Uki And An Inland Road Trip To Gladstone

Our March 2023 Australian adventure is almost documented now, for you and us. It’s rather time-consuming to gather all the information together in a publishable form. With working, grandson time, friends and family time, there’s not a lot left for blogging! Then last Sunday, when I had time, one of our plug-ins had gone awry and it took Barry a few hours to sort.

But here I am again. This time we’re travelling from busy Brizzy southwards on unexpected motorways to the remarkable rainforest, then up again through some smaller and far more pleasant roads, to Gladstone. That’s the raison d’etre for going to Australia in the first place. To stay at my delightful sister-in-law’s home and get to know where she lives.

First, though, we went to stay with two of her dearest friends where we saw some amazing sights, some not so endearing, and got closer up to nature than I’d have liked…

Heading Down To HOTA

I was aghast at the busy roads from Brisbane to the Gold Coast. For some reason, I’d always imagined a similar remoteness to The Red Centre. That just shows how naive I was about Australia. As such, we were unable to see much of the area as we whizzed past it over almost 78 kilometres on the M1. Seriously, that’s what the motorway is called!

Jenny wanted to visit HOTA – Home Of The Arts, situated on the Gold Coast. I’d heard of the area (aka Surfer’s Paradise) as people we know in Gisborne rave about. There was little at all attractive to Barry and me – though the inclement weather won’t have helped that opinion as you’ll see from the photos. There’s a whole host of huge houses and fibre-glass boats surrounding man-made canals, which makes it look like something from America – as did the long stretch of beach and skyscraping buildings alongside.

HOTA had some interesting parts – especially for Jenny who paid to see the Pop Masters: Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. As an amazing artist, it was an opportunity for her to relish. Barry and I meandered around and headed to the café instead. We had to admit the building itself was rather striking.

Inland Towards UKI

Thankfully we crept inland onto Route 40 after HOTA and the surroundings became far more serene and green. We drove through North Tumbulgum, Murwillumbah, and Byangum. I love those place names. Somewhere along the route, we stopped briefly alongside fields of sugar cane, where apparently Cane Toads live. I knew about these interesting creatures from the film ‘Back To The Outback‘, which I watched with our UK grandsons. In the movie, two cane toads were locked up to stop them from procreating – they were set free by the animals that escaped from the zoo and within a short space of time had birthed dozens of small cane toads … The very reason they’re a pest. Oh, and the loud noises they make. 102 were introduced to North Queensland in 1935 to control cane beetles. This was another of those abject failures of introducing a non-native to control another species. Over the next 85-plus years, the population of cane toads increased to over 200 million. They’re poisonous to many native species and have caused havoc …

There are far too many such things in New Zealand too sadly, such as possums (brought in from Australia in 1837 by Europeans to begin a fur trade! They are a protected species in Australia but have devasted wildlife and native flora and fauna in NZ. Ferrets, stoats and weasels were also brought into NZ to control the rabbits that Europeans had introduced! Honestly, it’s unbelievable how stupid human beings can be …

Gorgeous UKI

One of my most memorable experiences of our three weeks in Oz was the two nights and days spent with Jenny’s fabulous friends Kerri and Hugo in Uki (pronounced yook-eye) village amongst the rainforest. Away from the highly populated cities, there are some spectacular places on this vast continent. We saw only a smidgen of it.

Jenny, Ross (Jenny’s husband), Kerri and Hugo met when they were living on boats in Gladstone Harbour over 20 years ago, and have been firm friends since then. Their daughters are similar ages. Hugo is originally from Germany and has a fascinating story of sailing to Australia. He’s actually written a book about it. But only two editions ever published. In German. And sadly his copy was with his neighbours when we visited. It’s apparently also available by e-book.

On his journey, he visited South America, where in Ecuador, he bought a Kinkajou from some kids who’d caught it and were mistreating it. It kept him company as he sailed to Australia, but was of course confiscated when he arrived in Sydney and given to the zoo. He would visit it and knew it was lonely since it was the only kinkajou there, and it also missed him. One night he managed to break in (imagine?!) and took it back – I see strange similarities to the Back To The Outback film! There’s a dreadfully complex and sad story after he broke into the zoo in Sydney and took the kinkajou. He wrote a letter to the zoo saying why he did it, and then he did a runner north. Hugo lived with the kinkajou somewhere in Northern NSW, and all charges against him were dropped for cutting the fence and stealing him. Unfortunately, it strayed into his neighbour’s house one night, being nocturnal, and sadly the man there killed and skinned it. Hugo took the man to court (good on you Hugo!), and was awarded damages, which he then donated to the zoo.

On a far happier note, the photo below is Barry sharing a video he put together of our narrowboating life, along with lots of our vivacious visitors from NZ and the UK – and of course Australia, over the years, to show Hugo and Kerri what narrowboating is like.

We stayed in their cabin a short walk from their amazing house – along with an outside shower and long-drop loo. There was a pineapple happily growing in the backyard, and noises from bird life and frogs were prolific.

A Huntsman Horror

Going to the loo was a little freaky for me in the daylight, never mind at night-time! My overactive mind conjured up scary images of spiders lurking under the rim ready to bite my bum! Or snakes slivering up the floor and wrapping themselves around my warm legs … Luckily none of those scenarios eventuated. However …

Harry the Huntsman was very much alive and living happily between the windows right next to our bed! Oh. My Goodness! I was horrified! Somehow, I managed to feel the fear and sleep there anyway. Barry closed the window so there was only a slight gap – I’m sure he/she could’ve easily crept through it. But I decided he/she wasn’t likely to randomly attack us. We got some amazing photos, attempting to lighten the scare factor – Barry’s are far superior to mine in the slideshow at the end of this post.

