The Top End!

Published: May 20th 2009
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Magnetic IslandMagnetic IslandMagnetic Island

One of the secluded beaches that we walked to.

Day 94 - Townsville - Mission Beach (Magnetic Island)

We caught an early ferry over to Magnetic Island from Townsville, a really pretty island just off the coast. When we arrived at the ferry terminal we hopped on a bus to one end of the island and from here we walked to some more secluded bay one of which was called Florence Bay and it was beautiful even with the dark clouds looming above. We had a little sit on a rock before heading back to catch the bus back and we were lucky to get to the shelter in time before it started tipping it down (it only rains on average on 45 days a year and we managed to be there on one of those days!). We decided to get the ferry back a bit early as it did not look like it was going anywhere and we wanted to make our way to Mission Beach before dark.
It was quite a long drive to Mission Beach and the rain was actually getting worse! We arrived early evening and found a campsite and some dinner at one of the cafes in the little village before retreating to our damp camper van for the night.

Day 95 - Mission Beach - Cairns

It was still raining when we woke up so we delayed getting up and decided that it would be best to have a quick look at the beach and head straight to Cairns as there was little point staying in Mission beach as it definitely requires the sun! It is a really gorgeous tropical beach with palm trees lining the whole length of the beach and it has been well protected from development.
After a little walk on the beach we hit the road to Cairns in the hope that maybe there were brighter skies but we were not in luck. We spent the afternoon in the indoor shopping center mainly and we managed to get our bearings in the city. It is not a very nice city, bit of an urban sprawl really and very industrialized. I guess it looks worse in the rain though!
The love for our camper van was dwindling at a very fast rate, especially with the torrential rain we had experienced over the last few days and we were very pleased that it was the last night in the
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The sunday market in the rain.
van. I think we can safely say we had our worst evening of our travels as we basically had the whole evening (from 5.00pm) sitting in a very damp, smelly van with the rain continuing to fall outside.

Day 96 - Cairns

We awoke to the pitter-patter of rain on the van and had to start packing everything away into our bags. Once we had done this we drove across town to pick up a rental car, moved everything into the car and then Sarah drove Henrietta across town to whilst I followed in the new car. Unfortunately the TomTom took Sarah down a road which was too low for the camper-van to fit so had a little panic and had to drive the wrong way down a one-way street but came out unscathed. We then had to clean Henrietta inside and out before returning her which went without hitch. In the end we had driven over 6000km in 36 days and I think we were pretty lucky not to have any breakdowns, flat-tyres etc but it wasn't an emotional goodbye.
We then headed to our new home for the next week - a very nice apartment courtesy
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A wet walk around one of the Crater Lakes.
of Sarah's parents (thanks!) but it wasn't going to be ready until later in the afternoon so we spent a bit of time wandering round the town center and having a little explore.
When we finally moved in it was so nice and pretty much the polar opposite of staying in the van (i.e it is massive and clean) and so we spent the evening watching "footy" (Aussie rules, rugby league and rugby union) and cooked a nice dinner.

Day 97 - Cairns

It was another rainy day but we had a nice relaxed wake-up (so good to be in a bed rather than a car!) before heading up north to Port Douglas. The windy road up past all the northern beaches of Cairns is so pretty but again the rain ruined the views so I hope that we get some better weather later in the week to get some good pictures!
When we arrived in Port Douglas we had a wander around the Sunday Market Stalls that had braved the horrible weather. It is a really good little market, we both brought a bracelet as a souvenir. We then took a little walk around the town, wishing
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One of the waterfalls on the waterfall trail.
we could afford to eat at the really good looking restaurants like everyone else seemed to be doing! The town is probably my favorite town we have been to in Australia with really nice shops and places to eat. It is also one of the few places that MacDonalds has not invaded.
On our way back to Cairns we stopped off at Palm Beach, one of Cairns northern beaches, as we had organized to meet one of Dad's old school friends who had moved to Cairns about 25 years ago. We had a coffee looking out to the gorgeous beach and listened to scary stories about Australian wildlife!
Once we were home we made the most of the facilities at the resort before having dinner. We stayed up to watch the Manchester derby game in the hope that Man U such luck.

Day 98 - Cairns

We awoke to another very dark sky so decided to go on a bit of a road trip to The Atherton Tablelands (lush rolling hills, lakes and waterfalls just over the mountains that are covered in dense rainforest to the west of Cairns). We stopped off at the two Crater Lakes

Barren Gorge.
and had a nice walk around the smaller of the two volcanic lakes. Like everything, they would have looked much nicer in the sun but they were still very pretty. We then continued on into the Tablelands and drove the Waterfalls Circuit which takes you to three beautiful waterfalls where you can get out and walk to lookouts and to the base of the falls. From here we continued back on the loop we had taken back to Cairns. We had a really nice day despite the weather and it was really surreal driving into this area (that looks like parts of England) after driving through the rainforest from Cairns, and that not far away further to the west is the outback dessert.
We both hit the gym again before Anna and Phil arrived later that evening. We had a chilled out evening talking with football in the background!

