Our daughter Katie’s birthday was on 2nd July and we were delighted that she and her partner Mick came up to stay with us in Townsville for a few days before having to return home to a rather chilly Canberra.
First challenge was to set up our four man tent, which we had brought up in the caravan. Our site was big enough to include the tent and the caravan park was OK with that. It’s been a few years since we had put the tent up so after a few false starts with flexible poles, bending tent pegs and the like we managed to get the tent and it’s fly up and functional. Then it was time to set up the air bed. Last time we used the tent we slept on self-inflating sleep mats, but the birthday girl deserved better so we had bought up a queen size, double height, luxury air bed. I had assumed that I could use the 12 volt air compressor to pump up the air bed but of course the fittings didn’t fit so I had to revert to the hand pump. Sometime later it was up but at this point we realised that the air bed was so big that we couldn’t do up all the internal zips in the tent, so we decided that we needed to turn it around inside the tent. When we finally got that sorted out, it was time to actually make up the bed with sheets, a blanket, pillows, etc. By the time we were finished, our neighbour Pat and his wife offered applause and thanked us for a pleasant afternoon’s entertainment.
In the meantime, Katie and Mick’s flight from Canberra was cancelled due to fog, and the next plane they got a seat on was also delayed. This meant that before they had left the ground they had already missed their connecting flight out of Sydney. Things finally got sorted and they arrived in Townsville some 12 hours after initially leaving home. Sufficient to say this mucked up our original birthday plans but after a quick freshen up at the caravan park we all went out and had a great fish dinner at the Fish Inn.
Katie and Mick in Townsville
The following day we took Katie and Mick for a bit of a tour around Townsville. We finally ended up at “Shaw & Co” a recently opened bar in the new “City Lane” project. Shaw & Co promotes itself as the “Bar with Balls”, and their menu consists almost entirely of dishes featuring meat balls of some description. Mick certainly enjoyed his light snack.
Later that afternoon I dropped Katie and Mick off at the Jezzine Barracks Parade Ground where the drivers in the forthcoming V8 Supercars round in Townsville were doing a signing. There were hundreds if not thousands of people there and queues were considerable, but Katie and Mick persevered and successfully got a good range of signatures. I also managed to take a few photos of some classic cars on display at the Barracks.
On Friday morning we caught the early ferry across to Magnetic Island. We really wanted to hire a Mini Moke to drive around the Island but previous phone enquiries had advised that no-one was taking car hire bookings over the school holidays so it was first in first served. When we arrived however, there were no hire cars available at all, Mokes or otherwise. So after a quick look around Nellie Bay, where the ferry lands, we bought all day bus tickets and headed off to Horseshoe Bay where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and walks around the village and along the beach. We then hopped back on the bus and got off at Arcadia to have a good look around the village and the Geoffrey Bay and Alma Bay beaches. We had lunch at the Arcadia Bay Resort then got back on the bus again and went on to Picnic Bay. After walking along the jetty, Katie and Mick decided to climb to Hawkings Point Lookout, during which time Ann and I sat outside at the Picnic Bay Tavern and enjoyed a coffee. When they got back we got back on the bus to Nellie Bay and after a short wait we caught the ferry back to Townsville. There really is a huge amount to see on Magnetic Island and after two day trips we feel that we’ve only scratched the surface. A longer stay on the Island may be in order at some time in the future.
Kevin and Lynn
On Friday night we got dressed up a bit and went out to dinner at the Odyssey Greek restaurant on the Strand, where we caught up with Ann’s brother Kevin and his wife Lynn, who were also in Townsville for a few days. We all enjoyed a delicious meal and plenty of catch-up chatter. After dinner we all went for a stroll along the Strand and ended up at the Friday night Strand Market, where stall holders were starting to pack up. Never-the-less we had a good look around before saying our goodbyes and heading back to our respective caravan parks.
Saturday was another take it easy day. Mick and I are going to the V8 Supercars on Sunday so we had a quick look around the track to see traffic conditions and work out drop off points, parking options, etc. Then we all went for a drive up Castle Hill, which has absolutely magnificent views over Townsville and the surrounding area. As we headed to the top we saw Kevin and Lynn on their way down. Mick and I went up the Radar Hill Walk which takes you to the highest part of the Hill. There are several other walks but it was very busy all over the hill so we had to take our time going back down and back to the caravan. After ‘fives’ on the beach opposite the caravan park we had a BBQ dinner back at the van.
Townsville 500 V8 Supercars
Sunday was the final day of the Townsville 500 V8 Supercar event. This is apparently the biggest single annual event in Northern Queensland and for anyone with an interest in cars it is pretty well a must do event. Timing wise it is in the middle of the school holidays and Townsville is literally packed at this time of year – in fact the local economy relies heavily on a good turnout. Mick and I contributed in our own small way to the 142,000 headcount over the weekend.
Overall we had a great day. Just for a change I went as a spectator to a motorsport event and not as a working photographer, so that was a nice change. I did take a small camera to try to capture some of the sights and atmosphere though. There was a huge amount to see and do over the course of the day, even without the motor racing. Lots of merchandising stands, usually with pretty girls in short skirts and high heels outside, and plenty of food and drink options. There was a Disney play area for kids featuring a Cars 2 theme. Mick couldn’t resist a couple of driving games, which all came with entry into a fabulous prize draw for a Ute or something similar. Last we heard Mick hadn’t received a winner’s phone call unfortunately.
General entry gave free access to the pits for the support series cars, so we got to see racing Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lotuses, Aston Martins, and other exotic and expensive cars close up, along with V8 Utes and V8s from the Dunlop development series. Access to the V8 Supercars was more restricted, although we could have bought Paddock Passes which come with extra privileges.
By the end of the day we had walked right around the track; visited a whole heap of merchandise and trade stands; had lunch in the shade in the biggest marquee we had both ever seen – Vanessa Amorosi and Jessica Mauboy performed there on Saturday night; bought a few souvenirs; bumped into Kevin and Lynn; and watched the V8s final on a big screen in shade and comfort. After the final presentations, we walked back down the road to a suitable spot where Ann and Katie picked us up in the Ute and we headed back to the van for dinner.
In the meantime, Ann and Katie had a great day as well. They visited Cotters Market in Flinders Street, went to Casteltown Shopping Centre, and had lunch at Harold’s Seafood on the Strand.
Katie and Mick Head Home
On Monday it was time for Katie and Mick to leave Townsville’s wonderful weather and head back home to Canberra. They had enough time before their flight to go for a swim in the Rockpool swimming pool on the Strand and have pancakes for breakfast. After a bit of final packing, we said our goodbyes and dropped them off at the airport.
Ann and I then had the tent and airbed to contend with, and we really worried that neither was going to fit back into the containers they came in. First was the luxury air mattress and that was a bit of a challenge. It took great ingenuity to squeeze all the air out but we did manage to fit it back in its bag. The tent was actually less of a challenge that we expected, and it also fitted back in its carry bag. A couple of loads of washing for sheets and towels and by the end of the day pretty well everything was under control and stored away.
At about 6.30 pm we got a text from Katie advising that they were home safely and missing the warm weather already. It was great to spend some fun time with Katie and Mick for her birthday. We’ll probably see them again on our way home.