Our Excellent Campervan Adventure Begins
The news this morning tells us that a cyclone has blown in from the Pacific,
over the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea, and has landed a couple of hundred kilometres up the coast from Cairns – so heavy rains are expected in our vicinity.
We are leaving Cairns today in our campervan, beginning our drive to Sydney, 2600 kilometres to the south. We have allowed ourselves 8 days to do the drive, but given the weather forecast, we decide to get out of Cairns as quickly as possible, and just drive till we can’t drive any further. Although there are sights to see on the way down the coast, the rain will be with us until we leave the “wet tropics” – and we have voted to keep on going until we get out of the rain – you can’t see much through the blowing monsoon. About the only thing we can see as we drive is that this is sugar cane and banana country – in fact, the only crops we see today are sugar cane and banana. We have been hearing about the sugar cane farmers’ anger at the Australia-U.S. free trade agreement reached last weekend, which excludes sugar, and we get a strong sense, as we drive by all these hundreds of kilometres of sugar cane plantations, of how important this crop is to Queensland.
The campervan we get is an “upgrade”, slightly bigger than the one we had rented. We silently say “thank you” to our lucky stars – we can stow the suitcases in the additional berth, which is over the front seats, and won’t have to keep moving them around every time we want to go anywhere inside the campervan. By the time we return the rental car, deal with the paperwork of the rental and hit Woolworth’s to pick up some groceries, it is 1:30. It takes us till 7:00 to drive the 450 kilometres to Ayr, going mainly through heavy downpours. We decide to stop for the night and get organized before it is completely dark. We get to the campground, and lucky for us, the rain is very light while we get set up. We are just nicely inside the campervan, pouring ourselves a much-deserved v & t, when the heavens open wide. Australia does not have compulsory auto insurance, and we are told that if anything happens, whether we are at fault or not, the rental agency will ding us for $10,000 and we will only get it back when and if they recover from the at-fault driver. We opt to purchase the best insurance coverage, at $35/day, which covers not only accidents but also tires (or tyres, as they say here) and windshields, and at about 4 pm we are quite happy we did, as a passing truck shoots a rock onto the windshield and sure enough, a lovely long crack is the result.
We arrive in Ayr to a selection of campgrounds and decide on an in-town site called the Burdekin Cascades Caravan Park. The rain continues and soon we have rivers gushing and surrounding our little campervan island. Greg has made pasta and salad for supper, as I run back and forth to the onsite laundry and move all the clothes that have been damp for 10 days from the washer to the dryer.
We have a nice (wet!) bottle of Wolf Blass merlot and all seems well with the world.