Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Chapter 2 - Escape from the Big Smoke

Saturday morning in Brisbane was clear and cool, certainly too cool to have the roof open. I didn't leave until about 8.30, instead mucking around repacking, cleaning the windows and checking the oil and water again. Procrastinating, in other words. Once we pulled away, though, the nerves disappeared.

At the start line

First stop was the Gateway Bridge, a concrete arch which soars over the Brisbane River. $2.60 toll paid, Gerald roared up and over in top. It's a long, steep climb, but the engine pulled strongly and exhaust echoed off the walls and other traffic. Progress slowed on the other side thanks to an accident and subsequent tail-back. A traffic jam before 9am on a Saturday? I was glad to be leaving! The temperature rose a bit while crawling, but dropped again once we were clear and cruising.

I turned off the motorway just north of Brisbane, at Caboolture. I could have continued up the main highway for the next two days, but it's a long, boring grind between concrete walls, passing town after town and seldom in sight of the sea. The alternative route up the Burnett Highway links farming towns. It looks shorter on the map but winds around hills and valleys the whole way. Much more fun, then!

I stopped at Caboolture for snacks, and then at Kilcoy for fuel. It was foggy inland, and we drove through valleys filled with thick mist, with the ghosts of gum trees looming out of the gloom. Ridges and hill tops, meanwhile, were above the sea of clouds, bathing in the Queensland sun. Next stop was the town of Nanango, near the giant Taroom coal mine. The low-rank coal here is mined for electricity generation rather than coking, and the mine is celebrated at the entrance to town with a giant dragline bucket. I tried to reverse into it, but had forgotten how much lower Heralds are than 4WDs. Ooops, hopefully no one saw that! Thank goodness for the towbar.

The town of Moore, on the D'Aguillar Highway heading west

Dragline bucket from the Taroom Mine, on the Burnett Highway heading north

The goal for the first day was Gayndah, a pretty town on a river flat. It's famous for citrus fruit, so I drove up to the lookout and watched the sun set over orange orchards.

The first day's drive let me get reacquainted with a Herald's character and quirks. The road is a bit bumpy, probably due to the large trucks. Gerald tended to get thrown off course by these, and sometimes it felt like flying a small plane through a thunder storm. The quick steering is a joy, very responsive but needing constant correction. I'd forgotten how much the windows rattle, too! From late morning I'd opened the roof, and with the heater warming my lower half, it was very pleasant. We seldom drove at 100km/h though, due mostly to the bumps and wind noise. 90-odd made for a more comfortable cruise, and I could hear the radio.

And so we slept, dreaming of roads ahead. No longer on a little island, a whole continent stretched out before us!


Post a Comment

<< Home