13 September—16 September 2002
The caravan park at Coolum Beach is located just behind the sand dunes. The path to the beach is directly in front of our tent. We couldn’t be closer to the ocean short of camping on the beach itself.
Since we arrived last night, a small village of tents, cars and trailers has popped up around us like so many colourful mushrooms. The clouds hang overhead like wispy apostrophes, and there are tall cumulonimbus clouds floating across the horizon. I think I’ll check out the beach soon. The wind is up, but it’s hot when the sun is out. I can feel my left ear going red. I had better get a hat…
Our first day at Coolum Beach went by in a daze of sun, sand and surf. I went for a swim out the front of the caravan park with Clare. We went in only up to my waist, as the surf was treacherous: there were waves running every-which-way and you could feel the pull of a rip. Notwithstanding, we had fun horsing around in the shallows.
In the evening Susie made pesto pasta, and after dinner we sat around the table in the annex talking to two friends we have made here. The annex flyscreen was up because late that day the weather got squally, and we needed some shelter from the wind. The feature photo for this post shows our kitchen inside the annexe. It’s bolted to the inside of the trailer gate.
Our camping neighbours, Paul and Sasha, are a couple from the UK. We stayed up rather late chatting to them. They both worked in Melbourne until they sold their house there and bought a caravan, which they now call home. They get by on work they pick up from time to time as they move about the countryside.
Today the kids played Lego with Paul and Sasha’s children. Susie and I took Ruby and Clare for a swim between the flags on the Beach, and later we rang Aunty ’Belle in Sydney while the kids watched a DVD in the neighbours’ caravan. We had homemade hamburgers for dinner and turned in early. I tried to ring my brother Jay to wish him happy birthday, but there was no answer.
I have noticed that, as our road trip comes to an end, conversations turn frequently to the topic of home. We have one week to go in Queensland, and after that we will re-enter our home state of New South Wales.
A big grey smudge of a cloud is coming over as I write. Ruby and Clare are still playing in the caravan next door, and Susie is off paying a bill and checking out the local Salvation Army shop.
Later in the afternoon I sat in the car with Ruby and discussed some of her schoolwork. It was an English unit written by her teacher, Carol. We then went down to the beach with Clare and Paul and his daughters. Susie and I got chatting to Paul. I was interested in what motivated him and Sasha to sell their home in the Dandenongs and go on the road indefinitely. Susie asked whether this decision was precipitated by a particular event. At length he revealed that they made this decision after their house had been burgled on the same day they bought their caravan.
On our last night in Coolum, we went with our new friends to the surf lifesaving club for dinner. The food was quite good, and we all had an enjoyable meal while the surf rose and fell on the sand outside. I sat up late again that night, chatting to Paul and Sasha.
The next day we broke camp and went for a swim on the south end of the beach, between the flags. The surf was positively treacherous, but for the first time since we arrived, the conditions were excellent for body surfing. The rip was a menace, so Clare and Ruby stayed on the shore with Emma, doing as they had done the day before –building little cities of sand castles using Emma’s red plastic bucket.
Eventually it was time to leave Coolum and bid farewell to our new friends, as you so often do when you’re travelling. Susie checked out the Lifeline shop and bought a woven basket, while the girls and I stocked up on supplies at the local supermarket. We dropped into the bottle shop on the way out and then headed for Kenilworth State Forest via Eumundi.
At Eumundi we decided to stop for lunch and look up two work colleagues of Susan, Bruce Hamilton and Joan Masters, an ex-director of the Adult Migrant English Service (AMES), where Susie used to work. We sat around on their veranda and chatting and making rather delicious sandwiches. Ruby and Clare were very taken with Tina, Bruce and Joan’s dog. The conversation swung between AMES gossip and travel stories. They invited us to stay, but we politely declined their hospitality. We were all stocked up to camp in the forest. So before the evening shadows got too long, we took our leave and drove to Kenilworth (the town), and then on to the eponymous state forest.
We first checked out the Booloumba camping ground, but you need to book first, so despite having made a couple of creek crossings to get there we had to turn back and drive into the Charlie Moorland Camping Area. This required no bookings, and you could also have fires there in designated fireplaces. Firewood was supplied. It was a bit tricky finding a site for the tent, as the whole place was on a hillside, but with the help of a few chocks and a bit of mucking around, we got the trailer level, and set up camp on dusk.