11th December 2003

The train to Rockhampton arrived at 11.25pm and the first luggage coach stopped opposite the small platform with the rest of the train disappearing way into the distance behind. When booking the train we had been told to turn the handlebars and remove the pedals, but we deliberately left the bikes as is complete with panniers. The guard reminded us that the rules required us to prepare the bikes, but as predicted there was plenty of room and he accepted them as they were even though we said we were prepared to strip them down if he insisted. He then asked us to wait on the platform while the correct passenger carriage was moved up. After at least twenty carriages passed, the train stopped and we were ushered to our seats. Five hours later we awoke as the conductor personally told us we had arrived.

It was 4.30am and just getting light as we cycled south still with a slight headwind and looking for a suitable breakfast stop - After about 80 miles we passed an enormous aluminium factory on the outskirts of Gladstone and another being built on 2000 acres of reclaimed mangrove swamp. The town welcomes industry as it brings employment and prosperity but there is also the environmental lobby who object the destruction of large areas of coastal mangrove.

A short ride to Lake Awoonga and a tent site overlooking the lake which was formed by damming the river. It had been stocked with Barramindi and held many fish over 100 lbs in weight. While we were there only one was caught and it was at least 4 ft long. The site owners had closed the cafe for the evening because it had been booked for a birthday party, but said we could share the food on an all-you-can-eat basis for only 4 pounds each. The food was wonderful with seafood starters, roast main meal and cheesecake or pavlova and fruit and cheese and biscuits etc! Not bad for the price.

At Miiriam Vale, an old colonial village, we saw a sign on an old wooden balconied hotel offering double rooms for 30 dollars (about 12 pounds). We decided to treat ourselves. The room was basic, but had tea making facilities and a balcony overlooking the street. The soft mattress and pillows gave us a good night sleep.

General notes (useful for Tinas brother).
Houses are cheaper than England. It is difficult to be accurate, but generally
they are about half the English price. Many people live in caravans before buying as it is easier here to live in temporary accomodation for long periods. The planning regulations allow it. Food is about half price except bread and restaurant drinks. Restaurant food is much cheaper, roast dinners are easily available for two pounds. petrol is one third that in England and the big car is still the norm here as it is in the USA. Medical charges are more complicated and most people seem to use a mixture of private and state systems. Consumer goods such as electrical goods, tools and furniture are more exspensive as there doesn't seem to be the variety of imported goods from Taiwan and China.

Cars are cheaper, with the Holden, Australia's own make, selling nearly as many as the Fords, the best sellers. Japanese cars are common and European fairly rare.

Regards,

Dave and Joan