The Bowen Curse

After a hiatus of 2 weeks with virtually no rain, we left Cairns and the Wet Tropics in blinding drizzle and headed south for Bowen – where the dry season is actually dry!  Or so we thought …

The trifecta of towns – Babinda, Innisfail and Tully – with claims to be Australia’s wettest (and rainfall measured in metres) certainly lived up to their claims, with drizzle, rain and cloud so low it virtually hit the windscreen.  While Tully holds the official ‘Golden Gumboot’ award – and has built one to commemorate this dubious honour – our money is on Innisfail.  My mate actually recalls a time we visited when it WASN’T raining – back in the early 90’s – a record not broken as we passed through, despite the rain thinning to a heavy drizzle, and even a moment or two shortly after leaving the city limits when it almost wasn’t raining at all!  This completed the Wet Tropics loop we started some weeks ago!!

As we played ‘spot the hire car’, the rain, interspersed with stoppages for cane trains, random roadworks and what must be a full time job mowing the verges, meant we spent most of the time either going slow or stopped completely.  But spotting the government ‘how good are we’ type signs littering the Bruce Highway provided an amusing diversion, as well as raising important questions about political advertising and wise stewardship of taxpayers money.  While I’d question why 11 signs are required (1 State, 10 Federal) on one particular 50 km stretch to draw one’s attention to government funded upgrades, initiatives and general improvement programs, who am I to grill the collective wisdom of the people’s elected mouthpieces?  We also found a school that DIDN’T have a ‘Nation Building Project’ sign, and wondered what they’d done wrong … but I digress!

The scenery south of Cairns is pretty spectacular with magnificent rainforest heavily cloaking Mounts Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker, Queensland’s two highest mountains.  But, the only heavy cloaks on the mountains this day were made of mist, cloud and drizzle, meaning they were virtually invisible!!  Incidentally, Mt Bartle Frere has been known to have a rainfall of 12+ metres (what’s a few centimetres between friends?) but in a ‘drought’ year, it can plummet to around 4.5 metres.

But, days like this are necessary to make the Wet Tropics what they are…

Bowen, home of the famous mango and arguably one of the driest spots along this stretch of the coast, has no such excuse.  According to the weather forecast, an extensive rain event was due along almost the entire east coast of Queensland later that night.  Given Bowen’s reputation, we stopped just down the road from the ‘Bowen Arrow’ motel (!!), with a deceptive calm that lulled us into thinking whatever happened wouldn’t be quite so bad in Bowen.  But … a few hours later, we were hit with a wild and scary combination of rain, wind, thunder, lightning and flying coconut palm fronds, lasting for what seemed like several hours.  If I’d been able to uncover my eyes and unblock my ears, I would have looked at my watch to tell you for how long it actually lasted – which would undoubtedly sound a little less dramatic.  But what I DO know is the ensuing rain actually DID last for hours, conveniently finishing just before the official rain gauge recording time ie 9:00am!  I believe it’s Bowens highest August daily rainfall figure ever, so I guess it was a privilege to live through it …

We really should have known better.  On our last visit to Bowen nearly 12 years ago, a wild and scary combination of rain, wind, thunder, lightning and flying coconut palm fronds that lasted several hours also hit unexpectedly.

But we’ve vowed to return.  Bowen’s a terrific spot – gotta love a town with two bakeries, and arguably the best mango cheesecake in the land.  But you’ll have to wait and see whether the Bowen curse strikes again for three in a row, or whether we make it 3rd time lucky!

Stay dry!!  See you next time!!

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