Perpetual Bundaberg

We didn’t plan on staying in Bundaberg for nearly a week, I like to think that no one would plan to be there for a week, but when you travel the way we do only thinking a couple of days ahead sometimes your schedule gets a bit whacky. We arrived in town on Saturday afternoon which gave us the opportunity to have a quick look around, book in our tour at the Bundaberg Rum distillery, Lady Musgrave Island Cruise, tour of Mon Repos, and then fill up our water tank in a park with some fairly illegal van manoeuvring (there is almost no free potable water in town). We spent Saturday night at the local Scout Camp and got up reasonably early to drive out to the turtle sanctuary. Unfortunately our timing for turtles wasn’t fantastic, we were a couple of weeks too early to do the evening tour to see the turtles laying their eggs but we were also too late to be allowed onto the beach after hours as the mothers had just started coming in but the Mon Repos centre made up for it. At the entry were greeted by a ranger who took us into their theatre and conducted a talk about the turtles of Australia, there was an entertaining projected display across the grounds and walls and we got to watch a turtle lay its eggs and then the babies hatch out and swim into the sea. After the lecture we were set loose in the education centre which was just brilliant. Our favourite part was seeing how we compared to the size of each of the turtle species, some of them were absolutely massive. On our way back into town we stoped at a strawberry farm and had a delicious berry ice cream and then a little further down the road we pulled into a farm gate store and bought a heap of fresh produce. That afternoon we visited a tropical wine and cider distillery and had some of the strangest cider flavours I’ve ever tried including kiwi and ginger. They were nice but we weren’t inspired enough to take any down to our campsite at Kinkuna Beach.

I woke up the next day full of excitement because we booked in to visit Bundaberg Brewed Drinks and Bundaberg Rum. I absolutely adore Bundaberg ginger beer so I was beyond happy to discover there was a great little museum and tasting room specifically for their range of fizzy drinks. Entry was $15 per head and included a 6 pack to take home. After tasting every flavour Matt decided his favourite was the sarsaparilla and I was tossing up between blood orange and Christmas ginger beer. It turned out that the Christmas ginger beer was the drink of the month (unsurprising for December) and was on sale, of course I couldn’t resist buying a case. We had a bit of time to kill before going to our rum tour so we drove to the local art gallery and had a wander through the exhibitions. The curator was a very friendly bloke and heading to Tasmania for an arty holiday so we had a chat about the best places to see. We reached the Big Bundy Bottle just before lunch time and occupied ourselves in the museum learning about the history of the factory and it’s tendency to burn down. I really liked how the entire venture was created as a solution to the waste molasses being produced by local sugar refineries and the amazing wall display of rum bottles. The tour ended up being just as interesting as the museum and we were both amazed at the 7 billion dollars of rum being stored on the site. Our guide informed us that 95% of that product was sold in Australia and 50% of that was Queensland. That’s a lot of rum! To finish off we were offered two free drinks, I had a dark and stormy and banoffee rum liquor with cream which is the first time I’ve had dark rum, I loved it. We walked out of the gift shop with 3 bottles. In the afternoon we went down to the botanical gardens and took quite a few bird photos, turns out with a few rums on board I can still take a decent shot.

On Tuesday morning we were meant to go on our tour of Lady Musgrave Island and had planned to leave Bundaberg on Wednesday; however, it was not to be as a nasty swell had brewed up and the tour was cancelled until at least Thursday. The company were really good and offered us a full refund but we were both happy to keep hanging around so we rebooked for later in the week. We’d almost exhausted things to do in Bundy so we decided to head further afield to the historic town of Childers, which turned out to be a lovely spot. Having nearly run out of clothes we found a laundromat and headed down the street to a brilliant little cafe that did a great flat white. Once our things were washed and dried we walked up and down the historic main street, stumbling upon a historic pharmacy about half way down. If you are even remotely interested in health, history, or medicine, it is well worth going out of your way to visit this amazing museum which has one of the largest displays of historic pharmacological items in Australia. Entry was $5 and included a guided tour where we learnt all about the owners, how the shop developed, and of course the insane 1800s medicines, morphine, heroin, and chloroform cough syrup anyone? Before we headed back to camp in Kinkuna we popped into the local swimming pool to do some laps and have a much needed shower.

