Monthly Archives: November 2008

Airlie, Mackay, Rocky and Gladstone

Morning in Airlie Beach.  Nice.  I found a cafe, enjoyed a very nice breakfast of something greasy and filling.  Rain had been falling steadily throughout the night, and didn’t appear to be letting up now.  Several miserable looking backpackers passed me as I ate, they were wet, cold, possibly hungry, and a long way from home.  Many of them were trudging toward a nearby bus, heading northwards, by the look of it.  Thursday, ‘At least they’ll be draining and cleaning the Townsville Rock Pool in time for your arrival,’ I thought.

I was back on the road minutes after checking out of my room, driving slowly through the town, taking in the views.  Must bring the family back for a look.  Thinking about it though, it might be a bit of an ask.  The only barrier being the long and boring drive between Rockhampton and Mackay.  The dreaded Malborough stretch, which is so boring that the sight of a cow or windmill is enough to bring excitement into the life of the dull eyed traveller.  Today I would be rolling down that road and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it.

The rain intensified as I wound my way toward the Bruce Highway turn off, and as I turned onto the main road, as if by magic, the rain stopped.  Pushing the family truckster up to the 100 k speed limit I checked the sky above, clear, to the West, clear, to the South and North, yep, clear.  But over Airlie to the East, huge dark clouds sat, pouring liquid gold onto this lucky part of the country.  Once again I wished I had a huge net with which I could snare those rain givers and drag them home to Gladstone.  It would be a win/win situation, Airlie tourists would enjoy the sunshine, and Gladstone would get some much needed rain!    

The road into Mackay was a pleasant drive… for about fifteen minutes.  Then some goose in a four wheel drive locked onto my tail and started flashing his lights and getting a little aggro.  Checking my speed (over the limit by 10 kph) I thought, ‘Well buddy, take the lead!’  He did, on a blind corner, heading up hill.  The oncoming truck didn’t hesitate to let both of us know that he was unimpressed.  Goose Boy (my new name for him) dived back in behind me after hanging on for as long as he could on the wrong side of the road, then he started surging at me, pretending to ram my rear end.  Tapping on the brake pedal while accelerating gave him a bit of a fright, but not for long.  Thinking that I’d rather be shot of this bozo, I ended up slowing down to 70 kph, and let him go.  Geez it took him ages to get round me, definitely driving the wrong sort of vehicle for his driving needs.  Anyway, as he passed he waved his middle finger in my direction, and actually hit his passenger (a woman who looked like his mum) in the face as he did so.  I laughed so hard that I nearly drove off the road.  My merriment wasn’t lost on Goose Boy and when he finally got passed me, he slowed to 60 kph, and started tapping his brake pedal.  Jesus!  Where do these clowns come from, and why are they attracted to me? 

Backing off to 50 kph I was thinking, ‘Well sooner or later the idiot will get bored and piss off.’  Nope.  He had bought his ticket, and now he was going to enjoy the ride.  So, for the next few kilometres we drove, in fits and starts, toward Mackay.  Then a truck appeared behind me, and taking one look at this pair of idiots in front of him decided he wanted no part of it, and overtook the two of us.  Locking onto the tail of the truck I slipped past Goose Boy, giving him a friendly wave as I did (no, really it was friendly, I even held up all my fingers).

It took him ten minutes to catch up to me again, and the crap started all over again.  ‘Bugger this,’ I thought, and punched the accelerator.  ‘Bugger the cops, bugger Mackay, and bugger inbred farmers and their rednecked ways!’     

With Goose Boy vanishing in the distance I relaxed and switched on the radio.  My favourite station was now in range, Radio National, and even better it was time for the Book Show.  The feature book was called ‘My Family and Other Animals’, and I got quite a few laughs from this pleasant book reading.  So by the time I reached the outskirts of Mackay I was in a very good mood.  Maybe I would stay for the night in this neat little city?

Goose Boy re-appeared like something out of Mad Max, red faced and foaming at the mouth.  By now we were on a four lane road, and he was alongside, screaming something at me.  I shook my head at him.  This, amazingly, made him wilder, and he pretended to shoot at me with his hand.  My eyebrows shot up, ‘What the…?’  Then he swerved toward my car.  That’s it.  I wound down my window and his mum looked mortified as I yelled out, “Pull over dickhead, let’s end this!” 

He looked like he’d been given an early Xmas present, and he pulled in behind me as I slowed.  When it became apparent that things were going to go to hell in a handbasket, dear old mum came to my rescue.  As I slipped off my seatbelt I checked the rear view mirror, and Ma was giving Gooseboy the royal booting.  She was waving her finger, and screaming at him, and from what little I could hear it was pretty evident that Mum had spent some time hanging around wharfies and construction workers.  Some of the phrases she was using I even wrote down later for future use… 

As it turned out, I didn’t even have to get out of the car.  Goose Boy, his face burning with shame, drove round my parked car without even looking at me, Mum yelling into his ear, and continued into Mackay.  Shaking my head I sat full of pent up rage and nowhere to use it.  Turning on the radio I thought ‘I’ll just calm down for a moment before driving on.’  Then Brown Eyed Girl came on, and I switched it off.  To hell with Mackay.  I’m going home. 

I slipped my  Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash CD into the stereo and spent the next 1/2 hour battling Mackay traffic and trucks.  By the time I hit Sarina, my blood pressure had returned to normal, and I was singing along with the boys on the stereo. 

For the next three hours there was nothing else to report.  Did I mention that this is a boring drive?  By the time I hit Malborough, near Rockhampton, I had listened to Waylon, Willie, Johnnie, Slim, and was working my way through, ZZ Top, AC/DC, Guns n Roses, and a couple of Jethro Tulls.  An eclectic mix, and another reason my family don’t like travelling with me anymore… 

Rocky was hot.  The fuel cheap, and the food tasty.  Home was an hour a way, and being on a very familiar road I switched off the stereo, and the air con, wound down my windows, and with the wind blowing through my ears, decided to think. 

The burning question was the one my sisters’ partner had asked:  “What are you training for?  What sort of body shape are you after?”

I didn’t know.  Ok, I didn’t have the desire, or the discipline to be BIG.  Doing nothing wasn’t an option either, because I would get BIG, but not in a good way.  If I knew what body shape I was after then I could adjust my training to suit, and maybe I’d start seeing results. 

