The plan was simple: drive ten or eleven hours north, see the Great Barrier Reef, spend a couple nights at Oaklea Bed and Breakfast, and then come home.
Enter Cyclone Debbie. I can’t complain—all we suffered from her was a little upheaval of our plans, which turned the trip all the more into an adventure. There are others who suffered far worse from her turbulent waves and awe-inspiring winds. She left behind a lot of wreckage, and for some, a heartful of grief. So before you keep reading, stop and say a prayer for those affected the most. Next time it could be any of us.
After only four days of working at Jazam, we weren’t quite sure we were ready to take off on another trip. But it just so happened that it might be one of the only times we’d be able to use the ute for so many days, so we took advantage of the opportunity. Eric booked a tour and a motel and a couple nights at Oaklea, and on Sunday morning we hit the road again. (Actually, it was more like hitting the road for the first time—we’d done plenty in the air and on the rails, but this was our first long stint of driving in Australia.)
I think Australia has some of the prettiest countryside I’ve ever seen. The dirt is red, the skies are blue, and the hills are so rolling and tree-spotted it’s unbelievable. I commented to Eric that since we’ve been married we’ve been in three of the prettiest places in the world—Oregon, Hawaii, and now here. Even their signs are pretty here. Well, if not pretty, at least artistic. A sign for a railroad crossing doesn’t just have that X on it, it has a picture of a little train. And that little train even has smoke coming out of its smokestack. 🙂 And since they seem very concerned about people not falling asleep at the wheel here (you can drive for hours without seeing much of anyone), they have all sorts of signs about staying awake. My favorite one was a picture of a coffee cup with this caption: “Driver Reviver. Free When Open.” For some reason the “free when open” just struck me funny. And all or most of their “sleepy” signs had a rhyme in them somewhere. That’s my kind of sign. 🙂Somewhere along our ten-hour drive that turned into a twelve-hour drive, we stopped so Eric could reply to a few emails, one of which happened to be very important. It was an email informing us that the Lady Musgrave tour we’d scheduled for Monday was canceled due to the weather. (Lady Musgrave is an island on the Great Barrier Reef.) Eric had already done some booking and unbooking in regards to that tour, and the previous unbooking of a Tuesday tour had cost us a bit to cancel, so we just rebooked the Tuesday tour instead and got our money back.
There was a slight problem though: the Monday tour left from 1770, and the Tuesday tour left from Bundaberg. We’d already booked a motel for two nights in 1770, and it sounded like a neat little town, so we decided to just keep going all the way up there, even though we’d be further north than we needed to be. It wasn’t until later that we realized that Bundaberg is almost two hours from 1770 and that our tour left at 7am on Tuesday morning. So in the oblivious meantime, we just kept driving.
I wasn’t quite so sure I was glad we did when we finally got to our motel that night and there was no one around. There wasn’t even a place to check in. We’ve noticed that things seem to shut down early around here. We went to the mall once, and even though it was only eight o’clock pretty much everything but the grocery store was closed. But anyway, we got to Escape 1770 and wandered around for a bit trying to figure out what to do. I wasn’t very comforted by the lizard I saw scampering up and down the wall like lightning or by the enormous beetles that meandered down the sidewalk.
Eric ended up calling the motel, and we were told what room we were in and that it was unlocked and that the key was inside. So that was kind of strange, but when we saw how nice it was inside and when we woke up the next morning to the beautiful view out our front window, we felt better about it all.
Since our tour had been cancelled, we didn’t have any plans for being in Agnes Water (which was where our motel was located), so our day involved a bit of shopping, a lot of eating, a drive by Captain Cook’s landing (which is where 1770 got its name), and a look at the beach. There was only a tiny little section flagged off where people were allowed to swim because the rip current was so strong. We watched the surfers for a little while before going back to our room to book a night in Bundaberg. We realized too late how far we’d have to drive in the morning and decided it’d be better to be closer, even if it meant paying for an Escape 1770 motel room we wouldn’t get to use.
So we hit the road again after lunch, and just as we were getting out of Agnes Water, Eric started remembering all the things he’d seen online to do around 1770, one of them being a butterfly walk and another being off-roading. It was too late for the butterflies, but there were all sorts of little side roads that looked like they’d be a place to go mudding, so dashing off into the cattle-filled forest we went. (Yes, there are cows everywhere here, some of the prettiest cows I’ve ever seen, all white and brown.) The road turned gravelly and bumpy and awful quite quickly, and when we stopped at the Ganoonga Noonga lookout I was relieved. That relief lasted only until I saw all the steps we’d have to climb to get to the top.
