Published: February 22nd 2007February 17th 2007
LIne up fellas, hes got his camera out!!!
the right place and the right time to see this fantastic sight is Cape Hillsborough beach at 6.25am (on the dot)
Another day, another town, with only 5 weeks to travel from Cairns to Sydney in Martha (our campervan) our East Coast tour is somewhat whistle stop. One main road connects the two cities and with most towns and cities worth seeing just off this road, it makes map reading a doddle even for someone with my horrendous sense of direction. On day 10 we reached Mackay and after a few false starts found a decent van site. We began the roadtrip with romantic delusions of pulling up to deserted roadsides with private beaches and spending the night alone, the reality is that the van needs power to get the ceiling van Matt has installed to work, the fridge dies without power for extended periods and those romatic spots are not only dark but toilet and shower free.
Mackay is nice enough but it has that small American town vibe that we are picking up all along the coast; where in Mackay's case cosmopolitan means a few decent restaurants along the marina, an artspace showing pretty rubbish modern art and a few coffee shops. Our second night in Mackay was Valentines Day and so we headed to a Thai
Cape Hillsborough Beach
if you take the nature trail to the viewpoint, watch out for spiders as big as your head!!
restaurant for lunch, a novelty now, since arriving in Australia we have only eaten out a handful of times. The food was great and reminded us of things we started to take for granted in Thailand. That evening Matt used the 'camp kitchen' (always said with an "Oooh ladyboys" accent) to make us BBQ tuna fish and salad. We got chatting to an English guy who had married an Australian woman and ended up still talking (oddly enough about what 3 songs you would want played at your funeral and then a kind of argument/debate over home schooling) at 12pm when the lights all went out....probably not a great Valentines Day for his wife who had gone to bed with the kids a few hours before.
The following day we felt pretty rough, we had consumed a fair amount of Australian wine (2 litre boxes of good stuff for 3.50 gbp), but I think the main problem was the late night, since Martha we are usually asleep before 10pm, sometimes earlier and we always get a good 10 hours kip, this isn't unusual on site and we see people getting ready for bed at 6pm!
surely reason enough to rise with the sun! Cape Hillsborough
We headed north slightly as Matt read about Cape Hillsborough, a national park area we had missed on the way down (blame the map reader). Cape Hillsborough is pretty quiet, the main attraction being the wildlife. We only spent 24 hours there but saw Kookaburras, lizards and the biggest spider we have ever seen - we recognised it as a Golden Orb Weaver from our night walk in Cape Tribulation but this one was huge, looked like it was wearing armour and had yellow balls at every joint, when Matt saw it he actually shrieked like a girl. The place we stayed had rescued 'Joeys' from kangaroos that had been knocked down and killed by cars and advised us that at 6.25am the now 1 and a half year old Eastern Grey Kangaroos would be on the beach where they forage for seed pods brought in by the tide. We got there slightly earlier and saw some wild Wallabys before the Kangaroos appeared. With the sun rising behind the hilly island opposite the beach the kangaroos made a surreal yet spectacular site, in fact Matt went on to describe it as one of his trip highlights.
With the early
Where to next love ?
MandC head off into the horizon
start under our belts we drove the 7 or so hours to our next stop, Agnes Water and the Town of 1770. For some reason there seems to be a real draw amongst travellers with this area but we didn't really see why, it has a great looking beach but then so has much of the East Coast. If you are not diving or heading off to the Great Barrier Reef then there really isn't much to do there. We ended up staying one night before heading to our next stop Bundaberg.
1770 to Bundaberg is about a one and a half hour drive, most of it spend straddling the embankment as huge wide loads came past on the single carriageway. As we neared our destination a sign saying 'Mystery Craters 400m' caught Matt's eye and he urged me to pull over. After paying our $6 a tall thin man asked us one question "where are you from?" before launching into a well rehearsed spiel "I have a mystery for you to unravel, some precious gems and stones, a coin collection and a building full of ancient machinery, much of it from the UK, it will be like a
Not something you see everyday!
the awe inspiring Cape Hillsborough beach and three Eastern Grey Kangaroos
trip down memory lane". Surpressing the need to laugh I looked at Matt who was positively brimming with excitement. Basically a farm had began excavating their land, hit upon rock and after removing the sand and soil was left with 30-something craters and no-one knows why, we had a good look round and read through the various press clippings from the 70's though even Matt's A-Level Geology failed to help us uncover the truth.
We actually ended up spending 3 nights just outside Bundaberg in a place called Bargara, the most nights in one place since getting Martha. One of the main draws here is the beach of Mon Repos though the activity is purely nocturnal. This is the location of the World's most important turtle nesting site, between November ad February huge female turtles will drag themselves onto the beach from the sea to lay hundreds of eggs and bury them beneath the sand. Some 8 weeks later hatchlings emerge and make their way to the sea where they only have a 1 in 1000 chance of surviving to adulthood. Turtles will always return to the beach they emerged on to lay their own eggs and
Gospel Choir Skies
Cape Hillsborough beach at sunrise, which is fast becoming my favourite time of day
the conservation group at Mon Repos enable the public to witness either the laying or the hatching in a controlled manner.
I had seen a fleeting glimpse of a huge turtle at the Great Barrier Reef (though Matt failed to mention this in the last blog - turtle envy???) and was really excited at the thought of seeing another. We arrived early and despite being one of the first there turtle politics meant we were plonked in the second group, so when at 7.30pm group 1 were called to see a 'nesting turtle' and by 9.15pm we still had seen no action our patience was beginning to wear thin as there were no guarantees we would see anything at all. The evening could run until 1am when the centre closed but at 9.30pm we were hurried onto the pitch black beach where a hatchling was happening.
To get to the stage we saw the tiny Loggerhead turtles at they would have spent 4-5 days breaking out of their ping pong ball sized eggs before crawling over one another to the surface of the sand. As the first hatchlings emerged their tiny flippers were already beating as though they
This little fellas odds against surviving the next 48 hours aint good. If he makes it he could live to be 500 years old. All pretty humbling really
were swimming. After 90 hatchlings appeared the rangers asked us to put our hands out so that they could place a turtle on, giving us the chance to see just how strong they already were. Next our group of 60 or so formed two lines towards the sea, illuminated by torchlight the turtles made their way passed us to their new home, whilst two extra turtles discovered in the nest were helped along their way.
The whole experience was amazing and humbling in that we learnt that the turtle has been around since the dinosaur and is now considered endangered; the chances of one of the hatchlings we saw making it through to repeat the laying eggs process is extremely slim, but if any can survive they will outlive the next few generations of humans.
Our final day was spent with a tour of the Bundaberg rum distillary, followed by a tasting session before heading back to camp and another BBQ where we got chatting to two friendly Aussies guys until midnight, suffice to say we woke with bad heads the next day due to the beer/wine/rum combo, great for the journey to our next destination Hervey Bay.
Its as big as my head (seriously)
a fully grown Golden Orb Weaver at Cape Hillsborough. The grey arse bit is as big as my thumb...and it bites!!
There are more photos below