Our Journey Begins
We head off Thursday night July 10th and spend the weekend near Heathcote
with the Bushwackers.
We are at Narrandera visiting friends. Tomorrow we plan to go to the
Dubbo zoo and Parkes Telescope, then start on our way to Queensland.
We had a look at Parkes radio telescope and spent about 3 hours there.
Dubbo zoo was next on the list and after some very heated discussion at
the gate they allowed me to leave much to Julies annoyance. The military
museum was next on the hit list and personally we should have saved our
money. From Dubbo we headed out to Lightning Ridge where we gave the
"Rambler" a real good shakedown cruise. We camped about 15K south of
Coonamble in a farm gateway (just off the side of it actually)
Lightning Ridge. We did a tour through a couple of the mines, we
stayed in most salubrious surroundings i.e. A tailings dump.
We go shopping for some items and saw the best equipped hardware
stores I have seen for years and got some of the tenderest meat we have
had for a long time at better than Melb prices. Julies saw an opal brooch
that she fell in love with, we buy it. We start heading toward St George
after lunch and stopped at Hebel where I went to the local pub and had a
lemon squash and glean some local info about the place. Not real
enlightening about a cotton farm we wanted to visit. We arrive in St.
George. Whilst looking for a bush camping spot, I (The VAN) had an
altercation with a tree. Tree 1, Robbo 0, and a very bent right hand
awning which increased the overall width of the rig some 6" (150mm for you
We drove around St George and looked at some of the buildings and
continued on towards Dalby. Had lunch at Thomas Jack park and continued
towards Toowoomba. At Toowoomba we went through the Cobb & Co Transport
Museum. Fantastic. We arrived fairly late and got a discounted entry but
we saw everything in there that we needed to see. We both decided that if
we have time we would like to see more of Toowoomba. I filled the truck
and to my horror noticed that the air bleed from the tank had been cut
through. We couldn't fix it at the servo as there was no room. This servo
is right at the start of the range that goes STEEPLY downhill for about
5K. It was starting to rain, diesel spewing onto tyre, a real recipe for a
massive spinout if I needed to brake heavily. Fortunately the exhaust
brake did its job and we arrived at a rest area where temporary repairs
fixed the problem and we continued to Clontarf. we camped outside Brett's
Camper Care for the night.
Removed broken awning and went to see Val at the shop in Labrador.
Laurie and Keith had just left but when Val heard we were coming, he rang
them and they returned. We had lunch together and told the usual lies and
bullshit. From there we went to Norm and Wendy's at Tallebudgera.
We stay at Norm and Wendy's. Julie went to Sea World with Sue (Val's
wife) and went shopping with Wendy. I fixed a lot of things that I didn't
have time to do before we left. A few minor water leaks, new shockers on
the front, fitted driving lights (thanks Norm), repaired the air bleed
from the tank and refitted a door that had snapped the hinges. Val and Sue
came over 1 night for a BBQ which was a great night as Val and Norm share
a passion for planes and they debated the pros and cons all night.
We leave Norm and Wendy's and head into Brisbane to pick up a Cobb
Cooker in the Valley on the way to Brett's to have the repaired awning
fitted. After that we head North and camp 6 K south of Gympie.
We went to Tin Can Bay, unfortunately there were no dolphins when we
got there - they must have heard we were coming. We had a nice day anyway,
caught the ferry from Tin Can Bay to Rainbow Beach and had a look around
town, went for a walk on the beach to see the coloured sands and had lunch
at the local pub. At 2 o'clock we caught the courtesy bus back to the
ferry and cruised back to Tin Can Bay again.
Ian missed the turnoff to Maryborough so we ended up back in Gympie again.
This time we camped the other side of town.
We make it to Maryborough and had lunch down near the Marina. Whilst
having lunch we went and had a look at the nearby ships chandlery. Fatal
mistake. They had this magnificent solid brass surveyors compass. They
have it no longer, I do. We wandered through the town and gardens. We will
have to cut out this walking bit as it is no good for the image. We head
to Hervey Bay.
I know most of you will find it hard to believe, but we actually
stayed 4 nights at Hervey Bay. We did a whale watch cruise, went to Fraser
Island for a day trip, watched the Hervey Bay festival parade of floats
and generally lazed about. Oh and of course we went to the local RSL a few
times (I won, Ian lost), but they had cheap meals.