By the time I reached home I had worked it out.  I wanted to be thin, and fit.  I wanted to look like I did when I was in the Army Reserves.  To be strong and fit, and able to run, jog, hike, swim etc .  Like my music, I couldn’t just pick one thing, I needed to be fit enough to tackle any number of challenges.  Versatility was the key.  I remembered one of my mates’ fathers then, the first time I met him we were shaking hands and he muttered, “Broad shoulders, first to die.”  I couldn’t have been more surprised if he’d pulled his pants down in front of me.  My mate explained, having heard this before obviously, “Dad was a prisoner on the Burma railway.  When the Japs cut the rations down to a cup of rice a day, the big men, the broad shouldered blokes all died first, because they needed much more protein than the wiry, little fellas.  It sort of affected dad.”  Geez, you reckon?  Funny how that stayed with me though…

So, that was what I wanted to be, lean, well toned, an all rounder.  I got a mental picture in my head of me in my Army greens, and thought, ‘That’s the destination, now how to get there?’

I’d already unpacked my stuff, cleaned the car, and hung my washing out to dry by the time my family arrived home.  The dog had removed most of the skin from my knees to my ankles in a frenzy of happiness.  After an hour of being loved, hugged and licked (by the dog!), I hit the gym. 

I’d lost all my hard earned gains, had put on weight, and felt like crap.  An hour later, I staggered out and made my way home. 

I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle.  

That night, as I logged on to Craig Harper.com I read that I needed to change my thinking before anything else could change.  Yep.  What was first?  I put my beer down and stared at it for a long time…

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Townsville, Bowen & Airlie Beach

Ok, I hit the road late.  I had slept in and decided to enjoy it by eating a slow breakfast of some apples, a coffee a packet of sultanas.  My sumptuous banquet over, time to go. 

Townsville was bustling as I pushed through the city centre and slid onto the highway, behind several trucks, caravans and another one of those Wicked Campers.  I waved to every Wicked Camper I saw on the trip, they were usually filled with dull eyed young folk who looked pretty weary, but had paid their money to get to Cairns and were going to damned well do it come hell or high water. 

As mid-morning arrived so did Ayr and Home Hill.  I knew some people from my youth who had moved to Home Hill, and thought I’d have a bit of a poke around.  Nice place, but after a couple of minutes I’d seen all there was to see, so back onto the highway. 

Bowen

Now, I don’t know what happened, or who was involved here, but someone from Bowen, at sometime in our States’ glorious history, must have pissed off somebody pretty influential, because Bowen looks like a poor relation to the rest of the North.  The roads were shoddy, the parks hadn’t been updated since the 1960’s, and the place had an air of quiet desperation about it.  As I drove in I noted two things:  the big reclaimer wheels ripping into a wall of coal in the nearby mine, and a large water tank on the hill with “Bowenwood” written on it.  What the…? 

Cruising up the main drag, I could see lots of references to Baz Luhrmans film ‘Australia’.  Bowen was were they shot of lot of the footage.  The Bowenwood reference made sense to me now, because the town looks a lot like 1940’s Darwin… before and after the Japanese bombed it.  Ok, I’m being a bit mean here, because the more time I spent in the place the more it sort of grew on me, and I didn’t know why?  The nearby beaches looked a bit rugged, and I found myself thinking, ‘Time to get out.’ 

Instead I decided on impulse to visit Horseshoe Bay.  I used to have a calendar at work in my locker with a picture of Horseshoe Bay on it, and it looked great.  So I decided to visit it in real life and see if it matched the picture.  On the way, I stopped at a local corner shop and watched the friendly lady behind the counter make a salad roll.  A real salad roll, which included pineapple, and was so stuffed full of salad and dead pig that she had to compress it with both hands to get it into the bag.  Total cost to me: $3.50!  Ok, Bowen might look like it lost a bet with a viscious millionaire, but you sure can eat cheap here.  In a moment of weakness I lashed out and bought an orange and a few more bananas as well; $2 the lot!  Jesus!  I pushed aside thoughts of moving up here as I returned to my car. 

Horseshoe Bay was nice.  Very nice.  The sunlight on the rocks contrasted with the huge black clouds sliding over the blue sea.  Picnic tables were set up right on the beach underneath a couple of huge she-oaks, and I had the place all to myself.  Prising the salad roll out of its’ wrapper I sat contentedly munching away, enjoying the scenery and the sound of the waves slapping into the white sand.  I was soon joined by a couple of peacocks, who happily hoovered up the spilled lettuce and beetroot at my feet.  This was almost unbelievable!  How good was this place?  Lunch over, I decided to have a bit of a scout around, and spent a happy twenty or so minutes clambering over the rocks and boulders of the little headland.  I was driven back to the car by a sudden squall which bought the rain bucketing down.  I started the car and looked at the view through the windscreen wipers, and even in the rain the place looked pretty, it was a shame to leave it, but leave it I did. 

Peacock at Horseshoe Bay

Peacock at Horseshoe Bay

Back on the road, and consulting my map I realised I was a mere hop, skip and a jump away from Airlie Beach.  In all the years we’d lived up North, and in all the times we jaunted up and down the Bruce Highway, not once had we ever pulled into this little tourist mecca.  Today would be my first visit. 

The road into Airlie wound through picturesque rain forest clad hills.  The rain had followed me from Bowen, and at times it really pounded down.  This didn’t seem to phase the local four wheel drive enthusiasts though, who seemed to really enjoy being out of control in the dangerous conditions.  I watched in amazement as one bozo lost  control at corner, slid onto the wrong side of the road, thank God there was no one coming the other way, jiggled his way back into a straight line, then gunned his accelerator again and took off in a shower of water spray, rocks and mud.  Moron. 

Airlie Beach

It was mid-afternoon by the time I hit Airlie.  Passing the usual rows of tin sheds denoting the local industrial estate and pentecostal church, the road opened up to a fantastic view of a small harbour, and in the distance the Whitsunday Islands.  Brilliant!  The main street was packed with cars crawling in both directions, and the footpaths were lined with an abundance of happy, healthy looking young folk in various stages of dress, and undress.  Backpacker Heaven. 

