Through the sugar cane country

5.17pm, Monday 23rd May 2011, Windmill Motel computer, Mackay, still Tropical North Queensland, Australia
Made it safely south to Mackay, folks, through a part of Australia I haven’t seen before. During the 5 hour road trip on the Bruce Highway from Townsville, we’ve pretty much travelled some of the major sugar cane flats in Queensland. You definitely know it’s cane country – sugar cane right up to either roadside pushing back to the hills as far as you can see, and the smoking stacks of the old iron built mills – Giru, Pioneer, Calamia – easily spotted rising up from the horizon. The cane train tracks run parallel to the road, and every now and then there will be a whole stack of mesh sided box cane train ‘trucks’ pushed into sidings ready to load. Apparently the start of the season is close – held up only by the rain. And we got our fair share today – more cane, more rain – all the way down.

It got interesting around Bowen – tomatoes grown by the square mile and mango orchards. There was even “the Big Mango’ just south of town. No photo opportunity though folks – it looks like a big upside down egg, painted the rainbow colours of an old fashioned gin tropical! The jetty and Bowen Harbour foreshore was the site for filming most of the Baz Luhrmann movie ‘Australia’ because apparently it looks just like 1940s Darwin, which is why they’ve got “Bowenwood” painted on the water tower – so that’s all pretty interesting. But the really memorable thing about Bowen is the islands just offshore – gateway to The Whitsundays. Simply staggeringly beautiful, with some of the tops still shrouded in mist this late in the day.

Still driving south, through Proserpine and the coffee plantations, then more rain and more sugar cane, the Farleigh Mill and into Mackay. There’s not a breath of breeze through the palm trees and I think it’s going to be a warm wet old night. Now that I’ve been up here in Tropical North Queensland, I can actually understand where they got the words for the old Gangagang song ‘This is Australia’: “out on the patio we sit, and the humidity we breathe, we watch the lightning – crack over canefields, laugh and say – this is Australia”

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