Tag Archives: Roadtrip

Wordless Wednesday #24: Beware Australian Wildlife

Sign post showing a kangaroo lifting a car

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November 18, 2015 · 8:54 PM

Queensland local legends

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Queensland Roadtrip Day 8: Palm Cove – Charters Towers (via Cardwell and Townsville) (510km)

I’m not really someone who gets excited about meeting anyone famous, but this wasn’t just anyone, this was Robert Jesse, acknowledged by those well-regarded folk over at The National Geographic, Robert Jesse, local commentator on both the Cyclone Yasi aftermath and the subsequent  Prince William 2011 trip to Cardwell in Queensland, Australia.

Buying a pie in Cardwell had been one of the few things that me and my travelling crew wanted to do as we road tripped the Queensland coast up to the Eclipse 2012 festival. But, alas, on the journey north it was not meant to be. We had driven slowly through Cardwell, eyes scouting the main strip, but nothing. No pie van. No pie man.

We settled for a sub-standard snack alternative (although this harsh judgment can possibly be attributed to the discovery that my wallet was lying in Townsville service station toilets some 180km away).

This southwards return journey, however, delivered. Perseverance paid off. Here we were, parked under a tree and the Jesse’s Pies van was but five strides away.

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Jesse’s Pies, Cardwell, Queensland

 ‘Even the locals eat them!’ advertised the reputability of the cuisine, and I thought: if it’s good enough for the locals, it’s definitely good enough for three somewhat bedraggled travellers.

As you might expect, Robert Jesse himself was far more interesting than the actual pies.

I’m known now’, he said, ‘I’m famous’.  He dishes up a pie for each of us. Warm. Amply filled.

He asks what we’re doing, where we’re from, where we’re going. He’s happy to have his photo taken for the blog, all part of the fame game, I guess.

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Me and the piemeister

‘When do you think it will be up there?’ he asks as I write down my blog address. I wonder if he’s keeping track of his publicity, keeping a scrapbook for future grandkids. Local legend.

We talk about travelling and he asks about my journeying around the world and mock shudders when I talk about my sailing trip across the Pacific.

‘I travel in Cardwell’, he says, ‘I was born in Ingham’. To put things into context, Cardwell is a tropical coastal town in northeastern Queensland and has a population of 1,250. Ingham is all of 52km away, a little further south.

‘So you keep it local?’I ask. Silly question. Maybe.

‘Oh, I’ve been to Fiji’, he adds, ‘and once I visited Townsville and I was cold’. I can’t tell if he’s actually being serious but he goes on to tell me that he gets all the travel stimulation he needs from people passing through Cardwell, stopping to buy his pies. The world comes to him, see? He feels, he tells me, completely connected to the world, and totally content in his town.

‘It’s like I said in the National Geographic’, said Robert, ‘about this place being a postcard place’. I look around and think about the drive through and I keep my opinions quiet: I’m not blown away by the town. But then, as Robert goes on to tell us, Yasi has a lot to answer for and the post-cyclone clear up is evidently still in motion. Plus, today is a bit grey. Sunshine would undoubtedly put a different slant on things.

http://www.cairns.com.au/article/2011/02/03/147715_cyclone.html

Cardwell after Cyclone Yasi (pic from http://www.cairns.com.au)

It’s nearly 14:00 and Robert tells us he’ll soon be packing up and leaving for the day. He doesn’t want the local pub to think he might be stealing their customers. I can’t imagine it being a problem, and I’m sure people – like us – come to town specifically for the pies and not the pub; but his intentions are solid, rooted in caring for the Cardwell community.

We drive on southwards and pick up my erstwhile wallet from Townsville Woolworths Caltex, thanking Don King for keeping it in his care this past week. The money, unsurprisingly, is missing, something which Don takes very seriously. For the next ten minutes we scour through CCTV tapes and it is with some relief that we discover it is not one of his staff members next into the toilets. He is clearly relieved.

I am, however, clearly a bit peeved about the loss, but I try to be level. $80 may be a lot of money for a budgeting traveller but it’s also a lot of money for someone who feels the need to steal it from fuel station facilities. I like to imagine it was put to good use, maybe to buy nappies, or fruit and veg (my imagination has often served me well).

And then back in the car; turn to the west, hot sun baking the three of us into a tired slump as the air conditioning cuts out, again. We drive on along single lanes behind three carriage road trains, passed cows shading under a single billboard in the middle of nowhere roadside. Ominous skies split their guts with gusto as we arrive into a deserted Charters Towers and we use the heavy rain as an excuse to check in to a local caravan park.

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On towards Chaters Towers

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Follow the rainbow to the out of town motel

The rain, of course, stops barely a moment after we settle into our one-room house, but by then it’s too late to back out. We’ve paid up. Let’s suffer this punishment of curt landlords and a roof over our head, of a jacuzzi spa, of television movies and an equipped kitchen, of crisp, dust-free sheets and comfy beds. Ah, what a difficult life.

