Moore Park, Miara and Norval Park. All places we had not visited before. Miara and Norval Park had a dubious reputation but some locals said the Council had dealt with the feral element.
We settled on Miara and decided to take the back roads and bypass Bundaberg. So had everyone else. We made our way north through intensively cropped land that is the Bundaberg Region. By Yandaran the traffic had slowed to occasional. The landscape was sugar cane or wallum. Peculiar bedfellows separated by a mere tarmac road. The traffic was one cane harvest truck we did not meet and greet on one of the many blind 90 degree bends. No houses. No more traffic. Just cane fields. Another 90 degree bend. A dirt road straight ahead to a boat ramp or, turn left to the caravan park.
So we turned left, crossed a causeway and found ourselves parked less than 50m from the bank of the Kolan River. I don’t know what I was expecting, whatever it was, it certainly was not this. The grounds were tidy. The amenities block immaculate. An outdoor pavilion with roll down PVC blinds sheltered a gas BBQ with spotlessly clean plates. A well stocked kiosk was complemented by a friendly relaxed welcome from the managers, a young Danish couple. This was one seriously good find. Even better, there was hardly anyone here.
Opposite the tent/camper trailer places were permanent onsite vans with a difference. These were probably the more celubrious survivors of the fishing huts that people remember about Miara. There was a degree of uniformity with size and shape but that was about it. Hidden under these iron clad boxes was a caravan which had not moved for a very long time.
We selected our beachfront site and pitched tent in the late afternoon. Two rooms, an annexe, you could even stand up in it. Such luxury. Gee we even had a camp cupboard for clothes and a camp kitchen. We also had our kayak tent in the car as the forecast was for storms, the first of which was already building and looking somewhat intense. Fifty tent pegs later, including a full suite of sand pegs and we were battened down.
Mark had arranged to meet up with Steve from Fraser Coast Sea Kayakers the following morning. With our local guide we headed north out the mouth of the Kolan River to check out Norval Park. The receding King Tide quickly spat us out into a 10-15Kn NE. The coast has a very uniform appearance and it was great to have someone with us who knew where we needed to be, although in the end a post and a bright blue 4WD popping out onto the beach gave Norval Park away. A small surf landing. Gentleman first followed by some ruffled (but dry) chicken feathers.
Norval Park was a pretty place. Restricting it to tents only was a smart move as tents are an endangered species. We pitched the only tent at Miara the entire time we were there. There was only one tent here too. The NE was not going away. We came back ashore to see the place Steve planned to camp the next weekend – a grove of casurinas with a Robinson Crusoe like shelter out front. After sailing back the southern mouth of the Kolan River looked like a sea of white. As white as my feathers. We settled on the northern mouth and went in with the wind against tide. Steve, a K1 paddler who grew up paddling danced his way in. My feathers started to do more than ruffle but remained dry.
The seagulls knew trouble brewing and took up their posts early. That afternoon and evening it poured, the only thing we were spared was hail. Lashings of water shaped rivulets of acacia needles over the sandy ground. Stockpiles of needles washed up against the side of the tent. It blew. It blew like mad, the tent jumped around like a frog in a sock. The light show was tremendous. Watching the BOM site we were grateful we had chosen Miara over Moore Park, as each night they copped centre of the big black dot. We just got the angry red fringe.
We took advantage of the huge tides to explore the Kolan River and its network of creeks near the mouth. The small swell was just short of topping the shallow dune and spilling into the Creekside lagoons. We were paddling amongst the lower canopy of the mangroves. yet a plastic chair had been left high and dry above us – likely flotsam from the 2013 flood during which the sheer volume of water eroded a direct line leaving a new and second mouth. This isolated Camp Spit which became Camp Island. The western camping area used to be very popular with 4WD coming up from Moore Park. Locals said that a large area of the western foreshore was stripped away. The flood left the area isolated from 4WD . It has become derelict and overrun with weeds.
The water remained turbid with an appearance of fine suspended silt. Hardly surprising given the amount of erosion further up the Kolan River and the sheer volume of water that was moving. Tidal races stood up mid-tide and boiled when the wind was against tide. The topographic map proved to be very accurate with respect to even the smallest of creeks. These wend a long way before petering out so we were mindful about not getting stranded in some muddy backwater. This area is a fisherman’s paradise – even we couldn’t get away from the tinnies. Sitting up on the bank in the shade having morning tea at the very perimeter of the conservation area, a tinnie came roaring around the corner – not sure who was more surprised at the sight of the other. The bird life was plentiful with little curlews, rainbow bee eaters, white belly sea eagles, brahminy kites, channel bill cuckoos often seen or heard.
After a fluffy pink sunset the perigee moon remained hidden behind the cloudband. When it finally appeared it transformed the river into a silvery expanse. At sunrise it was a golden shimmer. Breakfast was enjoyed with the lorikeets who were only too happy to squabble over some muesli bar. An impossibly small red backed fairy wren scolded us from the fence post while his tiny mate flitted around the grasses at the base of the paperbark which peered into its destiny with the river The honey eater had spent the night in her mistletoe in the cassurina and was busy chasing off the mistletoe bird. In the meantime a greenie had landed on the corner of the annexe. Mark scratched the underside of the annexe and much to our amusement the greenie peered over and looked at him as if to say ‘you called’. Then there was a dog fight between a sea eagle and a brahminy. The size difference neutralised by agility. Blue faced honeyeaters went around in gangs, as did the noisy miners. The brush turkeys were busy chasing each other and getting into anything remotely edible. On the first evening two dolphins slipped by and out of sight.
On our way back to Woodgate we took a look at the weir that had survived the phenomenal flood associated with the depression that was ex-tropical cyclone Oswald. At Jo’s Roadhouse (a mere 10Km from Miara) trees were down and foliage scattered across the road – they had copped the brunt of one of those storms. Looking at the damage here, it could have opened up the tent like a zipper, if not which hail, then some flying object. We went and viewed the fresh section of the Kolan from where a bridge had been swept away in the same flood. On the northern side of the river there is a park and a place to put in should you want to do a freshwater paddle.
Miara was a delightful find. It is a bird lovers paradise, of fisherman’s tales and a quiet place for kayakers to explore.