After finally leaving Hervey Bay we called into Howard and did a
guided tour of Brooklyn House which included devonshire tea - we can
definitely recommend this. The Howard drapery store has to be seen to be
believed, we didn't think it was possible to get so much stuff into one
Childers was the next stop where we had a look at the Pharmaceutical
Museum and the backpackers memorial. We then moved on towards Bundaberg
and camped about 28km SW of Bundy. We had a most sumptuous, succulent and
satisfying meal of roast beef done in the Cobb by yours Truly. He also
left the bottom grille out on a post. (discovered later when we went to
use it again on the 25th)
In Bundaberg we indulged ourselves at Schmeider's cooperage and craft
centre where we had a massage, minds out of the gutters you lot, (in
public fully clothed). Ian choose an excellent place to park at the
cooperage because the nice couple who owned the house we parked in front
of were fellow motorhomers and invited us in for morning tea.
Now for all you drinkers out there we can definitely recommend the tour of
the Bundaberg Distillery. The tour includes a glass of Bundy & Cola and
another drink of your choice. I had a Royal liqueur with a layer of cream
(you have to sip the liqueur through the cream). Then I was forced to have
Ian's drink because he was driving (he wasted his Bundy & cola on coke
instead - can you believe it!!), so I tried their Dark & Stormy, which is
bundy and ginger beer - It's a tough job but someone had to drink it!!!
Actually all the drinks were very nice, but I'm glad I wasn't driving
after that tour (oh, shades of Margueritas:)).
We saw the Mystery craters on the way to Gin Gin and had a quick look at
the towns of Agnes Waters and watched the sun go down over Gladstone from
the lookout at 1770. On the way back from 1770, dark, on a dirt road with
a B Double up my exhaust I dipped the lights for an oncoming vehicle, put
them up to high and was confronted with total black. A bit of a shock to
the system as a turn with a floodway was coming up. Oh darn said I or
words to that effect. Fortunately the truck behind saw my predicament and
whacked his on to high while I regained my composure. He passed and I
followed on low beam, hard to take after daylight with the Cibies.
We couldn't find a spot to park for the night and in desperation we camped
at the turn off to Gladstone, right at the intersection next to some
trailers. (we later found out that we could have camped at the Calliope
River if we had come in the right way, stuff happens)
At Gladstone we couldn't get on one of the Industrial tours that Ian
was hoping to do so we went out to the Botanic Gardens for a BBQ lunch and
a stroll around the gardens. I checked the lights and found the switch was
faulty, Going to an auto elec confirmed this as well. After checking out
the town of Gladstone from the lookout we headed out to Biloela and Moura
and camped by the Dawson River.
The next morning we went to Carnarvon Gorge for lunch and did a short
nature walk. Unfortunately the more interesting walks are about 5 to 10
kms ONE WAY (not this black duck) - neither of us felt up to that!! I told
you we had to stop this walking caper. From here we headed towards Emerald
and camped at Kielys Farm. This is about 6K east of Emerald and is free
unless you want power, then $6.
The hot water service sprang a leak at the overflow, so into a
plumbers supply and obtain the part. The owner of the business is fitting
out a coach, so I showed him and his wife ours and he showed me his. We
rang Garry and Mina and they are at Barcaldine with David and Shirley.
Glennis and Amos rang while we were in Brisbane and are heading from
Darwin down the west coast. We stayed in a Caravan park so that I could
fix the headlights and the HWS., fully charge the batteries, fill water
tanks, do some washing and stand under a shower for 20 minutes. The park
we stayed in was fantastic, they had toilet, shower and hand basin in
ensuite type amenities so you didn't saturate your clothes when you
Weather is getting hotter and more humid as we move further North. Strange
We visited Sapphire where we went to the Sunday market (Julie does get
her say sometimes). On sale were (wait for it, Sapphires) and various
other gems and edible items. It is a very progressive place, has a dump
point so we used the facilities to give our dunny that fresh new look.
From here we went to Rubyvale, a most inappropriate name as there are no
rubies but they do have, you guessed it, Sapphires. We went on a mine tour
and then purchased a bucket of wash but you won't get clean with this
stuff 'cause it is dirt and stone. So after a short lesson we were set to
become overnight millionaires and find the next big strike. Alas we still
have to work. Bummer. One thing we did learn from this bucket of dirt is
that neither Julie or I are ever going to be prospectors, she deciding
that jewellers are the best and easiest source of precious stones.
From Rubyvale we slipped across to Anakie to see Gemfest ( a much better
and easier source of precious stones in Julies opinion but luckily too
damned dear). We spent a pleasant afternoon WALKING around the various
stalls and asking stupid questions like tourists do. We returned to Keilys
Farm for the night. I helped acouple of solos understand why their
batteries were going flat in their Winnies. I can't seem to get away from
work even on holidays.
