Playtpus at dawn

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November 2nd 2013
Published: November 2nd 2013
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After the rainforests of the far north, we headed south down the coast through endless sugar cane plantations with occasional mango orchards and water melon patches. In Mission Beach we stayed for a couple of days in a hostel, set on a hill in the rainforest with a great view of the coastline. We walked some of Mission's 10 miles of sandy beaches amazed at how beautiful and undeveloped it was. Mission has a population of only 4000 - these far flung towns are really just villages.

Further south, we stopped at Airlie Beach (pop. 3000) so that we could sail out to the Whitsunday islands. These 74 islands are largely owned by the National Park and are a pristine wilderness. We stopped for lunch on the largest island on Whitesands, yet another impossibly white 5 mile beach. Climbing a hill at the end of the beach, we looked down on a wide, sand floored valley. Across the white sands, a spring water river snakes its way to the sea. Every shade of blue is there in its waters - a breathtaking site.

Also on the beach were a group having less fun. Their Captain had been drinking and the passengers and crew, feeling unsafe in his drunken hands, all defected to another boat! The first that the drunk Captain knew about this was a call from the second boat over the marine radio, overheard by every boat in the area. The drunk Captain was not pleased and swore and cursed on the radio. Clearly, the Police were not pleased either. As we returned at the end of the day, we met the Police boats coming out to meet the miscreant Captain. We were told by our crew that he would be in deep trouble.

The sea water is very warm and inviting but the large warning signs give one pause for thought. Some warn of deadly jellyfish and promote the wearing of "stinger suits" - thin onesies that do not flatter. Other notices warn of crocodiles, rare but deadly. More inviting is swimming in the lagoons - naturalistic swimming pools set just behind the beaches in many towns. No crocs nor stingers in these!

Everywhere is very dry so it seems strange that most main roads have flood water gauges along them. In "the rains", we are told, many fields are flooded for months. The locals go fishing off the sides of the raised main highway.

The rain mainly falls on the mountains just inland. We drove up a switchback road to reach Eungella, 2400 feet up. We are in the clouds when we get to our little cabin, the wind is howling and torrential rain showers hammer on the roof. The cabin is perched on a mountain ridge and there is a great view, we are told. All we see is swirling cloud. The cabin is wonderful, with everything we need and a pot-bellied stove! Let the weather do its worst, we are warm and cozy.

In the morning, the storm has passed and we watch sunrise from our bed. We can see 30 miles down the valley to the sea. But no time can be wasted, our best chance of seeing playpus is when they feed at first light. We head for Broken river, just 5 minutes away, and eventually we find them, strange little animals diving for baby crayfish. They are like nothing else we've seen, just 40 cm long - like a half size beaver with a giant grey bill.

Tomorrow, we will be heading south down the coast for some island life.

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