A little while back, on a trip to Australia, we stopped by the ARB store in Rockhampton for a visit. We met the owner of the ARB franchise, Mark Lacey, and his crew. After a tour of the shop, Mark showed us around town and suggested a 4x4 trip the following day. With four-wheeling in our blood, we couldn't turn down the offer. Immediately, we asked if we would be going into the outback and were told, "Mate, it takes more than a day just to get into the outback." Mark went on to say that just about an hour northwest of "Rocky," outside of the town of Yeppoon, there is some moderate 'wheeling toward the beaches of Three Rivers, Five Rocks, and 9-Mile. Mark said we would be going to 9-Mile, a beautiful sandy beach, perfect for a day of leisurely 4x4 fun.
The following morning we met at Mark's shop, which, by the way, sports the largest ARB sign in the world. Mark, his wife, and their son greeted us and soon we were off. Along the way, Mark pointed out many of the local sites and in no time at all we were at the turn-off for 9-Mile beach. The trail here began as a wide hard-packed dirt track that ran into the rainforest. Soon, however, the road turned into a narrow track of deep, soft sand. Signs warned drivers to reduce tire pressure or risk getting stuck. Even with ARB Air Lockers in our Land Cruiser 100, we still stopped and aired down.
As we leisurely made our way down to the beach, we encountered another Toyota owner who hadn't heeded the signs to air down, giving us the pleasure of making some new friends as we got them out of the deep sand. Then we were off with our new friends to enjoy a day at the beach.
Cresting a final rise gave us a great view of this little piece of Australia's northeastern coast. The pristine shore-line would remind you of the postcards everyone sends home. It was no wonder that we found a few others who were camping at this fantastic spot. Mark said that during some holidays the beach is quite full, but you can bet that it's never nearly as crowded as the beaches of Los Angeles or Miami.
After spending some time exploring on foot and by 4x4, we pulled over in a shady spot and ate lunch. This was a right proper meal for the middle of the day. Having been cooped up in the Land Cruiser all day, Mark's son wanted to play more than eat. Following his lead, the adults played ball and dug in the sand. After lunch, we even got in a few good hits with the golf club.
Sadly, the day came to a close all too soon, and we had to make our way back to Rockhampton. But this was not all bad because the rodeo was in town. First, Mark took us to the Criteron Hotel for a pint before the rodeo. We were told that this was where General Douglas MacArthur had his headquarters during World War II. Afterward, we had fun at the indoor Australian rodeo ring. Rockhampton is the cattle centre of eastern Australia and is on the very southern edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Certainly, there was more than we could enjoy on our short trip. That night, we went to sleep thinking of our next trip down under and the wonders we might encounter the next time.