Going back to FNQ

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Just more than 30 years ago, at the end of 1988, we packed up and moved south from Innisfail where we had lived and worked since 1984. We took the whole family (5 of us) back for a visit in June 1990. I remember that trip because while we were there Jane got her learner driver permit and I took her for her first driving lesson around the cane fields. Majella has been back once since while attending a conference in Cairns and Hannah and Matt have been to visit friends.

With some urging and planning by Jane we are going back again with the whole family. This time, with children, grandchildren, great grandson, and partners, we will total 19 travelling to celebrate two ‘big’ birthdays. In June, Hannah will be 40 and I will be 70. Hannah was keen for Callum and Claire to see something of where she spent her formative years in Far North Queensland (FNQ).

Jane found a place, Harvester Home, in Cairns that has room for all 19 of us and has planned an itinerary that will use it as a base as we explore the region. Some of us will be looking to see what has changed but for most it will be first time around in FNQ.

Arrivals and departures are on different schedules. Majella and I are arriving first so that we can spend a couple of days in Innisfail before we get together on Friday. Hannah, Matt, Callum, and Claire are coming a day early on Thursday so they can do some catching up with friends. Jane, Lea, Emily, Joel, Grace, Sam, Bek, and Lane arrive on Friday morning. Nick, Sophie, Harry, Lucas, and Ben are due in late Friday evening. The real action kicks off on Saturday morning. Majella, Sophie, and I will be first to depart when we head for Japan next Wednesday.

We left home on schedule at 6:30 am for our 9:40 am flight. I had planned for us to be at the car park by 8:00 am but for most of the way my Maps app indicated an estimated time that would have had us arriving there after 8:30 am. The tunnels going through Brisbane did their job and we were there before 8:15 am and checked in at the airport in plenty of time for coffee before we boarded.

Our flight was a bit late departing but went smoothly. We had picked up our car and were on the road out of Cairns to Innisfail well before 1:00 pm. Majella was hungry and fearful of missing lunch in Innisfail so we stopped for pies at Babinda Bakery. I had the beef with hot chili and will set that as a challenge for others when we return there on Jane’s itinerary in a few days.

Majella had arranged to visit a gallery, Artropica, operated by Kerryn Madsen-Pietsch who we had known as a teacher at Good Counsel College when we lived in Innisfail. We talked about family, looked at a variety of art projects, and bought a small piece before we left almost an hour later.

After checking into our motel, coincidentally next door to the gallery, we walked up town for a look around. We were lucky to catch Simon Birchley, a local GP who had been our neighbour in East Innisfail for a time, without an appointment and with time for a chat about what had happened with each of us and families in 30 years. His wife, Pam, was coming into town for gym and we managed a chat with her too.

A quick visit with Peter and Kathy Dryden in East Innisfail followed. Peter had been on staff at Good Counsel College while I was there and retired only recently. He had been in contact last year when the class of 1988 was arranging a 30 year reunion and he and Kathy have invited us for dinner tomorrow night to catch up with some others we knew while living here.

Back in town, we parked at the motel and walked to dinner at the Queens Hotel, recommended by the young woman at the Avis counter in Cairns. Dinner was excellent. Majella had fish cakes and I had pork papaya salad. Both were fresh and tasty. We plan to go back for breakfast.