Day 31: From Townsville to Mackay
Traveling time: 5.5 hours
Distance covered: 400km (hitchhiking)
After having packed my bag and leaving some stuff behind, after having a final coffee and exchanged photos, after thanking Steve profoundly and giving him a pair of Dutch clogs, I at last set off. Steve dumped me next to the freeway and he hadn’t even left when a car stopped to take me 15km south to Crocodile Creek. The next person picked me up within five minutes. This guy started talking about testicular cancer about ten minutes in and he would take me to Proserpine, near Airlie Beach – nearly the whole way – so I was in for a long one. Turned out to be ok except for the fact that he is dead shy with women and wanted to take a picture of me so his friend(s?) would believe he hadn’t made it up. I think it took all his courage to ask me that question. And who am I to refuse since he was kind enough to give me a lift? Felt slightly uncomfortable afterwards though…
He dropped me off next to the Proserpine airfield. In hindsight probably the worst location as the road is narrow and there is hardly anywhere to stop. It was also stinking hot. But eventually a car full of women stopped and took me with. They were driving down from Townsville too and were quite surprised I was making better time than them. They dropped me off on Nebo Road in Mackay, because there are plenty of motels, it’s not too far from the centre and it is the road to Rockhampton.
I decided to give myself about half an hour to find a couch. If not, I would try to get to Rockhampton. As luck would have it Riely was on top of the mountain behind his house with his phone in his pocket, meaning he had reception and answered my call and I had a place to stay! He picked me up about an hour later. We drove to his house in the bush, had a beer before his mom called us over for dinner. We went back to his place after, drank beer, played cards, drank two bottles of wine between the four of us (his mate Jarrod and German surfer Rob were there too). Then Riely decided he was hungry and made us all pancakes. Time for bed.
Day 31: Mackay
Traveling time: 30min
Distance covered: 55km (by car)
In the morning, Riely was very energetic running up his mountain followed by Rob and me (a fair bit slower). But it was totally worth it! The view from where he is setting up camp is breathtaking and the climb – I am in such bad shape – wasn’t all that bad either. Up there we watched Riely constructing his seat, but giving up after he decided it wouldn’t work that way and he had a sore back from bending over. He told me about a place where you can spot platypus so they gave up on their idea to camp on the hill and we went for a swim instead.
Afterwards we drove to Eungella to spot the platypus. And we did. It took a while (now I know once more why I don’t like fishing or bird watching – in case I was ever tempted to do that!) but eventually one of six or seven decided to grace us with its present. For which we are ever so grateful. We went up to the pub on the hill for a hot chocolate, got some beers at the drive-thru liquor store and went home for steak. We were all quite tired so Riely put on a movie which none of us finished watching.
Anton is in Gladstone despite a record four flat tyres in one day!
Day 32: From Mackay to Gladstone
Traveling time: 6 hours
Distance covered: 530km (hitchhiking)
While Riely drove me to the freeway to continue my travels I asked him if Mackay had a war memorial so we went looking for it. We found it in Queens Park and I took a few photos. Riely quickly stepped inside the hardware store to get some stuff for his to be built workout apparatus. At around 11 o’clock he eventually dropped me off at the side of the road to Rocky. It seemed to take forever before Crazy Cat Lady picked me up. She could only bring me to the servo where a lot of trucks stop, about fifteen minutes down the road. She talked the whole time telling me about her seven cats and her husband who got run over by his own car on his own driveway because he forgot to put the hand brake on and died. She gave me her phone number and address if I ever was around and needed a place to stay. I think she was lonely.
As I got out of her car a truckie walked passed and I asked him if he happened to be heading south. And what do ya know… he was! As a matter of fact he was on his way to Brisbane and he would almost go through Gladstone. The only thing preventing him from dropping me off in the town centre was the size of the truck. Truckie and I got along great. He was a super friendly , formerly retired transportation company owner that also deals in Australian porphyry (some kind of stone). He offered me beers and bought me lunch at a truckers’ resto. When I told him about Anton’s bike situation he said he wouldn’t mind taking it to Brisbane if that was where we needed it to go. So I called Anton who arranged a ride with one of the backpackers in the hostel to the crossroads with Calliope where my backpack and I switched places with the bike. We were standing in the middle of the road works, cars making u-turns around us and all of a sudden this van shows up with four sweaty backpackers in it. It was a funny, funny site! I said goodbye to Peter and promised to get in touch when I am in Cairns so I can buy him a thank-you beer.