Bushfires, Breakdowns and the Beach all in one day on the road…

On Monday morning as we drove away from Bluewater we knew the bushfires were still raging in the hinterland. A pall of smoke was draped over the Paluma Range and we could smell and taste it. So it was over to plan B, drive in a northerly direction till we cleared the smoke, hopefully, call in to see Paluma on the way back.

First things first we had to pick up bread, milk and a few other groceries, so first stop was Ingham, 40 kilometres north. The smoke had cleared by the time we arrived there. We always look for the information centres to collect maps and advice about the area and just south of the centre of Ingham was Tyto a new state of the art information centre.

The TYTO Wetlands is one of Australia’s largest urban wetland rehabilitation projects and residents of Hinchinbrook Shire are fortunate enough to have it situated right at their doorstep…(click on this link for more information)

Tyto wetlands

Water lily in the Tyto lagoon

We spent a pleasant hour wandering along the tracks around the lagoons. The water lilies were in full bloom and it is a very photogenic area.

The morning had gone and lunch time had crept up on us, so we stopped for coffee and eggs Benedict at a local café. While waiting I read the morning paper, the Townsville Bulletin. Look what was the front page story….

Front page news

It was very close to our camp ground…

We studied the maps we had picked up from the info centre and decided to drive up to Wallaman Falls, approx 50 kilometres west into the ranges. I checked it out in Google…”The Wallaman Falls are notable for their single-drop of 268 metres, which is Australia’s highest permanent waterfall. The pool at the end of the waterfall is 20 metres deep.”   

The road to the falls is narrow, winding and steep, it will be a good trial run for the new gear box. With our inner person refueled with food and coffee, groceries on board and petrol topped up we head west. Matilda is purring along. 20 kilometres and the road starts to climb. I comment that Matilda is handling it well, I have not had to change gear yet.

Then the road narrows, the turns get sharper, the road is steeper and as we drop below 30km I change down a gear. That is when it all goes “pear-shaped” Matilda grunts, I change to the lowest gear and she stops, the motor is still running but the gears won’t work….

What a predicament, sharp, blind bends both in front and behind, very narrow road. I decide to roll back and try to do a 3 point turn to face down hill. I find that reverse gear works, “phew” . Now we are stopped side-ways on, blocking the road. I pray that no vehicles will come, at speed, around the bend. Jack gets behind to push and I put her into neutral. Slowly we start to move, then the momentum takes over and I coast onto a very narrow verge off the road. The engine is hot and so are we. Time for a coffee…

Surprisingly the mobile phone worked and I ring Robin of Town Automatics to let him know what has happened. He says to try it back in drive and see how we go. It worked, what a relief we are moving again. So it is back to Townsville. Fortunately it is flat all the way and once again we are purring along.

It is 3-30pm and we decide to stay at Bluewater again and make an early start for Townsville Tuesday. We are only 5 kilometres from Bluewater and as we come around a bend this is what we see….

Bushfire near Bluewater

We joined onto the end of a long tail-back, approx 50+ vehicles. The bush fire had jumped the containment breaks during the day and was now right along the side of the road. People were out of their vehicles gathered in groups talking. It would be approx another 2-3 hours before they would allow any one through. 8 kilometres back along the road I had noticed a sign to Toomulla Beach. I checked it out in our Camps Australia book, our bible. Yes, it had a FREE camp site, “you beauty”, so we did a u-turn and headed back north.

Fifteen minutes later we rolled into Toomulla Beach, a charming little beach-side community of about 50-60 houses. The camp ground was almost deserted, only another 3 vehicles there. After choosing a spot we grabbed the cameras and went to explore. A short track passed through a variety of shrubs and then we were on the beach.

Toomulla camp ground

Track to the beach

Smoke from the bush fires in the distance

Oyster catchers strolling along the beach

Footsteps in the sand

End of an interesting day…

After downloading our photos and having dinner, and I have a glass of wine we were lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of the waves.


Next morning, Tuesday, we arrived at Town Automatics by 9am. The good news is it is only an adjustment, but the bad news is it will need another part to be sent from Brisbane. It will be a 3 day wait. A phone call to the helpful people at RACQ and they have put us in the Ibis Hotel along Palmer Street , the recently renovated dining street of Townsville. The insurance will cover the first $110 per night and as it is $129 we pay the balance of $19.

Ibis Hotel, built 2008, Very up-market to our usual accomadation…

Palmer Street dining precinct in front of Ibis Hotel

It is now Wednesday the part has arrived. We have one more night staying here at the Ibis, then, maybe, we will drive up to Paluma…

Oh and this is what I read in the paper yesterday…


It has been a very drama filled few days. Travelling is never boring…

Categories: Australia, australian travel, freedom camping, photos, Townsville, travel | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Bushfires, Breakdowns and the Beach all in one day on the road…

  1. You certainly have had drama filled days. I think making it almost to Ingham and then back again is a great trip for Matilda after her ‘operation’. I’ve been stuck on the side of the road in fires and floods before, but I’ve never been as organised as you and usually just had to sit in the car and wait (this is when you need a nice cup of tea!)

    Lucky for your insurance, it’s really paying off 😉


    • We are lucky having our bed with us, in a car you have no options, also the ones towing caravans and camper trailers would not be able to turn around so would have to wait it out. We are very fortunate to have a small van it is so flexible. We always have a thermos with us…

      The insurance has been a “god-send” this trip, but we have now used up our allotment, so will have to up grade to cover us the rest of the way home.


  2. I am in awe of your adventures! So glad you are safe, and Matilda is humming along. Beautiful pictures of your new campground.


  3. I have heard that bush fires happen quite a bit in Australia but this seems like a big one… As always beautiful pic especially the sunset 🙂


    • We are a very bush fire prone country and this year it has been a very long dry season (winter is our dry season) so all the bush is tinder dry


  4. Sandra Carroll

    Never a dull moment with you two! Glad to hear it’s only an adjustment needed to Matilda.


  5. Bush fires must be so scary, as they can be so devastating. That sunset pic is really beautiful, and the beach looks divine. 🙂


    • walking on that deserted beach and sharing it with those birds was just the perfect way to end a very “interesting” day


  6. It was a lovely beach, we talked to one of the locals and he said last week it was crowded. We were lucky to almost have it to ourselves. We are keeping our fingers crossed about the repairs….


  7. Exciting times! Nice beach to end up on though and hope your transmission troubles will finally be over!


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