Within the next couple of days we had to cover quite a few miles, from the town of seventeen seventy to Airlie Beach, stopping over for the night in a place called Dululu. We would be driving a 9 hour stint which was over 800 km over the two day period. On the first day we had a shorter drive and had some time to explore the Gladstone coastal region before setting off inland towards Dululu. As we drove from the coast the scenery changed rapidly from coastal, lush vegetation, to massive industrial coal power plants and mines, and finally to dry outback country. Ranches with massive gates made of wood, with long driveways, old cars, Holden trucks (jutes) and slimmer cows dominated the landscape. It looked like a harsh terrain to live in. The “real” Australia, with it’s intensive coal mining industries and farming became evident that day, this was where Australia made it’s money. This was also the places where most damage had been done to the environment.
We eventually arrived at camp Dululu, the free campsite in the outback that we were using as a stopover for the journey to Airlie Beach. The town lay among dry fields next to the highway and consisted of about four houses and a a hotel. The campsite was quaint and quiet, the perfect place for a sleep. It did turn out this cute little outback town was very hot though! We realized quickly we had a bit of a dilemma: the water taps had signs saying unsuitable for drinking, and at the rate we were drinking due to the heat we would run out before the next day! We went to the mentioned adjacent hotel across the road to see if they sold water, but when we got there all we found was a deserted, burnt building. We then panicked a bit, but made a plan of action and drove to the larger town called Mount Morgan, 30 minutes down the road where there were some local supermarkets. On the way we spotted smoke and fire from one of the hills, and being not sure what to do we eventually tried calling the fire brigade and explained what we saw. The lady on the phone explained it was most likely someone who was doing a permitted, controlled burning on their property, but they said they would look into it and took our number in case we had to be contacted again. The nonchalant voice of the lady on the phone and the fair distance between our campsite and the fire was reassurance enough to stay put and not consider packing up and moving. So we stayed, went to bed and went to sleep.
The next day we woke up at the crack of dawn, packed up and headed towards the cooler coast again already by 8 o clock. I did the first 3 1/2 hours, but luckily it was broken up quite a bit. I only had to drive one hour before we stopped for breakfast in Rockhampton. On route we stopped to see the statue of the Tropic of Capricorn, and cross over the official line into the Tropics. For breakfast we stopped at Rockhampton’s botanical gardens and free zoo. A beautiful garden, I wish we could have had more time to explore! Back on route I finished my remaining 2 1/2 hours and then we stopped at a roadside cafe for a small lunch and to do a drivers swap. The café, all wooden and with a lovely garden, was run by a cute, old English couple. I bought a mango from their tree in the back-garden before we all got back into the car and I could finally relax and sleep whilst Steven did the remaining 3 1/2 hours. When we finally arrived to Airlie beach we could put the tent up, make dinner and have a well deserved rest!