Where hardship is a pursued luxury
IT NOW represents some of the Sunshine Coast's most expensive real estate.
The roads aren't sealed, there's no sewerage, access is not always certain and luxuries are thin on the ground.
But simple cottages command price tags of $895,000 and vacant land $575,000 on the rare occasions blocks appear on the market.
It's a far cry from the first release of land at Teewah 50 years ago on July 12, 1961, which saw a top bid of just three pounds of annual rent with 12 shillings and sixpence in stamp duty.
Only another 12 of the 24 lots auctioned that day in Gympie attracted bids, all for an annual fee of two pounds.
Teewah had been created to accommodate those whose crude huts had been evicted from the new national park.
In those days, the evolving village was the preserve of keen fisher folk willing to haul timber up the beach in rough and ready two-wheel drive vehicles that frequently bogged.
They built rough cottages on land shared by taipans and other snakes.
But first they had to ford the Noosa River, an exercise that required construction of rudimentary pontoons.
It took the boom real estate market of the past decade and the quest for “lifestyle” to push prices into the stratosphere.
Eryl Vansleve, of Tewantin, and wife May are the last of the first of those early Noosa North Shore settlers still alive. For them what would appear today as hardships were embraced as fun.
After all, when they first shifted from Eumundi to Tewantin after the Second World War they brought their home with them, first dismantling and then reconstructing it “board for board”, as they chorus, in Moorindil Street opposite the Catholic Church.
By that stage Eryl was still only 22. He had worked at the Eumundi Sawmill from when he was 15, earning sixpence an hour. By war's end he was looking for a career change but was rejected from the police force because of his size.
He joined Noosa Shire Council, then based at Pomona, where he worked until 65, ending his career in local government as roads foreman.
But it was fishing and the beach where the Vansleve attention lay.
Theirs was the first cottage built at Teewah.
By 1960, and with two young boys in tow, the couple were regular visitors to the north shore, staying with friends Watty and Bobby Anderson, the North Shore's first settlers, who had their ramshackle huts further up the beach from where Teewah township was eventually established.
Eryl's dad went to Gympie for the first Special Lease auction, securing lots for himself and his son. Eryl retains to this day the repayment receipts for the modest annual rental.
“I bought an old Graham-Paige sedan and stripped it down,” Eryl said this week. “It had a gearbox like a 10-tonne truck.
“I made three 6x2 trailers and would hook them up behind it to haul stuff up the beach.”
The Graham-Paige was for service north of the river and was left on that side without battery when not in use.
Crossing the river was precarious at the best of times.
Herbie Woods, now back living in Tewantin after many years in Mackay, didn't bring the first commercial ferry into operation until 1965.
Until then the Vansleves and their fishing friends relied on their own pontoons. A load of construction material was lost on one crossing, and they recall a tractor taking a bath.
In those days, though, obstacles were there to be surmounted.
There were plenty of them, not the least of which was that there was no road through to the beach from the river as there is today. Vehicles were simply driven through whatever path yielded in front of them.
Opportunity was taken where it was found.
May chuckles when she recalls timber for that first cottage was scrounged from the ruins of Tewantin's Lindsay Cafe, which was destroyed by fire.
In 1962, Jeanne Robinson's dad Sid, who went on to help operate the cross-river ferry for the next 25 years, brought material down from Gympie to build the family's hut at the far northern beachfront end of Teewah.
Only three of the original houses built in 1961-62 stand today, Robinson's hut the only one that still belongs to the family that built it.
Sid utilised the military track through forestry north of Freshwater to reach the beach. It was a route easier to get down from than up to from the beach.
Jeanne said this week that her father would often stay on his own at the hut in the early days.
He cut a line through the trees so he could see the revolving light from Double Island Point to ease his loneliness, something that wouldn't be tolerated in these World Heritage-listed days.
Anecdotes spilled from the Vansleves and Jeanne as they recalled the old days and landmarks long gone.
The Bubbler was a freshwater spring that erupted on the beach, providing a ready source of drinking water before the weight of campers polluted the water table. It's gone now anyway, eroded into the sea.
Swallowtail were once the shunned species, thrown back in favour of tailor, flathead, bream and whiting. Now they and dart are the predominant species caught.
Dingoes and emus were both once prevalent on the beach as were giant nesting turtles.
Commercial wormers came up the beach on motorbikes and only the Massouds, running tourists to the lighthouse, would go all the way to Double Island Point.
Around the time of the early 1970s cyclones that lashed the Coast, so difficult was it to traverse the beach because of rocks protruding from the sand, that a front-end loader would be used to knock the tops of them – another practice that would rightly horrify today's environmentalists.
That was before the sheer weight of numbers began to turn the beach into a highway and the pressure on the environment had reached the point that up to 4000 people a night camp on the beach north of Teewah without toilets.
The old timers say change crept up on them.
There was a time when everyone pitched in to help and conversations started on the beach would continue into the night around shared catch. The easy innocence eroded gradually.
It was first noticed back in the days when beach vehicles were left north of the river before a commercial ferry. Parts were stripped from cars even then.
May knows who's had the best of it.
“In those days we did things ourselves. We didn't ask someone else,'' she said. “The good times vanished as the place built up.
“We had the best time. I don't care what anyone says.”
The Vansleves sold out of Teewah a decade ago and now live quietly in Tewantin, where Eryl has re-established a flourishing garden laden with fruit trees to replace those lost with the sale of their Moorindil Street home to development.
Jeanne may also look to sell. Rates for ocean-front properties now top $3000 and she says age and Teewah don't mix.
Others though are still happy with their oasis surrounded by Great Sandy National Park.
Lindsay Dines, now 43, has been visiting Teewah since he was three years old. His parents Ross and Jenny first rented a place before building their own home in 1976.
Lindsay lives there full-time, earning a living in property maintenance and rental.
There are fewer than 20 permanent residents in Teewah who have happily traded the conveniences of town for their solitude.