Well I have done it. We set off at 7.30 am this morning and arrived just before 5pm. It took a further 15 minutes to get a room in a hotel. I checked Tripadviser and after finding a couple and going in I must admit I did panic a bit wondering if 'schoolies were going to have everything booked up. I needn't have worried. 'schoolies may have everything booked up but they can't get quality at 16 years old lol! We found a lovely hotel at the top of the hill, just out of Airlie beach for a couple of nights though I suspect it will turn I to 4 nights. This is why........
After spending a frantic couple of hours on the Internet last night I couldn't find any accommodation in Mackay which was the next feasible stop just up the road. So after a vey serious discussion with Mollie about the time involved and the distance the decision was made - Airlie it was. It was 6 hours 40 minutes without stops and road works!!!! What on earth was it going to be with? We said bye bye to the manager and his wife. Another lovely couple running a family motel business. We left Tannum Sands and headed North. It was about an hour and a half til Rockhampton and I started to get cold feet. Could I do this? The oversize lorries were out in force. How many more could there be?!!!!! We did see three houses being moved on the backs of some trucks. That was quite funny. A brainstorm - we could drop the car at Rockhampton and fly to Airlie beach. A quick call to a friend scuppers that idea. No flights. Right, Airlie beach and it's 686km here we come. It better be worth it that's what I say!!!!
This journey although the longest was by far one of the easier ones. Once we got through Rockhampton the roads were straight, long and largely empty! I did start to worry that I was the only one going north - apart from the oversized lorries of course! We managed to make good time on the road and Mollie with my iPad and several films was fine. I did make sure I stopped at particular points so she wasn't sitting for too long. She was a star.She didn't once say "are we there yet?"
The surrounding countryside changed so much in those hours. When we headed through Rockhampton for Mackay you can see the evidence of the mining. Big piles of stuff! And loads of machinery. Oh a train passed alongside us with containers which Mollie tried to count. She got to 25 and it was disappearing in the opposite direction but it was still pulling many more. The ground is very dry and dusty. Goodness knows how anything grows. I could see for miles and miles either side of me. It was so flat and nothing really to look at but it was still very nice to see.
We had some sandwiches in the car that we had picked up in Rockie so just after 12noon, time for a stop. All the trucks and lorries i had passed now sped passed, never mind. I was also desperate for a wee at this point but with all the different hisses and squeaks and chirps I could hear in the wee shrubs and bushes, there was no way I was going into the undergrowth! I could wait! In the time I've been driving I must admit I have had little moments where I think I feel things on my feet or legs as I'm driving and do try to brush things off. There is of course nothing there but your mind can play tricks on you especially when you have been reading about the various insects and reptiles in the area the night before!
The landscape itself was very dry and dusty for this part of the road. Lots and lots of road kills of kangaroos. Looking at the size of the lorries though they wouldn't stand a chance. I didn't see one live wild 'roo' on our trip. Mollie was desperately looking. At every sign at the side of the road which would indicate kangaroos or koalas for the next 30kms she would get excited and say she was looking. But of course we never saw any.
We hit Mackay just about mid afternoon. (yippeeee) it was only another 2 hours from here It actually looked a really nice place. Very tropical, lovely houses and even more being built. The mining trade is obviously doing well. There were even adverts at the side of the road for steel fitters, skilled miners, drivers and other jobs at the side of the road.
Once through Mackay the scenery does turn alot more tropical. I could see hills looming in the distance covered with greenery. That's where we were heading.
Airlie Beach is right beside the ocean but there was no hint of that yet. It really isn't until the last 4kms that the sea starts to make inroads to the landscape.
I could actually feel myself getting quite excited and emotional! I had done it. Tannum Sands to Airlie. In fact no, Wollongong to Airlie. I'll work out the kms later! We left just after 8 and hit Airlie just before 5pm! I will never moan about Craigellachie to Elgin again.
Right, last challenge was to find accommodation. I went into one right down at the water, Airlie Beach Hotel I think it was called, a snotty girl acknowledged me - just! ggggrrrrr. I did fight to keep my cool with her. She informed me that they had no rooms and that I would be hard pressed to find anything. If I tried the backpackers info desk round the corner then I might get some information on what was available. I know I had just been driving for close to 9hours but excuse me! If I ever look as if I need a backpackers hostel please tell me!!!!! The centre of the town was full of schoolies again. So my thinking was to head out of town which I did. Just down the hill coming into the town I had spotted a sign for a hotel. Success! And the receptionist is from Glasgow. Even better. Double room with an ocean view and balcony. Gorgeous.
Well we have settled in. Mollie has found the pool so she is delighted, I am away to find a glass of wine. I was planning on taking the car back down to Brisbane but I'm shattered. Enough is enough. The hire car is being handed in to Avis tomorrow. I think I've blown my super deal with them lol. I got the car cheap as it was to be returned to Brisbane. Well I over shot Brissie by a few hundred kms! I'll still save loads. $129 for a 1 hour flight to Brisbane or 3 nights motel, food and fuel and hours of driving!!! Hmm, show me the airport.
Well the next few days will be just as awesome as anywhere else we have been. We have the Great Barrier Reef trip to do, a trip to the Whitsundays and a Rainforest excursion. But for the moment I need sleep and tomorrow I am doing nothing!
I have been thinking would I do it this way again given half the chance and the answer is a resounding no! But at least I can say I have done it. We also spent time in areas that maybe we ordinarily wouldn't have met but what we got out of it most of all was the people we met. Every single person we met through staying in their accommodation wanted to hear about Scotland or our journey and where we were going. A few even went above and beyond the call of duty in their help and assistance. I won't forget that. So maybe it isn't about what you see and the places you go. Maybe it is about who you meet and the friends you make along the way..........