6th September 2003


For the past month your diarist has been visiting the cities and resorts between Byron Bay and Cooktown.  (A good map site is

Here is an annotated history of my travels-

First stop was Byron Bay, the easternmost point of Australia.  Together with the hinterland, BB has long been a haven for those who desire alternative lifestyles.  For some four decades I have been a camper at the BB council camping ground.  Ever since Paul Hogan (aka Crocodile Dundee) moved there, the attitude towards itinerants has degenerated.  Now camping rates are $24 for a single unpowered tent site in the "off" season.  (Was about $12) Goodbye to BB.

Next was Maroochydoor, a booming tourist beach in the middle of the "Sunshine Coast" about 100 Km north of Brisbane.  Arrived late at night, and found a late game of Chess at a coffee shop (reasonable coffee) near Alexandra Headland.  My opponent was an American from San Diego who said he had recently retired from employment in aircraft maintenance.  Chet was living on his 30 foot yacht moored at the local marina.  He suggested that I could sleep overnight in my wagon in the local council garage.  (I have a futon and Toyota station wagon).

On to Bundaberg, an inland (by 30Km) sugar town around 250Km N of Brisbane.  The camping ground by the river was cheap ($10) and the other campers depressing.  On Sunday morning I attended the "Shalom" market at the local Catholic school.  The big chain store Woolworths was selling petrol to long queues of customers for 75.9 c/L, (with the 4c discount, for 71.9c/L).  The other ten service stations were selling for 79.9 c/L, and had no customers at all.  Predatory pricing indeed!  I was told that the low price had been maintained for a long time, and that there had already been a couple of bankruptcies.  (There is not much sympathy in most of Australia for service station owners.)  The local beach resort at Bargara served quite decent coffee.  The ocean beach had no waves.  Bargara is at the southern end of the Coral reef.

Gladstone (pop. 30,000?) on the coast 100 Km further north is an industrial (coal, shale, aluminium) town.  There is a quite respectable harbour, and offshore islands to visit.  It had been raining, and much of my gear was wet.  Friends of my daughter (Tharyn & Rob) let me sleep on their couch & dry out for a couple of days.  They had a flat near the middle of town. Quite decent coffee can be purchased in a plaza off the main street in Gladstone. 

Rockhampton is an inland (sugar & beef) town of about 50,000 located a few Km north of the Tropic of Capricorn.  I camped in a council park ($7/single) by the river (N side) in the middle of town.  I quite liked Rockhampton, and decent coffee can be had in the mall at the backpacker pub in the old city center (S side of river).  Travelled to the local beach report, Yeppoon.  Nice resort, with lots of housing being built to the south. Did not take the ferry to Keppel Island, which sounded like a rip off at $30 return, camping possible for $25 overnight.

Mackay is a coastal town, again about 50,000.  I camped at a beach park, and slept whilst 10 centimeter (4") waves crashed on the beach.  At $16 single it was the cheapest ripoff in town.  Shopping is Ok, but could not find a decent coffee.  Grade F.

Airlie beach is a small (pop 5,000?) coastal resort for the offshore Whitsunday Islands.  Nice shops, decent coffee, and a nice coastal lagoon.  (All ocean beaches inside the coral reef North of Bundaberg are considered unsafe for swimming because of stingers). Camping was expensive, so I moved on, and slept at Inkermann lookout, recommended by a retired Melbourne couple I met at Airlie.  They were living in a small (2Tonne?) closed truck, and didn't like paying camping fees.

Townsville is the second largest (and in my judgement nicest) city in Queensland.  There is a rocky mountain nearly 1000 feet high plonked in the middle of the city.  There is a road to the top of that mountain.  I drove up at about 6am, and found about 30 hardy souls who had apparently walked up.  Quite decent coffee can be had at a restaurant on the beach, and also at Horseshoe Beach on Magnetic Island.  The ferry ride is about $10 return.  Magnetic island has a permanent population numbered in the thousands, I was advised that there were camping sites on the island for about $10/single/night.

On the return trip I visited Mission beach, between Townsville & Cairns.  Passable coffee.  The popular Dunk Island resort is offshore.  I did not visit the Atherton tablelands, a rich agricultural region between Cairns & Townsville.

