Today we drove from Mission Beach to Cairns. We spent the afternoon sightseeing in and around the town. I was definitely not impressed with Cairns. It has a good airport and lots of ways to relieve tourists and visitors of their money. The harbour is a muddy hole; otherwise it resembles Surfers Paradise without the beach and bright lights. I have been told that the council has put several million tons of sand on the shores of the harbour to try to make it look like a beach. With all the nasties in the water I would still keep away from it.
Today we went on the skyrail to Kuranda. That was impressive. We arrived too late to spend much time in the Aboriginal display building, which is near the takeoff point, but resolved to come another day. We forgot. We were fortunate to get a seat facing backwards and on the way up over the rainforest we could look over the varied greens of the forests, the sandy shores and the brilliant blue of the ocean. We came to earth twice on the trip to Kuranda for informative demonstrations about the life of the rainforest. It was entertaining and educational. We both thoroughly enjoyed it.
While the skyrail was being built we constantly read of demonstrations and objections by the greenies who swore that it would ruin one of the greatest rainforests in Australia. My observations were exactly the opposite. It has made the rainforest available to thousands of people every year, from not only Australia but from all over the world without them doing any damage It is a wonderful experience and one I would recommend to anyone.
The Kuranda markets are interesting also. We also saw some people having their first experience of bungee jumping. It was good to watch but neither of us volunteered to leap.
After the markets we made our way to the train station and caught the train, getting a great commentary from a hostess on the train about the history of the rail. We stopped to see the great Barron Falls, and then back to the railway museum, where we spent an hour or so, and then walked back to our caravan park, tired but happy after an interesting and informative day.
24th and 25th May
We had rain and although we did some trips in the car we also did the laundry and some resting
On 26th May
Today we drove south to Gordonvale then up the Gillies Highway to Atherton. I told Vonnie she should take note as it was named after one of her ancestors. I saw much beautiful scenery going up the range, but Vonnie, being a very nervous passenger where steep drop-offs are concerned, would not take her eyes off the road, as there were many twists and bends on the way.
Today we went sight seeing and among other things we saw Tiaroo and the forest drive where we saw The Chimneys and a crater, I forget the name of that. We got to Malanda where I rang my niece whom I had not seen for over twenty years. She invited us for dinner and introduced us to her husband Cam and their son and daughter. They all made us very welcome and Geoffrie (the niece) cooked us a lovely dinner.
Today we went to Herberton Historical village and museum. There were 32 historical buildings and lots of old farm and household machinery which were not as yet labeled. I recognized a lot of the stuff and explained to Vonnie what they were and how they were used. She enjoyed the tour as much as I did. After leaving there we visited some spectacular waterfalls. I cant remember the names now but I can still visualize them.
The whole time we were on the tableland it rained lightly. When we visited my niece and family I asked if it always rained here. At first they did not know what I meant. When it dawned on them they asked if I meant the Atherton drizzles. Apparently after a while you get so used to it you dont notice it.
Today we left the tableland and drove to Undara Lava Tubes. We were now in the dry savanna. (My Microsoft thesaurus did not recognize that word, but it means dry grasslands in tropical areas) the lava tubes were formed millions of years ago when a volcano erupted. The hot lava flowed down the countryside following natural valleys etc. As the outside of the lava cooled it set hard while the inside still hot and molten continued to flow leaving behind the hard outer shell which was then hollow. Eventually over many years they were covered which soil in which grass and trees grew, so that the lava tubes were hidden until in recent years there have been cave-ins of these tubes. Some enterprising people went down these holes and found these natural caves or tubes. We did a few guided tours of this pheromone before leaving to travel further west on a dirt road.
Although I had seen road trains before I had not passed any on a dirt road so when I saw one approaching I pulled over to the left. We were inundated with about fifty tons of dirt and debris. There was no water to waste on cleaning so I wiped as much as possible off the windscreen and got going again. The narrow dirt road lasted all the way to Normanton passing through Mt Surprise, Georgetown, Gilbert River and Croydon, right across the widest part of the Cape York Peninsula. The road has since been upgraded and is now bitumen.
