Here's the full round up of our adventures from Cairns to Brisbane.
When we arrived in Cairns it was raining, which seems to be the norm in Queensland. However Queensland’s rain is much like its men, short and aggressive, and when not raining it was extremely hot and sunny. After a quick post-flight sleep we set off to explore the cities delights. Cairns is only fairly small and doesn’t really have a beach but on the plus side the council have installed a huge free swimming pool on the esplanade with a nice grassy areas around it to sun bathe. We thus spent a pleasant day strolling and sun bathing and even went out for tea to a reassuringly dark and stale Guinness smelling Irish pub. The next day we picked up our Jucy campervan and headed out into the outback wilderness (a campsite 5 minutes from Cairns town centre), stocking up on all things homebrand at the local Coles supermarket, with the added excitement of having a super cheap box of wine (Goon in aboriginal) in tow. That night we discovered that our camper which by day was a perfectly acceptable Toyota estate car moonlighted as a heated torture box, with only the very useful inch opening windows in the back. As a result we had to keep hitting the AC at intervals all through the night.
The next day we headed north to the swish Port Douglas which had loads of nice eateries (out of our range), and a mariner full of yachts offering swish tours around the great barrier reef (also out of range). Not deterred we got ice creams and munched them on the beach (just within our range.) The next day it was into the Rainforest at the Mossman Gorge where ignoring the signs (the Australians were) I had a splash in the river and we strolled around the tropical board walks. On the way home, at my insistence, we stopped at Yorkey’s**** beach, and had a good old promenade along the stunning beach.
The following day it was finally time to leave the Cairns area as we knew we had over 4000 km as the eagle glides south to get to Melbourne. In line with the logical decision making processes previously employed while travelling we promptly set off 100km north to stay a night in the beautiful tropical rainforests of Cape tribulation. The drive there was stunningly beautiful with huge rain forested mountains touching the sea. Our campsite too was a clearing in the rainforest with a 10 metre walk through the forest to a beautiful empty beach. That night we enjoyed a glass of wine on the beautiful beach while the sunset, albeit with our rain macs on and Rach silently wondering when I’d let her get off the wet pitch black beach where she was being attacked by monster sand flies.
The next day we at last started to head in the right direction (south) and visited the much cooler Atherton Tableland where the scenery was far more rolling hills British countryside than tropical rainforest. After visiting the ever helpful tourist information lady we visited Lake Eachon, a huge lake where I had an amazing swim in the forest surrounded waters. On our walk around the lake we saw lots of turtles frolicking in the waters. We then visited Lake Barrine which was similarly beautiful, but without the frolicking (me and the turtles). The next day on our way to Mission Beach we stopped at the Millaa Millaa falls, Zillie falls and Ellinjaa falls. All three were beautiful thundering waterfalls with the Millaa Millaa the prettiest. The only thing that stopped me getting under them was that it was drizzling. Safety first.
Mission beach’s draw card is a little predictably its beach. A huge long expanse of golden sand with perfect waters. However as its Stinger season (aboriginal for ’time of the jellyfish’) I wasn’t allowed in the sea, and the winds that whipped along the beach made sun bathing, under the dangerously baking sun, a little difficult. We thus braved it out for an hour and then retired from ’paradise’ back to our campsite.
The next morning we set off bright and early to Townsville with reports of a cyclone expected to hit at any time a little further down the coast. On the way there we both commented that we should probably do something about the wiper blade which was half hanging off. After doing nothing for another hour it inevitably flew off under the torrential conditions making our first stop on arrival the local discount auto parts garage. Little to say we managed to buy the wrong (ie the very cheapest ones) on our first attempt and under the instruction of the sales assistant managed to buy the wrong ones another 3 times. That afternoon we attempted to brave the city, but were beaten back by the cyclonic conditions, eventually returning to our campsite to hide. During the night the rain didn’t let up causing flooded walk ways up to our ankles and necessitated Rach wearing her armbands when floating to the toilet. The next day we woke to glorious sunshine and headed into the city (avoiding the flooded roads) for a day of strolling around the city’s botanic gardens, swimming in the beach front council lagoon and even a ‘scooner’ (aboriginal for ’more than a half but less than a pint’) at a local micro brewery. Last on the sight-seeing list was the mountain overlooking the city which was about an hours walk to the top. However as it was about 6 pm we decided to drive. What we didn’t realise was that practically everyone in the North Queensland area strolled/ power walked/ran the hill at this time. We thus both felt a little embarrassed as we crawled up the beautiful mountain road making middle aged women and children alike clear the road for us.
The next day amid reports that the cyclone had left Arlie Beach, our next destination, without power and no trips were running to the Whitsunday islands, we hit the road. Our first stop, on a tip off from the Da Costas, was the Billabong sanctuary. We were met at the entrance of the sanctuary by hungry Kangaroos who knew exactly what was in our feed bags and how to get it. Rach was straight down feeding and being pawed by them, while I refrained until I’d decided which Kangaroos deserved it. More intimidating were the geese knocking around the sanctuary playing gang wars, who managed to steal one of our bags of seed when we were sitting on a bench. Having turned up early we followed one of the wardens around as she took us through the Koalas (not much behind the eyes), wombats (giant guinea pigs who loved biting everyone’s feet), snakes and reptiles and finally the crocodiles. I decided the time can come to show some British steel and held a crocodile (it was huge see pictures) and Rach had a picture with a Koala and two lizards. The crocodiles were probably the most exciting as the wardens seemed committed to getting them riled and making them jump, while Rach’s favourite was the wombat because it was ‘mischievous‘. We finished up feeding some tiny wallabies while I selected the most deserving kangaroo to give what little feed we had left to. Back on the road we hit the highway to Arlie beach.
