March 19, 2005

A lovely driving day, today. We started out hungry this morning at the Spanish Lace motel in Townsville where we stayed last night. Andy wanted waffles. We were all doubtful that we'd find them, here. At a local truck stop, they had lots of egg meals, toast with spaghetti on top (an Australian delicacy apparently) and some fruit, cereals and muffins but no waffles. Andy settled for a banana nut muffin, Vienna got her trademark toast with jam and I had a nice high-fiber cereal with milk. Andy also ordered an iced coffee and convinced me I was worth an iced chocolate. Thinking we would get glasses of chocolate and coffee with ice in them, we were surprised to get basically a coffee and chocolate float, with ice cream in them. Lesson learned but they weren't bad. Topped with whipped cream there were just a bit much for breakfast. After our "hearty" breakfast, we headed south on Australia's Highway 1. The scenery in this area is not nearly as lush and green as yesterday but we are graced with giant white fluffy clouds and sunshine. I am still using sun block and walking funny because of my sunburn.

We drove through a couple of small towns. One was Ayr, which claims itself the "Tidiest town in North Queensland." It was quite tidy and very quaint. It also had a giant black and yellow snake on the side of the road and a giant Mango south of town further along the road. These are not the first giant things we've seen, though. Yesterday, we saw a giant crab and last week a giant lobster. Australians seem to like giant things whereas the States have lost this passion a while back. We also saw a lot of sugarcane fields and more of Andy's beloved art deco architecture. We stopped for a late lunch in a town called Mackay. We just saw the sprawl part with a mall. Apparently, the malls and most stores close at around 5:00 pm in Australia on weekends. We've seen that a few times. No luck getting our roll of film developed. But, we found an Australian Pizza Hut and got a take away pizza for about A$6. The best meal deal we've had yet. But, we had to take it away, per the deal, so we ate in the car. It was fine but somehow their green peppers are called something different because this was the second time we ordered a pizza that didn't have peppers listed on the ingredients but it was on the pizza. I'm asking next time.

We were going to stop in Mackay for the night but it was only 3:30 so we decided to get a bit farther. This was a good idea because we got as far as a tiny town called Clairview, where we found a beach front "Holiday Camp." It's not a motel but has some trailers and a couple of "cabins." We got a "cabin" for A$49, which is the best deal we've had for lodging yet. It's certainly not the Hilton but it is comfortable and is right on the beach. The lady at the desk told us the tide was coming in. When we went out there and, sure enough, we could tell that slowly but surely the water was filling the small bowls and caverns in the rocks and sand. We sat for a while and just watched the ocean creep closer with every wave. It was the coolest thing we'd seen in a long while. Pretty soon we were almost surrounded by the water.

Dinner consisted of some canned goods that we bought at the camp’s shop and cooked on the hot plate in our cabin. Again, not first-class grub but it filled us. I was a bit worried when I discovered that the tops of the cans could pop in and out. I'd learned from my mum that you shouldn't eat canned food if there is a rise in the top of the can. But, I tested it on myself and since I didn't die, I felt comfortable giving it to the family. Andy passed on it, though. He wasn't taking any chances.

We saw the stars out tonight. There is one group of stars that I swear looks like Orion. I drew the configuration so that I could check it when I get back to the northern hemisphere. We couldn't see it tonight, but a week or so ago we could see a bright band of the Milky Way. When we are away from city lights there are about a billion stars that we can see. It's just gorgeous.

Along the road, today we stopped at a servo near Bloomsbury, with a sign that said, "Birds Galore." Sure enough, out in back there was a whole slew of birds. There was a big fat turkey wandering around. He got even bigger and fatter when we got too close to him. There were some beautiful pheasants with bright colors and long tails and also some long-billed corellas. These birds looked something like cockatoos so we started trying to get them to say "hello" like our cockatoo friend in Glenrowan. They were quiet until we started to walk away. Just then, we heard one say "Hello." So, of course we went back and talked to him a bit more. He eventually climbed over to be right next to us and watched us. At one point he bobbed his head back and forth sideways, but he didn't say anything else. It seemed that he was playing with us. When we had just given up and turned to go, he said it again: "hello." We did this a couple more times and every time we'd turn to go, he'd talk again to get us to come back. He had taught the humans a trick. When we finally did have to leave, he said "hello" several times to try to get us to come back. We Woods love these bird games and apparently the corella loves these human games. Tomorrow, it's back on the road heading south toward Brisbane. I don't expect us to make it that far but we'll enjoy what we do see.