Crab Claw Island, NT

Before I start this blog, I would just like to point out 4 things that we learnt during this trip away:

  • A dome tent was not made for marriage tranquillity (or for us either!).
  • Listening to families getting together around a campfire, playing instruments and singing is much better than sitting on your electronic device all through the evening.
  • Just because the sign says “10mins to McDonalds” does not mean you have to beat that time.
  • Wow the tides are huge up in the top end and you run out of water really quick.

All will be revealed, but for now let me set the scene:

Crab Claw Island is in the beautiful Bynoe Harbour, Northern Territory, just 130km’s by road from Darwin. This was where we decided to go for our first major camping holiday, towing the boat. Now the road into the resort can be a bit rough and lumpy for the 36km’s from the Cox Peninsula road especially after a heavy wet season. We did not have a 4wd at the time, so my poor old Rav4 had to tow the boat in through dirt and rough terrain. So, we took it slowly over some of the bigger cracks and divots, so as not to hurt or upset her (she is a little high maintenance, but don’t tell her I said so!) but made it in without any trouble whatsoever.

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We pulled up at our camp spot and busily set about getting our tent up and getting our camp organised. We had bought one of those cheap dome tents from BCF and we both thought “how hard can this be?” well as it turns our quite hard actually. After struggling for a while with a few choice words between us we eventually got the tent up and forgave each other for all the bad things we said while doing so!

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Lesson number 1 – go out and buy a 30 sec OzTent when we get home. Most certainly a marriage saver.

Once we were all set up and I had sorted out the fishing and boat gear for the morning, we started to cook dinner and settle down for the evening. Next door to us was a couple of families that were obviously camping as a group with lots of children.  Now I will be the first to admit that kids are not really my thing, they do seem to make a lot of noise when they are running around having fun (how dare they!), so camping next door to a large group was a bit disconcerting for us. As we had finished dinner and just settling down to enjoy a nice glass of wine before bed one of the children got out a guitar and started playing. The rest of the kids (and some of the adults) started to sing along and we found ourselves listening in and enjoying the ambience of the evening whilst being sung too (albeit unintentionally).

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Lesson number 2 – there are still families out there that can enjoy time together without electronic devices and facegram or instatwitter!

The morning arrived very early with the birds tweeting and the sounds of the camp stirring. We did not get much sleep that night, not due to unruly children, but due to the humidity and lack of air in our tent. But like the brave intrepid explorers we are we got the boat down to the water and set off for a day’s fishing. Bynoe harbour is a glorious place with umpteen creeks and estuary’s that hold an abundance of marine life. Or so we are told! We were still relatively new to this fishing thing and did not really catch much that day but did get to explore and see some beautiful landscapes and ocean vistas. By the middle of the afternoon we were both very hot (and tired) so we decided to pull the boat up on the sand and take a quick drive back to the nearest Bunnings to buy ourselves a fan, so we could get a good night’s sleep.

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We put the anchor up on the beach checking the rise and fall of the tide, so we would be able to retrieve the boat when we got back (being just over a 2½ hour round trip). Other boats were pulled up on the sand, so we thought, this should be no problem, give it enough anchor rope so it does not get marooned as the tide moves, she’ll be right!

Happy that the boat was going to be ok, off we set to get ourselves a bit of old fashioned air-conditioning. The drive out was much easier not towing the boat and we soon got on the Stuart highway heading towards Palmerston and the promise of a cooler night’s sleep. We were feeling quite happy as we drove up the Stuart highway, that was when we saw the sign “10 mins to McDonalds”. Now I know this was childish, but mike and I just looked at each other, obviously having the same thought “nah we can beat that time” and he put his foot down just a little bit more. That was when we came around the corner and lo and behold a speed trap was on the side of the road. Serves us right, yes, we really should not have been speeding, there is no excuse. As the police officer heads on over to us we just look at each other and shake our heads, we were old enough to know better. Now what do you say to the police officer when he asks, “what was your reason for speeding sir?” We calmly accepted the fine and drove off sedately to finish our mission.

Lesson number 3 – The sign is not a challenge it is for information only and speeding is not clever.

So, we picked up our fan and drove back to camp (under the speed limit I may add). We got back and went to find the boat. Yay it was still anchored, it had not drifted off with the big tides. The only problem was it was not in the water as such. The tide had come and gone and left us with a 5-meter tinny sat on the sand not too far from the water. So near and yet so far when you must push, and skull drag it back into the water. We gave up and went to get some dinner while we waited for the tide to come back in a bit. Eventually we did get it in the water and then back to the boat ramp without too much drama. It could have been worse, thank goodness the anchor held!

