We rejoin the trips proper timeline with our next instalment from Agnes Water to Carly’s home turf as we travelled north to Rockhampton and Yeppoon. With only a few hours drive up to Yeppoon and no need to stress about setting up camp we left Agnes after our morning surf on another beautiful sunny day in central Queensland. Towns are getting smaller and the scenery at this point reminds me more and more of a mixture between a tropical version of western Canada and the large agricultural stretches we found on Costa Rica’s north-west coast. Fields upon fields of sugar cane run east toward the coast while as we move closer to Rockhampton the cane fields are broken up with cattle stations and wide open grasslands stretching west towards the mountains. You would never know that a short drive of the Bruce Highway east and you’re on the ocean, although the land is obviously fertile it’s still very arid as the rainy season has not yet kicked in.
I am beginning to understand why family and friends in Oz were so adamant that we had a bull bar on the truck we purchased as there are kangaroos and wallabies everywhere! It seems that every field has at least one group on it. I figured seeing kangaroos would be like whitetail deer in Canada but there are WAY more kangaroos than I had thought. We decided that we would take pictures of all “giant things” we saw along the way, a cafe in the small town of Miriam Vale offered up our first subject a giant crab!
I’ve never understood the need for small towns the world over to build a giant something or other but it makes for a good laugh and a fun photo opp. Just outside of Miriam Vale we got a reminder that it was the holidays when we got pulled over by the police. The officer stepped out on the road and flagged us over to his well hidden checkpoint seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I was certain I wasn’t speeding as tanner (our 4Runner) doesn’t really have to ability to speed. We pulled of and to my surprise it was an alcohol check stop, in the middle of the day! After a quick licence check and my first Australian breathalyzer test (0.00 yay!) we were back on our way. I have been through many check stops in my life but getting stopped before lunch was a first.
As we got into Rockhampton clearly cowboy and cattle country the surroundings made to it hard to believe that Carly didn’t grow up riding and is slowly at my insistence working on her fear of horses.
We continued on towards Yeppoon where we were set to stay with Carly’s step brother Aaron and his family, the prospect of a house and not a tent was a great feeling. Carly and I both love camping and spend as much time as we can in the bush but it is always nice to have a roof over your head for a few days especially when you’re spending 2 + months tenting. We arrived early afternoon and pulled in to Aaron and Sky’s, a beautiful new home set on an acre of land in the hills above downtown Yeppoon. We were quickly greeted by Kean and Miley the two older kids and before we knew it we were getting shown toys and demonstrations of Kean’s bike and scooter skills on his BMX track. We got settled in and unpacked then set off to meet up with some old friends at The Strand Hotel and bar for a Sunday afternoon session and a catch up. Carly has been amazed at how Yeppoon has really not changed all that much since she left here close to a decade ago. The waterfront park has been updated and the Strand got some much needed renos but not much else was different. For me it was great to see where Carly grew up and to meet some of her old friends. We caught up with Carly’s friends Frank, Belinda, Kara and Jarrod and after a while Rory a good friend I knew from his time in Banff showed up with his girlfriend Teegan. We had a great afternoon tossing around stories and getting up to speed on what everyone was up to and as we seem to do drank well into the night. The Strand was great! From all I had heard it was a rundown old dive but a local favourite, since the renovations this is not case. We hung out in a beautiful covered outdoor seating area, being right off the water you get a nice breeze off the ocean and get to stay out of the intense afternoon sun. There was live music all evening and the solo artist playing was really good. We watched all day with anticipation as the outdoor BBQ slow roasted pork, beef, lamb and chicken just waiting for the BBQ buffet to open. When it finally did we had a feast! For $19 you got a generous helping of all four meats accompanied by breads and the salad bar offerings, what a meal! Honestly some of the best BBQ we’ve had in ages. As it happened Yeppoon’s annual Christmas carols in the park that night as well. We were treated to kids singing carols followed by fireworks over the water! All in all a great night.
The next morning we were up early as the 3 kids are up so you don’t have much of a choice hangover or not! After breakfast with the family we headed out to visit the Dreamtime Centre in Rockhamton, an educational interactive centre where you can learn both the history and culture of the areas aboriginal peoples. If you’re in the area I would highly recommend a stop here, allow a couple of hours to take the guided tours and walk the grounds admission is $27 per person. You learn a lot of the history of both the land and it’s traditional owners as well as traditional medicines and foods derived from native flora and fauna. Carly and I both are fascinated by indigenous cultures and history so it was a great morning. Our guide Wayne was knowledgeable and passionate and as it turned out a fantastic didgeridoo player! We also learned to throw a returning boomerang properly although we were both outclassed by a 12 year old boy who was a natural.
After Dreamtime we headed up the road to the Capricorn Coast Caves. Again a recommended visit if you’re in the area. A guided tour of the immense cave system is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon. The staff and guides are friendly and the caves and surrounding forest is beautiful, so much so in fact that the main cavern aptly named the Cathedral is used for weddings and has been the venue for symphony orchestras and choir concerts. The caves are home to a number of different species of bats from the thumb sized micro bent wings to the massive flying foxes! The caves were purchased with tours in mind and were also used briefly to mine guano. On our way out of the caves we saw a rock wallaby, a small shy species we felt lucky to get to see one so close. Again allow about 2 hours and admission is around $25 per person.
We made our way back into Rocky to visit Carly’s friend Frank for a BBQ at his place. The night before Frank and I had been chatting about rum and he figured we should have a “rum off” well in he wise words of the Bro Codes author Barney Stinson; CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! long story short, like most things that involve copious amounts of rum this was a terrible idea :). We did have a lot of fun with Frank and two of his mates Damo and Cat. For clarity’s sake Damo is short of Damien, and if you’re not familiar with Australian or “S’tralian” speech habits, everything is shortened. Unless of course it’s a name that’s already short than for some reason they make longer e.g. Tim becomes Timbo or Timmo, I can’t explain it but that’s simply the way it is. Maree (Carly’s mother) was kind enough to give me a translation card to help with some common Aussie colloquialisms, luckily living in Banff and with Carly I already speak fairly fluent S’tralian but here is the card for your reference.
The next “morning” we made our way back towards Yeppoon, taking a scenic drive up the coast through the town of Emu Park and making stops at different beaches and scenic lookouts in and around the Capricorn coast. That evening Carly took me back into the mangroves in town to witness a nightly wildlife phenomenon we have now dubbed the “batpocolypse”. Every night at sundown what must be thousands of huge fruit bats emerge from the mangroves around Yeppoon on the hunt for food. It’s a truly amazing spectacle that must be witnessed if your visiting the Capricorn coast area. We spent an hour if not more watching the bats fill the night sky. You see lots of fruit bats all through Queensland but nothing close to he sheer volume in Yeppoon, very cool!
We spent the rest of the evening relaxing with Aaron and Sky at their place and made plans for our next stop at Airlie Beach, the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef!