Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Sunday morning in Cania Gorge started with a dawn chorus - magpies, kookaburras and rain birds. I lay in my tent for a while listening to the birdsong. No traffic, voices, just birds.

Eventually I got up, gobbled some porridge and packed up. Somehow the tent, bedroll, folding chair, tool kit, cooker and food all fitted back in the boot. I'd like to take the GT6 camping when its finished, but have no idea how I'll fit all the gear in! We hit the road about 8.30. It's always hard to leave Cania Gorge and I was in no hurry.

The highway on the second day links towns about 80km apart, so there are no gaping voids like the Beef Road. I've lived in mining towns over the last few years, and farming towns are much nicer. Not designed by a 70's urban planner, they have over a hundred years of history and character. Old churches and shop facades, modern businesses, old houses with beautiful gardens, and every second vehicle isn't a Herald-crushing mine-spec 4WD.

About half an hour into the journey, the highway jinked left in a great arcing loop. There is a shorter, straighter route through the tiny town of Abercorn, but it's not obvious. It's narrow and winding and has only been sealed for a few years, but is a great scenic detour, 30-odd km of back-country farm scenes. I don't think we saw another car the whole way.

Once back at the main road, it was onwards and southwards. Well south east, sometimes east, sometimes even north-ish again. The inland highway weaves through hilly country, over passes, through valleys, patches of forest and increasingly green farms. Despite having lived in rural Queensland for five years, the countryside still looks foreign to my eyes. Some patches reminded me of New Zealand, especially where settlers have planted oak, poplar and willow around their houses, but nowhere is the familiar dark green of South Island rainforest, or glimpses of the Southern Alps through a gap in the hills. All things I've seen through Gerald's windscreen on countless road trips.

Some inland areas are used for citrus orchards. I'd taken a photo of Gerald beside Munduberra's giant mandarin on the way north, so took a similar photo beside Gayndah's giant orange.

Australians love making giant models to promote their towns - at least 150 according to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia's_big_things.
Travelling around the country 'bagging' shots of the giant mango, gumboot, crayfish and so on is a respected form of tourism.

The next town south, Goomeri, is special. About a year ago I stopped for a coffee and met a cat sitting outside a shop. I gave her a stroke, and a giant red-bearded head poked out of the shop. "Do you like the cat?" he inquired. "Take the cat. Please". He and his wife had bought a cafe, and it came with a cat. They weren't cat people and so were looking for a home for her. I didn't take Moo that day but exchanged numbers and that evening arranged to travel back up from Brisbane the following weekend with a cat cage. And so we became a two-cat house.

No cats today, thankfully.

Gerald was making such good time that I decided to try a back roads way into Brisbane, over Mt Glorious and Mt Nebo. This road cuts between the enormous Somerset and Wivenhoe reservoirs, and then climbs up switch-backs to over 700m. The temperature was up to 34C by this time, and as we climbed up and up, mostly in second gear, I watched the water rise to 90-odd. Apart from a little mis-firing due to vapourisation, the red beastie behaved well. Only 50 kilometres from Brisbane, this was the hardest it had worked on the whole trip. We paused for breath at a lookout and again at a quirky cafe at Mt Glorious.

After this, it was a quick drive through the Brisbane Forest, which smelt tantalisingly of hops, before descending into what probably passes for light traffic in Brisbane. It was Sunday afternoon, about 4pm as we drove over the Storey Bridge - allegedly built with bits left over from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And finally Gerald arrived at its new home. I'd bought a house since 2008, when the Herald landed in Brisbane, and this was the first time we'd driven 'home'.

The next morning I gave the car a well-deserved wash and worked out the maths: 721 miles, about 39mpg, and minimal oil and coolant used. I reckon it's up for another adventure.


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