Pool at Airlie

Pool at Airlie

I did a circuit of the main drag and returned to the top of the street where there was a large park advertising rooms for backpackers.  I didn’t shop around, I just wanted to book in and go for a walk.  After unpacking the car and tossing all my stuff (one bag and a small book) into the room I hit the pavement.  The place was hopping.  Behind the main street was a huge group of saltwater pools, with water as clear as crystal (no drowned drunks or crocs here – people of Townsville take note!), and several mobs of people enjoying the parklands, the walkways, and the brew at the nearby pubs.  Looked too good to me.  I whipped back to my room, and grabbed my towel before hustling back.  The water was clean and refreshing, and plenty deep enough.  I spent a restful couple of hours paddling around enjoying the sights and sounds of the different languages being spoken, conversing with a middle aged couple from Liverpool, and helping a young German couple with a few Ozzie Adjectives.  Afterwards I visited a second hand bookstore, and a newsagent who informed me that she had sold the last Bill Phillips book that morning.  She could order one in for me though… 

The afternoon was wearing on, and I decided to drive over to Shute Harbour for a bit of a squizz before sunset.  Shute Harbour was very pretty.  Too pretty.  It’s a bit hard to tell, because from the road all you can see is houses and trees.  What must it be like to wake up in one of these places and gaze out over the ocean in this magical part of the world?  Brilliant I suppose.  I parked in the car park at a small lookout and went for a little stroll.  I had the place to myself, and wasn’t unhappy about this situation.  On the way back to Airlie I got passed by a young girl in a BMW convertable, and for some reason found myself punching my foot to the floor to keep up with her.  She must have thought I was a stalker because she gave her car a bit of a workout on the bends.  My fathers’ Camry just wasn’t in the hunt, so I let her off lightly…

 Shute Harbour... Nice!

Stocked up on some more goodies (beer and Sakatas) and drove back to my room.  I parked the car on a concrete pad near my unit and made a cup of coffee.  As I was waiting for the kettle to boil I looked at the trees towering over the car and thought, “Hmm, if one of those branches breaks off it’ll hit Dads’ car.”  So, being a man of action (or reaction) I slipped downstairs and moved the car to a clear parking space, then dashed back upstairs, made my coffee and sat down outside to sip it and watch the sun go down. 

The afternoon was perfect.  Orange skies, light cloud, and a thin line of fruitbats were gliding quietly overhead on their way to rape a nearby banana plantation.  As I sipped my coffee I watched as big black crow flapped noisily by, it was carrying something, half a coconut.  The bloody crow flew up toward the gum trees, and lost its’ grip on the coconut.  I watched in horror as it fell, and hit Dad’s car right in the middle of the roof.  I sprayed hot coffee out of my mouth as I yelled at the feathered bastard, and racing back downstairs grabbed a handful of stones and let fly.  Not one hit, and the cheeky bastard sat cawing at me.  I clenched and unclenched my fists, wishing to hell that I had some sort of gun available…

As it turned out I got off lightly.  The roof was slightly dented, but the paint had held, still, of all the bloody luck… just what I didn’t want! 

Beware of Coconut Carrying Crows!

Beware of Coconut Carrying Crows!

I calmed down eventually, found a decent sized rock and zinged it past the black bastard, he flew off, giving me a spray as he went.  Finishing my now cold coffee, I showered, dressed and hit the street again.  Dusk was settling in, and I went for a little stroll up to one of the resorts, just for a squizz.  I got talking to a groundsman working at the place, next thing he shot off to get the night manager and I was offered a job, immediate start if I was interested.  This tradesman shortage is wondrous thing, if I do say so myself!  I declined the blokes’ kind offer (I don’t think I’ll get my wife out of Gladstone again in a hurry) and made my way back to the main street via the pool and parklands.  In the carparks several Wicked Campers were setting up for the night.  I saw plenty of ‘No Camping’ signs, and watched as some police moved a couple of them on, but as soon as the cops left, the vans returned. 

Tea was courtesy of a pub / backpacker hostel.  It was tasty, plentiful, and well priced.  I had a beer to wash it down with, and sat for a while reading my book (George Carlins’ ‘So When is Jesus Bringing the Pork Chops?) as groups of Europeans chattered merrily away all round me.  I got caught up in their enthusiasm and had a few more beers, smiling happily at all and sundry for another hour or so.  I could get used to this life.  I imagined for a moment that I was a travel writer and that I was making a living on the road, writing about places like Airlie.  Could I do it?  I don’t know, it sure would make a difference though from the grind of heavy industry. 

The band finally kicked in, and after listening to a few well played numbers I decided to make my exit before they started playing “Brown Eyed Girl” (my most hated song of all time… next to anything by Celine Dion 🙂 ) 

My family were glad to hear my voice over the phone, well, the two members of the family who wanted to talk to me were glad.  I spoke to my wife for a little while, and then the Littlest Princess came on the line and ripped my heart out, “I miss you Daddy.”  Dear wife came back on the line and asked me when I’d be home, I didn’t hesitate, “Tomorrow,” said the aspiring, road stained, hard eyed travel writer!  I had planned on either staying here, or spending a night in Mackay, then maybe another night at a mates’ place further down the highway at Green Hill, but I was ‘needed’ at home. 

On the way back to my unit I had a beer at the backpacker bar in my park.  It was ok, there were some games being organised by a young blonde who had had her clothing sprayed on earlier in the evening.  She had teams of people organised and playing all sorts of lively games involving good looking young men and women in embarrassing situations (unless your 10 000 k’s from home and drunk beyond your inhibition level), but my heart wasn’t in it though.  Finishing my drink I declined the hostesses kind offer to play some sort of dancing game, and returned to my room.  I was the only resident in my block and pretty much had the place to myself.  The peace and quiet was just what the doctor ordered.  Several more beers, a couple of ports and entire packet of Sakatas for desert, before sitting outside in the dark enjoying the silence, and the smell of a passing shower of rain.  

Time to think… naah, I’ll do that tomorrow in the car.  Time to hit the sack and watch a movie.

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Townsville

Townsville

Townsville from Castle Hill

Townsville from Castle Hill

Place of excitement and many mixed memories.  I once went out with a very nice girl in Townsville years ago.  She was nice over the phone, and in her letters, but not so nice in person.  Funny that.  I visited her when I finished school, and spent a week at her place.  Got on like a house on fire with her parents, her sister, and her friends.  Just not her unfortunately.    