After checking that the others batteries had charged we headed for
Rockhampton, stopping at Comet for lunch and checking out Leichardts dig
tree ( he was another silly bugger that walked or rode a horse
At Rocky ( learning Queensland speak) as usual we headed straight for the
tourist office. No joy as far as bush camping in Rocky goes so we headed
out to Byfield National Park about 30K north of Yeppoon. A very nice place
but very few camping spots considering the size and more for tents than
big beasts like ours.
Now to digress a little. Queensland has a fascination with roundabouts. I
think that the local governments must get extra road funding if they can
add a roundabout at every intersection. Nearly every coastal town has at
least one but Rocky wins the prize. After driving through Rockhampton my
arms looked like Popeyes on speed.
We returned to Rocky and had a look at the Customs House and learnt a
bit of the history of Rocky. We then went out to Mt Morgan, a good
winding, steep drive. We checked out the railway staion which is also the
tourist office. They have never heard of piped music or Muzak in Mt.
Morgan so they have installed a piano in the ladies toilet at the station.
A guided tour of the surrounding district and old mine site finished the
We stayed the night out at the dam where the caretaker told of a quicker,
easier way back to Rocky that the locals use. This was great relief to 2
others that were prepared to go on to Biloela rather than go back down the
hill. Thank God for exhaust brakes.
We returned to Rocky and went to The Dreamtime Cultural Centre. Having
a bit of an interest in Aboriginal culture I found this tour and
explanation of some aspects of central Qld aboriginals excellent. As a
bonus they had an aboriginal dance troupe doing a show of dancing and
didgeridoo playing. Nearly as good as Rowena. We threw boomerangs, danced
naked around a fire and daubed ochre all over ourselves. Well the
boomerang part is true and they did come back, mine did but Julies. HMMMMM.
The Botanic Gardens and zoo was the venue for lunch and more WALKING. We
saw chimps being fed which reminded me of dinner time at our house
sometimes. Lorikeets and koalas were also being fed. Back to Yeppoon and a
caravan park. Gees it is hard to hide something this big. Same deal,
washing etc. and booked on a trip to Great Keppel Island. This was with
some foreboding on my part as I could see that this was going to require
more physical effort on my legs part. It was to be worse than that!!!
We were whisked off to the boat that was about to begin the torture.
Smooth crossing, good landing at the Middle Island underwater observatory
to see the fish and then feed them (did I mention the stairs down and up)
and smooth disembarkation on the beach (they can't have heard of piers
here, they always just run up on to beaches).
- Torture no.1:
Damned beach sand that is a foot(300mm) thick is hard on calves and
thighs. Felt like 400 yards but was in reality about 20. My admiration for
the Anzacs went up a notch or 2 .
A relaxing morning tea followed but was soon bought to an end by the
announcement that we had to board the glass bottomed boat. Guess where?
- Torture no.2:
Across that damned beach into the boat. Fish, turtles and coral were
all viewed with the appropiate sounds of appreciation.
- Torture no.3:
Sand again. As it turns out sand was good and easy. Lunch at the Keppel
Haven followed and then Julie in a moment of brilliance says, "lets go for
a walk. Here is one that will only take a while" The time allotted for
this WALK was worked out by a gold medal pentathlete on steroids. 30 mins
took 49. Easy was up hill and through more sand.
- Torture No.4:
Getting there was easy compared to this one. Checking the map (which
didn't have contour lines marked), our intrepid leader (moi), after
consultation with another couple decided to return an easier way.
WRONG!!!!!!! First bit was along the beach at the water mark. Over a board
walk to avoid climbing rocks, another beach, easy so far and pleasant.
This was about to change. The path off the beach was to climb up a sheer
vertical, shaley and slippery boulder strewn "path" that was like Mt
Everest. Having no Tensing or other sherpas to help, we had to climb it
ourselves. Reaching the top we planted a flag and trekked on along the
ridge. The down hill bit on the other side was just as bad but what really
irked was that we passed 2 YOUNG females going the other way carrying a
sufboard and looking like it was a stroll in the park. We survived the
descent and set off along the beach to get well earned sustenance and
refreshment. One PROBLEM, we had to cross that damned sand again to get
there. I am not a pretty site doing a Beau Geste foreign legion
impersonation crawling across the sand on all fours reaching for water.
This WALK was laid out and timed by releasing an insane billy goat
- Torture no.5:
Returning across the sand to board the boat. No bloody wonder that
Percy Cerrutty used to train his athletes on the beach.
The trip back was a 1/2hour late in leaving the island, the wind had come
up, the sea was choppy and the skipper poured on the power. Bloody
fantastic with the upper deck running green sea. We got home on time.
