By this time of year, Pete and I would have been somewhere else for a few weeks – overseas, interstate, or even seriously intrastate. We’d planned to be OS in April and on a Christmas cruise in December, but covid put paid to those plans. Still, it seemed a bit remiss in this, my seventieth turn around the sun, to not go ANYWHERE except our (admittedly large) back yard. So, we set off on a birthday bash, meandering up the Queensland coast, stopping here and there for a day or two, to Cairns. We thought we might even pop off to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) since it has been a year or several since we snorkelled there.
Our first stop along the way was two nights at a tiny town called Emu Park on the shores of Keppel Bay. When I say tiny – there’s a main street, a few eateries, a pub and a caravan park, a nice beach and a view of a string of islands along the horizon. One of those is Great Keppel, a jewel of the southern GBR, which could be reached on a ferry from Yeppoon, about 20k north. We stayed in a little motel on the edge of town offering a bed, a TV and a shower, and not much else. No WIFI, no breakfast, no restaurant but it was clean and neat with a great shower.
Although the weather was fine, the wind howled in from the east (the sea). That would be the standard pattern for the whole trip, resulting in choppy, grey, uninviting water. We made our way to a hill overlooking the ocean which sported a monument that looked a bit like a sail. That proved to be profound. It’s known as the ‘singing ship’, a tribute to Captain James Cook, who named Keppel Bay in 1770. The structure has a number of wires and tubes that resonate in the wind, producing formless music. It was a lovely sound.
Pete and I don’t eat out much ever, let alone this year, so it was interesting to encounter the covid rules for the first time. Venues had to provide for adequate social distancing and for contact tracing. This could vary from reading a QR code on your phone and filling in your info to writing it all out on a piece of paper. Certainly, the QR code is the easiest for everybody. Provided, of course, that the venues all use the same app. That way, you record your details once and can use them the next times. But not all apps are the same. Filling in a piece of paper also varied quite a bit. Some places were happy with both of us on one entry, others insisted on separate entries. Some wanted a home address, others were happy with a phone number and/or email address. Some wanted signatures.
It occurred to us that the Government’s Covid Safe app would have been the ideal software to provide for contact tracing via QR codes. It would have been standardised and simple.
Back to Emu Park
After a pretty ordinary dinner in the pub, the following morning we had a great breakfast at a local café then went for more of a look around.
For some reason that wasn’t immediately obvious, Emu Park has a very large tribute to Australian soldiers. Every town has an RSL and a cenotaph but Emu Park has a walk along the hillsides above the sea commemorating the men and women who served in the wars.
When we booked in to the motel we were asked if we were there for the Memorial Day service. It seemed many people congregated here on the 11th of November for the 11am service. Since we were here, and world war two was a significant event for both our families, we gathered with other, mainly older, people at the RSL for the service.
Apart from the compelling war memorial, the citizens of Emu Park have constructed a board walk along the cliffs up to where the singing ship stands. There’s a view of the sea on one side and simple poles recognising all the battles Australians have fought in. The entrance, adjacent to the war memorial, is a covered area with photos and the stories of locals who fought in the various campaigns. It’s a moving tribute to real men and women who lived through difficult times.
On our last evening at Emu Park, having been unimpressed with the pub grub, we decided we’d have some local fish ‘n chips, it being a beach and everything. We went to the local chippy and ordered red emperor for him, barramundi for me, and one serve of chips, which we were assured was plenty for both of us. The place was popular and we waited for a good half hour for our parcel. That was okay. There’s nothing like hot fish in crunchy batter and crispy chips straight out of the fryer. We unwrapped the paper with anticipation. There was certainly plenty of fish. Both of us had a slab of fish which would have served three people easily. But the batter was soggy and the chips were underdone. Disappointment plus.
Oh well. Another day, another town. We hit the road after breakfast and headed up the highway for Cannonvale, a little over 500km away.