During that momentous holiday I mistakenly strolled into the local motorcycle gangs pub, The Renegades were not impressed to see me at the time.  Got caught up in a small riot outside another pub where police were doing some pretty ordinary things to a large group of Aboriginals.  Was chased by a group of off duty soldiers who thought it would be fun for 5 of them to beat up a skinny kid, and spent all my money on a plane fare home.  Ah, memories.  Actually it was kind of fun… 

I visited some of the old haunts that morning, everything had changed since my last visit, well, except for the heat.  The mall was looking a bit dated, but pretty clean, the buskers were doing a ripping trade, some of them were extremely talented too.  The atmosphere was laid back and carefree.  Welcome to North Queensland!  I found a small cafe’ and ordered a salad roll and a coffee.  Munching on another banana from my rapidly dwindling supply I started reading through some of the leaflets that I’d picked up from the various Information Centres on the trip down. 

One of the brochures from Mission Beach contained a small map clearly outlining Dunk Island.  It was the size of a small city.  No wonder the bloke at the van park reacted like he did, he probably thought he was dealing with a prize goose!  I shoved the brochure back in my carry bag and decided to focus on where I would stay tonight. 

According to my newly acquired guide, clean, and reasonably priced accomodation awaited the traveller at every turn in Townsville.  I jotted down a couple of likely contenders.  After lunch I drove out to Rowes Bay van park.  I’d stayed there before years ago, and had enjoyed the atmosphere, and the cool sea breezes.  No Vacancy.  Ok, no worries.  Onward we go.  Back to The Strand. 

The Strand has undergone a massive transformation.  Parks, pools, water playground, walking paths, statues, exercise areas, littered the foreshore for about a kilometre or more.  It looked fantastic.  Unfortunately every motel along the strip was showing a No Vacancy sign.  Except one.  Right at the end of the street, across the road from the New Improved Rock Pool.  I took a room, won’t tell you the price, but it was here or nowhere, apparently there was some convention / sporting / athletic thing on that week, and the place was packed to the rafters.  I tossed my gear into my new home, and grabbed my towel before whipping barefoot across the road to the rock pool. 

 The Rock Pool

It was big, it was well laid out, it was full of murky water, and it was all mine!  That’s right, at 1pm in the afternoon I had the whole thing to myself.  Fantastic!  I dropped my gear on the ocean side of the pool and stepped into the water.  You can imagine my surprise to find that it wasn’t four feet deep like I expected, but closer to seven.  I was literally in over my head.  Even better!  Nice and deep, and refreshingly cool.  Time to exercise. 

Water Park - The Strand

Water Park - The Strand

I cut a couple of slow laps across the pool, which took me longer than I expected.  I stopped and noticed that a restaraunt overlooked the pool and was doing a roaring trade.  Might pop in for a visit later I thought.  I was joined by another couple, who frolicked in the shallows, and were pretty much having a good time.  Geez I was in a good mood.  How good is this place! 

The bloke swam over to me and said Hello.  North Qld, where the people have time to say ‘G’day’.  We got chatting, and he told me that he was a fisherman on leave.  He pointed toward Magnetic Island, “Did you know that area between here and the island is a major Tiger Shark breeding ground?” he asked.  I didn’t. 

“Also,” he added, “we often get the odd croc swim down from the mangroves up north to have a bit of a look around.” 

Looking over the sea I felt a small shudder, I hate those bloody things, “Well at least they can’t get in here,” I said.  He laughed, “Bullshit!  That’s why the council empties this pool once a week mate, just to check for crocs or drowned homeless people.” 

My eyebrows shot up, “What day do they do that?”

“Thursdays I think.”

It was Tuesday. 

I found myself looking into the water.  We were treading water in the deepest part of the pool and I couldn’t see my feet.  Suddenly I had a real big desire to get out of the water.  He laughed at me, “Don’t worry about it mate, they’ve got lifeguards here.”  This didn’t reassure me a lot.  My swim ruined I said goodbye as casually as I could before thrashing the water to foam in order to get to the side of the pool as quickly as possible.  He could have been taking the piss, but you never know…

Rock Pool - Fisherman on the right...

Rock Pool - Fisherman on the right...

I had a quick walk round the parks, and my good mood returned.  I was completely dry by the time I got back to the unit, and decided to visit the local monument, Castle Hill.  If you can see the Hill then you’ll never get lost in Townsville.  Ten minutes later I was lost.  Whole suburbs had sprung up on the side of the Hill, and I found myself driving back and forth trying to find the old road that leads to the lookout at the top.  Two council workers, who I’d passed several times from differing directions, eventually gave me directions, and I found the road.  The view from the top is magnificent, and I was stunned at how big Townsville had grown now.  The city stretched for miles in all directions, and had a prosperous air to it.  Townsville and Cairns were definitely booming.  Each struggling to be declared the Capital of North Queensland.  Personally I’d say Townsville is bigger and wealthier, but Cairns is prettier. 

The Strand

Back to the unit, and time for a couple of drinks.  The sun was setting, so I opened a beer and watched it go down, the afternoon sky in the North is magical.  Time for tea.  I grabbed my backpack, slipped on my shoes and strolled toward the city end of the The Strand where I’d seen some good pubs and eateries.  I decided I’d eat first, then afterwards go for a late evening jog/walk. 

The pathway was full of joggers, walkers, families, couples, cyclists, picnickers, kids playing in the water park and the odd drunk.  It was great!  The council had even put in a large set of floating stinger nets so people could paddle about in the ocean in safety.  The nets were full of people enjoying a twilight swim.  I walked along in a state of wonder and happiness.  All these people looked so happy, so healthy, and why shouldn’t they?  These parks are starting to spring up in more and more places, and are absolutely worth every cent spent on them.  I was hit strongly by the desire to live across the road from this park and walk and swim here everyday. 

The pubs were as full as State School hat racks, crowds of well dressed, and again, happy looking people lined the bars, sat at tables, and covered the paths outside.  I wasn’t in the mood for a line up and a long wait for a meal.  Eventually I found a little fast food shop and ordered a kebab.  Minutes later, my bag full of kebab, some salty snacks, a bottle of port and a fresh bottle of ice cold beer I started strolling back to my room.  A young aboriginal girl stood in my way, “What are you looking at ya white &$*#?” she said.  I stopped dead, surprised.  “Nothing,” I ended up muttering.  She smirked, “Nothin’ eh?”  She was joined by her three big brothers who looked like Trouble Inc.  Shit.  The sound of pounding feet from behind reached my ears, and I half turned, expecting the worst, but was gladdened to see a group of khaki clad soldiers jogging towards me.  The Cavalry had arrived in the nick of time!  I looked back at the girl and her ‘friends’ and smiled, “Gottago!” I said cheerfully. 

