Lock in Yeppoon

If our original decision to 'cut loose' from Darwin some 14 months ago was a bit of  an emotional struggle so  to has been the decision to 'lock in' Yeppoon and begin to call it home.

Our initial focus was, of course, to find a suitable residence in our newly adopted home town and this initially took the form of a site in the centrally located Maine Caravan Park.  It is from here that we have had to negotiate with architectural draughtsmen, the local council, engineers, steel fabricators, builders and other numerous trades people.  Fortunately, our caravan park is across the road from the local library which provides free internet access to ratepayers such as ourselves.  I am still unable to use my own laptop to access the internet unless I use the wireless facilities of the local computer shop @ $3/half hour.

Shortly after our arrival back in Yeppoon, we received our full working drawings of our proposed house on our land in Bethlehem Terrace Lammermoor and these were forwarded to one steel fabricator for costing of the steel framing and to a builder for costing of the construction of the whole house.  While both of these firms were located in Rockhampton, we were approached by a new acquaintance in the caravan park who handed us a business card from a local firm who specialised in the erection of steel sheds from whom we  also decided to get a quote.

While  buoyed by the sale price of our house back in Darwin, we are nevertheless worried about the possible cost blow out of erecting our personally designed home on our own land.  As a consequence, we decided to still keep an eagle eye on the local real estate market, visiting any property that met  even 70% of our non-negotiable housing criteria ie

On a recent real estate open house excursion, we were advised by the agent that any Yeppoon house on the market for >$300k was a bargain and should be snapped up immediately...this, needless to say, did little to buoy our confidence as most within this price range tend to be very old, 1500mm high wooden piers, run down small 2 bedroom & sleep-out Queenslanders or boring little triple fronted, bowling-greened 3 bedroom brick venereals.

While biding our time, we have been surprised to realise that the local winter climate incorporates bracing 8-12 degree mornings followed smartly by  balmy 22-25 degree days.  However the balmy winter temps only last until about 1700 hours when the sun dips out of sight and the temps plummet down to the mid teens quite rapidly.  We are slowly and bravely acclimatising to these conditions.  We spend the majority of the day in shorts and T shirts and only resort to jeans and windcheaters for 'after five' activities.

In late May, Lenny and Vicki Allen, friends from Darwin who are 'baby-sitting' a number of our more precious chattels, visited their son Corey and partner Bec who live in Rockhampton.  We caught up with them on a number of occasions during their stay and they came and camped with us one night in readiness for a fishing trip.  The trip, coincided with beautiful sunny weather but unfortunately  large tides.  Nevertheless, Corey and I  launched our respective boats at Corbett's Landing some 26kms away with a combined crew of  6.  After a little coaxing, my outboard eventually started and we set off for a day of crabbing and fishing.  While the mud crabs were no problem, the fish proved elusive and not helped by the Sounder and Fish Finder deciding to go 'on the blink'. 

After  picnic lunch at a beach on Corio Bay we decided it was time to try and beat the fast outgoing low tide of 0.5m - we almost made it - but in the end had to pull it over a few shallow sand bars....but Corey had it worse by having to crawl over the primeval slime to rescue some of our pots and later the ignominy of having to have his car and boat trailer skull-dragged up the slippery boat ramp by his dad driving my Landcruiser...a good day.

Maria & Bec enjoying the onboard refreshments

Vicky, Bec and the ever-reliable Helmsman

A Green Turtle Bec & Vicki found whilst answering their own 'call of nature'

Beach at mouth of Corio Bay

Lunch - Vicki, Bec, Lenny, Corey & JWB

The craft beached

Oops - lack of water on our return journey

Crab Pot retrieval

Corey - almost up to his you know whats!...all for a bloody mud crab

Vicky - did get up to hers whilst retrieving another pot

The prospect of an extended stay in a caravan park predominantly occupied by permanent residents was initially quite daunting.  I was particularly concerned about the prospect  of not being able to continue to interact with fellow travellers and instead socialise with people who had,  for whatever reason, forsaken further travel  to become quasi-permanents in a caravan park.  To their credit, the majority of residents in our park have proved to be quite an eclectic bunch of individuals.  As most rely to some degree on the Centrelink benefits of some kind, they have little spare cash to spend on expensive fuel to travel the country,  let alone splash out on flash wining and dining. They are for the most part content with the occasional trip to the local Sailing Club to  lunch on that establishment's  very cheap  Sunday Fish &Chip Special at 2 for $8.50.

