As I sit and type this blog I look out the back of the annexe through our window and we are five metres to the sand and about twenty five metres to the water. There is nothing between us and the incredible Mooloolaba beach and we can sit and have our morning cuppa and watch the kids play in the rockpools below our camper. We have stayed in some beautiful places on the trip so far but none can top the beach frontage of the Mooloolaba beach caravan strip. In this blog you will find we have experienced great friends, great waves, changes in travel plans, Nick trying to be a real man (which ofcourse you all know that I am not) the dreaded lurgy and death threats! That should be enough to keep you interested for a few extra paragraphs, this one is a real page turner. About a week ago we left our friends the Woodsys and their little patch of paradise at Emerald Beach and headed up to Ballina, just south of the Qld border to meet up with our friends the Westys. Our departure from Emerald went quite smoothly and we arrived in Ballina to a near empty park and what ended up being a great site to stay. We arrived a day earlier than just about everybody else which gave us a chance to experience the beauty of Ballina before the park filled to capacity due to a Qld long weekend. It literally went from empty to full in 24 hours with a park full of long weekend revellers. Our site was situated just above the Westys site and their friends so was perfect for all. Upon arriving in Ballina though we ventured into our first experience of an unpowered site, much to Maggie's disgust, no TV for 5 days. As we were setting up in the late afternoon we went to turn on our solar power for our lights and nothing happened, another problem on a fairly long list of failures with our new Jayco van. As we chased the sunset to end of day Bec rushed out to see what she could do only to call a little later saying light the candles she had no luck finding any supplies. As I was finalising the set up the girls were inside setting up candles and torches and eeking out the last of the laptop battery watching a movie keeping Gus entertained. The girls were enjoying the adventure. Fortunately though at her last stop a kind lady offered to show her to a place where she could find some lamps for us which was good given it gets pretty dark at night when you have no lights, funny about that! The girls were actually disappointed when Bec returned with lamps and wanted us to pretend we had no lights. Unfortunately little man had caught the lurgy and had a very high fever although with true Gusto it was only to last 24 hours before he was again running through rockpools naked looking for nip nips (crabs). We finalised our set up and enjoyed our chickpea stew by candlelight in the annexe and all was well.
The following morning we headed out to the shops to let everyone have some space as they arrived to set up. We returned to find the Westys all set up and ready for a great weekend. It was great to see the guys and this was a perfect setting for a family catch up. Soon enough the kids were off and playing and we all had a chance to settle in and catch up. Over the past couple of weeks I have been working on my beer drinking abilities with Joe and thought I would put it to the test with Westy. Having seen his esky full with Tinnys for the weekend I decided it was high time I went out and grabbed myself an esky which I promptly did and filled it with a carton of beer topped up with ice. This was my weekend to drink myself an esky full of beer and prove myself to be a real man! Well high hopes fell well short of expectations which I am sure will be no surprise with my best effort being about 3 beers in a sitting, maybe four at a push and at the end of the weekend there was more full bottles than empties, an absolute failure by anyone's measure. The surf was incredible at Ballina, so too were the crowds and I took my time getting in to the water. Over the weekend I became more confident and ended up having some great waves. Great to see Dan and Dave and the kids, it has been a while and we really enjoyed our time with them. Dave has a new dragon tattoo on his arm which Gus thought was fantastic and he spent the whole weekend referring to Dave as Dragon Man and running around saying 'I want one' referring to the tattoo. The park was filled with wild turkeys who were chased around the park all weekend by our pack of kids, who looked more like a hungry angry mob. Between all of the families I think we had 14 kids, so you can imagine the pack of them running after these poor bush turkeys. On the first night we were the first to light our fire so we became the home base and where there is fire and marshmallows there will be children and so we became very popular campsite. Between that many kids a bag of mallows doesn't stand a chance.