Exercise At Last

As smooth as silk I tagged onto the buch of running army lads and did my best to keep up.  The kebab was flattened to the dimensions of a pancake by my alcohol supplies, but that was better than my face being pounded to a pancake.  The soldier next to me grinned, “Enjoying yourself?” he asked casually.  I was huffing and puffing loudly, “Not really!”

He laughed, “Well, we’re going to keep going for another few k’s mate, feel free to join us.” 

A hundred or so metres later I dropped off the pace and stood for a while with my hands resting on my knees sucking in a few big ones.  I wasn’t too far from my unit. 

I ate in the park, and opened the beer, idly watching the moon rise above the ocean.  Life was good.   People strolled past, many of them saying “Hi,” as they did, which made me feel not unlike royalty.  I beamed back at them graciously, full of warmth for my fellow human beings, and not a little tipsy.  I returned to my unit and rang my family before peeling the last banana from my supply bag.  I watched a movie on tele and celebrated the event with a couple of ports and my last tallie of beer, before wandering back outside again.  I ended up visiting the park again, just to soak up some more of that Northern Magic.  There were still crowds people running, walking and swimming, and large spotlights lit up the swimming area, and parklands.  How good is this?

Back in my unit I lay on the bed, filled in my diary and thought about the day.  I could get used to this…  and I got to do my run as well as have a swim.  Nice one.  Getting fit on the road; how hard could it be?   Tomorrow, another adventure awaits.

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Mission Beach, Tully & Townsville

Mission Beach

Morning in Mission Beach.  It was another beaut Qld day, the sun was out, and small, puffy clouds were chasing eachother across a clear blue sky.  Breakfast consisted of several bananas, an orange, and drink of water.  I grabbed my faithful walking stick, and then thought twice, before putting it back in the boot of the car.  Won’t need it here, too sandy, and there shouldn’t be any dogs about.  I’ve resorted to carrying my walking stick since my early forays into the world of suburban strolling.  It helps deter people’s puppies from hanging off me in numbers when I go for my afternoon walks.    

The beach was brilliant.  The water clear, and the view to the nearby islands made me wish I’d bought my boat.  I headed south, enjoying the view of the rainforest headland, and the homes sitting across the small road that ran parallel to the beach.  Sucking in some deep breaths, I broke into a bit of a trot, which came to a screeching halt seconds later as my feet disappeared up to my ankles in soggy sand.  It took a fair bit of effort to stomp my way through the slough to solid ground.  Why the hell was this sand so boggy?

The answer arrived a minute later.  Two trucks full of sand dumped their loads on the beach, and from out of nowhere a front end loader appeared and started pushing the stuff up and down the beach.  Cyclone Larry rehabilition of the foreshores I guessed.  I’d seen enough loaders and trucks at work to want to avoid seeing them on my holidays, so I pushed up onto the roadway and continued my stroll. 

After 20 or so minutes I turned round and started powering back to the van park.  A hot coffee was required to nicely round off a pleasant start to the day.  Then to my horror, a dog appeared in front of me.  A big dog.  Now, I’m a dog sort of person, I don’t mind ‘most’ dogs, but for some reason, big dogs like to attack me.  A lot.  I have many unpleasant childhood memories of being run down, knocked over and attacked by large mutts, quite often in full view of their surprised owners, all who have seemed reluctant to call their dogs off me, preferring out of interest instead to see just how far their pooch goes.  As I got older and bigger the table started to turn, and several times I’ve been chastised for booting nine colours of crap out of someones dog after it has attacked me.  And they were right, I should have been booting the crap out of the owner. 

So here I was on a deserted road, without my trusty walking stick (which has earned the name “Puppy Tapper” for obvious reasons), in the presence of a large, and no doubt soon to be unfriendly animal.  The dog either didn’t see me, or didn’t care, as it raced across the road onto the sand and into the water.  I fervently mumbled a prayer that it would get stung by something lethal, but, being an atheist of sorts, my prayer wasn’t answered.  Sure enough it stopped mid-frolic in the water when it spotted me and, pinning its’ ears back, made a speedy beeline towards me.  I frantically looked about for some sort of weapon, this thing was too big for my bare feet to handle, my eyes lit upon a lonely coconut.  Picking it up and testing its’ weight, my eyes narrowed as my brain did some calculations…  throw it, or hammer it?  Mmmm. 

As Fluffy neared me, I tried an old standby, “Piss off ya mongrel!!” I yelled, “Gwan geddouddafutya bastard!!”  The dog stopped, but kept growling.  I made to throw the coconut and the dog flinched and took a couple of hesitant steps backwards.  Then I ran at it.  It scuttled away, tail between it’s legs.  I followed it as it ran into a yard, and leaped over a small hedge, “Yeah piss off!” I added, and tossed the coconut after it, neatly hitting a tree to one side of the fleeing animal. 

My mood was dark as I returned to the park, but spying a small monument, I took the time to read it and check out the tribute to the local aboriginal tribes.  It was interesting, but sad as well.  Then, as I turned toward the cafe in a reflectful frame of mind about past injustices and the ways’ of men, I spotted two bullet like shapes honing in on me.  This time it was a pair of staffie’s.  Both wearing the leather collars of pig dogs.  Jesus!  Just as they hit the edge of the park, about 10 metres from my increasingly wet undies, a loud whistle pierced the air, the owner, a tattooed bloke lying under a palm tree on the beach called them back.

Ok, things went downhill from there as I sort of lost it.  “Have you ever heard of a f#$*ing lead!” I yelled at the bloke.  He raised a solitary finger in my direction.  The red mist fell across my vision, and I continued, “Ya f$#*in’ hillbilly, I hope some moron farmer blows ya friggin’ dogs heads off!” 

Cairn in Mission Beach

Tribute to Pioneers in foreground, and Tribute to Local Tribes in background

   

He looked away as I strode toward him, and I noticed that he had another dog with him, another big dog.  I made a small adjustment to my direction and strolled into van park cafe’ instead, struggling to bring my temper under control.  ‘This sort of thing wouldn’t happen if I didn’t go for walks,’ I thought darkly.  There’s a lot to be said for walking machines in air-conditioned gyms.  Anyway, it was Coffee o’clock. 

I ordered a coffee from the brightly dressed bloke behind the counter, who was a bit surly, so I asked him what the name of the islands were in the distance.  Well, I think that’s what I did, because he looked at me like I’d just asked him the name of the President of Albania.  “Well, mate, folks round here call that Dunk Island.” 

