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As I am now settled down after journeying half-way around Australia, I have the time to regale to you my adventures along the Queensland coast, into the desert and up to Darwin! I’ll soon be announcing the total raised as well as the box numbers for the Shelterboxes we all contributed to. In the mean time though, please enjoy the stories. -Lara
After the excitement of Brisbane and the ‘land of excess’ that is the Gold Coast, we decided on more simple surroundings up on the Sunshine Coast. With a quick overnight stop in Maroochydore we continued on to Cooroy, a town west of Noosa. We ended up camping at the scout grounds by Lake Macdonald, right next to the Noosa trail; one of many stops along our journey that we never would have found unless we had used the Camps 6 book (a publication of all free or low cost camping spots in Australia). At only $8pp a night who wouldn’t stay for a week??
As we hadn’t yet invested in an esky, Joe had the bright idea of cooling beverages via natural means (apparently they do this out at sea when they don’t have an esky too).
What we discovered was that this technique only cools to the lake temperature, which was….tepid. However the evening temperatures at Cooroy were so cold we finally had a natural cooling system sorted.
During our time at Cooroy, we visited the Eumundi markets, which are one of the biggest and most interesting I’ve ever seen. This fella was hanging about making friends, and after I said hello he walked out onto the main road and stopped traffic so we could cross. Like a modern-day Gandalf.
We visited some friends in Coolum Beach, and on our last day went to check out Noosa itself. The Noosa area is a confusing place to navigate as you have Noosa Heads, Noosaville, Noosa Junction, Noosa Civic, the Noosa Trail….and so when it came to signposting they decided to save on lettering and just let you figure it out.
Known as the ‘Rum Captial of Australia’. we definitely had to check the place out! It is around this area that you really see the cane industry in full effect and the smell of cooked molasses is strong in the air. At night you can see the fires in the cane fields, where they are burning off the remaining cane growth, preparing the ground for the new harvest. We did a tour of the Bundaberg Rum factory and my favourite part was seeing where they stored the molasses: in a big swimming pool sized pit inside a shed!! Despite warning signs of ‘drop bears’ within the factory grounds, we survived the tour, met Bundy Bear (the mascot) and added ‘The Big Bundy Bottle’ to our list of Big Things in Australia.
This was another out-of-the way place we were lead to by the Camps 6 book. We were debating as to whether to pick this spot, but when we called them to enquire as to availability, they said “yea come, along we have a pig on a spit and a raffle tomorrow night!”. Sold.
A ‘one pub’ town about 50km north of Bundaberg, the camping ground was the dry oval out the back of the pub and about 100m from the main train line so there were many times where you feel the ground rumble from an approaching cargo or cane train. Joe came down with a virus during our stay and was bedridden (in the tent) for 2 full days. A scary experience for me when you’re 50km from anywhere. He made a amazingly fast recovery and so we were able to enjoy The Tiny Tea House across from the pub. The owner of the Tea House was from Darwin so I picked her brain about what to pack for the desert drive and to demystify some urban myths. She was full of useful knowledge, including the tip that when we hit Rockhampton, not to stop the car next to a cattle truck, even when you’re at the traffic lights. Once a truck stops, the cows rearrange and relieve themselves, which means your car can suddenly become covered in poo! Good to know.
The most memorable part of Rosedale was being woken every morning at 6am by the light from this view, right outside our tent door.
Next stop was ‘The Beef Capital of Australia’, Rockhampton. We adhered to the earlier cattle truck advice, and noticed that all other motorists would do the same; the cattle trucks had no company in the parallel lanes at the traffic lights. I was AMAZED at the size and low cost of the meat section in Coles. T-bone steaks were $7-$8 each, and the fridge on the right was just whole legs of scotch meat, already cut into round steaks and packaged as one whole parcel!
Rockhampton is also known for it’s heritage buildings,
and it’s infamous cow-themed cafes.
For accommodation we followed our nose (also known as the Camps 6 book) and ended up at Keppel Sands, a small township half an hour away, right by the sea. Home of the BEST crumbed steak and homemade potato bake on the east coast! (at the pub, of course)
It was here that we hit ‘DON’T SWIM OR YOU’LL DIE’ territory. Ironically, the crocodile threat was only due to there being a crocodile farm (yep, a farm breeding crocs to sell for meat) up the coast, and sometimes they had escapees…
Beyond Rockhampton was the first of many looong drives on our journey. To the next town, Mackay, was a four hour drive with limited scenery, and we hadn’t packed any snacks?! At least we learnt this lesson before the desert. We had a quick overnight stop near Mackay and then continued onto Airlie Beach for our farm stay.