We set off bright and early for Hervey Bay on the long journey back to Sydney. We did not have a fixed plan, but had agreed to make a couple of long drives so that we could get back without panicking in the last couple of days and we certainly did not want to experience the Gold Coast again. I also wanted to spend at least one night “unplugged” in a National Park: use the independence the camper gives us to be completely away from everyone.
We trundled down the M1 uneventfully, stopping at Gympie for double-shot espressos at McCafe (I have become strangely fond of the Evil Empire since we discovered they do good espresso) and then headed in towards Brisbane. We hit a traffic jam 50 km out, which soured us a little and then, when past it went bustling across the Toll Bridge (awesomely high) being passed at great speed by ginormous articulated lorries that utterly dwarfed even the Monstrosity (my pet name for our Winnebago). If was extremely bracing and it was pleasant when Marjolein did some on-the-fly planning and navigating and took us off down the Mount Lindesay Highway.
It was a brilliant compromise between retracing our steps down the coast or bearing westward into the hinterland. This lead us into a dry land of great ranches and utter loneliness. The towns petered out after Beaudesert and we found ourselves moving along smaller and ever more winding roads across a wide flat plain of brown and gold fields and tiny sub-villages into stupendous mountains. The range was obviously a watershed, all the “creeks” we encountered on the coast were called “gulleys” here and the rivers were not deep enough to wet your socks. The day was wearing on, so we decided to look for a camp-site after winding our way up and down hairpin bends to the wonderfully-named Woodenbong. There was a tiny camp-site in town, but the information board said that we could also camp in the Tooloom National Forest. We set off towards Urberville, but apparently not in the right direction and went miles along truly dreadful roads, through beautiful but utterly empty countryside as the sun sprinted towards the horizon. We were just getting really worried when we saw a road sign for something that (for a change) was on the map and set off towards it. That got us finally to an intersection with a sign for Urberville so we set off again, down tremendously winding roads, up into the foothills with the light slanting in deep flame-orange between the thick trees. It was an entrancing effect, which I had no opportunity to appreciate as I was making the best speed I possibly could across the crumbly tarmac and round the sharp, steep bends. We also managed to avoid running over our first road-Wallaby, just before we finally got signs for Tooloom. We steamed into the park, which transitioned immediately from temperate forest and rainforest and finally parked at a picnic site just as night fell. We are now settled down in utter darkness and silence, with stomachs full of tinned Minestrone. I am looking forward to getting up tomorrow morning in the middle of a rainforest!