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Lesson number 4 – Always be aware of the tides (unfortunately this is a lesson we have not learnt too well but those stories are for another blog!)

So, we eventually got a good night’s sleep (due to our old fashioned aircon) and enjoyed our long weekend, fishing and exploring the beautiful area of Bynoe Harbour without any further hiccups or issues. All in all, a good weekend with some lessons learnt and even some fish in the boat.

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Renovations in Fishing Heaven

Lucinda, the place of my dreams. As you may have gathered I am a passionate and crazy fishing lady. Love the water, love fishing and love the Hinchinbrook area. Ever since moving to Townsville in 2011 I have been in love with the waters, scenery and fishing opportunities around the Hinchinbrook area. Pristine waters giving the avid angler a real choice of creek, river, open water and reef fishing. What more could a girl ask for!

Mike (my husband) and I started going up to Lucinda for fishing not long after finding out about the place. It is only 1 hour 40 minutes from home so easy for a day trip or a quick weekend getaway. The caravan park was easy for overnight stays, pitching the tent and making the most of the time out on the water. I would say it was almost perfect, except for one small tiny inconvenience. Yes you guessed it, pitching a tent, taking up all your camping stuff as well as the boat and hot in the summer months (like dripping humidity hot!)

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We  often looked on enviously at our friends who had a semi permanent caravan at the park. They had comfort, a ready made home away from home and aircon whenever they came home from a hot days fishing. It’s true, I coveted the luxury of having a caravan in one of the best fishing places on earth!

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The Vision

I Want One

Now these semi permanent caravans are as rare as hens teeth, the park is only allowed to have a certain amount. My goal was to score us one. One morning, whilst browsing through Facebook I happened upon a post about a semi permanent for sale at the park! I could not believe my luck. So after very quick negotiations with my husband and a promise that it would be extremely beneficial for us to snag this van I contacted the person through a DM and told them we were very, very interested. After a bit of too-ing and fro-ing in the message department I was then informed that it was sold and we had missed out …………. gutted is too mild a word!!

But, as fate would have it, our friends (who have a semi permanent at the park) phoned and told us that the park owners (Shane and Genevieve) had a caravan that they would be happy to sell us!!!!!!!! Woohoo happy again. So, we promptly contacted Shane at the park and told him we would come up to look at it on the weekend. Excited much? You betcha!

We turned up on the Saturday and Shane showed us around and told us to think about it. So we did, it took all of about 5 minutes and I was in his office asking who I made the payment to!!!! Our very own bolt hole, fishing shack! Ok so it needed a fair bit of work, but still our very own fishing shack, how lucky was I!!!!!!!

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Our little piece of heaven

Now the only minus, in a world of positives, about owning your own semi permanent in your fishing mecca, is the husbands need to get everything done now! For those that do not know my husband is particular. He has to have everything done just so (ocd tendencies) and in a timely manner. He does not like to leave a job unfinished even if only for a short period of time. If he starts something he will go full pelt on it to the exclusion of everything else until it is finished! How to balance renovations (with a very impatient and task focussed husband) with the need to just go fishing? Now I am not sure how other people deal with this, but, I used bribery, coercion, compromise and a few other techniques (which I will not go in to here!) to ensure that every weekend was not devoted to the caravan renovations.

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Before reno’s

Renovations

Where to start? Well we started with the inside of the caravan, it still had the shower cubicle and old units (which had to go for aesthetics sake at the very least!). Mike started ripping out the shower cubicle, as we decided we really did not need it due to the park having very nice modern amenities, and it would give us more space around the bed. This in itself was a learning curve! YouTube is awesome for learning about plumbing, electrical work and general renovating tips! We had plenty advice and assistance from our friends; David Drabble (Drabble Inc.) and Mark Phillips, (who we call Capt. Mark Phillips although he has no royal connections). So the boys had fun demolishing and generally making a mess! Hammers, mallets and screw drivers were flying everywhere with a few “whoops”, “oh balderdash” and other words that I will not type here (children don’t need to be exposed to that kind of language!)

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Demo time

Just as a sidleine I guess I had better explain the difference between our friends in terms of construction and building styles. Capt. Mark Philips is very particular (having done construction as a full time job for most of his life) and like my husband he measures everything a minimum of 3 times so he only has to cut once. Drabble Inc. on the other hand is a cut 3 times without measuring (why bother with that time consuming activity) kind of guy. However we love them both and they both have skills which are extremely useful, especially when you have little or no idea how to do it yourself.

