Officially in the Tropics
23 September 2008 | Port Clinton
After spending 3 weeks in Gladstone we crossed the 23 degree 30 minute latitude (the tropic of Capricorn). There were no bells or fanfares just shouts and hugs as we crossed.
Gladstone is one of the most polluted towns in Australia, to quote from the guide book "Gladstone has the unenviable reputation of being one of the worst polluters on the east coast as its aluminium smelters pour toxins into the atmosphere around the clock". The residents are being urged to have blood tests so that any change in the future can be assessed.
So you may ask why did we spend 3 weeks here. Gladstone was the nearest place for us to travel south by land to see our son Pete's Defence Force marching out parade at Wagga Wagga. It was a good job we arrived at Gladstone a little early as it took ages to sort out the travel. It is a sign of how for north we have come when a flight from Gladstone to Wagga Wagga is the same price as a flight to London !!!. Needless to say we did not fly all the way but hired a car from Brisbane and drove the 2600 km round trip. The cruising life has given us more patience on this type of journey. Not many years ago we were daunted by the boredom of a road trip to Adelaide which was a much shorter distance. A word of praise for Gladstone, the marina and foreshore are very pleasant and well kept. Gladstone is also a magnet for cruisers passing through or stopping off to work and build up there cruising funds. The town itself is attractive but soulless. As happens to many Australian towns, a shopping mall has been built within easy reach, killing off the businesses in that town - shame. Oops that started off as a word of praise, I guess you can tell what I really think.
When we arrived back, all that was required was to stock up, fill the water and fuel tanks, pay the marina bill and cast off. So on the 10th Sept we continued north heading for Great Keppel Island, this was too far for a day sail so we anchored in the lee of a small island (Hummocky Island) for one of the most sleepless nights of the trip. All was well when we put anchor down but soon after lights out the swell started rocking us violently from side to side. We later heard from one of our cruising friends that she was sea sick at anchor on this bay. I wish we had known before hand.
Great Keppel Island (or GKI as the locals call it) is a beautiful place with great beaches and some of the clearest waters we have seen on the trip. The coral fringing reefs are not spectacular but interesting to snorkel over. GKI was, up until recently a major family resort, regularly featured on TV travel programs. I say recently because in Feb this year it was closed down by a developer who couldn't get his way with the government. The once thriving resort is now fenced off and the small number of local businesses left are having to survive on the small number of passing cruisers and school groups that stay outside the old resort. Whilst on GKI we met up with a number of old friends from Melbourne and new friends we have made along the way. The social life is often too much to handle with nightly sundowners on someones boat, or bbqs on the beach or dinner on another boat etc sometimes it becomes a juggling act to fit it all in - and people ask us what we do all day!!!. The days on GKI were filled with walks, kayaking, hanging around and snorkeling. It was on the first of these snorkel trips that brought us back to reality and the basic rules of safety which can go out the window in such pleasant surroundings. One morning we were invited to join a group going snorkeling on the reef a short walk away. Not wanting to miss out on this one we gathered our gear and met on the beach. We all entered the water to swim out to the reef, spotting the sea life as we went and enjoying the moment. It was not until we tried to turn back to look more closely at a turtle that we realised the tide was taking us out. Most of us were fine but 2 swimmers who didn't have flippers, were finding it difficult to return to shore, one was helped back by a couple of swimmers whilst the other sensibly swam across the current to the rocks. Moral of the story, even though there is safety in numbers, never assume someone has thought it all through.
After about 10 great days on GKI it was time to move on north again. It was sad to say goodbye to new found friends but cruisers have a habit of bumping into one another down the track. My aim is to be in Mackay for Saturday to see the AFL Grand Final as my team Hawthorn are playing. It seems appropriate that the first final I saw when arriving here in the '80s had Hawthorn playing so the last I will see before leaving also involves them.
On the note of leaving we are provisionally booked onto a cruising rally that leaves Darwin in July 2009 heading for Indonesia and Malaysia. The dilemma is where to spend the cyclone season (Dec - April). Any ideas!!!
Best wishes, Dave and Jean WdtW
Photos to follow.
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