Fiji trip for our 30th Anniversary

Rod’s Visit

Late February Rod flew into Rockhampton for his first trip to Emerald. I was working but he dropped me at work each day so he could be shown around town by his Mum. We took him back to Rocky on the Saturday and stayed the night. We picked up the sweetest pineapples I have ever tasted from a roadside stall when we went out to the coast for a drive on Sunday morning and paid just 60c for each one. 

Our 30th Anniversary

I find it hard to accept that on March 14th 2011 we had been married for 30 years. I’m just not sure were those 30 years have gone. Doesn’t seem that long ago that we were married in Trafalgar, Vic with our reception in the Thorpdale Hall. Who can forget that the rings got left at Thorpy so a short delay was engineered to retrieve them in record time – thanks Cookie.

We decided to take another trip to Fiji to celebrate. So back in late November a plan was put into place. I calculated that I would have 8 days leave accrued so booked the flights and accommodation.

Outrigger on the Lagoon on Fiji’s coral coast

We had a great time – lots of fine dining, a few celebratory drinks, a bit of swimming, a massage and not much else. The weather was similar to Emerald at this time of the year – very humid, with occasional rain but warm.

The view from our balcony at Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji

Spa pool with poolside bar behind

Jan dreading yet another photo - the pool area with our room half way up the hill and the spa at the top

We find Fijians to be one of the friendliest nations. They excelled on the day of our anniversary. They turned up at our room with celebratory drinks and with a choir that sung their Happy Anniversary song. We got the choir again as we were finishing our tea in the restaurant. They also decorated our room while we were having tea. This all made for a memorable 30th anniversary.

Fijian choir who sung their version of "Happy Anniversary" - in our room and also after tea in the restaurant

Jan admiring the orchid flowers on our bed after we came back from tea

Fijian choir at work - happy birthday, happy anniversary and a farewell song were done for each set of guests as required.


Bebe day Spa and Kalokalo bar

Right at the highest point of the Resort is the Spa and a bar. Not sure why they don’t trumpet the bar – it seems to be kept low key. The Kalokalo bar was the highlight of our trip. The views from there are spectacular. The drinks flowed freely and the oyster platters went down well. Just ask Jan how many Golden Dream cocktails it took to give her a decent hangover.

A flower (or new gnome) in the garden at the spa at the top of the ridge behind the resort

Kalokalo bar up above the Spa - a magnicent spot to enjoy a cocktail and oysters and take in the spectacular view

Just before the first of many Golden Dream cocktails

View of coastline north towards Suva from Kalokalo bar

View of coastline south towards Nadi from Kalokalo bar


As with all holidays, the time flew and now we are back in Emerald with work back on the agenda. Its done nothing but rain since we got back and the humidity is 90%+. Hopefully this years extreme wet season will come to an end real soon.

We have had a bit of fun in our first 30 years and we both have dreams for many more.

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Flooded, 60 and a cruel twist

The Big Wet Continued

Not sure what Queensland has done to deserve the wet wet wet weather we have experience so far this wet season.  Emerald’s flood at the end of 2010 is now but a distant memory, far surpassed by the Toowomba flood on David’s birthday then the consequent Brisbane floods and topped last week by cyclone Yasi.

With over 20 inches of rain in the catchment of Fairburn Dam over Christmas we had about 5 days warning that a flood was coming.   Fairburn Dam  is just south of Emerald, on the Nogoa River which run through town on the other side of the golf course right next to our caravan park.

We lifted as much as we could off the floor at work on the Tuesday morning and then were sent home to fend for ourselves. First thing I did was to take the motorbike to a mates place near the airport – it’s something like 30ft higher than the van park. I got 40 litres of fuel for our generator and checked all our gas bottles were full. I filled our water tanks so we had 1200 litres of drinking water. The only thing we were short of turned out to be xxxx.

Most of the long-term locals based their plans on the January 2008 flood. Council released a map showing the areas of town that would be affected. That map included our caravan park but the long term tenants near our site soon pointed out where the water came to in 2008 – still approx 900mm lower than ground-level in our area of the park.

