We’re on our way home.
Another beautiful dawn chorus woke us early enough that we were fully packed and on the road by 8.30am. We were not in a hurry to leave the places where we’ve been having fun, but by early lunchtime, we’d reached Cardwell, one of my favourite small towns on the road north.
It’s on the Hinchinbrook Channel and faces Hinchinbrook Island, one of the largest in the Great Barrier Reef chain. One of Cardwell’s claims to fame is its delicious fresh mud crab sandwiches, so no prizes for guessing what we had for lunch and what we looked at while we ate. The photo makes the sandwich look rather dull, but what it lacks in good looks it completely makes up in flavour and freshness. I could have eaten three of them! We only did it in the spirit of scientific enquiry, you under-stand, to ensure that a ride destination we’re suggesting to motorbike friends would be suitably rewarding in the gastronomic stakes. We’d never voluntarily eat mud crab sandwiches otherwise… ahem!
Onwards from Cardwell. The highway wasn’t too busy and we were making good time until we spotted a wide plume of smoke ahead. They’ve been doing hazard reduction burns at the roadside here and there all along our route so we weren’t surprised by that. What did surprise us is that it got thicker, and darker, and closer, until we were finally all brought to a halt.
For an hour and a half, all traffic movement on Australia’s main north-south highway ceased, while the smoke swirled closer and closer. Eventually, it started to clear and we were allowed to creep forwards past fire fighters, emergency vehicles, ambulances, fire appliances from all over the region, and even the RAAF water cannon from the nearby base at Townsville.
Flames were still licking at the roadside trees, and for hectares on either side, there was black devastation. Graders and bulldozers reappeared from the undergrowth where they’d been clearing firebreaks, the asphalt on the road was black and sticky, and the huge water pipeline from the dams in the mountains above the city was blackened and blistered. We were very lucky to have been stopped before the fire got behind us, or it would have swept across all the vehicles in the road as well as the trees and vegetation.
It made the rest of the day seem rather mundane. We collected the overlocker, and we had a meal out with friends. The Husband and I both had a rare ‘proper’ drink; I think we both felt the need to settle our nerves a little. Tomorrow morning, we’ll start the final stage of our homeward journey, and I hope most devoutly that it will be completely uneventful!
Meanwhile, I’ll just count my blessings once more…