My grandparents have a friend in Cairns and I had always planned to visit as she had kindly invited me to use her home as my base. But with the last job cut short I arrived earlier than anticipated and in time for Christmas, although this had initially worried me as I didn’t want to gate-crash someone’s Christmas, especially at such late notice. I need not have worried though as I was given a warm welcome by Geraldine, her family and friends. We realised we had much in common chatting about England, travelling etc.etc.
I spent some time sight-seeing local areas, Northern beaches, Palm Cove, swimming in their pool and looking for a car. Crystal Cascades was particularly good and had been deemed a must see by Jethro at Tully. I even tried out a church in Cairns that boasted an X Factor singer!
Then it was out to the Great Barrier Reef enjoying a full day on Green Island. Through the glass-bottomed boat and snorkelling in the clear waters I saw a turtle, reef sharks and a sting-ray; some of the many things I can tick off my ‘must see’ list. The family took me to Kuranda in the tablelands with its fantastic green tropical views and huge waterfall – Bowen Falls.
On Christmas Eve I made my biggest purchase since leaving home, a present to myself – a car. Australia is so vast it is hard seeing most places by public transport and was taking so long as well as being disappointed to miss some of the smaller but beautiful places of interest. Coincidentally one of the lads from the Mission Bay hostel had advertised his car and so I felt more comfortable buying from someone I knew and a car I knew off.
Christmas day was spent with Geraldine’s family and we visited the Botanical gardens – a completely different experience to my traditional one at home and somehow didn’t feel like Christmas in the heat, although still very enjoyable.
For the first time in my life I went Boxing Day shopping but only for necessary travelling supplies; it felt good having my own wheels. My last few days in Cairns Geraldine was house-sitting for her son and so I was home alone with a house and car, made me feel like a true citizen for a little while. I spent the time preparing the car, researching routes and packing. One day whilst I was out I was flagged down by some lads, wondering why I noticed they were asking me to drive round a python in the middle of the road – all in a days work.
My last day Geraldine treated me to yet another meal and we rode through the cane fields and to Kuranda Railway Station, where you can take a journey through the world Heritage-Listed rainforest; a most picturesque place that looked like it had come from a film set.
What a lovely surprise Christmas, I can’t thank Geraldine and her family enough for their hospitality and help – treasured memories.
Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation
So back on the road with my own wheels and about to clock up the miles. I headed first to Port Douglas one hour away. Then I journeyed 3 hours following the most amazing but windy road with scenic views and a ferry crossing to reach Cape tribulation.
The weather wasn’t great at the cape; I found a look-out and checked out the car, still getting used to it and not wanting any nasty surprises by taking it for granted. On the way back down there was a crash where an Asian driver with ‘P’ plates had driven right over the road and in to the ditch. It was taking a truck driver some time trying to get the car on the bed and in the end he had to give up. It delayed me quite a while but I didn’t mind as I felt so sorry for the driver and was just glad it wasn’t me. I was even more cautious on the bends down after though.
I hunted out some rainforest walks and random beaches then back across the ferry feeling like Che Gureva in the ‘Motorcycle Diaries’.
Another one hour drive took me through more amazing lush green scenery with mountain views to Mossman Gorge where I took the bus in to the gorge with its great swimming holes. Finally after a long day I used the free campsite at ‘Rifle Rest Area’, one of the best free sites I have come across and with free showers; a bit of a windy route to get there, an uneasy test for the car, but arrived safe and sound on another leg of my travels.
After the Rainforest Tablelands the next part of the journey along the coast was a little disappointing, Cooktown was dead as it was New Year’s Eve, I walked up to Finch Bay and Cherry Tree Bay and there were only 2 people there but magnificent beach views. I drove up to Grassy Hill a look-out point, after initially going the wrong way and nearly taking my sump out, but the views for miles around were worth it.
Lake Tineroo and the Tablelands
Took a shower in my favourite rest area after my gravel pit overnighter! I headed over to Lake Tineroo having to double back at one point as I didn’t like the gravel road conditions. Stayed the night at Kairi rest area for New Year with a very noisy pub nearby but I was too busy sorting out my Flat tyre!!!
