26 July 2013
Airlie Beach. Bowen. Ayr. Alva Beach. In that order. Doesn't it sound like we're going in some alphabetic order? Just the way it turned out, though.
Bowen is a lovely
little town on a cape just a bit north of Airlie Beach. This area is
still part of the Whitsunday Islands, since there are 74 islands in this
grouping. Bowen lays claim to being the oldest town in Queensland, and
has celebrated that with a series of murals all over town, depicting
the history and development of the area. They also have a lovely series
of mosaics at the info center, which I preferred to the painted murals.
And Bowen grows a
LOT of mangoes - in fact, a horticulturist from Bowen bred the most
popular mango grown in this region. Hence the MONSTER MANGO at the info
center, LOL! I love these crazy super-sized objects, they are so pop
art (without most people realizing it) - so Claes Oldenburg, so Andy
around this cute little town, drove out to Flagstaff Hill where there
are amazing views of the Coral Sea, the islands, the town itself, the
mountains in the distance (part of the Clarke Range). And the
neighboring beach, Kings Beach. It was just lovely! But the crazy wild
wind has continued, and being on the highest point in town really
wasn't the warmest spot, either. So we hustled back to our cozy camper.
We stayed at a campground opposite the marina, along the waterfront - so the wind was apparent all night long, rocking the van in an uneven rhythm. It actually was rather soothing. In a weird, syncopated kind of way.
Not much else to say about Bowen - just a very cute little town with some beautiful old buildings, wide streets in the downtown section, the inevitable (and confusing) roundabouts at most intersections, and these gorgeous views of their part of the 74 Whitsundays. Islands ranging from tiny cays to large mountainous islands with various buildings, all part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The colors in nearly every shade of blue, green, and all the blue-greens in between. Lovely blue sky, little puffy clouds, and a perfectly placed lighthouse for scenic photographs. I could get all poetic, but I think the photos speak for themselves. (And if you don't like photos, just scroll down a bit.)
So, Friday we drove from Bowen
through High Hill (really, that's the name of the town) to Ayr (another
sweet little Aussie town, with an incredible European deli featuring all
kinds of Mediterranean goodies) and off to Alva Beach. We like our
Alva township is
spread out, and we never quite got to the town part. We found the
campground, hooked up the van, and went off for a walk to the beach,
maybe a kilometer or so off to the (um, probably east?).......
There were big bluffs
and dunes, so we decided not to walk down to the beach, it was late
afternoon and sunset was approaching. But the beach seemed to have the
series of sand bars creating various lagoons that we've seen elsewhere
along the coast. The sand seemed darker than other places, but that
could just have been the lighting at that time of day. There were all kinds of sea birds wheeling through the air and screeching and squawking as they ate their dinner and headed home for the night.
We headed back, and
met up with a woman who was walking home, in the same direction. We
walked along a side road down to a dive shop - there's a famous wreck
off this coast, and we wanted to check out the possibility of diving.
(They're booked solid on Saturday, we aren't prepared to stay til
Anyway, as we walked
back we saw what we first thought was the sunset - but then it spread
out, instead of getting smaller. Then flames began to leap up into the
darkening sky! We watched, fascinated, as this turned into a huge
conflagration lighting up the entire area off to the west. And, knowing
that bush fires are frequent, we hurried back to our campground and
reported the fire to our manager.
Turns out this is a cane fire. After harvesting the sugar-filled stalks, the leaves are left to dry and then are burned, in a controlled burn. As the manager said, "The firies [firemen] are there to help out."
This is a frequent, usual practice. The only way to make the sugar cane grow back again. To light a huge fire, and try to keep it to the sugar cane field, despite the fact that the wind was about 25-30 knots, and that this part of Queensland hasn't had rain in months.