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Published: November 29th 2010
Northwards to Cairns
Heading up the Bruce highway the weather became very wet. At times the rain was lashing down. We left Cyril and Kasia and did a detour through some beautifully green countryside, long straight roads with little traffic. Farms set in valleys, cows, cultivated fields, small towns and villages. We carried on and on, stopping for lunch and filling up with fuel. Eventually we realised that reaching Townsville was out of the question and it was getting late, the rain was torrential and we were tired, so we decided wherever the next place to stay was, we were stopping.
It was a caravan/camping site at clevedon, a tiny strip of development along the side of an inlet and a massive area of water. This was a fishing resort of sorts, and the people were very friendly, we sat at the bar and we had a roast dinner which the owners’ wife had cooked. At the bar we chatted and it turned out they had worked at the gold coast laying bricks when Alan was working there, all those years ago, and they even knew the guy he used to work for!
The caravan/shed we stayed in was
at least waterproof. In the night great noises hit the roof, and strange squeakings etc, must admit it unnerved me a bit. I was glad to carry on in the morning. We drove up to Townsville, arriving in the late afternoon. Stayed in a lovely apartment with very friendly people manning the reception. All the apartments have full laundry facilities in the bathrooms, so it makes it so much easier.
Townsville has a museum so in the early morning we walked all round the marina, town and then to the surprisingly large museum. A very helpful lady in the tourist information planned a route into the hinterland for us.
Charters Towers was a gold rush town, still looks a bit like a theme park, with buildings straight out of the wildwest. We went to the miner’s museum and had a look at the conditions they lived in, and had lunch.
Then on across country and over a track that went on for 50 miles, at times we had to turn the 4wheel drive on. It was completely empty; never saw another soul but we did see occasional signs in the middle of nowhere, private keep out, poison bait laid.
What is that all about?
The crickets made so much noise, every so often it was as if somebody had turned them up to full volume and you had to shout over them.
We had to forge a few little creeks but nothing that could stop the beast.
We arrived at hidden valley eco resort in the middle of the bush about 4.30 and the owner showed us the little log cabin. The only way to make a cup of tea is to use the little stove /bib outside the front door. There is a full bathroom ensuite, which was good. The place consists of about 10 cabins, a restaurant area and a bbq there is a little pool as well. There was a camera crew filming a programme for channel 7 so everywhere we went we were accompanied by the camera man, who was actually quite a nice guy. We went to look for platypus and the presenters were quietly talking into the camera. AT last we saw them, tiny rat like creatures on the surface of the water, splashing quickly and cruising around before disappearing into the murk.
The bugs were beginning to bite.
Even at dinner the camera man was shining big lights on people filming them having fun! The program will go out next year in Queensland.
Next morning we left to go on towards mission beach, we went up to the falls at wallaman, the drive up there was interesting, a long plain with pine trees straight out of lord of the rings, on the twisting road up the mountain a huge cassowary bird stepped out and we stopped as it stood by the car with its’ baby following.
The falls were initially covered in cloud but as it cleared we were astonished to see them. They were very spectacular indeed.
Carrying on we went to airlie beach to have a look, and again the place has changed beyond recognition, when we went there 31 years ago it was a small villagey place with a few resorts, now it is wall to wall villas and apartments. Shute harbour had not cha nged, The town was full of schoolies, the 17/18 yr olds who had just finished school and had come for a week of drinking, dancing and ‘raging’. They were like locusts in every café, bar and street,. A big
marquee was their base on the beach. There is an artificial swimming lagoon on the esplanade, the sea water starts to get a bit unfriendly this far north, stingers, sharks , then further up crocodiles.
We decided to carry on a bit further, cruising back to the main highway, and taking a ny side roads we liked the look of.
