Hervey Bay to Noosa
At 09:00 we catch the Greyhound at the bus depot based at the new Hervey Bay Shopping Centre - mind you, nearly every building in Hervey Bay is new. As usual, the bus is full of young backpackers, and as usual we're about forty years older than the next oldest person. We head off down the Bruce Highway. We soon learn that the air conditioning is not working; the bus is full and Monica has a seat on the sunny side. We know how to travel in style.
Given the long distances between towns and cities, the authorities are concerned about road safety - especially, drivers sleeping at the wheel. There are exhortations everywhere to take a break. There are also signs posing trivia questions, the answers being given on a sign a mile or two along the road e.g. "Question: Who is the Bruce Highway named after?" Hands up those of you who said Bruce Willis or Bruce Lee. Wrong. The answer pops up a mile or so later. "Answer: Henry Bruce, Minister of Works." How many of you got that? Questions are posed at regular intervals, and then it is suggested you make up your own questions. If you are travelling alone this might be rather pointless. The aim of the exercise is to keep the brain alert and prevent accidents.
After two hours, we make a scheduled pit-stop at the Matilda Roadhouse, Kybong (think open-plan motorway service station). Our bus is continuing on to Brisbane, while we are swapping to the 'Noosa' bus. There is time to photograph Monica with a kangaroo. This makes up for her failure to snap one yesterday.
Noosa is a very upmarket resort. It has a look of a town that has been manicured and pedicured. Rich people live here. It is an expensive place. This is where Australian fashionistas come to flaunt their holiday gear. The main street, Hastings street, is filled with Australian models on holiday, and yacht owners with their second or third wives in tow. All women look as though they live on lettuce leaves and Perrier water. Monica is at home here. I feel like a creature from another planet with my paunch, my baggy shorts and bush hat. I fear that at any moment, the fashion police will seize me and eject me from the town for lowering the tone.
After eating a few lettuce leaves, we head for the beach. I body surf in the breakers, feeling like a fifteen-year-old as the ocean repeatedly throws me back onto the beach. When I've had enough, I notice a sign about not swimming there. Well, you couldn't call what I was doing swimming, so I don't think I broke any rules. And I was not alone. I return to find a Bush Turkey rummaging in my bag. These birds are everywhere. And it's true: they are pests.
Noosa Heads is, apparently, the most popular National Park in the country - visited by a million people a year. Where are they all? The place is virtually deserted when we visit in late afternoon: just a few joggers and power walkers. The park consists of a huge forested area situated on a large headland that projects out into the Pacific. It is crossed by four walking tracks. There is an easy route around the coast that should take about three hours; a simple, circular half hour walk; and two strenuous routes, up and over the mountain, that should come with a health warning.
Against my better judgement, we select one of those. We climb all the way to the summit Noosa Hill which promises 'restricted views', and delivers on that promise. We are on the lookout for Koalas and Possums - in New Zealand, Possums are regarded as invasive pests, and shot. Here they are viewed as charming tourist attractions. None of these animals makes an appearance.
We return to Noosa in the twilight. The only noise comes from the sea and the beach wedding parties.