My EPIC Journey (beware...cute animals will be shown)

general Jan 06, 2020

The end of 2019 has seen the most catastrophic bushfire season across Australia.

Many of us have experienced feelings of overwhelm, heartache, frustration and anger at what has (and at the time of writing this, still is) happening.

When our emotions rise like this, we tend to start pointing fingers and laying blame as a way to vent those emotions.  Alternatively, we roll our sleeves up and get in and help in whatever capacity we have available to us.

I chose the latter option and this year volunteered as a transport driver for The Rescue Collective (an NFP organisation that provides much needed supplies to rescuers and carers of animals and wildlife)

But I never expected to spend 5 days across the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 driving from Brisbane to Cairns and back in a truck!

It was so worth it to see the joy and pure gratitude on the faces of the rescuers and of course, to get to cuddle the animals along the way.  So I thought I would share a little of the EPIC journey with you. 

This was the longest run that The Rescue Collective has done and it took months to co-ordinate.

Day 1 - Loading the truck (Dec 28)

Firstly, let me give a huge shoutout to Europcar who sponsored this trip for The Rescue Collective - without them this would not have been able to happen.

I've never driven a truck before so just driving it out of Europcar's lot in Hamilton to Mt Gravatt to pick up the load was sweat-inducing!! 


Day 2 - Brisbane To Rockhampton (Dec 29)

I left at 5.30am so that I could miss the usual holiday exodus out of Brisbane and got a great run up the coast.  I arrived in Gladstone at 12.30 to Jason & Nicki's house who are the local transport volunteers who would then be delivering goods to Rosie at Mt Larcom who takes care of the macropods (wallabies/kangaroos) and to Sue & her husband who rescue bats.

(Jason & Nicki - local volunteer drivers in Gladstone for The Rescue Collective)

(Rosie and some of her charges at Mt Larcom)

(Sue & her husband and the beautiful bats)

From Gladstone I headed into Rockhampton to find a place to stay overnight where I could safely park the truck.  I ended up at the Discovery Parks in Rocky where I got to enjoy a refreshing swim in the nice after a long day driving!

Day 3 - Rockhampton to Townsville (Dec 30)

This was by far the biggest leg of the journey with over 9 hours of driving time and the bumpiest section of highway! 

It was also heartbreaking to see how desperately dry it is up here.  I did a short FB video showing the landscape which you can watch here

Australia has just been listed as the worst country in the world for land-clearing by the WWF.  Apparently we do this to provide more grazing for cattle but to me it seems that it does more damage than good and research has proven that uncleared land is just as good for grazing.  I'm sure it is a contentious issue but to my mind I would rather see more trees that provide shade for the cattle as well as hold the top-soil in place more during drought periods than not.

It wasn't all doom and gloom though as the country starts to green up as you near Mackay.  I had a rest stop at Cardwell which has a magnificent vista of the start of the Whitsundays.  The esplanade along Cardwell is spectacular and well worth stopping for a stroll...just beautiful.

(Cardwell pier - very pretty area)

And how could you not stop in Bowen and enjoy a fresh mango gelato!!  YUM. The lady at the information centre, Fran had survived the Black Friday bushfires years ago but suffered breathing issues and moved to Bowen because she needed more humidity in the air in order to breath...I'm sure there will be more people who will be suffering similar issues in the near future with our current crisis, sad to say.

(enjoying fresh mango gelato in Bowen...still a way to go to get to Townsville)

I finally arrived in Townsville late in the afternoon and decided to try the Discovery Park there which is conveniently located by the highway and again I could get the truck off the road.  After a quick stop at Coles to get some food, I quickly settled in and headed to the pool for a refreshing dip and to escape the humidity for a brief spell. 

Sadly the room wasn't great and I found myself sweating with the heat most of the night, so it was a relief to get up and out of there early the next morning.

Day 4 - Townsville - Cairns - Townsville (Dec 31)

The 350kms between Townsville and Cairns are just beautiful with plenty of places that you want to pull in and explore...I however was on a mission, so exploring would have to wait!  I did however, pull over to get some local Red Dragonfruit just south of Innisfail.