But up we went, with Eric saying it’d overlook the beach and be just amazing and me saying it probably wouldn’t look over much of anything at all.
We were both wrong and both right. When we got to the top, it was just a sea of trees below us, which is something more than nothing but still not much of something. And if you looked way off to your left, you could just see a strip of beach.
The mosquitos came about the time we started taking pictures.
On our way back out to the main road, we almost hit a kangaroo and then just had to stop to take some pictures of a few others.
We’d actually seen a few others right outside of Agnes Water (pictured first), but this was the closest we’d seen them yet. They’re pretty amazing, especially when they hop, but I wouldn’t want to be close to a mad one, not after hearing Will’s stories. In a rather long episode about a roo who’d taken over the backyard, we heard about how Will had tried to shoo the thing away by throwing a lawn chair at it, but the roo just threw the lawn chair right back. We like Will’s stories.
But that’s beside the point at the moment. We ended up in Bundaberg around sunset and saw signs for the beach, but by the time we found a beach (not the one we were looking for even), the sun was gone. I did get a picture of one of those cute train signs though.
And then the next morning it was finally time for the tour that had brought us so far north in the first place. We’d been hearing dire predictions about it ever since arriving in Agnes Water but were very much hoping it wouldn’t be cancelled. It wasn’t. I was a little uneasy about it, especially since the guy at Escape 1770 said he had good sea legs and that he’d been on a Lady Musgrave tour when the seas were high and that even he got sick. I don’t have good sea legs, and I get car sick, but I was hoping for the best. We both were.
I might’ve known Cyclone Debbie would make me puke.
But that’s getting ahead of the story. We boarded a little before 7am, and it looked like it’d be a fairly empty tour. We had a whole table and two bench seats to ourselves, and there was the promise of tea and scones to come, and we settled in for the two hour and fifteen minute ride.
I might’ve been okay if I had stayed inside. But the crew were urging people who were prone to get sick to go outside, saying it was better out there, and I love being outside on a boat anyway, much more than being inside, so out we went.
Mistake. The seas were so choppy, and the wind was so strong, that I could hardly stay on my feet. Eric loved it, and even I thought it was a little bit like flying, but flying isn’t very pleasant when you’re not sure if your feet or your head will be the next thing to hit the deck. I started getting sick right away, so we headed up to the next deck, where the crew said it was the most stable.
Long story short, even the most stable deck was really unstable in those seas. I don’t know how long I stood out in the cold and the wet hanging onto the rail for dear life and staring at the “crew only” sign at the other end of the boat while trying to think of nothing. Eric of course was right there most of the time, but there’s a certain point in seasickness where even talking makes you feel like you’re going to hurl.
Crew members came by every now and then to make sure we were okay, because we were the only people standing at the rail. Everyone else was sitting on the deck (or lying on it) or sitting on one of the benches, and there were barf bags being handed out left and right. Eventually one of the crew came and told us there was a place to sit at the front of the boat and that it might not be as bad up there. So we followed her.
Mistake. Sitting down helped for the first little bit, but not for long.
So back to the rail it was, and it seemed even rougher and colder and wetter up there, especially after a giant wave came and soaked us both. Those two hours seemed so long, but I was so sure I had a handle on it.
And then I was heaving over the side, and the wind was carrying it everywhere, and my dear husband got it on his face and in his hair, and it even splattered the captain’s windshield, and I was wrung out from the inside out. I don’t remember puking in all my life.
Or I should say, I didn’t.
We got to Lady Musgrave Island soon after that, but the seas were still so stormy that even in the reef the boat rocked a lot more than it should have. We went on a glass-bottom boat tour and got to see some of the reef that way, but our clothes were drenched still from the big wave, and it was raining and cold, and we weren’t about to stay on Lady Musgrave for the island tour. When we got there, the group that had gone before us was standing out in the rain looking very bedraggled and forlorn.
I still wasn’t feeling well, so we just stayed on the glass-bottom boat and went back to the big boat, where lunch was waiting. By then I felt okay enough to eat lunch, but Eric went snorkeling by himself while I took a nap. He said it was one of the awesomest things he’d ever done, that the colors you saw through the glass-bottom boat were like nothing compared to what you saw when you were snorkeling. I didn’t mind not seeing it, but I was glad he could so that it didn’t feel like we’d come in vain. He even got to swim with the turtles. I wish I could have a picture of that. 🙂
By the time we headed back, a lot of the reef had come up out of the water, but I was still sleeping and didn’t see it. Eric took a few pictures though.