After a bit of soul searching we decided we would stay put. We lifted the outside fridge and cupboard off the ground and packed everything else into the truck. And then the agonizing wait for the water to peak began.

Early the next morning Council added some 800mm to the expected peak which put a bit of fear into us. By then it was too late to pack everything up and move the caravan to higher ground even if we wanted to as all routes out of Emerald were cut by flood water.

For us the damage would start if the floor of the caravan went under water. The floor is 750mm off the ground. The floor of the truck is 1100mm off the ground. Thursday was spent waiting and watching. By midday the access road out of the park was flooded and then the road across the front of the park started to fill with water. Impromptu “flood parties” began. One party were watching the water advance through the golf course. Another group gathered to watch car attempting to get through the water on the road outside the park until Council came along and barricaded it off.

At around 7pm the Council worker manning the road block told us he had just been told that the peak of another 200mm would occur around midnight. I did a quick walk to the other side of the park and could see that we would be safe. With a sense of relief we both managed to get a bit drunk that night. Basically, we had our New Years eve celebration one night early.

New Years eve dawned with the flood at its peak. Emerald was divided into about 6 islands, with no means of normal access between the islands until the water went down. Helicopters constantly flew overhead from dawn. I managed to hitch a boat ride to the main part of town to take a few photos and replenish the carbohydrate (xxxx cans) supply.

Work had 1 meter of water through it.

My work depot is on the western side of Emerald. I managed to drive through to there just before noon on the Sunday to find our 2 buildings had been inundated with 1000mm of dirty stinking oily water. When I first got there water was still in the street and over the gutter.

After contacting the boss we started the clean up. We lost a lot of clothing, all office fittings, computers, desks, etc. All our vehicles had problems but I was lucky to get our mechanic to go over them all on the Monday even though his premises had been flooded also. Two trucks and a van were written off. My usual drive (a Hino 916 pantech) had water in the diff and water in the main fuse box. The other truck had a wet air filter but luckily no water in the cylinders.

To our clients surprise we did a run out to all mines on Tuesday, just after the road to the north was reopened. We took 3 truck loads of water damaged clothes, office fittings, etc to the temporary pile the Council set up at the saleyards just around the corner from work. Depressingly, at its peak the pile grew to be bigger than a couple of big 2 storey homes side by side, even though a convoy of at least 10 B double and triple trucks were taking the rubbish away every day.

Something like 1050 homes were inundated and 95% of all businesses (ie 300+) were affected.

Our flood-ready annex

Our site - packing up is not a small job! The motorbike usually sits on the left of the Honda but is now sitting on a mates front veranda at least 5 meters higher than here.

One of many impromptu flood parties in the van park just after we were told water would only rise a further 200mm

My usual access to the van park - swimming pool complex on left, cabins on right

This is as close as the water got to the section of the van park we call home

Egan St looking west of Hospital Rd - this section of town is the first area to suffer flood damage

Not sure that the name was chosen to suit this situation

Coles shopping centre - 20+ shops with over 1m of water thru them

David turns 60

David’s birthday was a low key affair as everybody was still cleaning up after the flood. He did manage to have a few (or more) celebratory xxxx cans though.

Brianna’s Visit

Brianna flew in for a visit the week after David’s birthday. We all had a great few days together before she flew back to Brisbane for a week long computer programmers conference.

Mother and daughter would have had wet feet here at the flood peak

Water roaring past lowest corner of our van park at flood peak

Main road bridge towards Rocky - it had 2m of water over it at the flood peak.

Capricorn Hwy at Opal St, looking east towards Rocky - road bridge is 1.5m underwater, Coles on left has 1m of water thru it.

12m flood level marker beneath the road bridge - the 2010/2011 flood peaked at 16.05m here

River back in its usual course - at 2010/2011 flood peak water lapped the railway tracks

Mother and daughter trying to make a stand - "Stop stuffing around Dad, it's time to get to the airport"

A cruel twist to finish this ‘Flood’ story.

