After leaving Rainbow beach we passed through to the town of Bundaberg, home to Australia’s finest rum. Not much of a rum drinker myself so I let Rob and Sophie enjoy the tour whilst I went for a wander. Checked out the local park and ended up in the world’s smallest museum watching a bloke make a barrel. Turns out Rob and Soph’s tour was a bit more interesting, he had managed to become a rum expert and proceeded to tell us all about the different types for the next few hours. They also got 2 free glasses of rum each, my museum definitely didn’t offer that! But luckily I got talking to the only non-drinker to go to a rum museum who kindly offered me her drinks, belting.
Our next stop up the East coast was a little town called 1770, turns out its main selling point is that it has numbers for a town name, other than that there’s not a whole lot going on, it is right next door to a lovely little town called Agnes Waters so that’s where we spent most of our time. Our visit coincided with every Australian’s favourite public holiday ‘Australia Day’, a day where Ozzies literally cover themselves in head to toe flags to celebrate being Australian. The shops were kitted out with every sort of Australian merchandise you could imagine in the weeks leading up to this day; flags, hats, dresses, bikinis and even Australian skin suits. Honestly there’s no way you’d get away with it in England, it would be immediately branded as racist and shut done, but in Australia? They give you a day off work and tell you to get drunk and go wild! We found ourselves having a few bevvies at the campsite and then heading down to the local bowls club to enjoy the party. To be honest there wasn’t much of a party, the average age in Agnes waters is over 60 but we did find out bowls clubs have the cheapest booze in Australia and had a jolly old time playing a few rounds of bowls.
The other claim to fame of 1770 is that it has the cheapest surf lessons on the East coast, $17 for 3 hours, absolute bargain! After a lot of drinking sea water and face planting the waves I managed to ride a wave in! Four waves in fact! To Rob’s credit he was actually quite good at the old surfing thing and picked up the basics pretty easily, unfortunately for him though he’d stabbed himself with a knife the day before (don’t ask) and once his plaster came off his surfing dreams were over. Surfing is definitely not as easy as it looks but it was so much fun and not a bad workout! We even got knock off pizza at the end of the class!
Filled with confidence from the day of surfing we decided the next day to go rogue and hire our own surf board. It was Soph’s birthday so we started the day off ignoring the tents highly flammable nature and lit up a cake and then we headed to the beach surf board in arms. Turns out we were tricked into thinking we could surf the day before with an extremely buoyant surf board but in reality those wooden things are not as easy. If I thought I drank a lot of sea water the day before it was a splash compared to the next day. After a lot of being whacked about by the waves and a few sand scratches up the body it was time to call it a day, not destined to be a surfer after all.
From 1770 we headed up the coast and on to Rockhampton, Australia’s beef capital of the world! Apparently they have more cows here than anywhere else! Soph and James have a slightly healthier budget than us so they headed out for a fancy steak whilst we hit the butchers and chucked ours on the Barbie. Needs must. We spent the next day in Rocky running round the local gardens, driving up to Mount Archer national park and then having ice cream whilst checking out Rockhampton’s free zoo. Surprisingly nice place with a pretty botanical garden, they do love a good botanical garden over here, don’t think we’ve been to one town without one!
Our visit to Rocky clashed with both the men’s and the women’s Australian open finals, held in our ex home town of Melbourne. Luckily the camp kitchen was well equipped with a TV so me and Rod settled down with an old French couple and watched Federer take the title, good lad Feds.
So unbeknown to us the worst time to travel the east coast happens to be January and February, and the more north we were getting the more we were starting to understand. It probably wouldn’t be as much of a problem if our accommodation was something a bit more substantial than a tent but eh well we were determined to keep going. We packed up a wet tent in Rockhampton and drove up a wet highway till we got to Mackay. The rain absolutely hammered us but we attempted to explore, we ended up in a shopping centre freezing to death as the air con cooled our soggy selves down. That was enough of Mackay, didn’t look great anyway!
Even though we were in the eye of a storm we’d chosen this night to check out one of the more basic campsites on offer, for a $5 fee per person we could camp like real explorers! Our home for the night was in Cape Hilsborough, right on the beach front. For the bargain price of $20 we got ourselves a nice soggy patch of mud and access to the long drop toilets, lovely. The area itself was beautiful, the rain held off for a couple of hours which let us have a walk round the beach and up to Cape Hilsborough itself. We were the only people there so it was nice to have our own private beach. The weather can switch in seconds over here, but it waited till we’d set up our hob and plates up on the outside bench before unleashing more rain than I even thought possible. After that it was warming beans up in bed for a quick fix tea before saying our prayers and hoping we’d still be there in the morning. The rain didn’t stop all night, add a strobe light of lightening and thunder banging about every 2 minutes and we didn’t get much sleep. We did have a midnight wander down to the beach to watch the storm over the sea, impressive sight to behold!