145. Sunday 18th July 2010. Countdown begins, Family, Outer Reef and Bush camping

What a week this has been.
On Monday, I handed in my notice of intention to retire. At Maria’s suggestion I withheld telling the other staff until we had a staff lunch on Tuesday when a visiting Underwriter arrived to tell us about a new product. At first I was disappointed with the reaction I got from the other staff.

Stunned silence.

Then eventually they all started asking questions at once.
What?
I don’t believe it!
Who will replace you?
What are we going to do when you go?
How will we cope?
I will miss you.
We will all miss you.
Some were clearly disappointed and thought something had happened.
The visiting Underwriter kept shaking her head and repeating, “the girls (her staff) will be so disappointed and will miss you”.
The next day she offered to get her staff to travel from Townsville (300 klms away) and take me to lunch.
I have only told a few clients and one other Underwriter. This coming week will be BIG as the news gets out.

On Thursday my sister Bev, husband Peter, son Mitch and his girlfriend Sam, arrived for the night and the following day. They had been on Brampton Island for four days and on arrival in Mackay borrowed a car from our other sister Sandra and drove to Airlie Beach.
(Sandra by the way flew out on Saturday for a holiday in Vietnam)
They asked us if we would go to the reef with them the next day. At $199 each I could not justify the cost this close to retirement. They announced it was their shout and locals got a huge discount. A little bit of gentle arm twisting followed and we agreed to go to the reef. So after an early late night or is that a late early night it was off to bed as we had to be at the caravan park at 7am the next morning when we would be collected by their bus. The passenger ferry would leave at 8am and not return until about 6.15 that evening so it was a full on day. As we were cruising out the marina entrance the skipper told us conditions were 15 to 20 knots and would be a bit bumpy “in the shipping channel” and for those prone to seasickness to take their tablets now.
Peter and Sam both took tablets and as the boat picked up more passengers at Daydream and Hayman Islands, the tablets had time to work. In fact Sam slept most of the trip. So did Mitch. As expected it was quite “bumpy” but not uncomfortably so. We arrived at a moored pontoon at Knuckle Reef, about 100 klms from Airlie Beach at 11.30 am and

Bev n Pete on board the Cruise Whitsunday Catamaran "REEF FLIGHT" at Knuckle Reef.

within 10 minutes of arrival passengers were getting stuck into the activities. Somehow we got separated and as I thought we all wanted to do the semi submersible sub, I got into the queue. Once on board and underway I could not find Donnis. She in the meantime had got fitted in a wetsuit ready to go snorkelling. So she went snorkelling but sharing and caring person that she is, sat in the shelter of a below deck observation chamber entrance. She waited while I got kitted up in a wet form fitting wetsuit. It certainly lived up to its name. It was a wet suit. It was cold as well and with a chilly wind blowing in off the sea (you cannot see any land from the pontoon) I was shivering in the process. Eventually I was in the wetsuit and my body heat was keeping me reasonably warm. I then needed fins and a mask n snorkel and then we were off to the snorkelling start point. So they do not lose anybody they have lookouts but more importantly they have the reef roped off and you must stay within the roped area. We enjoyed our snorkel of about half an hour but after awhile I began to feel the cold so we headed back to the pontoon where we shed our black skin, had a cold shower while standing in the wind and were soon towelled off and dressed ready for lunch. Which was good timing as lunch was ready for us.
After lunch I was content to sit around on the sun deck or walk around the observation

The Underwater photographer photographing me as I photograph him.

area below the pontoon. There was no way I was going to shiver myself into a wet wetsuit again to go on the waterslide as much as I would have liked to do so. It was fun to watch those people, obviously from the south or overseas, romp around on the slide which ended in the sea, impervious to the fact it is Winter and a cool wind was blowing. I guess because we live in the tropics and the water temp was 22 degrees those visitors had fun anyway.
All too soon it was time to leave and on the way home the “shipping channel” was much rougher than the outward voyage. Peter and Sam took their tablets before we left and were relaxed enough to get through the confused sea conditions without needing a sick bag.
A lovely day out and Bev we thank you very much for insisting on paying for us. It was great to have that family time.

