Into the night

Mom & I left Australia Zoo -- an hour north of Brisbane -- in the late afternoon, embarking north along the coast. We had no particular time schedule to adhere to; no specific places to stop; just the wide open road & a few days' time until we should arrive in Townsville where I would stay with my au pair family & Mom would return to the States.

Queensland seems designed for the road traveler. The coastal drive on The Bruce a.k.a. A1/Bruce Highway has major towns in four hour increments from the southern end to the top of the state. So, from Brisbane it would be 4 hours to Gladstone - Rockhampton - Mackay - Townsville - Cairns (pronounced "Can-z"). We hoped to make it almost to Rockhampton that evening, putting us halfway to our final destination. Now the trip took on a different scope because we were free to do whatever we wanted! I borrowed a ton of books from the library so I leafed through Cassowary Crossing & Lonely Planet: Queensland for ideas. Our tentative plan was to drive most of the evening, then drive the following day until Airlie Beach (two hours south of Townsville) which is the main hub for boating to the famed Whitsunday Islands & the Great Barrier Reef. Another book I brought along was a RV/Camper's guide to navigating Australia. This atlas/book proved to be worth its weight in gold!

Considering it was winter in Australia & Queensland does not observe Daylight Savings Time, Mom & I had been driving in the vast darkness for nearly 7 hours after a full day at the zoo. We were becoming heavy-eyed. Along the highway we drove through quite a few towns with rest areas. There were also plenty of opportunities for vehicles to pull off and rejuvenate along the side of the highway. The atlas mentioned a popular free camping/parking area in a small village an hour south of Rockhampton, so we pushed ourselves onward. Around 11PM we arrived at the large, fine sand campground, sharing it with three other trailers. There was no need for flashlights as it was approaching a full moon. We parked the car, reclined the seats, crawled into our sleeping bags & snoozed. I just described one of the qualities I love most about Oz! The mentality & lifestyle for many is a bit different than Westerners. Australian highways are catered to the truck drivers, road warriors & backpackers. In the States, calling it a night means dropping $60 for a sketchy motel. In Australia drivers are welcomed to rest. Can you sleep in either a tent, car or RV? No problem, the space and -- a lot of times -- running water & shower/bathroom facilities are provided. I've even passed rest areas that allow fires within the provided pits.

More importantly, in In A Sunburnt Country one commonality the author finds throughout the country is that Australians are generally good-hearted and friendly. At Blackdown Tablelands National Park the few campers all greeted each other whenever a new trailer arrived; at Carnarvon National Park most hikers greeted others when crossing paths. At the roadside stop south of Rockhampton Mom & I weren't the first to arrive, but we weren't the last either. Trucks & Wicked vans rolled through at all hours of the night. Yet, we felt safe. Our commonality? We all just wanted a place to lay our head and rest our eyes.