Recap Bubblegum 7 rally in Tumbulgum New South Wales, Australia

After the success of Bubblegum 6 Tony Shirley and the Los Wankas scooter club commenced planning for the seventh annual Bubblegum rally. All the usual activities were planned: music, boozing and great rides out, show and shine etc in over three fun-filled days. Plus some planned additions for this year, which included drone footage of the rides out and a few other surprises!

No increase in price. AU$50 for the weekend, which includes two nights entertainment, camping, showers, entertainment and rally pack with usual goodies. Mystery prizes and more!. The first 50 rally applications included a limited-edition Paddy Smith Patch.

Event sponsors that yet again stepped up to support the rally.
• Sandy at S.S.Sccooter engineering.
• Mark Carter at Carter’s classic Scooters.
• Goetz Neugebauer of GNC
• Stuart Tiainen of Commex Concepts for once again coming up with some great trophies for the show and shine.
• The Tumby Pub
• Mt Warning Cruises

The weather had been kind to the rally for the previous six events. It is traditionally a rally filled with brilliant sunshine, however, the Tumbulgum town hall was booked for the whole weekend so if the weather turned ugly at least there would be somewhere dry to rest weary heads.

While I was away in Griffith for the National Scooter rally, cyclone Debbie was having her way with the Queensland coast, terrorizing the tourists in the Whitsundays and holiday islands before crossing the coast and becoming a tropical low. The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Debbie stayed over land and created a challenge for several rivers that breached their banks as she passed over Queensland and entered New South Wales.

30th Mar 2017
The rain caused by remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Debbie clashing with a cold front resulted in a 1.5m flood level predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology for the Tweed River at Barneys Point at 12.00 midnight. The NSW State Emergency Service directed residents within the South Murwillumbah, Condong Tumbulgum Lismore, Chinderah, Kingscliff, Fingal Head and Bilambil to evacuate immediately where safe transit exists and they are able to do so, by the State Emergency Service as nearby rivers began to break their banks.

Tumbulgum residents were cut-off from the evacuation roads as flood waters continue to rise, as the Tweed River bulged under the weight of driving rains and a fast approaching high tide. No one could leave other than by boat and even that would be dangerous with fast flood waters all around the village. So the residents and business were trapped as they were consumed by the flood waters.

In Tumbulgum, the level and impact of this flood exceeded that of the 1954 and 1974 floods.
Tony’s house, the village businesses including the hotel, town hall, and field that had been planned to be the camping ground were all consumed by the flood, making it look like Bubblegum 7 would be postponed indefinitely while the people of the village recovered and dried out.

The flood waters subsided, but then tragedy struck when a vehicle left the road with a young family inside. Only returning from New Zealand the previous week to bury her father, Stephanie King was driving with her three beautiful and beloved children in their Hyundai people mover when it veered off a mud and debris-strewn Dulguigan Rd in Tumbulgum and flipped into the flood-swollen river, giving them little chance to escape alive. The 43-year-old mum from Bilambil Heights was praised as a hero after she was found clutching one of her two dead children in the front seat of her car when their three bodies were extracted from the Tweed River. Eldest daughter Ella-Jane, 11, and son Jacob, 7, died with their mum. Her youngest daughter Chloe-May Kabealo, 8, managed to escape and swim to shore and raise the alarm at a nearby farm house about 200 meters away, where locals assisted her. An absolute tragedy, Chloe and her father, Matt Kabealo, are still coming to terms the devastating reality of losing most of their family on April 3.

In the middle of this cavalcade of horrifying news came a bright spot. Unexpectedly, Tony sent out the news that the rally would still be held as planned, with fundraising to go to Matt and Chloe Kabealo.

The patches had arrived, and yes, they went through the flood as did the T-Shirts from Sandy Symeonides, but luckily they were all wrapped in plastic so were unharmed.

