Lovely weekend in the pretty town of Ayr
Trip Start May 01, 2010
58Trip End Oct 03, 2010
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We have spent a lovely weekend in this pretty town of Ayr in the Shire of Burdekin. “Just one hour’s drive south of Townsville is the Burdekin Shire - sugar capital of Australia”. Thought we had been going through sugar capitals all the way along!! “Based around the twin towns of Ayr and Home Hill, the district ……is famous for its rich, flat farmlands as it is for the amazing waterways and scenic beauty. The Burdekin maintains a healthy reputation for its friendly residents, great specialty stores and laid back lifestyle. As producer of the biggest and sweetest sugar cane in the country, the Burdekin is also one of the only cane growing regions left in Australia where cane is burnt before harvest. These magnificent cane fires light up the skies every evening between June and December and have become a tourist attraction in their own right."
The Burdekin River Bridge, which links Ayr and Home Hill, is the district’s best known landmark. Known as the Silver Link, the 1103m crossing is the only bridge in Australia built without a solid footing and is longer than Sydney Harbour Bridge. Burdekin Bridge Fast Facts: Tonnes of steel: 7,000. Cubic metres of concrete: 32,000. Construction time: 10 years from 1947. Construction cost: $6m. Height: 13 metres (three metres above the highest known flood at the time). Workforce: up to 235 men worked on the construction at any one time with no loss of life. It replaced the low level road bridge built in 1929 and rail bridge built in 1913. Colour: painted in red lead when first opened, and progressively painted silver over the following years.”
It was a fairly short trip for us from Rollingstone to Ayr. This time, as we drove back up Hencamp Creek Road from Rollingstone, we stopped and took photos of the ripening pineapples. We are so enjoying them and have another to slice up tomorrow. Along the way towards Townsville, we passed many caravans and motorhomes who probably also had to leave Townsville, or not stop there at all, because of the V8 Race enthusiasts filling the caravan parks. We had a short reprieve from Cane plantations which were substituted with interesting tall spindly trees. We refuelled at the outskirts of Townsville. There was so much traffic that we were thankful to utilise the A1 Ring Road and bypass the city after which we had just 100kms to drive to Ayr. As we left the built up area of Townsville, we saw pretty rocky hills in the distance which must be Hervey Range as we had just passed the Hervey Range Exit. We were on a so called Motorway with just one lane each way! On the outskirts of Townsville in the foothills we noticed a lot of construction going on. Townsville is enjoying beautiful sunshine and they will have a sunny weekend in Townsville for the V8 Races. It seems such a long time ago we were at Mt Isa, but soon after Townsville we passed the turn off for the Flinders Highway which is the inland road to Mt Isa. We had chosen to go to the Gulf from Mt Isa and then across to Cook Town before heading south so we have had a good month of seeing many great areas around Queensland without having to back track.
We were soon away from hills and bush and back to flat topped pruned mango tree plantations ….. and more sugar plantations! The road sign read “Burdekin River Irrigation Area.” and the next one “Sugar Cane - Watch for Trucks”. We are back in sugar country after one day break! We passed more busy sugar mills with steam and CO2 belching from chimneys and then stopped for a cane train crossing the road with over eighty bins. The next road sign as we approached Ayr read “Home of Golfer Carrie Webb”. Then another: “3 minutes to McDonalds” and we were still among Cane Fields!
It was so nice to arrive at our next home for morning tea instead of having to pack lunch and arrive for afternoon tea as we so often had to do when travelling in the outback with the huge distances between towns. We are staying in caravan site seven at the appropriately named “Silver Link Caravan Park” which is close to the iconic Burdekin River Bridge. Pleased to say we did not get anymore bites to add to the numerous ones from Rollingstone where the problem we think was being between the lake and the beach. Such a pity as it was otherwise a lovely place. We realised a bit late that we needed to put so much more tropical strength insect repellent on ourselves. Whatever it was gave us bites on our fingers, toes, elbows, legs, even face but thankfully they take turns itching!
On Saturday afternoon we drove into Ayr to explore the town. It is an attractive open town with very wide streets full of centre parking and roundabouts with pretty variegated leaved plants and lawn. We parked and went window shopping as most shops shut on Saturday at noon for the weekend . It has been good to see that in most places in Queensland there is no shopping on Sundays even though the WA politicians keep telling us how well the Eastern States do with their Sunday trading. Perhaps they are conveniently not including Queensland as part of the Eastern States. We did however find a Crazy Clarke’s open on Saturday afternoon and went in and bought a few DVDs for $2 each. Rosemary and Pat would be impressed! It was also lovely and cool in the air conditioned shop after getting hot walking up and down the interesting streets.
On one street was the Nature Museum and though shut, it had an interesting wall of all the different marble, granite, agate etc found in Queensland. Also the map of Australia made up of similar rocks found in the respective states.
