The Trail to Tweed Valley-Part 1

Hi everyone,

At the end of last week’s post, I was at the Sydney airport preparing to fly 1.5 hours to Gold Coast, a small city on the border of New South Wales and Queensland. Gold Coast is situated about 60 miles south of Brisbane. The runway is right on the border and the terminal is in Queensland. You might be asking yourself, why would I point this out and why would anyone care? Here’s the answer: there is a one hour difference in time between the two states with Queensland being one hour slower because they don’t recognize daylight savings time! I grew up within a few miles of the border between two time zones, one had to be clear when events start and end. Let’s just say it can be complicated! The same proved to be necessary during our stay in the Tweed Valley.IMG_6749

Our hosts for this part of the journey was the Friendship Force Club of Tweed Valley. A couple of their members met us and directed us to meet our hosts outside the terminal. IMG_6753

Meet my host for the week, Fay Rigby. Fay lives in a community of single story town homes about 10 minutes from the Gold Coast airport. To be clear, she’s on the New South Wales side of the border in the town of South Tweed Heads. Tweed Heads is named as such because it’s at the “head’ of the entrance to the Tweed River. More about Fay; she moved to Tweed Heads to be near family after living in Sydney for a number of years. She’s retired from being a children’s librarian, a job she really enjoyed. She also memorizes poetry and on more than one occasion she recited a poem for us. She was a great host, taking us to all the event and activities in her little blue car. By us, I mean Fay hosted two of us, very kind of her to take us Americans into her home for the week.Tweed Valley-6989Tweed Valley-6996

After a nice dinner prepared by Fay, she took us to the nearby by Fingal Head Lighthouse. We took the track to the lookout where we could see the beach, the rocks, and the ocean. It was late in the day so the scene was in beautiful light, I can see why it’s a popular place for retirees. In the fourth photo, note the beach front hotels in the distance.IMG_6754IMG_6760IMG_6762Tweed Valley-6475

Just offshore from the lookout is the small Cook Island. Captain James Cook sighted this island at 5 PM on May 16, 1770 as noted in his log book. The lookout was windy and noisy but oh so beautiful.IMG_6763Tweed Valley-6469IMG_6759IMG_6757

As we were walking around the lookout, I spotted this bouquet of flowers laying on the rocks. I wondered if they were a memorial to someone lost at sea or just some flowers left behind by some young lovers.Tweed Valley-6480

The Lighthouse is still in operation with the light powered by electricity rather than kerosene. Built in 1878, it stands about 80 feet above sea level.IMG_6767Tweed Valley-6488IMG_6756

After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast, we headed off to Murwillumbah (pronounced: mer wil em bah) to meet the Mayor of the Tweed Shire Council, the governing body for this area. Meet Mayor Katie Milne. She is one of seven councilors elected by the people for a four year term. Those elected to the council then select one member to be Mayor. She’s held this office since 2015. After a welcome and short talk about the duties of the Council, we presented her with a proclamation from the Mayor of Madison. We then were treated to morning tea (and really delicious scones) as we talked informally with the Mayor and looked around the reception area including a display case with Friendship Force memorabilia.Tweed Valley-6503IMG_6778IMG_6781Tweed Valley-6505

A short distance from the government administration building along the Tweed River is a series of murals painted on the sea wall that helps to keep back the Tweed River during floods. It was a pleasant walk on a pleasant day.IMG_6790IMG_6792IMG_6795Tweed Valley-6519Tweed Valley-6518Tweed Valley-6512

I liked this mural, The Eldest had the nickname Punky when she was a small child.IMG_6793

The flowering trees were in full bloom, remember it was spring in the Down Under! Here’s a few examples.Tweed Valley-6514Tweed Valley-6508

We had a few minutes to look around downtown Murwillumbah before going to lunch. Below are photos of a couple of veteran’s memorials that I saw during my walk.Tweed Valley-6544IMG_6769IMG_6796

The downtown shops and cafes were really busy. In the photo below there are four small cafes in this short block. Across the street was the Gallery Downtown showing off local art including photography. It looks like they have a very lively art scene in the area.IMG_6801

We stopped by this little quilt and knitting store across from the Murwillumbah post office. The store kind of made me home sick, it was messy just like my traveling partner’s sewing room back home! I asked Sue if I could take her photo and she reluctantly agreed after patting down her hair and picking the threads off her shirt.IMG_6805IMG_6806

We had lunch on the outskirts of Murwillumbah at the home of one of the Tweed Valley member, Chas. The top photo shows our view of the Tweed River from her backyard. We enjoyed relaxing and visiting under the shade of the trees lining the river bank.Tweed Valley-6524IMG_6815

From Chas’s backyard, we could see our next stop, the Condong Sugar Mill, a farmer owned cooperative. The Tweed Valley is home to one of the main sugar cane production areas in Australia. IMG_6819

Our tour began at the Condong Store and post office just across the street from the mill. There we were divided into two groups since 10 is the max that could be on the tour at one time. We were provided a safety orientation, signed a liability waiver, and watched a film on sugar cane production. If you are interested, click here to watch the same 10 minute video.Tweed Valley-6543IMG_6821IMG_6822IMG_6823

While waiting for the second tour, I had a cold drink as it was hot outside and even hotter in the mill. I chatted with Ludmilla, one of the members of the Tweed Valley Club. She amazed me with all the places she’s traveled to in the world including many times to the US.IMG_7087

Meet Tom our tour guide. After reinforcing the safety regulations and making sure we all had ear plugs installed, we set off into the plant. IMG_6834Tweed Valley-6526

Here a truck is dumping harvest cane into the pit that will take to the processing line through the shredding and squeezing to the drying and final product. I should mention here that the raw sugar is refined at another plant. Tweed Valley-6529IMG_6835IMG_6838IMG_6840IMG_6846IMG_6852IMG_6853IMG_6850

We were told that something happened in the process and some hot sugar was leaking from somewhere. This worker was hosing it down so it could flow into a drain.IMG_6856Tweed Valley-6535


At the end of our tour, we had the obligatory photo taken by Tom. IMG_6866

Before leaving the store after our tour was complete, I stopped to use the restroom and saw this cute sign. Hope you enjoy it too!IMG_6820

After leaving the sugar mill, we stopped along the road to view the valley below. Note there is some smoke and haze in the air, some due from burning off the sugar cane fields prior to harvest and some is due to bush fires. IMG_6867

Before ending our day, we stopped at the beach near Kingscliff. As we were walking along we saw three wooden statutes standing guard over the surf. At first we thought they were nudes but on closer inspection they had swim gear! These statutes were installed by the Cudgen Headland Surf Life Saving Club to memorialize those club members who spent so much time providing lifesaving duties on the beach. Then we had our photos taken next to the statutes.Tweed Valley-6550

That’s enough for this week. Join me next week for more adventures in the Tweed Valley.

Until then, happy travels.