very tasty feast, enjoyed with Ian’s Cassegrain 2019 Verdelho.

Luke, Ryan & Arnie

Dexter spent a few hours inside Matilda while we were having lunch, but Ian took him out to socialise with Arnie and had a walk on lead around their property. He and Arnie were getting on okay. Dexter was given Arnie’s squeaky toy as a gift from Denise and Jamie., as Arnie doesn’t care about toys!

Jamie took us to a tour of his property, which used to be a bonsai nursery. It really is too big for Jamie to handle. We remember helping Jamie to clear away most of the unloved bonsai plants and weeds from the old nursery a year or so after he moved in.

Jamie, Ryan, Denise & Luke over lunch
Jamie & Ian with their dogs Arnie & Dexter

We came back to North Arm a little later than expected. It is to Ian’s credit that he managed to manoeuvre Matilda back onto the same parking spot on the concrete slab.

On Monday, we had intermittent showers all day. However, Katie managed to wash some clothes and hang them out, and we did get them dry.

It had become increasing urgent to replace our Tom Tom for this trip, as it was not picking up any GPS signals.  Ian rang JB HiFi Maroochydore to enquire about their GPS. It seems that the current models no longer fit the cradle we have in Matilda. He borrowed Grant’s ute to drive to Maroochydore and bought a Tom Tom GO 520. This appears to be a useful model for us, and it has hands free phone capability like our old one.

Ian later took the ute to Yandina and bought bolts to fix the foot of the awning leg that was damaged at Christmas in a storm. The fix was surprisingly easy for once. He also bought groceries, fish, salad and spuds to make dinner for us and Grant and Jacqui.

It was good to see that Grant and Jacqui had returned from Woodgate much refreshed. Grant also lowered our dining table in Matilda to a more comfortable height. He then swapped the cushions to even out the wear.

All of us enjoyed a delicious spicy fish dinner with a Cassegrain 2019 Semillon, and then Byron Bay cookies. Ian and Grant were allowed by their wives to sip port from port pipes—a rare treat!.

Ian & Grant enjoying port pipes

The rain continued all Tuesday morning! We filled our water tank using a couple of 9 litre watering cans and a flexible funnel. Katie’s important role was to hold the funnel steady while Ian poured fresh water into it. This was a tedious process involving two people. Grant then made Katie “redundant” by affixing a bracket to the side of Matilda to hold the funnel in place. Katie now has more time for her research on the Internet.

We then planned the rest of the week. We arranged to meet Peter and Margaret (Grant’s parents) at their house in Buderim tomorrow for morning tea, prior to travelling to Caloundra.

Later in the morning, at Grant’s suggestion we borrowed the Pathfinder and visited the Ginger Factory at Yandina. We had a scrumptious lunch in the Ginger Café, with a bottle of Buderim non-alcoholic ginger beer (for Katie) and Buderim ginger beer with spiced rum (Dark and Stormy for Ian).

Better than average calamari

We had visited the Ginger Factory several times previously, and had toured the factory and attended a bee show, but had not ridden the Ginger Train. We decided to rectify this oversight, and Katie bought us tickets. The Ginger Train runs every half hour and the whole journey takes about 20 minutes. The train now runs on diesel rather than steam. The driver frequently blew the train whistle near intersections to warn pedestrians of our approach. It was quite an interesting train ride. After the ride, we visited a ginger biscuit shops on the premises and bought some delectable ginger biscuits and some fudge. We also bought some ginger beer for our journey.

Katie on the Ginger Train

The Macadamia Nut Factory was across the road from the Ginger Factory, so we took the opportunity to pay a visit there. We bought a bottle of macadamia oil for cooking, as well as a bag of macadamia nuts to share with Grant and Jacqui tonight.

Jacqui cooked us a delicious fried chicken and vegetable noodle dish for dinner, and we had a good chat before Katie and I trundled off down the yard to our camp behind the shed.

On our motorhoming travels, we are finding that it is best to plan our dog-friendly accommodation and main activities a few days in advance. We started with a spreadsheet of the whole six months trip around Australia, with all stays, activities, distances, and special needs of Dexter. However, it is becoming obvious that we need to be much more flexible. Our new Tom Tom combined with Google, Google Maps and CMCA’s GeoWiki proved to be extremely useful for our detailed planning.

We decided to base ourselves in the southern part of the Sunshine Coast from Wednesday for a visit to Australia Zoo. On the way, we wanted to drop in to see Peter and Margaret, Grant’s parents, in Buderim.

Due to continuous rain in the past few days, the paddock behind the shed where Matilda was parked had become very wet, and the red basalt soil was slippery. Matilda became stuck as we had no traction for the front wheels on the slippery soil, despite only the slightest of slopes. Grant used his Pathfinder to tow us out with the snatch strap, all the way to the bitumen road. As we were parked precariously near a corner, we had to say our goodbyes to Grant and Marty without delay, and we navigated with our new Tom Tom to Peter and Margaret’s house in Buderim.

