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Published: April 19th 2019
Now then" Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey." Pat Conroy
A little brutal for us ageing baby boomers!
Travel involves time. In Australia allow for LOTS of time. It’s a very BIG country and to prove the point, here are some boring statistics. It is a country of 7.69 million square kms. That’s just a number but herein lies the relevance. SA boasts an area of 1.22 million square kms which means that Oz is 6 times bigger than our little piece of turf.
So, what’s the point you may ask? Our flight from Perth at midnight took just over five hours to get us to Brisbane. A distance of 4315 kms. The upshot of this was that we were stuffed by the time we then boarded another flight at 07h00 to get us to Cairns, just a stone’s throw of another 1700 kms further north. That is akin to flying across SA three times.
Cairns was an important marker on this trip as that is where we collected the wheels that would move us down the East Coast back to Sydney where we
This little guy eats for 18 hours a day and then sleeps the rest...don't eat eucalyptus leaves.
needed to arrive sometime towards end May. Booking our RV had all been done online and you can get a pretty good idea of the shape and amenities of the vehicle but, nothing like seeing the real thing. This is a pretty impressive set of wheels which does require a quick resume. It is a Mercedes Sprinter with all the toys and gadgets one needs to ensure that there is a semblance of luxury and peer respect when you nudge into an RV park on the trip. Not going to provide specifications but for those interested (and thinking of doing the RV “thing”), just google Venturer 2BTSBV to get an idea of size and what is included. It is our tradition to name our RV vehicles (not forgetting this is our fourth RV trip) and drawing on Oz culture, this little beauty was quickly named “Brutey”. Seems many Aussie blokes are named Bruce (Bru), many own Utes (Ute) and the Aussies love adding a “y” to the end of many words (esky being a case of beer). So, there you have it, Brutey. The only problem, which was a solution in itself is, that Brutey has an onboard navigation system.
A Southern Cassowary. Almost prehistoric.
“GPS Sue” was therefore redundant and not needed. I suspect relief!
Our destination on this first day of the East Coast sojourn was not south but, in fact, a northerly heading to Port Douglas, a short meander of 68 km along the aptly named Barrier Reef Drive. Some seriously good engineering has carved this road along the coastline which is flanked on the inland side by steep mountain ridges providing the ideal environment for the copious amounts of rain which pummel the rain forests close by. Out to sea, many low-lying islands are visible, which then ultimately morph into the Great Barrier Reef which, alongside the Wet Tropics of North Queensland, offers two World Heritage icons. A good place to be!
Many of us have heard about the Great Barrier Reef but just consider the facts. It covers an area of some 344,000 square kms, roughly a third the size of SA and is the World’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. There is lots of stuff going on to threaten its existence and some scientific studies have concluded that the reef has lost more than half of its coral cover since 1985. There is a mind-boggling
The Mossman River rushing down to the coast.
ecosystem underpinning this true natural wonder covering birds, marine creatures, turtles and corals amongst other things. This should have been a slam dunk for us. Book a trip and go and explore the coral reefs but we have been truly spoilt having done the snorkelling thing on the Ningaloo Reef on Australia’s West Coast in 2009. Additionally, there are plenty of island hopping and coral reef locations as we work our way south.
Just to finish this short overview of these Queensland wonders of nature; the Wet Tropics of Queensland cover about 8500 square kms and offer unique plants and animals found nowhere else in the World. Interesting that rainfall in the upper reaches can exceed 8000mm annually and the region is prone to cyclones such as Cyclone Debbie which smashed this coastline in 2017, killing 14 people.
A short and leisurely drive ended when we arrived at our first RV park aptly named “Port Douglas Glengarry Holiday Park”.
Nothing could have prepared us for the incredible heat and humidity! A temperature of 30 deg C accompanied by what felt like 200 percent humidity produced copious amounts of sweat and tension as we set about establishing camp and
Evening bliss. Sundowners and good nosh.
getting to grips with Bruteys many impressive gadgets. There is only one solution in a situation as serious as this. Bring forward sundowner hour and this soon calmed the waters, so to speak. A quick glance around the park confirmed that Brutey was punching above her weight, notwithstanding a full house sign due to the imminent Ester week end. This RV thing is not about opening cans or boiling instant noodles. Ever vigilant when shopping with our battered currency, we had spotted Tasmanian Salmon on “special” and Brutey’s external gas braai did us proud. And this was only the beginning of the trip! Port Douglas
is a short drive north of our RV park and having consulted the Lonely Planet Guide’s “East Coast Australia” and a pile of tourist brochures, there were a few things of major interest we set off to see. I digress, but an interesting first observation was the sugar cane fields found in this area which in turn triggered a reminder that the sugar barons were responsible for introducing cane toads in the 1930’s to the cane fields of Queensland. These frogs had done a good job in Central America killing cane unfriendly insects but
Not quite the Ritz but the view not too shabby.
