Weekends aren’t the best time to be campaigning, as we discovered quite early in the day. Most of the businesses we visited today were staffed by part-time employees who don’t handle marketing decisions. Managers were generally at home with their families for the weekend. But still, we gave our speal with enthusiasm, left our business cards at each place and pressed on with the road trip undeterred.
In TOWNSVILLE, we visited a number of backpackers hostels, hotels, motels, holiday apartments and restaurants, as well as a couple of the major tourist attractions. We have been growing increasingly anxious to reach CAIRNS. Although we only left Brisbane five days ago, it feels like we’ve been on the road for weeks. Living out of a backpack once held some sort of romantic appeal for me, but when you’re a week or two away from seeing 18 months of hard work come to fruition, the suspense is almost unbearable. There’s only so much we can do with the site from internet cafes. Really, we need to get settled, unpack our computers, and spend a solid day or two updating all the UPGRADED LISTINGS that have been ordered.
So we didn’t visit quite as many businesses as perhaps we should have in Townsville, but hit the highway north to the CASSOWARY COAST, a lush coastal rainforest region so-named after the large flightless bird which, although endangered, is quite common in these parts. We didn’t catch a glimpse of the elusive bird, but warning signs every two or three kilometres were a constant reminder that this feathered giant’s fate is largely in the hands of motorists.
First stop was Cardwell, where we visited Muddy’s, the restaurant made famous by the GIANT MUD CRAB mounted in its front garden. We were to later regret not dining at Muddy’s, after ordering a very disappointing serve of usually delicious Barramundi from a nearby cafe. Cardwell is a pleasant seaside town, if a little on the sleepy side.
A little further north, TULLY, the wettest town in Australia, presented another one of Tropical North Queensland’s bizzare collection of BIG THINGS. This time it was a 7.9 metre gumboot. The height of the gumboot reflects the highest annual rainfall that Tully has ever received, 7.9 metres in 1950. In fact, this was not really a freak occurence… the town averages 4.27 metres per year! Our road trip so far had been blessed with perfect weather. But it seemed fitting that the blue skies were to end at Tully. Black-grey clouds clung to the tall mountains just inland of the town, and cascading waterfalls could be spotted near the top of one of the peaks. Still, the rain was sporadic, and really just freshened things up at the end of a humid day.
Enthused by the ever decreasing distance to Cairns - now less than 200 kilometres - we pressed on to MISSION BEACH, one of my personal favourite places in all of Tropical North Queensland. We were still doorknocking at 6:00pm, but it became obvious that businesspeople didn’t expect such visits at that time on a Saturday night. Just as Maria and I agreed to call it a day, the van’s headlights fell upon our Holy Grail, SCOTTY’S BEACH HOUSE. This is where we had planned to spend the night, but we didn’t expect to just stumble across Scotty’s so easily… especially after our history of getting lost in every town we encounter. A quick visit to the reception desk, and a short drive to the nearby BOTTLE’O and we were settled in for the night. I stayed here once, ten or eleven years ago, and remembered the place as being about as relaxed and laid back as any hostel I have ever known. As if to prove a point, we discovered a handful of guests, stubby in one hand, rod in the other, fishing for plastic fish in the swimming pool.
Scotty’s consists of a large central garden, dotted with palm trees and surrounded by a rectangle of long, narrow buildings with shady verandahs. Our room at Scotty’s was simple but comfortable, and airconditioned, which was a blessing, even in June! Don’t forget that seasons are reversed from the northern hemisphere and June is the beginning of winter. The hostel was buzzing when we arrived, but when the courtesy bus departed for a local nightclub, it seemed like all but Maria and I were on board. We retired to our room with our computers and piles of brochures and business cards spread out on the bed, recording the day’s activities.