|Burnett Highway, looking towards|
Rockhampton from near Mt Morgan
To that change of direction at Rockhampton ... I just followed an instinct and turned to Mt Morgan but as the day panned out, I'm glad I did. In the long run it was much more like a normal touring day - 288kms and lots of stops to fulfill interest.
The climb over the range to access Mt Morgan was a memorable one, with a narrow but well surfaced bitumen road climbing slowly and steeply up the side of the range with one memorable stop near the top to soak up the view. Rockhampton lay off in the distance, nestled, almost hand placed between mountains. It was one of those perfect blue sky and billowing white cloud days that make it impossible to take a bad picture, regardless of your ability. I had promised myself I wouldn't send mouth watering pictures of landscapes to Sue to magnify her woes but I just couldn't help myself because it was too good a view not to share.
From here it was a short hop to the township of Mt Morgan which for some reason fascinated me. Like many places in rural Australia, Mt Morgan became a town around the gold deposits found in its hills but unlike many others, it has survived well past its useby date. The hotels are antiques of their original time but are still popular with locals. The main street is, unusually, at right angles to the passage of the Burnett Highway and has three cafes, a museum, a video shop but no bank.
On opposite side of the road is the primary school which caters for children's dietary needs with no canteen but a staff member on duty at the pedestrian crossing ideally located just over the crest of a hill. The teacher on duty today was enjoying a fag or two under the shade of the fig tree growing in the middle of the street whilst children came and went with their hamburgers, thick shakes and hot chips. Bizzare was the word which stuck me first.
legend in its own lunchbox with its May Day Festival which brings people from near and far to listen to music, participate in the street markets and gather in masculine teams to "Run The Cutter" - a strange drinking game in which a pail of liquid is shifted from one pub to the other in between sculls.
The streets are full of heritage buildings which all needed a paint today. The former railway station is also the information centre and the ladies there were extremely friendly: one was friendly enough to buy my book so she has today's soft spot. More people wandered the streets in this town than any other place we've been and they were a strange collection. An odd little place but one I found hard to leave. There was a new poem on every corner.
However, leave I did and before long I was turning away from the Burnett Highway, going south to Biloela. The drive was straight forward but Biloela was a surprise, being much bigger than I had imagined and well serviced. I had an excellent chicken Caesar salad and mocha at Kristine's Cafe and then added some supplies for the few days left until home at the friendliest Woolworths you could imagine; which included having my two bags carried to the car for me by a pleasant 15 year old who asked me about 47 questions in the time it took to get from the checkout to the car. These/those were the days. I fueled up again in order to given me flexibility and then struck out for some place starting with M ... two of them actually but I never reached either because I followed a whim and turned into Cania Gorge National Park.
After only 14 kms, I could see why the area was a NP, with sheer sandstone cliffs rising from the river floor on alternate sides. Before leaving the car, I was already impressed. I drove past two commercial caravan parks in driving the full length of the gorge, arriving at the Cania Dam after about twenty minutes. Clearly the damn can hold more but it still made for pretty images.
kms from where I had come, I landed at a Big 4 caravan park which has all the pluses you might want in such accommodation but is set out in a bush setting and creates the feeling of being low key. Obviously a busy place at sometime of the year, my site was not within 30m of the nearest other. The camp kitchen is an enormous cola and the swimming pools are all saltwater and well maintained - I sampled both. At 5:00pm, wild birds are fed and what a great show they put on. I followed this with a swim and shower and then made my way to the camp kitchen for a lonely pasta, only to find the company of a guy from Tamworth and his three fishing mates from Dubbo who are in transit to Lucinda - things in common in all directions. To make matters more bizarre, the Tamworth fisherman was familiar enough with my poetry to quote storyline and concepts. This was very weird as all four had presented as tough nut, Aussie blokes before the fellow from Tamworth "realised" who I was. You don't always need melting clocks to experience surrealism.
I probably should feel guilty for having garnished enjoyment whilst my poor wife suffers at home but I won't. This atones for tears yesterday.