A Travellerspoint blog

Townsville - Atherton Tablelands - Palm Cove

Through the floods

With rumors still abound that roads north were still closed with more floods on the way, it was with some trepidation that we left the sunny skies of Airlie Beach and headed north. And the rumours proved true when just outside Townsville we were met with the ominous flashing sign: BRUCE HWY CLOSED. So for today at least, Townsville was very much the end of the road and we stopped into a bug infested campsite to hole up for the night. Next morning we learnt traffic was making it down from the North so without further ado we fired up the Jucy and set off. It felt like every creek we crossed was a minor victory as we began to see more and more evidence of floods and cyclone damage. Soon enough, we were no longer driving on tarmac. The SS Jucy was ploughing head on through several inches of water. Thankfully not quite enough water to close the road, but enough to make the drive great fun!

What's that sign, road subject to flooding?

Yep, no kidding.

We passed through Cyclone hit Cardwell, missing Prince William by just a day (shame), and pottered on up to Innisfail where we cut in land for a whistlestop tour of the stunningly beautiful Atherton Tableland. This circuit up to Cairns included several stop offs at increasingly larger waterfalls - I was pretty impressed by the first:


But little did we anticipate:


We also dropped in on the famous 'Curtain Fig Tree'. In case you didn't know, the fig is a vicious little tree. It's seed will land high up in the branches of a mature 'host' tree and then suck it dry whilst sending down roots of its own. In this case the host tree eventually gave up the ghost and toppled over into another tree which the fig duly ate as well, and in the process created the fabulous curtain effect.


So, after all the worry about floods and road closures, and after a treacherous descent in the dark down a very windy road from the Tablelands to the coast, we finally lumbered into Palm Cove, just north of Cairns, as the sun-set. Still a bit of the North to explore though...

Posted by tomkat2010 00:57 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Fraser Island Agnes Waters/the town of 1770,the Whitsundays

Aye Aye Sailor!

After Fraser Island we headed North, with a stop over in Agnes Waters and the town of 1770 (a strange name for a town - it's the place where Captain Cook first landed in Queensland...in 1770). Very pretty. We bumped into, and continued to stalk, our friends Gareth and Nina from Fraser - setting up at the same campsite and enjoying a meal together. Next day we passed through the home of Bundaberg rum: "Where awesome is made and bottled".

We stopped for a night in Mackay and enjoyed some fish and chips. We also learnt about the Tsunami in Japan and were pretty nervous as Australia was in the warning zone for a short while. Thankfully nothing for us to worry about though.

After a pretty long drive and we were pleased to reach our next stop: Airlie Beach. Airlie beach is one of the main points where Whitsunday cruises leave from. We boarded the good ship Ron of Argyll. Now, try to contain yourselves, but George V, Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin had all apparently stayed on our boat, not only that, Marilyn stayed in our berth (Caroline- is this the correct terminology?) although she probably didn't have to share it with two Swedish gap year students.


The Ron of Argyll is a classic sailing ship with big sails and a "skipper" called Matt and a first mate called Nigel. There were 9 of us on board, and it was safe to say that we had our fingers crossed for some sunshine as things weren't looking so good on the forecast or in the sky for that matter! We helped hoist the sales and tried to find our sea legs.


The first stop was Whitehaven beach- absolutely beautiful! What we didn't mention earlier is that Agnes Waters is the last place you can swim in the sea without a "stinger suit" on at this time of year. These stingers are some seriously mean jelly fish one of which puts you into cardiac arrest and the other is pretty lethal too, and is transparent. So, you have to wear these suits, thankfully ours were black but Tom took to wearing it around his neck whilst on land/on the boat like a super hero- "stinger-suit man": What's that I hear? A small child unsure whether it is safe to swim? I will help you, little girl by demonstrating what it looks like to be stung...(and so on and so forth). Anyway, to protect his identity stingersuitman was also pretty camera shy so here he is from a distance:


Whitehaven was every bit as beautiful as expected (and it was just like the island in Cambodia) and we saw stingrays and small sharks in the bay. We then moved to another spot for snorkelling which was great and Katie even braved the sea for the fish.

After a restless night attributable to i) rather choppy seas, ii) supremely sweaty conditions (lots of unexpected wind and rain meant that we couldn't open the window) and iii) one of the Swedish girls sleep-shouting Tom's name !!!!!!!!!!!!!, we had another day full of snorkelling and sailing- Tom saw a sea turtle. We even had some sunshine and enjoyed an evening on deck with a gorgeous sunset. We then moored in Stonehaven cove-bit different to the one in Scotland.