Their permanent status is reinforced by the elaborate fixed annexes which surround their caravans providing all manner of homely creature comforts.  Many have also cultivated  gardens whilst for others, the priority seems to be fences to protect their four-footed appendages. Yes, the Maine Caravan Park permits doggies and these, mainly small house dogs, always accompany their masters/mistresses to the shops, social get togethers and, in one case, to the ablution block!  the previous year, the permanents and regulars held a birthday party for one of their  mutts....

Evidence of this dubious celebration

...oh dear!

The goings on in the park remind me of some of the antics of the guests'  of  Hotel Honolulu reported by Paul Theroux in his  hilarious  tale about managing a rundown hotel in Hawaii.    There are all manor of characters in the Park ....some who talk to you, others who just mumble and hurry past en route to the ablutes and still others who you only see in the wee small hours and who, for no explicable reason, know your name.   The ablution blocks provide a constant source of amusement.  Why is it that men rarely utter more than a grunt to one another whilst abluting, whereas women congregating in these facilities immediately set up a constant and completely uninhibited Budgerigar-like chatter?  Speaking of which.....a number of residents have gone to quite elaborate lengths to befriend, I hesitate to describe it as taming,  individual  lorikeets, flocks of which are constantly screeching in and around the Park's palm trees.

As with any community, there are a number of  sub-groups which, as newcomers,  we have had to carefully step around - testing the waters of  permissible language, cultural, sporting, religious, regional/state and political bias.  At any rate, our preferred clique, engage in a nightly happy hour and organised a Sunday barbeque  and certainly made us feel most welcome.  While there does not appear to be any serious gourmands, nerds or brain surgeons among our midst, the experiences of  these campers' past lives can still generate a good yarn or laugh and they have provided us with goodly company.  Special mention should be made here to old Jack Preston who, in his eighties , has lived in Yeppoon on and of since 1935.

Gossip and rumours abound constantly throughout the park and this ranges over such subjects as: tariff increases, the immanent issue of two ply toilet paper (in lieu of  current single ply), mysterious men sighted in the ladies ablutes, ......its all good stuff and does provide a healthy distraction from our more pragmatic problems of securing  a more permanent home.

Joan (the Scot), Stephanie (owner of Louie the toy dog ), Dawn, Fay (serious punter and wife of Bazza) & JWB

Stephanie & Fay

Dougie - jack of all trades, serious smoker, champion of the mystery Dog trifecta, Home Brewer and financial wizard

Bazza - our Caretaker & joker, grog procurer - The Bacardi Man

Paul who has managed the transition from the wilds of Scandinavian Denmark to the calm of Victoria's Yarra Valley

JWB & Jack - an 80+year old local son, keen bike rider who still calls Mackay ...... Mac-Kay....as, I guess, we all will eventually

In addition  to the solid core of permanents, there are a handful of semi-permanents whom, we are told,  return every year from their Victorian or New South Wales bolt holes to spend the winter months in the sun.......  As with the permanents, these regulars do not appear to  engage much with the local community other than when they shop, play bingo, keno or the pokies - oddly few seem interested in  any outdoor activities such as  fishing, bowls or even golf.....hang-on, there is one who plays in the social tennis comp on Saturdays. I intend to follow-up once we get settled.