Day 99 - Cairns

We had an early start as we had to travel to Freshwater train station to catch the scenic railway up to Kuranda, a little town in the middle of the rainforest. It was a really nice ride up through the mountains, past waterfalls and rainforest.

The scenic railway.
The train also stopped at Barren Gorge so we got a good view of the huge gorge and waterfall. We also befriended some Americans and Australians on the trip up so talking to them and comparing the three countries made the long trip pass by really quickly.
Once we arrived in Kuranda, Rob insisted on heading straight to the Butterfly Sanctuary as he has a secret obsession with moths and butterflies which I have since found out on this trip! Once we seen all there was to see (not much!) we wandered around the pretty little town. It was very touristy but this did not keep to take the charm away from the place.
It was then time to catch the gondola back down to Cairns. It took about 45 minutes and gave you an amazing view of the rainforest as you traveled over the dense canopy. There was also a few places on the way that you could hop off and take a walk over rainforest boardwalks which made the trip more enjoyable. Rob seemed to enjoy rocking the gondola over the most scary patches of the journey which I did not appreciate!
Anna and Phil arrived back at

Trinity beach - finally some sun!
almost the same time after spending the day in The Atherton Tablelands so we all went for a sauna and jacuzzi before making the most of the ludicrously cheap and tasty Eagle Boys Pizza "Cheap Tuesday Deal".

Day 100 - Cairns

There was finally some sun creeping through when we woke up this morning so we decided to make the most of it and head straight to Trinity beach, another of Cairns northern tropical beaches. We were lucky and managed to get in a couple of hours sunbathing before the clouds came in after midday.
In the afternoon we had a wander around Cairns, looking in a few shops and wandering around the lagoon/esplanade area, before heading back to the apartment for the gym, sauna and jacuzzi.
We had a good old Aussie BBQ in the evening, although our burgers were not very adventurous!

Day 101 - Cairns

We had made an appointment to see Bruce Belcher (it's his real name), about finding some Crocodiles on the Daintree River, for 9.30am. This meant a early start to get up there in time for the start of the river cruise.
Once we got on the boat Bruce
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The 3m female croc.
proceeded to tell us several times about his 22 years on the river and about a few of the things we could hope to see. It wasn't long until we had seen a Water Dragon and a huge Rat. We soon got our first glimpse of a Crocodile which was a small (1.5 metre) juvenile hiding in some reeds and then saw a hatchling which was only 1 foot long; it would probably make a nice pet (!?). Last of all we saw a 3 metre female on the river bank and got some good shots.
On our way back Bruce answered our questions and came out with his best quote of the day that he’d, “been on this boat more time than he spent in bed with his wife”. We also saw a green tree snake sitting on one of the branches overhanging the river. Once we got back on land I felt the need to buy a “Crocodiles - No Swimming” warning sign but Phil went one step further and bought a model Crocodile which he named Bruce.
We left the Daintree and had to take the rickety old car ferry over the river to carry on up
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All of us on a boulder in Mossman Gorge.
to Cape Tribulation. On the way North we stopped at a viewpoints and boardwalks. One of them had a colony of fruit bats living in the forest which made the place absolutely stink but lead out on to Myall Beach. We stopped and had lunch on the beach and it really is a pristine tropical paradise; except you have to watch out for crocs and killer jellyfish!
After lunch we got up to the viewpoint looking over Cape Tribulation which is as far north as you can get in a normal car on the East Coast. We then headed back down south to our apartment, stopping at the picturesque Mossman Gorge on the long way home.
In the evening we decided to go out on the town and hit the backpackers mecca of Gilligan’s first and then went on to the Woolshed. It was good fun and Sarah even had her first Kebab!

Day 102 - Cairns

We awoke feeling a little rough around the edges and had to head into town to take the car back and send a few things home. Once we got back we had to do all our washing and then spent

The infamous Woolshed.
the afternoon in the gym, sauna and jacuzzi. We had a nice relaxing evening to prepare for a very early start.

Day 103 - Cairns

At 3am we got up and left the flat. Phil very kindly gave us a lift to the airport and we waited in an uninspiring Cairns airport. We had a 3 hour flight to Sydney where we waited for 5 hours. They are re-doing the airport at the moment so there isn't much there so it wasn't very exciting. We then got on our 13.5 hour flight to San Francisco; it was a long flight and I didn't sleep very well and watched 3 films and played with the music as usual. The most bizarre thing was that we had a journey time of 21.5 hours but only 4 hours had passed as we landed in San Fran at 10am on the same day as leaving Cairns!

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


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Magnetic Island

A secluded beach on Magnetic Island.

Our luxury apartment :)

The scenic railway.

View from one of the stop-off points on the gondola down.
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Daintree River

Our river cruise - all eyes looking for crocs.
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Daintree River

One of the many warning signs.
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Cape Tribulation

Lookout on the way up to Cape Tribulation.
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Cape Tribulation

Boardwalk through the Cape Tribulation rainforest.
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Cape Tribulation

Lunch on Myall Beach.
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Cape Tribulation

The trip back home!

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