The next day the wind was going in the right direction and we managed to sail back after a bit of a soggy moment on the beach. We returned having had a great time and full of chat about sailing more-hmmmm, lets see how that one materialises.....

And then the sun came out and stayed out all day!! Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee we changed our plans and enjoyed a day in Airlie beach lounging by the lagoon which was the huge fresh water swimming area next to the beach. Later we had a lovely BBQ with Nina and Gareth and quite literally threw shrimp on the BBQ! Living the dream!


Posted by tomkat2010 01:26 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Fraser Island

Dunes, Dingos and Danger-Can!


Fraser Island is the biggest island made of sand in the world and it is has rain forest growing on it! Not only that, you are not allowed to swim in the sea because there are so many deadly sharks!! Not only that, 7 of the 9 deadliest snakes in Australia all live on Fraser Island. I know what you are thinking - that's a bit much. It's a good job we're so edgy, or at least Tom is, so much so that he has only gone and got himself a tattoo - check it out:


We had booked on to a three day/two night self-driving tour of the island, which would involve driving a 4 x 4 jeep around, camping in the bush and generally exploring Ozzie style. Our expectations were high and we were not disappointed: enter Chris.

Chris was our tour guide and was about as close to Crocodile Dundee as we are going to get and was later described as a cross between Chopper Reid (infamous real life Australian serial killer/ stand up comic) and an Australian Al Murray (The Pub Landlord). This was pretty spot on. We were in a group of 12, which was made up of 6 Germans and 6 Brits. Cue Chris and his hilarious German accent ("yah!" after everything). But the Germans took it in their stride and entered into the banter in terrfic form.


We all took turns in driving which included sand driving and negotiating some seriously rough terrain. Although nervous at first Katie took the wheel and ended up driving most of second day due to the high blood alcohol percentage that remained in the rest of the group. We were split up into two groups of six and Tom and I were with Anika, Stephen, Alex and Flo, our German friends. Unfortunately, the only CD we had was Marilyn Manson and so the music was quickly replaced by singing pop songs- ace! The other car were: James, Heather, Nina, Gareth, Karen and Francie.

Charging along the sea front

Tom behind the wheel on his sober day.

The group

Over the three days we visited a range of fresh water lakes for swimming, floating and marvelling. Lake Wabby was beautiful and hidden behind a huge dune. Eli Creek was a beautiful fresh water - wash the cobwebs away - creek with a current that carried you around a looping route towards the sea, much like a water park. Lake McKenzie was absolutely beautiful- clearest water and gorgeous surroundings. We were also incredibly lucky with the weather most of the time.



We also visited India Head for Shark spotting (we were unlucky due to rough seas), the Champagne pools (where waves crashed over the rocks in to two fizzing pools), and the wreck of a ship swept on to the island in rough seas.



At night we were well fed- steaks, steaks, steaks,BBQ and salad, so generally feasting, and everyone was in high spirits.


We were all enjoying a few drinks when people started to look for drinking games. Katie was speaking to Stephen and Anika when she found out that they knew how to play danger-can! Shocked and extremely pleased, a game was started, quickly followed by another.It's strange how much people love to play danger can, but you have to give the people what they want. Chris even commented something along the lines of "this is the stupidest bloogy game I have ever heard of. I can't wait to tell my mates about it".

We saw a dingo and as a group decided that the techniques to get rid of them wouldn't work, well not as much as a human pyramid would. Thankfully we had no other encounters. Anika did however spot a black snake maybe 1m away from where we were sitting at night, which is the 5th most dangerous! It would be fair to say that we were all a lot more alert from that point onwards, and Tom did well to humour the necessary multiple checkings of the tent.

All in all a brilliant group, a brilliant tour guide and a brilliant time had by all!!

Posted by tomkat2010 18:24 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Byron Bay- Noosa

Millions of leeches, leeches for free....


Byron Bay was lovely. We enjoyed relaxing on the beach for a while and snatched a glipse of the lighthouse, but then, obviously, the thunder and rain caught up with us and came and it was time to find ourselves a base for the night.


We headed for the cheapest option in the book, a place called "Macca's" in a neighbouring town. It turned out that it was quite a bit out and involved driving through a forest and over several rickety wooden bridges before we got there. Macca's (so named as the camp ground was in a macadamia nut orchard) felt pretty isolated, the only people there to meet us were a dog and an inquisitive mountain goat.