Interesting facts about the pontoon. Not sure why so many references to Elephants. I have no idea what an average size Elephant weighs. I feel a bit uninformed actually!

Saturday morning Bev and family left by 10am on their way to Mackay Airport. We left a half hour later and went to Boulder Creek. We arrived at lunchtime to find, a. the main camp area was full. Motorhomes, tents, caravans, campervans (whizz bangs) some were just retired folk travelling and find a freedom campsite and a group of them were strawberry picking at a farm back up the road. Luckily a grassed and near level overflow area was available around the corner.

Our camp site at Boulder Creek.

We also found b. Brian, a workmate and his friend Barry already waiting for us. It turns out that I knew Barry from near enough to 40 years ago. He is in his caravan at Flametree Caravan Park owned by Joe Browne. He knew Joe from 40 years ago. I worked with Joe 40 years ago. Wow! What a coincidence he shows up at Boulder Creek, a somewhat obscure location, with a my workmate.

We talked about the old days.

Brian brought a slab of bacon, a dozen eggs, a couple of tomatoes, a slab of hash browns

Frank n Nevin n Barry n Brian making short work of a slab of bacon a dozen eggs a kilo of hash browns a couple of tomatoes and a beer.

and so we cooked a lunch time storm. While we were eating lunch a monster Winnebago Longreach pulled in behind us. This was an impressive rig which includes a hydraulic levelling jacks.  The couple were travelling home to Traralgan in Victoria. They have been away for 4 months, having seen all of Australia. I asked if they were in a race. Geez, how can you see Oz in 4 months???

After lunch B & B left to return to Airlie Beach.

The couple in the caravan behind us were running around with a camera trying to photograph a Ulysses Butterfly. I mentioned there would be more opportunity down by the creek and as they were heading to Finch Hatton Gorge the next day they were sure to find more there. They are also from Victoria and have been away for 4 months and slowly working their way home. They travel to Qld every year.

Late in the afternoon 2 caravans arrived and squeezed into an already crowded campsite.

Donnis and I mixed in with the Sugarloafers until darkness fell. It was good to catch up with Sandra & Phil who have been travelling for most of this year.

The Traralgan couple fired up their home fireplace made from a beer keg and we sat around cooking sausages and yarning until late into the night.

At 8.30 we retired to our own rig.

Sunday morning while sitting at the monthly meeting a bird arrived and settled into eating the fruit from a palm tree on the other side of the creek. It was a Wompoo Fruit

This is the rather colourful Wompoo Fruit Dove who broke up our meeting and sent grey nomads searching for cameras. Thanks for the photo Sheena.

Dove which is a life bird for me and I suspect for everybody else at the meeting as well Sheena, a visitor from NZ happened to have her camera handy and got a couple of photo’s. The colours on this bird are amazing.

After the meeting I organised a presentation of our new Wireless Modem but for some reason nobody could log on. On of the participants was a lady called Deanne, a late arrival in one of the two caravans on Saturday. I recognised her as being on the boat to the reef on Friday. Coincidentally they were staying in the Flametree Caravan Park. It seems her husband was badly injured in a motorcycle accident 22 years years ago he still is in constant pain and they are travelling to Brisbane to put him on a plane back to Victoria while she and her parents in their caravan slowly head home.

Later in the morning, while talking with Sheena and Bob from NZ we all saw a life bird. This time it was a Red Backed Fairy Wren.

Donnis at the creek.

Sheena is working as a nurse at the Mackay Mater hospital for another month. Bob is retired. They return to NZ for our summer and return for 5 months for their Winter. They live full time in their converted Nissan Civilian bus and store it a her cousins proprty near Bundaberg.

While sitting and enjoying the morning sun we were visited by Norman, another Victorian on his annual pilgrimage to visit his daughter in Cairns.

Frank at the creek.

Another week closer to retirement.

Cheers

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