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Reports

Monday, 3 June 2002
Townsville --> Mission Beach, Australia

After my one day stay in Cairns on Thursday, Norm Brice picked me up in the city centre of Cairns and took me along for the 350km trip back to Townsville again. Why I was going back south again? Well, because I had heard that my laptop had arrived!
With not many invites in Townsville, Julie Brice, Normís daughter, offered me another stay at her house. I believe she finds it rather comfortable having another person around as her house had been broken into lately. Thatís okay with me, everybody is safe with me, just ask my friends who -after two years- are still in therapy after I drove them from The Netherlands to Spain and backÖ (I am currently good friends with their therapist).

While I stayed at her place I tried to get my new laptop working. Of course it worked, everything blinked and beeped and nice music played when WindowsXP gave me an unwanted tour. But after replacing the hard drive with the hard drive I had rescued from my drowned laptop, things didnít really want to blink and beep. It only beeped unexplainable errors while my screen size was 50% decreased. Oops. I made some calls around and it seemed I need the Windows Millennium CD-Rom (as that horrible program was installed on the old drive) to have the old hard drive configured to the new laptop and all itís new possibillities.

My computer hero and former host Sam Forbes in Brisbane offered me that software on CD, including Microsoft Office to get me typing all right, and I hope to receive that in the mail soon when I get back to Cairns again.

The next day, June the 1st, was the start of WINTER in Australia. And it was actually the first time when I thought - hey! Am I cold on the veranda? This is Australia, it should not be European cold, but it was. For the first time in months I wore trousers and a sweater in the evening.

Yesterday, Sunday, was a bad day for me. The Australian winter had caught me in a moment of un-immunity. I was coughing, sniffing and my neck felt thick that I almost thought there really is some Arnold Schwarzenegger blood in me. For Julie it was fine that I just hung around. Her friends came over, she spent some time at the office in the weekend, and I was the guy who used all the tissues and watched unknown episodes of ĎFriendsí on DVD with a blanket over me on the couch! Julie, sorry for using all your tea!

Back to today.

Because I canít stay in Townsville forever, even this place isnít so exciting.

I recently read an alternative travellerís guide for Queensland, where one person reported about the backpackers that stand at the gas stations outside of Townsville, crying of all the regret of actually staying overnight in Townsville and begging for a ride towards a galaxy far far away.

I didnít really feel that way when Julie dropped me off on the highway up north, just outside of the city, but I did have this feeling of Ďenoughí about this place. Got to go again.

I wasnít going all the way to Cairns, this time I had places to stay halfway, in Mission Beach.

And for the first time in the thirteen months this project of mine has been going on, after travelling extensively through over fifteen countries, A TRUCK pulled over.

And not just a little bitty of a pullover, but a big one with smoking tires. I was abashed and wondering if he really stopped to pick me up, but I realized he was when he reversed all the way back to where I was standing along the road!

"Hop on, mate!" said the man who I later learned his name was Bill Lovely. He was driving a load from Melbourne all the way to Cairns and had been trucking for a few days now. Truly heís been driving those big road trains for over 36 years now! Can you believe that? Wow.

He had seen every corner of Australia and sees a corner of the continent weekly, while he has a little hobby-farm outside of Brisbane. "Just with some cows, you know, I love cows."

Bill was a good guy, in for some good chats. We talked about the weather, because I was quite amazed by this Australian winter-thing and he explained me that it is even colder in the desert, like in the centre of Australia, because there are absolutely no clouds. When the sun heats that sand up to 35 degrees Celsius, the warm air just rises up, leaving an almost freezing temperature on the desert grounds. Ooh!

We also chatted about food, because how do you stay in a healthy condition when you are in a truck for a whole week? I mean, you see enough fast food signs along the road that might make you hungryÖ "I make sure I have a very good full breakfast, with sausages, bacons, eggs, etcetera," Bill explains to me. "Then I donít have dinner (which has to be understood as lunch in Australia) and Iíll have something like steak with veggies for tea (which has to be understood as dinner in Australia)." Mostly he sleeps in the cabin of his truck, where I saw a very comfy looking mattress. It wouldnít be that bad, I thought. Other times he sleeps at depots, where there are beds and kitchen facilities for truckers. Mmm, trucking isnít such a bad job after all!

I kept Bill company until the crossing just north of Tully, where I had to go east towards Mission Beach. I thanked Bill for the ride and with smoking tires he took off again.

I was standing along a two-laned road in the middle of sugar cane fields and I did not see any traffic at all. I wasnít even worried, I more enjoyed the peacefulness of such a place. There was justÖ not much.

But within fifteen minutes a mini van stopped along the road and an Aboriginal family took me along. The mother explained me how Mission Beach exists out of four little townships, like South Mission Beach, Mission Beach and North Mission Beach and another possibility in between. In fact I forgot the real names of those particular Mission Beaches; Iíll try that again later. They dropped me off in the middle of the main town, that was for sure.

And suddenly I heard Jamiroquai, saw a Greyhound bus fill itself up with backpackers and loads of little courtesy buses from the local hostels. "Ah!" I thought, "this place is probably mentioned in the Lonely Planet book!".

I contacted my hosting family in Mission Beach and Dawn, the mother of the family, picked me up on the main street not much later. It was Dawnís husband Malcolm Hill who had invited me to stay at their place, an old Queenslander house - currently being under heavy construction. The family had seen me on TV some three months ago and thought: why not take this guy along for some fishing too?

Because Malcolm doesnít only like to play a toolman, he also runs a small fishing charter company. He takes small groups along on guided tours along different local rivers (or the ocean) and goes fishing with them. Guaranteeing that you catch a fish thatís at least bigger than your hand!

Today Malcolm arrived home after a trip on the river and he was very delighted to finally meet up with me. And so were their young Sony Playstation-loving kids Bronson and Aidan. With another few invites in Mission Beach for the coming days, Malcolm offered me to come along for a day of fishing tomorrow. That sounds great! Havenít fished on rivers yet. Any crocodiles?

But Malcolm wouldnít let my first day in paradise-looking Mission Beach pass by without seeing anything so he took me out for a ride. I saw the long stretched beaches, and the famous Dunk Island (one well-known writer wrote about this place some centuries ago) offshore, met up with some locals on our way to find some cassowaries (big ostrich-kind of birds that walk around this place freely) and had a walk through the local rainforest with its rare sort of palms.

When we returned home, Dawn was already preparing dinner in the kitchen. It smelled very good in the house, but she immediately confessed that she is a bad cook. It wasnít that bad. She made roast chicken, baked potatoes and veggies. (Only the cooked pumpkin parts I gave away to Malcolm. I just canít eat pumpkin anymore since South AfricaÖ)

Malcolm decided to spent the rest of the evening watching a rented video. When I checked my load of daily emails on his computer in the office on the veranda, the kids were brought to bed - at least thatís what their parents were trying hard. But I think the young ones were very exited about this visiting man from another part of the world.

From nine in the evening we enjoyed watching The Last Castle, one of the latest good American movies (a court martialed general, played by my mother's hero Robert Redford, rallies together all the inmates of a prison to rise against the system that put him away). We nibbled crisps, rice crackers and drank coffee and coke.

Somewhere around midnight I climbed behind their pc again to start writing this story and get all the photo work up the site. Itís now already past 2am in the night, so either Malcolmís pc is too slow, or I just write too much of daily report today. Itís up to you.

Good night Mission Beach,

Ramon.