Tony also told of a possible change of campsite area back to the one used in 2015, though closer to the houses in a residential area. While, good news, it would require rally attendees to be a bit quieter to ensure the rally maintains that option for future events. However like all good plans, this didn’t get a chance to happen – the area also did not dry out enough prior the rally. To remove the risk of it being churned up, a decision was made to change the main camping location to inside the city hall – making like the London Blitz and sleeping in the hall. So scooterists were asked to bring a mattress if they had one and not to worry about packing a tent. It’s was going to be just one big scooter/pyjama party. For those who preferred, they could camp at the far end away from the houses and away from the showers – but no vehicles were allowed on the field at all. If the field got chewed up it would jeopardize future rallies.

My wife and I had booked accommodation at a nearby village Terranora, which thankfully is high enough above the river valley to have not been directly impacted by the flood waters.
Tony had told the locals the rally was still on and that we were still coming and they were chuffed. They look forward to it anyway, so hopefully this year would bring a few extra laughs and a much-needed boost for the village and its businesses. The village bounced back and apart from the piles of mud along the river bank and flood damaged goods outside many of the houses, you wouldn’t know they had just gone through the worst flood in the history of Tumbulgum.

Prior our arrival Tony requested for scooterists to “please try to refrain from using the”F” (Flood –
not that other “F” word – it is a scooter rally after all), let’s use the weekend to bring smiles to faces and not reminders of the last few weeks”.

Tony also suggested getting some cash on the way as many of the businesses (including the pub) lost their credit card facilities and the ATM at the pub went under in the flood.

We took a different route on the way down, following the coastline most of the way down. From Brisbane, there are some coastal towns after the Port of Brisbane, but you need to come back to the highway from them to continue south, so we stayed on the motorway to the Hope Island turn off. Hope island has several high-end canal block developments as well as Sanctuary Cove, Pines Golf course and Hope island golf course and resort. After the island, we rode past Biggera waters and the Harbourtown shopping mall before stopping at Sandbar cafe in Elkhorn Ave. for a coffee break.

The wind was up, but it was not deterring people from venturing out between the flags at the beach. We were soon back onto the Gold Coast highway and on to have a look around Currumbin and Elephant Rock. Elephant Rock hosts the annual beachside Anzac Day dawn service, which has become one of the best attended events in regional Queensland each year.

Currumbin RSL president Ron Workman sums up the sacrifice of Australia’s servicemen and women in seven words. “All gave some. Some gave their all.”

A quick photo opportunity with the Blinky Bill and friends sign outside the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary before the final leg to Terranora to drop off our luggage. There were some photos of the accommodation on the booking site, but they paled when we saw the views from the property, truly 270-degree view over the Tweed river valley.

We had skipped lunch on the way down, so were keen to get down to Tumbulgum to collect our rally packs and find something to eat. The Bird Wing Gallery is close to the hotel and quickly confirmed that their kitchen was still open.

The owner had spent a good portion of her day haggling with Telstra, the main telephony provider in Australia, trying to get her phone and internet services re-established after the floods. They kept advising her there were no line errors on their system, but she still had no service. A familiar and repeated scenario regardless of whether you have been in a flood event or not. On the building steps, there was a line noting the flood height of the 1954 flood, the 2017 flood line was further up on the door. The Bird Wing Gallery is in one of the higher set buildings in town, so it was a surprise to see the level of the recent flood where it was.

The wraps she made were great taste and value, but the day was getting long and closing time was drawing near. We finished up and headed back to the Tumbulgum hotel to confirm the start time of the Fairly Average DJs set later in the night.

Rally packs contained the ride out info, audio CD, sticker, raffle tickets, and if you were one of the first fifty, a Paddy Smith patch and beer voucher from the Tumbulgum Hotel.

There was no ride planned for Friday so we decided to go back to our accommodation for awhile and return for the evening entertainment in the back room of the pub.

The Saturday ride out was scheduled for 10:30 am meet up with an 11:00 am departure. We were woken by the sounds of the local wildlife outside the windows, so had time to ride to Tweed heads and Cafe D-bar which had been recommended to us.

This is at the mouth of the Tweed river and is the most Easterly point of Queensland. There was a few surfers trying to surf some wash near the river mouth and a large monument on the QLD/NSW border opposite the cafe.

