Making a quick detour out to Ball Bay on our way heading south towards Mackay gives us another look at the amazing Queensland coast line. At last we arrive at The Leap Hotel which is about 20kms north of Mackay and if you buy a beer then you can camp out the back for free. We think this is yet another fair deal and a reason to love Queenslanders. Everyone has been so nice to us and it seems that everywhere we go in Queensland people are interested in the story of how far we've come. We've got nice green grass and it's an easy drive into Mackay where our first stop is another free water park. One thing we have noticed about Queensland so far is how many amazing free facilities there are for kids. A water park equivalent to the one in Townsville, the lagoon in Cairns, or this one in Mackay is unheard of in Perth, for free.
Eungella National Park is part of the largest rainforest in Australia and is right on our door step from Mackay. We follow an easy 1.4km narrow winding path that leads to the Araluen Cascades. Olive insists that she can walk the path, demanding to be put down saying "walk". She slowed down the pace dramatically for us all but we were so proud that our daughter, not even two yet, walked an entire 1km on her own. We are already in our bathers and ready to go for a swim. The swimming hole looked beautiful but it was freezing cold and all the chickens in our family except me refused to get in. A little talking to myself, "You only live once, now or never" and I jumped in and then quickly get out again. "I almost froze to death but I've swam the Araluen Cascades, Eungella NP!!" It's not a complete journey into the National park without a trip further west to Broken River to try to see the platypus. I use the word try as they are very private little creatures and after over an hour watching and waiting we unfortunately don't see one. Also I don't think waiting patiently and quietly looking at rocks in a stream for an hour is a skill our children have acquired. A beautiful place nevertheless.
Our next stop is General Gordon's Pub and we are right smack in the middle of cane field territory. The best thing about staying here was that the sugar cane farmers were so nice. Driving along dead straight flat roads that never seem to end with sugar cane fields on both sides, cropped out into squares and all growing in different stages. It's an opportunity to talk to River about lollies and sugar and where it all comes from. Now, when River see's the endless crops of sugar cane he knows what it's all about. He's stripped the husk and tasted the unbearably sweet cane for himself. Then he's spat it out saying "yuck, that's too sweet". And later "So to make a lolly, you get the sugar cane and you crush it and then squash it and it makes sugar and then you get the sugar and you squash it into a lolly?" he asks. "Yep that'll do for now mate" On Halloween, which we really don't celebrate River and Reece build a scare crow which was fun but otherwise we finish off our stay in the area with a picnic at Sarina Beach and a visit to the Sarina Sugar Mill. It's the healthiest afternoon snack ever after having them spin some fairy floss for the kids. But who cares right?!