The Road Between the Islands
From K’Gari to Whitsundays, 3rd – 5th October
Let me prepare you for this post. I purposefully dug through the internet to find a worthy “pink sunset quote” to support me during the forthcoming lack of interesting events. And I found it: “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going” from Beverly Sills. Beverly was an opera singer from the 50s of the last century and I can expect her quote was meant for the figurative path of life, such as her stage performances. I, however, will use it in a literal sense.
I have not yet given special attention in these texts to the distances we’ve been travelling since arriving in Australia. Let me shock you a bit - in these three days, you are going to read about, we drove over 1000 km and that is the shortest route to get to a place worth visiting. Three days of packing the tent, breakfast, driving, lunch prep, driving, coffee, driving, arriving, setting up the tent and making dinner. And between all that, trying to be tourists and not miss the small places on the map.
Today is a slow and uneventful day (I warned you!). We leisurely pack up the tent and drive North. The temperatures outside are clearly rising but with the lack of working air conditioning Bertie is also warming up. The heat is starting to wear us down. The water is never fresh or cold, thus we aren’t drinking enough of it and the air inside the car is getting stuffier by the minute.
The music is also getting annoying with this much driving. True, the options are endless but even that isn’t enough to distract us from the repetitive views. Fortunately for us, we are travelling in 2019 and we have access to Audible - the audiobooks app of Amazon. We buy a couple and start! Our first audiobook is “I am Pilgrim” - an American criminal story about breaking up a terroristic attempt to cause a deadly pandemic (the author must have known what the future was holding for us). Well, it turns out to be a fascinating read (listen) and we don’t even want to stop for breaks. The story is too intriguing and far more unpredictable than expected.
But we will stop Scott’s story for a bit as we arrive in Maryborough. We have picked the right day to come. It is a Thursday - farmers’ market day. Quite a few producers have gathered, filling up the village’s main street. Let us see what the Australian farmers have to offer. Other than produce, food and art jewellery the market also has non-maker stands where you can find stainless steel wine cups for camping, pet accessories, homeware and all other sorts of things.
We gladly discover that the attendance of vegan and sustainable stands is surprisingly high so we browse with great interest. Not that we need anything, but we’re here anyway and it is lunchtime. After chatting to a few of the sellers we leave with vegan honey mustard mayo (made from chickpea water), a tray of vegan doughnuts (with one extra because we seem nice) and cherry tomatoes heading for the local park for lunch.
The park isn’t big but is green and colourful and there are picnic tables and benches everywhere. We pick one and set up a tapas-style lunch attracting the local fauna of ants and seagulls. We lay down for a bit in the tree shade but the peace and quiet is disturbed by mowing in the distance and a little steam engine the rails of which pass through the park. Small, with unclear functionality, smelly and loud - but clearly emblematic for Maryborough. Okay then, this isn’t the place for rest, let’s go.
We take advantage of the local shops and go into a huge camping store. We go straight for the table section - you remember ours is virtually non-existent, right. We pick one fairly quickly, completely out of stainless steel. Well, let’s see this one get destroyed by rain! It also folds away in its little bag and takes up hardly any space. This is the one!
And so we set off to the next stop - Bundaberg. We are coming here, not just anywhere, but to the rum distillery - for Australian rum! Haven’t yet entered the village, you can already see nothing else matters here but the rum! We park next to one of the polar bears, the animal of the subtropical rum (hm...), and we go in. Of course, with our luck we are 15 minutes late for the last tour of the day, the next one is tomorrow morning. We discuss our options quickly but decide that we can’t afford an extra day as we need to be in Airlie Beach in two days. That doesn’t, however, mean we will leave without a small bottle of rum to try the notorious taste. Maybe we didn’t learn how it is made but we can use its alcohol functions.
Tonight we set up the tent behind Lowmead’s motel. A bit of a weird spot but it has a bar. We can take advantage of some ice to try the rum. And afterwards, a coke to wash down the taste ...
As we stir the chilli for dinner we meet a friendly dog which later brings over a friend to get love and pets together. The cows in the field next to us have gathered to say “good night” and their eyes are creepily lit up in the dark!
