Short trips is the way I roll
August 10, 2016
It was close to a four-hour drive if I wanted to get to Mackay today.
For a country girl, a four-hour drive is a walk in the park, but Iâ€™ve become a bit slack with these short trips Iâ€™ve been doing, going from place to place.
After a couple of hoursâ€™ rambling along my mate Bruce (the highway), we pulled over at Waverley Park rest area for lunch.
A bit of chook and Caesar
After stretching our legs, I had a Caesar salad for lunch, accompanied by my new staple â€“ a trusty $8 chook from Coles.
Iâ€™ve found those chooks can sustain a girl for days on end (not to mention three puppy dogs who are quite partial to chicken).
Had I not had the chook and Caesar on hand, the strategically-placed wood-fired pizza van at the rest stop, complete with music to draw in prospective diners, would have been my lunch of choice.
I have it on good authority the pizzas are very tasty. (Thanks for the heads-up, Lyn Pannan). And his taste in music wasnâ€™t bad â€“ he was playing Troy Cassar-Daley!
Rambling on towards Mackay
It was a good break and a top spot to while away a lazy hour or so, and, tempting as it was to have a little nap, I did a Willie Nelson and got back on the road again.
After Iâ€™d been driving for close to three hours, I turned off at a servo with a rest area out back at a tiny place called Ilbilbie.
To Mackay â€“ or not to Mackay?
I parked under a shady tree at the rest stop and was just considering my options when a loud noise alerted me.
It was a cane train coming along tracks not 10 feet from where I was parked.
Well, there wouldnâ€™t be much rest at that rest stop, with the train tracks so close by.
It was just over an hour to Mackay, but I was feeling a wee bit weary and was unsure if I was going to get there.
The cane train sealed it
Looking at my messages my friend Anna Mill, who lives in Mackay, had sent me her address asking if I would be there today.
Yep. That sounded a much better plan than trying to sleep next door to a cane train â€“ and Anna and I had a lot of catching up to do.
It had been way too long since weâ€™d had a good chinwag â€“ and, we worked out later, 24 years since weâ€™d last seen each other.
Welcome to Mackay â€“ youâ€™re not going anywhere!
What a warm, friendly, North Queensland welcome I received from my old mate Anna and her partner, Kim Wilson.
When I pulled up in Rambling Rose, Anna was minding her almost five-year-old granddaughter Elkie, who was fascinated with the fact my name was the same as her Omio (pronounced Oo-mee-oh) and my surname was Rose â€“ her favourite name.
You could say I had a head start with Elkie. Sheâ€™s a real sweetie and as clever as they come.
Good excuse to duck training
Being a Wednesday afternoon, their personal trainer, Joe Bonanno, was due to take them through a series of torture â€¦ oops, exercise, for about an hour.
Anna and I had already poured a wine when he arrived, so of course, she sent Kim, Elkie and Jules (the young bloke from across the road whoâ€™s their honorary grandson), to training, while we continued talking and drinking.
An offer too good to refuse
Anna figured to catch up on 24 years would take us at least three weeks, then I could house-sit for them for 10 days while they went to Coolangatta on holidays, and then they might let me leave.
How could I refuse an offer like that? Staying in the one place for a while might give me a chance to catch up on some writing, too.
And you couldnâ€™t beat the company! Mackay â€“ Iâ€™m yours â€¦ for the time being.
Even Facebook thought Iâ€™d moved to Mackay. I posted so regularly from there, they changed the â€œwhere I liveâ€ bizzo on my profile to Mackay!
Strong sense of community
Itâ€™s a beautiful part of the world. The harbour and its neighbouring islands are just magnificent.
The beaches surrounding Mackay are really well patronised by surfers.
Like many other regional centres, itâ€™s taken a huge blow with mines closing down and workers laid off left, right and centre, but it appears to be holding its own, with a strong sense of community evident.
While I was in Mackay, Anna, Kim and I went to a beaut community event, with families everywhere celebrating The Day of the Dead.
While that mightnâ€™t sound all that family-friendly, it brought families out in droves. There was music on a big stage in the centre of town and face-painters everywhere, with some of the coolest designs on faces for adults and children alike.
Welcome to Connorsâ€™ cane country
The landscape in this part of the world is incredible â€“ cane fields either side of the road stretching for miles and miles.
You canâ€™t help but sing Graeme Connorsâ€™ songs in your head the further north you get â€“ or at least I couldnâ€™t.
Anna and Kim know Graeme and Lyn quite well, Kim being a born and bred Mackay native, while Anna moved to Mackay about 20 years ago from NSW with her children.
She and Graeme met doing laps at the local swimming pool. At the time she didnâ€™t have a clue who he was â€“ but Kim soon set her straight.
Family and friends
Kim and Anna have a lovely circle of friends and family members close by.
Annaâ€™s daughter Samara, whoâ€™s a psychologist, was just a little girl when I last saw her â€“ about the same age as her oldest daughter, Elkie is now.
Sam and husband Craig now have a beautiful little baby, Matilda Rose.
Annaâ€™s son Jayc lives close by also. He works for Aurizon and the family get together for dinner most Sunday nights in North Mackay.
Their friends Lainie and Dennis have a beautiful home on the Goose Ponds, with sweeping views of parkland, bursting with abundant bird life.
Kim and Anna are blessed with beautiful across-the-road neighbours, Tammy and Wes and their two handsome sons.
Burp. Eat. Drink. Delicious!
Our first dining out experience in Mackay was at Burp, the cityâ€™s finest restaurant, for Tuesdayâ€™s Roast and Red Night.
We were in the finest of company, too, with Graeme and Lyn Connors.
For $25 a head you could enjoy three courses (including your choice of yummy roasts) plus a glass of red. Great value and very popular, so you have to book.
Off and racing â€¦ up the beach
One of the most interesting outings Anna and I went on was to the Mackay Beach Horse Races. Itâ€™s one of very few places in the world you can enjoy horse racing on a beach â€“ and the only place in Australia, so I didnâ€™t want to miss that.
Theyâ€™re not race horses â€“ they come in all varieties. My favourites were the Clydesdales. It could have had something to do with the Clydesdale called Dave winning the race (I picked him), but it was a great day out.
Only in Mackay …