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The Gillies Highway

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It takes me two hours to drive to the nearest ‘big smoke’, Cairns.

Civilised society doesn’t need GOF to be any closer and vice versa.

Midway through the journey there is a section of road known locally as the ‘Gillies Range’ with a steep gradient descending almost 3000 feet from the Atherton Tableland to the hot, humid coastal plain near Cairns. Even though I must have completed this journey at least three thousand times the drive never feels repetitious, and the spectacular landscape and constantly changing weather conditions are awe inspiring and a welcome twice-weekly reminder of just how stunningly beautiful Far North Queensland is for most of the time.

Now, please excuse me for a moment while I deviate and have a chat to my statistically inclined reader.
Everyone else………please feel free to skip the following italicised section.


3000 return trips down the Gillies!!!   (I initially thought I must have made an error on my abacus and added a few too many zeroes.)
This represents more than half a million kilometres, a $60,000  expenditure on fuel, 20 sets of tyres worth $12,000 over the period of 30 years, and 12,000 hours of my life (one year and four months) spent sitting on my arse driving a truck to Cairns and back, listening (?) to Mrs GOF’s wall of words in my left lughole.
At a conservative 100 words per minute that equates to one million two hundred thousand words.  All in all it’s no wonder that;

A.  I was once the most well-informed man on the planet, until in 1985 I was struck down by some dreadful driver’s auditory malfunction which blocked out spoken words and replaced them with random thoughts and beautiful music such as Cavatina and The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.
B.  I have no money left in the bank.
C.  All the bastard mirrors of the world reflect so poorly upon my visage these days, because I’m totally knackered and worn out from driving the Gillies Range.


OK, I’m feeling better now that I’ve purged that bit of my misery.

The 19 kilometre Gillies Range section reputedly has 263 bends as it winds it’s way down the Lamb Range. I’ve not counted them. Please don’t ask me to do it in the interests of historical accuracy….if you have a carful of kids you are welcome to come and tally them all yourself.
Just imagine all the ‘counting fun’ you can have during the descent.
Bends.  Vomit stops.  “Are we at the bottom yets“.
Comprehensive and reliable geographical data is seldom collected without overcoming elements of distraction and difficulty.

The original single-lane track down (or indeed UP) the mountain was completed in 1926. Gatekeepers were stationed 24/7 at the bottom and top gates with a telephone link between the two.  Vehicle number plates were recorded and traffic was permitted to pass either up or down according to a daily timetable.

This system operated until 1957 when the Range was widened to two lanes.

The following pictures do not capture the sweet seasonal aromas wafting up the valley from the Gordonvale sugar-cane mill, or the ferocity of cyclonic winds which regularly buffet this escarpment which is exposed to the South-East trade winds blowing off the Coral Sea.

Nor do they reveal an ancient myth and legend surrounding the Gillies Range;

Young and vibrant hunks of manhood, once they have driven the range 3000 times have been known to suddenly metamorphose into wizened, twitter and bisted old men.

Looking east from Heales Outlook

View East to Mulgrave Valley and Walsh's Pyramid in the distance.

Gillies Highway frog. Good graffiti.

Gillies Range road

Little Mulgrave River

Walsh's Pyramid, Gordonvale.

Another GOF travel documentary

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Part One;

Atherton Tablelands to Mount Garnet

fence n    a barrier that encloses an area such as a garden or field.

We used to have one.

A 500 metre long front fence made out of 4 strands of barbed wire, complete with a painted gate which effortlessly swung inwards on beautifully lubricated hinges.

Twenty seven years later we don’t have one.

The gate, in it’s dotage, sick of repetitively scribing a perfect arc in the soft soil beneath it by having it’s increasingly sagging posterior dragged across it, simply dropped off it’s rusted supports in protest.

In sympathy, the fence suddenly decided it too no longer wanted to be a fence, and prostrated itself into mouldering metal strands on the ground.  The wire was neither elevated following death to some heavenly foundry, nor immediately consigned to the blast furnaces of barbed wire hell.

It just lay there.

In the long grass,


Waiting for me to roll up the remains.  Major undertaking.

Mrs GOF and I are now faced with the callus-inducing, hand-shredding task of building a new fence.

There is no finer post hole digger on the planet than Mrs GOF.

Her operation of a crowbar and post-hole shovel is poetry in motion and it rivals her previously acknowledged artistic prowess when partnering her push-mower around our half acre of lawn.

Who can forget the moment in 2008 when she and her machine pirouetted at the bottom of the garden for a return swathe with such exquisite grace and degree of difficulty that she was awarded a perfect 10.

Firstly however we need to buy some large wooden posts from one of the few remaining post and railway-sleeper cutters near the small township of Mount Garnet, 140 kilometres to our west.

It is like travelling to another world.  A two hour drive from wet tropical rainforest into some very harsh, dry and rocky savannah country.

This is what you can see along the way;

(On Sunday I will post details of the return journey which will prove that the notion of “Wisdom comes with age” does not necessarily apply in all instances.)

Rural mailboxes

Very big cows

Road trains

Innot Hot Springs pub is for sale.

Innot Hot springs

It’s a wonderful world…..almost

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With Mrs GOF having safely returned to my arms from the USA,
I reflect upon some of the wonders of our modern world.

Firstly, according to her photographic evidence, people have apparently been able to adapt to living in places where the maximum temperature regularly descends below 20 degrees Celsius.

That a human being can actually have the motivation and desire to be cooped up like an unemployed battery hen inside the cage of an aeroplane for 22 hours of flight time.

That a piece of machinery weighing 700,000 pounds including 300,000 pounds of fuel, can actually get off the ground at Brisbane airport and climb to 35000 feet, then navigate itself non-stop to a tiny strip of tarmac at Los Angeles, 14 hours away, and, if necessary, autoland itself there.

Two pieces of appropriately tagged luggage placed on a conveyor belt in Cairns, Australia, will emerge on the carousel at Minneapolis having defied all the possibilities of getting lost during 3 intermediate changes of aircraft.

When I think of the 200 million dollar price tag of a B747, and the operating costs, I am amazed that Qantas actually makes any profit at all when Mrs GOF paid just A$50 for each hour she was airborne.

Considering all the wonders outlined above, why then did science fail to prevent the two passengers sitting on either side of her on the return Minnesota to Phoenix sector from being infectious with the common cold?

Before old GOF does any International air travel he will require two things to happen;

1. The installation of "contagion scanners" in airport boarding
     lounges which will instantly vaporise any inconsiderate disease-
     ridden passengers attempting to sneak on board.

2. To prevent my life of contentment being compromised by suicide
     bombers, annoying, or even just mildly irritating
     people, every passenger seat shall be fitted with ejector
     technology as perfected in fighter planes.

    The remote control module containing all 350 red buttons will be
    resting on my lap for the entire duration of the journey.


    If I pot up a few extra plants in my nursery this week I might be able to afford one of these;

                                        In my eyes, the most beautiful aircraft ever built.

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