After a fantastic sleep bought on by total physical exhaustion we packed
the motorhome and headed for The Heritage Village, more bloody walking.
After lunch at Kershaw Gardens where JULIE walked to the waterfalls we left
Rocky for Mackay.
We stopped for the night behind the BP roadhouse at Sarina.
At Mackay we were just in time for the Sunday Market at the showgrounds
and Harbour Road. At the markets we bought a new wallet for me (the old one
was past its use by date), some very very nice REAL tomatoes and other veges
and of course Julie had to buy "lucky" tickets but this time she won!!!
We met some people we had met at Emerald and chatted to them for a while and
then checked out the Harbour. I drooled over some of the boats at the
moorings and picked out one that I would like when I win 3 Lottos.
There being nothing more to interest us in Mackay we headed towards Calen
We had been told about the newsagency in Calen and checked it out. This
store has to be seen to be believed. There are boxes and boxes and boxes (ad
infinitum) all clearly labelled and more stuff than any good camping or
hardware store than I have ever seen. You want a pot that you can cook for
an army, she's got it. Amazing!!! This is run by an elderly lady that knows
where everything is.
We left Calen and headed for Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. This was
Saturday afternoon when most of Queensland shuts up and returns to 1960. Not
this place!!! There were wall to wall beautiful people and yuppies all
dining "al fresco" in designer casual wear that cost more than 2 tank fulls
of fuel for the truck. Consequently I incurred the wrath of Julie by driving
straight through to the end of the road, turned, drove back and headed for
I should have bypassed Bowen because more WALKING was in store. We checked
out the murals in the town and headed for Woodstock (no! you idiots! not to
relive the 70's, but to get to Charters Towers). We stopped at Reid River
rest stop about 70K from the Towers (more Qld speak).
Charters Towers is a very interesting example of what can happen if
Federal, State, Local governments and a community get together to promote
and rejuvinate a town. They are undertaking a massive restoration of all
historic buildings in town and succeeding very well. It has one of the best
run tourist office with the most informed and interested staff I have seen.
We visited the Stock Exchange (where there happened to be another market),
did another WALKING tour with a guide, went up to the lookout where gold was
first found and then a guided tour of The Venus Ore Crushing Battery. They
had an audiovisual that uses holograms in conjunction with solid objects.
Has to be seen to be believed.
Back to Reid River for the night. I forgot to say that on the first night at
Reid River there was a backpacking couple in an older model Toyota that had
a flat battery and had to be push started. Same thing the second night,
different backpackers. 5 of them in a Mazda van, no mechanical knowledge.
The battery was more than flat, it was stuffed but we got them going and
they headed for Townsville. I realise that a car is low on their list of
budget items but they buy some shitheaps and then get into trouble.
We headed towards Townsville shortly after and met them again about 20K
from Townsville broken down but they had rung the RACQ so we continued on.
After checking out likely camping spots and where I used to live up here we
decided that a caravan park was the best option.
If their is one thing that you can say about Townsville is its massive
growth in the last 30 years. Completely new road system, about 6 new suburbs
and hundreds of new buildings.
We checked out the mall and the tourist office to get info on Magnetic
Now as you all know there are a few key words that grab Julies attention.
Shopping, Bargain, Sale, Market, Casino and Pokies. There is now a new one
to add to the list. CRUISE!!!!!
We went to Magnetic Island. Now this is looking at something in a
civilised manner. Boat docks at Pier, short walk to get on a stretched Jeep
(don't get excited Val), get driven around with a guide, dropped off at an
eatery, get taxi back to boat. My type of strenuous, I could learn to like
Julie has a tradition that takes place whenever we go on holidays. If a
place has a casino then it has to be checked out. So off we go to Jupiters.
Those of you that have seen the Crown in Melbourne will appreciate this. You
could fit Jupiters gaming room in the gents toilets. Julie increased the
wealth of Townsville, I won.
A free day. I download photos, lose 80 of them, spend 2 hours and a lot
of sweat to retrieve them but all is lost, gone forever. Copy photos onto
disk so they can be emailed from Internet cafe. Julie catches a bus into
town and shops. I fill water tanks and check the beast over so that we can
The Museum of Tropical Queensland, Reef HQ and Castle Hill are on the
agenda today. We flick (well amble) between the 2 venues as the tours times
are opposite each other. At the museum is the story and artifacts collected
from the wreck of the Pandora. This ship was sent by the Admiralty to arrest
the mutineers of the Bounty. Any how it sank off Cape York and drowned half
the crew. The Captain and the remainder of his crew undertook a voyage to
rival Blighs in an open boat to sail to Timor where they too were rescued.
