By now you could well be used to the pathetic attempts at humour in many of our blog posts. It may therefore, come as a bit of a surprise that this one has a slightly more reflective tone. We learnt so much during our visit to Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta and it really opened our mind to the history and beliefs of indigenous Australians.
After our trip to Cape York*, we’d booked five nights relaxation at Palm Cove, about 25 km north of Cairns. Unlike most visitors, we approached from the north having departed our tagalong group at the Daintree River Ferry. In G’Day Bruce we identified the fact that the major highway in Queensland isn’t a picturesque coastal road. The Captain Cook Highway heading towards Cairns from the north really makes up for it. If you want to drive along the ocean in Queensland, this is where we’d recommend you go – some stunning views which certainly rival The Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
*You can read about our Cape York Adventure in three of our posts; ‘Duct Tape, Zip Ties and WD40‘, ‘The Quest for Pajinka‘, and ‘Ants’ Bums, A Sexchange Hotel and The Sisters of Mercy‘
We’ve had some fairly random blog post titles in the past but this one probably takes the prize. As ever, all will become clear, but equally true to form, feel free to entertain yourself with one of The Sisters of Mercy most popular hits, This Corrosion, instead. They really don’t make videos like that anymore.
After our time at the tip and the Torres Strait we prepared to hit the corrugated roads again and travelled back over the Jardine river ferry. With brief stops at Fruit Bat Falls and Captain Billy’s lookout on the east coast we drove towards our camp at Moreton Telegraph Station. Along the way John had a couple of special experiences in store. One was to see a huge termite mound which he assured us was bigger than the one recorded by the Guinness Book of Records. Apparently, it had been even taller but about a metre had been lost in a lightning strike. The other experience was not for the fainthearted and that was to lick a green ants bum.
It was told in the Targ-alung runes that the twice nine would conquer the Pajinka and so it came to be. At their head strove, Johndalf the Khaki. Most knew him only as a trickster who could conjure fire, but his wisdom spanned aeons and he knew the differential magic from before the syncromesh.
We met our fellow adventurers and guide, John, in a Cairns car park at 8 am on a Sunday morning. We’d decided some time before, that an Australian road trip wouldn’t be complete without reaching the top of Cape York, the most northern point of the Australian mainland. However, we were also aware that to make the most of it, some fairly challenging four-wheel driving had to be undertaken. Given that our 4WD experience wasn’t that extensive we booked a tagalong trip with Tagalong Tours of Australia. We’d be driving in a convoy of vehicles with a tour leader and we figured we’d learn a fair bit for the rest of our trip.
We set off at a pretty cracking pace over The Great Dividing Range to Mareeba and on to Dimbulah for morning tea. After our break we had our first dirt road experience on the way to Chillagoe. We also had our first casualty as the corrugations on the road shook our UHF radio aerial off.
The Bruce Highway is the main road route spanning the length of Queensland, named after Harry Bruce, Minister of Works in the 1930s. It starts in Brisbane and finishes in Cairns, a total of approximately 1,670 km. Bundaberg is about 50 km east of the Bruce but we had to join it to travel to Brisbane so knew that southern 350 km section well. Andy’s work took him to Rockhampton often, so that section was also well travelled. However, we’d never driven further north on the Bruce until this trip when we will be following the road to its northern conclusion.
It seems that visitors to Queensland have a bit of a romantic preconception of driving from Brisbane to Cairns and imagine that the road trip might be similar to the Great Ocean Road. Unfortunately, and with the greatest respect, we don’t think that the Bruce lives up to that. If you imagine you’re going to be driving along the ocean, you’ll be disappointed as the majority of the road is a fair way inland from the coast. There are places where you travel through some spectacular scenery but on the whole, it’s a fairly monotonous drive. Also, dual carriageway only extends to Gympie, about 200 km north of Brisbane, so you can end up stuck behind a lot of slow moving traffic. Having said all of that, The Bruce did provide our means of reaching the first destinations on our road trip, Tannum Sands, Gladstone and Mackay.
Before we leave Bargara to begin our travels, we thought we should give you a little bit more information about the Bundaberg region. It is a fantastic part of Australia, often overlooked by visitors who flock instead to well known Queensland destinations such as Brisbane, Cairns, and The Gold Coast. Many aspects of the area are quintessentially representative of regional Australia, hence the title of the post which we’ll explain further later on.
In Australia, its often suggested that Melbourne is the centre of all that is hipster. We now know this to be false and the movement was in fact launched in the New England area across the towns of Glenn Innes and Armidale way back in the mid 19th Century. How do we know this you may ask? Well, two of the original settlers in the area who assisted other squatters to lay title to land were John Duval and William Chandler. They weren’t referred to by their true names. No, because of the impressiveness of their beards they were simply referred to as The Beardies. This name lives on in the main drag of Armidale and the History Museum in Glen Innes dedicated to The Land of the beardies. Apparently, after founding Armidale, the first thing they did was to open a Barista coffee shop, another Australian first. (I may have made that last bit up but the rest is all true).
For those of you looking for something a little bit racy, you’re going to have to read to the end of the post. Anticipation is half the fun after all.
Following an impressive breakfast on the veranda outside our room at Vacy Hall, our second day in Toowoomba was spent mostly nosing around other people’s back yards, as you do. Fortunately, it was entirely above board, and part of the Carnival of Flowers. A number of private gardens are opened as exhibition gardens during the length of the festival and you can pay a nominal fee to have a look round. There’s a number of ways to do this including a hop on hop off bus but we chose to drive around ourselves. The gardens were beautiful but did make us feel a bit inferior given the current state of our lawn. Nonetheless it was really interesting to see how amateur gardeners planned their spaces and put a lot of love and effort into creating a beautiful display for them to enjoy all year round and for visitors to enjoy during the Festival.