After a late night celebrating finishing our jobs and life in Sydney and a speedy pack up and clean of the flat we headed off for the first time with full backpacks on since February this time heading to the tropical north of Australia.
Soon after glimpsing our rental car (Suzuki Swift) we realised our dreams of a cheeky week of cheap car-camping were now just dreams unless we very quickly regressed to primary school age and size. The new plan was to nip to Kmart and buy ourselves a tent, karrimats, an extra duvet and a couple of pillows for a grand total $42 before it shut an hour later. Success! And off to find the first free camp spot just north of Cairns.
Day 2 arrived and we made a 'swift' journey to the Atherton Tablelands, and the hunt began. First stop a tropical rainforest reserve to spot Tree Kangaroos. No kangaroos here, but Johnstone Snapper Turtles, Brush turkeys (only Aboriginals can hunt these), and Musky Rat kangaroos made up for it, as did 'giant fingers' (the Canadian lady at tourist info). Chai time at the tea farm and finally a tree kangaroo. After lunch was an afternoon swim in the ludicrously lovely Lake Echam and since we were wild camping we utilised the opportunity to have a good wash. Hair included. Dusk was spent quietly meandering our way down the bank of the river hoping for a glimpse of the beautiful and shy little Platypus. A four second glimpse whilst crouching in a bush was as much as we could hope for, and we were off... To Dominoes!
More nature the next day at a nature reserve walking around a lake in the scorching sun watching for snakes and pygmy geese. T-shirts didn't stay on for long! Sydney in the winter didn't give us much chance for vitamin D. After a leg stretch we sunk back into our bum grooves in the car and headed up to Port Douglas to investigate the Great Barrier Reef options. Booked in for a couple of days later and too chicken to risk illegal wild camping ($200 fine) we checked into a campsite and were welcomed by a couple of friendly middle aged people (ken and ken) from their campers with beer, camping chairs and New Zealand advise!
Into the Daintree rainforest for river swimming in crystal pools of Mossman gorge and later on downstream to find saltwater crocodiles by boats. The first boat guide was a nature enthusiast and as well as spotting plenty of crocs he pulled the boat up underneath trees with slippery yellow-bellied tree snakes dangling off them. His friendly reassurance was enough to give us the confidence we needed to get up and personal with them. The second guide was out for the croc shock factor and had the whole boat in silence with his version of death by a 6.8m Scarface, skull crushing, and a real story of a local 5yr old boys grim end (We claimed an inch of revenge in the form of a croc burger which turned out to be delicious!).
The following day was the day we'd been working so hard for in Sydney. THE GREAT BARRIER REEF! Once on our quicksilver boat for the day we were soon persuaded into renting an underwater camera to document our trip but other than that we went back to the penny pinching traveller mindset. We arrived on the pontoon on the outer Agincourt reef and promptly went off to find our gear, so promptly so that we were sat on the waters edge waiting for others to tempt the sharks first. Fear soon abated and excitement overruled and we were the first to sample the turquoise clearness of the ocean! 4ft trevelli, sea turtles, memo, the most beautiful coral and hundreds more tropical fish followed. Glutens for punishment we set sail for the shores rather royally sunburnt. A beautifully memorable day.
With our trip to the north not far off being over we set of back to Cairns the next morning for market browsing and some afternoon chill time in the park, reading and cookbook writing before our flight to Sydney the following day. And then onto NEW ZEALAND!!!
Love Jo and Bryn x
Wildlife sporting's in topical Queensland:
Southern boobook owl
Johnstone snapper turtles
Musky rat kangaroos
Yellow bellied tree snake. Pretty friendly.
Green pygmy geese
White faced heron
Brown snake!!! Highly poisonous!!!!
Green tree frogs in the shower
All sorts of tropical fishes including 4ft trevelli and Nemos!