They have a mock "running out the gun". This is loading, aiming and firing a
6 pounder cannon. Guess who got 1 of the gunners jobs. Not wearing shoes any
more. They snaffle anyone with closed shoes because of OHSS regulations.
Poor buggers that were gunners on square riggers. The smell of gunpowder and
the heat plus the sheer effort of loading and maintaining fire while someone
else is shooting at you took some guts.
At ReefHQ they had interesting tours on coral and fish of Far North
Queensland. They also fed the fish in the predators aquarium. I fed the
toilet. Because of the distortion in the glass (it was Bent and curved) and
added to the distortion of water while trying to watch the sharks etc. my
balance mechanics went into overload and I got horribly sea sick.
It is late afternoon as we head up Castle Hill. It is 29 in the waterbag and
hair won't dry because the humidity is 90% and there are silly buggers
RUNNING, WALKING or RIDING BIKES UP Castle Hill. Not a few but HUNDREDS. The
grade on this hill is 8% and it is 4 K long. Just proves that QLDERS are
stupid. There is a sign at the bottom that says "unsuitable for trucks,
buses, trailers and caravans", now mine being all of the above when it
suits, I ignore and go up anyway. At the top is a bus parking bay. You
figure it out. JULIE walks up to one of the many lookouts, I am content to
look out the one that is on the same level. We move North again and camp at
The closure of a lot of rest stops and the shortening of time in others has
had an interesting effect. It has created a new sort of nomad. Caravanners
and motorhomers that would never surface before 10:00 am are packed and on
the road by 7:00am to get to the next place before everyone else. After
seeing some rest stops that have "permanent" residents I can understand why
the government have taken the steps that they have. The one that we pulled
into, we felt like intruders, there was camp gear spread everywhere, the
shelters had been taken over by their gear and rotten fruit was thrown in
the scrub. I know that this is not the norm but I have spoken to others that
have felt the same. I think that they have gone overboard in closing them
instead of limiting the time allowed to stop and policing it.
Leave Rollingstone and head for Frosty Mango because Julie had heard
about their mango cheesecakes. Of course she had to try it. Arriving at
Ingham we tour the town and head for Wallaman Falls. These are the longest
sheer drop in Qld. and I must admit they look spectacular. Of course there
are WALKS. After checking the walk board we elect to do the short walk (300
Metres) because the other one you have to be Tensing cross bred with a
mountain goat(1.7K, steep and slippery). After lunch at the falls we went to
Cardwell. We checked out the National Parks Reef and Rainforest Centre. A
woman came in with an orphaned Joey and all the women cooed over it. We had
a cup of tea and looked out over the bay to Hinchinbrook Island. We did not
go there. We camped the night at Bilyana rest area. Just like home, semis
and road trains all night on one side and train line on the other. I slept
like a top.
Our next stop was Paronella Park at Mena Ck. This was a reception room
built by hand out of concrete in the style of a castle. It had the STEPS
from HELL, steep slippery and bloody near vertical. It is in disrepair but
there is enough of it to see the grandeur of it in its hey day. We did a
guided tour and I would reccommend it to anyone as it is is a lesson in what
sheer guts and determination can achieve. We arrived at Innisfail via Sth
Johnston. After lunch by the river we did some shopping and checked out the
buildings. I love Qld architecture. We then left and headed for Millaa
Millaa and drove around the Falls circuit. This had a disastrous effect on
me. Millaa Millaa (bad stutter) was first. Now bear in mind that it is humid
and getting warm by now and I am consuming about 2 Litres of water every 2
hours. My doctor would be pleased. Running water and copious fliud intake
amount to one thing. Every bloody waterfall, first stop the dunny and if
there wasn't one, a tree. They should grow well any way. Elinjaa and Zillie
(can't spell silly in Qld) Falls completed the circuit. Well worth the
drive. We arrived too late at Milanda to check out the dairy museum and
headed toward Atherton looking for suitable roosting places. None were found
so we headed toward Herberton. Checked out Hastie bird hide, no go. We trek
on. Finally in desperation I find a side road that ends in a nice cul de sac
at a no through road. Houses on one side, State Forest on t'other. Good site
for a village methinks. No one home in the house when we arrive but they
come home shortly after. I went and had a chat and asked if they minded if
we stayed there, no prob he says, so we did.
We left fairly early and drove to Herberton to be met by one of the best
odours ever wafting up the street, fresh baked bread. I think that there
must be some connection between nose and wallet, we bought a loaf and had it
for brekky at the Lions Park by the river. Does it get better than this?
