SATURDAY AUGUST 31 TOWNSVILLE TO AIRLIE BEACH 290kms
Pulled out of the Black River Stadium camp just before 9am.
Both the GPS and I managed to miss the turn off onto the Townsville Ring Road, so we had to find a place on the highway to do a U-ey, in Saturday morning traffic. Driver was not happy. I reckoned the signage, coming from the north, had not been clear – that was my excuse, anyway. For the GPS there was no excuse!
We refuelled at the very convenient Woolworths servo at the big roundabout. $1.529 cpl. Found the way out again, first try, this time.
It was a hot day, making travel uncomfortable.
There were roadworks at regular intervals south of Townsville, and we spent a lot of time waiting in traffic queues. Seemed we hardly got up to speed after each stop, before we were pulled up again.
Unfortunately, these hold-ups started virtually on the Townsville outskirts, coinciding with the Driver’s urgent needs for “comfort” stops, every ten minutes or so, for the first hour or thereabouts of travel. The usual pull ups beside the road so he could exit Bus were not possible in the lines of traffic. So, while we were stopped, and the matter was becoming urgent, I went back to the kitchen area and found an empty plastic jar – with lid! Served the purpose…. Being higher than the surrounding traffic had more than one benefit…
The section between Townsville and Ayr was definitely the worst for roadworks that we had encountered on the Bruce.
Passed the NAP mango packing shed at Giru, where we’d worked for six weeks, back in 2002, me packing mangoes and John on the sorting tables. We used to drive out every day from the caravan park in Ayr, so that section of road was familiar.
Crossed the Burdekin River on the dramatic steel girdered bridge. Looking at the small stream below, it was hard to credit that this bridge has at times been inundated by the river.
The Inkerman Sugar Mill was just south of the river. I looked at sugar mills differently since our sojourns at Forrest Beach. Inkerman was dull, compared to the Victoria Mill complex.
Stopped at the Guthalungra Rest Area for a leg stretch and a little walk around for Couey. This was a pleasant, well set up U shaped road beside the highway, with toilets. There were several rigs there that looked as if they were already set up for the coming night – and it wasn’t even lunch time. I reckon it might have become pretty crowded later.
Now that he was feeling a bit better, John had, this morning, agreed that we could continue along the coast, and slow down a bit, rather than take the faster inland way home from Townsville. I suggested that we stay at Airlie Beach, which we hadn’t visited since 1998, and which we’d really liked then. I was able to phone and book into the park we’d stayed at then.
We turned off the highway before Proserpine, and took a pleasant short cut, on back roads, through to the Airlie Beach road.
We couldn’t believe how much the town and surrounding area had changed in the intervening years. In 1998, Airlie Beach was a busy little backpackers’ mecca, but still more village than anything else. Now sprawling suburbia had spread back out through Cannonvale and towards Proserpine. In Cannonvale, we passed a shopping complex and a Bunnings – always an ominous sign of development, as was the multi-lane road.
There used to be a spot on the road into Airlie Beach where one crested a rise and the superb vista of the sea and islands suddenly appeared – it was a real “wow” spot. That had gone now, with changed roads and harbour redevelopment – a pity.
Airlie Beach itself was now dominated by multi-storied buildings that spread up the once-wooded hillsides. The backpackers were still evident, and tourists, just lots and lots more of them.
Roadworks were happening, to change the centre of the town and, combined with re-routing due to a fun run, the jumble of signs and barriers was really confusing. There was traffic going every which way. We missed the detour we should have taken, and finished up driving along a very narrow road through the shops area and, I suspected from the strange looks we received, going the wrong way along a one-way stretch.
Our chosen park – the Airlie Cove Tourist Park – was through the town centre, on the road to Shute Harbour. The park was now more developed and up-market, but still with lots of lovely lush, green gardens and trees. We were allocated a very private, pleasant en-suite site, towards the back of the park, for $46.80 a night, after Big 4 discount. Tourism had definitely moved Airlie Beach prices into the big league!
We were given a sticker to put on the rig, to show we “belonged”. The receptionist said they had problems with backpackers sneaking in and staying without paying. I wondered why they hadn’t just installed some sort of boom gate like some other parks have.
I’d committed the cardinal sin – yet again – when phoning ahead to book, of neglecting to ask whether there was good TV reception and internet. In the dog house again… kind of literally! John was offered a cable to connect us to a TV signal. When we were set up, the cable had to come inside through one of the front windows – along with assorted insects, mostly of the biting variety.
After setting up, took the car and did a brief food shop, because the driver had decided he wanted home made hamburgers for tea. He also checked out the bowls club and arranged to play tomorrow.
Just after dark, I took Couey for a walk along the internal road inside the park perimeter – on her lead, of course. I noticed a Britz hire van parked a little way along the road opposite us, where there were some grassed unpowered sites. As we came back, there was a couple using the nearby camp kitchen – sounded like it was German they were speaking. I assumed they were from the unpowered site and thought no more about it.