In Townsville the Air Force gave us a noisy, sunset welcome with a fly-past of Hornets passing low over the Caravan Park. It was, of course, mere coincidence that the airport was next door.
Returning to Townsville was quite a shock, it was so noisy! The caravan park was close to a main road, a railway and the airport which is both military and commercial. The noise started at five o'clock in the morning with the departure of the first commercial jet. It continued with huge diesel trucks using compression braking to stop at the traffic lights outside the park. When the lights turned green there'd be the scream of tortured rubber from hoons desperate to get to the next lights first. On the railway, heavy freight trains roared past, sounding their sirens as they approached each level crossing. The cacophony climaxed at 9:30 a.m. when the Air Force's squadron of F/A-18 Hornet fighters took off with afterburners blasting every other sound into insignificance. The caravan trembled. The world trembled.
At eleven o'clock at night, just when we thought it was all over and we could get some sleep, they started testing a Caribou's engines. Half an hour later a military helicopter bellowed low overhead for the umpteenth time.
The moral of this story is that we should read our own website! After staying in this caravan park last year we wrote: Another incentive to move on was the location of the caravan park that we'd chosen. It was very close to the airport, a railway and a busy main road - a lot of noise.
We had received a tip-off - thank you, Sue - that we should check out page 93 of the October 2006 edition of Caravan World. There we found a photograph of ourselves riding a camel in Denham at the end of July, 2004. The camel was called Madison and she was a beautiful, gentle beast. We have no idea who took the photograph.
This is Madison. Isn't she lovely? Her owners, Sandra and Henk, don't believe in controlling the camels by pain as is the normal way. They are trained by kindness and it shows. No drool or slobber from this camel's mouth. No nasty temper, either.
Now we've become famous we are looking for ways to cash in on our celebrity
status. We tried one or two Townsville restaurants and offered to sponsor
their establishments in return for free meals. You know the sort of thing,
. . . as seen in Caravan World. Strangely enough,
they didn't seem as enthusiastic as we'd expected. And after all we've
done for the Australian wine industry. Oh well, bugger it, we'd only have
put on weight anyway. More weight, that is.
We decided a week in Townsville was enough and moved further south to a beach resort that we'd heard a great deal about.
Airlie Beach is part of the Whitsunday Region. The name originated from good old Captain James Cook who discovered the Whitsunday Passage on Whit Sunday, 3rd June, 1770. Ships using the passage sailed close inshore, passing between a large group of islands and the mainland, avoiding the necessity of sailing outside the treacherous Great Barrier Reef. By doing so they saved much time. The group of islands is also known - wrongly - as the Whitsunday Islands.
Captain Cook named the group of islands the Cumberland Isles. However, the name Whitsunday caught people's imagination and the islands are today known as the Whitsunday Islands - you even see them named as such on maps. Officially, however, they are still the Cumberland Isles as the name has never been changed. Of the seventy four islands in the group, only eight are inhabited.
Since the name Whitsunday is so widely used in the region, I looked it up. For the benefit of those, like me, who didn't pay attention in Sunday school, Whit Sunday falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter and was originally known as White Sunday because of the baptismal robes worn on that day. The Holy Ghost is said to have descended upon the apostles as they celebrated the Jewish festival of Pentecost, a harvest festival observed on the fiftieth day after the second day of Passover. According to the book of Exodus, Passover is so named because one dark night the good Lord sent his heavy mob to murder all the Egyptian first-born kids, but to leave all the Hebrew kids alone. Hence the Hebrew kids were passed over, get it?
Why bump off all those Egyptian kids? Well, a Mr Pharaoh, who was running Egypt at that time, kept promising the Lord that he'd let the Hebrews go but, being a politician, his promises meant nothing. In the end God threw a serious tantrum and topped all the Egyptian first-born kids to show Pharaoh who was boss. Personally, I think that was a tad extreme, don't you? Being a first-born myself I tend to take exception to it. Why not just bump off this Pharaoh bloke who was causing all the grief?
