Monthly Archives: October 2012

Bundaberg, Australia

The entrance to Bundaberg

Our position on 19th October 2012

24º 45.4 South

152º 54.6 East

Bundaberg, Australia

As we approached the outer buoy the sea changed from Pacific blue to sea green.  The entrance reminded us of a big Littlehampton with its training wall and beautiful orange ‘sandcastle sand’ beach.   We were very excited to be in Australia at last.

Charlie the cormorant

We arrived on the 19th with this shag (we think that’s what it was), which had landed on the boat the day before and roosted on the solar panel all night, flying off as we arrived at the outer entrance buoy.  There were 2 other boats on the quarantine dock, Aurora B with Mike and Liz from the UK and Yellow dog with Oliver and Daniel from Switzerland, both of whom we had met up in the islands.  We also discovered Lorrigray is here, an ex blue water rally boat. The marina prices here are similar to the UK so we dropped our anchor in the bay outside.

The drive-through liquor store

Bundaberg marina is outside the town near a village called Burnett heads with the town of Bundaberg a further 8 miles up the river.  Burnett heads is a pleasant 20 minute walk along the waterfront.  There’s a hairdressers, where I had a much needed hair cut, a bakers, chemist, small hardware shop, a fish and chip shop, a pub selling good food and a ‘drive through’ drink shop.  This is an amazing concept where you literally drive in, give your order at the window, it’s put together, put in the back of your car and you drive off without even needing to get out!

The Bundaberg barrel

The supermarket next door was my first stop to restock the boat after the customs had relieved me of the last of my meat, fruit & veg.  It was wonderful to be able to enter a supermarket with a list and get every thing on it.  The cost of living here is quite high but the prices aren’t as bad as I was expecting.   They also offer an excellent service of a free minibus ride back to the marina.  The Port2port rally that we have joined has been busy organising various drinks evenings, barbeques, pot luck suppers, chart marking sessions and outings.  This is the Bundaberg barrel where the local ginger beer is made that we visited one afternoon on Judy’s free tours of the area.

“I want that one”

We also went to Bunnings, the Australian version of B&Q where Bill spotted this toolbox.  “No you can’t have it”

We’ve kept ourselves busy doing washing, interneting, sorting out the boat, although fortunately we didn’t have any major breakages on the trip down, socialising and generally getting used to living in a first world country again.

Didgeridoos being played

On Saturday 27th we went to the Lighthouse festival organised by the Burnett Heads rotary, which was a bit like a summer fete.  This guy was playing Didgeridoos and they were giving off an amazing sound. We spent the morning wandering around the stalls and listening to local bands playing on the stage.  In the afternoon we lifted the anchor and sailed upstream into the town, a distance of about 8 miles.  The surrounding area reminded us of the east coast of England because it’s very flat and as we floated up the river it was possible to see Bundaberg across the flood plains.

Invicta the steam train

On Sunday we walked to the botanical gardens a pleasant oasis of tropical shrubs, towering trees and flowering gardens surrounding a few small lakes. There is a little steam train running around the perimeter that is maintained by a local preservation society.  It formally spent it’s working life transporting sugar cane that is grown prolifically in this area to the sugar mills.  I’ve loved steam trains since I was a little girl when my Dad often took me to see them and the ride brought back happy memories.

Hinkler house

The gardens are also home to the Hinkler House museum set inside the house of Bunderberg’s famous son, aviator Bert Hinkler, who made the first solo flight between England and Australia in 1928.  The house was painstakingly relocated from Southampton in 1983.  As it’s so totally different from normal Australian houses it looked very strange in it’s setting.  We had coffee in the railway café then returned to Camomile anchored in the river.


