Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mega Road trip!

Sunshine Coast – Townsville (approx. 1600kms) Wednesday 24th - Friday 26th March 2010

For QLD Little Athletics State Championships 27-28th march

What a mission! On the morning of the day of our scheduled departure I had the car at the mechanics doing last minute repairs to the sway bar pin kit to eliminate an annoying clunking sound and was still running around trying to find the exact type of wheel and tyre to use as a spare for the 40-year old caravan. Finally, all set to go and my pay still hadn’t come through... panic!

Not able to postpone any longer with over 1,500 km ahead of me to get Bas to State athletics on Saturday, I hit the road at 4pm with assurances that my pay would be coming through that night.

DAY ONE: Sunshine Coast – Bundaberg (about 300km)
A relatively easy drive and my excitement at finally having got it all happening fuelled me for this, the relatively easy first leg of the journey. I found myself chuckling all the way up the Bruce Highway. I can’t believe it. I’ve been dreaming about this for so long; about getting an old caravan, doing her up and taking long road trips to discover more of the real Australia. Having seen so much of the world this way with my parents when I was young and having fond memories of those crazy adventures with my dad across Europe and Morocco, the gypsy urge runs deep and sometimes staying still for too long starts to feel like entrapment.

I phone ahead at our chosen caravan park at Bargara Beach Caravan Park just east of Bundaberg in the morning before we leave home. I’ve planned to head coastward off the Bruce Highway each night to make the tip a bit more fun for Bas who loves the beach and the surf. Bargara is right next to Mon Repos Beach turtle hatching grounds and I’ve booked us in to view the baby turtles start their 150-year lives on this very beach. Turtle season ends at the end of March. Unfortunately due to pay-waiting delays we don’t get in to Bargara until after 8pm and so we just missed the turtle tour, but we will definitely schedule that one in for next year...Bargara Beach Caravan Park was just perfect for us. I woke up to watch the sun rise over the beach while surfers caught the early morning waves just across from our camp. There is also a great little skate park next to the beach not 50 metres from our camp and I feel so excited for Bas who is yet to wake up and see all this.
When he does wake up at around 8am he goes straight to the skate park with his BMX while I prepare us a porridge and LSA mix breakfast. We have breakfast by the beach and then hit the surf with the boogie board for a couple of hours before packing up and leaving Bundaberg for the mega drive of the trip to Mackay.

DAY TWO: Bundaberg – Mackay (about 800km)
The initial excitement starts to wear off sometime during this drive – there’s a whole lot of nothing on the Bruce Highway between these towns and I start to regret my decision to push through so far in one hit. We pass though Gin Gin and straight through to Queensland’s cattle town Rockhampton. I have to stop and refuel three times during this leg of the journey and even cruising at 100 kph it seems to take forever and there’s not much to look at along the way. The stretch between Rockie and Mackay is so dull that the only thing interesting about it is the yellow reflective road signs that say: “Are we there yet?”, “Still a long way to go kids” and “How much longer dad? (and Mum)” and the squashed kangaroos on the road.
We veer off the Bruce Highway again to head out to Bucasia Beach caravan Park which is still very much suffering from the effects of last weekend’s cyclone. With coconut palms and a secluded beach it has a real tropical castaway island feel to it.
The Bucasia Beach caravan Park isn’t much to write about and for the price ($35 compared to $26-$30 a night for a powered site for the two of us everywhere else), the facilities were a tad under par. It pelted down rain that night and the new waterproofing job I’d only just had done on the caravan roof days before we left was put to the ultimate test. It passed with flying colours – the van stayed dry and the extra thick polyurethane coating doubles as a bonus sound muffler dulling the sound of rain on tin nicely.

DAY THREE: Mackay – Townsville (about 500km)
Despite intermittent rain bas and I hit the beach in the morning with the boogie board for a couple of hours – Bas swam over to his very own a sand island while I collected shells and driftwood along the beach.
We packed up and gave the caravan a good scrubbing to get rid of all the bugs we had collected from the night before’s drive and hit the road at around 11am again – destination Townsville.We made a quick detour off the highway around half way to see the famed Airlie beach and have a quick swim and discovered that Airlie Beach isn’t a beach at all but a bay, full of boats, yachts and with a string of pretty green island in the distance and lots of quaint-looking shops and eateries and kind of like Noosa with lots and lots of tourists. Bas and I agreed that it was not our cup of tea at all, made a quick U-turn and decided to push on through to Townsville.

We get to Bowen and take the compulsory photo of the van in front of the big mango – and set off once more. We arrived at Rowes bay Caravan Park in Townsville last night at 6pm and it’s beautiful. The facilities make the last park look like a slum. Immaculate toilet blocks, well-uquipped camp kitchen with fridges, stoves, toasters and kettles supplied. It has lots and lots of trees, palms and greenery and a real homely feel to it. It reminds me of my old caravan park, the Village Caravan Park in Park Ridge, Brisbane. Once again, we are right across the road from the beach but alas there are no waves. Bas declares that a beach without surf is not a beach at all in his opinion and I agree that they should call them bays or harbours instead. But we are also two minutes drive to the city, the strand and the sporting complex, and that, after all, is the real reason we came on this trip at all.

Bas competed in Long Jump today and came a very respectable fifth with a jump of 5.16m. Tomorrow he has Triple Jump. We are happily ensconced in our caravan and loving the road-tripping life.

The bonus for me with this trip is being able to share it with my son. Not having travelled as much as me, he did not initially share my excitement for this trip. He’d have rather flown up. I couldn’t afford the fares so it wasn’t a choice. “It’ll be fun”, I cajoled. I knew he’d soon discover that it is. And he has. We arrived in Townsville yesterday after three days driving and two awesome coastal detour stop-overs. Now he’s hassling me to take an extra day and keep going up to Cairns and I must admit I’m tempted...

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