We continued our quest to follow in the footsteps of Captain Cook while in Queensland. Mum insisted on going to the town of 1770 because she was fascinated by the idea that a town could be named by numbers, not words. Turns out, it was where Captain Cook first stepped foot in Queensland. We went to a cairn that marked the beach he stepped on to, then walked down to the beach and stood where he stood. Mum thought it was pretty cool. Grace thinks it might be where he landed after he got a hole in his ship when he hit the Great Barrier Reef. Further down the coast at Emu Park, we visited a monument to Captain Cook called the Singing Sail. It is designed to whistle when the wind blows. The pipes have lots of different holes in them that the wind blows over and through. It sounded pretty eerie, almost like the sails on an old sailing ship. You had to be quite close to it to be able to hear it.
While we were near Rockhampton, Dad was feeling homesick so we decided to go to a farm, only this one was different from ours. On this farm, you were surrounded by water and animals that were difficult to see. Koorana was a crocodile farm. They farm salt water crocodiles in the same way we farm sheep and cattle. When they ‘harvest’ their crocs, they get about $18 a kg for the meat BUT they get $22 a cm for the skin, so, unlike cattle, the meat is a by-product – it’s the skin that makes the money. It was awesome to see how the crocodiles were able to hide in water that was knee deep. They could also jump quite high when it came to feeding time. If you see a croc, you shouldn’t climb a tree. Crocs can go for 3-12 months without food so it will sit at the bottom and wait for you. We all got to hold a baby croc. You might think they would feel hard and bony but they are actually very soft, especially the feet and underbelly. The underbelly is the best quality skin, too. The backstrap is full of bones – each bump is actually skin covered bone. When they had their ‘grand opening’ in the 1980’s, they had 3 crocs and only 5 people turned up. Now they have 4 000 crocs and people going through every day.
We visited the Dreamtime Cultural Centre in Rockhampton. We heard a story about how the milky way was created. Then a lady talked to us about growing up and living in the Torres Strait Islands. These are a group of islands between Australia and Papua New Guinea where people still live a pretty much traditional life. After that, we listened to a man playing the didgeridoo. He could make it sound like a bird sometimes or someone playing the drums really slow. The sounds could be really high or really deep. It had a hum like when people play the bag pipes. Then we learned how to throw a boomerang. Grace said it was easy but I think it looked easier than it really is. Dad was pretty good at it. It takes alot of practice to get it to return properly. They have lots of different types of boomerang for different types of hunting. The heavier ones were for knocking out the animals when they were hunting. The returning ones were for knocking animals like emu over by hitting their legs. You can get left and right handed boomerangs. When you catch them, you put your hands on either side of the boomerang like you are clapping. This is so your fingers don’t get hurt.
On the way back down from Airlie Beach and the Great Barrier Reef, we stopped near Proserpine to see a working coffee plantation. It grew the same type of coffee that the first plantations grew back in the 1800’s. We tasted a coffee cherry, the fruit that the beans come from. They were red in colour, very sweet and mostly bean – there wasn’t much ‘flesh’ to the fruit. The bean inside was green. they pick the cherry then dry the bean. They take the skin off then dry roast the beans to get their preferred taste. Arabica is the bean they grow. This is the type they usually use to make ground coffee. To make instant coffee, they use Robusta which gives instant coffee that more bitter taste. We also tried some coffee beans coated in both milk and dark chocolate. Mum and Dad liked the dark coated ones best. Emelia and Grace liked the chocolate on the outside but found the bean a bit bitter. It was really interesting but we forgot to take any photos. You can see some pictures if you want at http://www.whitsundaygold.com.
One thing we saw a lot of when driving through Queensland is sugar cane. Most was flowering and ready for harvest. The flowers looked a bit like skinny
toe toe flowers. Sugar cane is a grass and grows about 2m tall. Sarina, Proserpine and other towns in the area are known as sugar towns. This means they rely on the farming and processing of cane for their livelihood. We visited the Sarina Sugar Shed. This is a miniature version of a sugar mill. Here we saw the machines they used to harvest cane and smaller versions of the machines they use in the mill. The cane is harvested by machines and taken to the sugar mill on cane trains – small trains that have specially built rails to take the cane straight from the farm to the mill. Here the cane is squashed by huge rollers 4 or 5 times to get as much juice out as possible. The juice is then dried into raw sugar and sent to refinery’s to be turned into the sugar we buy in the store. The sugar from Queensland could well end up at the Chelsea Sugar Refinery in Auckland. We tasted some fresh sugar juice. It smelt like fresh cut grass and tasted like really sweet pea pod. The man showed us a can of sugar juice he got from somewhere in Asia. There, they drink it like we drink Coke. Blegh! They use all of the cane – they juice it, make ethanol from it, make molasses and use the left over cane stalks to make fertiliser(called begas) for the cane fields. It’s a pretty efficient process.
After Hervey Bay, we headed North to Bundaberg. This is where they make rum and also, more importantly, it’s where the Bundaberg Brewing Co make Ginger Beer. We went to a museum that was in a huge barrel. It was very interesting. I found out that they don’t use cordial or soda water to make their fizzy drinks. They are all brewed with natural ingredient using yeast.
Then we headed to the coast for a lazy weekend at Bagara Beach. We looked for the Bagara markets they’d disappeared – we found where they should have been, though. It was a hot walk. On Sunday, we had Paddle Boarding lessons. A paddle board is like a wide surf board that you stand on and paddle with an oar. It was heaps of fun. I learned how to control my board with the paddle before riding waves on my knees then managed to stand. Even Mum did it and caught some waves.
Then it was still further North to Rockhampton. Here we entered the Tropics. This is where the imaginary line called the Tropic of Capricorn crosses Australia. The area between this line and the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere is called the Tropics. Before that, we were in the Temperate Zone. NZ is in the Temperate Zone, too.
We noticed that there was lots of rainforest here rather than the usual gum trees. The soil was also a really bright orange-red colour. Rockhampton is the beef capital of Australia and had about 8 statues of Brahmin bulls in the town. In their gardens there is a free zoo which was cool. They have the largest population of the endangered Southern Hairy Nosed wombats in captivity and are hoping to breed them.
When we were driving to Queensland, we stopped for lunch in a park in Singleton. There were fruit bats/flying foxes hanging in the trees. When a rubbish truck passed the park, it disturbed the bats and they started flying around. Mum was surprised because they were at the top of the trees, not down the bottom where it was darker and out of the sun. And there were no caves around, so they weren’t out of a cave to get some sun. And they weren’t vampires either. There were lots of signs all over the place warning you to look out for large falling… BATS!! Nah, large falling branches. The bats damage the branches and make them more likely to fall. People have been killed by falling branches.