have proved to be a nightmare in Australia due to the toxicity in their bodies which, in turn, has killed untold numbers of indigenous mammals and birds in the intervening years. The old mantra. Mess with nature at your peril!
You never quite know what to expect of any town you drift towards and if I have learnt one lesson it is quite simply, be prepared for the unexpected. Port Douglas is a smallish harbour town which I guess many Australians are blissfully unaware of but it exudes charm and character for any one daring to go there. Our visit started with a stop off at the Four Mile Beach
which is exactly as named. A beach which sweeps in a wide arc to the south with a few notable features. The sea is a muddy sort of colour as a result of all the rain in the summer and the sand is a corresponding dirty brown. The inland beach fringe is covered with tropical trees and palms and then to cap it all, you can only swim in a small squared off enclosure due to the presence of “stingers”, a gentle name for a very unpleasant little beast
Prawns fit for a king...in this case Queen Sue, a true prawn disciple.
of the ocean. Wikipedia sums up these little critters succinctly; “Some species of box jellyfish produce extremely potent venom which can be fatal to humans”. Easy to decide not to swim and instead drifted on foot towards the town which was a mindboggling array of shops, pubs and restaurants all designed to snare tourists like ourselves. So much for a sleepy little town! The harbour here is also one of the launch pads for excursions to the Great Barrier Reef and there are some seriously impressive boats and catamarans ready to whisk you there…at a price ranging from R1800 to R4000 per person. On our way into this charming coastal getaway, we had noticed a sign promoting a genuine Wildlife Habitat.
Again, this was a smallish nature park in a league of its own with four different wildlife habitats one walks through and you then experience at close range some of the amazing creatures found in Australia. There were two stand outs; firstly, the Southern Cassowary which is the third largest bird in the World after the Emu and Ostrich. Beautiful and almost prehistoric with huge legs and an unusual gait. Sadly, it is on the endangered list. Secondly, the salt water crocodile which is found all over this region. A croc is a croc you may say but this bugger gets up to 4.5 meters in length which is the average length of the much beloved “tinny” (small metal boat) owned by many Aussies. Not to be messed with.
A long day always ends well when sundowners are served and time is used to reflect on the experiences of a long and fascinating day. Despite the evening heat and humidity, Brutey has a very efficient aircon system which ensured that RV temperature was bearable by the time slumber crept in.
The second day in this stunning northern corner of Queensland was all about ensuring we ticked the box on the second of its World Heritage icons, the Wet Lands of the Daintree Forest.
Never a straight line anywhere and ever alert Susan (not distracted by a GPS device), had spotted a sign promoting fresh prawns Thursday-Saturday at the local harbour. A slight deviation ensured we acquired a kg of the most impressive fresh large prawns for “tucker” that evening. After drifting through endless sugar cane fields and passing through Mossman, we arrived at the Daintree National Forest which also put us in touch with the Mossman Gorge guiding the impressive flow of the Mossman River as it raced seawards. This is rainforest at it’s pristine best and we duly set off on a 2.5km walk following numerous crystal-clear rivers and surrounded by huge trees punching their way skywards. Eerily quiet except for the cascading rivers, we kept looking for any signs of life with little success. Not many bugs, no mammals and little by way of bird song but I can only conclude that all the creatures there come alive at night time. This seems to be the case for much of Aussie wildlife with daytime temperatures and conditions encouraging night time noshing. Most of the signage along the way describes the impact of the Aborigine people and their survival in these forests in years gone by, which added considerably to this wonderful experience of a natural phenomenon. Stoked by this very special iconic outing, we headed north and found a cosy beach location at Wonga for an al fresco RV lunch in the middle of nowhere.
Despite weariness setting in as we drifted back towards the RV park for our last evening, there was the prospect of richly deserved sundowners to wash down prawns grilled in garlic butter. Someone has to do these things!
PS (1) Click on the images in the blog to enlarge pictures.
(2) Your comments/messages etc., are always welcome.
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