We wake up. We know exactly how far we need to travel today. And yet the effort to get up and go is impossible. We ignore our situation and just stay there, laying down with our phones in hand watching YouTube. I know - they’ve gone to Australia to explore it and now they’re just stuck on their phone watching videos online. But please understand, we are in our early twenties after all!
Fine, fine, we’re going … Bye, cows!
With Scott Murdock’s story, we drive a sound distance and it gets to lunch. Nic has chosen for us to eat lunch by a lake today. We stop to quickly fill our cups with a cappuccino and turn on the road towards Awoonga. Well, I can’t find anything wrong with this place.
We make our favourite chickpea salad in Bertie’s kitchen and move to a picnic table with a view. We enjoy it fully observing all the families arriving to camp. Afterwards, we move down to the shore. Blue and peaceful. Feet are into the water, Nic is skimming stones, the sun is petting us, the coffee is still warm. It is so wonderful here! We stay awhile - alone with our thoughts and the calmness of the water. We stay long enough to not want to leave. I want to see and dream. To share. It is one of those places - so beautiful that you have to go down into your deepest thoughts.
We continue to Rockhampton and stop to rest in the local park. We have to because of the heat in the car and we’re on the hunt for fresh, cold water. The one in our 20-litre plastic container is just like stagnant tea. The park is full of children running around the playgrounds. They, on the other side, are equipped with dry fountains for days hotter than today. Oh, how I want to join in.
Unfortunately, the riverbed is dry but it is still worth sitting on a bench and breath in the view. As we sit and observe the life around us Nic announces that our plans have changed. Initially, this stop should have been about half an hour away from tonight’s campsite. However, he has decided to drive two hours further north to make tomorrow’s trek easier. Well fine but there’s no time to lose - we get up and go. I am not arriving after dark again.
Despite my expectation, this constant moving around isn’t as tough as I expected. I think the habits we have developed as well as the fact we tidy up the car almost daily, help us not to get emotionally overwhelmed. Though I do miss mirrors and lazy Sundays on the sofa.
One more push left! The island tour is booked for tomorrow which is why we need to drive a lot to pass the final distance. But is the last one …
The first stop is Serina, a little village with not a lot to offer. It has a shop with local arts and craft with … interesting aesthetics. They also have a little local art gallery - that was worth seeing. There’s a museum here too which according to the sign is closed most days of the week, including today. That’s it. There is nothing else. But it is enough to get us out of the car for a bit.
We drive another hour to stop for lunch in a park next to the ocean but in typical Australian fashion the border between the park and the beach is afforested so there is no beach view. Some people are preparing for an event around us. We try to understand exactly what they will be doing in this park but the exhaustion from the heat doesn’t leave much space for unnecessary brain work. I just want to eat and go. Something needs to be done about the air-con.
We arrive at Airly Beach early. Here we’ll be staying for two nights - for the first times since 14th September the tent won’t be put away in the morning. The campsite is a combination of camping and a youth hostel therefore the age group is homogenous. We park at our space and don’t think about our next steps a lot. We put on the bathing gear and head straight to the beach - very needed for our hot, unwashed, sweaty selves.
Finally! Ocean beach time! And not only are we extremely happy to finally go under ocean waters but we also realise something even more incredible! We are swimming with sea turtles in the cold waters of the Coral Sea. We see them the regularly poking up their heads but we keep a good distance. I have never imagined we could be so lucky …
With an eye on the turtles, we spend the rest of the afternoon sunbathing. This is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of since leaving Europe … Sand, sea, sun, sea turtles (the 4 S’s). It is this afternoon at the beach that makes the crazy travelling in the past three days worth it!
We walk leisurely back to the campsite to get to know the resort. One thing stands out to me. At the beginning of the beach strip (almost in front of our campsite) is a huge pool. Public and free. Clean, tidy, safe and so on. To be a local council in Australia!
After a quick shower we dress up, meaning a creased dress and an even more creased shirt, and we head out to dinner. Due to the close proximity to the Whitsunday Islands, this resort is colourful, lively and full of restaurants, shops and bars. A nightlife for nomad souls. We find a Vietnamese restaurant and fill up. And then slowly, stopping here and there, we get back to Bertie. We are probably the first ones to go to bed (the late music is proof). But it is necessary especially because of the early morning we have tomorrow. And the two of us are quite the old souls anyway …
Vassya (and Nic)