A Weekend on the River by Robyn Boswell
After 90 days on our Aussie road trip it was time to take a break. By the time we got to Noosa, where we’d been several times before, the thought of camping yet again wasn’t particularly enticing so we pitched our tents in a local camping ground with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. As we drove along the banks of the nearby Noosa River a sign caught our attention: ‘Houseboat on the River – special weekend rates’. It was Friday, it was meant to be, so in no time at all we’d booked for two nights on the river.
Boarding wasn’t before 5pm, so we spent an enjoyable, if somewhat grubby, afternoon digging up thundereggs at a local thunderegg farm. We headed back to camp to pack our gear, while Noel went to make final arrangements for the houseboat. He came racing back to say we weren’t able to take it out after sunset and since sunset was at 5.30 and it was already 4.55 a mad panic ensued. I raced into a supermarket to buy groceries feeling like I’d won a grocery grab competition as I frantically filled a trolley.
We zoomed back to camp, grabbed our gear and made it to the boat at 5.25 – phew!
The aptly named ‘Gypsy’ was like a caravan on a barge. After months of camping; hot and cold running water, a kitchen, shower, TV and radio (that didn’t work) and real, albeit very hard beds were five-star luxury to us. It was powered by a 25hp Suzuki outboard, a little less powerful than our boat at home, but very familiar
We motored a little way off-shore and moored amongst a bevy of other boats for the night. Noel had fun zipping up and down the river in the large plastic dinghy that came with Gypsy. We enjoyed dinner out on deck and played a noisy game for once without having to worry about the sound annoying our neighbours.
The river had the sheen of polished glass in the clear morning light. We ate our breakfast on the aft deck, watching the antics of the local pelicans as they performed their morning ablutions, feeling like we were living a millionaire lifestyle. After breakfast we set off up Noosa River, puttering peacefully along through mangroves and bush. Civilisation disappeared rapidly behind us as we were enveloped in the sounds and smells of the cool rainforest. We soon reached Lake Cooroibah, a large lake that averaged only 30cm deep, so keeping to the dredged channel was imperative. Motoring further on up the river, past a few houses and a cable ferry, we reached Lake Coothanabra and anchored off Boreen Point.
A long, sandy beach crowded with picnickers fringed a rustic looking settlement, so Deb, Noel and I set out in the dinghy to explore. Even with the three of us trying our hardest, the extremely heavy dinghy was almost impossible to pull up on the shore. Noel and I grabbed the anchor rope to pull as Deb pushed the stern. Suddenly disaster struck! The anchor rope came adrift and Noel tumbled onto this back and lay there like a stranded beetle, his arms and legs waving in the air. Deb and I collapsed on the sand, laughing until we cried. What unexpected entertainment the other beachgoers had that day!
We discovered a minigolf course that resembled a farmer’s untamed cow paddock. Having played every minigolf course we’d come across the length and breadth of Australia, we couldn’t give this one a miss. It was arranged in a series of terraces down a hillside, with a hole on each terrace and after climbing to the top, you played your way to the bottom. Deb started at the first hole, gave her ball a generous tap and we watched as it bounced through a fence, over a path, through another fence and scored a perfect hole in one in the last hole. Game over! Our screams of laughter brought people running to see what was going on. And for the record it was the first – and only – time – I won.
Back on board Gypsy, we moseyed down the river and tied up to some trees where we could spend the night. After being on the move for so many weeks, just sitting and being one with the spectacular natural environment that surrounded us was a real morale booster. We snoozed, read and just contemplated life. Noel caught a couple of catfish after a desultory fish and let them go again. At sunset we rowed quietly down the river, stopping to drift and listen to the sounds of the bush around us as we watched and listened to a myriad of birds as they finished their day’s activities and settled down for the night. The silence of the night was only broken by the occasional croak of a frog.
After a typical Aussie wake-up call from the cackling kookaburras and vulgar crows, the morning slid peacefully by. We were fascinated by the aptly named whipbirds whose song started with a long, piercing note that rose and rose until it suddenly finished with a crack as loud as a stockman’s whip. A couple of whistling kites soared around us diving down and skimming the surface, never missing their targets as they scooped up unfortunate fish. Dad took the dinghy and anchored out in mid-river to spend a couple of quiet hours with his sketchbook.
We were incredibly reluctant to tear ourselves away but eventually pottered unhurriedly back down the river to Noosaville, then sat off-shore, slowly becoming re-accustomed to people and cars and noise..
We had a last few hours of enjoying the sunshine out on deck as we girded our loins for the last section of our wonderful safari – in 13 more days we’d be back in Melbourne’s winter, more than 2500 kms away, contemplating a return to the mundane matters of work and ‘real life’.