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Rob and Vickie's Big Trip North

This will be a long one, so I’m breaking it up over multiple posts.

We were planning on the journey from Sydney to Cairns taking two to three nights, and at first it looked as though we were on track. We spent the Thursday night after the removalists had turned up and the frantic clean and tidy we did on the now-empty house at Fraser Road at the Ascot Motor Inn on the highway. After breakfast, we met with the man who ran the real-estate agency for the final inspection, and aside from some dust spots we’d missed (on top of a cabinet and in a wardrobe) things went well. We finally finished up around midday, and found out the new tenants were moving in bare hours later. We went up the highway to just outside Newcastle, then headed northwest. We made it all the way to Narrabri, and stopped in at a nice motel with a good restaurant (best garlic bread I’ve ever had).

We pressed on the second day, and I got to see quite a bit more of country New South Wales. Even through we were a few thousand kilometres northeast fo where the movie was filmed, I started feeling like we were in Mad Max country. Something about those empty two lane country roads over rolling hills, I suppose. Maybe also because we actually turned off the air conditioning and wound the windows down; it felt a little less like we were in a cocoon or playing a Road Trip video game.

Damn, this country can be a broad, flat place. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere – aside from ear the sea – where there aren’t mountains or trees to get in the way of the horizon. You realise at moments like that that the Earth is curved, and that everything else drops away behind and below that broad, flat line. Some great country, although it’s easy to get bored with if you’re not driving. (Thankfully, I drove for most of the trip; as much as she hated not sharing some of the load, Vickie wound up with blurred vision and pains quite quickly when she got behind the wheel.)

As the light started to fade, we pulled into a town called Taroom, near the south side of the border. We stopped at the first motel we saw – by that stage, my lower back was killing me – and got a room easily. This time, we made sure we got a breakfast menu in quick smart. (We did a lot of lunches at Macca’s on the way up. Did you know almost all of the northern New South Wales and Queensland branches sell Frozen Coke?)

We got a fairly early start in the next day, and by mid-morning we were over the border. You could see Vickie visibly relax and cheer up; she even yelled “Yes!” at the sight of the Welcome to Queensland road sign! Once again, it was a Macca’s lunch, at Rockhampton this time. As we approached the town, we could see the clouds pressing in, and made the decision to stop in Mackay rather than try and press on all the way up to Cairns.

Even if we’d tried to make the rest of the journey in one hit, the decision had been made for us. It started raining halfway between the two towns. By the time we got to Mackay, visibility had dropped phenomenally and I was running the wipers on maximum speed just to get a glimpse out of the windscreen. It was the worst rain I’d ever driven in, and we definitely decided to stop at the first motel we found. That was the Mackay Motor Inn. I remember it well; the overnight stay we’d planned on wound up being stretched to three nights. The rain had flooded almost all northbound roads out of Mackay, and it was at least a couple of days before even four-wheel drive vehicles could get through. There are definitely much worse places to be stuck for a few days, though. We finally felt safe leaving Mackay on Australia Day, and thankfully, there was almost no water on the roads (aside from a broad patch on the way out of town, where I very nearly had my first experience with hydroplaning).

The rain did indeed close in again as we continued north, but never in enough volume to prevent safe driving. Vickie started seeing familiar mountain ranges in the early afternoon, and as evening moved in, we finally spotted Walsh’s Pyramid, the large, conical mountain that dominates Gordonvale. We arrived at our place around half past six, had a quick look around and then bunked in with Vickie’s son Karl and his wife Jodie. That was, of course, where we met the Doberman pup that Karl rescued, who became our new pet, Zelda.

Vickie’s post on her web log chronicles Zelda’s story, as well as our wrangling with the real estate agent the next morning over the state that our place got left in by the last tenants. I won’t go into it here as I rally don’t feel like digging around in that angst again. The removalist truck arrived around midday, and we spent the better part of a week getting everything unpacked and where we wanted it.

We had our digital camera with us, right there in the glove box, for the entire trip. Of course, we didn’t take a single picture.

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