From Normanton we headed north and then west through what looked like miles and miles of tidal flood land and arrived at Karumba on the south coast of The Gulf of Carpentaria. We settled into a caravan park and I booked a fishing trip for the next day. A man I met in the caravan park told me how to make a very good antenna from a length of copper pipe. It worked wonderfully too. We sometimes had a little trouble adjusting the angle. The TV and Vonnie were inside the van and the antenna was outside so I, standing on a ladder, could not see when we were getting the best reception. I would turn the antenna a fraction at a time through the full 360 degrees waiting for my partner to say when to stop. She usually said stop after I had left it and walked away. I would go inside to check and could not see any picture, so then I had to turn the antenna a small fraction at a time the other way hoping she would tell me to stop immediately we got a good picture. We did not fight over this but at times we came close. I ended up putting the TV near a window so I could see for myself. Later, at several caravan parks quite a few people told me I was wasting my time trying to get TV reception. I usually asked if they minded if I try anyhow. Most of them walked away muttering when they saw our TV reception. In Port Lincoln in South Australia, woman was quite adamant that I would not be able to get a picture. Her son was a TV expert and I would need a very high antenna to get any reception at all. She came around later and I invited her in to see all four channels from Adelaide, many miles across the water, as well as the two local channels. I even got one from Tasmania once.
The fishing trip was not a complete disaster but could have been. I was standing in the middle of this open boat and the skipper was on my left. I hooked a fish and still thinking he was on my left I lifted the fish aboard. He had moved while I was busy and got a poisonous cat fish on his chest. Luckily he got nothing more than a fright. All three of us travelers each got a fair sized fish for our day.
Early in 1996 I decided that although I had seen quite a lot of Queensland and a fair chunk of NSW + parts of SA and several trips through the Northern Territory, I had yet to travel around the circumference of this great continent. I had been delivering raffle tickets for Multicap for five years and needed a change. I resigned my job, sold all my woodworking machinery and my boat and started the search for a suitable caravan which we could live in for a year. As I could not afford a new one, the search was frustrating to say the least. There were hundreds of caravans for sale in the price range I wanted, but unfortunately they were mostly rubbish. Getting one with a toilet and shower was impossible so we decided that we would stay in caravan parks and use their facilities.
Even so the search was long and frustrating. We eventually settled for a 16ft Viscount which although not much to look at was strong and well built and had lots of cupboard space. The search for a suitable towing vehicle was not quite so bad although a four wheel drive was definitely out of our price range. We settled for a Falcon Station Wagon because the wagon had better suspension than the sedan for towing great loads. It turned out to be a good choice too. We traveled on all kinds of road, usually at a fair pace and had no troubles.
When I took the caravan home and erected the annex, I found the roof of the annex had more holes than a mosquito net, so replaced that and prepared to go. Another hold up here. Vonnie did not want to go and leave all her friends. We eventually came to a compromise on that. She went to NZ with her ten pin bowling club for three weeks first.
After days of packing and saying goodbyes we eventually hit the road about 8.15 am on 22nd April 1996. We stopped for morning tea outside Gympie and noticed that we had lost the caravan step. It must have come down and I went too close to a guide post or similar. I made a new one eventually and it was fine.
We booked into Burrum Heads that night and the rains started. It kept up for almost two weeks. We got 24 inches (2ft) of rain before it stopped. We walked in the rain with our coats and umbrellas and dared it to get heavier. It did. We moved to Agnes Waters along a very muddy dirt road. I liked Agnes Waters; it reminded me of the Gold Coast in the 1940s. Agnes Waters is the most northerly point where we get surf in Queensland. The Great Barrier Reef blocks the surf from there north. We did beach walks, mostly in the rain but were too happy to let it get us down. We visited the town of 1770 and had a trip on the LARC out to Bustard Head. The LARC is an all terrain vehicle which can travel through almost anything. It took us across the bay over sand banks and creeks and then up to Bustard Head lighthouse which is an old (now disused) lighthouse which some people are trying to refurbish. Unfortunately visiting yachts moor behind the Headland and for entertainment their crews vandalize the lighthouse and buildings. We got a complete history of the area from the time Captain Cook and Joseph Banks and their crew came ashore and had a feast of scrub turkey, which they called Bustards. This reminds me that an old bushie told me the best way to cook scrub turkey was to put it in a large pot of water with a stone or rock in the water and boil it until the stone is soft.