On the Sunday evening it was clear the park was starting to liven up with the noise levels increasing, unfortunately in the site right next to ours. The couple next to us, who for the whole weekend up to this point had been quiet, respectful and friendly decided it was time to let their hair down (ironic seeing that he was bald) and with a few friends over drank well into the next day. Ofcourse their drinking area was all of about 3 metres from where Bec and Gus were trying to sleep. It doesn't end there ofcourse, at about 1.30am I heard this very loud yelling with one man accusing another man of going into his girlfriend's tent. The language was very loud and very colourful albeit also very offensive. Just as they arked up I heard Bec unzip the window and started to tell the men what she thought of them, as I suggested that might not be a good idea given their state of intoxication Bec worked this out and stopped mid sentence and let them have their stoush. It was one of those moments where you just sit there waiting to hear the inevitable progression into a fist fight and knowing that you are about to hear one of the worst sounds there is, a fist hitting another person's head. The yelling went on for some time, fortunately no fist fight followed. What did follow though was our once quiet neighbour starting to threaten in very loud and aggressive language to get in his car and start driving through tents, getting his knife out to stab people with and getting out his baseball bat to bash people with. He then went on to abuse his friend who we thought was the girl he was actually looking to protect in the first place. All the while the security guard was apparently on site doing very little to calm the situation down. After some time of yelling, swearing and threats our neighbour settled down and took a quick nap before getting up to play his blues music and brag about his antics on his mobile phone until about 4.30 in the morning. Needless to say Gus was very unsettled and Bec and I wouldn't have slept more than an hour or two for the night. The next morning we reported the whole thing to the park manager who apparently had the security guard's report which said he warned the site about noise at about 11.30 am, that was it. As I later found out from Bec we think the security guard may have been enjoying a few drinks with our neighbours throughout the evening so was in some way implicated in the whole debacle. Anyway Wayne the camp manager walked up to our neighbour and said he had 30 mins to pack up and get out of the park or he would pack them up himself. As he was packing up he made a feeble attempt at trying to explain to Bec that he was simply trying to protect his girlfriend, no apology and a very shoddy attempt. You can imagine Bec's response which was short and sharp as she reminded him that she actually heard every word he said and that it was disgraceful. Not much of an evening but ofcourse all good blog material!
By Monday the park starting emptying pretty quickly and we had the fortune to be able to sit back and just watch everyone leave and head back to normal life. It was again a reminder of just how fortunate we are and we enjoyed not having to head back to work just yet. That afternoon we decided to start our pack up to make things a little easier in the morning so I packed the annexe walls and the pantry. That evening there was only about half a dozen sites being used and we enjoyed the quiet and freedom that an empty park can provide. We set our fire, played spotlight with the bats flying above, witnessed a couple of shooting stars in the clear evening sky and had a nice piece of steak for dinner. As I headed to bed I left Indy and big Mama by the fire rugged up and enjoying their evening. A little later the girls came into bed and a few minutes later, really from nowhere, the rain started. Not a few drops but a torrent of rain that proceeded to fall for the next 18 hours of our journey. By morning thanks to the fact that I had packed the annexe walls everything was drenched and Bec and I proceeded to do a rain pack up, the worst of all. There was no let up with the rain and we decided to push on regardless, packed the camper and headed north to the Sunshine Coast. We decided to skip Stradbroke Island and continue to push up north to ensure we make it all the way to Cairns. The Westys agreed that we could all head to Straddie on our way back down the coast so we won't be missing out. On the way we worked through our options, Maroochydore, Coolum or Mooloolaba. Bec was very keen on Mooloolaba and gently persuaded us all on its merits and sure enough she was spot on, Mooloolaba strip is a cracker of a place and we will post a few photos on our blog in the next few days to give you an idea of just how great a spot this is. In many ways coming up here to the sunny coast is like coming home. This is the place where in some ways Indy grew up as we spent many wonderful trips up here with great friends, great work and great experiences. Yesterday Bec and I awoke with the lurgy but didn't let is stop us from enjoying the surf at Alex headlands followed by a great brunch at our favourite little spot Raw Energy. As we were enjoying our brunch Gus quietly proceeded to demolish Bec and my smoothy and we didn't think too much of it at the time. The girls went for a shop and I took Gus back for his day sleep. Usually Gus is like clockwork with his sleep, give him his dummy and put him in bed and off he goes, not today. He gradually wound himself up to an above normal hyperactive state, bouncing around on the camper bed and putting on a real show with eyes absolutely wired. We think there must have been something in the smoothy that was akin to red bull and Gus was riding the high! An hour or so later he crashed back to earth and slept like a baby but we enjoyed the show for the time it was on. In the afternoon Maggie and I went for a run, she was determined to do it and did pretty well as we ventured along the coast running track. Back for showers and out for Augellos pizza at the park and watched the fire twirlers on the beach and listened to the bongo drums by the shore. Another great experience to remember. So life goes on as we head up the coast on our pilgrimage to North Queensland. The weather on the sunny coast is living up to its name with beautiful sunny days and great waves. Indy has just cooked up a batch of pancakes and Bec is expecting her morning coffee so it is time to say goodbye for now.