Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Daintree, Cape Tribulation and beyond...

The morning dawned bright and early for these happy campers at Ellis Beach, just between Palm Cove and Port Douglas. We set our alarm to greet the sun poking over the Pacific at weren't disappointed with a walk along the beach to start our day.

Heading north we stopped at Port Douglas and then Mossman for lunch by the river, continued on to Daintree Village where we spotted our first croc! We crossed the Daintree River on the ferry, driving through the rainforest whilst I tried to book into our campsite online on my phone - no luck, all booked out so after some further googling around (this is becoming a habit, must be a bit more organised!) we found a privately owned little campground, Lync Haven. It was a quiet spot for the night, although lots of wildlife in the bush next to the camper. In the morning the owner had mentioned to Matt they fed the resident crocodile at 9am, so off we trotted to the crocodile enclosure they had on site. Doris (who used to be Boris until he/she started laying eggs in a nest!) was their female salty, about three metres long and not very hungry when we saw her. Apparently she would be lucky to eat 500 grams of meat in a week during the dry?! We got talking to the owner Scott, who looked very familiar and on the information sheet given to us at check-in the owners 'Scott and Jodie' looked familiar to the ones that own the Dargo pub back home in the Victorian high country...well turns out they are one in the same! Small world. So got chatting about all things Dargo/Daintree. As you do. Good people and great little business if you are ever looking for somewhere to camp/stay in the Cape Tribulation area.

Whilst we were stuck in Cairns for a week Matt got talking to a guy whilst watching the Olympics in the camp kitchen in the caravan park who used to run tours up here. One night Matt went and knocked on his caravan door with a pen and paper and scribbled down all the local haunts and off the beaten track notes he could get out of him. It paid big time when we followed the convoluted directions to go down this track, round that corner, walk upstream 100 metres, in Matt's 'neat' handwriting and stumbled upon 'The Big Blue Hole...'

It was stunning. Crystal clear water that pitched into a deep hole and turned a brilliant aqua. Amazing. And so full of fish! And turtles! It was truly one of the most beautiful sights of nature we'd ever witnessed. We sat and just looked at it in silence for a long time. We wandered further up and downstream, beautifully rounded river stone and Luxie and Carrie even got in on the photoshoot action.

The Marrdja boardwalk awaited us further up the road though so we trucked on and walked through the rainforest once again marvelling at towering trees, palms and ferns growing out of the strangest places. Also stopped in at Myall beach for a cheesy honeymoon photo opp.

Continuing north the road turned to gravel and we slowly wound our way up and down some steep hills, leaving the dense rainforest behind us and opening up into more scrubland. We reached Wujal Wujal - a small Aboriginal community and followed our nose/more scribbled instructions on a paper bag to the Bloomfield Falls where we met another Carry Me Camper. Carrie's twin! The falls were a short walk in and had an enormous amount of water pumping over them. I can only imagine in the wet! Matt suggested a swim, I said no way, crocodiles! Later I read croc's do live at the base of the falls. Good one Matt.

Back on the road we stopped in at the famous Lion's Den pub for a beer (went down very well!), got some direction to some waterfalls and then turned left to another tip off from old mate back in Cairns. He told us to stop at the causeway over the Annan River, walk downstream a few hundred metres to see the gorge...

Pretty special. By this time it was getting late so we headed straight to Archers Point, passing a few cattle on the way. Matt seemed to take fooooorrreeevveerrrrr to pick a good enough campsite for the night, finally settled for one on the beach, a bit windy but a great view from bed in the morning! I must say I slept a lot more soundly being up top in Carrie with all these crocodile warning signs about...

This morning after a stroll on the beach at Archers Point we headed backwards to check out the Trevethan Falls, up a minor road then a bit of 4wd-ing, then a small walk up a hill then down some rocks to see the falls. More beautiful waterfalls!

Only another 16km's and we were in historic Cooktown - the 'Queen of the North' apparently. This afternoon we had lunch at the lighthouse and look-out with 360 degree views over the town, river and ocean. We also had a walk around the botanic gardens and went to see the site where Captain Cook dragged The Endeavour ashore after it struck the Great Barrier Reef in 1770. Very interesting stuff. Tomorrow we plan to go to the James Cook Museum and have a better look around Cooktown before heading up to Hope Vale, another small Aboriginal community, and camping at Ellim Beach.

Enjoying ourselves immensely and trying to soak it all in and take our time - seeing as though we have no timeframe really this is the easy part! We're not sure when we will have reception again to use the internet so until then...


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Atherton Tablelands and the little things...

Well after a sad and sorry three days at the mechanics instead of one, with us idling away in a Cairns caravan park for the best part of last week, we are finally back on the road! Long story short - poor Luxie (apparently) needed new front ball joints, the starter motor pulled apart, a few other niggly bits and pieces as well. He should be like a new ute! Or so our wallets say...

Anyway, we finally drove out of Cairns on Saturday headed...south??? Yes that's right, wrong way! Seeing as though our drive to Cairns was a bit rushed in order to catch our plane to Papua New Guinea we decided to backtrack a wee bit and see some sights of the Atherton Tablelands and surrounds. First stop was The Boulders just near Babinda. Amazingly clear turquoise water with smooth boulders and rainforest all around. 

We continued south almost to Innisfail and stopped in at the popular Josephine Falls, we considered a swim but it was quite chilly in the rainforest! Spectacular falls with beautiful pools below and then again and again, about three levels. A few people there as it was the weekend.

