Captain Cook

33 Days in the Wilderness Day 18

We are called at 5.45 am.  We are to be on the 7.30 am bus for the ferry off the island.  At breakfast we hear that Brenda had been taken off Fraser Island as Geoffrey’s condition had worsened last night.  There is talk that he is on a life support machine and other talk that he is now breathing on his own.  Sandy went with Brenda and as yet they have not returned to the island so we are all trying to be as helpful to Danny as we can.

There is an air of dejection and sadness as everyone has become fond of Brenda and Geoffrey.

Our first stop at Hervey Bay is the hospital to pick up Brenda and Sandy and then take Brenda to lodgings close by the hospital that Sandy had arranged.

Brenda bravely wishes us all a good holiday and we leave her in the capable hands of the widow who runs the motel.

The rain stops as we make our way south and we see kangaroos in a field, the first time we have seen them in the wild.

We stop at Noosa Heads for about one and a half hours.  This is the first time we have had a stop of this length during the day.  It’s a holiday place and the shops are mainly touristy.  I buy a 200 dollar hat for 40 dollars for the wedding.  Maureen and Breeda think I am crazy as I can’t get a box big enough to take the hat.

Anne did a collection around the coach for Sandy and Danny.  She got a nice card for each of them and another one for Brenda and Geoffrey which everyone signed.

Danny said we had been on the Bruce Highway for 2,000 kms.

We pass the Glass Hills which have an aboriginal history of a father being disobeyed by his son so the son was turned to glass.

Captain Cook named them the glass mountains. When the rain falls the wet rock is shiny and glassy.

We track southwards and stop in Brisbane to drop some of our party off.  Michael and Chris leave to meet up with Micheal’s two daughters who have been backpacking in Australia for a year.

Brisbane is the first place where we see men in dark business suits and the women dressed for office work.  Brisbane seems old fashioned and has a high rise concrete air to it that we are happy to leave behind.

We drive straight through to Surfers Paradise.  We are at the ANA Hotel which is superb.  First of all we go shopping with Breeda.  It should be called shoppers paradise.  There is a gaudy commercialism.  Traders come out of their shops to pull you in off the pavement.  There are fun fair rides and it seems a bit like Blackpool.  We are warned not to buy anything in the shops as they cater mainly for the Asian market.

We go back to the hotel to shower and change for dinner and there is drama when Maureen opens her case.  Most of her clothes are wet.  They have been soaked on the ferry crossing.  We call up room service but the staff have gone home.  A housemaid comes to our room to collect the wet clothes and promises its return by 8 am as we are on the road before 9am.

Our waiter at dinner tells us he is relaxed to a member of the Irish Rugby team.  Anne, Valerie and Chris are taking advantage of the “pay 14 dollars and drink as much as you like” offer in the bar.

We go with Jimmy and Rhoda to O’Malley’s, an Irish pub adjacent to the beach road.  It’s late as we walk home but the air is very warm and there is a pleasant breeze off the sea.  The pavements are crowded with young tanned people enjoying themselves.

When we get back to the hotel the three girls are setting out to join us at O’Malley’s, but they start dancing in the foyer.  Rhoda joins in but the girls have drunk so much for their 14 dollars they can hardly stand.  We have a coffee in the bar and read the newspapers.

Maureen sleeps well as she had a glass of Guinness.


257 miles

33 Days in the Wilderness Day 14

Our alarm is set for 6.15a.m.   We pack our bags, leave them on the path outside our room and rush to breakfast.  Everything is rush.  We have another hard day ahead of us if we are to make Hamilton Island tonight.  We should have arrived there yesterday.

Again we have limited stops.  Everyone is tired and aware of the pressure and stress Danny is under.

We stop at Ayr for a tea break, about three hundred miles north of McKay.

I see a Storm flying.  This is sugar cane country.  Danny says they can’t grow rice because white and black magpies arrive in flocks and decimate the crop.  We don’t know if this is true or it is another of Danny’s jokes.

We see Magnetic Island which was discovered by Captain Cook. He couldn’t get his compass to work properly but the story goes that it was a misladen ship.  (A Danny joke?). We pass through Ayr-Bowen cyclone country.  The mountain ranges are too far west to protect the land.  All the iron roofs on the buildings are secured with large nuts and bolts to hold them down in severe weather.

When we stop at Airlie beach for lunch I buy a T-shirt and two pairs of shorts. We see a Sausage Tree when we stop for afternoon tea.  This is the only one existing outside a botanical garden.

The ten minute drive to the Chute Harbour ferry crossing is pretty bumpy and there is obviously more rain on the horizon.  We have no guide on the ferry to explain about the Whitsunday Islands, or the names of the islands we are passing.

