Australia & New Zealand 2023

Beetroot and Hot Cross Buns – Days 7 & 8

The simple reality was that there were a lot of miles to drive before Brisbane and we needed to eat up the road. Mackay won’t live long in the memory but my early morning wander will. I dared to turn on my mobile to get the Leeds score. We won, good old Wolves saw fit to lay down and die in supporting our survival plan. This temporary agony relief should see me through to New Zealand and the resumption after the international fixtures break.

However the Sabrina Sugar Shed will live longer in the memory. It was about an hour south drive. We’d driven for hundreds of miles past sugar cane fields and Anna had found a place where it was all explained. We gave up an hour and a half to have the cultivation and sugar extraction process explained.

It all starts with an acknowledgement to the indigenous Elders before the tour begins. This is common on any public event. It seems appropriate in some instances but odd in others ie. before our flight from Melbourne to Cairns it was read out? The parallel with the USA and the native Americans seems complete. That is, the Europeans came and swept them to the margins whilst abusing or killing them. Especially in Australia there was an energetic and active campaign to have many indigenous children abandon their culture and become ‘western’ in the mid 20th Century. Despite all the kind words/acknowledgement today these people are marginalised in the economy or societal structure. It seems irretrievable and many here and in the USA are in a desperate place.

After harvesting the cane it needs to be quickly processed before it goes off and the raw cane is brought by rail to the mill on an agreed schedule with the farmer. Here it’s cut, crushed; the juice squeezed out. Then the juice is filtered to extract the bugs, bits of toads, extraneous weeds and all sorts of stuff that should ensure you now forever reduce your sugar intake. The refining continues until crystallisation and it’s then one step away from human use. That’s achieved in a controlled environment away from the mill. The vast majority is exported in bulk. This little operation made some samples up in chutneys, liqueurs, candy floss etc. using the product for us to drink or eat. The farming doesn’t involve a lot a labour and it’s not uncommon for the farmer to have another form of income. Typical of a lot of Australia the large mill behind our tour is Singaporean owned.

Ready for the Outback

Soon back on the road we were headed for Rockhampton, or as our colonial cousins call it….. Rocky. As we left the Shed we innocently enquired as to a good place to take a break and have a coffee on our drive. ‘Nah, that’s one long boring drive I dread’ she encouragingly replied. Excellent news.

What again?

The drive down The Bruce Highway was tedious but had to be done. We did pull into Marlborough where the local general store was doing great business in sandwiches and drinks. A steely elderly lady was running the show and here in the middle of literally nowhere she didn’t roll her eyes when the present Mrs Ives requested oat milk in her coffee. This reprieve was followed by that other Australian idiosyncrasy of putting sliced pickled beetroot into sandwiches. Strange but very common down the coast. Positively weird in a burger and bun but I have adapted with good grace.

The only other excitement came by being pulled over by a traffic cop to blow into a breathalyser. Obviously I was clear but the roads are full of signs urging people to rest up and seldom does the speed limit exceed 100kph (60mph). I think road crashes and high death rates and drinking must have historically been high on these long dull roads.

Rocky came into view and we found our hotel. Being Sunday night the dining choice was limited but a pizza and halloumi salad was found and then a long walk along the Fitzroy River to settle it before lights out.

Imagine a complete cacophony of birds in the trees

Back into the car I’d persuaded the Tour Guide to abandon the A1 to take the A3 south. This less direct route offered more of ‘Australia’. Our first stop was Mount Gordon and it’s historic railway.

Just a facade. The line shut in 1987

Whilst now an attractive but small town it had been important for much of the 20th Century as a town at the bottom of a railway route to the top of a mountain. The mountain contained gold, silver and a lot of copper. The railway excitement came via the need for it to ascend a 20% gradient. There was a video and exhibits explaining how it was done. That is a rack and pinion addition to the steam engine and railway line. I could explain more but I’m sure it would have you all slumped across your mobile/PC or tablet by the end of several paragraphs. I found it very interesting!

So back in the car we got to Bileola or as they say in Queensland ‘Bilo’. (I bet you never saw that coming.) Or ‘Bilewaya’ to use it’s Sunday name. Here we found a brilliant bakery and coffee shop. Given it’s location amongst tractor dealerships, farming supplies outlets, petrol stations and veterinary practices it was a delightful find. After coffee and hot cross buns it was time for more culture and we visited a heritage museum.

Skippy runs away from me

The exhibits were a little tired but the grounds contained kangaroos. Yippee my first ‘Roos in the wild. Entrance was AS$5 each (£2.80). Anna took pity and bought some coasters with aboriginal art on them. Predictably they were made in the People’s Republic of China. The lady manning this centre helped us find a route to our next night stop that didn’t involve driving on a gravel road. I didn’t fancy getting stone chips on the Beamer. The car had been a terrific boon and I stepped out of it in Hervey Bay after 351 miles fairly fresh.

On the latter stages of the country road drive we saw one car in a hour. This wasn’t early morning it was mid afternoon! The whole day had been driving in rolling wooded countryside. The trees were different to Europe but it could have been France.

Back on the A1 roadworks were regular features including wild kangaroos to our left and right grazing at dusk. After a long day driving and a desire to get the drive complete lots of restricted speed limits and traffic lights were not welcome. At about 6.30pm we pulled up at our B&B in the rain.

3 thoughts on “Australia & New Zealand 2023

    1. Hi Calvin, thanks for reading this nonsense. I had’t had this for about 55 years. I think that’s not over doing things. Enjoying your images as we move into spring. Trust you and the present Mrs Power are flourishing.


  1. I’ve always agreed with whatever Mr Powers, previously of the Americana Music Show, says and see no reason to cease now. Slightly disappointed there wasn’t more rack and pinion.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.