We’ve been encountering towns along the east coast where our wifi devices don’t work – we’re too far out of the network or something to pick up either the broadband or wifi or satellite or whatever it is. So, my apologies – when we can’t get online, we just can’t get online.
After Bagara, we headed up along the coast to the Town of 1770. I have absolutely no idea why it is named that, and I obviously can’t look it up online. The Town of 1770 is next door to Agnes Water. Yup, that’s the name. Small towns, not much exciting, but pretty and near the water. There are a number of islands in the ocean that can be reached from 1770 and Agnes – Lady Musgrove, Lady Elliott, a few others – and the islands are part of the Great Barrier Reef National Park. So even though most maps show the actual reef beginning just off Rockhampton, to the north, at the same time this part of Australia is, technically, the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
We skipped the trips to the islands, and just enjoyed being in one place for the night. I went off to explore the beach – and this is one of the oddest beaches I’ve seen, ever! There is a huge sandbar that creates a lagoon, so that the beach is one side of the lagoon and the sandbar is the opposite “shore.” There’s a narrow channel at one end leading out to open ocean – so this is an extremely protected harbour. At high tide, when I went down to the beach, the sandbar was barely visible – but it was apparent, since the waves seemed to be breaking in the mouth of the harbour – and knowing that waves don’t break unless there is shoreline below them, well, its apparent that there’s a sandbar there. At low tide, the sandbar makes an island in the middle of the lagoon – but at high tide, it’s quite treacherous and I’m sure a large number of boats were shipwrecked in this harbour.
There were a lot of people out fishing as the sun went down, and a number of people from the caravan park came down to the beach to watch the sunset. I was enjoying the walk on the beach when I noticed I was being followed by this pelican in the water – he posed as I took his photo.
In the morning, we headed back to the Bruce Highway and went back to our northerly journey. We’ve been driving through sugar cane country, and have passed not only sugar processing plants but also a rum factory – who knew that Australia produced rum? I had no idea!
We made it to Rockhampton in the late afternoon and found a holiday park by the river. Rockhampton is a far sized town with lovely old architecture, and is about 1/3 of the way from Brisbane to Cairns – so finally arriving here was a milestone! Plus the Tropic of Capricorn is just south of Rockhampton, so we’re finally in the tropics! The area is referred to as the Capricorn Coast, because of the tropic line as well as the Capricorn Islands out to sea. And yes, this is the official beginning of the Great Barrier Reef, and the Coral Sea.
The other notable thing about Rockhampton – I set up our chairs outside and sat in the sun, enjoying the warm weather (finally) and reading. All of a sudden there was a flash of color and the flutter of feathers, and I looked around – a rainbow parrot had flown in and landed just under the chair! I watched, amazed, as he/she jumped up and sat on the chair seat opposite me, right where I had my feet stretched out – this little parrot turned this way and that, watching me, almost smiling, and looking ready to taste a toe! Then, when he/she got tired of that game, it jumped up onto the arm of the chair and sat looking at me. I talked to it quietly, asking if it was friendly, did it expect food, apologizing for not having my camera to take a photo, and asking if it was trained or wild or what. Well, the parrot didn’t answer in a language I understood, but it did give me a couple of little squawks. And eventually it flew away.
This morning, Richard saw the little parrot sitting on the lap of an old man in the park – apparently the parrot has decided to be the park mascot – people at the park are friendly and feed it, so little parrot flies in to say hello and be fed. Or maybe just to greet new arrivals, like me. Anyway, it was a wonderful encounter with a gorgeous bird! (And not my photo – lifted from the internet so you can see a rainbow parrot. Amazing colors, no? And my little rainbow parrot had a friendly little face, just like in this photo! Very happy looking little bird!)
Today we really pushed and drove about 250 km to the area of Cape Palmerston. This is on the shore, just a bit south of the town of Mackay. We haven’t really found a town in Cape Palmerston, just a small cape sticking out into the Coral Sea. Warm weather, warm water, lovely.
About the drive – more sugar cane, more cattle range, and big hills in the distance. Remember how I said Australians have a quirky sense of humour? These hills are marked on the map as the Boomer Range. Yup, the Boomer Range. In the home of the boomerang. I don’t know who came up with that one, but it’s pretty funny.
Palmerston – and again, this was a unique and different kind of beach. The trees and bush give way to a lovely golden sand beach – which has barely any slope. And the water is way way way off in the distance. Creating the seriously widest beach I have seen in my life. And trust me, I’ve seen a lot of beaches! The tide was out, and it was a fairly low low tide – but this is normal at this beach, according to the people I spoke with about it. So I decided to clock the distance on my pedometer – and what do you know, from the high tide mark (the line where the seaweed and stuff collects) to the actual shore where I hit the water was just about half a mile. Half a mile wide beach! That’s 830 or so meters! It looks like a desert!!!!
It took forever to walk across, because the soft sand quickly gave way to hard packed rippled sand, with funny little bumps and various holes and all kinds of little crabs crawling around in the tiny bits of water between the ripples.
When I finally reached the sea, the water was warm – a first in almost a year, since we left the VI! I gazed out to sea, enjoying the warm water lapping at my toes. And as I stood there, taking a few photos, I realized that the water was very quickly up to my ankles. Each low wave rolled in and stayed, not even flowing back out to sea – just came in, and the next wave in, until suddenly I was ankle-deep I water. Think about it – the tide has six hours (or so) to come in half a mile – with that distance, it has to come in fairly quickly. Not all at once, but each wave covers a few inches, and slowly and inexorably it moves in, not giving an inch but taking each few inches and it moves onward.
So I figured it was time to head back to the camp. I crossed the beach as quickly as one can walk across half a mile of cement-like ripples. My favourite part, though, was beyond the ripples, where the sand is flat again, and some kind of crab (I’m guessing it’s a crab) lives in the sand. It seems as if the crabs dig holes by rolling the sand into little balls, which they push out of the hole. And make gorgeous abstract designs around their hole. Aren’t these lovely designs made out of sand pills?
Our neighborhood is full of wallabies – we drove down the road for dinner, about 10 km away, and a contingent of wallabies stood at the entrance/exit of the park to see us off. They were there when we returned, only they got scared and hopped away, although one young wallaby nearly was run over when, at the last minute, he decided to jump out in front of us. Fortunately I was keeping an eye on him, and Richard has quick reflexes – so this chicken-playing wallaby lived to face another day.
Tomorrow we hope to get to the Whitsunday region – this is where Aussies go to access the Reef, and we plan on a few days in one place, enjoying the beach and the reef and the Coral Sea. This is just one more area of Australia that we really wanted to see and enjoy, and that’s all we plan to do for a few days before we head north again. Cairns is still about 1000 km away, so we can’t tarry too long.