Wednesday was a bit of a write off because we were twiddling our thumbs and waiting for our reef tour but we did visit the macadamia nut factory where one of Matt’s friends had helped them to design and implement a machine that half cut the shell of the nut enabling people to open them with a little metal tool rather than having to smash them with a mallet.

Our Lady Musgrave Island tour day broke sunny and clear with a slight wind and a bit of visible chop on the ocean. We made our way down to the marina where we were greeted by our crew. Matt and I went all out when we booked and upgraded to the VIP experience for an extra $85 per head which included access to the fancy top deck, merch, wetsuit hire, and multiple meals. It turned out to be amazing value simply because the rest of our tour was made up of a huge noisy school group who spent most of the journey being sea sick while we luxuriated upstairs with our coffee machine and one other guest. We reached the pontoon in the breathtaking coral cove and jumped onto a glass bottom boat which wizzed us over to the island where we went on a guided walk and learnt about the animals that live there. We’d arrived just in time to see the black noddy chicks sitting in their nests made from sticky leaves and poop. On our way back to the pontoon we watched some turtles having an orgy…ahhh nature. Lunch was a delicious buffet of salads, cold meats, prawns, and for an unknown reason miso soup. Matt and I asked if it was ok if we ate our lunch in the underwater viewing area which the crew said would be fine. It was surreal eating surrounded by fish in the blue light. Feeling very satisfied and full we got kitted up in our snorkelling gear and jumped into the lagoon. We’ve been snorkelling before in Vanuatu and further north in Queensland but it had nothing on this. The colours of the coral and fish, the variety of wildlife, being approached by huge green sea turtles, it was like nothing we’ve ever done before. Matt and I stayed out for the entire allocated time and explored the furthest out of all the other guests, towards the end we spent 15+ minutes hanging out with this one turtle that just wanted to swim around us, absolutely magical. Our ride back was some how choppier than the way out which was highly entertaining. We had a cheese board and drinks for afternoon tea and of course half of it went flying but we were too happy to care.

That evening our second failed attempt to leave Bundaberg came to pass when we noticed on social media a lot of our cycling friends from Brisbane were posting about how they were coming up to Bundaberg. I contacted a couple of them and it turned out there was a cycling carnival the next day. We ended up catching up with our friend Red Dog for pizza for dinner and then the next day popped over to the Bundaberg track and spent the afternoon and evening watching our friends go around in circles really quickly. A few of them were together for an Italian pursuit and I kid you not they pulled off the most outstanding race, it was just beautiful to watch. On Saturday morning, exactly a week after we had arrived we were finally let go by the City of Rum and could make our way to Brisbane.

Campsite Reviews

Wyper Park Scout Camp – Great cheap spot close to town. The amenities are pretty basic and a bit run down but it really reminded me of camping when I was a Girl Guide so that was lovely. $10pn – 7/10.

Kinkuna Beach – Situated in the Burrum Coast National Park this stunning beach side campground was the perfect place to stay for a few nights. No ammenities but it was worth it to walk down the beach each morning and enjoy the birds. $6.85pp/pn – 8/10.

Post Op Goomburra

I’m lucky with a lot of things in my life, I have a great job, caring husband, house to live in and never have to worry about food on the table but the one area where I lucked out on a bit was my health. I’m one of the 1 in 10 Australian women with endometriosis. Yay! Bit of a TMI but I’m telling you this because if I didn’t have surgery and end up taking too much leave I wouldn’t have been able to go on this van trip so there is a silver lining.

For something different and because we were both on leave we left town in the middle of the week after I’d finished catching up with my dietician. We drove out to Main Range National Park picking up some firewood on the way and set up camp at Poplar Flat.

