Surviving Cyclone Larry
Trip Start May 07, 2005
117Trip End Ongoing
By this time we were old hands with campervans and intrepidly set forth down the east coast of Australia. We calculated that we needed three days of heavy driving and three days of staying put. Our first plan was to drive around the Atherton Tablelands but we decided to push through. I'm sure anyone who knows that region is cringing that we didn't stop but it turned out to be a very good decision.
The drive was lovely with perfect weather. We stopped and made dinner at a nice picnic spot near Ingham. We called a dive shop in Townsville to inquire about diving. They asked us if we were crazy and didn't we know about the cyclone? We were less than 100 km away and the weather was perfect. We talked with a couple who lived in Townsville and they knew nothing about a cyclone
The only thing we saw in Townsville was the strand and it was wonderful. It has a swimming area that we didn't see, picnic areas, soccer fields, volleyball nets, basketball courts, great restrooms with showers (that I took advantage of) and a netted area that let people swim in the ocean without being stung by the hordes of dangrous box jellyfish. The weather was a bit windy with little sprinkles but nothing like a hurricane. We decided to push our schedule even more aggressively and drive closer to Airlie Beach.
By the time we got to the marina at Airlie Beach the weather was rough. We had hoped to take a tour of the Whitsunday Islands but nobody was going. A ferry was running but the weather was so bad we decided to make it a driving day and hope for better weather later. That's the nice thing about being flexible -- you can drive in the rain and rest in the sun. On the way out the wind was so rough that we were sure it would knock the coconuts out of a small tree. We decided to rescue them. It was probably illegal but I guarantee that we enjoyed those coconuts much more than the owner (if there even was an owner). We drove all day and the weather got very bad -- windy and rainy but we made it to Rockhampton to take a tour of Great Keppel Island the next day
On the way to Great Keppel Island we learned that we had driven through Cyclone Larry, the worst hurricane in thirty years. It demolished Innisfail, a town we drove through just two days previously. We would listen to radio reports and interviews. I love the Australian attitude towards life. One man said, "We are fortunate that nobody was killed, although if you have to go that would be a fine way to go."
While I am talking about Australian attitudes, let me digress. We talked to a lot of people in rest stops, caravan parks, and nature preserves. As far as I can tell everybody in Australia is friendly and loves to fish. They take pride in their country and love tourists because it affirms their pride. In most contries the first question we get asked is, "Where are you from?" In Australia it is, "How do you like Australia?" Eventually we do get asked where we are from but usually it is because the asker wants the opportunity to brag about where they are from. As for helpfulness, one time we asked someone for directions. He lit up and got all excited and when he realized our destination was near and easy to get to he seemed to get a little sad
But back to Keppel Island. We decided to try to fish and found somebody to rent a second pole from. We got all sorts of good (?) advice and set out. We spent about 5 hours fishing in the blistering sun and biting rain. We had our swimmers on and waded out in the water. We tried all over the place and saw big fish jumping but still we didn't catch anything
When we got back to the camper we realized that we were sunburned. Kim had cleverly gotten out of the sun for part of the time and wasn't too bad but I was very burned on my back and chest. I still had a good farmers tan from Thailand so my forearms weren't burned too badly. I spent the next three days moaning and rubbing lotion onto my battered skin. Kim is very much in favor of preserving skin and gave me many "I told you so's" while graciously rubbing lotion on my back.
Overall I don't think Great Keppel Island was worth the time and money for a day trip. There are plenty of good beaches in the area. I think it would be a lovely place to spend a few days though.
We wanted to stop at Bundaberg to dive and see baby turtles hatch. The divers laughed at us again and told us nobody was diving due to the cyclone. We also found that baby turtle season was over so we decided to take it easy and get to Hervey Bay.
That night we drove to Hervey Bay and again slept in the marina parking lot for a tour of Frasier Island the next day. The tour was well done and Frasier Island is a magnificant place. It is the largest sand island in the world. The amazing thing is the huge trees that grow there. These trees used to be exported all over the world before the island was protected. How can such huge trees grown when the soil only goes down two feet before turning into sand? There is some nice wildlife that hasn't seen the mainland in 10,000 years. There are turtles and sharks and dolphins (we saw three) and an old beached shipwreck. Again I think a daytrip might not be the best way to see the island. Camping with a 4WD would be fantastic but a 3-day tour might be nice also. When I take these short tours I feel like I am checking a touristic spot off a list rather than really exploring and enjoying it for it's own sake. It whetted my appetite and I feel like I need to go back rather than feeling like I've really been there.
That night we stopped in a wonderful park near Calliope (I wanted to pronounce it the Greek way kaal-eye-oh-pee but someone corrected me saying it was kaal-ee-ohp). The park was great. There were lots of other campervans and a sign saying we could only spend 48 hours there. We fished and met a retired fishing couple who gave us a yabbie pump demonstration and told us some other free camping sites neat Brisbane
The next night we stayed in a spot very near the beach and took a nice midnight walk through a toad-infested trail to the ocean. We woke up to cars parking for people taking their 6am jog. We didn't expect crazy people to be up so early and since we were taking up half the parking spots we decided to get a move-on. We made it to Brisbane without problems.