Listen to this audio Pats Postcard from the East Coast of Australia - click here
East Coast Road Trip Part 1 – Nowra to Hervey Bay.
Hello I'm Pat and we're on a road trip up the eastern side of Australia from Nowra, 2 hours south of Sydney in NSW, to Rollingstone just beyond of Townsville in northern Queensland. It's a mere 2,500km or so but who's counting! We're travelling up to start a 4 month contract to help manage the Big 4 Rollingstone Beach Front Resort, part of our lifestyle to try and work for only 6 months of the year and have 'adventures' the rest of the time. We've 2 weeks to drive up most of the eastern side of Australia visiting friends, family and places of interest as we go. This postcard will take us as far as Hervey Bay.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Australia is very big and to drive this distance entails many hours behind the wheel – on this trip 5 to 8 hours a day will enable us to have time enough to take days off and do other stuff on the way. And the days just seem to go by, you're travelling along and all of a sudden 8 hours have passed you by and you wonder - how did that happen?
In some ways long distance driving is a metaphor for life! There's the two of us so we share the driving – so you drive, and then swop over, one of you takes a nap, you have a drink, and then of course you need to take a 'comfort stop'. A rhythm starts – drive, sleep, drink, eat, drive sleep, drink, eat. A lot of the time the road goes through open gum woodland with sun flecks and shadows creating hypnotic strobe like effect and all of a sudden the day is done. This rhythm is not dissimilar to the routine of daily life – sleep, eat, work, play and all of a sudden 'ten years have passed you by'.
Driver fatigue is a serious issue on road trips especially. The Australian landscape is vast, diverse and it can be harsh. It can also be repetitious over long distances. As we drove along I wondered how much the landscape impacts on the Australian mentality. Some of the road signage to counter fatigue is blunt to say the least, here's a few examples:
“Better late than dead”
“Survive this drive”
or perhaps the most brutal a question “paralysed or late” with a picture of a surgeon operating!
It's a timely reminder that the most dangerous animal in Australia by far is man and his motor.
Whilst I'm talking about road signage there's some really interesting biodiversity and agriculture public notices along the roadside, such as:
“No bananas past this point”
“Don't carry sugar cane”
and my favourite “No kept rabbits, $20,000 fine”!
As with life, on a road trip there are events and stoppages. One such on this trip was just into Queensland where we stayed a couple of nights in Granite Country – famous, not surprisingly, for it's massive granite outcrops. We had a spectacular, exciting and somewhat dangerous walk/climb up the Pyramid mountain in the Girraween National Park. This massive granite outcrop is in the shape of a pyramid, with sheer rock faces denuded of any vegetation and no hand holds. There are rock arches and standing stones, it was a magnificent 2 hour ascent, somewhat scary but a brilliant place to have a picnic on the top.
There's plenty of ways to distract you as you're driving, music of course, but also there's nothing like a good story to help pass the time. Whilst driving along, somewhat appropriately we listened to the Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.
For a few days we visited a friend in the town of Hervey Bay, somewhat unkindly described as 'perfect for the newly weds and the nearly deads' – it has long been a popular destination for the retired with an enviable climate and great fishing, but there are also huge subdivisions with support given to first time home buyers. The Bay itself is famous for humpback whales that migrate here to calf and also for it's proximity to the world heritage listed Fraser Island, the worlds largest sand island. You can catch the ferry from the nearby Mary River mouth for a short 45minute crossing.
On a day trip to the Kingfisher Bay Resort on the island we saw dolphins, a snake, stingrays, large shoals of fish, a great variety of birds and a monitor lizard about half a meter long. The resort justly prides itself on its eco-standards and by taking the resort ferry you can use their swimming pools and get lunch for just $1 - so remember to look out for promotional deals.
Australia is known for it's dangerous animals but a new threat caught my eye returning to the ferry. Fraser Island has the most genetically pure population of dingoes and a public notice warned of Dingo Safety. In the dingo whelping season they can become determined and aggressive protecting their young and searching for food. Good advice but in comparison to driving a car hardly dangerous at all!
Part 2 of our East Coast road trip from Hervey Bay up to Rollingstone in north Queensland will be the next Pats Postcard.