After Brianna finished her conference in Brisbane she flew back to Melbourne and shifted house, from Richmond to Elwood.

Last Friday Melbourne was hit by a summer storm with up to 200mm of rain dropped in some suburbs. Brianna’s new house was flooded with water approx 300mm deep, as was the whole street.

Thankfully family and friends have come to her rescue. We have both felt for her – times like this drive home just how far it is from Emerald, Qld to Melbourne, Vic.

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Helicopter – the only way out of Emerald

Wet, wet, wet

We have had a wet spring here in Emerald. The locals say this spring reminded them of the 1970’s. On Thursday night of last week the whole district got a 200mm+ drenching and all roads out of Emerald were cut. Just to get to work I had to drive thru 500mm of water in the low lying intersections in town. A work mate drowned his car (same model as Rod’s)  and he still hasn’t got it going yet.

Some of the mines that my job services ordered helicopters to get the clothes out so they can keep production going. Two of my work mats flew up to Moranbah North on Saturday and ended up staying the night as the chopper pilot was flat out and ran out of hours.

Our Boss overseeing loading of clothes into helicopter

Loading helicopter with another load of clothes for Moranbah North

On the Sunday I went out to Crinum South Mine, a 20 minute flight from Emerald airport. The Bell 412 chopper was brought in by BMA. We took clothes for their Broadmeadows mine that is north of Moranbah. They sent a van down to Crinum as this was the closest mine to Emerald with a helipad.

Flight was smoother than the light planes I have flown in. The water that was cutting the roads out of town was as far as the eye could see.

By Monday morning we were able to head north by going out through the Gemfields to our west. In the afternoon both the road from Rockhampton and the Gregory highway heading north to Capella, Clermont and then onto Moranbah was reopened. We spent the rest of the week catching up but by Friday things were back to normal. Could be a fun time in January when our official wet season actually starts.

The reason we are using a helicopter - flood waters had cut all roads out of Emerald

Coming into land at Crinum South Mine

Flood water - currently 1.5metres over the Gregory Hwy just north of Emerald

Bell 412 being loaded with clothes for BMA Broadmeadows ready for my flight to Crinum South mine

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Imbil Bike Rally 2010

Took 2 days off work and set out with 4 others from Emerald for the annual Imbil Motorcycle rally. Imbil is about 50km south of Gympie, sort of behind the Sunshine Coast. More riders had said they were coming but a week or more of rain right throughout Queensland affected the numbers.

We had a ute following us this year – there were no Harley’s expected so it wasn’t there as a recovery vehicle, it was for our camping gear and a few supplies.

We went down to Mundubbera – approx 550km on the Thursday and stayed with Vern. Vern is Bruce’s mother-in-law and boy did she look after us. Well done Vern – we are already making plans to be there next year on our way down to Imbil.

Bruce with nephew, Daryl, Vern (Bruce's magnificent M-I-L), Col (ute driver extraordinaire), me, Noel and Peter in Vern's front yard at Mundubbera

Vern - having a ball

Bikes ready to head to Imbil

I managed to leave our camera at Emerald. The above photos are courtesy of  Bruce’s sister-in-law.

We rode through heavy rain both going down and coming home. My screen on the Yoyager worked extremely well and it was only my legs from the top of my boots to my knees that got wet. Some of the others copped a drenching though – at least it wasn’t cold and we all dried out as soon as the raim stopped.

There were 1000 bikes at the rally. On Saturday not many went for a ride but Noel, Peter, Bruce and I were game. It was raining by the time we got to Eummundi for the markets but we had a brief look around and all vowed to return on a dry day.

We then did a loop back to Imbil via Nambour and Maleny. The road was dry after Nambour and we all had a ball on the cruiser-friendly roads.

Packed up in drizzling rain on Sunday morning and headed home. We got a drenching from Monto to Biloela and then again from Dingo to Emerald.

