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.
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.
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.
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?”