The heat shimmers on the road as I drive south. The sugar cane in the fields is all newly planted and the stacks at the sugar mills stand silent guard over their domains. The sky’s turned pale blue as though the light is too bright for it. Summer has arrived.
In North Queensland the razorback of the Great Dividing Range shadows the coastline almost meeting the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef. Mt Bartle Frere and Mt Bellenden Ker, the highest peaks in Queensland, sit just to the south of Cairns. Nesting in their foothills is Babinda, winner of the Golden Gumboot and recipient of 4.2 metres of rain a year. (Think about that in terms of your height to appreciate the amount of water that pummels the little town!)
Babinda is your typical Australian country town with its own unique flavour. There’s a hospital, with a row of palm trees that would have been seedlings when one of my aunts worked there in the late 1930’s. There’s the post office (complete with victorious Golden Gumboot in the window), the pub (with the obligatory locals having a yarn on the bench out the front) and an assortment of elderly buildings that have endured more colour changes than Madonna’s hair.
I head for the library which almost looks like a doll’s house, perched on the end of the main street. I’m there to do my last talk as a 2012 National Year of Reading Champion. It’s been a wonderful experience chatting to readers in libraries all over the east coast of Australia. Babinda is great way to finish off with a packed room and a welcoming audience.
Thanks to Holly and her team for hosting me and a very big thank you to the people who came along. Thanks also to Cairns Library for including me in their programme for the year. Writing can be so solitary so meeting readers is one of the joys of the job.
The other joy has been discovering hidden treasures like Babinda, resting quietly up turnings off the main highway!