When we arrive at Hamilton Island, we are upgraded to a better hotel because of the delays.  The hotel is beautiful with glass lifts on the outside of the building.  Lots of marble in the hotel.

Our room overlooks the most beautiful bay and we make tea and set ourselves down on the balcony to savor the view.  We last only minutes as all the balconies are home to masses of yellow crested cockatoos.  We have looked forward to these birds as advertised in the brochure, but they are much larger than we believed and quite aggressive as they dive bomb us for a share of our food.

We close the sliding mesh screen from the invaders.  We have been warned to keep the doors locked as the cockatoos trash bedrooms.

The bathroom is great, almost as large as the bedroom. We have a full shower, full bath, cupboards and coat hangers, iron and ironing board.

We meet Tizania at 5 o’clock.  We should go on a boat trip around the island tonight, but we are boated and tripped out.  We arrange to hire a golf buggy, and choose a de-luxe model, courtesy of Maureen’s credit card.  We insure it but are still responsible for the first 200 dollars’ worth of damage.

We walk outside and are shown how to switch on the motor.  Tizania says she can’t drive, Maureen won’t so I am chauffeur.   We head first of all to the nearest bay.  We watch as a beautiful bride and her groom have photographs taken.  The backdrop is the sand, sea and a large yacht moored at the pier.

The sky darkens and the heavens open.  We head to a cafe and sip coffee until the rainfall lessens.  We cross the road hopping under shop canopies and look around the gift shops.  We can’t go back to the hotel until the rain stops as there is no shelter for Tizania who has to sit on the back of the golf cart.  Someone who is catching the bus back to the hotel gives us an umbrella for Tizania.

I fumble switching the engine on and then in the gathering dusk try to find the switch for the light.  We are off but I am unsure where I should be going.  I know our hotel is uphill, across a four-way junction and then down a steep slope.  There are no windscreen wipers on the buggy.  It is left hand drive so I drive with my head out the side peering into the darkness for the edge of the pavement through the streaming rain.  I am relieved when I recognize the left hand turning and we make a steep clime up until we come to the cross roads.  I remember that we go straight across the other side of the hill.

I feel confident and the buggy races freely downwards.  Suddenly there are frantic screams from both Maureen and Tizania.  I brake gently as the road is slippery and turn to see Tizania hanging on for dear life.  The large umbrella has been blown inside out because of the speed I have driven down the hill and Tizania resembles Mary Poppins.  Thankfully she starts to laugh as soon as the speed drops.  Maureen and I are in hysterics but poor Tizania is soaking wet.  We return to our hotel still laughing but when we meet up later to travel back to the bay for dinner, Tizania decides to take the bus.

We select the piece of meat we want cooked in the restaurant and join Tizania, Anne, Chris and Valerie outside after our meal.  The girls have had a too much to drink and Tizania has told them of our earlier escapade.  They decide to join us on the buggy for the journey back to the hotel.  There are now six of us on a buggy made for four.  Tizania stands beside Maureen in the front and under the canopy.  The three girls are squeezed on the back seat.

We take off with a great deal of shouting and screaming.  I know I have the lights on but they seem to have dimmed. People are waving and gesticulating as we noisily pass them and we wave back.  We don’t know until the next day that there is so much weight on the buggy that the lights have dropped down too low for others to see us and that’s why people are waving.

We make slow progress along the front and then start the climb up the hill.  Our speed declines as the road rises and eventually there is a grinding noise and clouds of black smoke.  The three girls sit on determinedly but eventually as the buggy threatens to reverse down the hill they get off to walk.  Without their weight the buggy starts to move slowly forwards up the hill but the grinding noise is as bad.  Danny has directed us to a viewpoint on the island and although we follow the correct road, we can’t find it.  We turn around and try to find our way back to the hotel.  We see wombats feeding on a grassy bank near the hotel and as we turn into the circular driveway, Tizania says she wants to drive.

Maureen jumps out as soon as we near reception and I become the passenger as Tizania takes the wheel.  She has never driven anything before and it is quite hair raising as we speed around the bends in the darkness.  Our lights are sill no use.  We meet the girls still walking on their way back to the hotel and they shriek and cheer us on.  When Tizania tires we decide what we must do with the buggy.

We are off the island at 9 am tomorrow and should hand the keys into the office by 8.30 am.  We are now certain we have caused major damage to the buggy as the black carbon smoke that billows behind it wasn’t there when we started out.  We slot  the buggy in the car park behind the hotel amongst the other buggies and walk back.

We all have a late night drink with the girls in their room and a lot of laughs.  Maureen is worried that the buggy hire people will trace her through her credit card.  We all promise to share the cost of the damage we have done but none of us can stop laughing.

255 miles.