Travelling inland Queensland is quite the different experience than travelling along the Queensland coast. Not that one is better than the other, but if you are not prepared for the difference it can come as a bit of a cultural shock, well it was for me anyway.
We travelled half our journey from home, up through St George, Charleville, Longreach, Winton, Hughenden and then across to the coast to Townsville to start our journey down along the beautiful Queensland coast back home. This we did, mind you, at a leisurely pace, taking 4 weeks for the whole trip. It is an exaggeration to say that I wanted to turn back and head west again to acclimatise back to the inland way, maybe I missed it, and did not realise the difference between Outback and Coast or West to East so to speak.
The isolation of the west, the heat, the dry and harsh conditions and the lack of the hustle and bustle of the coast seem to have conditioned the outback Queensland people into a different culture. This culture also rubs off onto the tourists who also seem to push off the hustle and bustle who then ask “How are you going?” and actually mean it, ‘staying here long?”, “where are you from?” and “where are you heading?”. Your hand gets quiet sore from waving back to cars towing trailers or vans heading the opposite direction (well they would get sore if there was more traffic on the raod anyway) while travelling on the highway but that’s what it was like. Most wanted to say hello, and hitching up the camper and hitting the road gives you automatic acceptance to this unique group of people and before long you become part of it. It’s is infectious and before long you find yourself just going for a walk in the caravan park with the family just to have a chat to someone and find out what’s happening entertainment wise tonight.
The friendly nature is not for everyone and needs to be sourced but if you stayed in Winton Caravan Park before you will know what I am saying. A caravan park is not just a place to park your camper trailer or caravan, oh no – it’s a social event that happens every night. They throw on some snags, call in some bush poets or a bush band or someone who knows some good bush stories, there is a bit of a theme here really, and invite the people along. The laughter goes on into the night, not sure if it’s the bush poets or the copious amounts of wine and beer that gets drunk, or a combination of both. However sometimes it is time to hit the hay early and not join the fun, that’s all ok as well.
Mind you the caravan parks are pretty basic out west, and because of the lack of rain and the constant heat most are just dirt with a few trees and a very roughly marked area where to park yourselves overnight. The toilets and showers are also rough, they are always clean, but are a bit run down generally. We were in Longreach in mid July (winter) and the temperatures was quite warm at 28 degrees C and Hughenden was 33 degrees C so you can imagine everything out here gets pretty well baked all year round. So I guess the park owners need to do something to keep the people coming back, and having a social event every night sure does the trick. I for one will be heading back again.
We left Hughenden’s hot weather and headed towards the coast, the roads go busier and before long the waving between cars got less and less before cutting out altogether. People travelling on the roads became more impatient and some just plain rude. The caravan parks became just that, a place to park your vans overnight. Yes they had grass, lovely grass, and updated amenities, and jumping pillows, and pools with water in them, but something was missing, the social events and maybe the friendliness. We were in the hustle and bustle of the city!
So what’s different? In the matter of 300km’s how come such a change? Have they really changed? Its definitely more popular spot on the coast, Townsville is a large city with more to offer the tourist, and what more it attracts a different kinds of traveler. The camp site next to us was occupied by overseas tourists on many occasions when we were along the coast, they were friendly however the language barrier tend to make conversation harder. I think too with the population 7 to 10 times more than the average country towns we visited in Townsville than outback Queensland town, maybe that’s go a lot to do with it. We found the same time and time again along the coast, and started to learn to keep to ourselves, maybe this is how it just is. Then we discovered two more places along the coast that bucked the trend somewhat- a town called 1770 and Rainbow Beach, sleepy little towns and villages off the beaten track a bit, where we found things where different, laid back, time lost some of its meaning and people started talking again- “hello how are you?” “Where are you heading?” and “how long are you staying?”. Just the perfect spots to wind up our month on the road.