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Evening visitor

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Going big

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Queensland Roadtrip Day 4: Cape Hillsborough National Park, Nr. Seaforth – Cairns (715km)

It all started with a giant mango. Sorry, a big mango. By all accounts, it was giant. It’s all relative. Or a matter of lexis. Or something.

Actually, the day started with a relaxed breakfast. Problems, of course, came later. But for now the three of us sat down to a fluffy banana and blueberry pancake feast and a mug of percolated coffee. Bursts of tastebud bliss.

Day 4 was about completing the bulk of our journey north and getting to the provincial city of Cairns. We knew it would be a long day but it had to be done: we were meeting people there that night.

Significant stops started with the Big Mango. Yep.

I’d heard and read about Australia’s quirky obsession with all things big – pineapples, prawns, and mangos (evidently) – so now was the time to immerse myself in some big stuff culture.

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Me and the giant… err… mango (but I’m thinking James and the Giant Peach…)

Ironically, we couldn’t buy any real size, real life mangos but hey, let’s not complain: I got a photo (ah, just get stuck into the silliness) and had a breather from cramped car time.

Across the road from a beach that without sunshine looked dull and grey, The Big Mango enjoyed a constant trickle of tourists taking two second photos before continuing on their journeys. We were now not too far from the town of Bowen whose role in Baz Lurhmann’s recent Australia film (starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman) had pushed up the profile of this small coastal hub.

But we had no time for film buff stuff, only Big Mangos and big cities. So onwards, to Cairns.

And then a bit of a  clearer run, just us and a lot of truckers, it seemed, cruising alongside train tracks and cane tracks, past coverings of yellow-brown grassy tufts and spindly trees, some of which boasted an attempt at a green-brown canopy explosion.

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Cane tracks or train tracks?

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Cane train crossing

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Not too welcoming

Leaving my wallet in the bathroom in Townsville service station marked midday, although quietly because it wasn’t until we were 2 ½ hours on, right up by Cardwell, that I realised my loss. Or my stupidity. Well, both. Dammit. My improved health high had obviously impacted on my ability to stay switched on. It could have been worse. I could have, for example left my Eclipse festival tickets at home (yes, at the same time of my wallet realisation, someone, somewhere in Cairns – no names – had the horrible realisation that their tickets were tucked up in their bedside table draw some 1,800km away. It’s all relative).

Late afternoon we drove on towards mist covered mountains, through Euromo and Tully and still further on through plateaued valleys, Cairns feeling as far away as on any other day.

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The skies get ready to pour

Dark and damp kicked in until finally we were there: through winding roads and ineffective windscreen wipers we saw the approach to the relative calm of Cairns.

Parking down at the esplanade, we stepped out of the car. I felt too grubby to be in the city, somewhat unkempt after four days and nights camping and road tripping up the north coast of Australia, yet a little giddy shiver shot up my body as my feet touched down on the pavement. The Far North Coast. We’d made it.

I took in a deep lungful of Cairns’ warm breath and went to get lost in amongst sparkling lights and people spilling out of cafes and bars.

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The need to budget for health whilst travelling

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Queensland Roadtrip Day 3: Byfield State Forest – Cape Hillsborough National Park (430km)

It was an emergency that stopped me exploring our camp spot by light. Everything got thrown into the car; pots and unwashed coffee cups shoved into ill suited gaps, L-man’s backseat den more cramped than cosy.

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The issue of not being on time

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Queensland Roadtrip Day 1: Ballina, NSW – Brooyar, Queensland (381km)

Our race to beat the setting sun was a lost cause.

If only we’d set off earlier, as planned then we might have got pitched in daylight. If only we’d not taken a diversion to put our pennies into the honesty boxes of roadside stalls in exchange for avocados and potatoes and tomatoes, if only the calamari at Brunswick Fish Co-Op hadn’t called out to stomachs that lightly rumbled barely thirty minutes into the journey, if only the super supermarket conveniently positioned right on the highway at Gympie hadn’t reminded us of forgotten necessities, well, maybe then we would have gotten to Brooyar State Forest on time.

But, hang on! This is holiday time, time off from being on time. 

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Queensland Roadtrip Day 1: Still a long way to go… what adventures are up ahead?

We could have stopped off somewhere sooner, somewhere closer to the road. Brooyar was an en-route decision, a decision that took us away from concrete and the last light of day, down a long, pitted dirt track into an expanse of rain forest and a scattering of gum trees. Glastonbury Creek Camp. Arrived.

And realistically  setting up camp and cooking in the dark was more of an adventure than a problem, three concentrated explorers equipped with head torches, hammers, high spirits and unspoken coordination.

Tents up, kick back, eat easy food, say goodnight to the glow of neighbouring fires, switch off the lights and lie beneath a light sheet.

Listen to the darkness.

And fall into a fresh air sleep full of dreams about what this place might look like by day.

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