I ended up spending several days in Townsville. I attended 3 different Lions Club meetings and met some lovely people, some of whom I had met at the Mareeba District Convention a few weeks earlier. I helped out at a sausage sizzle at Jezzine Barracks Park on the Saturday morning prior to heading south. It was a fundraiser for Queensland Down Syndrome Association and it was a great morning. We weren’t rushed off our feet (I manned the till) so there was plenty of opportunity to get to know the other Lions there.
After leaving Townsville early afternoon I came across the town of Giru. They have a nice grassed park area here for campers so an overnight stop looked ideal. Walking distance to the hotel which served good meals and friendly locals.
Next stop was the coastal village of Alva and Lynch’s Beach. This was the first opportunity I took to have a proper swim in the ocean without having to nervously look around me constantly for crocodiles. The water was lovely and warm and so relaxing. There was a large sandbar in front of the local surf club and the “island” created a swimming area that provided a safe haven from any crocs lurking. At the other end of town was a nice headland and lookout that made a great spot for lunch. After here it was back to Ayr where I attended the Information Centre which has recently opened in the Recreation Park on the southern edge of town. Got some information on cane burning and eventually booked in to attend a “firing” that evening (See Bucket List #18). I stayed a couple of nights at the Home Hill RV Stop which is situated between the main street (Bruce Highway) and the railway line. Despite it’s location it was a very peaceful nights sleep. They cater well for travellers here with showers and toilets and a good camp kitchen. There is also a laundry on this street which does a good trade.
I had toyed with the idea of catching a train somewhere along the coast. Brisbane to Cairns is serviced well by the Spirit of Queensland, an almost daily service. It is a 25 hour trip and not cheap for a sleeper so I enquired about the 8 hour trip from Home Hill to Cairns and it was only $85 each way. The bonus being that it was during daylight hours, 8.15am to 4.30pm. I left Rhonda at the home of a Lion from Home Hill and caught the train back up to Cairns. This was a great trip and you see so much from the large windows of the train. Not having to keep your eyes on the road was a bonus as well. Whilst I have the Coffs Harbour to Sydney train trip on my Bucket List, I enjoyed this trip so much that I will look at other train trips down the track (pun intended). In the early 1980’s I travelled from Perth to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific. A lot cheaper of course in those days.
The northbound train was an hour late arriving. Not that it bothered me but we did make up most of that time over the 8 hour journey. The rail line doesn’t follow the road contour exactly so the scenery can be quite different to that which you see from the highway. The train is so smooth and quiet with only the rhythmic sounds of the line passing over the joins in the track. I spent the day looking out the window, reading, eating and dozing. Mostly looking out the window.
I packed a fair bit in the time I had back in Cairns (See Cairns/Atherton Region post) and after returning to Home Hill I headed to Bowen. Prior to leaving Home Hill I was picked up at 7am by one of the local Lions and taken up to Mt Inkerman Lookout for breakfast and to take in the panoramic view. Unfortunately it was very hazy from all the fires around but you could still see far enough to appreciate the spectacular views. Also at the breakfast was a lady from Venuatu (now living in Home Hill) and that morning she had made me a woven gift. It was a fan that doubled as a fly swat and back scratcher. She also made me a handwoven bowl.
Bowen has many beautiful beaches and a lovely foreshore. It is now stinger season so swimming is off limits at most beaches. For me anyway. The foreshore area with jetty and marina was a good place to while a way some hours.
Lake Proserpine looked like a good area to base myself to explore the Whitsunday area around Airlie Bach. I did plan on staying a few days in Airlie Beach itself but unfortunately my timing coincided with schoolies week so I decided to just do the day trip there and perhaps spend some more time there at a later time. The waters around Airlie it must be said are simply stunning and some of the best I have ever seen. I did have a good drive around the area and out to Shute Harbour. I also had a walk around the lagoon area and the shopping precinct. It appeared very Gold Coast like and not really my cup of tea. After visiting Cedar Creek Falls (see Bucket List #19), I took a drive out to Conway Beach and Wilson Beach. These were very small villages with idyllic beaches.
Lake Proserpine was a beautiful place to relax. The camping area is right on the edge of the lake and I was surprised that there weren’t more people around. Plenty of boats utilising the boat ramp to access the lake for fishing, skiing or just relaxation. It is situated 27km from the town of Proserpine which has good shopping facilities. No phone reception here so I caught up on some reading. Sign says 72 hour limit so I stayed 3 nights but could easily have spent a week or more here. Some beautiful sunsets over the lake.
Between Proserpine and Mackay is the rural locality of The Leap. It is named after an event that happened atop the nearby Mount Mandarana. In 1867 a group of 200 Aboriginal men, women and children were being pursued by Queensland Police. The story goes that they were forced to jump off the cliff from the mountain edge rather than face the firearms of the police. One child is believed to have survived after the 200 metre drop in her mothers arms. This is just one of numerous stories I have read on my travels of an extremely sorry example of how we treated our fellow man in the early days of white settlement in Australia. The Leap Hotel provides a free campsite in exchange for patronage at the Hotel. The night I was there the hotel closed early so the publican and his wife could have a rare night out in Mackay.
Out from The Leap is the coastal town of Seaforth. I went here on a recommendation but there really isn’t much here apart from fishing, which I did from the boat ramp at Victoria Creek. Had a bit more luck with whiting off the beach at South Breakwater Wall at Mackay in the evening.
I spent a week in Mackay. It’s quite a nice city with the river winding through the main centre. Blue Lagoon, situated opposite the huge Caneland Shopping Centre, provides free entry with several of varying depth and plenty of shade cover on the lawn. I managed to while away a few hours here most days and utilised their cold (warm water) showers. The afternoon I wandered around the CBD shops there were hardly anyone about. Most shops that were open were devoid of customers. Not sure if it was because there were so few tourists about or the locals don’t go out in the afternoon heat because of the high humidity. I love the heat but must admit I am starting to feel the strain of the humidity, especially at night when my bus just does not get a chance to cool down. Because of the solar panels I always park in the full sun all day so it is like an oven most nights.
I also managed to attend 3 Lions Clubs while in Mackay and was given a tour of one of the club’s huge storage sheds where they store their gear including the largest Food Van I have ever seen. So big in fact that it is actually a fifth wheeler sitting upon the tray of a dual cab truck. Some serious catering going on here.
I also had a look over the Sound Shell and the Botanical Gardens as well as a visit to the Mackay Museum. I was impressed with the Mackay Museum. Although small, it packs a lot of interesting and a good variety of information. Easily spend a couple of hours here. I liked Mackay. As a city it has a lot going for it.