We drove and walked around the town and checked out some of the informative
plaques that are around. It has an old railway station (they all have up
here) and an excellent mural showing the towns history.
From here we returned to Atherton and the Railco Station and were
dissappointed to find that the train was not running due to a big rock
knocking a section of line out. Not just knocking it out but actually
breaking the line in half. Some rock!!!
Next to Railco was Platypus Park, a nice spot. Julie saw a Platypus. I
didn't because I was chatting to the rail staff. We then went up to
Hallorans Hill. I thought to myself "not another bloody lookout" but this is
excellent. You can see all around and view all the old volcanoes that formed
this region. We had morning tea here and then returned to Hou Wang chinese
temple and went on the tour. The guide gave a very informative tour and a
bit of local history on the effect of the Chinese in the area.
We returned to Platypus Park for lunch and saw turtles in the lake. We then
wandered around the shops and Julie was going to have a look at the Crystal
Caves(man made grotto of minerals) but another couple whom we had met on the
temple tour said to save our money so we did.
I have been watching with great interest the way Qlders park and drive.
Indicators are not an option on vehicles up here and any one using them must
have infra red connections to following vehicles. You are in a left lane
that merges, you check mirrors, clear, indicate to merge and you watch the
car behind speed up to close the gap. Same when trying to change lanes.
Coutesy is unheard of. Coming out of a side street into a line of traffic,
do they slow down and let a gap widen? Not on your nelly. Speed up and shut
it down. Right hand lanes on dual highways is for the use of cars that can
only do 80KMH. This is the state where might is right and I admit to having
to adopt their tactics of just pull out and bugger them.
Parking is also interesting. Disabled spots are the closest to all
entrances. There must be a lot of disabled in Qld as these are always full.
Park across pedestrian crossings? Why not? Paralell park in angle parking.
Sure. But not against the kerb. Park so close to you that you have to exit
by climbing out the window and crawl across their roof. Why not?
We set forth for Mareeba to fuel the beast and head for Chilligoe. Smokoe is
at Dimbulah and the temerature is starting to climb. We arrive in Chilligoe
and have a look at the old smelter and return to the caravan park for the
Julie booked on a cave tour at the tourist office. The bloke there is
from Pakenham and we had a good chat. While Julie toured the cave I blocked
a few more dust inlets and generally check the truck (er motorhome) over
after its first real bout with corrugated dirt roads, yeah I know Carnarvon
was first but these were REAL gravel roads. When she returns we check out
the aboriginal art and drive around to Balancing Rock. This had been hit by
lightning about 2 months prior and had about 1.5 tons knocked off it but it
still sat there. we had morming tea with a couple from Cranbourne South. You
just can't get away can you? The amount of people that are from around the
area that are travelling or living up here (Qld.) is amazing.
We return to the town and check out the interpretive centre in the tourist
office. Julie checks out the souvenir shop 2 doors up and I chat to the
feller again wanting to know where they got their water from. At the caravan
park they had massive sprinklers on all night, most of the east coast is on
water restrictions, not Chilligoe. He told me that they had a permanent
spring that fed the town but that it calcified plumbing fittings.
We had lunch in the park and were joined by the couple we had met at
Balancing Rock. They are in a TVan and I think they liked being able to have
a cup of tea without all the hassle of getting set up. It is hard slumming
it in a motorhome.
We returned to Mareeba to collect mail and do some reprovisioning (for
Qlders, we bought food). We stayed out at the showgrounds.
After a lazy morning we filled water tanks and went to the tourist
office to find out about the road to Cooktown. We have had varying reports
about the condition of the road so wanted the most up to date. Being told
that there is only 43 K of gravel we head off. Lunch at Mt Malloy and check
it out for future reference.
The road is excellent on the made sections, very good on the 10K of
construction section, not too bad on the gravel where graded and bad after 2
days without grading. There is 45K of gravel according to our speedo.
We stay at Annan River(Big not little) 7K south of Cooktown. A good spot if
you are a fisherman, I'm not but appreciated the ambience any way.
We drove into Cooktown the next day and checked out the highlights.
Cooks landing place, Jackey Jackey store, the old bank with 100 year old
photos of the townspeople of 1898. These plates were found in the Attic of
the old convent which has been renovated for use as The James Cook Museum,
we did not go here as we are just about museumed out. We also saw the old
town well, the towns defences and then up to the Botanic Gardens. This has
"Natures Powerhouse", a display of reptiles and all other creepy crawlies
which is enough to put any visitor to FNQ off ever coming here. I have never
seen so many things that can bite, squeeze, maim or cause mass discomfort
all with the aim of providing them lunch.
