Zak gets fed (photo thanks to Sophie Czarnotta Westerlund)
Zak is a pretty small car, so it was with some effort that we squeezed in four six-footers and all our luggage. Things were a bit tight for Sophie and J in the back! We had decided to drive to Townsville, where J would go to Magnetic Island and the rest of us would carry on to Cairns. Our first stop was at Bowen, a small town known for growing mangoes. There's also a member of Australia's 'big things' here in the shape of the Big Mango, which happened to be opposite a Driver Reviver stop which we happily utilised. There's not really much to say about a giant fibreglass mango, other than that it was quite big. From there we moved on to Bowen and a beautiful beach at Horseshoe Bay, where we sat and admired the distant mountain range for a good hour.
After sandwiches for lunch (expertly assembled by J) we drove on to Townsville, which appeared to be shut despite it being 6pm on a Saturday... so we cobbled together some pasta and spent a quiet evening in the hostel. Getting ready to head off the next morning, Sophie decided to share with us the fact
Horseshoe Bay at Bowen (photo thanks to Sophie Czarnotta Westerlund)
that she could sing Swedish children's songs with her mouth closed. Which she promptly did! I guess there's a first time for everything... well done girl! Having decided that the intriguing Undara lava tubes were too far to drive in a day (and J, having missed his ferry to Magnetic Island decided to stay with us for another day), we settled instead on the Paluma Ranges National Park, just 70km north of Townsville.
We left the main highway and drove down a gravel track, through three fords to the Jourama Falls and Waterview Creek. The falls are a short walk from the car park, across the creek and a great set of stepping stones. Annoyingly the flies there don't know the meaning of 'personal space' and do their best to get into your eyes or up your nose, or just hover in front of your face. But we made it to the falls, an impressive tiered cascade down an exposed rock face, with an appropriately attractive set of rock pools and mini-waterfalls at the bottom. We'd gone there to swim, so spent a happy few hours messing about in the clear but freezing water. Even a menacing looking black
Striking a pose at Jourama Falls
snake on the rocks didn't deter us from exploring behind the larger falls, and we only had a handful of Auzzies for company. The only back spot was that my Nikon got as wet as we did, so after eleven months of travel, I was now without my SLR camera.
The rest of the drive to Cairns was uneventful, aside from a barnstorming rendition of Hanson's classic hit 'MMMBop' when we got a bit tired (for the record, J refused to participate, being a music producer with a shred of self respect). We arrived in Cairns after dusk and found our respective hostels, then met up for free grub at the Woolshed. There's a curious thing about hostels in Cairns. Not only do they start at about $15 per night as opposed to the standard $25, they also offer free dinners and breakfasts! Why is it only Cairns that does this? In a country as expensive as Australia, a bit more free food wouldn't be a bad idea.
So, I'd made it to Cairns, the end of my trip along the east coast from Melbourne. After seven weeks of travel through Oz, I'd done pretty much everything I'd
Cooling off in the rock pools
wanted, so when I got to Cairns I didn't really have the energy to see any of the surrounding sights. My last few days in Oz were therefore spent with Rich, Sophie and a range of other friends who found themselves there... as the last stop for many backpackers, there's a good chance that everyone will arrive here at some point, so I bumped into a few people from Fraser and the Whitsundays.
I was ready to move on to New Zealand, but Oz had been a ball, and I left with seven weeks' worth of great memories and some brilliant new mates.
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