I looked out at several islands clustered together, “Which one?” I asked.

He shook his head, “Get a seat and I’ll bring your coffee out to you,” he said in a flat measured tone.  I was just about to tell him what he could do with his coffee but decided against it, I really wanted that drink.  I sat down and did some breathing exercises, I was feeling pretty calm by the time he arrived and plunked the coffee down in front of me.  I said thanks, but he ignored me.  My blood pressure started to rise again as I thought about this bloke.  Here he was living, and working, in bloody paradise and he couldn’t even be civil to the paying tourists.  I took a sip of the coffee and instantly scalded my top lip.  Great.  It took nearly ten minutes for my drink to cool enough for me to sip it.  Eventually I finished it, stood up, manfully resisted the temptation to throw the cup and saucer through his servery window, and made my way back to the cabin and packed.  I’d had enough of Mission Beach.  I still don’t know which one of the group is Dunk Island, and now I don’t bloody care!   

Tully

Wettest Town My Arse!

Wettest Town My Arse!

It didn’t take long to get to Tully… the fact that I was speeding out of Mission Beach helped a little as well.  I liked Tully instantly, and wished I’d stayed here in one of the grand old pubs on the main street instead of Craphole Beach.  Oh well, my loss I suppose.  As I pulled up at the iconic Big Gumboot, symbolising The Wettest town in the North (of course the good folk of Innisfail have a bit to say on the topic 🙂 ), I nearly got hit by the only car on the road in the entire town.  A clapped out Subaru station wagon shot past me as I stepped out of the car to take a photo, and I copped a spray from the overweight female driver, her cigarette dangling from one corner of her mouth, as she let fly with a few choice adjectives.  I was sort of surprised by the whole incident, but ended up putting it down to the excessive inbreeding that had obviously taken its’ toll in the surrounding countryside. 

I took some photos, and had a little poke round town.  It was nice here.  Very nice.  I was really regretting not staying here last night now.  Oh well, time to push on.

Cardwell to Ingham

The road was mine for the most part.  Apart from several highway patrol cars, and a team of Main Roads Inspectors who pulled me up to look at my rego sticker.  I pointed to the front windscreen, and my heart stopped.  It wasn’t there.  Shit!  The officer grinned, “Must have forgot you put it on the rear window eh mate?”  I grinned back nervously, “Yeah, that’s where I put it.”  He waved me on.  What the hell was my old man thinking putting there?! 

Cruising through Cardwell I stuffed another banana into my face as I listened to News Radio.  Several kids on a school trip in New Zealand had been drowned along with one of their teachers in a flash flood was the headlines.  Poor buggers.  

As I cruised up the small range that overlooked Hinchinbrook Island, I thought I’d stop and take a photo of the Hinchinbrook Passage from the famous lookout at the top of the range.  As I neared the spot I saw that it was full of tourists (one of them perched nervously on top of a rubbish bin so he could see over the lantana), and there was nowhere to park.  In addition to this, I had a large truck all over my tail like a bad rash and as I slowed, indicator flashing, he loomed larger in my rear view mirror.  My nerves started jangling.  They went from jangling to screaming a moment later as a group of young backpackers leaped out in front of my car, crossing the road cameras in hand, oblivious to me and the speeding juggernaught up my date.  I hit the horn, and they all looked in my direction, and stopped on the spot… in the middle of the road.  I swerved around them to the left, nearly wiping out the pack of gawping tourists at the lookout.  As I shot through them, I got a real good look at the shocked face of the bloke on the bin, and no doubt he missed the opportunity of a lifetime to take a great photo of me screaming like a little girl over the top of my steering wheel. 

How the truck missed them all I’ll never know.  The sweat was falling freely from my brow as I cruised down the range, truck still right on my tail, toward Ingham.  I’d eaten another two bananas and a packet of sultanas by the time my heart rate returned to normal.  I wonder if those laughing backpackers realised how close they came to replacing the NZ tragedy as the #1 topic on News Radio that day?   

Townsville

I pulled up in Thuringowa.  It was hot.  It’s always hot in Townsville, or Brownsville as some folk like to call it.  I visited the Anaconda sporting goods shop on the north side of town, and had a bit of a look round.  It was like a larger version of BCF.  Alright, but a bit pricey for such a large franchise.  Of course I’m an expert…  I toyed with getting some gym togs, a pair of bike shorts, and maybe a single man/person tent.  I ended up getting lost, bewildered, then severely distracted by a stack of neato little gadgets.  Returning empty handed to the car I dug out my map and was surprised at how big Townsville is now.  As I hoovered up another banana and an apple, I decided my best bet would be to find a room somewhere on the Esplanade and walk everywhere.

As it was midday I thought instead to have a bit of a look round before finding somewhere to crash.  The rest of the day lay ahead, full of promise, and I couldn’t wait to explore the old place to see what had changed.  And this evening, I promised myself, I would take a jog through one of the many parks that dotted the foreshore.  Something to look forward to.

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Innisfail, Etty Bay & Mission Beach

Driving into Innisfail I was struck by some of the familiar sites I remembered from my childhood growing up there.  I was also struck by one of Innisfails’ sudden downpours.  Geez it belted down, and as quick as the shower started, it stopped, leaving me surprised, drenched and steaming.

To dry off I decided to walk around the the local cemetery and eventually I found my Grandfathers’ grave and sat down to have a bit of a talk with him.  He wasn’t in the mood for a chat, so I ended up mooching about the cemetry for a little while.   I found a few familiar names and faces on the various headstones.  Some of the messages and tributes were heartbreaking, particularly the headstones of two little children from the same family who died a couple of months apart.  What happened to them?  I don’t know, but their poor parents must be devastated.  Returning to the car I sat in it for a while thinking about my own children, and the cruelties of life.  I don’t own a mobile phone, everyone else in the family does, (except the dog… I think).  If I had had one, then that morning I would have rung everyone and told them sincerely that I loved them very much.  Of course, everyone one of them would have thought I was drunk… again.

Canecutter Innisfail

Canecutter Innisfail - I got wet again taking this photo...

And speaking of which, the Innisfail RSL was my next stop.  It was my Grandads’ second home, or possibly his first, it’s hard to tell.  The old RSL building I clearly remembered well, the bricks, the timber floor, the cannons, the snooker tables, the smells.  My Grandads’ spot on the corner, the long bar, the office my Mum used to work in, the old faces, the wall of names… yep, it’s all gone.  Instead of the lovely old brick building, there is now one of those pre-fab jobs, and nothing ‘feels’ right.  I had one beer for the old blokes’ sake, peeled a bar fly off my shoulder (he was very nice, but I wasn’t in the mood), and sauntered up town. 

