It didn’t take long for us to settle into a ‘normal’ routine in Mackay, with Paul working and the kids in school. Unfortunately the kids didn’t find this schooling experience quite as positive as the others but it did give us the opportunity to make sure they remained at their expected learning level and they were also able to enjoy the usual end of year fun activities. Reardon also visited one of the local Cub groups and took part in a walk to the Botanical Gardens.
Paul put in some big hours and also worked weekends so I found myself going a bit stir crazy. I did do a little office work for the company Paul was working for but did not manage to get any other work. There were plenty of jobs around but most of these wanted a long-term commitment rather than just a six-week stint and I am always upfront about how long we are in town for, rather than giving false impressions of my availability. It was frustrating, however, to call into a caravan park advertising for housekeeping staff and being told although they needed a number of staff they didn’t want to have to train someone for just six weeks of work. Having done housekeeping previously and knowing what is involved I am still intrigued about their training regime. The most annoying part was that I had to drive past the board out the front of the van park still advertising their need for housekeeping staff EVERY SINGLE DAY for the next six weeks.
O.K. pity party over – move along.
Mackay is currently going through its own boom, with lots of infrastructure development. It appears to be largely involved in servicing the surrounding mining industry and every second ad on the radio seemed to be for mining jobs. If you are looking for work then I would consider checking this region out.
It wasn’t all work and no play though and we had a good look around when we could. One place we all enjoyed in the humid weather was The Blue Water lagoon in the city centre which is another free water adventure playground, complete with water slide and lifeguards.
Hearing that Chris, a great friend from Perth, was in the state, the kids and I ducked down to Comet, via Emerald, for a catch up. What’s a five-hour drive between friends right?! Chris works in the medical profession and had been a speaker at a conference in Brisbane, before visiting her parents who are currently living in their converted Denning bus on a horse property. Melissa & Wayne, the property owners, kindly allowed us to stay and even fed us! The kids loved visiting the horses and enjoyed watching Wayne doing some ‘roping’. So far we have not caught a rodeo yet but sometime in the future may just take these guys up on their offer to return anytime and hope to one day catch them competing at a rodeo.
Mike & Maureen (Chris’s parents) were great with the kids and on the morning we left took us for a picnic lunch at Theresa Creek Dam. It was a lovely way to break up the drive home. Thanks for having us everyone and it was great to see you Chris.
Being that we were in ‘Cane Country’ it was only natural that we visited a mini sugar cane mill and distillery in nearby Sarina to investigate how sugar is produced. This was a lot of fun and the schooling taken care of for the day! We had a look at the development of the machinery involved in cane cutting over the years and followed the process from cane planting and cutting to sugar manufacture. We had a taste of sugar cane juice (quite thick and syrupy) as well a few other yummy things made at the mill and the kids were very happy to finish off with a stick of Candy Floss.
Broken River, Finch Hatton Gorge and Eungella National Park were other beautiful places we visited from Mackay. Finch Hatton is a beautiful town situated in the NP foothills. There are a number of stunning walks through the rainforest areas as well as a few platypus viewing areas.
It is a very steep drive up to the NP and Eungella is an Aboriginal word which means ‘land of the clouds’. On the day we visited this certainly rang true. We undertook the Sky Window Circuit walk to check out the view over the Pioneer Valley but could barely see a few metres in front of us! We were literally walking in the clouds. The kids loved it and this invariably led to a discussion about cloud stripping, about which they are now all experts. More incidental learning – score!!
On another glorious walk we were checking out all the awesome colours of the mushrooms and fungi when Reardon yelled out “Mum, Mum there’s a leech on me!” I caught up with him and being the loving, nurturing Mother that I am quickly whipped out my camera for a photo! Luckily it wasn’t really hooked on yet and after putting the camera away I was able to just flick it off. As they say though, Karma is a b*tch and I wasn’t quite as lucky when a few minutes later I discovered a leech on the back of my own leg which HAD hooked in and was slowly gorging itself!
Another fun thing that happened in Mackay was being visited by a crew from Channel 7’s Today Tonight (TT). We were contacted by email from the Caravan, RV & Accommodation Industry of Australia National Office (CRVA) regarding a TT producer wanting to do a human interest story on a travelling family. After an initial panic we figured it would be a bit of fun as well as a totally unexpected, exciting experience. The crew flew in from Brisbane and spent a couple of hours with us. They were a great bunch and we even scored a free feed! Of course there was no guarantee when the piece, or even if the piece would go to air. Apparently we couldn’t have caused any permanent damage to the camera as we did actually make it on to the TV, a number of weeks later, although typically we completely missed it! The final story wasn’t how it was originally pitched and the kids were a little disappointed they didn’t get to see themselves talking but it was still a lot of fun and yet another crazy experience on our journey.
Before we knew it, although the opportunity for many more weeks of work was in Mackay, it was time to pack up again and hit the road. We had an appointment to spend Christmas with four of our most favourite people in the world and were now under the pump to get to Sydney. So, after some lovely meals and barbecues with some great people (here’s looking at you Tony and Blade), the race was on.
It was my intention to get further along the track in this post but as usual I have waffled and let’s be honest, your attention has probably waned. In fact, if you’ve got this far – well done!
Not to worry though as I am now, in fact, writing this from beautiful Tasmania – where we are currently residing for a couple of months. Yes, that is quite a gap to fill isn’t it?
So, without too many distractions (namely three kids and a husband) I now have no excuse not to get up to speed with our adventure and in the next post should wrap up the final exciting chapter of our time in QLD and the start of our NSW journey, where we experience the craziness of the city of Sydney as well as the slower pace of outback Broken Hill.