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!”
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!
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?
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.