Camper supplying Bedroom, Refrigeration & Secure Storage facilites

Our Kitchen & Living Room in Yeppoon's Maine Caravan Park - June 2006

The Office, Store Room and Wardrobe

June is a pretty busy month in the local community with both the Rockhampton and Yeppoon Shows, Eisteddfod as well as the Rockhampton racing carnival.  We did venture out to Rockhampton's Callaghan Park for the annual running of the Rockhampton Cup.  While we left Yeppoon in some mild drizzle, by the time we arrived at the course via bus, the weather had deteriated and after the third race, the remaining seven races, including the Cup, were postponed to the following week.  The rain pelted down all day with the only bright spots  in the day being the decision of the local racing committee to reduce the cost of (XXXX Gold) middies to $1 for a couple of hours and then to win on a Darwin Race  where Richard O'Sullivan's syndicate's horse Caraga Sunshine was having another outing on the oil and sand track.    It won easily and it was thanks to the vigilance of a  non-syndicate member  (Holdo) that let me know the beast was running at all..........oh dear, maybe an early indication of out of sight - out of mind.

16 June, saw settlement on the sale of 22 Charlotte Street Parap and we paused for a moment to recall the many good times had in that home ie the parties we had hosted, Maria's  Bar, the beautiful garden, my wonky steps to the Beer Garden, Ben's illicit cultivations on the roof, the spa, walks to the pub & TBC - but also the brickbats concerning the inconsiderate neighbours' yapping aged kelpies, the aborted redevelopment plans (X 2)  and the litigious good Dr  B - our former neighbour. 

The quest for a suitable builder occupies all our waking hours and is very frustrating and a bit of wet blanket to an otherwise exciting project.  The ones who have even deigned to quote do so by simply looking at the overall squareage of the house and multiplying it by a cost per square metre - when we broke the project up into a series of jobs we found that others were disinclined to quote for segments of the job.  Similar problems would not be encountered if we were simply intending to build a ground level brick veneer home complete with 5 bedrooms, rumpus room, sunken lounge, parents retreat, double garage and home theatre room.  Geez - that houseboat back on the Murray looks good from here.

 There is still loads of housekeeping chores to keep us busy eg obtaining a local PO Box, registering our new address with all and sundry, arranging new insurances policies, and we  recently bit the bullet  and arranged to find another bank with which to do business here in Qld - BankSA is only represented in Brisbane.  Having dismissed all the regional credit unions and banks, we arranged appointments with each of the Big 4 to decide who among them would be lucky enough to enjoy our return to their fold.  (NB we have previously been customers of each of these rogues in the past).  Sorry to report that Westpac won the day.

In early July we had a visit from Maria's cousin Douglas and wife Bev who had been holidaying in Nth Qld during Bev's Long Service Leave from the Victorian Education Department.  While Maria had caught up with them in Melbourne I had not seen them for probably 10 years when they last visited us in Darwin.  It was good to see them and catch up with their plans for future retirement which Douglas is busily planning.  We took them on a 'Cook's Tour' of the Capricorn Coast including the Singing Sail at Emu Park not far from our lunchtime venue - the pub.  We later wined and dined at the Sailing Club while catching up with the 3rd and final State of Origin Rugby League match being telecast from Melbourne.

At the Singing Sail sculpture (commemorating Capt Cook's naming of Keppel Bay)

Family Snap

The 18 June saw us finally bite the bullet and sign a contract to purchase a quite a plain but serviceable 3 bedroom, two bathroom, elevated steel-framed house at 23 Lamberton Street Yeppoon.  It's situated on a West facing sloping block of some 1380 sq metres backing onto a conservation reserve.  The advertising flyer mentions  (?)pleasant 'rural' views from the front balcony. The house has been set only 16.5m back from the road with the balance of the block, some 46m in depth, having  already been roughly terraced into 7 levels but without a single planting of any commercial let alone ornamental shrub or tree.  I have fond hopes of establishing an orchard of  avocadoes, lychees, mandarins and macadamia nuts up  the back of the block.

