Australia's Beef Capital
Day 84 The Longest Day
Today, we have our longest drive in Australia so far, from Airlie Beach to Rockhampton – 482km. This is an inland route through the bush.
We are soon back on the Bruce highway travelling between Eugella National Park on the right and the flat plains to the sea on the left. The landscape switches between the lofty Clarke Range covered in tropical and semi-tropical vegetation to scrub to scorched woodland to dry yellow fields and back.
We stop for fuel a break at a small one street town and see our first outdoor Christmas tree outside the community centre. It seems really incongruous in the 30C sunshine and Christmas seems a distant memory when stood in flip flops, shorts and t-shirts.
The journey is long and the signs warning of falling asleep at the wheel are understandable and we therefore stop for coffee and rest breaks regularly. Many of the stops have toilets, showers, picnic areas and even free coffee for the driver! We eat our picnic at one of these rest stops.
Passing by Mackay, the one time home of opera singer Dame Nellie Melba the countryside once more is being utilised for sugar cane and other fruit and vegetables. The irrigation must be very good because the ground is dry and cracked.
As we get closer to Rockhampton, we see large numbers of cattle in the fields. We wonder how these are fattened up as the fields are dry and parched, unlike back home where the grass is lush and green.
The place we are staying is the upstairs of a Queenslander house with a wrap-around veranda, overlooking the river. On entering we find it is full of antique furniture, we’ll have to take care not to knock anything over here.
After sitting in a car for over 6 hours we decide to get changed and go out for the evening. The walk into town is about 2 km and the evening is very humid due to ‘Rocky’ straddling the Tropic of Capricorn and being inland. We all feel very thirst and make our way to the Ginger Mule, a tapas and cocktail bar with outside tables. Ignoring the outside seating we opt for the air conditioned bar.
After drinks we have a little wander around the town centre with its wide streets and Victorian-era buildings. It has a faded grandeur reflecting its prosperous 19th century heyday. It soon becomes obvious that this town is famous for steak hence the numerous cattle we have seen on our drive – it is known as Australia’s Beef Capital.
On the river front the park is hosting a father and son musical duo who are entertaining the locals with pop and country songs. We sit on the lawn steps to listen and join in the toe tapping and singing.
Hungry we walk to the Criterion, a grand old pub with old photos and historical memorabilia on the walls. We order steaks and listen to the band as we wait for them to arrive. The atmosphere is friendly and bustling and we enjoy a pleasant evening with excellent food.
The walk back to the house is a long one but the sky makes up for it. There is a clear sky and there are few lights and therefore the sky is full to the brim with stars. We feel really rather insignificant.
Day 85 The Lazy Day
A lazy day is needed by us all. We seem to have either run around or travelled long distances since we arrived in Australia. Mark has driven a lot of miles and the snorkelling has taken it out of us both.
I while away the morning on the veranda listening to music and Mark goes down to the river to suss out the fishing and drives to a garage sale, buying a new fishing reel. Once Marcus is up, we drive into town for a bit of shopping. The temperature has reached 39C and it is really very hot - too hot to do much of anything.
I spend the afternoon writing the trip journal and then reading (I haven’t done much of this on our travels, well except for the travel guides). Mark and Marcus spend the afternoon fishing off the rocks in the river across the street. The garage sale is a good source for fishing tackle and Marcus now has his own rod.
Although no fish are caught (why? It seems impossible when langoustine have been used for bait), Mark and Marcus have really enjoyed their day. Marcus informs me that he also popped to the local pub for a pint. That's the pub which looks just like the one I imagine when I think of the outback. Marcus says I wouldn't like it. He's probably right.
I do not feel guilty even though it may seem I’ve wasted the day. I caught up with the journal, downloaded all the photos and read most of my book. A very pleasant way to spend a day in the sun on a veranda with a lovely view.