Sunset ahoy Airlie Beach

There’s nothing quite like the ocean colour in Tropical North Queensland. It must be a combination of the bright sunlight and the shallow waters that lie within the Great Barrier Reef. Even as the sun sinks, the water still has the vestiges of that intense turquoise.

Many years ago when I lived in Melbourne, I decided to paint a seascape inspired by a trip to Brampton Island. None of the blues in my paint box came anywhere near the colour of the tropical water, and I failed dismally in trying to blend the right colour. It was then that I discovered Cobalt Turquoise, a blue green that is impossibly bright for the oceans and light of the southern Australia where I lived, but perfect for the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

I recalled this as the colours faded, and I sipped champagne on the Provendence V, looking over the ocean towards Airlie Beach. In true Slow OZ Travel style we chose the beautiful schooner, with its magnifiicant sails and fluid lines, over the noisy party boat for our Airlie Beach Sunset Cruise. This classic gaff-rigged schooner is a replica of the Grand Banks fishing boats that plied the waters around Newfoundland.

As we stood bare-footed on the deck watching the light change, the engine cut and the sails went up. Up until then I’d been taking photos. It was only later looking through my shots that I noticed something interesting about the rigging. Pareidolia, the tendency of the human brain to see patterns in random things, at play. Our brains seem programmed to see human faces and figures, even where they don’t exist.

It’s amazing what a difference exposure makes in photography. Playing around with different exposures gave the ship’s rigging an uncanny likeness to a person watching the sunset, more accidental than intentional. The top photo is 1/400th sec at f/10 and the bottom one is 1/250th sec at f/5. I’ve converted the top photo to black and white to further emphasise the silhouette effect.

Sun strikes in the Rainforest: Paluma Range National Park

By the side of the Andree Griffin Rainforest Walk at Paluma township, the sunlight caught this elegantly twisted buttress of a massive, strangler fig carcass bought to life by its velvet green coat of moss.

The tropical rainforest of the Paluma Range feels lusher, and more encompassing than the subtropical littoral rainforest remnants close to my home on the Sunshine Coast. An hour and a half drive inland from the arid seaboard city of Townsville, this verdant forest must be haven for locals.

From the photo it is difficult to gauge the size of the buttresses. Look closely at the next photo for the tiny red way marker on a sapling behind the fig. To the right, barely discernible are Colin’s black hat and his shoulders.

Oz Slow Travel

Slowing right down. A carcass along the Gulf Developmental Road which is also called the Savannah Way, a far more evocative name no doubt conceived for the benefit of tourists on the way to Mt Surprise and the Undara Lava Tubes.

In Queensland, Australia we are fortunate to be in a COVID-19 free bubble. Within the state we can travel freely, taking COVIDSafe measures such as recording our visits to public places, and being more thorough in our infection prevention measures. So, Queenslanders are, like me, taking to the open roads. 

Queensland is a vast state, Australia’s second largest state, two and a half times the size of Texas with a population of 5.11 million people, 3.6 of whom live in Brisbane or the south eastern corner. Sometimes it’s a long way between ‘places of interest’ when you leave the coast. These places are not the bucket list, big ticket items like the Grand Canyon or the Tower of London or the ‘big five’ on African Safari. 

There is natural beauty, but not of the grand kind; there is ‘white man’s’ history which is by definition short; and there is extraordinary wildlife, but not of the variety that turns the tourists into surrogate game hunters aiming their cameras for the best shot of the beast. 

Rather there are small friendly towns, often with evident civic pride and a willingness to share their history with passers by. Such places lend themselves to slowing down after a long drive, having a yarn and a beer with a fellow traveler or a local – whoever is at the bar or more likely on the veranda – at the local pub. 

Aussie bush is a bit scrubby and untidy for sure, monotonous even. But when you really start to look, it’s wondrous. Sleepy little towns are easy to pass through without a pause. Each one has a story if you take time to discover it. All that’s needed is willingness to slow down, notice and appreciate the little things, and to start to feel a connection to the amazing land that others knew so well before any Europeans realised it existed.