Camomile anchored by the bridge in Bundaberg



Bundaberg gardens in the town

We spent 2 days in the town wandering around the shops, it seems you can buy just about any thing here; Bill even managed to get a new battery pack for his cordless drill so he was happy.  The town looked very similar to many we saw in NZ, being laid out in blocks it’s easy to get your bearings.  The gardens in front of the town hall had been freshly planted with summer bedding.  We discovered the RSL club (returning servicemen league) similar to the British legion in the UK, where, for one dollar, it was possible to join and enjoy the delicious, reasonably priced meals while sitting in an air-conditioned lounge overlooking the river.

A view of Burnett heads as we left

On Wednesday 31st we motored back down the river to Burnett heads in time for the Halloween/pirate/pizza night organised by the Port2port people before leaving the next day to start our journey south.

The final blog from the Solomons

This is Bill’s last blog on the Solomons.

Our Dolphin escort

On the 28th September it was with little regret that we left Honiara port.  We headed out towards Rodrick Bay in the Florida group of islands about 28 miles to the North. Motoring until the heat of the sun struck up a sea breeze we ploughed through the biggest pod of dolphins we have ever seen. The water was thick with them. Soon the sails were unfurled and we were creaming along for 2 hours with a fresh breeze on our beam.

Camomile settled by the beach at Rodrick bay

Approaching the bay the wind dropped as we slipped into the lee of the land under the cooling cloud cover overhead.  The 33’ yacht Tomboy with Janice and Tom on board was already in the anchorage and Tom, rowing from the shore in his dinghy, helped David and Nathanial in their dugout canoe make Camomile fast to buoys fore and aft not far from the shore. Looking down into the 20 metre depth of crystal clear water I could clearly see the coral growth on the bottom and was glad not to have my anchor down there in it.


The wreck of the World Discovery

David, the son of one of the three brothers at the head of the extended village family, explained that we were welcome to use the buoys at no charge for as long as we wanted. We were also welcome to come ashore, swim, snorkel and generally roam around.  We had been impressed by the wreck of a cruise ship beached on the shallow reefs close to the shore. This had apparently been holed and was sinking but managed to disembark her passengers before being beached to save her for salvage. David explained that the local chief of the next village had claimed her, after he had repelled attempts to salvage the vessel, and he now charges a fee to visit the slowly rusting hulk.


Old vanity unit

Needless to say, pilfered bits of cruise liner showed up throughout the villages in the bay.  This vanity unit was being used as a work top.







Lillian on her way home from her garden with fresh produce

John the chief of their village and the youngest of the 3 brothers was away from the village and Lillian, his wife, was in charge and could be heard on the shore haranguing the remaining two brothers, Nathanial and David even though she was about 4’6″ tall

Very soon this diminutive, doughty and eloquent lady who brought us a gift of shells and fruit visited us. She explained that they liked to welcome newcomers with what we would call a “pot luck” dinner and would we like to come ashore tomorrow evening to meet the whole family.





Lillian’s kitchen

Even from the boat we could see that this village was tidy and well looked after but even more primitive than anything we had come across to date.  This is Lillian’s kitchen which has an open fire in the corner.  The fire serves two purposes, it has a large cooking pot over it for boiling vegetables but also rocks are heated in the fire which in turn are used to form an oven to roast fish or veggies (they rarely have meat) covered with old sacking and banana leaves.

Tom and Janice came on board for drinks that afternoon and we chatted about their time here.  It turned out that Janice, although a vet, was running a free clinic for the local tribes and Tom was teaching various subjects to some of the local children. Their selfless generosity was humbling and makes you realize that the more people like this we have on the planet the better the place becomes.

I was embarrassed, though grateful, when Janice insisted on treating my knee injury that had recently flared up. She introduced me to something she called acupressure, a treatment manipulating pressure points, which she explained, controlled the flow of energies through the body. Decades of cynicism dropped away as the treatment started to relieve the painful symptoms but I still felt a bit of a fraud because, compared to the ailments she was seeing at the clinic, mine was trivial.

The table prepared for the food, my saucepans are tucked in amongst the decorations

The following afternoon Sue made a large chili-con-carne with rice on Camomile and Tomboy prepared a huge pasta dish and a banana cake all of which was ferried ashore at the appointed hour.

