February 17th – February 20th
I’m slightly behind on my blog, because after leaving Yeppoon, Paige and I shared the four hour drive to Mackay. Despite having not driven for almost two years, I drove for two hours along Bruce Highway, and I’ve spent the last four/five days getting over the trauma, and so have not had time to concentrate on my blog. On a more positive note, Paige isn’t talking to me any more, and I’m not sure she’ll ever let me behind the wheel of a car again, so there’s the added bonus of free lifts for the rest of my life.Surprisingly I actually didn’t swerve off the road and Paige didn’t have a heart attack which is nice, but all the same we decided to have a nice relaxing afternoon once we reached Mackay. We stayed in a lovely campsite for the next couple of days, although both times we had to be in the van by seven o’clock because the mosquitos were getting so out of hand. It was like a scene from ‘The Birds’, except with mosquitos, less death and no Hitchcock cameo.
We’ve apparently not learnt from our mistakes, because the next day we drove to another Botanic Gardens, this time with high hopes. With a fancy name like The Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens, we felt sure that this was going to be one of the highlights of our trip. Turns out that when you have that amount of dense plant life, there are a fair few spiders hanging around. Apparently one of us (Paige), is not a huge fan of spiders, so we left before setting foot anywhere near anything more interesting than a tree. It’s almost like we came to a country well known for its dangerous spiders, despite the fact that Paige is petrified of a them.
We instead opted for a much safer trip to the cinema, to watch a terrible film called ‘Why Him’, which has the better/worst Franco brother in it, depending on what way you look at it. It was a really crude, unfunny and unoriginal film with cheap jokes and poor acting, so naturally Paige and I found it highly amusing and would thoroughly recommend it. Despite how much we loved Mackay, there’s very little to do in and around it, which is something that we’ve discovered in all of the major towns and cities we’ve visited. Everything closes between three and five o’clock in the afternoon, except on Saturdays where it closes earlier, so there’s nothing particularly to occupy yourself with after that. It’s almost as though everybody is preparing for the evening’s mosquito invasion and have chosen to lock themselves away before its arrival. Luckily we are more than able to entertain ourselves with food and naps, so it’s not been too much of an issue.
The next day we decided to do some adventuring, and found ourselves up a mountain, in the middle of Eungella National Park. Considering one of us is a huge coward, terrified of everything that moves and not a huge fan of jungle creatures, and the other one is Paige, we weren’t well suited to this off-road experience. I’m currently about nine hundred pages into the Stephen King book ‘It’ (which is not an ideal book to read when staying in creepy campsites next to abandoned train stations), so at the moment I’m even flinching when I see leaves falling out of trees. When we found ourselves in the middle of a rainforest, me wearing flip flops and Paige wearing no t-shirt, and only a bikini top instead, we realised how out of our depth we were. “Wear suitable footwear” and “Let your family know where you are” and “Don’t make sudden movements” signs let us know pretty quickly that we don’t love travelling, although watching Paige run through the jungle crying has to be the highlight of my trip so far. Admittedly I wasn’t far behind, and at one point I was tempted to throw Paige down the mountain as a sacrifice (that’s definitely a joke Paige, I promise), but we won’t dwell on that.
The rest of the mountain was a lot less nightmarish, and the views almost, almost made the terror worthwhile. We drove to the top, ignoring the fact that we were almost out of petrol and there was about an hours drive to the nearest petrol station, and instead focused on the incredible view over the valley. After looking in the toilet cubicle and seeing the sheer quantity of spiders and cockroaches that I’d have to share with, I opted for a quick wee in the sink, before we hightailed it back down the mountain.
We stopped for a quick platypus hunt alongside Broken River, but as we didn’t see a single sign of them, I’m still convinced that they don’t exist. The river itself was nice, although we were still on panic stations after our near death experience in the rainforest. We visited the souvenir shop, nearly bought a whole load of platypus related memorabilia (forgetting that we hadn’t even seen one) and asked for directions on where we could fill up the van.
We continued our drive to Airlie Beach, which is the perfect place to spot proper backpackers in their natural habitats. If you want to get drunk, visit McDonalds and get even more drunk, then Airlie Beach is the place to do it. Paige and I are not proper backpackers however, but we did want to visit McDonalds to make the most out of their free wifi, so we drove to the next town and spent four hours of the next day planning where we’re headed after we make it to Cairns next week.
As for the rest of our time in Airlie, we spent it walking along the beach (not in the water because as the signs suggested, we’d probably die from a lethal stingray attack), as well as trying to get Paige home drunk from a restaurant in town. She was feeling very sick and sorry for herself, but this was not an ideal situation to be in, because the walk home was a long one anyway, and with Paige in her current condition it was even longer. As I mentioned earlier, the book I’m reading at the moment has left me less brave than I was before (not sure how that’s possible), so I spent the 45 minute walk singing to myself out loud, much to Paige’s and the local residents annoyance I’m sure. Oh well, I didn’t get kidnapped by Pennywise the killer clown so it must have worked. Sam one, fictional character nil.