This story reminds me a bit of a bloke called George who also went over the top. George didn't like a joker called Saddam so he bombed thousands of Iraqis but Saddam escaped without a scratch 'cos he's a mite smarter than George. However, George's lads eventually found Saddam hiding in a hole in the desert. They gave him a bath, trimmed his hair and beard, gave him medical treatment, a nice cell to live in and fed him three square meals a day. Meanwhile the surviving Iraqis are living in a war-torn hell of George's making. Funny old world, isn't it?
I'm beginning to wish I'd never started this. What has it all to do with Airlie Beach anyway?
So, to conclude, Airlie Beach was named in 1930 by the chairman of a local council after his home town, Airlie, in Scotland.
We found Airlie to be a beautiful spot but over-commercialised. The place was packed but the people in the street, on the beaches and in the parks were not as friendly as we're used to. The locals, however, were fine. After a day or two of hearing snatches of conversation, we realised that most of the tourists were from Europe.
We've come across this phenomenon before with Europeans. By comparison, Aussies
must be the friendliest and most relaxed people on earth.(Other
tourists spoke a corrupt form of English; these were known as
Airlie has avoided any high-rise development so far but a hill overlooking the town is crammed with houses so close together that they're almost touching, and even more are being constructed. A shopkeeper told us that building on that rise had not been allowed for many years but . . . money talks. Now the people building there are destroying the very thing that had attracted them - and everyone else - to Airlie in the first place.
One day we set off to visit a location called Dingo Beach but we never got there. Don't ask, it's a long story. We ended up in a coastal town called Bowen which had a great lookout point on a rise known as Flagstaff Hill. From the top we had 360° views back over Bowen, along the coastline in each direction and out over the northern end of the Whitsunday Islands. Even better, there was a café there which afforded panoramic views while we sampled their coffee.
We couldn't swear to it, but neither of us noticed a flagstaff on Flagstaff Hill. The views were spectacular, though. I was going to reproduce one of the many pictures I took of the islands but all they consist of is a light blue sky, a dark blue sea, a straight horizon separating them and some grey lumps that are the distant islands. Pretty boring. So instead I'll show you the view up the beach to the north.
It's true we didn't inspect the large boulder on the top closely, but I'm not sure that I'd be sleeping too well on wet stormy nights if I lived in one of those houses directly below it. This is a region prone to cyclones.
Over the far side of Cape Edgecumbe is a lovely little cove called Horseshoe Bay which we visited after leaving the lookout. And, no, we didn't see any horseshoes in the bay but it was horseshoe shaped. Once again the photos were disappointing but there was a couple of energetic young blokes on the beach doing backflips and other totally impossible gymnastics.
When I managed to drag Pam away we drove into town to look at some murals painted onto the side of buildings. There were twenty four in total and all were extremely good. This was my favourite:
The picture, its border and even the shadow where the picture appears to curl, were painted directly on to the wall. Check the sharp shadow of the picture then notice that Pam has no shadow. The whole image was totally flat though it's hard to believe. I think that's really clever, don't you?
The road that ran past the Airlie Cove Caravan Park continued for a few kilometres to the sheltered inlet of Shute Harbour. We thought we'd find a nice coffee shop there but we were wrong. This little place was all about boats, boats and more boats. The large car park was totally full and the verge of the approach road was lined with cars coupled to empty boat trailers. Since there were not many people around, it seemed reasonable to assume they were all out in their boats. There were many moored craft in the inlet which is protected from the open sea by some of the Whitsunday Islands, and beyond them, by the Great Barrier Reef.
We're not boating or fishing people and as there was nowhere to park, we explored a nearby side road which led up a steep hill. Guess what we found at the top? Yep, a lovely café with stunning views out over the inlet.
By the time we left Airlie Beach we had accumulated fourteen rented campervans around our caravan. From each one within earshot we could hear German being spoken. Opposite us, however, was a small tent occupied by a middle aged Welsh couple. Taffy sat outside all day in just a pair of shorts. He bellowed, "Hello Gorgeous" (or similar) to every presentable female that passed. This saved me the trouble of scanning the windows all the time, I could wait for his shout. He was tanned to a mahogany shade. There's a lot of truth in the words of the song about mad dogs and Englishmen staying out in the mid-day sun. Or Welshmen, in this case.
So it's goodbye to Airlie Beach and goodbye to Page 32.
Footnote: This re-working of Page 32 was completed on 16 April 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.