I was bowled over by the preparations that the villagers had been making during the day. Every inch of the huge table under the palm fronded roof was covered in brightly coloured hibiscus petals and leaves.








Sue decorated with the beautiful flower garland and the decorated drinking coconut.

The ladies presented us with beautiful garlands and offered us green coconuts decorated with petals and fine bamboo straws to drink the fresh coconut milk. The men had been out fishing in the lagoon, returning with clams for the chowder starter and reef fish for the main course. This along with the vegetables from their gardens and the contributions from the boats served up on hand made plates freshly woven from palm leaves made the best welcome feast we have been treated to on our travels. How extraordinary that it should also come from probably the poorest people we had yet encountered.





The children enjoying popcorn.

Everyone ate well but the star of the show as far as the kids were concerned was Janice’s popcorn, which they ate in huge volumes for starters.  Some of these little girls are wearing tops that Sue had handed out that afternoon and which they were very proud of.






The wood carvings

The woodcarvers from a village across the bay set up their stall for us to view and I spent an entertaining hour bartering a head torch, twist drills, hacksaw blades, and a few Solomon dollars for some carvings.  We choose a wooden shell and a war club, not sure if we’ll get them past the Australian customs.



Enjoying island hospitality


Coral waiting to be burnt

My knee had improved enough now to take a walk to the end of the next village so we trekked off into the bush only stopping to admire the work of a local man building his home from materials straight from the surrounding jungle, and wonder at the heaps of coral on pyres of logs being prepared to burn down into the lime dust taken by beetlenut users to intensify their hit. Hmmm.



Chiefs and Elders on board Camomile

Sue ventured further afield with Janice to visit the chief in the next village and we also received a visit on board Camomile from Ben the paramount chief of the area who wanted to show us the DVD he had of the recent festival at Roderick bay. It turned out that Lillian and the brothers had not seen this recording either so we all piled below to watch it on Janice’s PC.  All thought our home really lovely.  It’s amazing to think they don’t have anything like the facilities we have on board.


Repairing dugout canoes

I noticed when we were visited by Lillian and some of the kids that they spent almost as much time bailing as they did paddling so offered to do something about it. They hauled their canoes out of the water for a couple of days to let them dry out and then I set about them making repairs to the sizable holes that had eroded their way through the wood of the aging craft. Sue discovered that Lillian had a hand controlled sewing machine and a little bit of fabric but no patterns. She spent an afternoon with her tracing patterns onto some thin card that Lillian had and cutting them out followed by instructions on how to use them. It felt good to help and it was well received by the village whom by now felt like really good friends.

We snorkelled the surrounding lagoon and among the myriad of smaller fish we spotted a grouper, as large as he looked grumpy, the first we’ve seen and some small string rays.

All this time I had been downloading GRIP files from the SSB and keeping an eye on the weather systems careening up the eastern seaboard of Australia, our next destination.



Sad goodbyes to the family and Janice

It became clearer that we should move off before the tougher November weather set in and after 12 days in this beautiful place we said our sad goodbyes and headed back off to the armpit of Honiara to check out ready for the 1,100 mile beat to the shores of the first continent we would landfall since arriving in Panama from the Caribbean.

Comment from Sue

All these children are under 6

We will be sad to leave the south Pacific after 2½ years.  During that time we have visited some stunning places, stopping at many islands, and met some wonderful people from different civilisations whose generosity has been very humbling.  At times I’ve been a little nervous when the boat has been approached by dug out canoes or small launches but that’s soon dispersed when faced with welcoming, happy smiling faces, particularly on the children.


A thoughtful little chap

A lovely boy called Frank










This little chap is sitting on the washing and the washing-up!!

Most of these people have no hope of having any thing like the sort of life styles we take for granted but do you know, they don’t seem to miss it one bit, they are so rich in their surroundings. The freedom they enjoy is so liberating and I’m not sure which one of us are the lucky ones.


Faces of the South Pacific

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