The road less travelled

Long before echo-cardiography medical students all knew that the examination of the cardio-vascular system began with an inspection of the patient’s hands.

Finger clubbing, pale skin creases and nicotine stains can all point to more pathology in the chest and calluses can tell you a lot about how much physical exercise the patient really gets.

On the recent launch of a new model at Port Douglas I was however struck by the story that was being told by our guest speaker’s feet.

You see the motoring flotilla was enjoying a twilight cruise on a beautiful yacht and we’d been asked to remove our shoes lest we leave scuff marks on the pristine decking.

I was rather taken by the deck-hand, Jane, whose toe nails were perfectly manicured and painted pink and there was a sparkling gold chain around her ankle that had slid down her svelte torso from her wrist.

But our guest speaker, Councillor Mike Berwick – Mayor of the Douglas Shire, had feet like a Neanderthal.

I couldn’t resist asking him if they were any good for climbing trees and it was clear to me that the folk of far North Queensland don’t get around in shoes that much.

You see 25 years ago Mike was one of the “greenies” who blockaded the Daintree track to try to stop developers from carving up what later became the world heritage listed Daintree National Park.

He once famously stated that he wanted to stop the Daintree from becoming a “leafy suburb” and history will show that our children’s children will have a lot to thank him for.

As the Fraser Island defender John Sinclair found out it wasn’t going to be easy taking on the might of a pro-development state government that bankrupted honest and passionate people with law suits.

And we all know that facing off a lawyer can be worse than having a bulldozer bearing down.

Those far North Queensland developers were cunning creatures as I discovered when I took my test car down the Black Mountain Road outside of Cairns.

About half way along a developer had carved a 39 kilometre highway out to his land holding.

As the road isn’t gazetted it’s not on any maps, but it was still wider and in better condition than most of the Bruce Highway.

It’s just a pity that no one bothered to get any approvals before they cleared the land and cut and filled the countryside.

And as the road doesn’t meet any main roads department specifications there’s no signage and no one is interested in taking over the maintenance of it.

As it’s essentially a driveway on private land road rules probably don’t apply and my co-driver and myself had a good opportunity to explore the performance of our test vehicle which features in next month’s column.

We were a bit shocked though to find that there wasn’t any sign to tell us that the road was about to end and we suddenly found ourselves bearing down on a large iron gate.

Still we proved that the ABS and brake assist were working and we’ll know where to stop the next time around.

By the time you read this article Mike Berwick’s 17 year tenure as the Mayor of the Douglas Shire will have come to an end as his beloved Daintree is swallowed up by neighbouring Cairns as part of an unpopular council amalgamation.

Mike told me that he’d had his day and would just go back to farming

And those feet have a lot to do with the fact that Mike’s farm isn’t actually accessible by road.

Yes, to get to Mike’s place you’ll need to cross the crocodile-infested Daintree River in a dinghy so who could be bothered with shoes anyway.

Safe motoring,
Dr Clive Fraser

For: We all get to see what should be preserved.

Against: The traffic has an environmental impact and it’s not recommended after heavy rain.

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    Medical Motoring is an online record of the articles written by Dr Clive Fraser and published in the Australian Medicine magazine by the Australian Medical Association.