We spent more than a few weekends sleeping on a mattress in the annexe, which was a compromise because it meant that we did not need to spend every weekend working, we could enjoy some fishing too even if it meant the work got done a little more slowly than my husband was comfortable with. But we still had aircon, ah heaven!

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Our bedroom for a while

We modified the bed somewhat to ensure that the two of us had enough space to roll over without giving each other a black eye. Mike laid carpet tiles in the bedroom area and then it was time to get the bed back in. How exciting! Roxy and Lucas came for a visit and Lucas was drafted in to help Mike put the bed frame and mattress back in. Roxy and I gave them our full support and encouragement from the patio (with a glass of wine in hand), as our favourite Czech (Lucas) and my favourite pozzie (Mike) did a great impression of the Chuckle Brothers “To me, to you”! (I guess only pommies will get this reference).

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Our new bedroom

Well bed was in and walls were painted now time to relax and enjoy the fishing, before the next stage of renovations.

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Renovations then started on the living area end of the caravan so demolition time again! One part of the seating area was ripped out and the flooring was pulled up. This was to give us more worktop space in the kitchen, plus we were going to have a living area in annexe so did not need all the seating in the caravan. My husband worked about 5 weekends solid on getting everything demolished and prepped ready for a refit.

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Now it just so happened that I had to go Italy for 2 weeks (yes I can hear you say “Shame”, “oh you have a hard life” etc.). So, it was agreed that while I was away Mike would finish off the inside of the caravan (and yes I can hear you say “spoilt much?”). I had already painted the cupboard doors and the inside of the caravan (my contribution when not fishing), so all he had to do was put some cupboards in! Not too taxing (says she who is swanning around Italy!).

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Doing a bit of swanning at the Colosseum

Capt. Mark Phillips came to help Mike put the cupboards in and got the inside of the caravan finished whilst I was away. I popped in on my way back from a fishing competition (yes I was fishing 1 day immediatley after coming back from Italy, dedicated or what!). It was amazing coming back to a fresh, bright  and modern fishing shack (and the aircon still worked). All we had to do now was to enjoy the serenity and fishing for a while without any more renovating!

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Inside done

That sentiment did not last long! Just after Christmas we started planning the annexe renovations.

Again just as a sideline and to set the scene I guess I should define the term “we” used throughout this blog. There are varying levels of “we”, as most of you ladies will recognise. “We” renovated may mean that husband and wife or husband, wife and friends, had an equal part to play in the renovations. “We” could also mean that I did a lot of swanning around and fishing whilst “they” did the renovations. Just thought I would clear that up before proceeding.

Annexe Renovations

Now the annexe on the caravan was a soft annexe with a hardwood floor. It was very old and the canvas was torn in a few places. I dreamed of a good (lockable) and comfy room to compliment the caravan space. A room in which to sit on a sofa and watch telly (comfortably), store some fishing gear (securely) and have somewhere for guests to stay. Now I know what you are thinking, “gosh she wants a lot for a fishing shack!” but there is no point going through life uncomfortable! Our friends have a cold room panelled annexe and we thought yes, that is a fantastic idea. Our favourite Czech had told us in broken English that “when I was 14 I help father put up big room with panels for cold”, so we knew we could call on his experience if required. Mike went and spoke to the fabulous guys (and gals) at Norfoam in Townsville and worked out the plan to get a hard annexe put on the caravan.

Before we could get the annexe up we had to paint the outside of the caravan as it was looking very old and tired. So, we had to spend a weekend painting (I did take my fishing rods with me and sneaked off to the beach for a fish in between coats!). Mike also had to take the old annexe down, out with the old in with the new!

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Before and after

These panels come in a kit that is easy to erect and can be done by people with no building experience (apparently!). So, we hired a trailer and picked the kit up with a view to spending the whole weekend getting the annexe up. Mike was fully prepared with the plans, parts and tools with which to get this structure up. We got to the caravan bright and early ready to go. Capt. Mark Phillips (our construction engineer) was not available that weekend and our usual tool (Drabble Inc.) was fishing, so would not be able to assist until later that morning.

