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
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
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
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 little store.
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.
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 day off.
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.
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
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
There being nothing more to interest us in Mackay we headed towards
Calen and lunch.
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 Bowen.
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
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
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 it:)
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 leave tomorrow.
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
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 Rollingstone.
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
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 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
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.
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 night.
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
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
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
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 aforementioned bugs.
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 Daintree Village.
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 astound me.
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
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
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
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
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.