Cape Hillsborough - 29th September
Cape HillsboroughCar Kilometres: 180,673
Distance Travelled: 1201km
Total Distance Travelled: 12,422km
We leave Mission Beach behind, and plan to stop over for one night near Townsville on the way to Mackay.We drive south for about 250kms, with just two stops on the way.The first is at Tully, a town which proudly claims to be the wettest in Australia, with a 7.9 metre fibreglass and concrete giant gumboot at the entrance to the town to prove it.The height represents a particularly wet year's rainfall, and we enjoy a pointless but fun climb up to the top of the boot and back down again before getting back on the road.
Our second stop is for some mango and macadamia nut ice cream at Frosty Mango (it had so many advertising signs on the way that we couldn't not stop), and, sweet teeth satisfied, we approach the northern outskirts of Townsville.On our last visit here a couple of weeks ago, some Grey Nomads recommended a free campsite on the outside of town.We rack our brains to remember its name, and just about manage not to drive past it as it pops up in front of us.
We pull in at the council maintained site at Bluewater Creek.It's without any amenities aside from a couple of cleanish toilets, but aside from it costing zero dollars, what sells it is that it's got about twenty other vans and tents parked up.We've seen loads of free sites during our driving through WA and the NT, but they were mostly in the middle of nowhere and empty, so we hadn't been keen on stopping in our frail little tent, wary of being the subjects of the next big horror flick.However, suitably reassured, and armed with the Grey Nomad seal of approval, we settle in for one of our best night's sleep yet, since due to the lack of facilities, the site only attracts the hardened campers and as such is silent from 8pm until 6am... until you've slept in a tent for two months, you don't know how blissful this is.
A little grubby, we pack up and drive on towards Mackay, planning to drop in on a distant relative of mine named Tracy - she's my dad's sister's son's wife's sister - just to say hi from the UK if nothing else.We realise just in time that Tracy lives a bit north of Mackay in Seaforth, and drive along about 10kms of bumpy gravel road to reach a small, pretty village right by the sea.We ask at the post office-cum-bakery-cum-newsagents where we might find Tracy's road, and driving slowly to avoid the ducks and cockatoos waddling across the street, we pull up at her holiday units.After we explain who we are and have a chat, Tracy lets us use her phone to book into a campsite at Cape Hillsborough, and we head off to pitch up for the night.
Cape Hillsborough is a another campsite right next to the beach, and although the pool is child soup again, we are pleased to be camping in such a lovely area - we'd have sailed right past it if we'd have just relied on the book, and we do wonder a bit how many other beautiful places we've missed through not exploring for ourselves more...
After a near miss with a bandicoot and a couple of drinks back in Seaforth that evening, we are up at 6.30am in order to see the main attraction on the beach - there is a mob of kangaroos and wallabies who live in and around the campsite, and they come out onto the beach each morning to eat the seed pods that are washed up.There are about ten roos and wallabies there when we arrive, as someone from the site is feeding them extra seeds out of a box... we consider this cheating, but they hang around after he leaves, so we do get to see what they would naturally be doing too.After being terrorised by some toddlers, the wallabies make a sharp exit, but the roos hang around to eat the last of the seeds and pose for photos.They're not tame enough to stroke, but obviously used to people being around - we see the bigger roos lounging around the campsite laundry room later in the day.
Our destination today is the Eungella National Park, and we plan to spend the day visiting the various sites.First stop is Broken River, where we sit in silence for an hour or so looking for platypus again.It's the wrong time of day to spot them, but we reckon we see one from a distance... we also see loads of turtles swimming and sunbathing, and a shy kingfisher.We then head to Finch Hatton Gorge, a lovely drive with loads of shallow creek crossings to keep driver Dave happy.We decide not to do the full walk, but are happy with spotting a few kookaburras, loads of pesky brush turkeys, some lizards and a peacock.
On the way back we also manage to run over a long, dark snake by accident... we're quite upset about it until we tell Tracy about it later on - her friends congratulate us, as they're a real pest in the area.Consciences partly soothed, we start to think about what to have for dinner... Tracy recommends the fish and chips from the shop next door (which is a petrol station-cum-fishing supplies-cum-cake shop), and she's not wrong - we emerge from the shop with a parcel, one portion but enough for three, all for $7.50 - and we find out half an hour later when we actually come to eat them at one of the mangrove lookouts near our campsite that they are delicious too.
We plan to move south again tomorrow, and get our heads down earlyish - only to be woken up an hour or so later by rustling right outside our tent.Pesky kids!Except that when we peep out of the tent to see what the noise is, it turns out to be two shy wallabies munching on the grass next to and behind our tent.They soon hop away, although they return a couple more times in the night.The actual pesky kids don't get into action until the standard under-tens chorus wakes us just after 6am, and we decide to give up trying to sleep and get back on the road...