Friday, October 9, 2009

Airlie Beach to Bowen

October 8

It was tempting to stay where we were, and we did fill in the morning before moving on. Michael worked on some brush-and-ink work while I went window-shopping. (Somewhere there's a great swimsuit for me at a price I can justify for the rare occasion that I'd wear it. Not here though.)

We didn't go far. Just up the road about 80 km to Bowen. Bowen is the mango capital of Queensland and has the Big Mango to prove it:

Unfortunately for us, it's not quite mango season here, though we are able to buy good ones shipped in from the Northern Territory.

Someone from Bowen visited Chemainus on Vancouver Island and admired the murals there. The town imported the artist and together with local artists, he set about decorating Bowen's walls the same way. On the whole, we thought the Bowen murals better than the Chemainus ones.

In World War II, Bowen was the centre for the famous Catalina flying boat squadrons which did reconnaissance work, particularly in the battle of the Coral Sea. A couple of the murals record this era.

The airport also has a dusty little museum with dioramas...

...and an interesting sign in the ladies' room.

More recently, Bowen stood in for Darwin in Baz Luhrman's drama Australia, and 600 locals got jobs as extras. Posters of the movie adorn just about every shop window in town, and there's a suitable mural on one of the local banks.

The town, which must have been humming during the shooting of the movie, was pretty quiet during our stay. No doubt due to an injection of cash from its starring role in the movie, the town is tearing up its waterfront in a grand beautification project, presumably hoping to lure the kind of crowds that Airlie Beach attracts. It's hard to tell how successful this will be; right now it's miles of dust and chainlink fencing.

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