Rob and I started writing this blog a week ago, but have since had devastating news from home. Sadly, Ian, Robert's dad, passed away this week. Obviously this is a tremendously hard and upsetting time for Rob and his family, and has decided to return to Montrose for the funeral before returning to finish his trip like his dad would have wanted. He has asked me to include this note to inform you all and also to post this blog as it was written last week.
Well Rob and I have finally made it to our final Oz destination - city of Cairns in Tropical North Queensland. Can't believe how far we have travelled in the last 3 months, almost 10,000kms in the van! Long way but I've loved the driving about, especially in the van, really believe that buying your own vehicle is the best way to see the country - you can go where you when you like, it's more comfortable without carrying heavy bags everywhere and works out much cheaper especially if it's sold for the price paid. We're trying to sell the van just now since we only have a month left (sniff!), going to be so sad when we sell my beloved Chugga! Debs and Ian left last week too, really miss them being around! So, this is what's been happening the last few weeks...
Last time I wrote we were in Airlie beach, about to leave for a 3 day cruise of the WhitSunday Islands on a beautiful catamaran, I was so excited - heard so much from people, plus living on a boat with 25 other backpackers sounded like fun! It turned out to be a really great few days, not everything I expected though - we didn't realise that our particular boat was scuba orientated which meant that we weren?t allowed to drink much in evening and it was also a bit crap for Debs and Ian who weren't keen on diving again after Byron Bay! I decided not to Scuba dive but snorkel instead which I loved, Rob did the diving again and loved every minute! The dive sites were amazing, we had about 4 different dive stops on the fringes of the Barrier Reef, the waters were so clear and this incredible emerald green color, and I loved all the colourful fish and turtles! I also loved sitting on the deck of the boat late at night and seeing the millions of stars in the sky plus one evening we even had some dolphins circling the boat! I sunbathed a lot on the boat and we also stopped off at Whitehaven beach - a beautiful white sand beach on one of the islands. The only downside of the cruise was the sea sickness - Debs and I suffered quite badly at one point. At night was worse - sleeping while the boat was rocking back and forth. At one point during the night the generator went off waking me, debs and ian and the silent lapping of the water against the boat was so freaky (and funny at the same time!)
After we arrived back on dry land we got back in the van and headed North for Townsville. Arrived really late and went out for a Thai meal, Debs and I have discovered a new love for coconut rice - ace! Have I also told you about my love for Chai teas?? No? well, they are so good!! Apparently you can get them at home, been drinking them non-stop since Amie introduced me to them in Jo'burg. The next morning it was a drive straight up to Cairns. The drive up was extremely tedious at times - majority of the road is dead straight for several kilometres! The landscape changes so dramatically the further north we drove - the roads are surrounded by sugar cane and banana fields with the mountainous rainforest back-drop. We only had a day in Cairns before Debs and Ian left, just spent it wandering around the town and eating Sushi (yes! Debs and I are loving the Sushi just now, yum and healthy!!).
Since Debs and Ian left Rob and I have just been checking out the main highlights of Cairns and the surrounds. One place I had heard so much about was Cape Tribualtion and I wasn't disappointed!! We went with a safari company that stopped at some places on the way. Firstly we took a cruise along the Daintree river to try and spot some Crocs, actually seen 3 of them, one being a hatchling (very rare to see apparently!) It was a BBQ lunch after that along with a traditional Billy tea and damper before driving to Cape Trib. It was an unbelievable site - the rainforest literally meets the reef! No swimming allowed though - stinger season!
As well as exploring more of Cairns we decided to head back down to Townsville to see some sites we missed out when Debs and Ian were here. One of them was a visit to Magnetic Island, we had heard a lot of great things from people we met. When we docked on the island we realised we needed to get some wheels so we hired a Moke - basically the car equivalent of a scooter!!! Great fun to nip about the island though! The island is a beautiful place - emerald green waters, beaches without stingers and cool beachside bars but apart from that there is very little to see, unless you like to walk in 35 degrees heat, no thanks! While in Townsville we also spent a day with a family on a working cattle ranch in the Aussie bush, was quality too coz it was Rob and I and only one other guy (also a Scot). In the morning we had to go cattle mustering - basically they live on a 40,000 acre farm and you have to go out on your horse, into the bush, find the cattle, round all them up and guide them back to the farm! well, i told them i was an experienced rider, Rob has never been on a horse and the other guy had only been riding 3 times, well! they gave him the quarter horse and me a Clydesdale!!!!!! What the...!! Seriously, this was a pure bred Clydesdale called Bonny! Obviously i wasn't impressed! It actually turned out really good coz Rob and the guy stayed with the woman and the husband, Pete (who's a professional stock rider!) took me separately and we galloped around in the bush looking for cattle! Ace fun!!!!!! Amazing! I just loved riding about in the aussie bush with kangeroos where leaping out in front of us, riding through deep gullies and rivers looking for cattle, Bonny (the horse!) was actually really quick and comfy! Was soooooo hot though, absolutely sweating, we eventually got some cows and herded them back to where Rob and the others were. Rob absolutely loved the horses, he was only allowed to trot but really wanted to canter - I was mega impressed!! Afterwards we had a BBQ lunch and then we had to catch and separate the rounded up sheep and cows in their pens - we got soooo dirty!! Had to basically jump on them to catch them! We then took one sheep and had to shear it - very scary! Kept thinking i was going to cut it with the shear, plus i was struggling to hold it down - kept trying to leap up so had to get the guys to help me! We also had to catch the cattle and brand them, i felt so bad! and worse - the guy castrated them there and then - all they used was a scalpel and soapy water, no anaesthetic, nothing!! Just cut the balls out!!!!! Guys, it wasn?t pretty and i was horrified!!!!!!!!!!!!! Blood everywhere! i wasn't too happy, coulldn't watch! Once last thing we had to do was brand them, I was even reluctant to do that but I did, aw the poor little calf?? L Other activities included how to crack a whip etc! Anyway, it was an ace day, ended it with the sunset and cold beers1 ACE!
After that experience we made our way back up to Cairns and decided to drive to the 1000m plus Paluma range to see some more of the tropical rainforest, creeks and waterfalls. The van was totally struggling with the roads - definitely a 4wd job, narrow, windy but with spectacular views! Plus there are lots of creeks to swim in, crocodile free (well, I was hoping!). We also drove along to the incredible Wallaman falls - the biggest waterfall in Australia. We also visited Kuranda, a mellow mountain town set right in the middle of the rainforest, nice little place, not so good for Rob - lots of shops and huge market! We used the Skyrail to get to Kuranda, was really nice having a birds-eye view plus it was 8kms long (one of the world?s longest gondola apparently!).
So we've decided to stay in Cairns until we sell the van, not sure how long that will take but been making up posters and advertsing on the internet. Had a few people looking at her but no calls back, it's scary because we've been hearing horror stories about people leaving cars on the side of the road because they couldn't get theirs sold!! For being a city Cairns isn't very big either, plus there are so many travellers like us trying to sell vans but also loads of travellers coming in from Asia so we?ll just have to wait and see....!!!!
I've just read over this and realised how random it's all written, apologise!! Pretty tired! Anyway thanks again for all the messages from home! To everyone - WE ARE NOT ENGAGED!! Other things to do beforehand like - get a job, a house, transport etc etc etc!! My love to Kent and Lisa ( I think I had the wrong email addy before, think Kent should get this now???) Lizul and Freduls, hope you had a fab holidays! Michelle, where is my photo of this Burmese kitten???!!! ;) I promise to email everyone soon, especially before I leave this indescribably amazing country!
Love you all
Nikki and Robert xx