Now the caravan park is absolutely chock full of grey nomads and we just so happened to have a couple across the way from us who were not only very friendly but extremely useful too. John volunteered to lend a hand (well truth be told his wife volunteerred him, but same thing), and he came over to start the construction. Now we have found out that having a John trumps having a Drabble (sorry Dave and we still love you!). John has a wealth of experience, he is a welder and has a tool for just about every job!

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Men at work

Construction began. It was not long before the natural order of things emerged. John was the foreman, Drabble (who had arrived back from fishing) was the worker and Mike was the apprentice. I was cleaning lady and on tea duties, with the help of Di, Drabbles better half. Now us girls did not mind leaving the physical labour to the men although we did our fair share of propping up, passing tools, cleaning the worksite and generally encouraging the troops!

Now something which I learnt through the construction phase was there are varying different types of spirit levels. Now not being familiar with the tool myself I was startled to find out that you could get spirit levels with a small gap for the bubble to sit in (apparently that is the norm) or you could get spirit levels with a large gap for the bubble to sit in (that is a Drabble Inc. level). John preffered the small gap type (something to do with being more accurate) and Drabble Inc. preffered the large gap type (something to do with “she’ll be right mate”). I found the robust discussion that was had over the two types very interesting!

Us two girls (DI and myself) were given the very important task (by John the foreman) of holding the panels up until they were riveted and secured into place (we felt very important). So, all was going well at a cracking pace until ……… crash! The panels fell over and we had to start all over again.

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Hold it girls

One job girls, just one job!!!!!!!

It is a bit like building a house of cards. Until you get the full structure up it is not too strong. So the day was spent generally riveting, screwing, holding, leaning and manoeuvring the panels into place.

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Still holding it

So the value of John you will ask? It seemed that the apprentice (Mike), although well prepared for the construction with half his shed of tools, did not have the right tools amongst his hoard, but John did! Very often during the day you would hear John say “have you got such and such tool” and then you would hear him say “never mind I have one”. Luckily he was only across the way so did not have to go very far for to get them.

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Still holding it

Eventually the structure was up and all that was left was the filling, cleaning and finishing off. Oh, and the sealing strip on the outside of the roof. Which meant someone getting up there, preferably the smallest, lightest person. Why was everyone looking at me? So bravely I said I would. Now I am not a great lover of heights and I still was not a great believer in the strength of the panels. But bravely I climbed the ladder and got onto the roof. And that is as far as I got. I sat on the roof telling myself to take deep breaths when around the corner our friendly Drabble came. Saviour! He got up there instead (true chivalry) and proceeded to put the flashing on the roof. I was still having kittens due to the roof panels flexing and my imagination that told me the whole thing could come down at any moment, but he did it.

So all that had to happen now was to lay the internal floor, build the furniture and decorate with some nicknacks. So, in true Tracey fashion, the following weekend I went to the Townsville Cup with friends and Mike went and finished the caravan.

 

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Townsville Cup

After another weekend of fixing up little things and painting the caravan is almost unrecognisable from when we first purchased it. Remember the vision ……….?

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The vision

Woohoo, caravan is finished and although it may not resemble the vision picture above it is now a comfortable little bolt hole for us to enjoy fishing and relaxing in the beautiful paradise of the Hinchinbrook area.

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The finished product

And yes I am 2SPOILT!

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Thats me!

“Go to the Beach”, they said – “It Will be Fun”, they said.

Fraser Island.

Fraser is a beautifully unique island off the south-east coast of Queensland. It is the world’s largest sand island, stretching over 120km, with rainforest growing out of the sand. The island is World Heritage listed and is a camping and 4 wheel driving mecca for many Australians and international tourists.

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Fraser Island

So, for our first real adventure since moving to Townsville my husband and I decided to venture forth and make the trip. We had booked just over two weeks off and travelled down from Townsville stopping at the beautiful Smalleys beach, in the beautiful Cape Hillsborough National Park, on the way.

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Smalleys Beach

We had booked in at the Waddy Point beachfront camping area to the north for 7 days and as we made our way over on the ferry we were very excited.

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Waiting for the Ferry

We had been told by many of our friends that Fraser can be a bit difficult to drive on with lots of soft sand, soft coffee rock, dingoes and plenty of traffic (especially during school holidays). We were also told to ensure we check the tides as getting up Seventy-Five Mile beach could be a bit tricky if you got your timings wrong.

