Leaving Townsville this morning, we passed the Australian Guitar Making School, which if you had asked me, I would have said it would be in one of the larger cities. The highway north of the city had an orange warning ‘caution’sign for the stretch up to Ingham. The only thing we could see that might have accounted for this was a little bit of smoke coming from the burnt bush on either side of the road. Many of the creeks we passed over were dry at this time of year and it does not take much to start a fire.
Tyto Wetlands are right on A1 on the south side of Ingham and a little oasis from the road. It is a 110 hectare area of lagoons which are home to 240 species of birds and wallabies. Walking tracks go around the area and there is a hide. You can go alone or on a guided tour. There is also an information centre which is very helpful not just on local things but the whole of Queensland. It was very quiet when we arrived, so we explored on our own and saw a few birds:
and one wallaby.
Afterwards we continued into the centre of Ingham for coffee. One of the town’s claims to fame is that the Lees Hotel was the place the poem by canecutter Dan Sheahan which inspired Slim Dusty’s 1957 hit ‘The Pub with No Beer’ was written. American soldiers in the town had drunk the place dry. Needless to say, it is no longer dry.
After Ingham which is inland, A1 swings back down to the coast to Cardwell on the Cassowary Coast. Before we got that far, we stopped at Hinchinbrook lookout. This gap in the Cardwell Range not only allows the road and railway to pass but also the power supply to Cardwell and provides good views.
We found our beachfront motel and settled in before having a walk along the promenade. There was a guy metal detecting, various dog walkers and the odd cyclist. Several homes along the sea front were for sale. Cardwell was significantly damaged by the Cyclone Yasi, a category 5 cyclone, in February 2011 and most homes had to be re-roofed and the pier re-built. You cannot go into the sea near the motel as there are crocodiles here, so far, we have not seen one.
Today we woke before dawn and watched the sun rise over the sea in front of our motel room. After breakfast we had to drive back into the centre of Sarina for fuel and to see the Cane Toad statue in the middle of town. Back home, Moffat has a sheep and Rockhampton where we stayed the previous night, has several statues of bulls.
Cane Toads are native to Central and South America. They were introduced in 1935 to control insects which were detrimental to sugar cane production and to reduce the use of pesticides. They did not control the insects however and proliferated beyond Queensland where they were introduced. They exude poison from glands on their shoulders and can be fatal to domestic pets which eat them, although some birds have mastered the art of catching and eating them without triggering the poison. There have been debates about how and whether they should be eliminated but not all methods utilised have been successful. The Cane Toad has been listed by the National Trust of Queensland as a state icon of Queensland, along with the Great Barrier Reef, and past icons, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the backyard mango tree (also an introduced species). Local school children gave this toad the name Buffy.
Continuing north on Highway 1 towards Mackay, I noticed on the map that a range of mountains southwest of the city are called The Blue Mountains. I am familiar with the Blue Mountains in New South Wales but did not know there were others elsewhere. Coffs Harbour has a big banana, but Bowen has a big mango, illustrating one particular variety introduced and grown here.
Bowen also has a number of murals in the town centre, reminiscent of some American towns we have driven through. However, they are not in such vibrant colours as some of the American ones but they do illustrate the history of the town.
A must in Bowen is a drive to the top of Flagstaff Hill which gives 360 degree views. The interpretive centre is closed having been damaged in the most recent cyclone to hit the area.
There were a number of birds hanging around, this magpie obviously regularly perches on this street light.
After Bowen the surrounding area is much drier. At 1pm the temperature got up to 30 degrees. After lunch at a rest area we continued towards Townsville and again entered sugarcane territory.
We had to stop at a level crossing for a cane train to pass and counted 216 trucks.
In Townsville it was pretty windy on the strand and the beach was quiet with the lifeguards hanging around with not much to do.
Walking along the strand I spotted this sculpture: Bazza and Shazza by Jan Hynes in 2004.
A large number of helicopters kept passing over during late afternoon and early evening. A couple of them were obviously military but there were several others. I hope they stop before we need to sleep. 280 miles today brings the trip total to date to 1957 miles.