On the lower floor, the house has 5 bays for garaging miscellaneous equipment and storage of important junk.  The house was built in 1993 and is located only 1.2km from the main Yeppoon shopping centre.  It would therefore be approximately   2 kms from the main town beach and Sailing Club - still walkable and no real hills to prevent use of our pushbikes.

The house's internal layout and fixtures are pretty dreadful but have scope for a big and hopefully inexpensive  renovation without the need for any major structural alterations. An undeniable  challenge but one over which we should have greater  control.

New Home - 23 Lamberton Street Yeppoon... not unlike Charlotte Street home in outward appearance

The house is approximately 14500 wide by 10000 deep (including a 2500 wide front balcony)  - providing an upper floor area of 145 sq metres - about the same as our house in Parap but on a block nearly twice the size. 

After the rather expensive conveyancing experiences during the purchase of our land and the sale of our Parap house together with the fact that Qld does not have registered independent conveyancing offices, I  decided to undertake all conveyancing associated with the purchase of this house myself.  To this end, I purchased an excellent conveyancing kit from the Qld Customer Law Reform in Brisbane.  The  state and local government searches proved pretty easy, but the initial building inspection report was pretty damning with regard poor drainage and subsidence and this had to be clarified with an engineer.  These problems meant that we had to get the agreement of the vendors to discount the purchase price by the cost of remedying the identified problems.  This, of course, all took time and due diligence on our part.  Amazingly all this work was undertaken from our canvas tent office and was  heavily dependant on the good will of the volunteer ladies across the road in the library. 

Needless to say we encountered further problems as Settlement Day approached.  The Vendors were pretty slack and we suspect that the wife had been bullied into  selling in the first place and so at the 11th hour they sought an extension of three days to finalise the removal of their goods and chattels and clean the place.  We were furious and in response, hit them with a hefty daily 'inconvenience' payment.  With our own camp already packed up, we  spent a rather miserable rain sodden weekend waiting to get vacant possession.  To cheer ourselves up we took  off on a 4x4 trek some 50kms up the coast to a place called Stockyard Point.  On a good tide you can get a permit to drive along the beach to the same place - a little bit hairy in parts with some steep and deep sandy stretches.  At the point there is a very smart sign declaring 'Township of Stockyard Point'  to give respectability to the group of squatters' shacks up there.

Needles to say, Settlement Day eventually arrived and we moved into our new home shortly thereafter.  Oh what a feeling to live in your own home again albeit camp in it initially - your own loo, a real (kitsch) kitchen to cook in, a bed on the floor  in a former teenagers bedroom painted out in purple suede do you mind and yes best of all my own LANDLINE telephone (07) 4939 2291....free at last from the wretched Mobile phone and its horrific bills as well as the meagre internet offerings of the Yeppoon Library and to at last have room to regain some real financial control over our lives.

Preparing to finally store our Camper under the house - NB the wheels now fitted to all 4 jacks

Camping at 23 Lamberton Street beneath some exquisite chandelier-like fittings in front of the plasma look-a-like television.

The Kitchen and two Bathrooms all have the same (dated) floor tiles we had in our Parap house loos.

Our Purple Room with swag!

Doug Taylor (mate from Caravan Park) provided extra muscle to get camper under house

Both boat and Camper safely garaged

Retaining wall at Street Front

Barren rear of house

A view of our overgrown backyard terraces in which I have already spied one of those black Bush Fowls with the brilliant yellow & scarlet red neck.

A 'Rural View' from front balcony

With the purchase of the house finalised, we  turn our attention to arranging for the uplift of worldly goods plus Maria's car from Darwin - again no small exercise and one we decided should be personally overseen by Maria on site in Darwin.  It would also give her a chance to see Ben, Sarah and the grandchildren (Tom & Darcy).  Unfortunately, Amy  already happily gallivanting around Paris at present on her 12 week  holiday....good on her.

For us, its now time to sit down and plan the renovations for our house which should comfortably see us through to the end of the year - it may then be time for a small trip somewhere...........................................we still have to decide what to do with the block of land up the road at Lammermoor....options are endless.





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