Our night at Funny Dunny Park was so quiet we slept like logs. The stars on display, were bright, despite the interference of half of a big white glow and well known constellations were easily identified.
The drive to Townsville was to be leisurely one, with some interesting sights to see on the way. An unexpected one greeted us before we could even return to the Bruce Highway, when we caught sight of two mobs of Brolgas, numbering almost forty birds in all. Binoculars and the reliable Simpson & Day confirmed outer sighting and although they weren't dancing, their call were travelling the two hundred and fifty metres back to us.
We reached our first stop at Home Hill fairly quickly and stopped to gather information from the tourist information office and to check out the Burdekin Council's initiative called Comfort Stop.
Comfort Stop is a toilet and shower facility built beside long bay parking in the centre of town, where long road users may stop for up to 48 hours and use the facilities free of charge. At a time when other councils across Australia are jumping to the tune of local caravan park owners and removing free camps, the Burdekin Council deserve applause. Home Hill itself seems like a really friendly place. First the council guy mowing the lawns stopped his machine because we parked nearby and had a long chat with us about the facility and some good things to see locally. Damian was a lovely, friendly and naturally gregarious bloke. Then Gloria, in the information office, went out of her way to provide us with things we might need while we were in the area, including an insiders snippet of information which we would use soon after. The information centre has a permanent display about the high level rail and road bridge that took ten years to build following the Second World War and changed the social and economic future of Northern Queensland.
The bridge was a replacement for a low level rail bridge that had ben periodically damaged or removed by floods in the broad Burdekin River when it comes down. The rails dipped in the middle so that the flood water would be deep over them and not damaged. It was a failed piece of engineering that never worked. The new bridge was a remarkable feat of engineering for its time, mostly because of the long distance it has to span at this stage in the Burdekin's journey to the sea. It contains 7000 tons of steel and 300 000 high tensile steel rivets. It took so long to build because governments kept running out of money!
Using that information from Gloria, we are able to negotiate so tracks to get ourselves to the spot where the last of the approach joined the actual bridge structure, climb a staircase and stand at the side of the carriageway. It was more than a view, looking across the largely dry river bed and the old pylons of the original rail bridge. Once a few trucks rolled past, it became a visceral experience, the whole structure shaking beneath and around us.
Our day devolved quickly from there.
Returning to the car, we discovered that the GPS had gone on the fritz. After an hour of googling and a few phone calls, it was clear that the SD card had malfunctioned, so it was a straight drive to Townsville and a meeting with the Subaru dealer before they shut. Afternoon given over to an annoying fault. The upshot was a booking for Friday and a probable repair two weeks later in Cairns.
I could be grand and say it's back to maps but let's be real ... we'll be filling the void with Google Maps.
We are also hoping to get a UHF fitted for the more remote parts of the journey ahead.
Magnetic Island tomorrow.