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Cape Tribulation

August 18, 2011

So yes, it’s been a while. Thanks for bearing with me.

A couple of days ago I finished my two weeks with Ally and Pete in Kuranda, and had a wonderful time (more on that soon). While staying with them, though, I took a few days out to head up to Cape Tribulation to see the Daintree Rainforest. I’ve had a bit of a fascination for the Daintree since growing up with the gorgeous book Where the Forest Meets the Sea. If you know any small children, please do them a huge favour and get them a copy of that book.

I booked in to stay at the Noah Beach campground ($5.15 a night, thanks National Parks!), on recommendation from a friend, as well as my Cool Camping Australia book. And it was amazing. As you can see from the picture, the little campsites were completely surrounded by the rainforest. What you can’t see is that the beach was so close there was the constant sound of the surf. Yup, amazing.

The one caveat to that site was the little native white-tailed rat that took a shine to my tent. After he nibbled a hole into my tube of condensed milk (completely ignoring the neighboring muesli bar), I was forced to any and all food and food-smelling items into the main tent with me. A practise that I’m now getting used to…

I loved walking along Noah Beach, especially at dawn. There was a wonderful ancient wilderness feeling to those dark hills with their heads in the clouds, and the beach was serene and empty. Also each morning, for some reason utterly unknown to me, dozens of butterflies could be seen flying with uncharacteristic purpose South along the edge of the rainforest. Strange and beautiful.

I decided that while I was in the area I did need to do a couple of the tourist-y things, and so went on a croc-spotting tour along Coopers Creek (the mouth of which I had unwittingly walked near the previous day. Whoops), and an exotic fruit tasting at the Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm. Both were excellent experiences, but I think my favourite was actually the fruit tasting. I’m tempted to make “a climate conducive to growing Soursop” a must-have on my Where to Live list… it was SO GOOD.

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The Journey Up

August 1, 2011

So yes, I did make it up to Cairns and little Kuranda.

And I have to give a big shout out to the irrepressible, incomparable Missy. Bless her cold metal heart, she’s not hesitated a moment  in the whole 3000km trip, despite not having the smoothest of drivers. I’m so proud of her, and of course, so so grateful to the people who helped me get her fully “road-trip worthy”.

First stop was Iluka, NSW north coast. Not much to report except that I noted a striking predilection for cement statuettes amongst those living permanently in caravan parks.

Next stop was Beerburrum, an hour or so up past Brisbane. I was lucky enough to get a bed and dinner there courtesy of my mum’s lovely friends Gina and Jim. I am fast learning that politeness can go hang – if someone offers me a free bed for the night I will take it. Case in point: when I couldn’t get in touch with Gina when I arrived in Beerburrum I asked a local shopkeeper if she’d heard of her and explained my situation. This lovely woman then offered me a spare bed in her house and I would have very cheerfully taken her up on it had my Plan A had fallen through. Take this as a warning: don’t offer me a bed if you don’t really mean it.

As the drive to Beerburrum had been pretty deadly boring (all motorways on the outskirts of Brizzie) and I didn’t have very far to travel the next day, I took the opportunity to do a couple of touristy side-trips. Firstly to the Glasshouse Mountains lookout

And then via Rainbow Beach and Inskip Point

Lovely.

I then got to Hervey Bay where I stayed with some very dear family friends, Colin and Ann. Earlier in the year they were a huge help to me in finding Missy and getting her ship-shape, as well as being generally supportive, helpful and enthusiastic about my travels. I’m very very lucky to have had their help.

From Hervey Bay I went to just a simple little rest area called Granite Creek, a little way north of Gin Gin. I was initially a little wary of stopping here as there were a few caravans around, but I couldn’t see any people except one kind of creepy looking bloke with his truck and a couple of dogs. He soon moved on though, and a friendly young Aboriginal guy who just stopped for a smoke and a chat quickly made me feel better. He moved on, but another young guy came along and set his tent not too far from mine. He turned out to be an interesting chap from Denmark, on the last leg of a two month drive right round Australia. He knew an impressive amount about Australian birds and said he used the birds he wanted to see to plan where he wanted to go. And guess what? He blogs! Here he is:  http://lifeofallan.blogspot.com/

I wanted to stop for two nights at the next place, so decided to go to Clairview. It looked like a nice, quiet little place where the Bruce Highway meets the coast, and there was a caravan park, so I’d be able to relax, have hot showers and a powered site for catching up on emails and so forth. Hmmm… unfortunately it didn’t really turn out as I was anticipating and was, in fact, a quite large and busy caravan park with a fairly specific clientele. At the risk of sounding insufferably snotty (moi?), the onsite licensed bar and proximity to fishing meant the park was very popular with a particular bogan-y sort of fishing crowd. Let’s just say I didn’t fit in too well.When I went to reception to ask for a truck to be moved off my camping site, I could hear my own voice through their ears and it sounded a bit like “Excuse me? I’m EVER so sorry, but it appears some chap’s left his truck on my site. If it could possibly be moved…? I do so hate to be a nuisance…” Oh dear.

Anyway, the truck turned out to be Ralphy’s and was duly moved off my dusty little site. I set my tent up but had already decided to move on the

next day. One bloke in a caravan near my site, bless him, did attempt neighbourliness and invited me to the bar for a beer that evening, but I wasn’t really in the mood. He was on a break from Coal Seam Gas exploration in the area.