It was wonderful to see Peter and Margaret as they had recently been involved in a serious road accident. They appeared to have recovered well. We had a good chat and enjoyed scrumptious carrot cake for morning tea. Peter and Margaret shared their experiences of interesting places to visit for our journey and their pitfalls such as mosquitoes and sand flies. Katie hates sandflies as her skin reacts badly to them.

Margaret and Peter with Katie
Peter and Margaret’s friendly butcher bird

We lingered a bit longer than expected, and so we were invited to stay for lunch. Margaret prepared a lovely spread of veggie rissoles, green salad and curried rice and nut salad which we enjoyed very much. In return we entertained them with the video of our ukulele concert performed on our recent Majestic Princess cruise. They were amazed!

Our Tom Tom navigated us to the Golden Beach Tourists Park. Ian and I both like the new Tom Tom. James, the narrator, is very funny and speaks with a broad Aussie accent! On arrival of every destination, he cheerfully announces, “Your have arrived at your destination. Windows down, grab your sunnies, and don’t let the seagulls steal your chips!”. When we get to an intersection where we go straight on, he says, “Go straight on, too easy!”. Occasionally, we are told to “Chuck a U-ee! Good on ya!” It keeps us amused for now.

It was quite late when we arrived at the Golden Beach Tourist Park, so Ian walked up the road and bought a pizza for dinner from Pan O Vino. We had an early night as we were both tired! We blamed it on the rainy weather. We hoped that it would be fine the next day, Thursday, as we had planned to visit Australia Zoo. We have made a separate post on that adventure.

Readers, by now you would have noticed we have religiously composed our travel blog like doing assignments on holidays, so that our friends and visitors can follow this journey and have a laugh or a sigh – it’s all good fun!

As mentioned above, we had arranged to catch up with Jenny (from our 2015 Kimberley trip) at Tewantin on Friday as we resumed our journey northwards. The arrangement was that we would provide wine and dessert for the lunch. After checking out of the caravan park at Golden Beach, we stopped at the local bakery to buy a decadently rich chocolate mud cake for dessert and a loaf of bread for us.

We decided to try the Cooroy RV Stopover on the Friday night. Cooroy is a gateway to the Noosa beaches and neighbouring hinterland towns such as Pomona and Eumundi. Prior to driving to Tewantin we checked out the RV Stopover and met Dillion, the caretaker. There were already a couple of caravans parked on site. It is a large grassy area within walking distance to town. However, Dillon said that the recent rain had made most of the area rather boggy, so only a relatively small area was available, but it should be large enough to accommodate everyone. There is a dump point, but no other facilities. RVs need to be self-contained to stay there, and Matilda was. It is run by volunteers of the Cooroy Chamber of Commerce with all profits going back to projects in the Cooroy community. In order to secure a spot, Ian paid Dillion the $10 fee. This was our first experience camping at such a place! We checked out the Cooroy IGA and bought a few essentials before setting off for Tewantin.

On arrival, we were pleased that Jenny and John had organised a parking spot opposite their house for Matilda. Dexter was welcome to have a run at their backyard while we had lunch in the enclosed alfresco. Their pet ginger cat stayed inside the house.

We had cheese and biscuits and Turkish bread as entrée. Jenny prepared a yummy tapas style salad with hem, olive, boiled egg, slices of roast beef and prosciutto. Ian’s Cassegrain 2019 Verdelho and a 2010 Peterson Sparkling Shiraz went down well. All enjoyed the rich chocolate mud cake and Jenny’s fruit and custard flan. Jenny’s friend, Suzie Brown, came over and we had a good chat.

Before we left, we amazed them with our Majestic Princess cruise ukulele concert.

Ian with Jenny and John

We had a lovely afternoon with Jenny and John. We drove back to the RV Stopover at Cooroy, watched some TV, and hit the sack early.

We survived our first night at a camping spot other than a caravan park, with no dramas. By the way, readers, just for your information–we had been travelling in a confined space in Matilda for two weeks now and the good news is that we hadn’t “killed” each other! We have learnt to be tolerant and patient!

Ian took Dexter for an early morning walk into the Cooroy CBD. After breakfast, we all walked into town for a morning coffee in a coffee and book shop called Little Shop of Soul in a laneway. Books displayed at this coffee shop are mostly directed to preserving healthy minds and bodies. We found Cooroy to bs a small but busy town, with interesting shops. Tourists and locals enjoy their morning coffees at sidewalk cafes–a very laid back lifestyle! We met a couple of ladies travelling from not that far away and exchanged travel stories while we enjoyed our coffee.

Little Shop of Soul coffee and bookshop in Cooroy

Prior to leaving the coffee shop, Katie bought a Cooroy eco handmade shoulder bag sewn by some ladies in the town to help raise money for charity. We also bought a 10 litre water container from Mitre 10 and some dog treats from a pet store set up in a garage. Katie also bought a collapsible step from a discount shop which enables her to reach all the overhead cupboards inside Matilda.

And so we left the Sunshine Coast, bound for Woodgate Beach on the recommendation of Grant and Jacqui.