My first stop was on the edge of Cairns to Lyn from FNQ Bush Dogs Rescue.

Lyn goes out into the Indigenous communities to help reduce unwanted litters as well as rescue dumped puppies.  She had 3 puppies in care when I arrived, two more at the vets getting treatment and was about to head out to rescue 17 that had been dumped in the bush (augh, heartbreaking). 

These little tackers are CUTE and I would have loved to have brought them home!  Lyn rehabilitates them, gets them healthy and ready for adoption and then they head to YAPS to get re-homed.  Here are some of the cuties I got to cuddle!

(Jedi is the little black puppy that had just recovered from parvo virus...very nasty and I can't remember the little girls name but she was a snuggler!!)

Here's Lyn and her goodies along with a little boy puppy that decided my foot made a great pillow LOL.


The second drop to Cairns was to Kim and her husband Ross who take care of macropods and bats.  They also were organising one load (including a precious incubator to go up to Cooktown).

(last load dropped to Kim in Cairns)

Now time for some precious cuddles before heading on the long journey home.

I must confess I fell in love with the littlest one called Lucy...she is a survivor and wanted to be out of the pouch and jumping around LOL.

Revitalised after all the cuddles and learning more about the work each of the carers do, my faith in humanity restored, I headed back to Townsville for the night...and no, I did not stay up for the new year to come was far more valuable :)

Day 4 - Townsville to Rockhampton (1 Jan)

Thankfully the roads were quiet and few drivers I had a sleep in and left at 7am instead.  Unfortunately I had planned to get some mangos and lychees on the way back but forgot that it was New Years Day and most of the stall holders had closed up.  I did manage to snag some lychees to enjoy with hubby once I got home.

Just south of Marlborough, there was a cow that had gotten out of it's paddock and was grazing rather close to the highway, so I called in to the next farm that I saw and notified the owner.

You can see how skinny the cow wonder it was looking for more grass.  Very bad drought area!

I checked back into the Discovery Park at Rocky and headed off to Woolies to get a trolley load of fruit to donate to Michelle from Bat Care Capricornia
I had travelled up to deliver a load of supplies to Michelle early in December and knew how much she needed more support as she is spending $300 a week just getting fruit for the bats without any external support.

They are such marvellous little creatures and I've learned how critical they are to our ecosystem.  Most people think they are pests but in fact they are a keystone species, which means they are vital to the regeneration of our forests!  Sadly, the bat population has halved due to drought, heat (dehydration) and people killing them (deliberately sad to say).

So it was a joy to hand feed a mumma with her baby wrapped tightly to her and give the smaller ones a rub and scratch under the chin...they loved it and so did I!

(can you see the bub wrapped around the mumma's tummy while she eats her fruit?)

(Michelle from Bat Care Capricornia and her two little charges)

Day 5 - Rockhampton to Brisbane (2 Dec)

Much more traffic on the road and my heart was aching from watching the news and massive fires burning in Sth NSW and VIC.  I was watching Facebook anxiously to see if two clients who live in those areas were safe and I'm glad to say both are!

I stopped for lunch at Childers and had a lovely catch up with Dot Glinderman (one of my clients who lives in Harvey Bay) for a couple of hours before doing the final leg home.

It was a mammoth journey.  I drove over 3,500km in 5 days.

I got to catch up on listening to podcasts, marvel at the countryside, meet amazing people and cuddle the cutest animals!  It was amazing.

During that time I emailed my list three EPIC OFFER and donated 15% of all sales to The Rescue Collective and raised $225 - THANK YOU!

Thank you for being part of this journey with me.

Our country is in crisis and it may feel very overwhelming and you may not know what you can do to help.  I'm not suggesting that you drive to Cairns and back (I love long distance driving so that worked for me). 

There are plenty of places you can donate money (which is what will do the most good at the moment), you can donate skills (many rescue centres need help with admin tasks or if you can sew they need pouches and mittens and more) or you can donate sweat equity and get in and help loading and unloading goods ready for delivery.

And if that is too much, then you can pray.  Pray for rain.  Pray for our volunteers and firefighters.  Pray for the survivors.  Pray for our carers.  Just pray!

With much love

Julie xx


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