It’s a thriving little shopping area, and Innisfail, I’m proud to say even has a book store.  Not bad for a small town.  Gladstone, by comparison, has twenty times the population and is unable to support a 2nd hand bookstore.  Says a lot about my hometown that… 

I couldn’t find a copy of the Bill Phillips book, so I ended looking for something to eat.  I bought a chicken and salad wrap from a ripper little deli in the main street, which cost a fortune but was worth every cent.  In the end I could only manage to eat half of it so tossing the remainder into the food bag in my car I set out to find the local library and museum (another reason why my children don’t like going anywhere with me!). 

The museum was closed, but the library was open and doing a tidy business.  I met a very nice old lady who was stacking up on murder novels.  I noted the titles and leaning forward I waggled my eyebrows, pointed at her books and said, “Got someone in mind?”  She laughed, “Yes! My husband!”  We both laughed, but I was taking a mental inventory just in case I heard about a mysterious death in Innisfail later in the week.  We got talking about the old place and she asked me, “So, are you travelling through?”  I nodded, “Yep, I’m on my Farewell Tour of the North.”  She looked a little concerned, and peered closely at me before asking in a hushed voice, “You, you’re not dying are you?”  She lay her hand on my arm.  I stared down at her hand, before looking up at her, “Well, we’re all dying aren’t we?”  Her eyebrows lifted a little.  “But, no, I’m not about to die.  I just don’t think I’ll be back up this way again for a very long time.” 

This seemed to make her very sad, “It’s a shame really,” she said eventually, “Innisfail used to be such a thriving place, now all it exports is sugar and it’s young folk.”   Minutes later I joined the ‘young folk’ and left town, the long way, via our old house, and my favourite fishing spot on the Johnstone River.   

Everything had changed.  Everything does.  Well, what did I expect them to do, keep these places just as I remembered them from 1976, just in case I popped back unannounced for a surprise visit?  Of course not.  Okay, it would have been nice…     

Etty Bay beach though was almost exactly the same as I remembered it.  Fantastic!  I wanted to move there immediately, and spend my life walking up and down this lovely beach and exploring the rainforests which fringed the coastline.  Of course, come Summer I would be joined by the jellyfish, the odd roaming croc, the tiger sharks, shoals of stonefish, and many other delightful creatures designed to kill you thousands of times over with just one touch.  

At the little beach shop I bought a coffee, and a couple of handmade cards.  These little cards were brilliantly made, using local materials, and even had little verses painstakingly printed on them.  Just looking at them now makes me want to go back.   While I was drinking my coffee, and slurping down some bananas I’d bought by the tonne from a roadside market stand, a miracle of nature serenely strolled out of the rainforest, up the beach and stood right in front of me.  A cassowary!  I hadn’t seen one of these beautiful birds since I was a boy, and wasn’t all that hopeful of ever seeing one in the wild again, and here was one now, as bold as brass hoovering up my banana skins.  It was tremendous, almost heavenly.  I sat transfixed by the sight of this fantastic creature, right up until the owner of the store came out yelling, “Piss off ya mooching bastard!  Gwan, scram!”  The cassowary shot through, and the world was a slightly dimmer place for its’ parting. 

Cassowary @ Etty Bay

Cassowary aka: Mooching Bastard, @ Etty Bay FNQ

I left soon afterwards, but some of the glow remained.  I felt good, the car was running smoothly, and the highway beckoned.  I visited nearby Mourilyan Harbour, took some photos of the unloading facilities for the boys at work… what else would you photograph on holidays? And visited the very jetty where my cousin sat down unknowingly on hessian sack full of pissed off mud crabs.  She probably still has the scars on her butt. The afternoon was getting on, and I hadn’t thought about where I would be staying tonight.  Checking my map, I decided to pull into Mission Beach and find a room.  Then I would go for a jog, and do my exercises before tea.  Well, that WAS the plan.  I arrived at Mission Beach and discovered that every room under $100 per night was booked solid for the week.  The backpackers units were full to overflowing, and the one room available at a beachside park cost $110 for a dank, squat and miserable besser block outhouse.  If Norman Bates had been behind the counter I would not have been surprised.  I declined the offer to share a space in paradise with the two cane toads trying to squeeze under the door.  Other accomodation was available but started at around $140 for the night.  I toyed with pushing on to Tully and finding a room in one the pubs. 

Back in the car and off to South Mission Beach where I managed to secure accomodation in a cabin in a van park.  The park was clean and tidy, the cabin basic, and the fees… well, let’s just say $95 a night for a bed in a cabin was a bit more than I expected to pay.  I unpacked, and discovered to my horror that I’d left my booze in Cairns.  So, back in the car, and off to the local pub for supplies. By the time I got back the sun was setting, so I strolled along the little strip of beach just above the hight tide mark.  It was beautiful bit of sand, but slightly scary.  Close by on either side of me was water.  The ocean, green and full of weed, and on the other side, a large pool of dark looking water.  I’m walking in paradise and my eyes are locked onto the surface of the water.  Crocs, Mud Geckos, or Snappy Flat Dogs, as they are also affectionately known, haunt these waters.  The locals are a bit blase’ about them, and some tourists have been known to treat them like toys or funny looking pets, right up until they are dragged kicking and yelling into the murky depths.  I, on the other hand, had enough to do with these things as a kid to be afraid of any nearby unfenced pool of water deeper than my ankles.  So, with my adrenalin pumping hard I managed to do a rip roaring power walk along the sand that afternoon. 

Mission Beach

Mission Beach

I survived the walk and hit the park as darkness fell.  I did some of my weight free exercises that were given to me by a very helpful person from the Craig Harper forum: (http://www.craigharper.com.au/forum/viewforum.php?f=2&start=0)

I’d been reading Craigs stuff for just over a year, and the forum was a relatively new part of the whole Craig Harper experience.  I was new to forums, and prior to my trip had logged on and asked for some help with gym free exercises to do while I was away.  To my rescue came AmandaB, who provided me with quite a good little workout to do when ‘on the road’.  

