Cairns and Thursday Island

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June 24th 2015
Published: June 24th 2015
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Meeting up with old friends is always good
Leaving Longreach we are heading for the east coast a journey of 700+ km and not to be attempted in one go,we plan an easy drive with two overnight stops finally arriving at Townsville before heading north to Mission Beach. I have mentioned in an earlier blog that Townsville is a very comfortable city with lots going on for both the locals and visitors alike. While we are here we meet up with a previous work colleague and friend who recently moved to the city we chat about our past times together and our future plans,it's good to keep in touch with friends. Staying only a few days we head off to Mission Beach a coastal town we had visited before and a good place to stay awhile. This small town has several caravan parks as well as hotel and unit accommodation catering for all budgets.It's laid back atmosphere makes it a great place to relax and unwind if that is to your liking, however there are many more adventurous activities available within easy traveling distance,including white water rafting and skydiving.We decide on the first option and settle in for some serious relaxation.Although swimming in the sea is not an option except between the stinger nets the beach offers the opportunity for leisurely walks to stretch your legs and sweep the cobwebs away.There are also walks within the national parks that are nearby offering a different scenery and sensory experience.

Leaving Mission Beach we head for Cairns from where we will fly to Horn Island and catch a ferry to Thursday Island buts that's not for a couple of weeks yet and we have some time to spend in Cairns.Having been to Cairns before several times we have experienced most of the local attractions but there are still some to be explored. Kurunda is a village perched high up in the hinterland and can be reached by a scenic railway and cable car or by the more conventional way by car. Having experienced the first two options previously we elected to drive up the very twisting road and stop and take in the views from the many vantage points. The village itself relies heavily on tourists and the village abounds with gift and craft shops some nestled down quaint corridors leading to small alcoves which open out to reveal more shops and stalls, a village with a great atmosphere and is a pleasure to explore.We made our journey in good weather and were glad of that for the next few days the weather changed to cloud and rain making for poor visibility and no views would be had from the journey to the top.The rain stopped in time for us to celebrate our anniversary and my birthday in an outdoor activity,Quad Biking.This is something we had not done before and was available from Cairns.The property where the rides was to take place was in Karunda and we were picked up from our caravan park and delivered to the start of our adventure.After a careful safety briefing we set off led by our experienced guide for a two hour tour through rain forests along single lane tracks that cris crossed the 40 acre property with steep hills and long descents to negotiate ,through mud and water crossings with very little flat driving, what and adventure and with only four of us on the tour we were given very personnel service by our guide.The Barron River is only a short drive from our campsite and is very accessible by road and although there was not much water flowing in the falls it
was still worth the drive to view this vista.

Cairns is a very cosmopolitan city and has an abundance of quality restaurants making the choice of which one to eat at for our anniversary celebration difficult.We settled on a very good Italian restaurant on the esplanade, we were to meet friends there for lunch later in the week and this was their choice.The menu was extensive with a wide choice of local sea food with an Italian theme.I chose the signature dish of fresh local sea food with pasta and I was not disappointed what a dish! A combination of crab

,squid,mussels,crayfish,clams,coral trout etc it was magnificent.Our lunch meal with friends later in the week was equally as good especially since we had not seen our friends for some time it was good to catch up.

The time arrived for us to put our caravan into storage and board a plane to Horn Island on the first leg of our trip to Thursday Island, the next leg was by a short bus and ferry ride.Our hosts on the island have lived there for 12 months with their three children who by all accounts have adopted to the
island way of living very well.The flight time is only about one and a half hours with a short journey across the water to the island.We were met at the tiny airport by Karen who then explained the next part of the journey.Arriving on Thursday Island we were then greeted by Connor and the children who made us feel very welcome.Thursday Island known as TI by the locals is one of 38 inhabited island out of 133 islands that make up the Torres Strait Islands and is the administration centre for all these islands.TI is only 3 square kilometres in size and is situated just 39 kilometres north of the Queensland coast.The island has long been of strategic value to Australia having a fort built in 1893 with heavy artillery guns in place to repel any Russian invasion,the relics still remain on what is known as green hill fort which now opens its doors for visitors as a museum. The island played a part in WW11 with both Australian and American forces based there.Today a small contingent of defence force personnel together with other Australian agencies are based here.

Ti has a population of around 3,000 people with a
large number of temporary residents for educational,medical,administration and support services.Although this group of people are transient they provide a much appreciated service to the island.With a long history dating back before Captain Cook landed here and claimed the islands on behalf of the British Crown the islanders still continue many of their age old traditions.Fishing is a major pastime here and the mode of transport between the islands is by barge,ferry or privately owned boat,mainly tinnies. A drive around TI soon reveals it's history with many churches of different denominations dotted around and the historic cemetery where sections are divided to accommodate different faiths and elaborate headstones stand proud.The cemetery is also the last resting place for over 700 Japanese pearl divers who died plying their trade in these dangerous waters that surround the islands.