I had a lovely morning at Lake Barrina and Lake Eacham, popular freshwater lakes surrounded by World Heritage National Park; both formed when a large volcano erupted over 17000 years ago, leaving a huge open crater that filled up with water. It’s quite popular with tourists and was busy this New Year with people taking their first early morning dip in 2017.
I was excited to check out a Curtain Fig Tree and a platypus at the look-out. The fig tree is from the strangler species; the curtain effect results from one tree leaning against another tree on a 45-degree angle. The strangler vine then grew along an angle of the leaning tree, dangling 15 metres to the ground to create the curtain affect, an amazing sight.
I grabbed my almost daily fuel and air before Google maps annoyingly took me the wrong way, down some long winding gravel track to someone’s dwelling. But I did eventually manage to find Mt Hypipamee Crater and Dinner Falls, again formed by volcanic activity. The 180 degree views of lush mountainside from McHugh point were breath-taking. Onto Millaa Millaa the first on the waterfall route, a 5km walk through Silver Creek Falls to an even more impressive fall where there was only one other person. It was here I decided to have a swim but had a nightmare feeling that there were crocs lurking under the water – think maybe I’ve been watching too many documentaries! Finally through cane country past Pronella Park, where Carol a friend from church had recently got work, then past the very familiar Mission Beach and Tully – so long work life!
Stopped in Bilyana outside Tully overnight then to the beautiful Cardwell Beach with incredible views looking out on to Hinchinbrook Island and the look-out which was even better! Very different when I didn’t have to see it at 5 am then go to work!! It was at this point that I realised I had lost the car’s front grill!!!. Back to Blue Water Rest Area now my most stayed rest area, like 4 times I have been there now!!
Townsville and Magnetic Island
The next morning I was up at 6am to drive to the ferry for a nice cruise over to Magnetic Island. I walked to Nelly Bay past Geoffrey Bay and snorkelled at Alma on the edges but the water was pretty rough and tiring. I tried doing the boat wreck at Geoffrey Bay but gave in to lamb sausage BBQ on the beach instead!!! Back in Townsville I camped in Giri on a field, no amenities with only 2 other vehicles!
The following morning saw me drive to Bowen through Ayr. I was very impressed with Bowen, I thought it was just a farming town but the beaches there were fantastic!!!! Then over to Hideaway Bay but the weather was getting worse and my day was running out! I quickly showered in an unlocked cubical in a town park I passed through. I finally arrived at a BP rest area where I was rained out of my tent and folded myself into the car for an uncomfortable night! It’s not called the Tropics here for nothing! This rain is something else.
The next day I drove in the tropical rain to Airlie Beach, the meet-up point for a tour to Whitsundays. I was disappointed but not surprised that the tour had been cancelled due to the rain and so I continued to drive south all day, hoping that the weather would improve.
Sunday I visited a friendly church in Rockhampton where the locals were super friendly and welcoming. They had a great worship song called ‘Joy’ it was real country/ folk and the guy hammered the guitar and sang it out loudt!!
Onwards with more driving to a really nice rest area next to a river making a great sunset. Even got a free shower although it still cost me as I smashed my shampoo all over the floor – ha-ha! I double checked about camping, with a friendly couple who were sat out front, but thankfully got warned off as he’d noticed an ant’s nest. A super guy that had been there 6 weeks and was going to live in the village and try and find work due to writing off his car.
Next morning I hit the road again not going as far as I expected due to a lack of free camping areas. I stopped off at an information centre for my first on the road shave and met a guy Corey from my farm work which was truly random; we had a nice catch up and I met some of his friends!! Unfortunately landed with a not so good camping area that night at Apple Tree Creek, on a lay by really, but bearable for a night for free!! I have had worse!! Also got offered mango from farmers driving around!
Made my way 2 hours to Hervey Bay information centre for a tour to Fraser Island. Then drove the coast to the jetty; as soon as I closed the door I knew I had locked myself out, the keys were in the ignition aaaarrrggghhh so annoying! I walked over to a car rental and a fishing shop but had no joy. Kindly a local shop gave me a metal coat hanger that I spent a good hour in the heat trying to prise open the latch but still no joy. I finally gave in and got a property agency to call the local lock-smith’s a stupid expensive $88 mistake!! The guy came we laughed about it and 2 mins later I was driving off quickly for a lunch on the beach before clocking up many more miles.