In the morning, a quick visit to the Kershaw Gardens, an Australia native
botanic garden, then the other two Rockhampton tourist attractions of Dreamtime
Aboriginal Center and Capricornia Caves, before driving north to Eungella
National Park, west of Mackay.
Kershaw Botanic Gardens was OK. Not spectacular, but not sucky
either--just OK. It was built as a Bicentennial project in 1988, and is a
bit tatty here and there, but the trees and plants don't seem to mind!
Almost all the plants were labeled, and as it specialized in dry tropical
natives, it was good to see. I took many more pictures than I expected.
After that, we drove to the Dreamtime Aboriginal Culture Center.
Supposedly this was one of the best of these centers, and the center recommended
you spend 'at least two hours!' Fair enough. It was strictly a
guided tour. Scott, our first guide, was a local Aboriginal man in his
mid-20's, who did a pretty good job explaining central Queensland Aboriginal
culture--most of which has disappeared. You can still see the stencil art
like we did yesterday, though, and many of the natural lakes and mountains still
have known meanings.
Then we had the Torres Straight Islander section... where an old woman
nattered on and on and on and on, pointing to each of the 18 islands, saying
their names, and then telling us all that kids go to school here and there's
electricity now and sometimes in Rockhampton people come to her house to ask her
for funeral money for this person or that person... all while standing in front
of a collection of woven coconut baskets and conch shells and other traditional
items that she dismissed by saying 'we all have plastic now, like Chinese
plastic bags'. The other people in the audience ate it up, though she got
upset when some European tourist asked 'if she planned to return to her islands
as her final resting place'. She said 'no, no one talks about die to me!
If you talk die, I will die! No, I reckon I die here in Rockhampton, and
be buried here.' Sigh. Maybe she should've just said 'Oh, that's an
ancient Islander secret' and spun a tall story.
Lastly, Scott came back and showed us how to throw a boomerang, and what a
non-returning boomerang looks like--a L shape, designed to hit and maim an
animal or person. We really didn't feel like we paid $17 each to see a
boomerang show, so we left.
At noon, we joined the Capricornia Caves tour. These are big, blobby
caves, with very little decoration, and not very deep. From most rooms,
you can see daylight through the many entrances. The 45 minute tour (for
$8 each) consisted of walking through three rooms, and two songs played off the
CD player in the Cathedral Room with the lights out. Tour Guide Trent said
"the cave's acoustics are just 3% different than the Sydney Opera House",
whatever that means. Every cave says they have great acoustics.
Personally, I reckon you'd probably get just a good of acoustics in an empty
aircraft hanger. This cave's CD music experience sounded very clear, but
very confusing--there was no spatial sense of where the sound is coming from.
From the caves, we headed north to Mackay on a very empty stretch of road.
We've wondered why Lonely Planet's Queensland book (the infamous new 3rd Edition
that brands Queenslanders as redneck racists) had no entries for that 300km
stretch. There's nothing there, not even small towns. Not even
stations, really. Just dry eucalypt forest in the south, changing to cane
fields just south of Mackay.
We drove west, and settled in at the old Eungella Chalet, overlooking the
Pioneer Valley far below. And we slept.