Sat. 25th July
After leaving Hervey Bay, my next stop northwards was Bundaberg, in the heart of the 'growing' country, fields either side of the road on the way there were lined with sugarcane and fruit trees and Bundy, when I arrived, was very much a town of harvest-workers. I had had trouble, before I arrived, finding a hostel that would take a booking for just two nights, as they all mostly cater to long-stay backpackers doing harvest work. I wound up staying in cellblock, which was actually quite cool, in a converted jail, with several of the dorms being old cells, but not the cramped space you might imagine, very high-celinged. It was easy to see why most tourists do not stop off a bundaberg, there were several good things to see (including the tranquil botanical gardens and the Bundaberg rum distillery tour, which was great!) but other than that I didn't much like it. I felt a little scared and unsafe there, the locals don't really like backpackers and can be quite hostel, plus heard many stories of backpackers being beaten up/mugged by locals. Hmm. So I was glad to leave after just two nights!
From Bundy, I took the bus a couple hours north to the tiny town (maybe town is too strong a word) of Agnes Water, by 1770. Both are very small, but the beaches are lovely and there are many very reasonably priced activities to do. Being a bit short of money at this point, I had to choose one and did an hour-long scenic flight with acrobatics, which was, quite simply, the most exciting thing I have done since I have been in Australia, possibly in my entire life. The views were breathtaking, the loop-the-loops and zero gravity nose-dives had me shaking and crying and screaming with exhilaration, such an adrenaline rush. The opportunity, on the way back to take the controls and help take off, fly and land the plane, were the icing on the cake. Amazing and unforgettable, and at $75 an absolute bargain.
Other time in Agnes was spent on the beach and at the hostel, Cool Bananas, a fantastic place, so friendly and really looked after us, great atmosphere. They had a campfire in the evenings so a few good eves were spent around that, drinking and chatting.
The next leg of the journey included a compulsory overnight stop at Kroombit, working cattle station, in countryside inland of the Great Dividing Range. Offered activities included goat mustering on horseback, quad biking and clay pigion shooting, none of which I could afford, although they were cheap for what you got. So with the other brokies, we took a walk up a hill to get brilliant panoramic views of endless rolling countryside.. all very dry and red earth and dust, still plenty of trees spaced out accross. Very peaceful and serene up there and we got to look down on the hilarious spectacle of our bus-mates on horseback trying to herd a load of stubborn goats into a pen. Ha!
Next on the agenda was a 'goat rodeo', where we had a quick lesson in lassooing, very imformative, although I didn't manage to successfully lassoo anything! Then a competition in the ring, groups of three, to catch, upend and pretend to brand a goat. Apparently this is how they catch and deal with goats, but I was unsure as to the necessity of the goat being dragged accross the ring by its horns in an inexpert way by a succession of backpackers. I don't know, it seemed like a bit of unnecessary stress for the goats, so didn't take part. Then back to the ranch for dinner.
The evening was fun! They opened up a big dressing-up chest so we all spent the evening in a random assortment of old-lady clothes, very amusing. Few drinks and a whip-cracking lesson (I got it to crack, very satisfying and much more difficult to do than it looks!), a talent contest and then the mechanical bull was started up. I have never been on one and always wanted to, I lasted four bucks before sliding off headfirst. Some people were so funny to watch, some hilarious tumbles and a few of the guys in great crotch-pain afterwards!!
Then we were up early Thursday for a 10-hour day of driving. Morning coffee was in Rockhampton, a real cowboy town with twice weekly rodeos, and a point when we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. then north through some very arid and cracked landscapes to lunch in Sarina and then up to arrive in Airlie Beach at 5pm.