The views of Wollumbin/Mount Warning from the deck were mesmerising. Mount Wollumbin is the focus of the Wollumbin- Mount Warning National Park, and rises majestically to a height of 1,157 metres above sea level. It’s actually a remnant central vent of an ancient volcano. Also known as Wullambiny Momoli (Turkey Nest) by the Ngaraakwal Githabu, and is sacred to all indigenous peoples. It was sublime to be able to sit and watch this mountain, surrounded by ‘The Three Sisters’ (the name of my dot painting from Uluru), from our gorgeous cabin in the woods.

Exploring UKI

Uki is just a small village on the banks of the Tweed River. Many of its buildings are heritage listed, and it had a delightfully warm and welcoming feel.

The name Uki is taken from the Aboriginal name for Mt Uki, Yugoi, meaning ‘bandicoot’.​Unlike many other villages Uki, according to a report of the Lands Department, was never officially proclaimed, “It just grew up”. Located 13.8 km from Murwillumbah on the South Arm of the Tweed River  and was a centre for cedar getting in the mid 1850’s. By the early 1900s nearly all vegetation was cleared. This clearing of the Big Scrub became a reserve for traveling stock with dairy farming following.  The Butter Factory and saw mill became the economic hub for settlers in the surrounding valleys.  The last remaining sawmill is located on the Smith’s Creek Road.”

In the 1960s, dairy farming was ‘rationalised’ nationally and most farmers around Uki turned instead to beef farming. The region then attracted people looking for alternative lifestyles, which is wholly apparent from the vibes along the main street. What a delightful place.

We saw a skink and lots of fruit bats in the trees and flying around, sadly no koalas despite many signs advocating for their protection. Kerri told us how she’d sat at a nearby stream for hours and watched platypus play. Very special.

Clarrie Hall Dam

Following our wander around Uki, Jenny drove us to Clarrie Hall Dam on our way to visit Murwillumbah The Dam is surrounded by 900 hectares of Council-owned forested land and Mount Jerusalem National Park.


Next, we visited nearby Murwillumbah, 13.8 km from Uki, where Kerri works in one of their organic food stores. I love that there doesn’t appear to be an ‘English’ name to this town.

Artist Margaret Hannah Olley bequeathed Aus$1 million to The Tweed Regional Gallery, as well as artworks and objects from her home studio. Part of her legacy includes the purpose-built space for an artist-in-residence studio. We’d never heard of her, but again, Jenny was intrigued to wander around the exhibition.

Back On The Road North – Uki To Esk

After our fascinating two days hanging out in the rainforest, we said farewell for now Hugo and Kerri. We enjoyed these two days immensely and wished we could’ve stayed longer.

From Uki to Gladstone, we chose to avoid the busy and viewing restricted motorway and drive inland. We travelled through the Art Deco town of Kyogle , Unumgar, Dairy Flat, the unusually shaped tier of Mt LindesayBoonah (where Barry and I bought shoes – mine were gorgeous ‘shagadelic black’ Dawgs) affectionately known as ‘Switzerland without the snow’ and where The Bumbergville Clock below is, Wivenhoe Dam where we stopped for a rest before finishing at Esk in the evening where we thankfully found a vacancy in a cabin at a cute campground. Sadly we missed the 4 pm daily rainbow lorikeet feeding …

Esk To Gladstone

The following day we continued through Blackbutt (such a great name! Nothing to do with butts, but after ‘eucalyptus pilularis’ trees commonly known as ‘blackbutt’), Goomeri (not far from where my younger daughter lived for a while when she went to Australia in October 2001 to work on a cattle ranch, and infamous for it’s annual pumpkin festival on the last weekend in May) where I was fascinated by their Antique shop that’s sadly closing down,  Gayndah (where we visited a quaint art gallery in an old convent), Three Moon (where some delightful decorated silos are, depicting The Zookeeper and DRAPL’s version of the legend of the Three Moon. Completed in July 2020 they’re the 37th set of silos to join the 61 location Australian Silo Art Trail), Monto, then down through Many Peaks and the Boyne Valley (with lots of gravel roads), Calliope and finally Jenny’s home town Gladstone! Phew!

Jenny was an amazing driver, we loved seeing the small townships along the way and the spectacular countryside. Now it was time to stay in one place for nine days before returning to Gisborne.

Barry’s Slideshow

As usual, click on the first image to open up the slide show and see this part of Australia through Barry’s lens …

4 thoughts on “Uki And An Inland Road Trip To Gladstone

  1. Hi, sorry you never made your way to Warrnambool Vic. Would have been great to catch up. Blessings, Graham K

    • Hi Graham. It’s on my list to get to Ballarat where my great great grandfather Captain Henry Evans Baker emigrated and has his telescope in the Dunolly Museum. Barry’s cousin Craig lives just outside of Melbourne. If we get there we will definitely get in touch. Keep well and happy until then! Sandra (and Barry)

  2. Really enjoyed reading this episode, lovely mixture of beautiful nature, landscape and art. Fantastic how friends of friends give you a roof over your head and new experiences

To ensure everyone can comment without jumping through captcha hoops, we use comment moderation. If you aren’t a Google member, you CAN still comment anonymously. We'd love it if you gave your name, so we can reply to a person personally :-)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.