MONDAY 7 OCTOBER – SUNDAY 20 OCTOBER TOWNSVILLE
The two weeks here seemed to go by really quickly, without us doing a great deal that was interesting. It was hot, even at the coast, and that really sapped our energy and motivation.
Townsville, we already knew, from a brief time here in ’98, was a good sized city, with lots and lots of shops – in which we spent some time. After the previous months, I had a new appreciation of shops – and choices! I really enjoyed having a full range of goods available – especially foodstuffs. Even had my hair cut – months since it had been cut by a proper hairdresser, though John had managed a reasonable effort, a couple of times.
We availed ourselves of the fishermens’ co-op store, across in South Townsville. Bought fish and prawns there, visiting a couple of times, and stocking up the freezebox before we left.
Diesel here was so much cheaper – our first refill cost 80cpl.
John played a number of games of bowls. With several bowls clubs in Townsville, he had no shortage of options to choose from. He won a pedestal fan, which we decided to take home.
We walked along the Strand – the walking path through park lands, by the sea. Sometimes I walked the Strand on my own, navigating through some streets and parks from the caravan park, to reach the Strand. Sometimes I walked in the other direction, along Rowes Bay beach and Cape Pallarenda road. I had a new appreciation both of being by the sea, and being able to walk around freely and safely.
Along the Strand was a fabulous water playground, the likes of which I had not seen before. There were all sorts of imaginative ways of playing and getting wet, from gently little streams falling from a high mushroom shape, to a large and sudden dump of water from a big bucket. It might have been designed for children, but I was very tempted…….
We took a day trip to Magnetic Island, which one could see across the bay from Townsville. Caught one of the regular ferries across there. John was not keen on hiring a little runabout so we could get around the Island, which I’d wanted to do. We only had a few hours over there, having gotten rather a late start in the morning.
We caught a bus from the ferry landing around to Nelly Bay, and then walked about, a bit. That was about the extent of it – couldn’t say we really saw that much of the place, which has a number of permanent residents, who commute over to Townsville.
We visited a gallery that we walked past – had not set out originally to do so. They had some quite striking pottery. We finished up buying a large, bulbous vase/urn shaped piece by Peter Andersson, finished with a rough orange and earth colour surface. It would not have been my first choice, but John really liked it. We arranged for it to be sent home; we would contact them when we were there, to send it.
We attempted to contact the lass who was the cook at Adels, who we thought would be home from there, by now. But she wasn’t. We talked with her mother, though.
When we were driving around South Townsville one day, John saw an auction house/second hand dealer. He loves looking around such places, so in we went. We finished up buying a new porta-cot, at a very good price, to be a present for my daughter, whose first child is due in February. Some juggling about of contents allowed us to fit the porta-cot into Truck.
John’s older daughter was also to have her first child, in March. At least not staying on in Doomadgee would allow us to be closer to the daughters, at that time.
One late afternoon, the Army (there is a strong defense force presence in Townsville) had some sort of ceremonial event, held on a park area by the Strand. We saw, over preceding days, the setting up for this, blocking off some streets, erecting a little castle like structure, and the like. On the set afternoon, we parked as close as we could get and then walked some distance to watch. There was a fair sized crowd turned out for it, but we never did work out quite what it was all about! It seemed to be just a ceremony, with a lot of marching, but not all that interesting. However, I did like getting to meet the little white shetland pony that was the regimental mascot.
One day, John was browsing through the Townsville paper, and saw an advertisement for workers wanted for the coming mango harvest season. NAP – North Australian Plantations – were advertising. John was off and away again! Enthusiastic – just as he had been about Doomadgee. He said that we had camped lots of times in the shade of mango trees, and it would be interesting to stick around, for once, for when the fruit was ripe, and for the harvest. He was really into money-making mode now!
I did not mind the idea, and our house sitter was very amenable to us staying away!
So, John phoned the given number. Although NAP had mango plantations around Townsville, their main farms and packing sheds were 50kms south, at Giru.
We were asked to drive down there, one day, for a brief interview, which we duly did. Were told that we would be contacted when the harvest began – probably early November. We would work in the packing shed at Giru. We would be paid by the hour, at what seemed a reasonable rate. The number of hours worked each day would vary with the ripening of the fruit.
It would be a “different” experience, anyway.
While we were down at Giru, checked out where we could bring the van, to stay. The initial option – a sort-of caravan place just out of Giru, seemed rather run down and not at all welcoming.
We drove further south – another 37kms – to Ayr, where we inspected a caravan park and decided that would suit us fine. We would just have to manage the commute to Giru.
Thus we were left with an uncertain amount of time to fill in, before starting work again. The idea of staying on in Townsville was not really attractive. It seemed better to use the time to do some tourist type exploring in other places – maybe even as far away as a day’s drive from Ayr. We focussed on the area to the south, because if the mango work did not happen, then we would still be on our way home.
We stayed a day longer than the two weeks in Townsville, to give John an extra game of bowls. On his way, he filled Truck – 82cpl.