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Letter # 12a

For today's joke

to you all

We have had several prospective buyers and one firm offer for "Riverbend" which prompted me to take a trip to see what property we in turn could buy for ourselves in tropical North Queensland.

I left very early on Monday, the 10th of November 2003, to catch the bus from Batemans Bay to Sydney from where I had booked a Virgin Blue flight to Cairns. The bus stopped over at Nowra for a breakfast break and to take on additional passengers, one of whom was a Jimmy Morrison who turned out to be from my old "home" Thursday Island. He had left TI in 1964 and now lived in Cairns which meant we were going on the same plane. He knew Brian Pearson who had skippered the MV TI which supplied all the islands in the Torres Strait when I lived there in 1977. And he had taken the trip back to TI on board the "Trinity Bay" which I plan to do next year.

Not having been near an airport for a few years, I would have got off the bus at the wrong terminal had not Jimmy stopped me at the last moment. And I had never flown with Virgin Blue which only started flying in Australia at about the time ANSETT Airlines had been bankrupted by its new owners AIR NEW ZEALAND. What was that old gag about Virgin's name: "Who wants to fly with an airline that doesn't go all the way?"

I arrived at Cairns airport after a three-hour direct flight, jumped into my hire car, a cute little Hyandai Gertz, and drove the short 25 kilometres into the mountain ranges behind Cairns to Kuranda, the Village in the Rain Forest. Checked into the Kuranda Hotel and enjoyed my first cold beer of the day. Later I went for a stroll up the main street of Kuranda and passed the Faraway Tree Building which I remembered from the real estate website as being the location of the two strata-titled flats for sale in town. As I looked around the building, a voice from above bailed me up. No, it wasn't God but Marshall, one of the tenants, who works at "The Ark" and who wasted no time in familiarising me with all the local gossip and introducing me to the only owner-occupiers in the building, the retired couple Pat & George Mcfarlane.

Next morning I awoke to the sound of rain! Inspected several properties with some of the real estate agents around town none of whom impressed me with their professionalism. They ranged from "hopeless" to "bloody awful" - who was it who said that 99 per cent of real estate agents give the rest a bad name? If a secondhand car salesman wanted to sell me a $4000-car, he'd have to present me with full details of the car's make and model number, the year in which it was manufactured, and the odometer reading - AT THE VERY LEAST! These estate agents are trying to sell a $400,000 house with little more than a casual "Jump in my car and I'll show you the place." Not one could give me all the required details such as the year in which the house was built, the type of construction (if it wasn't obvious from the outside), the floor area (or, better still, a floor plan), the size of the block of land it stood on (or even better, a copy of the survey map), the amount of annual council rates payable, etc. Any other group of professionals approaching their work with such lack of knowledge would be liable to be sued for malpractice!

Visited one of Kuranda's several internet cafés whose owner happend to be an old PNG-expatriate. We talked and talked and I added a great deal of information to my growing fund of local knowledge. Ray Mullins had spent half a lifetime in New Guinea and we shared a common knowledge of many of the other expatriates and local identities. I forgot to ask him whether the famous A.W.O. "Mull" Mullins who in 1927 flew a DH37 biplane in New Guinea was a relative of his.

On Friday morning I went back for a second look at a house in Kuranda and did the same on Saturday morning after which I had the weekend to myself. With nothing else to do and not having made much use of my hire car, I went for another drive inland, this time farther than Mareeba, and I was rewarded with a much greener landscape around Atherton and Yungaburra, and Lake Tinaroo.

Mt Carbine Met Bruce Dowling of Bruce Dowling Real Estate in Atherton who turned out to be distantly related to the late John Dowling of Rabaul (he died on 26 August 1994 at Kenmore in Brisbane) who had been a client of mine when I worked there with a firm of chartered accountants in 1970. He took me for a drive around Atherton and surroundings without ever mentioning the words "real estate". I happened to tell him that I had last been in this area in 1977 when I was invited by Roche Mining at Mt. Carbine to visit their operations with a view to becoming their accountant. I never took the job but Bruce knew all about Mt. Carbine as he had sold off the mining village when the ore had been mined out. It's a small world indeed!

My flight back south was booked for Monday afternoon and I spent Monday morning in Cairns around the Esplanade where the beautiful Cairns Lagoon has been built which is a 4,000 square metre saltwater swimming lagoon overlooking the Barrier Reef and Trinity Inlet just across the road from all the shops and hotels in Cairns City.

Cairns - inexplicably called "Cans" by an increasing number of people even though, despite having its own annual film festival, it is still far from being Cannes - has an international airport which brings in half a million visitors a year, mostly from Japan and Korea. Backpackers and clove cigarettes abound on the esplanade (which is so full of Japanese that it is known in some local circles as The Ginza), but the culinary speciality of the region is Tropical Toast - sirloin steak, grilled banana, bearnaise sauce and toast. The local beer is called Cairns Draught, which adds to the confusion as you can buy it in cans or draught.

Hides Hotel So much has changed in Cairns since I last saw it in 1977 and yet the Hides Hotel is still there and the old "Central Hotel" hasn't changed at all and I could still recognise the "Great Northern" where Cec Burgess interviewed me for my job on Thursday Island over 25 years ago.

It's now Tuesday evening, the 18th of November, and I am back home! It will still be some time before we have sold "Riverbend" and can move up north but this trip has given me a good idea of the area and what real estate is available. There were no 'bargains' to be had: real estate prices are at an all-time high and there is no point in rushing in when all indications are that the overheated market will come down to more sensible levels as soon as the higher interest rates are beginning to bite. In the meantime, we shall keep looking.

Best wishes and from the Riverbend Quartet!
Peter & Padma & Malty & Rover
18 November 2003



My trip to Samoa   An Island to Oneself   Pigeon Island   Your holiday destination in Australia   The Road Not Taken   Bougainville Island   Desiderata   Words

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