On 30th April we took the annex down so we could hit the road early next day. The road was closed so we spent another couple of days without the annex. That was not good because we had to keep the door closed to keep out the rain.
On 2nd May we woke to lovely sunshine. We walked the beach and climbed the rocks to take photos. The road out was still closed.
On 3rd May the road was open so we slipped and slid trough mud and potholes, most of the way back to Mirian Vale and the bitumen road damaging the wire connector for the lights on the van on the way. I fixed that while Vonnie fixed lunch, we then traveled through Emu Vale to Kinka Beach which is 13 Km south of Yeppoon at Harvey Bay. We set up the van and annex and went shopping to fill the larder and fridge.
The 4th May was a beautiful sunny day. We went driving and took photos overlooking Rosslyn Bay and the boat harbour. We really enjoyed the sunshine and fine weather, even got the TV to work on a central antenna in the caravan park. We got good pictures too.
On 5th May we went to Keppel Sands for lunch then to Rockhampton and the Botanic Gardens. Vonnie was disappointed with the gardens. Not at all like the brochure. The 6th May was a lazy day, washing ironing and general maintenance. We considered that we had seen a fair bit of Rockhampton having been there several times. The limestone caves are well worth a visit, sometimes they put on a show for entertainment. Once, while we were there, they reenacted the wedding of an old couple whom we knew, and Vonnie played the part of the grooms mother. Whenever we meet them he always asked how his mum is doing. (He is actually much older than Vonnie). We decided we had been there and done that so did not call in.
10th May we packed up and moved to Mackay. Along the road I saw some young people in a car behind me and thinking they wanted to pass waved them on. They kept on waving and gesturing until I started to wave back, they then pulled alongside to tell me the retread had come off the caravan tyre. I pulled up and started to change the wheel. They even offered to do it for me, but I thanked them and did it myself. Vonnie stood out the back to guide the cars around us so they would not drive over my legs. I had to buy two new tyres when I got to Mackay. We spent a few days exploring beaches, parks and other tourist attractions.
13th May we moved on to Townsville (398 Kms our longest day so far). We had been to places like Proserpine which is the gateway to Airlie Beach and many Barrier Reef Islands. We had spent weeks there with the kids on a previous trip, so kept going through Bowen, Home Hill and Ayr..
I like Townsville a lot and we spent a few days exploring Castle Hill and Magnetic Island + Anderson Park Botanical Gardens, The Palmerton and The Town Common. We had a lovely day at the Billabong Sanctuary. We saw a koala show, eel and turtle feeding, fruit bat feeding; Vonnie had a photo taken holding a fruit bat. (Not allowed these days, because of the risk of infection), crocodile feeding, Cassowary feeding. We saw a blue tongued skunk and large black headed python. I had a photo with it (the python) wrapped around my shoulders. Vonnie was ecstatic, being up close and friendly with so many Australian animals. Actually touching them meant a lot to her.
On 17th May we left Townsville and drove to Cardwell, a quiet place with lots of scenic drives and walks. We went to waterholes we had never heard of and walked to Attic Falls.
On 18th May we went to Taylors, Lucinda and Forest Beaches and 5 Mile Waterhole. Vonnie agreed it was another lovely day. Much beautiful scenery.
On 19th May we walked through Edmund Kennedy National Park. A bright sunny day and a beautiful walk except the mosquitoes worried Vonnie... She agreed it was worth it though. Then went on to Murray Falls. In Vonnie words Very picturesque
On 20th May we moved on to Mission Beach. Arrived for lunch and set up camp. Then went sightseeing and walking through rainforests and then along the beach.
On 21st May I found a lovely beach and set Vonnie up in a chair with magazine under a big shady tree and I walked a few yards away to wet a line. No fish though. It would be a lovely place to spend the winter. Some young English visitors got excited and tried to chase a goanna. I told them their pommy accents were scaring it. If they would speak slowly in a quiet Aussie drawl and give it some meat out of their sandwiches it would be their friend. We did not wait to see them patting it.