|Subject: From Alice To Ocean Part 2 (long)
Monday April 10th
Well, what a day we had yesterday. We got up good and early in Mt. Isa and checked the road reports for a route East. We favoured the northern route, which would take us close to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the footsteps of Bourke and Wills those remarkably revered and inept explorers of old. However it was not to be, the road was still closed to all traffic. The southerly route which yesterday was passable only by 4-wheeldrive had now been opened for all.
We set off before dawn in an easterly direction and I am sure you can see the problem with that scenario. The first hour was very uncomfortable until the sun rose high enough to clear our visors. There was also rain in the afternoon forecast but we would be well clear of Julia Creek and the formerly flooded road by then. Or so we thought!
Imagine our horror when passing through the town we spotted the barrier announcing that the road was closed. The local cop was having a great time telling everyone that we would be around for some time as the road was under .4 of a meter of water with no sign of it receding, roadtrains & 4 wheel drives would be ok but not regular cars. We decided to drive the 45km out of town to check it out for ourselves, eventually joining the other cars, campers and caravans ahead of us in line. Everyone was out of their vehicles and in incredibly good spirits. We put this down to 'blitz mentality' or adversity bringing out the best in people. Then we spotted the latter day St. Christopher 'carrying' cars and passengers over the flooded sections on his flat bed trailer. And all for $50 per car "per trip or per part of per trip" (with apologies to Stanley Holloway). Unfortunately he could only make 3 return trips per hour so it was three hours before we were on our way.
Once over the obstacle we were prepared to forgive the police and RACQ who had misinformed us all about the status of the road. Even going so far as to say they had done us a favour, as we would not have set off if we knew the road was closed. The sun was shining, all roads ahead were open, perfect. Then we saw the clouds forming, and what clouds they were, ahead deep dark threatening ones. To either side shafts which told us that all beneath were getting a good soaking and in other directions, beautiful and blue and innocent. Then came the rain, in great torrential downpours. We didn’t even know Blot could water ski until that moment. The showers were heavy and frequent but passed quite quickly and the rainbows were low, wide and intensely bright. Poor Tony drove all day as he didn’t want to let me ‘have a go’ until the rain had passed and the sky settled down, by which time with the dull light the Kamikaze kangaroos had put in an early appearance.
It was a relief to arrive in the apparently charming town of Charters Towers, it was well and truly dark by then but it looks attractive and any town, which calls itself ‘Charlie’s Trousers’ must be ok.
Tuesday April 11th
When we crossed the Queensland border 4 days ago a great big sign welcomedus to the 'Sunshine State', well I think they may be in serious contravention of the ‘Trades Description Act’. Neither the fates nor thesun has been shining on us much recently.
We made a quick getaway from the promising Charters Towers and were feeling very pleased with ourselves possibly even a little smug as we rolled along. Turning north we noticed an immediate change in the countryside. We were in sugar country and the cane was growing either side of the road, we have never seen it growing in a paddy before! Also the houses were built on stilts. Was this to prevent cane toads invading the living room? No, apparently it is because the whole area is liable to flood! Soon we were confronted by another impassable road. Heading back to Townsville we discussed our options. My favourite being to headsouth as quickly as possible. Tony however really wanted to see North of Cairns and the Tablelands, even though the weather forecast is less thanideal.
It occurred to me that if we had a 4-wheel drive we too could go on. So, Blot is taking a weeks vacation and we are mobile again in a 'troop carrier', the only 4-wheel drive still available during 'the wet' and the Easter holidays. Off we go again, only to be told by the police at the scene of the overflowing river that it was now only passable to trucks and buses. We waited optimistically for several hours and just as we thought the police were bound to officially close the road for the night, they disappeared. Didn’t say a word to anyone, just left, it must have been time to change shift.
A long line of 4-wheel drives came over from the opposite direction and we decided to make a break for it. Fortunately our 'troopie' is diesel and we made it over, the petrol one following us got stuck. It was pretty nerve- wracking as the water was 18" deep over the road and fast moving but our vehicle handled it very well.
Over the river we were soon in the area damaged by Cyclone Larry's predecessor. Innisfill has a lot of damage to homes, trees and road signs. By this time it was dark and we were tired and all the motels were full. No choice but to join the convoy making it’s way to Cairns.
So, Alice to ocean but in 4 days not 3. Tony is asleep and I won’t be far behind him. I hope we don’t regret the decision to come north.
Regards till next time, which may be awhile as Tony is determined to camp!!!
Keep your fingers crossed it stops raining soon and we can get back to Blot next Tuesday.
Sue (currently exhausted in Cairns) Waterloo ON