No photos this week.
Monday 20th June 2011
While staying in the regional city of Mackay I thought a little bit of history would not go astray.
Mackay is and was, a sugar town. At one stage it was totally dependent on the sugar industry. Up until the late 60’s, sugar cane was cut by hand. Now huge harvesters have taken over and the once itinerant cutters are long gone and the skills have gone also. The cutters came from all over Australia to work for the five or six months of the season then return to their home base. A hit musical in Australia and the USA was Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. The play was about the annual trek by a couple of cane cutters to the city in the “off” months. It was also made into a Hollywood movie starring Ernest Borgnine. Can you imagine EB playing the part of a tough Aussie cane cutter? With a yank accent!!
There are four sugar mills remaining in Mackay.
In 1988 the mill at North Eton Closed and in 1990 the Cattle Creek Mill at Finch Hatton ceased operations. I recall when the North Eton and Plane Creek mills gave notice of closure to employees, tempers ran hot as did the letters to the editor in the local newspaper, The Daily Mercury.
In all, twenty two mills were started in the district, most only staying in business a few years, some even notched up a century of crushing sugar cane. A mill still operates at Plane Creek, Sarina, 40 klms south of Mackay and another at Proserpine 125 klms north of Mackay. Technically they are both still in the district.
Little villages sprang up around the mills and over the years, as mills closed, the villages all but disappeared and exist sometimes in name only or an inexact location. Places such as Te Kowai, Foulden, Balmoral and Dumbleton. Some villages became large enough to support a town or suburb of Mackay and still exist today. Some examples are Bakers Creek, Finch Hatton, Mount Pleasant and Habana.
To give some idea of the size of the cane growing area of Mackay (excluding the area of Sarina to the south and Proserpine to the north) it starts about 20 south of Mackay extends another 80 klms to the north and another 80klms to the west where it ends at the base of the great dividing range. That is a huge area, mostly under cultivation. As you drive the Bruce Highway, in places you can see the sugar cane stretching before and around you, as far as the eye can see. At present the cane is higher than an elephants eye (up to 3 metres), is in flower and ready for harvest.
Mackay now exists to supply and support the coal mining industry in the Bowen Basin to the west. Although sugar plays an important role it has slipped to second or even third place. The tourism industry and the cattle industry are contenders as well.
Over the 9 months we have been on the road and the many weeks and weekends we have been away in the past, campsites have always been discussed. Generally there were campsites we enjoyed more than others. Those “favourites” on reflection, were favourites because of an emotional response. Or because of the facilities which were available. In order to determine a campsite rating I have borrowed a rating system from Amy and Tom of the OZ360 blog. Thanks Amy & Tom.
Their rating system suited them and I have made my own modifications to suit us. The ultimate rating is out of a possible 20 points. Points are awarded for certain criteria and negative points deducted for negative aspects such as costs at a caravan park. The results have been surprising. The current caravan park at Bucasia, which we like, due to the location, scores 15 whereas Byron Bay which neither of us liked very much scored 12. A very expensive caravan park in Brisbane with a 5 star rating according to RACQ and NRMA, which we neither liked or disliked, only scored 7. Clearly the emotional appeal alone cannot be used to determine what makes a good campsite. On the other hand, freedom campsites which do have an emotional appeal can score high irrespective they are lacking in facilities such as toilets, showers and fresh water. Carmilla Beach and Bingara on the Gwydir river both scored 10 and both are memorable for us.
Tuesday 11th June.
We slept in until almost 7.30 this morning as we both have a day off. In fact Donnis has resigned from the Good Shepherd Lodge and starts work next Tuesday at the Nanyima Nursing Home at Mirani. SO… we leave our lovely spot here at Bucasia Beach and head to Finch Hatton next Monday. We will stay with Melissa and Steve, again, as it is only 20 minutes drive to Mirani, no more than the drive to East Mackay Donnis has done for the last 8 weeks. My work contract has finished although there is one final collection day this Sunday. Workers required for that shift will be advised by text on Thursday.
We went to Mackay today and looked for a couple of small items for WWWGO. In the process we found a Turbo Oven at BigW for only $39. Donnis has always wanted a turbo oven but the cost and their size stopped us. Somehow we will find a way to cart this new oven with us wherever we go. It can only be used when we are on 240 volts. I am going to experiment with the oven and learn what can be cooked successfully. I will try a rye bread, a cake and a roast (at different times of course)If it works as well as the instruction book claims, we might start making our own rye bread and when away from power will bake in our gas oven.
After a shared lunch we went to the movies. (this is a luxury we do not often have while on the road as we have to budget for the luxury item) The movie we saw was the latest Steven Spielberg blockbuster, SUPER 8. I am struggling in my own mind to classify this movie. It is not for the faint hearted. It is not for young children. It is not a horror movie yet it has the suspense associated with horror movies. Primarily it is a sort of ET without the soft cuddly feel good about the central character wanting to “go home’. It is about a visitor from space, wanting to go home but it is in no way a soft and cuddly creature. Without giving a scene by scene story line I will say there is a long scene of a train crash. The crash leaves the audience gasping quietly. There are no funny lines. It is a tense several minutes of chaos and remarkably you felt that you were right there dodging the debris being thrown around. I wondered what it would have been like filmed in 3D. I suppose the audience would be gasping loudly.