Extended highlights of the next day were: Rach starting the morning slipping on the wet walk way of our campsite landing on her back, us then going and booking a Whitsundays cruise for the following day and me buying a head torch (which has increased my manliness by 15%.)
You know it’s going to be a good day when its jam, scones and cream for breakfast and so our Whitsundays cruise started in the best possible way. After sinking three helpings it was off for some snorkelling off Hook Island (both of us in full stinger suits, Rach looking great, me not so much). However due to poor visibility we didn’t see much, but this minor blip of disappointment was soon forgot when back on board a lunch of cold meats, pastas, salads and bread was served. Both feeling we may have got slightly more than our moneys worth out of the buffet we waddled on to the beautiful squeaky white sands of Whitehaven beach for a well deserved sit down. Back on the boat it was time for an afternoon tea of sandwiches, fruit and cakes. With the feeling that this may be the best feed we’d have in 7 months we both kept up our assault on the buffet before once again rolling off the boat, this time on to a sun lounger over looking the sea on Daydream island. Back on the boat we snuggled, down while Rach had a nap/slipped into a calorie induced coma, watching the sunset while sailing home.
While on most maps Australia is only about 2 inches long it is in fact a very big country. This, coupled with the facts that only a certain amount of people have been deported here/ tricked out of 10 pound to travel here and that they killed most the locals when they got here means the distance between places can be fairly enormous. Thus on our next day of adventure we set off bright and early at 7.30 and munched up over 700km of highway before arriving in Agnes Water at 5.30. Finding a campsite we set up for the evening with our box of red booze before Rach collapsed into a monster sleep. The next day we explored the pretty beaches and villages of Agnes Water and the Town of 1770 (where Captain Cook first stretched his legs) before once again hitting the road to Hervey Bay, with a brief stop in Bundaberg for a pack of Chocolate biscuits. On arrival we found a busy campsite (Easter was looming) right on the beautiful beach front which we took a stroll along into town where we encountered a cultural festival. Highlights of the Hervey Bay Cultural Festival 2010 were the wheel chair bound beat boxer, an English guy selling quiche in his poshest accent which was promptly dropped on discovering our nationality and the panpipe players from Jard. Having booked a Fraser island trip for the following day we headed back to the ranch spending an evening sorting jobs, eventually felling asleep to the sound of the waves.
The next day was early pick up for Fraser island, a beautiful island made of sand. After picking up a million people it was on to the ferry followed by the undeniably cool 4x4 buses necessary to power around the island, where we claimed the best seats at the front. First stop was a creek of crystal clear water at Central station and guided walk through the forest. Back on the bus it was to the stunning Lake McKenzie and a quick dip in the freezing crystal clear waters and a body scrub from the silica sand (I felt like a new woman). Even though the lake was over crowded it was one of the best things we’ve seen. Back on the bus it was once again time to push all known boundaries of buffet etiquette and stuff ourselves silly with food. In the afternoon we saw a lone dingo and dipped our feet in Eli Creek before being whisked away back on the ferry.
The next day we hit the upmarket Noosa and another beautiful campsite on the lake shore. On the way we stopped for a walk along the beautiful beach at Rainbow beach, before arriving at around tea time. After eating tea and a stroll in the dark we were invited to a drinking party with a couple of Australian families camping next to us. Knowing the point when to stop drinking is a talent not to be underestimated. That point is however often only visible with hindsight. Is it when your taking the Mick out of an Australian in his own accent? Is it when your making everyone in a group of 8 repeat ’’Ay up me duck” in turn? , or is it when your own girlfriend has taken to hiding the box of wine from you? Only posterity can answer these questions. The next morning I awoke with a very sore head and no memories of any of these activities. Wishing we could stay another day with our new friends and they feeling the same about Rach we wound our way to the laid back surfer haven of Byron Bay, with me being ill all the way.
We spent the Easter weekend in hippy central Byron Bay on a campsite where a surf board and long blond hair were seemingly obligatory. Our first day was spent winding our way around the pretty country lanes visiting the second hand book shops of Lismore, the aging hippies of Nimbin, and a huge waterfall on the way home. We followed this with a Good Friday of beach strolling and watching a local surf competition before heading to Brisbane to drop off the camper van the next day.
Economic necessity dictated that the theme for Brisbane was only doing free activities. Luckily the city had much to offer in this department. We thus spent two and a half days strolling the botanic gardens, looking through shop windows, visiting the city’s two Art galleries and museum, and eating crisps in public spaces. We stayed in a nice hostel with lots of 18 year olds who drank and swore a lot. After Brisbane we picked up our new hunk of junk ’Wicked’ van and hit the road south.
Big belated Happy Birthday to Nan Eirwen who has steamed through to another Birthday. Hope you had a great day and a fun party with tasty cakes.
That’s your ’concise’ run down of the Australia adventure so far. Anyone who’s managed to read the whole thing to this point deserves a medal/ should take up meaningful employment. Next instalment to follow soon.
Loads of Love
Joe and Rach x x x x x x