South of Townsville, May 24
After spending a week in Northern Queensland it was time to start the journey south to Brisbane. As we hit the motorway (it's not called a highway in Australia), we were excited to see the parts of Queensland that many tourists (and even Aussies) do not get to see. That is the wonderful thing about the road trip; it allows you to really see the landscapes and countryside.
We learned the "code of the campervan driver" in New Zealand and were happy to see that this international code was also carried out in Australia. The code of the campervan driver is quite simple. It is a slight node or a wave when passing another campervan driver. It is a courtesy when changing lanes. A "you first" approach to driving the open road. It is a simple hello just because you're also driving an oversized vehicle with very little clue about where you're going. Other campervan drivers know what I'm talking about. It adds to the enjoyment of the journey knowing that the other person waving is just as excited and lost as you are.
When we were investigating prices for car rentals we were told by several locals and agents not to drive at night because it was too dangerous. The woman who sorted us out with our campervan said "don't risk it, get off the road as soon as it gets dark". Puzzled by this seemingly common statement, we had to ask why. "Kangaroos" was the response. Kangaroos? Apparently it is very common for drivers to hit, and kill, kangaroos at night because they're not very fast and they get paralized by the headlights. That and the fact that they seem to be everywhere, even in the towns and smaller cities.
We were confused by this because we did not see any kangaroos on our first day of road travel. We were really hoping that we would get a chance to see these incredibly unique and native mammals in their natural habitat. Because of the lack of kangaroo sightings, we were tempted to continue driving after 6:00 pm (which is dusk because we are heading into winter down here) and take the risk in order to gain more ground. Nicole had even made the comment "it doesn't seem like it's really all that common to hit a kangaroo?". A statement we would laugh at later in the trip.
Nevertheless, we decided to play it safe and take the advice of the locals and call it a night once the sun went down. After we found the first couple of caravan campgrounds with no vacancy, we started to get nervous that it would be a long drive before we found a place to spend the night. We were in the middle of no where in the Australian wilderness with several km's separating each town.
As luck would have it, we ended up stumbling upon a free campground just off of the main motorway. All throughout NZ we were looking for the elusive "free" campground and only managed to find one in Taupo on the North Island. And on our first night in Queensland we were already ahead of the game! The campervan is fantastic. We enjoyed a hot meal cooked inside, followed by a hot shower and a comfortable night's sleep (and we didn't even have to go out into the dark and potentially dangerous bush to use the toilet!).
We hit the road early in the morning because we knew that in order to stay ahead of the relocation timeline, we needed to get as close to Brisbane as possible. On the drive, we thought it would be interesting to count the "kangaroo road kill" to see what all the hype was about. At about 4:00 in the afternoon we had to stop the game. Partly because we were getting bored, and it was kind of morbid counting dead animals, but mainly because we had counted past 70+ dead kanagroos on the side of the road (and this was just the 'visible' accidents). It was horrible seeing all of these innocent victims. During some stretches we would literally see a dead kangaroo every 500 meters. It is a shame that these poor Roo's have to die when it seems that there are better ways to protect them from the dangerous trucks that speed by at night with their blinding bright lights. Like maybe a big, sturdy fence?
Rather than focus on road kill, we decided to play a different game. How many "live" kangaroos and wallabies could we count. Surprisingly we only had three after the first day and a half of driving! Like the 'penguin crossing' signs in New Zealand, we were dooped into believing that we would see kangaroos whenever we saw the "kangaroo crossing" road signs. Not bloody likely! We finally saw a large mob of about a dozen kangroos grazing on a high school football field just off the motorway. This much anticipated sighting was later followed by several other spottings, mainly in rural populated areas in open fields with cut grass.
We continued on and kept the lucky streak alive by finding another free campground, also located about 30 meters off the main motorway. What a difference from the overpriced campsites in New Zealand! Our long day of driving got us to within striking distance of the world famous Australia Zoo, which is the home of The Crocodile Hunter, the deceased Steve Irwin.
The Australia Zoo was an attraction that was a must on our itinerary, and we were excited to see the legacy of The Crocodile Hunter!