So significant is the island it is visited by cruise liners and other travel organisations as part of their itinerary with tourist given guided tours of the island.We arrived as quests of our friends and are made to feel very welcome as we settle in to our new home for a week.Karen has organised a tour back on the mainland which will take us
to the tip of Australia and that goes tomorrow.Also on this tour is Karen's next door neighbour Sally and her guest Emma, we set off very early the next day first by catching a ferry that will take us over an hour the reach the mainland settlement of Seisa from where we will embark on a four wheel adventure to the very tip of Australia.We are met at the ferry terminal by our tour guide for the day and transferred to a camp ground where breakfast is waiting for us.Following breakfast we head off on our tour accompanied by two other couples who are staying at the camp ground.Winding along corrugated dirt roads the isolation of this part of Australia soon becomes apparent.With a commentary from our tour guide our journey takes on an historic flavor as we learn of the history of the region.The road finally ends in a car park of sorts next to Frangapany beach a beautiful beach with sweeping sands and views across the sea.To reach our destination of the tip we must first walk up an embankment giving us views of the beach and beautiful coloured waters below, what magnificent views.Several other groups of sightseers are also making this journey some electing to walk along the beach for part of the way,little do they know what views they are missing.Reaching the Tip of Australia and standing where many have stood before was as exciting as when we first set off on our journey around Australia.Taking turns to have our photographs taken alongside the sign proclaiming that this is the very tip of Australia brought to our attention that this place was indeed a very special place with so many others taking the time to make the trip here.We lingered awhile taking in the atmosphere and ambiance before heading back to our vehicle to continue our days tour.Next stop Somerset beach for lunch.Of historical importance this place was once the administration centre for the Torries Strait islands before the service was move to TI in 1877.Long gone are the dwellings and associated buildings what remains now are reminders of those days with graves of those who lived and died here and a few markers indicating what went on here.Our tour guide continued with his commentary and informing us of the history and significance of this part of the world while he drove us back to the ferry terminal for our return journey to TI, we stopped for a short while to gaze at the wreck of a WW2 bomber which crashed here during the war.We stopped also at Crock Tent a souvenir and craft shop in the middle of amazing place.

Returning to TI after a long day in which we were blessed with good weather and calm waters, we chatted about the highlights of the day and events yet to come.Green Hill Fort opens it's doors to the public every morning during the tourist season.The what was once the powder and munitions stores have been turned into a museum featuring the islands past military and maritime history.Inside the labyrinth of corridors and rooms lies a well laid out museum with many artifacts clearly displayed and identified for the visitor to understand, of particular note for me was an original full diving suit used by the pearl divers long ago along with all the trappings of that age.Standing on top of the hill gives a panoramic view of the surrounding waters and islands,easy to see why the fort was built here.The hill is also a favorite picnic place for locals particularly in the evening as
the sun sets over the islands.We had such a picnic with our hosts and their friends.Our time on TI was spent touring the island and taking in the sights,crock spotting and we did see one on our first day as well as relaxing with our friends.Karen,Connor and the children have settled well into the lifestyle on the island and have made many good friends some of whom we met.Picking the children up from school and eating ice cream from the only place where you could buy them from was a pleasant interlude in our days on the island. Connor has a boat and offered to take us on a fishing trip to well known fishing spots, this was not to be our day for catching fish,we did however have a great fishing story to tell about the one that got away and broke the fishing rod and line. A few days into our visit here we bumped into a friend who we had not seen for 2 years since leaving work what a small world! We also had drinks with a neighbour of ours form our home town here visiting her sister who works on the island. Our last day
has arrived the same day as Karen is to attempt a 21km run for the first time.The plan is for Karen and Connor to run in a charity run on Horn island and we would bring the children over later,the run starts at 6am. They didn't make the ferry in time but decided to do the run anyway around TI. Karen made it with the support of Connor and a grand finishing line made by the children.Once recovered from the run we all made the ferry journey to Horn Island to join those who had done the run over there and have breakfast at the one and only pub.Spending our last day with our friends on Horn Island was a delight, meeting their friends some of whom we new already from earlier in the week and listening to the stories about the run,there are some fit people out there.Aw well it's time to board our bus and head to the airport and our flight back to Cairns, farewells are said as we leave our friends and family to enjoy their time on TI, ahead of us is a flight back to Cairns a return to our caravan and our journey.

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Our transport awaits

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