Culture and Navigation in Cooloola


Imagine that you are standing in the middle of a theatre, a music hall or indeed the Sydney Opera house. You are really on a long weekend camping holiday stationed at Elanda Point on the shore of Lake Cootharaba and from that point you go to either the Kin Kin pub or the pub in Pomona. These two places are the platform for an enthusiastic outburst of singing, which bounces off the timber and the good quality of the sound itself encourages the participants to belt it out with vigour. They all had a good feed (at Pomona) and drink (at either place)  and the other guests join in, or enquire politely if we are members of a professional group, what is the name of the group and are we available for hire. You can imagine how our chests swell at that. We, the dozen of us, are rather ordinary citizens mostly from the Western Suburbs of Brisbane Town all fond of Arts, but hardly true artists.

We were a pretty mixed lot of ethnic backgrounds, but the singing was mostly in English and it varied, all of us being “Bound for Botany Bay” or serenading the “Ladies of Augathella”, even the Men of Harlech got into the act, as did folk songs, various musicals and even an attempt at some opera. Even Stephen Foster’s songs got into the act. I had a very modest contribution of “Lloyd George knew my Father, Father knew Lloyd George “sung to a never ending tune of a Salvation Army hymn (also an English school boys’ song).

How did my wife and I get involved? We were holidaying in Noosa Heads and took a full day trip to “Harry’s Hut”. To get there you take a boat which travels north on the Noosa river, then crosses three lakes, the last being Lake Cootharaba. There follows a National Parks information centre called Kinaba, The Kin Kin creek joins the Noosa River and through some very beautiful “Narrows” to Harry’s Hut. The tour company put on a very nice lunch but you have to watch for some predators, in the form of goannas (or are they monitors?). The water in the river is affected by tannin from various vegetation and has colours ranging from yellow in the shallow water to red, blue and black. If you focus on the water-level at the riverbank and follow through to the reflected image, you get some striking shapes.

The atmosphere is so incredibly quiet and beautiful that when our friends suggested a camping trip to Elanda Pt. on Lake Cootharaba, we just jumped at it. From nearby Boreen Pt. we could hire a canoe that would take us around the river and lake. My first encounter with a canoe was quite a disaster. I had a young teenager with me who was doing well, but I on the back seat kept shifting my backside so much that I turned the canoe over. Later, at the camp I accused the young boy, jokingly, for the mishap and he did not forgive me to this day. Probably, neither did the canoeing group which my wife and I joined to canoe in the Kin Kin creek, where we had to do a bit of portage (carrying the canoe over obstacles like stones or fallen trees) and when I put the canoe back into some deep water, asked my wife to jump back in whilst I launched the canoe.   I overbalanced, turned the canoe over and caused my wife to fall in.

At the end of the first of these camping holidays we decided to purchase a canoe after a trial in a canal at Bribie Island, where we found out that when we tried to navigate from the canal to Pumistone Passage the moment the canoe stuck its bow into the passage the wind turned us around. Nothing terribly surprising if you read Jack London’s attempted turn in the Magellan Straight, where the winds stopped him from turning into the Pacific for a number of days. I had to learn some special navy words, which I had not encountered before. One of them was passed on to me by a retired P&O shipping company employee – namely POSH. This abbreviation stands for Port Out Starboard Home and the way I understood the relevance it had to left and right was incorrect. In fact port is the left side and starboard is the right side of the boat. Bow (or prow) is the front and stern the back. Ignorant landlubbers can find more naval definitions on the internet.

The owl and the pussycat, went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat

 Truly, that’s what it was – a 16 foot green canoe, but, most importantly, with an outrigger and you can’t overturn a canoe with that contraption. Not even late starters in their mid-fifties braving the treacherous H˛0.