Down Under road trip part VI: the little things from Rockhampton to Townsville

Still no trace of the sun, but that’s okay, because this is a grand adventure, and rain or shine, we will make the most of it. Let me show you what little wonders we experience along the way. Because often it’s the little things that make a memory, that make life worth remembering.

Rockhampton was a nice little town for a one night stopover. We did the zoo and Botanic Gardens and our laundry. That’s a win win win. If you think warm, fresh laundry is something special coming out of your machine back home, you should experience the joy it brings when you’re camping.

It was feeding time, and Caramello left her tree to look for the zookeeper who would momentarily bring her eucalyptus leaves. Trent let her sniff his hand.

As usual, we awoke early to the cacophony of exotic bird song. Way better than an alarm. We really only use alarms on days we have to catch a plane. How’s that for a little thing?

Rainbow lorikeets just chillin’ in a front yard in Rockhampton.

If I’m honest, my expectations are pretty minimal for the rest of the drive north. Given the forecast and the many accounts of this road trip that say there’s not much to stop for north of Brisbane until you reach Cairns.

However, we tend to really enjoy life’s random little moments, so we will surely enjoy some things along the way even if we can’t go to the beach because of the rain and the stingers (jellyfish are much more prevalent up north).

We get excited to stop at the Revive and Survive rest stops where volunteers hand out free coffee and biscuits (cookies) over holiday weekends. Today we had the bonus of homemade Anzac Day cookies and leftover Easter candy. I told you we are getting good at finding the free stuff. Sometimes it really is the little things that make all the difference.

Even the pouring rain was an experience that we tried our best to enjoy while whiteknuckling the drive and praying that the roads wouldn’t flood. Somehow I spotted five kangaroos on the drive before the rain got too heavy. THAT was by far my highlight. Poor Trent missed them all.

It really doesn’t take much to get our wanderlust juices going. A sugar cane field. A flock of big birds or a lone hawk. Free coffee. Fancy hot chocolate. A homemade flaky scone from a roadside cafe. A glimpse of the ocean. Funny road signs that you don’t see in the US. Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, which we did just yesterday.

Seafood Mornay Salt and Pepper SquidTrent bought some fresh mangoes at this roadside stand.

Some of my favorite things driving in this part of Australia are the Fatigue Zones. These are long stretches of highway where there is just nothing but trees and pasture for endless lines of highway. There are signs on the side of the road to try to keep you awake. They either remind you to pull over and rest in a rest area by trying to scare you, or sometimes they provide trivia or simply goofy remarks about the ridiculously long distances between places. We even saw a life size car crash diorama warning against sleeping and driving.

I really wish I could remember the question…

We managed to avoid the rain for the first few hours of the drive. But we could see that we were headed straight for it. Then it hit and it never left us. Right now as I write this, it’s still pouring. Here’s my view from our camp site at the Seabreeze Tourist Park in Airlie Beach.

We drove around Airlie Beach when we arrived. It’s the launching point for the famous Whitsunday Islands and beaches that everyone kept telling us about. We were not overly impressed. In this kind of drenching rain, nothing really looks that good, even the beach. The forecast is 100% chance of rain for the next 48 hours.

The beaches on the mainland look pretty small and dismal, and who wants to get on a boat to an island in this weather? It’s not just a drizzle but a nearly constant downpour. So, this oasis of Central Queensland is a bust for us, and we are moving on after one night, trying to get past the rain to find some partially sunny skies.

On the way to Townsville, we made our way past the torrential rains from Cyclone Irma, which finally started to move away from the mainland. Fingers crossed, no more rain.

We drove through some authentic working class coastal communities, and some that were trying to capitalize on all the tourists that make this drive up and down the coast. I loved it. We stopped in cute cafes and roadside farm and fish stands and to snap pictures of another of Australia’s random Big Things – this time a Big Mango. A big little thing or little big thing…

We made it to Townsville with hardly a sprinkle, and this will be our last stop in the camper van before we drive on to Cairns, where we hope that the weather will stay clear for some snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef.

The sun periodically threatens to make an actual appearance. Over the next few days we will visit the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, take in the views from the top of Castle Hill, and walk The Strand, which is the main drag along the beach. And obviously lots of seafood. Who knows what other little things we will discover here… but I’m certain we will enjoy them.

Our challenge is to remember to remember the importance of the little things in everyday non-sabbatical life. Not to get caught up in the Cyclones and the drama but instead appreciate the happy moments along the way. They add up.

My favorite fish at the Townsville Aquarium. I named him Soupy.

Next stop: Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

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