We have given one of our superstar crew members 3 weeks off to explore the East Coast of Australia. Stuart John from Base Backpackers Brisbane will be tweeting and blogging his experiences up the East Coast. This is an update of his travels.
UP TO BASE AIRLIE BEACH HOSTEL…
WORD of warning for those driving through Queensland. Before you go any further into this blog, I want you to go to Google Maps. Now find directions from Brisbane to Airlie Beach. Now have a look at the direction the road goes either side of Rockhampton (about the middle of the map). This is pretty much north-west, which by coincidence is the exact direction the sun sets in, making driving at the exact time I was somewhat of a dangerous task…
It’s a little over 1100km from Brisbane to Airlie Beach and takes you past some of Queensland’s major attractions, including the Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Hervey Bay and Fraser Island. The Bruce Highway also takes you past some historic old towns that are well worth a look, including Childers, my first sight-seeing stop.
Childers itself is an attractive, old-style country town located on the Bruce Highway south-west of Bundaberg. Walking down the highway you get a glimpse of what Australian towns must have been like over 50 years ago (at least until you see the multi-national takeaway store); my destination was one such building.
Back in 2000 a deranged man set fire to the old Palace Backpackers Hostel, killing 15 people. Today it is rebuilt, with an art gallery and memorial open to the public. The memorial itself is extremely well done, with a large painting showing the victims in poses from photographs provided by the families, while on the back wall are small collages containing photos of all 15 victims. To see those photos, of people enjoying their Australian experience – including cuddling a koala at Lone Pine, something we encourage down in Brisbane – then realising these people would never make it home to share their experiences with friends and family was somewhat jolting. The lady at the desk was very informative about what exactly happened, and if you are travelling through Childers I highly recommend stopping in.
THE rest of the journey was a little less memorable. Driving through country Australia you realise a couple of things:
1) service station food is terrible; and 2) some people should not be allowed out on the road. Overtaking lanes are few and far between, so just north of Gympie I took the chance to fly past a truck that had been holding me up. Problem was a woman in a 4wd decided to jump into the right-hand lane for no reason and hold me up, which meant the truck zoomed back past me on my left before it went back to one lane each way. Seriously.
At Rockhampton I’d planned on stopping at the Tropic of Capricorn, but as the sun was shining directly in my face pretty much the last 50kms into town, I missed it completely. Oops.
After Rockhampton I kept driving north towards a very small town called Marlborough for possibly the worst chicken and chips at the local service station, before pulling into a rest area 66km up the road for some much-needed sleep.
MADE IT TO AIRLIE…
We resume our story at a rest stop some 170km south of Mackay, Queensland. Our hero has managed to set off his car alarm and try sleeping in about 30 different positions before the sun comes up and awakens him for the last time…
WITH just over 300km to go until Airlie Beach, I decided to try and push straight through in the hope there was already a spare bed waiting for me. This was naturally foiled by my stomach wondering just where the hell breakfast was, and with that threatening to bring other parts of my body on strike, it was into another little service station for what was actually a half-decent bacon and egg roll.
This part of the Bruce Highway is dominated by sugar cane: all around were signs warning of cane trucks and train crossings. Eventually though I got through Sarina, Mackay and Proserpine without any problems before taking the turn-off to Airlie Beach itself, only to discover that a) the main road was closed and we had to detour; and b) I was stuck behind a large camper van whose driver had apparently forgotten the accelerator was the pedal on the right…
The scenery made up for Captain Slow though. Tree-covered hills rise over the town itself as you drive in while the blue waters of the Coral Sea tease you on the left. Even better than the view though was the available bed at Base Airlie Beach, complete with bath! One relaxing soak later and it was off to Whitsunday Sailing Adventures to check in for my cruise the next day.
The rest of the day was pretty chilled. I’m staying in Airlie Beach again after the cruise, so after a quick mission out to the docks to see where I leave from it was back to Base for a snooze before heading to their very own Down Under Bar for a $10 meal and pint deal, a few beers – and most importantly of all a few cracks at the pinball machine.
Next stop: Great Barrier Reef!!!
Stuart John (Base Brisbane)