Monday 8 July ( continued from August news letter)
An easy day planned, just 740 kilometres to Cairns via Townsville travelling the Bruce Highway.
Once we had cleared Mackay the fields of sugar cane continued only occasionally interrupted by banana plantations. From our limited observations we could only conclude that Aussies eat more sugar than bananas, a whole lot more. Travelling in the opposite direction we were passed by V8 supercar transporters heading south after their weekend in Townsville. After around three hours we crossed the Burdekin River and an hour or so later the Ross River as we entered the City of Townsville.
The rain seemed to be following us as we headed further north with intermittent showers testing the limited effectiveness windscreen wipers. The effectiveness of the wipers was suddenly reduced to zero when they refused to fulfil their screen cleaning duties any longer. Following another fuel stop the GPS also refused to function. Undeterred we simply pressed on.
Passing through Innisfail we stopped at Supercheap trying unsuccessfully to replace the broken GPS. Just as we were about to leave a shout of “Karl” came from across the road. We were surprised to see former club member Simon Downie, but probably not as surprised as he was to see us and the wagon. Simon now residing in Cairns had painted Karl’s wagon over twenty years ago and couldn’t believe he was seeing it again almost on his doorstep. Soon we were on our way with Cairns now only about 90 kilometres distant.
Once in Cairns we found ourselves some accommodation and dined in the motel restaurant.
Tuesday 9 July
We woke to find rain falling as we checked out of the motel. Today was a late start and we had breakfast at Hungry Jacks whilst waiting for Harvey Norman to open in order to replace the GPS. Our breakfast was enlivened by a young motorist failing a road side drug test outside HJs.
With our new GPS now pointing the way we were off to Cooktown via Port Douglas. Travelling along the coast on the Captain Cook Highway we passed through the Daintree catching glimpses of ocean and wide sandy beaches. However the rain continued to fall steadily. Port Douglas is an exclusive resort town which rogue businessman Christopher Skase helped put on the international tourist map. Definitely not at its best during our visit, consequently we only had a brief look around before hitting the road again.
The road out of Port Douglas is a long mountain climb leading to the Mulligan Highway. Only 266 kilometres to go and the rain had eased off to intermittent showers. The Mulligan Highway is a two lane bitumen ribbon named after James Venture Mulligan who died in 1907 of pneumonia after breaking some ribs falling from a balcony while attempting to punch someone during a fight. Good on you James, no one could be more deserving of their own highway (true story). By now traffic consisted primarily of dusty four wheel drive vehicles equipped for off road travel. A flamed Chevy wagon must have looked well out of place to our fellow travellers as we sped on past. Refuel at the Lakeland Roadhouse where there was a pub, but no lake before resuming our run into Cooktown.
Finally after four and a half days we had made it, Cooktown. Sadly not the glistening jewel of the north we had hoped for. Instead we found a rather bedraggled outpost of civilisation which was not improved by the heavy rain which had followed us for the last few kilometres. We did the obligatory cruise of the main street, checked out the port area, refuelled again and headed out, all within about half an hour.
By the inland route we headed back to Cairns, a distance of 340 kilometres. Rain, darkness and a perilous downhill run over the last few kilometres into Cairns added some unwanted excitement to the day. We were both relieved to finally pull into a motel having achieved our objective.
Wednesday 10 July
We set out to retrace our steps back to Townsville where l was to stay with my son. The trip back was uneventful and we arrived at around mid-day, just in time for lunch at Red Rooster. Shortly after l waved Karl goodbye as he set out for Melbourne.
Thanks Karl for another memorable journey.