After an interesting day we headed back to Mt Malloy via an historic hotel
(another one) for the night where I had a close encounter with some of the
As said previously I got attacked by something which left weeping sores
on both legs. Mass itch and amputation would welcomed gladly.
We left Mt Malloy and headed for the Daintree area. We crossed the Daintree
after shelling out $20 return for the ferry. This ferry is a gold mine and
too dear in my opinion when the locals get a 2 year pass for $12 according
to a local I spoke to. Any way $20 was a cheap price to do the drive up to
Cape Tribulation. The scenery is absolutely awsome with the forest right
down to the road. There are houses in amongst this but they leave a buffer
zone of forest with minimum access into 3-4 blocks.
At Cape Trib (more Qld speak) we walked around a couple of boardwalks
reading the signs describing all the plants. After lunch we headed back to
It is rather interesting watching the reactions of oncoming drivers as they
approach on some of the narrow roads. You would think that the Rambler is
25ft wide and 75ft long. Their knuckles go white and they nearly wrench the
wheel off the hub. Eyes bulge and they move forward in their seat pressing
their nose against the windscreen as they move into the scrub and almost
stop. There are then the others that think they are 20 ft wide and won't get
over at all. I love the rentals the best because I am sure that it is the
biggest thing they have ever driven. Motorhomers don't wave to me as they
are too damned scared to let go of the wheel. I smile. Nasty ain't I?
At Daintree we book into the caravan park, well sort of. There is a sign
that says "pick a spot and we will see you later". We move a rubbish bin and
park. At about 4.30 a young lady comes up and asks whether we were the
people that had rung and booked.
"Nope" was the reply.
"Oh" was the response.
By now the penny had dropped with me (I am quick sometimes, I also
remembered that Julie had said that maybe this was a reserved spot) and I
ask, "was that why the bin was in the way?"
"Yep" she says.
So.......... hmmmm I think, I go and get the bin and place it in the next
spot along. Problem solved to everyones satisfaction, well, mine anyway. She
appears later and hangs a reserved sign on it. She smiles, all is well.
We book on another cruise on the Daintree River for the next day. The person
for whom the spot had been reserved turns up. We chat. She is an English
lady about 35 who has hired a Toyota Landcruiser camper. She is in Australia
for 12 months. She inquires about the road between Cape Trib and Cooktown. I
tell her that I have no idea and and then ask where else she wanted to go.
She points out a route to Cape York and then down to Weipa and cross country
to Karumba.I then inquire as to how much 4WD experience she has. Oh none,
was her reply. She couldn't fathom out my look of dismay and head shaking so
I explained that she did not have enough fuel or recovery gear on board,
also that a lesson in driving a 4WD would probably have been prudent. I
wonder if someone has to risk their life and vehicle to save her. People
The owner of the Caravan park comes home. They are upgrading the park at the
moment and building new cabins. SHE (note SHE) pays out on these blokes who
have been working on the units and, man, I can berate and swear with the
best of them but beside her I am a complete ameteur. The whole town can hear
her and some van owners were extremely worried by the damage that SHE might
cause by the hammers, chisels and other missiles that she threw at them. I
mentioned this episode to some one I met (that said he worked in Daintree
for a while) about 3 days later and he said that she had calmed down in
recent times but that he knew who we were talking about. How to succeed in
business and impress people.
We cruise the Daintree River on board Daintree River Train. It is a
series of pontoons that look like a train. The guide really knew his stuff
and gave a history lesson on the moods of the river. Although they don't
guarantee that you will see crocodiles we were fortunate enough to see a big
one plus a baby croc. No women cooed over this baby though. This also
included a boardwalk tour of the mangroves. I must admit that to me
mangroves are always associated with mud and smell but after this I have a
new found admiration for mangroves and their ecological importance in the
scheme of things.
We headed out and went to Mossman Gorge where sustenace was taken. We walked
around a few of the walks and watched kids swimming in the creek. Ah, to be
so young and stupid again. This walking caper has still got whiskers on but
seems to be getting easier. The legs are still weeping and itchy.
We called into Port Douglas and booked a reef cruise for Sunday as the
weather on Saturday was going to be foul. I hadn't mentioned that it has
been raining on and off for 2 days because it doesn't rain in Qld according
to some I know. we then checked out this North Queensland version of Airlie
Beach, same yuppies and beautiful people, different location. Port Douglas
could only be described as the ultimate resort town, they are wall to wall
and I don't think that there are any private houses within 5 K of the beach.
Now we have to fill in a day and stay fairly close to PD. We head out and
look for a place to nest for a while. We find a nice spot at Wangetti Beach.