Wednesday 22nd June
This morning after breakfast I started on the project of making Cumquat Liqueur. On reflection it may have been cheaper to buy a bottle of Gran Marnier. However I was seeking the stronger but bitter yet smoother taste of the cumquats. After pricking the 1kg of fruit I packed them into a large container and sprinkled 1kg of sugar over the top. Each piece of fruit started to form a crusty skin of sugar over the weeping pricked holes in the skin. The mix was then topped with two bottles of brandy. The container was put into the dark hold under the floor and will be turned every week to allow the sugar and the brandy to be totally dissolved and absorb the fruit juices. That should take about three weeks. Then it is a matter of leaving it in the dark for another six months when it will be fit to decant. The fruit will be cut into halves and dipped in chocolate. We will write more about the result in six or seven months.
I rode the Virago to Finch Hatton while Donnis followed with the Terios, loaded with the pushbike and a couple of recliners which we will not need over the next few days. We collected our mail and found a letter from the Australian Bureau of Statistics offering me a Reserve Collector position for the coming Census. I will be paid for two days training and if somebody else cannot work I step in.
We had another luxury today by sharing a steak burger and a beer at Pinnacle pub. I recommend a trip through the Pioneer Valley west of Mackay to the Pinnacle Pub for a cold beer and one of their hot pies which are baked on the premises.
Thursday 23rd June
The weather bureau promised us cold days for the next three days. It was nice and toasty in bed but outside there was a wind blowing from the south west. Straight off the southern New South Wales Alps by the feel of it. The sun did shine and out of the wind was delightful. In the afternoon we went for a walk along the beach then just sat on the sand in the dying moments of sunlight, watching families pack up from their fishing. The wind had died off so it was pleasant sitting there in the final warmth. Today was a Show Day in Mackay, a public holiday which is the reason so many people, families were on the beach.
For dinner we had Kranski Sausage on rye bread with mustard, sauerkraut and sliced tomato. Thank goodness I do not have to eat sauerkraut again until the next time we both forget I detest the stuff. Give me fried, boiled, steamed, baked or raw cabbage any day.
Hmmm. It has been a long time since I have had Kranski. It will be a longer time before I eat sauerkraut again.
Donnis made a pineapple upside down cake, from scratch, in the turbo oven. Very nice.
Friday 24th June
This turned out to be a busy day for us. We headed into Mackay to get a letter from my Superannuation Fund so I can complete my Census contract, tax application and pay authority. When I delivered the completed papers to the area supervisor she advised me I am now on the starting team and my area will be at the top of the mountain range in the Eungella district including the township, outlying farms, and remote properties as far as Dalrymple Heights and Eungella Dam. Wow! Much of the area will require 4WD so I will get to put the Terios through its paces.
We then went grocery shopping and I received a call from the Traffic Survey office to advise the workers have a thank you barbecue on Sunday afternoon at 4pm.
An hour later I received a call from the Traffic Survey Supervisor to ask me to work the final shift on Sunday morning.
It is going to be a busy weekend for me.
We cooked pork belly ribs in the turbo oven. Quite nice really. All the fat drips into the bowl and the rind turned into almost perfect crackling. Not bad for a first attempt.
Saturday 25th June
Today we packed WWWGO, put in the awning and are almost ready to move out on Monday. We packed a day early as I have work on Sunday and some of the packing requires two people. We dropped in to see niece Kelly and Jason for an hour and called on sister Sandra and hubby John at their new house. They are in the middle of moving in today and both looked exhausted, especially John. He was not there when we arrived. It seems his mother was in a car accident and he had rushed off to assist. It turns out there are no injuries apart from wounded pride and as John owns the car, his insurance no claim bonus will be effected.
Tonight we packed up the turbo oven and drove to visit my daughter Averyl, hubby Paul and the kids Shelby-Rose and Anakin. I cooked a roast beef in the turbp oven while Paul cooked turkey and vegetables in the barbecue. We had a nice night and were back home and ready for bed before 10pm.
Sunday 26th June.
It rained overnight and was still raining when I left for work. By the time I arrived ready for work the clouds had parted and the sun shone. Along with the sunshine came strong winds which persisted all day.
Today my area was Bakers Creek which I always thought of as “the pits”. I no longer think that. Now I know Bakers Creek IS the PITS. Admittedly 50% of the people I spoke with were genuine types with an interest in their community. The remainder were difficult, negative, abusive types. Added to this the houses are all very old, mostly cheaply built and by appearance have not had maintenance since they were built. Before I left on my collections I spoke with co-worker Gurdeep who had delivered the survey forms to Bakers Creek last weekend. Some of the addresses are difficult to find and one, is on the highway with nowhere to pull off and park. Some hints from him saved a bit of searching and a heads up on where to park to visit the highway property.
Today was the final task for the survey so a barbecue was put on by Dheepan the co-ordinator. There was enough food for 40 people although there were only 15 of us. The barbecue was beside the Pioneer River at Bluewater Quays, a reclaimed riverside area turned over to public use. As survey workers we only got to meet each other at the beginning of each day and when we came back at days end to have our results tallied. We really did not have many opportunities to socialise, however some of us were able to establish more than a nodding relationship and it seems these people made up the core of the group. I spent the best part of the evening chatting with Mike and Gurdeep about the work but more interestingly themselves and their background. With the chill strong wind blowing up the river it was a two jacket night. I was home before 8pm.