Eventually the owner turned up to say hello and Katie nipped out of the van to pay him. On re-entering the van we noticed something had attached itself to her hand (small) and her leg (actually pretty massive). Leeches. Ughhhhhh. Once they (yes, several) were removed and home-made leech socks created (see below) we headed out in the rain to use the toilet and kitchen, shared with the local billy goats, peacocks, dogs, turkeys and resident python. Ace Ventura would have been right at home. Bugs aside it was a quirky little place we were pleased to find and we awoke to lush green morning.

Leech socks


We headed on to Noosa past Australia's most Scottish Town - at least so they claimed:


arriving at NOMADS for the night. This is about as far from a Macadamia Nut Farm as you can imagine - we were camped round the back of a hostel in a make-shift car park. It was belting down so we used the time to do some planning and booked our whitsundays tour (pray for sunshine people!). The rain held off long enough for us to go on a nice coastal walk through the national park and we were lucky enough to see some dolphins. We tried for pictures but they did not oblige.

The next day we called in to Rainbow Beach where the sand and cliffs are different colours, very picturesque, though probably a bit nicer in the sunshine!

Next stop: Hervey Bay and the jumping off point for Fraser Island!

Posted by tomkat2010 17:50 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Blue Mountains - Byron Bay

Heading North and thunder storms

Our Jucy van is actually a bit of a pad - fridge, cupboards, stove, fan, air-con and even a DVD player - handy for all the knock-offs we bought in Bangkok. Our first stop was the Blue Mountains North west of Sydney. They were pretty spectacular and we walked down to the three sisters rocks.



Next stop was to the Hunter Valley. The Hunter Valley is a wine growing region of New South Wales. The scenery and vineyards were very picturesuqe. We arrived in the main town of the area late in the afternoon assuming it would be easy to find somewhere to park up for free. How niave. It became increasingly apparent that the Hunter Valley were not big fans of people parking in their picnic spots due to the signs everywhere saying no camping. We eventually (after 2 hours of driving in the rain) relented and paid to park at the youth hostel and enjoyed some local produce. The next day we enjoyed a tour of area, calling in on the sparkling wine centre to taste their wines. This was great fun, and allowed us the chance to taste some of the sparkling reds (which were a bit different to the Rizzon Frizante of a different holiday with a certain Mrs B-ha!). Katie was designated driver (booo) so Tom was enjoying two samples in our quest to determine which we would buy. The cheapest one it turned out.


Next we headed for a guided tour of the Tyrells Vineyard and wine making process.


Having had our fill of wine, we headed ever northward towards Myalls Lakes National Park (we saw a dingo on the way!) to set up camp. This again proved difficult and we ended up stopping in a car park next to one of the lakes to cook and re-consider our options. It began to rain, Australian style, which means big with thunder and lightening. As we looked to the sky we realised that we were in the middle of a storm. With our safety hats on we decided to stay where we were and try to sleep. Poor Tom. As the storm moved directly above the van and some lightening struck about 30m from our van Katie started to really freak out because we were high up, under very tall trees, and next to water so not the most ideal position....and nobody knew we were there. Needless to say that after a while we moved on and found refuge elsewhere.

After a restless night we were up early, the weather had cleared and headed back on the road. We stopped at the Port Macquaire Koala Hospital (very cute) and onwards to Nambucca Heads.


The sky was clear, the tourist information man had told us of somewhere we could park and not have any bother. Perfect. The beaches looked lovely and we decided to get some food and take photos the next day. We pulled up to the BBQ spot over looking the lake and started to cook our pasta au van.


We were almost finnished cooking when we over heard a mother shout to her children "out of the water now, that's the storm started". We looked up and saw the dark sky making its way towards us at approx 70mph and, what was that? Oh yes, huge forks of lightening. Lightening? You have got to be kidding. In a matter of minutes the once clear skies were black, the wind was picking up and the rain had started. Quickly, we crammed everything back into the car, including our pasta meatball dinner, and drove in the style of disoriented ants in seek of shelter. At one point we had to pull over due to the high winds which were throwing palm all over the road. After 15 minutes of sitting trying to work out the most sensible course of action, with the pasta sitting in a bowl in Katie's lap, we decided to consult with a local. The man was quite reassuring and said we would be ok at the previously idenfitied spot and if we were worried we coud park outside his house. Somewhat calmer, we headed to the spot and 'enjoyed' the electric show. After about an hour we saw head lights pulling up and an Aussie voice asking if they could camp next to us. Later he was back for the tin opener and we watched him standing in outside cooking his dinner in an electrical storm. Australians!

Anyway, here we are....the Sunshine Coast:


Posted by tomkat2010 20:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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