I landed in Rockhampton anticipating sunny weather only to find we were taxing in to a slight drizzle. It was not the greeting I had wanted but my first couple of days here would be tied up with a Planning Forum at which I was here to speak. I have come here on behalf of the NSW Floodplain Management Association as I now sit on the Executive. The forum, organised for speakers to share knowledge post Queensland Floods would be an interesting experience for me.
I meet up with Megan who has co-ordinated these workshops and a couple of other speakers who have arrived the night before to go out for a bit of steak in this city that calls itself the beef capital of Australia.
The workshops goes well and a number of people compliment me on my talk. That night I go out for dinner with Isabel, a young planner from Mckay. We met over lunch and our interesting conversation has spilled over to dinner. As we sit in a Vietnamese restaurant and eat seafood Chow Mein, the Fitzroy River that isolated this town as well as its airport not that long ago…flows gently by. Isabel tells me she has migrated to Australia from Colombia. Once a journalist she has now studied town planning and is making her way in this profession. Just as I did in my twenties, she too has left her homeland and come to a completely foreign land in search of adventure and new discoveries. Unlike me she also had to master a foreign language! We talk late into the evening…sharing stories as well as our hopes and dreams for the future. We say goodbye as tomorrow I will catch a bus and a ferry to Great Keppel Island and she will go back to her life in Mackay.
I wake up on Thursday to cloudless blue skies and another sun drenched day. I feel incredibly lucky. The ferry ride to the island is bliss. I sit on the top deck, snapping a few photos and drinking in the fresh ocean breeze. My host Pete is waiting for me in a beach buggy. I pile my suitcase in the back of the trailer and walk the few paces to the Great Keppel Lodge – home for 2 nights. The lodge is a lovely round house, with private rooms each with it own en-suite, set around a living room with big couches and comfortable cushions. I’m shown to my room…which is looks very welcoming. The windows and doors are wide open and the warm sunshine is streaming in. After a quick bite to eat, I set off to explore.
My first few hours are spent discovering the places to eat. The only pizza cafe on the island is closed but there is bistro and bar at the far end of the beach – good I won’t starve. I discover the camp site and take a quick peak and find a beach, strewn with drift wood…a great photo opportunity. After a quick chat with the guy who runs the bistro I stop by the Rainbow Hut for some date slice and a cup to tea.
The lady who helps the owner out by selling souvenirs on Thursday, joins me for a cuppa and regales me with tales of the island. After a quick stop at the lodge for a change of shoes I decide to climb the hill to a lovely look out spot. It’s a warm hike and when I get back, I am quite tired and have a nanna nap before hiking to the spit to watch a wonderful sunset. Dinner is well done rump at the bistro after which I walk back to the lodge and spend the evening chatting to my fellow travellers Marjolene and Sander. A young couple from the Netherlands, they are here to discover Australia and love the hidden gem they have discovered in Great Keppel. Spots like this are virtually non-existent in Holland they tell me…and we sit around the living area chatting and watching the latest episode of Master Chef….apparently a big hit in Holland!!
My second day at Great Keppel is just as brilliant as the first so I decide to hike to Leakes Beach. It is a lovely walk along the beach and then a hike over a mountain and finally a goat trail that leads down to a completely deserted beach. It is bathed in sunlight and sheltered from a south west breeze that picked up this morning. I spend a lazy day, walking the beach, lying in the shade and listening to the waves that gently wash up the beach. I’ve brought a few snack with me so it keeps me going for awhile. It has been a long time since I’ve indulged in such a lazy day as this…
I have new housemates on Friday night and I spend the evening hanging out with Sarah, Colin, Julie, Crocket and their kids. The guys are Aussie and their wives are from the UK and Oregon. They all used to live and work here on the island and have come back for a bit of reminiscing and to introduce their kids to a place that is very special to all of them…as both couples were married on the island. The families are obviously close – the guys have been best mates since their island days and their kids get on really well…so there was a lot of friendly banter and camaraderie and I felt happy to have been included in it.
They invite me to watch the sunset with them and the kids have fun toasting marsh mellows on the bonfire they light on the beach. It is another brilliant sunset and over toasted marshmallows I share a bit of my travels and adventures…which they are quite amazed by! They very kindly then invite me to dinner and I have a lovely evening getting to know them and chatting late into the night over Sangria, lasagne, salad and garlic bread. Yum…it was a very tasty home made feast and it was lovely to have been included in what otherwise would have been a lonely evening as Steve was not able to travel with me.
Saturday is my last day on the island and I spend the morning cruising the reef in a glass bottom boat. It was …what can I say..another glorious day in Paradise…! It was a great day out on the water…watching the giant cod fight for the the bits of fish we threw in…and peering down at the coral which sadly wasn’t that colourful. I’ve spent a lazy afternoon blogging and now it is time to pack up and head for the ferry for a ride back to Yeppoon….and my flight back to Sydney the next day.
“No man or woman is an island. To exist just for yourself is meaningless. You can achieve the most satisfaction when you feel related to some greater purpose in life, something greater than yourself.” Denis Waitley