I have a hunch that should I ever get the chance to converse with wallabies, I’d find them to be quite friendly creatures. Gentle, but friendly. I just get that vibe.
But on this Thursday morning me and the boys were on a mileage mission so chit-chat stop-offs with mobs of these macropods had to be forgone, and instead I stuck my feet up on the dashboard and settled down for a long day on the road, watching the occasional wallaby roadside bop as we bounced back along the mud tracks of Brooyar State Forest, back onto the Bruce Highway.
The first few hours were uneventful but our spirits were still high. We were on an adventure! So what if our blowers and air con kept breaking? That there seemed to be never-ending road works? That the scenery was infinity scrubland?
As luck would have it, someone had already thought about the possible problem of boredom. Don’t get me wrong, drinking in landscapes can keep me happy for hours and I wholeheartedly indulged in out-the-window-photography, much to the amusement of one of the guys in my little group (and to be fair, pictures repeatedly appeared to be very similar to what I’d snapped barely half an hour previously).
But I digress. Because the point that I am trying to get to is that the road safety people of Queensland have thought the problem of driving monotony through and come up with… trivia signs. As Qld Transport and Main Road state:
They are bright, reflective and rather entertaining especially for inquisitive children. One of these signs for example asks “What is the state animal of Qld?” Do you know the answer?
I didn’t. Now I do (and it’s not the wallaby). We were absolutely the inquisitive children, albeit with some bets thrown in. My only complaint? Not enough signs. Why do they stop? We want(ed) more!
And then further into sugarcane country, into a more open landscape with gentle rolling hills, forests in the distance and big yellow wattle flowers streaking golden in the rare moments where we were able to hit the accelerator.
We stopped in ‘Queensland’s friendliest town’ for lunch, setting up the camp stove on picnic benches across the road from the bakery on the main street of Gin Gin. I ventured inside, ignoring éclairs, turnovers and savoury snacks that would have no place on my makeshift dinner table.
‘What can I get you?’ asked a wiry woman.
I suspect she was hoping for a bigger sale than two sachets of tomato sauce. She handed me my change, avoiding eye contact.
The bacon was frying. A woman walked by, our first Gin Gin resident. She was soft, heavy and hidden under a straw hat. No acknowledgement of our existence. The guy in the garage on the other side of the street made more of an effort: ‘What d’ya know?’ he said, by way of a greeting, ‘Where you heading?’
And with his advice we were back on the road, somewhat consoled by our first sign of the friendliness of Gin Gin. A lot, apparently, can change in 9 years.
The odd truck motored by in the opposite direction. A girl pushed a heavy saddle bagged bike along the road. The air con stopped working, again, and the building heat of heading north was becoming more and more evident.
These empty roads and heat hazed white lines took us on to Miriam Vale where fuel cost a hefty $1.60 per litre, a blow softened by a visit to the friendly and informative information centre across the road where two guys were doing their job: being informative and handing out maps. For free.
And suddenly, just like that, we had a map (or two). This journey was only going to get easier.
Late afternoon, we had made it into the built up bleurgh of Rockhampton. I couldn’t get through the town quickly enough, away from motels and fast food outlets, from car sales banners and shiny utes (although the giant Vinnies store ignited my excitement for all of, oh, maybe one minute) and back into the countryside, onwards towards Yeppoon and the second setting sun of this road trip.
And dusk was done and dusted by the time we arrived into Waterpark Creek camping areas set amongst the tall trees of Byfield State Forest. We lit a fire – more for light than anything else – and got settled inside a rainforest enclosure, a little clearing teaming with mosquitos and sounds of the unknown.
But no wallabies. That chat, I realised, would have to wait. Maybe indefinitely.
- Two dogs and a snake stick (travelola.org)
- Roadtrip Day 1: The issue of not being on time (travelola.org)
- Road Trip! Heading up through Queensland, Australia (travelola.org)
- Driving tired campaigns (Queensland Police)
- Gin Gin grins with friendly award win (abc.net.au)