From Airlie Beach it was another 11 hour bus journey to the town of 1770, allegedly the only town in the world with numbers for a name.
It's typical of Aussies to spend little effort in naming anything when they could be barbecueing a possum or something . Hence The Snowy Mountains, The Great Sandy Desert and inevitably 1770.
"What shall we call this place? Well, what year is it? 1770? Right that'll do.....Right, now to pick up some supplies from Fly-Infested Shithole"
In fairness 1770 is so called as it was the original landing point of Captain James Cook, expert cartographer and "discoverer" of Australia who, in 1770, set in place a chain of events culminating in the creation of Home and Away and Rolf Harris. Thanks for that, Jim. Thanks.
Chris recommended 1770 as a kind of antidote to Airlie. It's a quiet town with a strong sense of community and no mobile phone signal, and with only 120 beds in the whole town, booking ahead is essential. I was already in at Cool Banana. A great hostel, brightly decorated and clean, it showed the Pink House in a new light. Or rather a new dinge. They get extra marks for hammocks. Hammocks rock. Literally. Obviously.
A free morning tour revealed an idyllic town with no drugs, no crime and no McDonalds. Land here goes for millions of dollars, yet prospective residents are still only allowed to build Deliverance-esque shacks. It's commonplace to see stainless steel Porsches next to wooden porches.
Our tour guide for this activity was a man whose name I didn't catch, but who had clearly wandered off in a purple haze during a Grateful Dead gig in 1970 and woke up in 1770. Like, wow, man. He resembled a cross between Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider and a Mexican bandit, and spoke with a thick South Afreeeekaan accent.
The real reason I was here was for Scooteroo: a kind of cross between a daytrip, theme park ride and a quick burn with the Queensland chapter of The Hell's Angels. Once again hosted by Johannesburg's answer to Carlos Santana, Scooteroo gives backpackers the opportunity to get out on the open road, riding in a convoy of 100cc scooters, all of which look as if they have been decorated by the band Iron Maiden on a particularly interminable Sunday.
Alarmingly, it all seemed rather too relaxed with the thick gutteral Afrikaans tones of "Bob Harley" reassuring us "eef you kann rade a pushbake, you kann rade a scootah". We gathered in a huge parking lot and selected our bikes from a neat square of rowed up machine, each of them tipped slightly on to their kickstand. And, after the briefest of demonstration, "this is the throttle. This is the brake. Any questions?", we set off on an experimental and wobbly lap of the carpark.
At first I was veering wildly from side to side, every attempt to correct and adjust sending me careering. "Oh no" I thought "Supposing it turns out I'm shit at it". Potentially embarrassing. By the time I had reached the drive way I was met by the Durban Warrior's Oriental wife.
"Everyfink OK?" she said
"I think there's something wrong with the bike. It keeps veering left and right" I replied
"Oh that normal . Bye" she said and ushered me on to the main road
Great. Soon, though, I had the hang of it and was razzing round the narrow roads of 1770 with 30 other backpackers on what looked and sounded like Devil's Hairdriers. It was a 60km round trip finishing at a beach to take in the Sunset.
After I took stock of my trip:
* Flies in the face - 24
* Times I hit 80km an hour - 1
* Unscratchable itches inside helmet - 34
* Re-overtaking people who had overtaken you 30 seconds previously - 9
* Kangaroos seen - 11
* Kangaroos hit - 0
* Times I pretended I was Street Hawk - 1
The bikes rowed up during a break.