In the wash up we are all keen to do it again next year and already have plans for an extended stay.

Bruce and Vern get the cooks awards, Peter the wet wallet award, Col the ute driver extra-ordinaire award and Noel the scenic tour organisers gong.

I still didn’t find time to go for a look at all the 1000 bikes or to catch up with Karen and Mick – hence our extended plans for next year.

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New job and finally another weekend off

New Job

I was well and truly over Greyhound when I resigned on 5th Sept and started a new job the very next day. Greyhound get my vote as Australia’s worst employer – enough said!

I am now working for Alsco, mainly delivering miners clothes out to mines around Emerald and Moranbah. Start at 6am, finish at 1.30pm one day, then 5 or 6pm the  next day. Lots of overtime on most Saturdays – and I am earning more than I was using my Technicians ticket, with a whole lot less hassle.

Bundaberg weekend

Last weekend was my first full weekend off since taking 2 days off in the June long weekend. (I worked 24 days straight with Greyhound at the end – they have a huge turnover of staff here in Emerald.) So we took off for Bundaberg (approx 600km) and had a bit of a look around, some fine dining, a massage, etc.

A couple of old farts looking to the north at Baragara from the flat we booked for the weekend

We stayed in a flat with a view over the beach at Bargara- one of Bundaberg’s beachside suburbs.

Coral Cove - one of Bundaberg's beachside suburbs

We both took a shine to the next suburb south of Baragara – called Coral Cove, it has a quiet inlet that looked to be a great spot for a swim. Just on the edge of the village they were harvesting sugar cane.

Harvesting sugar cane on the edge of Coral Cove, Bundaberg

The Honda Crv is serving us well and hasn’t missed a beat for us – I sold the Suzi a while back as I wasn’t using it at all and our site is already full with the truck, caravan, and carport for the Honda car and the motorbike.

On Sunday morning we had breakfast in the garden cafe at the Bargara Berry Farm – a beautiful spot for a delicious and decadent breakfast.

We both enjoyed the break away from Emerald and are looking forward to getting away in a month or so (once I do my second run down to the Imbil Motorbike Rally – so far at least a dozen riders are heading down from Emerald for 4 days of fun)

A blooming flower in the gardens of the Bargara berry farm - a great spot for breaky

The view of the Bargara berry farm gardens from our breaky table

Burnett Heads - mouth of the Burnett River that runs through Bundaberg

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David’s first and second Charter trips

Straight in the deep end

In the weeks leading up to the midyear school holidays we had a lot of charter jobs on top of our regular runs out to the mines. I took a group of dancers into Rockhampton airport for my first charter.

My second charter involved our biggest coach – 14m long and 4m high – a 52 seater full of students and teachers for a 6 day trip down the coast road to the Gold Coast and then home via Towoomba and Roma. They played rugby, netball and touch at various schools along the way. They got to visit Dreamworld and Harbourtown outlet shopping centre whilst on the Gold Coast.

I was told that Coach drivers get free entry to all the theme parks, but it seems Dreamworld have changed their rules – all I got to see was their staff canteen – at least I didn’t get ripped off with my lunch prices. I had tea with an ex driver, Garry, who had helped me when I started – he is now living back at his home on the Coast.

Coach and driver taking a break at Picnic Point Towoomba

The view south from Picnic Point Towoomba

Majestic Gums - Picnic Point Towoomba

Passengers enjoying a break from the coach

Amazingly I found my way around Brisbane – my GPS was my saviour and the trip went without incident. I had hoped to take Jan but was told the bus would be full.

Back in Emerald things just keep ticking over.

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90 plus 1770

Jan’s Dad turns 90

Brianna and Rodney shouted Jan a hair colouring for Mothers Day in preparation for a family reunion – for many years this was a tradition for Jan and the source of some speculation as to the actual colour she would be on arrival in Thorpdale. Well, just for once David joined in. He expected to get heaps from brother-in-law Bill but all he got was a bit of a look up and down and “it suits you”.

