This northern area of the Queensland coast is less frenetic than some of the other places that we have visited. It is characterised by smaller towns, similar agriculture and long sandy beaches.
We made a detour to a non-descript beach that had nothing much to offer than a very busy boat ramp and a packed caravan park. Back at the highway intersection, we noticed a sign that this was the site of a WW2 staging camp. It is now a pineapple field and we got our first look at this delicious fruit growing. It’s a plant of the Bromeliad family
Further north of Townsville, we saw a road leading to Jourama Falls and decided to investigate. It soon became a dirt road and once we entered the national park, it turnned into a narrow windy road with a couple of fords where it crossed a gently flowing creek.The sign at the parking area said that the walk to the falls was 600 metres and challenging but I thought that I would give it a go. I got to a point where the track crossed the creek on a boardwalk and rocky walkway but gave it away as I still had 450 metres to go and it would take up too much of our day. Nevertheless, I saw some pretty water holes that justified all the effort.
Around lunch time, we came the town of Ingham. It is a sugar town on the Herbert River. The flat lands between the coast and the mountains behind the town are criss-crossed with narrow gauge tramways which bring sugar into the Mackande and Victoria sugar mills. In fact, one train rolled right passed us as we were eating our lunch at a picnic table in the main street of town. It was very long and took a good few minutes to clear the level crossing.
In the very centre of town is the Lees Hotel. It looks too modern to be the subject of the following story – perhaps it has been rebuilt.
For years it was accepted that Taylors Arms Hotel in New South Wales was The Pub with No Beer, a famous song which had been written by Gordon Parsons and sung by Slim Dusty. Our travel guide tells us that the song wasn’t written by Gordon Parsons and the true pub is actually here at Lee’s Hotel in Ingham.
The song was based on the poem A Pub Without Beer written by Ingham sugarcane farmer and poet Dan Sheahan. He wrote the poem about the Day Dawn Hotel, now known as Lees Hotel. Apparently, in December 1943, American servicemen from the 22nd Bomb Group passed through Ingham on their way to Port Moresby in New Guinea. They stopped at the Day Dawn Hotel overnight and, to celebrate their victory in the Battle of the Coral Sea (a rather dubious excuse as it had been fought and won 18 months earlier), drank the pub dry. The following day, Dan, wanting a drink, rode his horse 30 kilometres to the hotel. He found that the soldiers had drunk all the beer and so he had to settle for a glass of wine. As the story goes, he was instantly inspired and wrote the poem in the pub as he sipped his wine. His poem was published in early 1944. It was subsequently rewritten in 1956 by Gordon Parsons who changed it substantially. It was then picked up and made famous by Slim Dusty.
Further up the road, I was very dubious about the town of Cardwell from the description that Jill was reading as we travelled. It sounded a bit foreboding. However, when we arrived and stopped for a while at the beach park it turned out to be rather pleasant except for one thing. It is quite dangerous to go swimming here. This almost idyllic looking tropical beach is inhabited by crocodiles and deadly stings (in season) from box jelly fish.
At the edge of Cardwell is a quiet and peaceful memorial to Australian and American lives lost in tthe WW2 Battle of the Coral Sea. This was the first time that Australians and Americans had ever fought alongside each other in a combined force. This battle was fought at a similar latitude to the the town off the coast of Australia. It was the first battle in world history where the protagonists did not look each other in the eye. It was a naval battle fought by planes from aircraft carriers in 1942.
That year was a frightening time for Australians. It was when the war peaked and Australians felt very threatened as the Japanese military pushed southwards. Along with the Battle of the Coral Sea, it was the year in which the British garrison at Singapore fell, Darwin was bombed, the Battle of Kokoda was fought. Japanese midget submarines were even found in Sydney harbour. These engagements near / on Australian territory were very scary. It caused many men like my father to transfer from the Militia (reserve force) into the full time army (Australian Imperial Force).
Mission Beach, our destination for the night is a quitet seaside town, much like I had naively expected Airlie Beach to be. The rainforest comes right down to the shore.
Thre are many warning signs along the road to be careful of Cassowaries. About the size of an Emu, these birds live in the forests around the town. They are especially dangerous and will charge people who threaten them. We looked out to see if we could find one but with no luck at all. We found that in Alaska, the only time we ever saw a moose after we had put our cameras away. I tried this trick here but with no success.
The town is named after the Hull River Aboriginal Mission which was set up at South Mission Beach by the Queensland government in 1914 to house the remainder of the local indigenous population. In 1918 the misssion was destroyed and lives were lost when a cyclone ripped through the area. The area is now home to a small population and those who visit to enjoy its long sandy beaches.