Travellers’ Tales

posted in: Life and things | 1

Peter and I were getting a bit stir-crazy staying at home so on the spur of a moment we decided to go on a little road trip up the Queensland coast. The plan was to stay a couple of nights with a friend at Airlie Beach, then go home at a leisurely pace. We’d been that way before but we decided to revisit a few places and drop in on others we’d passed by.

The last time we’d travelled so far was in 2020, with covid restrictions in full swing. Right now, with nigh on 90% of the population double or triple vaccinated, the Government had dropped mandatory QR codes but people were still expected to wear masks in public places. Those entering pubs, clubs, restaurants etc needed to prove they were fully vaccinated. Mind you, most of it is due to be dropped completely at 6pm on March 4th. It seems a bit silly to me to force people to wear a mask when they walk around, given that everyone in the venue had to be vaccinated. But we jumped through the hoops. After all, the workers were just doing their jobs.

We tend to drive for 400-500km then stay overnight in a motel. In the past, we’d try for a place where we could get a cooked breakfast. Some had a restaurant, others delivered breakfast to your room. But that was then. Few motels now offered breakfast and those that did rarely went past continental. You help yourself to cereal, milk, bread packaged in plastic bags, butter and condiments, and vegemite. A few places used to have restaurants which offered dinner but they were all closed.

Roadhouses are few and far between around that part of the world so you tend to pick up a meal and fuel where you can. There are covid casualties, of course. Driving out of Rockhampton early on a Sunday morning, not much was open so we headed up the road to the café at Mt Larcom, which offered good food in the past. But it was closed indefinitely due to covid. We ended up driving on another 40km, leaving the highway and going into Calliope where we found a café in a shopping centre that offered cooked breakfasts. It was busy. The locals obviously knew about it.

In the evenings we did try to find nearby restaurants via google but so many of them were shut down. Most nights on our travels dinner meant a fairly short walk to the nearest hotel, RSL, Bowls Club, or Leagues Club. One night the Bowls Club’s fare didn’t tempt us back so we settled for a Pizza Hut gourmet reef ‘n beef pizza. It would be right up there as one of the worst pizzas we have ever eaten. Pizza Hut is hereby struck off.

On the other hand, we crossed the road from one motel and had a very nice meal at the Rockhampton Leagues Club – a crumbed chicken breast coated with mashed avocado and cheese, served with chips (fries) and a salad. It was very tasty – but neither of us would have liked to meet the chicken which had sported those breasts in a dark alley.

Chicken schnitzel with avocado

The culinary highlight of the trip turned out to be fish ‘n chips for lunch.

You know how it is. Lunchtime arrives and nothing in the food court floats your boat and you set your heart on good old fish ‘n chips. We googled chip shops and took a drive over to North Mackay, where we ordered two pieces of battered Spanish mackerel and a large scoop of chips. I think we could have settled for one piece of fish and a small scoop of chips and still had leftovers.

Vella’s fish ‘n chips

Dear reader, that was just about the best fish and chips I can remember eating.

Crispy batter, tasty fish, chips that tasted of potato, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside. We found a local park, but no seats so we opened the paper packet and set it inside the car’s backdoor, and ate standing up. We took the substantial leftovers to a park near the river and let the seagulls and a couple of crows finish them off.  I left Vella’s fish bar in North Mackay a 5 star review.

Next time I’ll share our trip to Eungella.

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