Friday, October 9, 2009

Bowen to Townsville

October 9

We were really entering serious sugar cane and mango country now, with lush plantations coming right up to the edge of the road. There were lots of warnings about cane train crossings, but we always seemed to just miss being at one when a train went through. The best I could do was a couple of shots out the window as they cruised by.

At Townsville we found a caravan park opposite the beach and took a bus into the town, which has some fine buildings facing the waterfront parkland.

The park is full of graceful palms and a considerable number of memorials to combatants in World War II. Once again, the battle of the Coral Sea was prominent with a useful map on a granite wall showing where the U.S. fleet was deployed.

Flinders Street has a fairly attractive pedestrian mall, but on Friday afternoon it was virtually deserted. Most shops were closing and the nightlife, if any, hadn't started. From the opening hours listed on various doors, it was clear that Townsville had no late-night shopping. You'd think that in a tropical town evening would be an appealing time to browse the shops.

October 10

We're getting used to the conventions and idiosyncrasies of caravan parks. Some are full of stern notices telling you to do this or not do that. Some, usually the ones in the middle of a town, have locked amenities for which you are issued a key. Most are fairly leafy, though in Queensland they are often planted with acacias that rain leaves down on your vehicle all the time or, worse, huge fig trees that drop sticky fruit. Some, like the Townsville one which has a recommendation in Lonely Planet, are full of polite but self-absorbed travelling foreigners. Others, usually smaller ,shabbier ones, have a community of permanent residents, mainly elderly men or couples who are keen to strike up a conversation. All are clean, although some show signs of wear. Most now also have small cabins for rent on site, which provide the luxuries of kitchen, private bathroom and TV, and must be giving motels a run for their money.

The leafy ambience attracts lots of birds, particularly cockatoos and lorikeets which wake you at dawn with a racket of screeching and whistling. At Townsville rainbow lorikeets were much in evidence among the palm fronds.

The information centre had told us there was a weekend Greek festival. They didn't mention that the venue was miles away through undistinguished suburbs and shopping malls. When we got there it was disappointing, more of a picnic with rides for the kiddies and Dora the Explorer on an outdoor stage.

On our way back, we stopped at one of the malls to pick up groceries and discovered why the downtown was so dead. Everybody was out in the airconditioned halls of the same old same old chains. A town planner's nightmare.
Townsville's topography, or lack of it, lends itself to this dreck, being a vast, flat tract wrapped around Castle Hill, a brown bump with a scurf of trees. We looked for an older area with some quaint old Queenslander houses, but it wasn't apparent.

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