Airlie Beach/Rockhampton – Monday 24th November. It was a bit noisy during the night; the schoolies deciding that chatting in the early hours was preferable to sleep. Fortunately the wax earplugs I’d bought did the trick and was soon back to sleep. I woke early and wrote up some diary before getting up and preparing to pack up ready for our next move on. When we arrived at the hotel we hadn’t bothered unpacking as we were only there for two nights and this would be the pattern for the remainder of the holiday, living out of suitcases.
After loading the car, I settled the hotel bill and we then departed South, back on the A1 Bruce Highway again. The weather was warm but overcast and so driving was quite pleasant at that time. We intended to stop in Prosperpine to fuel up, but when we got there it was a tiny town so ploughed on southwards towards Mackay. Here we filled up and grabbed coffees before driving a further ten minutes and stopped somewhere suitable to drink them.
The landscape from Airlie Beach was similar all the way down, either fields of cane plants or wooded areas. Tina and I agreed that we would do a ‘let’s see how many creatures we could spot’ game but we didn’t manage many other than horses, cows and a few different species of birds. Of course we did see lots of dead animals in the road, but they didn’t count.
We drove onwards, still seeing lots of cane fields; we didn’t realise this part of Australia was sugar country. We even spotted a couple of museums dedicated to the stuff, but passed them by, far too sweet for us 🙂
Occasionally we spotted the refineries, with the chimneys smoking away, I assumed boiling up the sugar cane and drying it out ready for refining. We also saw lots of wagons loaded with the canes, ready to be transported, it really was the main industry of the area.
We continued on until we came to a small section of the A1 that ran parallel to the coast so stopped for a break. The sea was an incredible blue/green colour and so I took a few photos as the views were so picturesque. I also spotted an ants nest next to the spot I’d parked the car which looked like coral but was in fact made from a wax like material. Beautiful.
By 3pm we were getting into cattle country, so stopped at a small township called Marlborough, which had a post office, hotel, bar and supermarket. The bar had stopped serving food at 2pm so the barman steered us towards the supermarket. The lady serving made Tina a cheese sandwich but couldn’t offer me a gf option so a bag of crisps sufficed. We ate in the car, used the public toilets and then set off again. The car temperature gauge read 37 degrees. Still, we only had around 100km to go, about an hours drive, so onward we progressed. As we drove on we observed warning signs of wild koala’s; now they would be a good spot in the trees but alas it wasn’t to be. We did see large ants or termites nests build half way up trees though. Amazing.
Eventually we arrived in Rockhampton and soon found the hotel, our home for the next two nights. Our room was on the 6th floor but unfortunately not on the riverside but still afforded great views of the city. We rested and showered before venturing out early to explore and find a restaurant.
Directly across the road was the Fitzroy River, really wide, at least as wide as the Thames is in London but the waterline was down, apparently as it is tidal. We walked south adjacent the river until we came upon a steakhouse and ordered our food. We both agreed that we should both have steak, in what is the main beef producing part of Australia. We then strolled along the riverbank walk until we got back to the hotel, where we had a drink. Whilst looking out of the hotel window, we finally confirmed something I’d been meaning to check since we arrived down under and that was the direction the moon moves across the sky when in the southern hemisphere. I had heard it goes the opposite way to the northern hemisphere, but due to the many cloudy nights we’d not actually been able to check. Finally we saw the new moon and watched it’s progress in the sky… going right to left. I was right it did go backwards. Content with observing this I went to bed.
Rockhampton – Tuesday 25th November. Reasonably good nights sleep, except from the telephone call from a nurse from the UK wanting to discuss my dad. Fortunately nothing important that couldn’t wait until our return. After getting up we walked a few blocks to a shopping centre and grabbed breakfast in a café; scrambled egg on toast (gluten free for me) before returning to the hotel room to grab some things for the day ahead. We decided to go exploring the surrounding area of Rockhampton, including visiting the Capricorn Caves just north of the city.
There was lots of references to Capricorn which we discovered was due to the fact that Rockhampton sits on the Tropic of Capricorn. Apparently there is a spot in the city where you can stand in both the Equator side and Tropic of Capricorn side, but we didn’t bother finding it. Anyhow, the caves were a nice break from the heat of the morning and the tour guide gave us some interesting facts on how they were discovered and about the bats that frequent them during the summer months (they were just starting to arrive in an adjacent cave when we were there). After the tour and a coffee we then headed for the Coast and arrived an hour later at a beautiful beach at Yeppoon, a town on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. The views of the coral sea were stunning and very photogenic. We bought a packet of chips and ate them looking out to sea, all very British and then went paddling in the warm waters and beach combed for shells before getting ice creams and chilling out in the shade.
We then drove onwards, following the scenic coast drive back towards Rockhampton, stopping off at Emu Park and Keppel Sands on the way. The beaches were empty; apparently the region was out of season for tourists. We assumed the winter months were when they came as the temperatures were cooler and the seas free from jellyfish. Anyhow, it was nice to be able to wander around easily, free from hundreds of families.
Back at the hotel we freshened up before going out for some dinner, finding an Outback Jack restaurant and I had the best steak I’d eaten for a long time, whilst Tina had beef bangers and mash. We both waddled back to the hotel full to the brim, vowing to diet when we got back to the UK.
Rockhampton/Hervey Bay – Wednesday 26th November. Time to move on South again, the drive not so far as earlier in the week but still we were to be travelling for most of the day. We got up early and were checked out of the hotel by 8.30am, when we drove to the nearby shopping centre we’d used the previous day. Both still full from the large meals on the night before, we both just had light breakfasts, bought a couple of bits we liked from a gift shop in the centre then drove onwards, not before filling the car with petrol again. We were heading towards Hervey Bay, following the A1 Bruce Highway, our now familiar road and soon were speeding southwards through beef and cane country.
At lunchtime, we stopped at a roadside cafe and had a sandwich before progressing towards our destination. During the journey we remarked on how good the Australian roads were, despite a few hold ups due to roadworks, which while inconvenient were strangely a nice way to get a rest, having to await for the ‘lollipop men or women’ to let you through. You certainly wouldn’t get that on the M1. For part of the journey we drove parallel to rail tracks and a spotted a couple of trains; one of which was really long and was carrying coal in the same direction was we were travelling. It must have had about 50 or 60 wagons being pulled by three engines.
Eventually we arrived in Hervey Bay and checked into out hotel for the one night we were staying there. The Mantra hotel was on the harbour and our room had a great view of the boats and sea. As we only had limited time at the town, we went straight out after dropping the cases off and grabbed a coffee in a nearby cafe on the harbour side. We then strolled along the the enormous beach, with the tide having gone out and leaving at least a kilometre of sand between the shore and sea. We walked for s couple of hours, taking photos and searching for more shells before heading back to the Mantra. After showering, we went to a nearby restaurant, which was very busy; probably the busiest we’d been to whilst in Australia and enjoyed a very nice, although filling meal. Then back to the room for an early night after not such a busy day, but still tiring.
One of the many cane refinery factories dotted along the Bruce Highway
An unusual ants or termite construction.
A welcome relief stop for lunch although no gluten free options for me
Clairview, Queensland, Australia
Tina posing during one of our beach combing sessions. This was at Yeppoon
Yeppoon Beach, Queensland, Australia
Not the I’m a Celebrity bridge but the way out from the Capricorn Caves, north of Rockhampton, Queensland
Very big jacuzzi bath in the hotel in Hervey Bay (we didn’t use it…)
The Hervey Bay Marina, viewed from our hotel balcony
Hervey Bay Beach
We believe these patterns, loads of tiny balls of sand, are made from a crab….