Being excited (and a little bit naive) we trundled off the ferry at Wanggoolba Creek along with a few other tourists and hit our first sand trap about 10 minutes later. To be fair it wasn’t completely our fault. We were following a car full of Japanese tourists who decided to stop in the middle of the track for a photo opportunity! So, we pulled up and immediately sank in the sand! We did realise, after being dragged out by some very accommodating people, that our tyre pressures were not low enough, first schoolboy error! We had them somewhere around 25psi and were told they should be somewhere around 16, oops! Lesson learnt, and we were off again, travelling through the sandy roads to get onto Seventy-Five Mile Beach.

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Maheno shipwreck on Seventy-Five Mile Beach

Now driving Seventy-Five Mile beach is a bit of an experience! Not only do you have to dodge other cars, the sea, tour buses and people but airplanes too! Tourist flights land on every shifting airstrips on the beach and it can be quite unnerving to see an airplane coming in to land in front of you!

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Airstrip

On our way up to our campsite we came across another couple who were stuck half way up Indian Heads. They were towing a camper trailer and drove a Patrol (yep Toyota’s are forever pulling Patrol’s out of trouble). We stopped to assist (with our limited Pozzie knowledge) and got them out and on their way up. It just so happened that they ended up camping next door to us and thus a friendship was born.

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Fun in the Sand

With our new-found friends we explored the northern end of Fraser, enjoying the sun, sea and sand. We also explored a few tins of xxxx and the odd wine bottle, (well it would be rude not to!). We thought it would be a good idea to travel over to the other side of the island and visit Wathumba Creek.

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Beautiful Wathumba

Wathumba Creek is a beautiful place, just picture perfect with white sands and turquoise water, good fishing and abundant marine life. We spent the best part of the day exploring this area and swimming in the beautiful pristine waters. On our way back, our new-found friends told us of another beach which was, if possible, even more beautiful than Wathumba.

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More Wathumba

They pulled over and directed us to the track that led to this said beach in Platypus Bay. They told us that there was a small water crossing with a log in it then we would see the entrance to the beach. They told us we would need to gun it over the rise as the sand was soft, but it was ok there was plenty of room on the other side to slow down and get onto the beach. They would wait for us in the pub and we could catch them up there.

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The Pub

So, like good Pozzies off we trundled, got through the water crossing (no drama really) and over the sand track. We did as instructed and gunned it over the rise and then ……. thump! Straight onto the beach in soft sand with the sea directly in front of us! Bringing to mind the saying “Go to the Beach”, they said – “It Will be Fun”, they said!!! Yeah right!

We were well and truly stuck! Right up to the axle! With water in front of us and soft sand behind. After a while of trying to drive the car out (backwards and forwards) and trying to hail our new-found friends on the UHF (who were probably having too much fun in the pub), we clambered out and started to dig. And dig. And dig. And dig! This car was well and truly bogged!!!!!

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Stuck

All the while we were keeping an eye on the tide, pretty sure it was coming in!

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Keep Smiling

So, we dug and dug and moved the car about 25 metres!!! We were both absolutely exhausted, but knew we had to try and get out of there, so we dug some more. As a side note I must admit my husband and I worked as a team that afternoon, no arguing, no blame game just one focussed goal of getting out and getting on track (very unusual I know but we obviously function better together under stress!).

We were desperate and ready to give up and walk, we had both been digging, hauling and generally trying to retrieve the car for over two hours in the hot sun. Enough was enough! I was that hot and tired I thought I was hallucinating as I saw people coming over the sand dune! I have never been so happy to see complete strangers in my life! So, after some hysterical relief and hugs for the rescuers the guys tried to haul our Prado out of the sand dune backwards. It took several attempts and two other cars, but we got there eventually.

There are no photos of this great rescue, due to the fact that I was just so bloody knackered and stressed I did not have presence of mind to take any! But I will say we are eternally grateful to the guys and gals that got us out of that mess, they were awesome!

We headed back to camp (not the pub, we were too dirty, sweaty and knackered). As we pulled up to our camp our new-found friends came out to greet us, with a beer, dinner and platitudes of “we were just thinking about coming to look for you”, “oh my what happened”, “are you ok, we have made you dinner”, “here have a stiff drink everything will be alright”!!!!!! We had a much-needed hot shower and ate dinner, drank lot’s, laughed about our adventure, (sometimes hysterically!) and slept like little babies.

We really enjoyed our time on Fraser and enjoyed the company of the people we met there, so much so we took my parents the year after (without any mishaps). It really is a beautiful place and one I would encourage everyone to see at least once in their lifetime. We will be going back again sometime soon, hopefully armed with a little bit more experience!

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Fraser Island