There are "no camping" signs on the beach side of the fence so reckon that
they apply to the beach. Lateral thinking. We were to use this as our base
for the next 3 days as it turns out.
We had been told that Hartleys Crocodile Farm is a "must see" by another
couple. We are always a bit dubious about must sees as everyones taste
varies but we look any way. We arrived at 8:00am before they open and are
first in. We are not disappointed and end up being there all day. We had
nothing else to do but we were exremely interested and the timetable was
well spced out to allow time to see everything and all the feedings and
shows. We splurge and buy lunch with Julie having a croc hamburger. The
shows were both enertaining and gave an insight into crocodile behaviour.
One thing that was reinforced is that crocs can be dangerous and
unpredictable. Sort of like some women I know.
This is what Julie has been hanging out for ever since we crossed the
border into Qld. THE TRIP, nay not a trip but a BARRIER REEF CRUISE. She
wanted to do one in Hervey Bay, Mackay, Rockhampton, TOwnsville and all
places to Cape Trib but me being a meany told her to curb her enthusiasm and
just wait until we got to the right place. THIS IS THE RIGHT PLACE!!!!
We arrive early and gee whizz, guess what they have. A market, so you know
how Julie calmed herself down until boarding time.
We board the big Cat that has seating for 400 people at 10.30am and make our
way out from the jetty. When clear of the speed signs the Skipper gives it
all she's got and we cruise at 35 knots with big Detroit's humming away
underneath, 4 jet propulsion units that leave a rooster tail 20 ft. high.
Totally awesome. I yak to some of the crew including the relief skipper and
he fills me in on some of the details of the boat. It has a top speed of 43
knots and can go from full forward to full stop in 2.5 boat lengths but they
would have to scrape the passengers off the forward windows, only the
skipper and 2 bridge crew have seat belts. I suggest that it might not be
cool to try it. This feller has also jetskied in the wake but says it is not
reccommended for the faint hearted because in order to stop you have to slow
down and let the boat go which results in a total wipeout. I did suggest
that if he ducked and accelerated that he could go between the hulls but he
gave me a strange look. we arrive at Agincourt Reef and boy, is this
operation slick. Those that are Scuba Diving are taken to one spot, those
doing helicopter flights to the helipad, those snorkelling with a marine
biologist to another and those just snorkelling to another. Safety boats and
support crews are despatched to all the needed locations post haste. They
had semi submersibles that ran constantly. Meals were excellent. I felt a
little queasy in the semi submersibles but the view of the coral was worth
it. We didn't go scuba diving but still felt that we had done the reef
thing. Time to leave and it is the reverse, so smooth. I think they have
done this before.
Expensive? Oh Yeah!!
Worth it? Definately.
Back to Wangetti Beach.
Off we go and after some side detours, arrive in Cairns. We check out
the tourist office and the Pier Market. We then got on the Skyrail for the
journey to Kuranda. The view from this thing is astounding and the stops
along the way are informative. The first stop is a guided tour through the
rain forest with explanations on trees etc. The second one is a view of the
Barron Falls and a history of the Hydro power station that was built there
in the 1930's but moved in 1963.
At Kuranda we strolled around the markets (funny how all the Hippies have
now become capitalists) and went to the pub for lunch. After checking out
the station we board the train to go back to Freshwater. I wanted a photo of
the Stoney falls bridge but the batteries went flat. Take spare batteries
next time. We looked around the railway museum and then went back to the
truck. We returned to Cairns and checked out the casino and won for a
change. We then wandered around the night markets. As there is nothing else
we wanted to see in Cairns we headed back to the Showgrounds at Mareeba. The
drive up the Kuranda Range at night is fantastic with all the lights of
Cairns and suburbs layed out like a twinkling carpet.
Washing, shopping and wandering filled in the day. I booked the truck in
for a service and check over as we don't want any strife for the next 2000K
where it would cost a fortune.
On the subject of the truck: It has not missed a beat and runs extremely
well sitting on the 100K easily except on steep hills. It is getting 15 MPG
(the only language I know) and has consumed 1 litre of oil in 10000K. Yes we
have done 10000K so far.
Much the same as yesterday except that the truck is being serviced.
Veg out day. Typing up email to be sent out, tidying up a few things
around the van and generally relaxing. As you all know we are expecting our
first grandchild soon. Andrew rang last night and said it could be any day
now. He rang tonight with the news that I am a GRANDAD and now have a
granddaughter. Mother, baby and son all ok.
Julie and I proud and pleased? YOUBETCHA YOUR SWEET BIPPY.
Went out and did a coffee tour, internet cafe to send this and mail off
letters and discs of photos.