Beerburrum and the Glasshouse Mountains

We were able to camp at a private property in Beerburrum almost on the eastern slopes of the Glasshouse Mountains. Barry and Marlina have opened their property to members only of the CMCA to stay free of charge as part of the MSO initiative. This relatively new option is not open to the public but I believe will become more and more popular especially in areas where there is little free camping.

We were intending to stay here just 2 or 3 nights as we use this as a base to catch up with friends in Brisbane just some 60 - 70 km away. In the end we felt so welcomed, we stayed 6 nights. This also allowed visits to friends which didn't come together as well as we had initially hoped.

Of course no stay near Beerburrum would be complete without a trip to the fabulous Glasshouse Mountains. It is an area great for nature walks, hikes, photography, wild life and just stopping to admire the rugged beauty God has created.

Whilst staying here, we went for a touristy drive along the lower Sunshine Coast. We were unable to find any contact details of Brian & Lorraine that used to live in Bli Bli, and we were hoping we could physically remember where their house was, but were unsuccessful. Sadly, it had just been too long to reactivate a more precise memory. Still we enjoyed the drive around the beaches of Caloundra and further south. We found it almost impossible to park near the main beaches in Caloundra for lunch so we went a tad north to Shelly Beach instead. After lunch we mosied on further south through Pelican Waters before turning 'home'.  It was a beaut laid back day full of sunshine and a cool breeze.

On another day (with a lazy day or 2 in between) we went into Brisbane. One of our dear friends had been in a serious accident and was still in hospital several months later. So we wanted to visit him. We also lined up a coffee date with a fellow cancer Warrior whom I met through Without a Ribbon Inc. This charity has saved my sanity at a time when I felt very isolated from friends. It was so good to know that I was not alone and that the feelings and traumas I went through with a rare cancer were understood by fellow warriors. Sadly I found the Cancer Council didn't offer much support for people with rare cancers. So WaR and fellow Warriors became my lifeline to sanity.

Free Camping at Moura Apex River Park

The road here from Rolleston was probably the roughest Qld bitumen road we've encountered so far on any of our trips. We spent last night at the Dawson River Rest Area. It is a lovely spot on the banks of the river.

The rest stop is beside the highway but far enough away from the highway for its traffic not to be a problem. The town of Moura, Queensland is 7 kms away.

There's heaps of room, nicely mown grass, hot showers, toilets and even free firewood delivered by a ranger. There is an honesty box for donations.

While maybe you'd like to catch a Barramundi which are apparently kept stocked in the river, as we've said before, we are not really fishermen.

Bus woes 

While we were looking for a spot to camp, we noticed some serious noise coming from our gears, they were slipping. This is so serious that Rob has to investigate.

You can see the stretched chain here - it should be hanging like that!

Though there are problems to be expected from an old bus, we certainly didn't expect to have problems with our gear chain as that was fully replaced with brand new ones that we had to have made for us in America just 14,000km ago. The bad news is that the chain has stretched. Rob doesn't want to move on until he can do something. He decides to make a run to Bundaberg and pick up a nylon block or two to do a temporary fix.

Lake Elphinstone

Lake Elphinstone is approximately 90k west of Mackay. We arrived after experiencing some rather bouncy rough roads and lots of cattle grids.

The Lake Elphinstone free camping area has flushing toilets, showers, tables, chairs and a few electric BBQs. There is no potable water so make sure you have topped up before coming here.

We woke to drizzly rain and strong winds. The lake is home to many species of ducks and geese. Red claw is to be found here but we had no success during our time here. Maybe it had been farmed out. Someone advised us that you had to drive around to the other side to have some success. We didn't deem it worthwhile. It is also apparently good for fishing but we are not really fishermen.

We didn't do much in the three days we stayed here but that's fine. We enjoyed the quiet times and I enjoyed my crafting times. It is a nice relaxing sort of place and I would happily come back again and again.

Witnessing a cane farm burn

Greg the owner of the working sugar farm where we are staying at, invited us all to witness a cane farm burn. We took it up and it is a fabulous experience.  WOW!!!! Let me cut to the chase: It was super awesome. LOL

Being up close to the sound and fury of a cane fire in full roar is like nothing else you could experience without being engulfed in a real bushfire. It all happens relatively quickly From the first fire lit to the end takes maybe no more than 10 minutes, which adds to the excitement as well as the danger.

Now the details: 

Apparently the Burdekin region is the only cane growing region in Queensland that still burns all of it's cane before harvesting it. I am not going to get drawn into the environmental debate here.  But here is some of the info I garnered:

The farmers have stuck with burning for practical reasons: There are many varieties of cane and the cane they grow here is thicker and taller than average. This variety copes better with the abundance of water in the region but it also makes the cane too leafy to cut when it is weighed down by more leafy growth which is of no value. Apparently the Burdekin crops are murder on mechanical harvesters which is why the Burdekin region still burns their sugarcane before harvesting.  A side note: you can see a selection of the different varieties of sugar cane at Ingham's Tyko Wetlands. 

The fires are lit from June to December. The farmers take a lot of things into consideration including waiting until dusk when the temperatures and winds have dropped.

The farmers work together like a co-op. There's fire engines present to help ensure safety. Constant monitoring of the wind direction. The farmers form a mini co-op sort of thing, helping each other out in turn. Preparations are meticulous. First, the farmer would plough a 5m corridor in the cane to make a fire break with a tractor.

A drip torch is carried along the break they've cut through the dry cane. Flames dance into the darkening sky, in almost no time at all it towers over the two men and soon the cane itself. Shortly the whole paddock is engulfed.  Safety is their number one concern ensuring the person who's back-burning doesn’t get too far ahead of the others in case the wind does change. This cane is tough stuff. Someone cuts off a piece for us to taste. I missed that opportunity. The area relies on flood irrigation and is crisscrossed by water channels and furrows that would be choked if cane trash were left on the ground.

In no time at all the whole experience is over and done with. I was probably just 10 minutes all up from the first lighting of the cane to the end. I am guessing it was a paddock of 300m square (I forgot to ask that question!)  It is so exciting that the quick end is almost anti-climatic. It is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

If you have the opportunity to witness one, take it as obviously it will end up being closed down on environmental as well as safety issues one  day.

Buredekin Cane Farm Stay

Just out from Ayr or an hour south of Townsville, our friends Steve and Lorraine had been camping here at Burdekin Cane Farm for weeks and weeks so we just had to catch up with them and find out for ourselves what was it here that kept them glued to this spot! Of course we love their company and so off we went.

It is a lovely spot right alongside Sheep Station Creek under the mango trees, and the owners supply and campfire wood for the daily happy hour too! Apparently you can even throw a line in the creek too, not sure what if anything you'd catch! ;) We certainly had the chance to sit back and relax alongside Steve and Lorraine.

An opportunity to witness a cane burn off.

This is truly a working cane farm and soon Greg the owner gives us the opportunity to  witness a cane burn up close if we want to go. and boy do I want to see this. That experience is so fantastic it gets a post all of its own.