We hit the road again and this time headed up into the mountains a bit further to discover more waterfalls, more rainforest...all a bit repetitive really. Kidding! More gorgeous falls with crystal clear water and lush surronds. 

Eventually wound our way around to Lake Tinaroo where we planned to camp the night. A fair few others had the same idea considering it was a Saturday night and I'm assuming a popular spot for people from Cairns to come. We found what we thought was a great spot up on a hill next to the bush - only to discover there was a native bush rat problem and we were probably first stop for a midnight snack! We've had rats chew wires in both the Hilux and my Territory so Matt was all panic stations about the rats. When we camped with Matt's sister and her family after we got off Fraser Island some rats also chewed through both our expensive C-Gear mats so we weren't too keen on that happening again. Oh yeah, and it was freeeeeeezing cold! Ok I've probably been colder in the high country of Victoria camping, but for far north Queensland it was ridiculous! We dragged out our beanies, made some hot chocolate and went to bed early. Not before Matt rolled up the walls of the camper, packed away practically everything (including C-Gear mat), popped the bonnet of the ute and hung an LED light over it as apparently the rats don't like the light so much. Needless to say in the morning there was no rat chewing problems. Phew.

We hung around for awhile this morning - soaking in the glorious sunshine, I poached some eggs, we drank tea, jealously watched the boats going out for an early morning ski and wakeboard. Bliss. Finally decided to move on and headed back to the main road. Matt saw a sign to a look-out through a farm though and I reluctantly agreed despite the gate opener duties. Lovely farmland around Atherton - we found Gippsland up north! 

As you can see the view from the look-out was fairly spectacular so we stopped for lunch there, all alone and quite beautiful. On we went though to the Cathedral Fig - an amazing tree estimated to be about 500 years old and started as a tiny seed high in the canopy of it's host tree. It was truly magnificent...

Phenomenal, right? Right. We drove on to Yungaburra and visited another fig, the Curtain Fig which is a lot more popular to visit I think because it's on the highway but in our opinion not nearly as spectacular as the Cathedral Fig.

Luxie trundled on to Atherton, stopped for a few supplies before continuing through the farmland to Kuranda (where we went on the skyrail and train last week) and then down the mountain. We were headed to a campground at Palm Cove (between Cairns and Port Douglas) but unfortunately we got there and it was booked out! At 5.30 after a day of tourist activities and driving this generally isn't what I want to hear. After some quick googling I found another caravan park up the road, got the last site available after a cancellation and here we are tonight at Ellis Beach! 

We have really started to get into a great rhythm of traveling - becoming very efficient and quick at packing up/setting up the camper, we have a spot for everything in the camper, the kitchen works really well and there's really not much we would change about how we set it all up. It suits our needs fine. Last week though I was missing a few home comforts, little things that start to annoy you living on the road. The tap next to fridge is always hard to fill the kettle from for example. My make-up and toiletries overflow from the camper drawers and I can never find anything. I grumbled to Matt. And then while I was working in Cairns (yes this is a working honeymoon!) on endless photos he quietly set about putting a new hose extension on the tap and putting dividers in the camper drawers for me and arranging things better. It's the little things when you're living in close quarters you know?

Yes, it's the little things.

Little things like not objecting to his mad photographer wife telling him to stop on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Bless his cotton socks.

Monday, August 6, 2012

All aboard!

Today while we had a day in Cairns (ute being taken to mechanics tomorrow) we thought we'd do some tourist activity in the capital of north Queensland. Matt had done the skyrail and scenic railway trip up the mountains to Kuranda before with his parents but I hadn't so we decided to splurge from our meagre budget. We took the skyrail up the mountain, catching the bus from our caravan park this morning to the gondola terminal.

Once we were up in the sky we got a great view over the mountains, Cairns and to the coast. We stopped at Red Peak for a little rainforest boardwalk and talk about all things rainforest before continuing on to Barron Falls and then finally Kuranda.

Kuranda is a little village up the mountains from Cairns. It has lots of markets with a weird mix of 'I love Australia' t-shirts, stuffed koalas, boomerangs and didgeridoos catering for the Asian tourist market and then the hippy peace loving hemp clothing, a lot of gemstones, dream catchers, wind chimes, fishermans pants, sarongs and the like. We wandered around for about two hours, having lunch in the park followed by a strong latte (for me) and choc-mint/rum and raison ice-cream (for Matt) sitting in a little cafe.

We meandered down to the cute little train station and boarded the 2pm train back to Cairns. The Kuranda Scenic Railway isn't a steam train like I hoped (just regular ol' diesel power) but the carriages are timber with open windows and have an old world charm to them. I do love a bit of train travel! Very Hollywood siren of me. And we sat opposite the cutest elderly couple who held hands and I'm sure used to ride trains back in the day together in the exact same pose. 

We stopped at the other side of the Barron Gorge to take some photos of the falls, which must be amazing in the wet. We kept chugga-chugging through the rainforest and down the mountains - the train passes over several bridges and through 15 tunnels! There was commentary throughout about how the early pioneers blasted their way through the mountains and dense jungle to carve the path to the goldfields on the other side of The Great Divide. Very interesting.

We eventually chugged and tooted our way into Cairns central station, hopped off and walked 'home' to our caravan park. Tonight we're trying to decide where we might go tomorrow night (all going well with the ute's little tune up). Perhaps we'll backtrack to Atherton, perhaps we'll stay on in Cairns another night or perhaps we'll keep chugging further north a bit...