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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: -16.923, 145.766
24th March - 11 April 2015
We returned to the coast from the Outback for a little light relief after the harsh conditions and extreme heat. Then we pottered around Airlie Beach, where we went out snorkelling, visited Ingham to visit the Tyto wetland reserve and then moved on to Kurrimine Beach.
We did a night rough camping, the first one since leaving the coast some weeks ago and found that we had a problem. The fridge failed during the night as the auxiliary battery was drained. We charged it again and it lasted only a couple of hours during the day. That meant we could not maintain the fridge temperature unless we were plugged into the mains. As we were only about 100 kilometres from Cairns we decided to head into the Travellers Autobarn Base. It was Saturday morning so we did not know if it would be possible to have the problem resolved quickly.
We needn't have worried, Stefan sent us round to the Battery workshop with an order and a bottle of wine for the inconvenience. In half an hour we were back on the road with a superdooper new battery which enables us to rough camp 2 nights
running now! It has certainly saved us some money. It had not been important in the Outback as it was so hot we had to stay on sites so we could keep the fan running.
After Cairns we went wildlife spotting up on Atherton Tableland. In some ways this area is most like the UK, in fact it resembles Sussex with rolling farm land and lots of trees. It is just that the trees are different and although the area is surrounded by what look like gentle hills all around, they are high because the Tableland is already at a height of 700 - 900 metres. The volcanic soil is very fertile and a vast range of fruits and vegetables are grown here. The area is criss crossed with small towns, not a great distance from each other which again is less like Australia and more like the remoter rural areas of the UK.
Much of our activity was similar to when we visited previously so I didn't think a long blog was needed, just a short summary of what has been different. The main thing was that we managed to find a family of Tree Kangaroos and this time they were
slightly more obliging. If you remember the only one we saw last time was at the top of a very high tree, with it's back to us and it was pouring with rain the whole day. This time they were not as high and although we had problems taking photographs into the sun we did manage some reasonable ones. The Tree Kangaroos have only recently (in evolutionary terms) taken to the trees. From what we have been told they started in the trees like all kangaroos, then over time they all came to the ground but eventually the climate dried out dramatically and some decided to go up trees and eat leaves. There they have stayed but it seems that as they are relatively new to the treetops that they have not yet fully adapted and often fall out. Luckily they seem able to bounce well unless it is a very tall tree. They have been observed falling 30 metres and walking away unscathed!
In search of the platypus we returned to Peterson Creek (getting up and 6am and going before breakfast, almost unheard of for Jim) and we did see some including a young one who repeatedly swam on top
for a few seconds then joyfully dived splashily below the surface before returning to the surface a minute or so later. He was clearly having fun and Jim mnaged to take a short video. Generally when they are in the water the platypus is difficult to photograph as the light reflects on their wet coats and the ripples they make around them, confusing the camera focus.
Two years ago there was much disruption in Malanda where there is a pocket of Rainforest as a new visitor centre was being built and the work scared away much wildlife. It is great to report that the wildlife seems to have returned gradually and the centre is really superb, using new technology and colourful displays including videos, recordings, electronic microscopes etc to showcase the biology and geology of the area as well as presenting personal information provided by the original owners. Even better, the volunteer staff are excellent, well informed and enthusiastic. We visited regularly, partly just to chat to them as they have so much local knowledge. Their workload must have dropped by 30% when we moved on!
We took the opportunity to have a guided tour with Drew (Aboriginal name Ngargalum) and saw
so much more than on our own including the Boyd's Forest Dragon and the Victoria Riflebird. In the centre there is an absorbing piece of video which shows a male Riflebird teaching a young one how to carry out the complex and spectacular mating display where the bird uses it's wings to form a circular arch above it's head as it rotates around to attract the ladies.
Drew also talked about his family. His Grandfather lived in the forest in Malanda in the early 60s with his tribe, approximately 600 people and loosely connected to about 8 or 9 similar groups in the area. They all met up regularly for corroborees. Then loggers moved into the area and that was their first contact with whites.The Group were afraid of being massacred as they heard that had happened in the 50s when there were Aboriginal Groups on desirable logging lands but thankfully that did not happen in this case.They still have a strong connection to the land but I have to say as in the rest of Australia, Aboriginals are present more in the signs and literature than visibleon the ground. In fact you could say they are largely invisible in the
whole country. I won't say any more.
About a week ago Jim had an accident, he fell off or onto his seat and hurt his back (?). At first it was not a problem but in the last couple of days it has become increasingly painful so we are resting at a very nice site with ensuite bathroom in Cairns. He went to the doctor (saw one within 15 minutes of requesting a consultation) and has been given strong painkillers which, so the doctor says, will help manage the pain until the damage repairs itself in a few days. Let's hope so!
We have 3 weeks before returning to New Zealand so we hope to go to the Daintree Forest if Jim is fit to travel. In the pictures on the blog I have included some views that are so common here that they really sum up the landscape for me. Similar views can be found repeated over hundreds of miles so I hoped they might convey the character of the countryside.
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