(Editor: Tumbulgum Tavern looking much better than it does in the flood pics at the top)

The original route for the ride was changed as there was still some subsiding under the road and some landslips with traffic control lights, so a similar path as last year’s ride out was taken to the Moo Moo Cafe in Mooball. This took us along the Tweed river and onto the Tweed highway to Murwillumbah which was also badly impacted by the floods at the end of March.

Being a fan of big things, the first thing to catch my eye was the big motorcycle parked on the opposite side of the road to the cafe.

I had a look inside it and was surprised to find it is more than a promotional object, that it is self-propelled and that there is an engine inside that drives the back wheel. The cafe has a range of curios hanging from the ceiling of what was once a workshop, as well as some motorcycles and a nice looking Honda Cub in front of the espresso machine.

From here we crossed the railway line onto Pottsville road to go to Hastings Point lookout for a photo of the scooters near the beach.

From here we took a back road that weaved around till we returned to the Tweed Valley highway and Tumbulgum tavern for the Show and Shine. As with previous years, all attendees were handed a voting card with the categories clearly spelled out.

On completion of judging, there was a short wait before an unexpected treat, a river cruise donated by Mount Warning cruises. We boarded the tour boat and took a picture of the rally banner before heading off to explore the rivers. In case you don’t know, Tumbulgum is a meeting point of the Rous and Tweed Rivers.

We initially traveled along the Rous river which has a significant amount of birdlife along it. I think I heard the captain say on some trips they spot above 40 different species of birds. The other thing we noted was the height of the flood waters in the trees and shrubs along the river and that there is still a significant amount of tree and other floating debris in the water that is a hazard to boating. Following this, we headed down the Tweed river crossing under the bridge and passed Stott island toward the Tweed Broadwater.

Along the way, there is a house perched on top of a hill which looks spectacular. The story behind is a little sad, as the designer never got to live in it having to sell in a market downturn. He has been back to the area and if going on a cruise confirms it will not pass the house as he still cannot see it without feeling a loss.

On the return trip, Tony presented most of the awards from the show and shine.
Best Vespa – Alan Cox
Best Lambretta – John Law
Best Custom – Paul Cain
Best Other – Honda PCX and Vlad Tom and Lee Skelhorn’s Mini (which was also the tail vehicle end for the ride out, thankfully there was also Ian Brill’s ute to take any breakdowns back to the pub)
Farthest Ridden – Stuart Tiainen

We went to the Bearded Baker for a late lunch and coffee, but even after this there was a fair wait till the Fairly Average DJs returned to the back room of the hotel, so we went back to our accommodation, but were feeling a bit worn out and did not return for the DJ set and the balance of prizes.

On Sunday morning, it was time to pack up and return home. After a bit of a sleep in we returned to Tumbulgum for Breakfast at the Bearded Baker.

A few other scooterists were there doing likewise before their return trip. It was the normal post-rally scene, a happy bunch gathered around huge plates of delicious food with a little local news in the background. A lady was handing out flyers for the NSW Governors’ visit on Wednesday 26th April.

After the rally, Tony sent the following message “I just wanted to say massive thanks to everybody that came down to Tumbulgum this weekend. Your laughter and banter have been a breath of fresh air to the village. Everyone has had a brilliant weekend.{i hope}? It was a bit more than your usual rally and some things were a little confronting at times possibly. But as I sit here at 3.13 am, waiting for my eyes to snap shut at any moment I can’t go to bed without thanking you all for your efforts and generosity over the last 3 days. I am proud to consider you my friends.”

In total, the rally raised over $2500 for flood relief and recovery in Tumbulgum this weekend and was donated to Matt and Chloe Kabealo to assist rebuild their lives and help toward Chloe’s education.

A brilliant time in trying times for the village, I would like to thank all involved and the event sponsors for making the event the success it was.

Everybody will be made welcome at the Rivers Deep Mountain High rally number two to be held on the weekend 11th, 12th, and 13th August, Urunga, Mid North Coast, NSW. See you there?

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