The backpacker "Mecca" of Cairns was a disappointment. It is probably a backpacker destination because of the international airport.  To it's credit, Cairns has free public hot showers on the Esplanade, which is the street that parallels the beach, and reasonable (but expensive) coffee can be had.  On the debit side, the town is antiseptic in it's layout, (like Canberra) and is the only town where I was stopped by (reasonably polite) police. Cairns has an expanding population of parking meters.  (I got an infringement notice when my window ticket had expired by six minutes).  Basically, Cairn's felt to me like a ripoff town.  There was no close in, cheap camping ground.

Port Douglas about half an hour's drive north was a rich man's winter playground.  Shops with the ambience of Double Pay (Double Bay in Woollahra, Sydney), and good coffee, Turkish toast.

I next drove up to Daintree, (of Green Protest fame) and there found good coffee and about five restaurants in & around a village with a population numbered at most in the hundreds.  Decided not to pay $20 for the car ferry that would have permitted me to drive up to Cape Tribulation.  Instead, backtracked to Mossman and took the inland route to Cooktown (pop around 5,000) through quite interesting mountainous/tableland cattle country.  Cooktown is a slow moving town with wide streets and several tourist resorts.  There is a large aboriginal presence, and a quite good artefacts shop.  As it was late I slept in the car, and next morning walked up the local headland/lookout/hill (300 feet?) which had a plaque claiming that it was the oldest European settlement in Australia, since Cook camped at that site for 56 days while repairing the "Endeavour".

On the way south I called in to see a friend at Noosaville who I had not seen for decades.  Peter has started an online Gallery.  We argued politics for a while, then we visited another friend, Dimitri.  Everyone bitched about the way that booming real estate prices were affecting their lives.  Decent coffee can be had at Noosaville.

A couple of days later arrived at another friend's house.  Nicolas GROWS coffee, and gave me a few hundred grammes of his home grown & roasted coffee, which is about the nicest coffee that I have tasted.


Usually I avoid commenting or even bothering to read) liberal journalists.  However Peter persuaded me to look at richard neville's blog.

The trouble with liberal journalists is that they are rarely rational, sometimes literate, (not a prerequisite) lack intelligence and are good at jingoism (both prerequisite). 

For instance, referring to Kyoto, (I presume?) Richard wrote into his litany
(If only I had been wrong..) of problems that derived from Bush: The global effort to repair the eco system would not have fizzled out.

Fact.  Kyoto was aimed directly at the economic heart of the US, who (with Australia) have the only (recently) expanding economy (hence pollution) in the first world, and consequently would have borne practically the entire cost of cutting economic expansion.  The Europeans (ECU) have no problems with Kyoto.  Their economy is stagnant or degenerating under a crushing bureaucracy, and Japan's economy has been stagnant (following the property bubble that valued the imperial palace in Tokyo at more than Australia) for a decade.  Everyone else who had an expanding economy (except Australia) is in the third world, and thus exempt from the Kyoto restrictions on curbing pollution increase.  Australia was offered permission to increase it's pollution (by about 10%) as a bribe to get us to sign, but our PM avoided that politically expedient option, and disdained the proffered bribe.

Not that Kyoto makes all that much sense.  If present engineering trends continue, it can be predicted (with reasonable confidence) that within a couple of decades photo-electric produced power will have made major inroads as the chief energy source of mankind.  All that a Kyoto inspired curb on the USA would manage would be a few million unnecessary deaths (from starvation etc) in third world countries, and (debatably) restore the mini-ice age that has gripped the world for the last few centuries.  If the world did decide to curb pollution in the "here & now", the fairest way would be to charge a "pollution tax", and use the income derived to clean up pollution.

Richard also blames Bush for (a) the death of well over 60,000 people from the war on terror, (b) for the Israeli's stopping the Palestinians from committing genocide, (by conquering them in a war of self defense) (c) for Rupert Murdoch getting richer, (d) for Al Quaida, and, apparently, (e) for warlike pronouncements by the Christian God.

Richard's solution to Saddam was
  Instead of a war, surely the offer of a $50 million reward for the elimination of Saddam, a bonus for each son, plus an amnesty and a $10M “retirement benefit” for each non psychopathic General would have led to a quick & clean regime change. 

    Get real Richard.  I suppose that would have been your solution for Adolf in 1938.  It didn't even work against Rushdie.