Back at the caravan park in the evening we went to look for the BBQs. We were surprised to see how big the park is and at the other end, near the camp kitchen, is a big tent city. The camp kitchen is full of young Japanese people preparing their evening meal and living in the tents. We found out that they are backpackers doing seasonal work on the local Burdekin vegetable farms. They have very limited knowledge of English but we worked out that the ones we spoke to work on capsicum farms. The next morning at church we heard that every year many Japanese and Korean young seasonal workers arrive and stay in the camp grounds or backpacker hostels. The demand for rooms is so great that even some hotels are turned into backpackers for the season. The farmers then come every morning to pick them up from their accommodation to do their days work.
On Sunday morning we went to the Presbyterian Church in Ayr. As we drove there at 9.45am it was 27C. The church though was lovely and cool with a gentle breeze coming through the open windows. They hold their services in a lovely church built about 60 years ago with high ceilings and wooden pews built next to the original church which was built in the 1920s. The visiting pastor spoke very clearly telling the congregation about the recent Synod Assembly and the news of their pastor and other pastors from the churches in the area. The Ayr Pastor is presently on a year’s sabbatical studying at the Bible College at Brisbane and while he and his family are away, the congregation have the opportunity to renovate the manse for when they return. He also spoke and prayed for the people on the ‘Bike for Bibles’ from Townsville to Broome who have recently left and whose average age is around 55! The funds which they hope to raise will be used for bibles for the schools, army and audio visual bibles for the Aboriginals. After a couple of hymns and choruses which were all familiar to us, the pastor preached on Isaiah 6 explaining it clearly.
Everyone there was very friendly and we spent a while after the church at the entrance having coffee and biscuits talking to them all. One lady was very sympathetic about our bites and went to the side of the church garden to break off some aloe vera for us. The Pastor asked from where my accent came, and after I told him, he said his first encounter with a Rhodesian was when he was four years old at school here in Queensland when the pretty Rhodesian girl sitting next to him suddenly kissed him on his cheek! Another lady explained that cane toads are around a lot in summer which explains why we haven’t seen any during our time here in Queensland during the winter months. She said if their dog bites a toad, their mouths foam and have to be washed out with a hose pipe till it stops foaming or else they die. Naturally the dogs are not keen on seeing hose pipes!
We didn’t notice how late it was and by the time we were back at the caravan it was time for lunch. We decided to have a special lunch treat of some of the Atherton Tablelands Tilsit cheese followed by a Cappuccino. After a relaxing lunch we set off to find the iconic bridge connecting Ayr to the small neighbouring town of Homes Hill, going back first to the church to take photos. On the Homes Hill side of the bridge among the Sugar Cane fields is the CSR Inkerman Sugar Mill with many wagons of sugar cane waiting to be milled.
As we walked across the bridge, we saw another train weaving its way under the bridge into the terminal from the plantations. We walked along the rarely used pedestrian pathway attached to the busy vehicle bridge which shook as the heavy trucks and caravans passed on the bridge alongside us. The footbridge couldn’t be used much as it was covered in cobwebs with some across the path making it a real spider alley.
Mike walked ahead like a brave white explorer slashing the spider webs containing huge spiders, to make a path for his scared wife who had never seen so many spiders in such a short distance.
It was interesting to see the remains of the old bridges far below us which would have been impassable during times of flood. A lady at the church who grew up in Homes Hill told me what it was like in those days with the low bridge and what a blessing it was when the new bridge was finally opened after ten years of construction. Back in the car we drove through the street of Homes Hill but couldn’t find anywhere to have a Sunday afternoon milkshake for a treat.
We ended up driving back to Ayr to the busy McCafe where many backpackers were busy with their laptops using the free internet and other people were having something to eat and drink. We bought a 50c ice cream and a Malteeser Sundae which we enjoyed in the pretty park in front of the Ayr Theatre next to the Court House.
The park is landscaped with an impressive rock lagoon and waterfall displaying bronze statues of some of the local birds and animals found in a nearby lagoon. We stopped once more on the road back to our caravan park to take a photo of a lovely Queenslander House, then tea and a quiet afternoon reading and catching up with our emails. We enjoyed a curry and rice dinner and then all to soon the enjoyable weekend in Ayr was over. Mike went to bed early and at 4am woke and turned the television on to watch the Spain v Holland match. By 6am the World Cup Soccer for 2010 in South Africa was over but the celebration of the Spanish will continue for quite a while. Ole, Ole, Ole!!!
In the morning our car and caravan covered in black soot clearly showed evidence of the cane fires burning the night before. With bucket and Chamois leather in hand Mike soon had them shiny clean again. We never did get a good look at the fires as they are so intense and quickly burn out so one needs to know where they are going to burn that night to be able to see the spectacle. On our first night here we saw smoke and a glow in the sky from our caravan but it was all over in just a few minutes.
With a cloudless sky and a gentle breeze we left pretty Ayr and headed to Bowen, which is about half way to Airlie Beach, our destination for the day.