From Cairns to Townsville with a bodypiercing and a slab of Mackerel in between

Howdy campers, Andy again. So here’s what happened next..

Leaving Cairns and heading south along the Bruce highway we entered sugar cane country. We drove for miles, or kilometres rather, through fields and fields of the stuff. Following the road and crossing it regularly is the sugar cane railway, small trains crawl along it a couple of times a day towing wagon after wagon of harvested cane. Huge cane trucks were overtaking us on the highway too, roaring past us well over the speed limit unlike the underpowered lorries we have back home. They call these trucks road trains here, sometimes towing three trailers as they go. All of the trucks and trains head towards the nearest mill and at that moment that was the town of Tully which was looming on the horizon. The big chimneys of the mill were pumping out a sweet honey like aroma into the air. This was a repeating landscape for much of Queensland, especially in the north.

We finally reached the town of Babinda and parked up for a quick look around. It felt like we were in the wild west, there was a real cowboy feel to the place. We ended up blowing our budget and visiting the town’s liquor store, they can’t sell alcohol in supermarkets here, and bought a block of Castlemaine XXXX Gold tinnies (a crate of beer). Apparently Australians would do anything for one, or so we used to be told back in the UK.

We found a free campsite just out of town right next to Babinda’s big draw, her boulders, but we’d be copping an eyefull of them the next day. That night we were lucky enough to be visited by some rare Bilbies who appeared at the back of our van. Quite cool little fellas, grey marsupials with long noses and big ears foraging in the grass behind us.

The next day as we tried to eat our beloved porridge we were visited by some of Australia’s less welcome creatures, Horseflies. These big bastards repeatedly land on you, no matter how often you swot them off. As soon as they land they try to pierce your skin with their huge mouth part, it’s quite painful when they do. I was dealing pretty well with them, Emma however was not. Never being the happiest with anything flying around her head, these gits had her fuming and soon after she was at the proper ‘berry head’ stage, that’s when she’s really angry. She had to go for a walk to calm down and before long was back and had regained a normal skin tone. We then went for a walk to check out Babinda’s boulders. A river had created a gorge through the surrounding rainforest leaving these huge boulders as it went. We followed a path down beside it loving the views but becoming increasingly tired of the Horseflies. Emma was so sick of them that she used the most controversial of words, renaming them c#nt flies! I agreed with her 100% by this point, and by now we were both darting around like angry fools swatting the air and shouting expletives, we had to leave. We practically ran back to our van and were back on the Bruce Highway pleased to be saying bye bye to Babinda.

After several more hours driving through sugar cane we turned off the highway towards Bramston beach. We parked up at the head of a river (meaning where it met the sea) and set about cooking up some lunch. As we did, a boat returning from sea anchored next to the boat ramp besides where we were parked. The owner asked us to mind his boat for him whilst he headed off to get his truck and boat trailer, he said there would be a fish in it for us, great, free food we were thinking. After waiting for over an hour we were ready to leave when he reappeared. After getting his boat out of the water and onto his trailer he shouted to us asking if we wanted a fish. We went over and he offered us a small mackerel. Knowing how big an English mackerel is we were expecting something tiny, so when he pulled this monstrous beast out of his cool box we were shocked. It was a Spanish mackerel and a whopper, we took a fillet from one side as that was all we could fit in our fridge. That night we ate a third of that one fillet, just fried and it was delicious and we were stuffed. As we sat eating it a Kookaburra sat perched on the fence of the tennis courts next to us, occasionally swooping down to the ground to eat something and then laughing away as Kookaburra do.

The next day we reached Mission beach and another third of that fish fillet went into a curry and a very tasty one at that. It felt really homely eating a decent meal and reminded me of all the nice meals we’d made in our kitchen back in that house of ours we sold. But the view here was a bit better than that from our old kitchen window, the Great Barrier reef came very close to the shore here and made a stunning sight as we sat on our camping chairs at our collapsible table.

We spent the next day here just chilling out in the sun, going for a run on the beach and catching up on our huge list of blog posts that needed writing. We even braved a quick dip in the sea despite saltwater crocodile and box jellyfish warnings.

We initially found living in a van in Queensland a little difficult as it was so hot and got dark at 6:30pm and so by now had learnt to change our routine. We’d be up at 6 in full daylight, the grass would be saturated in dew and by 7:30am the sun would be near its full force and the ground now dry. We’d be by now covered in suncream and hiding away from the angry sun. Sunbathing really isn’t an option here, you can feel your skin burning the moment you go out into the sun.

Surrounded by all of this water I was itching to do some fishing but was currently rodless. I’d heard a whisper of a fisherman’s paradise, a store that sold anything anyone could need in the pursuit of fish and it was called Big W. I’d yet to see one and so when a couple of oldies we got speaking to told us there was one at the next big town we’d reach I got a little excited. Townsville was that place.

After parking up we walked around the huge town looking for this infamous shop but with little success. Out of the blue we passed a piercing shop and Emma announced “I’m going to get my tongue pierced”, I was pretty surprised at this spontaneous idea. Ten minutes later Em was sat in the chair waiting to have a hole made through her tongue. The piercer, a very dry humoured Aussie asked Emma if she’d given birth before, “why?” she asked, he replied that tongue piercings are more painful than childbirth. Not quite sure how to take that, Emma laughed a little nervously. After clamping her tongue he asked if she’d like to know when he was going to do it and sure enough yes she would. “Okay” he replied “after three… one” and at the moment of saying one pushed the needle through her tongue. She was knocked for six that it hadn’t even hurt her. This guy’s clever build up had made it so easy. Shortly after, Emma was walking through town with a black metal bar through her tongue and with no speech impediment as she’d feared she would have.

Sure enough we then found the Big W, I bought a $30 telescopic rod and was now looking for any excuse to go fishing. Off we went again further south with the next big landmark being Airlie beach and the legendary Whitsunday islands.



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