The time came to leave our home of 15 months in Townsville, NQ, and head south to begin a new adventure for the next three years. With all our possessions loaded into one and a half containers and onto the backs of trucks, we began the drive south in our trusted PT Cruiser ... recently checked over, minorly adjusted by the RACQ workshop and fitted with four glossy new tyres.
As we cruised out of town we caught our last glimpse of the three Townsville icons ...
The Sugar Shaker. That's the only name I know it by; I know it's a hotel, but have no idea from which chain!
Castle Hill, which crazy-sweat-infused people run up in the crazy NQ heat and humidity.
We drove through a corridor of cane fields.
The discipline of farming surrounded us: ruler straight rows of new growth and tilled rows for planting ... the silhouette of a mill looming quietly in the distance. Its smokeless stacks announced that the season was over for another year.
A farmer worked his crop even though it was only days till Christmas.
Memories of my father working, working, working. The cane life is unrelenting.
And then we reached our breakfast stop, Ayr ... Chill Parlour, for the best coffee and food in this surprisingly up-beat town.
We soon discovered that every self-respecting town had a giant Christmas tree in its town centre. Ayr was no exception.
I would have loved to have stayed longer. Ayr is a town with much to offer, but our night's destination was still a long drive away.
Mango trees began to replace cane and I spotted a lone jabiru near a dam, not an unusual sight.
Roughly scribed roadside signs tempted us with mangoes ... at $10 a bucket. A bargain! But we were loaded with luggage (My Mickey Mouse suitcase slept quietly in the back.) and a bucket of mangoes just would not fit.
The sleepy town brought to fame by Baz, Nicole, Hugh and Australia has taken on a new persona ... Bowenwood!! For a short interval the town was transformed, cameras rolled, Baz directed and the locals are trying to ride the wave for its ultimate length. Who can blame them?
South of Bowen we passed HUGE farming equipment also going south to who knows where.
And cane again fringed the road. Cutters' barracks, reminiscent of The 17th Doll, sat empty and forsaken, made redundant by massive mechanical harvesters.
Rain threatened the mountains and clouds opened.
And then a sign which brought back happy memories of a beach house, beach walks and a friend who knew that I was in need all those years ago. Thanks Vikki.
Soon we passed The Leap, a place which always makes me ponder.
In the mid 19th century, an Aboriginal woman, carrying her child in her arms, leapt to her death from the rocky outcrop rather than face the troopers who persued her. Her baby, by some miracle, survived. How desperate she must have been? A statue ... from another time ... attempts to capture the tragedy.
Clairview, a seaside fishing town, gave us a welcome glimpse of the sea. One day I'd love to spend some time here ... imagine the characters who live in a remote, tiny town by the sea. What stories they must have to tell.
Finally, as the light weakened, we reached Rockhampton, the beef city, and rested the PT for a night.
A glass of wine, a delicious meal, a comfy bed ... Aaahhhh.
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