Before it got dark, I did a tour of the caravan park to gather more information as an adjunct to the signs which were on all possible walls excusing the council from any and all blame or responsibility from everything from high winds to burglary. The park was in the shape of a capital T, with entry from the base of the T and all of the powered tourist sites along the vertical part. On one side was a swimming pool complex and the other a bowling green. Once the top of the T was reached, resident's accommodation spread on either side and the standard slipped dramatically. Old buses, rusted ancient caravans with flat tires, lean too's against dog boxes on 6x4 trailers were some examples of quarters where standards we low or lower and everywhere flags proclaimed allegiances in the hope of defining the occupants. Aboriginal flags, the Eureka Stockade Southern Cross, Holden Racing Team, Bundaberg Rum, The Skull & Cross Bones and everywhere the Australian Flag, flown as a banner, no doubt, of defiance not pride. It seemed to me from the growls and expletives I heard in admittedly a short space of time, that the wonderful blue ensign was again being used as a justification for bad behaviour which has become so prevalent in the last five years. What a shameful way to treat such a wonderful symbol.
Less than happy with our situation for the night, I locked everything down on the trailer, including the trailer itself and we shut ourselves in. All that said, the cabin we were in was very clean, well appointed and very comfortable and for the only time in our experience, the TV reception was first rate! The rain during the night probably put paid to any chance of shenanigans but it was notable how quickly the park emptied the next morning.
The houses on the opposite side of the road have more room to spread but they do so by way of stilts to compensate for the terrain. On this side of the road are two storeys and large verandahs. Everywhere were large rainwater tanks. It was a tidy, expensive place made to look laid back but in a manufactured way. Kayaks were strewn about and secured from theft to the casurinas which grow onto the beach.
At the end of the road where the Gloucester Bluff allows only a road to pass, another Eco Resort is tacked away in all its exclusivity ... "No Camping Allowed" the warning to the likes of us. In a new area at the start of the limited residential area, a caravan park offered the only obvious friendly face and in an area across the road, a tennis court and sporting club - purpose built in the last two years with the much maligned Rudd incentives - seemed an excellent use for this community and a perfect answer to those who bandy about school halls in the same sentence as fiasco.
Despite all of my class conscious observations, it is an extremely pretty place and our morning tea was very pleasant among the casurinas, with those typical flat Qld waves lapping against the shore and bright sunshine filling the space where our shade couldn't reach. In then end, as Spike Milligan once observed in the guise of Eccles, "everybody's gotta be somewhere".
After morning tea, we drove back out towards the Bruce Highway along Dingo Beach Drive - we really are exploring the Australian vernacular in our road use - and then we were going a little further north to Bowen. Cane fields in varying stages of development lined the Bruce, always with the narrow gauge of the cane train tracks waiting silently beside us for their noisy, rattling customers. Cane loaders occasionally roared out from dusty roads between fields and crossed the Bruce at their will, like kangaroos unaware of any potential collision with polished steel, aluminium and glass which silently flashed past their working day at 100km an hour. Once or twice men with caps or sometimes bent, beaten and sweat-stained Akubras stood with one knee on something convenient, elbow on that one bent knee in the way that rural men do as a signal to their mates that they are partial to a short, non-committal conversation, usually about the weather or some flamin' thing or 'nother. These glimpses made in such haste as I sped by were in stark contrast to our next destination, Bowen, in the apparent portrait of Australia it aided a film maker to paint.
Bowenwood" on a large water tank above the town gave that away. An old town with deep water access to a longish wharf, it's great claim to fame is a recent one. It was here, on the foreshore, that Baz Luhmann bought his film circus to town to recreate his version of Darwin in the early 1940's for the climax to his film "Australia". Before we even got to the Big Mango - duly photographed with Sue in comic mode - a giant billboard told us "Baz, Nic and Hugh loved Bowen ... you will too". Whatever may be your opinion of the finished product - my own is extremely low - you don't have to be a genius to see the effect it has had on Bowen.
The financial impact is clear, with $2million spent by the film crew on accommodation alone. A new foreshore development in the wharf precinct is beautiful and very welcoming to visitors as well as passers through. The strange part is the two vacant blocks which lie directly behind the foreshore, the location for the filming. They are just that ... vacant dusty lots. Nothing was left behind of the infrastructure that the film created, which one would have thought should have been kept as a tourist attraction. An opportunity missed perhaps.
We had lunch here and then drove out to Queens Beach which made no impact on us ... we are missing surf. Everywhere we drove in Bowen, mangoes hung prolifically from trees, driving Sue crazy. She is undergoing her own form of Mango Madness.
We put the head down then for the 200km drive to Townsville, stopping at Ayr for a break and some ice cream, devoured whilst looking a nice job done by the local Lions at a rest stop on the northern edge of the town. It depicted the local area in diorama and fact sheets and gave us the best information on cane cutting we have yet seen.