16th December 2005 - Cardwell

We are now far too hot and no longer need the coats we bought. Although we are in the Australian summer, it is also the rainy season that comes all at once in torrential storms with spectacular lightening. Minutes later its dry again. We did have to stop off the highway because the rain was so much the driving was impossible.

After having an idea for a bike rack that can be swung to one side so that the rear door can be opened, David asked a small machine shop to make one up. This they did using thick exhaust pipe and charged 40 pounds. The principle worked ok but the whole thing was not rigid enough and needed two further mods along the way to stop the bikes bouncing when we hit a bump. All is now ok and the bikes are kept outside.

While at one of these places to get the rack modified, an Aussie asked if we had anywhere to stay that night and offered us the use of an old ranch house that he was modernising. He told us where it was and said it was all unlocked and in the middle of nowhere with a nearby creek for swimming.

After only 15 minutes we found it. The location was in the middle of thousands of acres of grazing land and the house with veranda stood on a hillside with a gorgeous view. Although it had no drinking water, all other services were there including a fridge.

Not far away was another smaller house that we were told was also his and empty. It was so nice that we took up his offer to stay several days.

In the evening we walked down to the creek, about half a mile away and sat watching the water birds and parrots and keeping an eye open for signs of fish.

Joan spotted some bubbles coming up and then a platypus appeared. This was our first ever sighting of a wild one and we watched it for about 20 minutes before it finally disappeared.

Next morning we noticed one of the cows was still sitting out in the full sun when all the rest had moved to shade near the water. When it was still there in the evening and the following morning we realised all was not well and telephoned the owner. Meantime, we set up a temporary sunshade using old ladders, stakes and a tarpaulin. A large bucket of water was put next to the now sorry looking cow and that was the best we could do until the vet arrived. The vet gave the cow an injection and the next morning it was looking much better but still unable to stand. The problem was apparently a three-day fever that affects the leg joints of the cow. Another day and we managed to get it to its feet and our job done we left and continued our journey northwards.

Sandflies, those tiny black things you can hardly see, are a big irritation and are only deterred by copious application of deterrent. As usual, Joan suffers more from bites than David.

As we looped towards the coast and along the Bruce highway, we encountered a tropical storm and even with the wipers at full pelt it was impossible to see. The roads flooded and the only solution was to stop until conditions improved. These conditions are common here and when the roads are unsurfaced it renders them impassable for a while.

This is now tropical country. Mid to high thirties centigrade daytime and not much lower at night. The sea looks inviting but swimming is very risky due to salt water crocs and deadly jellyfish. Nobody goes in except in netted areas. A free beachside camping area near Mackay was reached via a firm sandy road which our Toyota managed easily, But as we attempted to turn around to camp, our rear wheels got firmly dug in and we were stuck. Some nearby campers came to our rescue with a spade and some shoving. David will be a bit more careful where he drives in future.

Prices here are on average about half those in England. Petrol is two and half times cheaper here, but bread and beer are about the same. Local fruits are of course much cheaper. A haircut is surprisingly about the same.

Newspapers report the same things as in the UK – speed cameras, rising cost of housing and local rates, dis-satisfaction with health services and schools, teenage driving, government corruption to name a few.

Drivers here are generally good and seem to drive with more consideration than in the UK.

After driving about 100 miles up the coast from a Bowen campsite we realised that we had left two tent poles behind. Too late now. They will have to be bought. That evening a large camper bus arrived at our site that we recognised from the previous day, and yes you have guessed it, they had our tent poles that we left behind!

An even better one. That evening as David was fishing from the beach, he had a bite and pulled in a pair of reading glasses that Joan had lost while on a walk that morning. We thought of buying a lottery ticket.

David’s fishing is improving with two giant stingrays that had to be released by cutting the line instead of beaching them.

We had Australian Salmon for dinner that evening and another fish for breakfast. Both caught from the shore.


Dave and Joan Wooldridge