Bundaberg was the first port of call into Australia for a lot of the Down Under Rally participants and for many it's their favourite place to be.
On Wednesday evening about 80 international yachting enthusiasts celebrated their arrival with a cocktail evening at Baltimore’s Port Marina Cafe while watching the sun set over the Burnett River.
The Down Under Rally participants ventured from 15 different countries and all were eager to see what the Bundaberg Region had to offer.
John, 65, and Stella, 64, Dyer arrived on Exocet Strike two weeks ago and it was their second time to Bundaberg after their first trip during May 2016.
“It was May 2016 when we came here on our own from New Zealand and we love Bundaberg and so much that we decided when we would come back to Australia, we would come in to Bundaberg again,” Stella said.
“We are about half-way around our second circumnavigation,” John said.
“It’s very easy to get into the river here, there’s no bar or anything like that, which is another reason why we thought we would come back.
“We heard John, the Down Under Rally organiser, was planning to go to Australia and when we heard he was planning to arrive in Bundaberg we thought we had to join in.”
The couple, from England, said in the past 14 days they had spent most of their time enjoying the coastal areas of Bundaberg from Bargara to Elliott Heads.
“We love that all the way along the coast there are barbecue stations available for everyone to use; facilities are fantastic also,” she said.
“It’s not a common thing to have barbecue stations at all in the UK – they would get trashed or stolen, they wouldn’t last the night!”
John agreed, saying in the UK using public amenities cost money and “they were doing away with them”.
“Here you seem to realise we all have needs and you provide them!” he said.
Lots to see during Down Under Rally Bundaberg visit
Stella said they loved the local museums and exploring the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens had kept them busy.
“We had the combined ticket to see Fairymead House and the Hinkler Hall of Aviation and we found them brilliant,” she said.
“In fact, we spent so long in Fairymead House that we were down sugar mill museum on the lower floor and we didn’t realise it closed at 12pm, when a lady came down at 12.30pm and didn’t realise we were still there – we spent a good two hours just there.”
John said the Hinkler Hall of Aviation was amazing and he didn’t realise, even though they had been there three years ago, how important Bert Hinkler was to the world of aviation.
“He was very important, and I had never heard of him when we lived in the UK, it was nice to see the English connection, and we have sailed in the area where his house was a fair bit and I worked not far away from that area too,” he said.
“The whole area is very interesting from the history of the sugar and how the settlers were, we even went to Bauer’s Butchers and he is sixth generation, there is so much rich history here in Bundaberg.”
The couple have visited between 20 and 30 countries since leaving their home in September 2014 and are planning to head south after they leave Bundaberg.
“We love the climate here,” John said.
“But we don’t know where we will be in a year’s time yet. What they say is cruisers write their forward plans at low water in the sand and of course it gets washed off and keeps changing!”
Unique nature an eye opener but friendliness was best
Jan and Richard McCarthy, also from the UK, said they had been sailing for seven years and it was the first year they had taken part on the Down Under Rally and it was also there first time in Australia.
“This is our first stop and we have been here a week now,” Jan said.
“We have been around Burnett Heads and seen some kangaroos; they had joeys and everything!
“We also saw some sea eagles and met some of your pelicans and they have a different colour we don’t have the black and white ones.”
Jan said as well as looking out for animals, the pair had spent a lot of time people watching and they were pleasantly surprised by how friendly and welcoming everyone was in the Bundaberg Region.
“In Burnett Heads we were just walking passed the bakers and decided to pop our head in and say hello and as she was locking up, she gave us cakes and breads for free to take away – that would never happen at home!” she said.
Richard said as they lived on the outskirts of London home was very different to Bundaberg.
“We don’t get this much greenery around us by any means,” he said.
“It’s nice and rural and we like it.
“The town has a nice feel about it, its nice and open and everything is at a reasonable price too.”
Jan said now they are in Australia with the Down Under Rally they hoped to make the most of it and if the first week here in Bundaberg was anything to go by, they agreed they’d be in for a great adventure.
“It’s quiet here and it’s clean,” Jan said.
“If I had to tell friends and family about Bundaberg it would be about the people. People here are so friendly and helpful.
“You know we walk along the road and say hello to people and they actually say hello back; that would never happen back home in London, they would look at you a bit weird.”
All the way from the USA
Jeff Anderson and Katie Lauritsen left their home in Milwaukee, USA, seven years ago and said it was also the first time they had been to Australia.
Katie said meeting the locals in Bundaberg had been a highlight of the Down Under Rally so far, and they had also taken part in a few of the local attractions including the Bundaberg Rum tour and thoroughly enjoyed Alexandra Park Zoo.
“We have walked around a bit and we also went to the Botanic Gardens and I went for a little walk again today and people are super friendly and nice,” she said.
“We walked into a place today and asked if they sold shrimp and he replied, ‘no we use them for bait, we sell prawns!’ and then he brought out smoked fish and we plan to go back tomorrow.
“We were anchored in the river and we went to Riverfeast and they had a young kid playing music and then a couple; it’s all very entertaining.”
She said they didn’t have a set day they planned to depart the Bundaberg Region, and would often play it by ear.
“If we like the place we tend to stay longer and so we could easily be here for another week,” she said.
The 42 yachts participating in 2019 Down Under Rally, Go West, trip are expected to inject almost $90,000 into the local economy over 10 days.