Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Revisiting the 'berg

Bundaberg, Queensland

12/11/2015 Revisiting the ‘berg

We stayed at Bundaberg for a few days on our journey north. So being held captive  in Bundaberg for the past week by the weather, we have taken the time to do some of the things we missed last time, as well as found some new things to do around the area.

Thinking that we would only be at “Bundy” for a couple of days we suggested to our companions, Bossa Nova, that we would just anchor in the river. But it wasn’t long before we got sick of the jostling of Easy Tiger by the tidal current going one way and the wind pushing the other.

After looking at the weather forecast and seeing conditions would not let us sail south for a week or more, a quick phone call was made to the Port Bundaberg Marina and we moved into a pen the next morning.

As we were not used to being in one place for more than a couple of days, the thought of being stuck in Bundaberg marina for a week was quite daunting.

Last visit to “the ‘berg” we did the usual shopping tasks and visited the Ginger Beer factory, (I am one of their best customers) which we thought was a bit lame.

The marina has hire cars that are quite affordable for a day, so with Neville and Amanda, we set off in a hire car with the name of Heidi proudly displayed on the back.

We went to the small town of Bargara, an outlying suburb of Bundaberg. This was a nice enough small settlement, with a couple or restaurants near the beach. I am sure most beach side places have the same sort of restaurants. As you would expect the menu was full of degistated and deconstructed items. Me, I was happy with a steak burger minus tomato.

After lunch, the four of us headed off in Heidi, to look at a couple of the other outlying towns surrounding Bundaberg.

At Elliot Heads, Neville and I got a little excited to see a half a dozen or so yachts and catamarans anchored about a mile up river from the heads. Switching Heidi into 4wd, we wound our way along a gravel pathway to get closer to the boats lying quietly on anchor.

We certainly hadn’t found anchoring utopia. There seemed a nasty, shallow bar crossing, narrow and shallow channels leading to a collection of quite small, old boats. Later I couldn’t find any reference to this place in the sailing guides that we have, so I wiped it off the possible anchoring list.

Passing back through Bargara we then went to Mon Repos. Here we saw a sign for the Turtle Conservation Centre. Amanda googled and found that they did Turtle watching tours.  We all hoped that it would be better than our turtle sighting events we had at Lady Musgrave.

Back at the Marina. Many of the other yachties with their travels on hold due to the weather, were headed to the Burnett Heads Pub for tea in the courtesy bus. We decided to tag along and had a good night talking boats, destinations and future plans with some different folk.

It was generally decided though, that while most had plans for 2016 they were all written in the sand at low tide. In other words all plans were subject (and highly likely) to change. Also discussed at great length were the main dangers to an extended sailing program. These main hazards were house rent, sharemarket variances and Grandchildren (particularly the arrival of same).

Wednesday was Neville’s day. Neville, being a dedicated bundy and coke drinker, was excited as we set off for a tour of the rum distillery. For those that don’t know, Bundaberg is home to a large rum distillery where they make rum, Bundaberg Rum. The rum named after the town is famous in our country (where 96% is sold) and New Zealand (where 3% is sold) and unheard of everywhere else.

Bundy rum as it is affectionately known by it’s loyal customers, is an example of good old Aussie ingenuity.

Back in 1888 the sugar industry in the Bundaberg area was in full swing. As they crushed the cane to produce the sugar, the main by-product, molasses, just ran down the street into the river.

Mr Buss, who owned a dozen or so sugar plantations, got together with a few other locals and said, “hey… what if we could turn the wasted molasses into rum”. Turning a waste product into something you can drink and party with is an easy sell, I reckon.

Pretty much that’s what they are doing to this day. Turning molasses produced from the sugar milling process into rum.

As with most of these factory tours, the most interesting part is in the free tasting. Leanne was delighted yet again to have a tea total husband. She gets a designated driver, plus she got my 2 free samples. They were all downed with exclamations of how nice they were. Funny enough, the fourth sample was declared really really really nishe.  Once we got back to the boat though, someone had to have a lie down. I’ll give you a tip… it wasn’t the designated driver.

Wednesday night we toddled off to the Mon Repos Turtle centre in the hope of seeing the mother turtles emerge from the surf, crawl up the beach, dig a hole and lay some eggs.

We had a couple of attempts to witness this at Lady Musgrave. There we saw plenty of tracks leading from the water to nests in the sand and plenty of turtle porn as the turtles were all happily mating in and around the reefs surrounding the lagoon. Our 2 trips to the island in the dead of night proved fruitless though. No turtles wanted us to witness their reproduction efforts. Can’t say I blame them for that.

After another “specials”night at the Burnett Heads ($12 schnitzels) we hopped into Heidi the hire car and trundled off to Mon Repos.  We joined the queue and waited. We got allocated to group one, then we waited. We circulated in the visitors centre looking at turtle bones, turtle pictures, stuffed turtles and written content about…turtles. Then we waited.

An announcement was made that a movie would be shown in 5 minutes. The movie all about the breeding and the conservation of loggerhead turtles was shown. The we waited. Neville and Leanne made a trip to the food van. Then we waited.

Finally, Group 1 was asked to assemble at the walkway. We were lectured gain about lights or noise. Then we scurried down the walkway on to the beach. It was quite dark. There were a couple of flashing lights about a hundred metres up the beach. This was the only sign of life. We were then reminded about lights and noise and not to rush. Stay behind the ranger. Off we set again, this time walking about 200 metres along the beach, excited by the fact that there was a mother loggerhead about to emerge form the water and lay 120 or so eggs into her nest.

I stuck as close as I could to the ranger lady, mimicking her steps. Thinking this would be a good way to be at the front of the group and get the best view of mum turtle. Suddenly she said stop, throwing up her hands and nearly giving me  backhander. I stopped, but 50 other people didn’t. Somehow they rushed past me and instantly managed to form a circle around a huge loggerhead turtle, who was making way along the sand…towards the water.

Three or four ranger types jumped in front of the turtle and started wrestling it around. I did see a bit of irony here. We weren’t allowed flash photography or to make any noise what so ever, yet they were gang tackling Mrs urtle?  Turns out the rangers were trying to read the turtles identity tag.

The rangers were very apologetic about the fact that the turtle was not going to lay tonight. We would be the first group called back to the beach when another prospect emerged from the cold frothy water. So as the non layer returned to the deep, we returned to the “interpretive centre” stage.

We sat on the hard brick bench seat for another hour and half while one of the rangers did his best to stretch a ten minute talk about turtles out to a couple of hours. He was definitely hoping that another sighting would be made sooner rather than later, because by the time he got to travel patterns of the Australian Green Turtle he had lost most of the crowd, many of whom were texting and even playing cards on their phones.

Next time someone suggests we go and watch the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, I’ll take some convincing.

The turtles have my sympathy.  Imagine all you want to do is what comes naturally to all beings.  Having to scramble out of the freezing ocean, in the dark and commando crawl up a beach of scratchy coral and then bury themselves in the sand to finally “do their thing” is bad enough, but then there are four people trying to wrestle with them and another 50 or so wanting to watch and take pictures. That would sort of kill the mood I reckon.

In anticipation departing the ‘berg early tomorrow, we are tidying up and packing away. Looks like a couple of days where the weather will mean we can sail down to Fraser Island for a week or so. 

There will also be anchorages that we visited on our trip north, but as the ‘berg has proved there will be things at each place that we missed before, so here’s hoping.

The distillery at Bundaberg since 1888. 
Neville is one of there best customers and Leanne smashed the tastings!

A polar bear, to advertise a rum made in northern Queensland Australia...of course!

The star attraction at Mon Repos. Except they don't often turn up!

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