The waters were a bit calmer on the way back, and I dozed away most of it. I fought nausea for the rest of the day though, even after we were off the boat and back in the ute. For the rest of our trip, the rocking and shaking of the ute was too much like that of the boat, and it wasn’t till we were back at Jazam that I felt entirely back to normal.
But that was that, and the good thing about nausea is that ice cream helps it, and we always like to eat ice cream.
That wasn’t the end of our adventure though. It was pouring down rain when we left Bundaberg the next morning. The ditches were full of red water (from the red dirt), and our poor windshield wipers had to work double-time. The ute doesn’t have defrost either, so our windows had to be open. It wasn’t all bad though, and it didn’t rain non-stop.
We apparently hadn’t had our share of making mistakes the day before, because in looking at the two routes we could take to get to Killarney, we decided we’d like to see a bit of Brisbane, even though going that way added twenty-five minutes to our drive.
Twenty-five minutes, my foot. The GPS either didn’t know what it was saying or it was as confused as we were by all the sprawling masses of highways and tunnels. We got so turned around and lost in that big city, not to mention getting stuck in the traffic crawling through there. We must’ve gone through the same tunnel three or four times, and in all our goings back and tryings again I told Eric we were seeing parts of Brisbane that the people who come to see Brisbane don’t get to see.
But that still wasn’t all. We’d been planning to get to Oaklea at three o’clock in the afternoon. It wasn’t till four hours later that we finally mastered the winding, steep, narrow (not to mention confusing) road up from Boonah to Killarney. It looked like it’d be an amazing route, but we were traveling it in the dark and rain, and then we missed our turnoff for Oaklea (the GPS wanted to take us one way, and we had directions for another way, but we didn’t realize we were in the right spot of the “directions for another way”) and ended up driving nearly an hour that we wouldn’t have needed to. Long story short, a call to Rosemary set us back on track, and we finally arrived to the lovely hospitality of the Petersons and their three visiting Frenchmen. They’d been waiting supper on us, but most of them had gone ahead when they heard how late we were going to be. Rosemary kindly ate with us and eventually showed us to Oaklea Cottage, just across the road from the main house.
We’d been hoping and planning to be there for two nights, but with our tour getting canceled and having to stay further north another day, it didn’t work out that way. As it was, we had to leave early the next morning to beat the flooding out of Killarney from all the rain. We had a lovely breakfast together though, and then one of Rosemary’s daughters and her husband came over to visit until we had to leave.
It was such a nice time, and we’d seen enough of the countryside through the dark and fog and rain that we knew we’d be missing something if we didn’t come back.
So that’s what we’re hoping and aiming for, and those of you who know the Petersons or who have been to Killarney and are hoping for pictures from us when we get home, you can say a prayer that we make it back up there, because at the moment our picture stash is sadly lacking. We did get a few though!
Eventually we got to Tenterfield . . . and not only did we eat meat pies there for the first time and quite enjoy them . . . but we got to hold a baby kangaroo! The girl who served us came out very excitedly during our meal and asked us if we’d like to see a baby kangaroo, and when we said we’d love to, she kept coming back out to see if we were done so we could see it yet. Lucy wasn’t the cutest baby I’d ever seen, but it was so neat to hold her and have her carer tell us all sorts of interesting things about kangaroos.
Now that seems like a nice end to a very long story. But even that isn’t the end. Our windshield wipers quit working about half an hour from Armidale. And of course it was raining. So we limped home without them (thank You, Lord), and Eric spent the rest of the evening taking things apart and putting them back together until he got them fixed. He’s just the best.
We had fun, but we were so glad to be back at Jazam again. Hopefully next time I’ll post some pictures of where we live . . . and in the meantime, I have more pictures than I can post here from this trip, so be watching Facebook. It’s likely they’ll show up there sometime. 🙂
(Note: If there were any of you non-Facebookers hoping to see more pictures from Sydney on here, I decided to post them on Facebook instead. They’re posted publicly, so if you know someone who has Facebook you should be able to see them by searching Chayli Baer.)
Australia is exciting, in both good ways and bad ways, but life in general is the same way, and I find myself having to remind myself to enjoy life here just like I would at home. Another continent, another country, an ocean away . . . it’s really not that different. And I’m so glad the God we know and love at home is the same here as there.