The lady in the tourist information had suggested Mission beach, when we got there it seemed like a long strung out place alongside a fairly unattractive beach, the little town in the middle was just a strip of commercial properties with little merit. We did decide that if there was somewhere that looked really good, we would cook at home and just chill out but after a quite useless talk with the tourist information we went to a letting agent , she told us , when she could be bothered to get off the phone, that all her property would be too expensive for us! So we decided to leave mission beach behind.
We arrived in Cairns about 5pm and our sat nav with the posh voice, Daniel, took us straight to the tourist information. He
has been pretty useless off road, most of the time placing us in the ether, but is ok in towns and cities. We were sent to the palazzo hotel, a great apart hotel with a really good location. (and a pool) So we like it here and have stayed for 6 days. The management are really friendly and pleasant, the apartments very well fitted out and comfortable. Again huge bathroom with washing machine/tumble dryer.
First we drove to Port Douglas, a small attractive seaside resort, a big marina with restaurants etc, and a little town centre,. We had breakfast in the bakery, which as always involved great big cream donuts.
We drove up towards Cape Trib as they call it here, and first went on the daintree river crossing, Another huge river, brown and flooded, the ferry was a cable ferry across the river. Into the Daintree national park. The rainforest just got deeper and more varied. Still raining, the water was dripping off the long green glossy leaves. We came to a lot of traffic in the road, Alan got out to find out what was going on, then we were passing them all
and crossing a deep rushing river, where a car had been swept away earlier, it was still lying on its side in the water, but our beast had no problem, and the snorkel thing proved its’ worth, quite a current though. We carried on up to Bloomfield trail for about another 30 miles until we came to the next river, which looked even deeper, a car came along like ours and they went through, it is the main route to cook town, this gravel track. But we had decided to go back and so had our picnic and then had a walk in the forest, then back to Daintree.
The river had gone down, and was passable for 4 wheels by now.
We went on a croc tour on the river, waiting for the tour the lady taking the money had a kind of baby bat rescue colony, she had all the baby fruit bats hanging on a little clothes airer, they were very sweet but do bite. She was feeding them from a bottle. Very friendly people. The croc tour was a laugh, just Alan and I and the guide, who was very funny. We did see a
couple of little crocs but his stories were entertainment enough. He was telling us about the pythons that come around when you have chickens, they are great for killing all the little rodents around. But unfortunately eat the chickens as well. As so many people we meet, he emigrated when he was about 5 yrs old with his parents, but still an English twang. he told us that a croc ate a child last year, who was unattended in the creek. The salties are very aggressive, and so quick. There are signs everywhere warning you not to go too close to the river edge.
Great city, laid back , big wide streets shops with verandas, shopping malls, supermarkets. We hurried through them the next morning to catch the amazing scenic railway to Kurandah. This railway was built to service the gold mines of hinchinbrook, you cannot believe that anyone built a railway along a mountain. There are 15 tunnels, and it took 5 years to build. Many people died, and there are sheer drops along the way. The trip takes 13/4 hours, and is slow ascending 344 metres up to the top. It passes the barron falls, a
series of waterfalls originating in a dam at the top. Huge falls are only about 5 foot from the window as you go by. Kurandah was a little touristy place at the top, very pretty, but ok for an hour.
Diving on the reef
The company which took us diving were called quicksilver and the boats are massive, There was 80 people on board, mostly snorkellers but quite a few diving. In fact when we reached the reef and finally got in, it was pandemonium down there, our guide/dive master was called sean and was a really nice guy. His main function was to handle all the people, and there were a lot of safety talks and rules. Still we had a pootle round the reef, saw the big napoleon wrasse and some pristine coral. I would think any fish with any sense would be avoiding that amount of people. The sea temp was a balmy 84 degrees, great place to learn to dive. Visibility about 20 metres! We did another dive, same stuff, and then snorkelled.
Lunch was included, everyone was friendly, great day out. We enjoyed seeing the blue reef again, sea was at last
calm. Came home tired and went out to a couple of the pubs in cairns for drinks before having a takeaway and a bottle of wine. V nice altogether.
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