Despite the recent slicing and dicing I felt really good in the morning so we headed out on a bushwalk on the 6.5km Cascades Circuit Track. It was a beautiful hike with multiple creek crossings, ferns, and tropical palms stretching into the canopy. I was particularly enthralled by the huge birds nest ferns up in the trees, make sure you look up!

After a rest in the campsite and a bit of lunch we took the van out for a short drive to the Mount Castle Lookout. Certainly worth the 900m of steep walking track to peer out across the valley and towards Brisbane.

Back at camp we spent a lazy afternoon lying around in the hammock, reading books, starting a fire, and discovering the wonders of getting flat breads to crisp up over flames (delicious).

On our way out the next day we stopped in at Lowies for a pizza snack. Lowie was an absolute character, he’d built his fantastic cafe/restaurant entirely from scratch with his sons help. I could have spent hours there talking to him and going over the amazing details of the building and the odds and ends scattered around. Matt ended up buying a book which amused me. In the entire time we have been together I think I’ve seen him finish two books which he has now outdone in the few months that we have had the van.

Heading towards Brisbane we decided to swing by the Spicers Gap 4WD track for a bit more off roading. After a quick bit of research most sites rated it as easy so we figured that we would be fine. Oh my word I do not know on what planet that road is ‘easy’ but it certainly wasn’t this one. The track was rutted beyond belief, like lose-the-side-of-your-van if your wheel slips into it ruts that I think would have been up to my waist if I found the urge to stand in the mud at the bottom. When the road wasn’t rutted it was unbelievably steep and rocky, or was littered with woah-boys that had a side-step-scraping gradient if you approached them on the wrong angle. Absolute madness but to Matt’s credit he handled it like a complete legend, and to Eggs credit they made it look easy (I contributed nothing apart from being nervous and getting out a few times).

We stopped at the top and took in one final lookout view from Governors Chair before slowly making our way back to Brisbane.

Add: Turns out Spicers Gap road nearly caused the transmission to fall out of Egg. We took it to the Delica Garage for a service and 3/4 mounting points were broken…eep.

Campground Review

Poplar Flat – Another lovely Queensland National Parks campsite and as the name would suggest pretty flat. There were lots of really nice spots and we were very happy with our area hidden away in the trees. There were drop toilets but no showers. $6.15 per person per night 7/10.

Finding Egg

So you’ve decided to travel around Australia now comes the most important part. It’s not trip planning or budgeting, it is picking your vehicle. Matt and I are intending to travel for 12+ months so for us buying something was the easiest and most budget friendly option. For shorter trips there are many companies that will hire out vans and cars for travelling around Oz or you could try your luck with buses and trains (few and far between).

Most of the blogs I read about this process are very sensible. They say not to buy the cheapest thing that you find and not to get something just because it works for your #vanlife aesthetic. Instead it recommends looking at sites like Gumtree regularly and preparing yourself to drive a lot of duds before finding The One. That did not happen for us. One morning in May for some unknown reason we were both on Gumtree, both looking for campervans and Matt found it, our perfect van, a 2005 Mitsubishi Delica 4WD, the ultimate adventure machine, 141,000 on the odo annnnnd it was converted as a campervan. Unbelievable luck.

The Universe had dropped this van in our laps and we had to see it so we organised a meet up with the German couple that had bought and converted it that night. Matt took it for a quick spin, we looked over it, and decided to buy it. A glorious white van that the Germans had dubbed “The Egg” because it looks like an egg from the back.

There was one problem…finances. Matt immediately started applying for a loan and I ended up chatting about the situation with my friends, one offered to lend us the money while we sorted out the loan (and it is her alone that we can credit for enabling us to get our van, thank you). There was a rush on the purchasing because sadly the Germans had to go back home to care for a sick family member, their freshly converted van handed on to finance their home flights. 5 days after seeing The Egg for the first time we drove out to a random house near Ipswich and picked it up.

I can not reiterate this enough, follow the advice of the other blogs, take your time, think about what you want and try lots of different vans. Purchasing a $20,000 vehicle that The Universe has dropped into your lap is ill advised, I’m glad we did it every day but that is not the sensible way to go about things…then again we aren’t very sensible people.