Mid May we flew south to join the family celebration for Jan’s Dad’s 90th birthday. Rod flew from Canberra and was waiting for us at Tullamarine. We got another cheap hire car – a $22.00 per day special and headed to lunch with Brianna before heading to David’s sister’s place in Boronia for the night.

Next morning – the actual birthday – all 4 of us Laughers headed to Trafalgar and arrived just in time to drive the birthday boy up to Jan’s sisters for the party. Dad/Pa had just got out of hospital after having his gall bladder out after an attack of gall stones. His first trip to hospital in 68 years – I reckon Medicare owe him a big refund!

A great day was had by all Stan’s (and Doreen’s) family. Three children and their wife/husbands, nine grand children with all but one partner present and five great grand children.

Jan and I returned to Trafalgar that night while Brianna and Rod stayed with Jude and Bill at Thorpdale. We drove back to Melborne on the Monday and we flew back to Emerald the next morning. As  David had just started a new job the trip was short but sweet.

Agnes Water – 1770

David is now driving big red Greyhound buses, mainly delivering miners to a couple of coal mines around Emerald. He has plenty of time off during the day and has managed to help his mate Peter with his tilt-tray business in exchange for learning the “tilt-tray” ropes when there is enough work.

Split shifts and weekend work are the norm with Greyhound, so when he got two and a half days of the Queens Birthday weekend off we decided to head to Agnes Water – 1770 for a couple of nights.

We had a good look around and a  relaxing couple of days. Back to work this morning with 4 brand spanking new coaches added to our fleet in the last week.

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2010 – the turbulance so far

Holidays then work, work, work

We finished our Christmas holiday with a few nights in Trafalgar catching up with most of Jan’s family. Then we headed around the coast to Tuross Head for a fleeting visit to the area we called home till Dec 2008, when we hit the road. After a couple of nights with Di and Peter it was time to head north again.

Started back at work on Jan 4th and I worked 23 days straight, with just one day off in the next 6 weeks. Not long after that the smelly brown stuff hit the proverbial rotating blades – workwise anyway.

Nephew Ben’s nuptuals

We flew from Rockhampton to Melbourne early in March for Ben and Zoe’s wedding on the Mornington Peninsula. It was good to catch up with our families over our 6 days away from Emerald.

The end of the week saw me chasing a new job. There is a lot I could say but I will restrict my comments to this – is it too much to ask to be treated by others as they would wish to be treated themselves?

Fat Fords

The local Ford dealer ran a Ford show on the Sunday of our May Day long weekend. I got to relive a big bit of my past as I learnt to drive in a Ford Prefect, a Ford twin spinner, a 203 Peugot amongst others. My first car was a Mk.2 Consul for which I paid $125.00 from a dealer in the main street of Yarrawonga, Vic. I also owned a Mk.2 Zepher, a 2dr XM Falcon and I rallied a Mk.2 Cortina. Other Fords I /we owned over the years include a XC sedan, a XF sedan and a BA2 Fairmont wagon. I have also had a few Holdens over the years and sit on the fence in the Ford versus Holden debate.

Lee Kernaghan

Lee is Jan’s self-confessed “boyfriend”. Last weekend he was performing in Rockhampton at the pub he used to own – the Great Western which has its own rodeo ring out the back. So we had a weekend away – a bit of shopping, the concert and then the Sunday markets at the Rocky Heritage Village. All in a top weekend!

As shown in this last photo – Brianna and Rodney – your Mum’s been dreaming again!

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Hot Air – where else but Canberra

Christmas Holidays

December in Emerald means its hot, damn hot. But then there are lots of parties with lots of liquid refreshments. And December means lots of work. Work shuts down for 2 weeks over Christmas and the last week was a bit manic trying to get as much done as isn’t possible before we close for 2 weeks.

Unlike the past 17 years, I get paid holidays. We have headed way south this year on a big driving trip. First stop after 2 days of driving was Queenbeyan. We stayed with niece Cherie. Rod came over the arvo we arrived and hit us with our Christmas present from he and Brianna. Their present involved a 4.30am start the very next morning.

