After our amazing time on Magnetic Island, Ethan and I were looking forward to the big trip – a wonderful week-long excursion of driving down the coast from Townsville to Hervey Bay, from where we would be going on our Fraser Island excursion. We previously arranged for a 3 day, 2 night camping/4wd adventure. There are many different ways to do this – most backpackers do it in large groups of 8 or more (its cheaper that way but you are stuck with people you don’t know and you might not get along or agree on places to visit), or a packaged group tour where you have a strict itenirary and in an even larger group. So we decided to do our own thing and rent a little, tiny 2 person 4wd from Aussie Trax, along with camping gear. They weren’t our first choice, but because we had waited a little late to book (during Easter break weekend), they were pretty much the only place that had vehicles left.
So our plan was to hire a car from Townsville, and do a road trip down there, which also gave us the freedom to explore whatever places we might want to along the way there or back. We had our Fraser Island adventure hired from April 1st – 3rd, which meant that we had a day and a half to get down there, after spending Tuesday afternoon packing hurriedly. We left Townsville around 3 pm, not knowing how far we would go or where we would end up – we just planned to drive as far as possible. We reached Mackay around 7 pm, ate dinner there, and debated whether we should find a hostel to spend the night in, or not. I decided it would be best to push on, and so I drove on from there. After about 3 and a half hours, though, I was exhausted, and we pulled over in one of the handy roadside rest areas to spend the night in the car.
At this point, I have to bring up a wonderful point of driving in Australia. Of course, you are driving on the opposite side of the road, which took me a minute to get used to, and a little while longer to get comfortable with…But the main thing about driving on the main roads here (can’t really call them highways) is that they are literally littered with signs like “Survive This Drive”, “Rest or Rest in Peace”, “Fatigued Drivers DIE”, “Pull Over Mate, Your Eyes Are Shot”, “Stop. Revive. Survive.”, “Slow Down, Stupid” and similar lines. There were several rest areas (about ever 100 km) and even more common then that there were lots of pull offs on the side of the road. They take driving very seriously as there aren’t a lot of towns on the roads. It was nice to see them treat driving so seriously, and for drivers/truckers to have all the oppurtunities to rest if tired. And for all those campervanning backpackers. I think it would be great to have the same system in the states. Driving, its not something you think about if you start getting sleepy, but then here you see a sign and you realize that you should pull over and rest if you are at that point. I’m sure its saved lots of lives.
That first day of driving we made it somewhere south of Sarina, and somewhere about 2 hours north of Rockhampton (I think). Slept in the car in one of the pull-offs…not too comfortable, but not too bad either, and we saved some money that way. Woke up right before 6 am and pressed on. I think we made it into Rockhampton sometime around 8:30 am, and stopped there for breakfast. Rockhampton is the self-professed beef capital of Australia. There are more than two million cows within a 250 km radius of the city! There wasn’t much for us to stop for at look at in Rockhampton, and we wanted to get to Hervey Bay as soon as possible, so we moved on after breakfast.
We drove a further 6 hours or so, and stopped in a little town called Gin Gin, for Ethan saw a bakery that sold Pies! A Queensland favorite (but not one of mine) – basically pot pies with different fillings. So we got some of those for the road, and a delicious coffee milkshake. Another couple of hours and suddenly I saw a sign for a Bird House – it was irresistable to me. We were the only people parking, and the place looked a little sketchy – the cages lining the walkway to the main entrance (filled with cockatoos) were pretty bare bones…but we went inside. The older couple informed us that they had just bought the entire place the week before and that they were going to do some major renovations, improving the conditions for the birds. We paid the 8$ fee to go inside the aviary, and saw that it definitely needed some TLC. The big birds, the macaws and cockatoos (there were Shadow-analogues!) had cages in poor condition with little toys. There was a corella at the entrance, named Fred, that was pretty entertaining – he would say “Hello” and even wave with his foot!!! He also did another foot motion that was a little questionable…but thats another story, haha.
At this point, we were only about 3 or 4 hours from Hervey Bay, so we jumped back to the car and continued on the drive. We stopped at a roadside veggie/fruit shop and bought some veggies for camping as well as some passionfruit “ice blocks” – homemade icesicles that were surprisingly delicious (we ❤ passionfruit).
Finally, Hervey Bay! We arrived about 5 pm, I think, which was pretty good time considering that the drive from Townsville was calculated as 16 hours (straight). I, unfortunately, couldn’t remember which hostel I had booked a room at for the night, so we had to find an internet cafe to look it up. It was “The Friendly Hostel” and it was really nice! It was one of the newer hostels, in a big house separated into units that had about 3 bedrooms that shared a really comfy living room (with a TV!) and a nice clean kitchen and bathroom. We were pretty exhausted, but we had to go buy groceries for the camping trip, as well as dinner, so we headed to the nearest shopping center to do so. We ended up spending $150 on groceries at Woolworth’s (which seemed like a lot at the time, but over 3 days for 2 people turned out to be not so bad). We got these amazingly humongously delicious hamburgers from a place called Healthy Hen (healthy, I don’t know why). That night we settled in and relaxed, watching “500 Days of Summer”. We were to be at Aussie Trax at 6 am the next morning for our driving on Fraser Island safety-induction….