Tea was ready when I returned to the cabin, it was the remainder of my lunch roll, and half a tonne of bananas for desert, followed by a couple of beers to wash it all down with.  I was glowing when I rang my family and chatted with them, and afterwards I magnanamously shared a shower with a large cane toad that was obviously a regular at the amenities block.  Later, as I lay on my bed listening to the sound of the waves slapping against the beach I thought, “Getting fit sure is fun.  Wonder why I’m not losing any weight?”

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Holidays! Off to Cairns

My imminent promotion at work was drawing nearer, and I decided that with a couple of months to go until my butt hit the ‘hot seat’ it was time for a bit of a break.  But what to do? 

The answer came when my parents announced that they would be driving to Cairns to visit my younger sister and her partner in order to help them move house from Cairns to the Sunshine Coast.  Their only problem was how to get their car home as they would be driving my sisters car, while her partner drove his van.  Ta Da!  Me to the rescue.  I volunteered for the job.   

I had a stack of leave up up my sleeve (now there’s a title for a country song) so I booked off for 6 weeks, and in early April we set off.  Farewelling my wife and children we set out at 4.30 am.  The rough plan was to drive with my parents to Cairns, mooch about at my sisters for a few days then chug back alone down the coast on my way home visiting all those areas I’d never seen before, and checking out all the old stamping grounds.  To say I was excited by the prospect would be an understatement.  I hadn’t been North for years, and was keen to see what had changed.

Cairns from above

Cairns from above

After 15 hours of driving we pulled into Cairns, visited a bottle shop, then made our way to my sisters’ place.  We were greeted with hugs, hot food, and plenty of drinks.  My little niece was terrified by this strange man in her house.  I helped her anxieties by whispering to her, “When you go to bed tonight, I’ll be walking round the house in the dark, and in my hand I’ll be holding a card with your name on it.”  Her little two year old eyes widened and her bottom lip starting quivering.  Good stuff.   

The next morning I cheerfully greeted my sister and her partner at breakfast, they weren’t really up to my bright mood as they’d had a shocking night with the little one screaming most of the night.  Apparently some ‘monster’ had frightened her before bed and she was too scared to go to sleep.  Go figure?   

Anyway, my sisters partner had recently started a personal training business, and he quizzed me about my fitness programme.  I sat on his back deck gazing over range and told him about my training regime. 

He didn’t say too much, but handed me a book by Bill Phillips to read.  Well, there are times when your life changes, you can hear an audible ‘click’ in your head and suddenly ‘thing’s’ start to happen.  Bill’s book is probably a good read, I don’t know, because I never got past the front and back pages.  The Before and After photos levelled me.  They really did.  I couldn’t believe the changes in some of these folk.

But I was naturally cynical.  Sure, this is fine for them, but what about me?  So I asked him, “Sure, this is fine for them, but what about me?” 

He grinned, “Ok,” he said, “I won’t lie to you, it’s hard work, and the Yanks have access to a better, and illegal in Oz, batches of supplements, but if you commit to his programme for the full 3 months you WILL change.” 

I nodded and returned to gazing at those photos.  “Why not?” I thought.

Then he added the kicker, “Of course you’ll have to give up all forms of alcohol.”

BOOM!  Another dream disappeared in a puff of smoke.  Not going to happen.  Give up the booze for 3 months?!  Are you mad Sir?!

Still, I couldn’t put the book down.  He also had the book by Bills’ brother, which was full of photos of the body beautiful.  It was also a very good read.  I longed to look like these people, but not enough to pay the entrance fee.  

We spent the day in Cairns city, before taking my little niece to the lagoon on the waterfront, which made her like me a little bit, then I bought her an ice cream and later walked her down to the park and pushed her around on a variety of surprisingly dangerous swings and implements.  Suddenly I was “Unkle Grick” the wonderful.  I know how little girls tick folks…   

That night as I lay in another beer fuelled fog on my bed flicking through the photo’s in Bills’ book (again) and re-reading the testimonials (again), I longed to change.  But how?  Could I give up the booze?  Geez, big ask.  My life revolved around the damned stuff. 

On my final day in Cairns we went for a couple of walks.  I still walked, morning and afternoons, and strolling through the leafy burbs of Cairns was very pleasant.  I borrowed a push bike and got as far as 5 klms away from the house before a lone nail on the road tore the rear tyre tube to shreds. An hour later I staggered into the yard and fell over. 

Dodgy fence, long drop

Dodgy fence, long drop... good mix

Later, we visited the Crystal Cascades, a series of waterfalls that used to be a fair drive out of town.  Now they are located on the rim of the outer-most suburbs of this ever expanding city.  Still a beatiful spot though.  Later in the day we hiked the Nature Trail walk near the Cairns Botanical Gardens.  What amazed me most was that here on a Sunday afternoon the trail was packed with young and old folk, running, strolling and walking along the narrow, steep sided paths.  The rainforest surrounds and the view of town were amazing.  No wonder this place was so popular. 

My sisters partner hit the toe in a big way.  We even passed joggers on one long stretch of stairs, which always makes me feel good.  We stopped at the top of the hill, while waiting for my father and my sister to catch up, and we chatted a little more about fitness and weight loss, then he asked me another killer question, “So Greg, exactly what type of body are you training for?” 

I looked at him in amazement.  He might as well have asked me “What does the colour purple smell like?”  I didn’t have a bloody clue.  He laughed, “So you’ve rocked up to the airport with the $, asked for a ticket and you don’t have a clue where you’re going!  How do you pack for a mystery flight when you could end up anywhere?”

I laughed with him, but my mind was spinning, what was I training for?  Weight loss, body building?  What sort of physique did I want?  I didn’t have a clue.  I’d have to give this some more thought.  We returned home, where we barbecued, played in the pool with the little niece, drank and talked some more. 

The next morning I loaded my gear into Dads’ car and waved everyone goodbye.  I had all the time in the world to get home, and didn’t have a clue where I was staying each night.  The open road beckoned, and I was keen to get going.  I needed to think.  Really think.  This was going to be ‘The Year’, a promotion beckoned, the house needed more work, and my life needed changing.  I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t ‘happy’ happy either.  So far I’d got to where I was by fits and starts.  Economic factors drove many of my life’s choices and decisions, but this year, this bloody year, I had the opportunity to choose my life’s destiny.  But where to start?  What did I want?  As I hit the outskirts of Cairns and slid onto the highway I determined to really put some thought into my life, and what would actually make me happy. 

And right now I’m sorry to say that my first thought was, “I wish I’d stolen that Bill Phillips’ book…”

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