Merry Christmas from 2000ft above Canberra

Merry Christmas from 2000ft above Canberra

Funny, in a weird way, that on the last day at work we were talking about “out-there” type presents and I spoke about Jan and my wish to go hot air ballooning.

We launched from the lawns in front of old Parliament House, floated for about an hour and landed less than 1Km from where we took off – it was a still morning in Canberra. We got up into the clouds (3000ft) at one stage. Very quiet except when the burners were going.

Another item crossed off our bucket list. Thanks Brianna and Rodney, but as I said after the Bridge Climb present, your task is to try and top this.

Inflating balloon with fans, Jan not quite awake at this point

Inflating balloon with fans, Jan not quite awake at this point

Just after take off

Just after take off

Looking back over old Parliament House to the new one

Looking back over old Parliament House to the new one

Balloon flight Canberra 21 Dec 09

After 2 nights at Queenbeyan we headed south to my sisters place in Boronia, Melbourne where we are having a big family Christmas dinner.

We are less than half way through our road trip. So, from Jan and I, all the very best for Christmas 2009.

2009 has been a bit of a challenge for us, on many fronts. We are both looking forward to the new year.   Cheers everyone!

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Imbil Motorcycle Rally

Imbil Deer Farm and Camping Grounds is home to the Imbil Motorcycle  Rally.  This year was their 20th anniversary. After umming and arring for a few weeks 6 of our group decided with a week to spare to head to Imbil. Imbil is in the hinterland behind the sunshine coast and a “short”  750km cruise from Emerald.

So at 6am on the Friday morning of the third weekend of October we headed off. Well Terry, Marc, Noel and I did. Karen and Mick left the day before us, and took a day longer to get home – they are old hands at this rally.

Fairly uneventful run down through Biloela, Ganydah and on to Gympie where we stopped to buy a camp chair for Terry and I.  And then a 30 km trip to the Rally. I did say the trip was fairly uneventful but I did get a surprise on one fuel stop. I managed to put 19.6 litres into the 20 litre fuel tank. Made me watch the fuel gauge and trip computer a bit closer since.

We set up camp and then I got roped in to do a beer run – the Voyager certainly has plenty of storage in the panniers and the top box.

Marc & Terry "admiring" my new bike at the Bikers Cafe near Imbil

Marc & Terry "admiring" my new bike at the Bikers Cafe near Imbil

Imbil 20th Rally

Imbil 20th Rally

There  were over 1150 bikes registered for their 20th rally – a new record. A big variety of bikes and a few trikes. About half were Harleys. On the Saturday were went for a ride in the hinterland. Sunday we packed up and headed home, arriving at about 6pm. I was tired, but didn’t have any of the aches that I used to get from the Honda VFR. I really enjoy the cruise control, and its pretty cool to be listening to the radio as I cruise the highway.

Family visitor

On the next Tuesday night we headed into Rockhampton straight after work to pick up Brianna from a flight from Sydney. She is between jobs and had conferences in Sydney and then one in Brisbane a week later. So she visited us in the week between.

We showed her the Emerald ‘sights’ , had a swim in the dam and talked a bit. She has just accepted a job with the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne.

The weather for that week was a test for her, with high 30’s everyday  only getting down to mid 20’s overnight – welcome to Emerald! I think I have become a little acclimatised – at least my arthritic knees haven’t given me any trouble since we got here.

Jan, Brianna and I waiting for The Spirit of the Outback train for Brianna's trip back to Rockhampton for her flight south.

Jan, Brianna and I waiting for The Spirit of the Outback train for Brianna's trip back to Rockhampton for her flight south.

Imbil 2009 and BJL visit Nov 09

Noticed yesterday we have now been 12 months here in Emerald. We will stick here for a bit longer, but are heading  south to Melbourne and Gippsland for two weeks over Christmas – my work shuts down December 18th till January 4th.

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