So yes, early the next morning I made some excuse at reception, received a refund for my second night ($30 a night!!), packed up my little tent, said goodbye to no-one and made tracks.

To be honest, this experience was somewhat of a downer for me. I felt like a bit of a failure, a towny unable to fit in with “real Aussies”, and wondered what the hell I was doing leaving my socially-comfortable life in Sydney. But ho-hum, too late (or too embarrassing?) to turn back now, so I planned my route to Platypus Bush Camp in Finch Hatton Gorge.

At this point I have to give a shout-out to my friends at the Sydney Metro Catchment Management Authority (woo!) where I used to work. These lovely folk got me, as part of my leaving gift, a book called Cool Camping Australia (East Coast), and 3 of the best places I stayed (Platypus Bush Camp, Alligator Creek camping ground and Paronella Park) were all written up in that book. Awesome!

If you’ve been following my blog you know how amazing Platypus Bush Camp was. I stayed there two nights and regained my confidence in my social abilities. I had some really great conversations with Wazza and other travellers staying there, and people leaving called out “bye Helen!” as I sat out the front of my tent. Phew. I think I’m gonna be okay.

Crazy thing actually; two lovely people I met there, Astrid and Sandro, are a couple doing a similar thing to me (they quit their jobs to travel around Australia) but it turns out we were living only streets away from each other in Sydney. That’s nuts. This is their blog:  http://oztrax.com/ (gah, their latest entry is on sailing in the Whitsundays… JEALOUS).

So I left Platypus Bush Camp (shouting oaths to return over my shoulder to Wazza) feeling pretty great and ready to forge my way north once more. Next stop was a simple little camping ground called Alligator Creek in Bowling Green Bay National Park, nothing special, just a place to stop. But it turned out to be quite lovely and I met another nice young man, from Cairns on his way south to the Splendour in the Grass music festival in Brisbane and then on to the Blue Mountains to camp and visit friends. (considering the time of year, I think I was the one heading in the right direction, but anyway…). This camp ground was crawling with Bush Turkeys, and there were gorgeous little wallabies hanging around at dusk. And then, at about 4am I was woken by some strange noises, quite close to the back of my tent. Horses! There were feral horses stomping and munching through the bush just a few metres away. I stuck my head out but could barely make out darker shapes in the black. Possums and bats rounded out the nighttime cacophony.

Next stop was Paronella Park. We all know about that place now, a great experience.

Yeah baby!!

And then the next day, the final day, Cairns and on through to Kuranda! Wooo! I hadn’t been having a lot of coffee while travelling, so I think the one I bought at Paronella before I set off had quite an affect. I was bouncing around in my seat and singing as I passed that Cairns sign (I actually passed it, turned around and went back for the photo. Had to be done!)

In Kuranda for the past five days I’ve been chilling out and staying with my friends Dan and Yuki (AKA ukulele superstars Bosko and Honey), which has been absolutely perfect. It’s given me time to regain my energy (having only just learnt to drive manual a few months ago the 3000 km journey was pretty exhausting), do my laundry, catch up on blog posts (yuss!) and act like a bit of a tourist in the beautiful little town of Kuranda. I also got to go with Dan and Yuki to an event called The Red Ball in Cairns on Saturday night, as they were the opening act. It was an awesome evening, and I got to film the World Premier performance of their new song “Tuck Me In”. If you haven’t already (or even if you have), I highly recommend you wtch this, you’ll never quite be the same again:

Dan and Yuki have been lovely, generous hosts, but it’s now time for me to start doing what I came up here to do; this afternoon I’m going to be meeting my first proper WWOOF hosts and the proper work begins. I’m excited!

I’ve had various reactions to the fact that I’m traveling on my own. One Grey NomadI felt a little bit like punching when he said “you’re a brave girl!” like he thought I was fourteen. Another young guy at Platypus Bush said I was brave to be camping on my own, and I replied, laughing, “what’s gunna get me?”. Interestingly enough, that night I actually had a nightmare and my words, almost literally, came back to haunt me. Ha. That’ll teach me not to be such a smart arse. Or, more likely, it won’t.

I’ve also had a young lady (at Paronella Park) say “isn’t travelling on your own the BEST?”, and I’d have to say yes. Yes it is.

Kuranda Rainforest and Barron Gorge

July 30, 2011

I saw the “Be Aware” sign (pic 6) while walking out to Wright’s Lookout.

I have to say it gave me pause for thought: It occurred to me at that point that I don’t actually know Cassowary protocol. What’s the best response to surprising one in the wild? Is one meant to run away screaming or stay still? Stand tall, lie down and play dead, or climb a tree? Stare them down or strictly no eye contact? Does punching them on the nose really work? (or is that sharks?). To be honest, I don’t even like emus, and they don’t wear a permanent Attack Helmet like the notoriously grumpy Cassy. (does calling them “Cassy”s piss them off? Surely it can’t be any worse than the Qld Government’s “Be Cass-o-Wary” campaign…)

(ps. I’ve included descriptions/ explanations for some of these pics, so I do recommend you look at them full size. If you’re pressed for time maybe just look at the Lawyer Palm one. The others are good too though. Cheers.)

Paronella Park

July 29, 2011

Paronella Park is quite an extraordinary place.

Near a little, out-of-the-way town called Mena Creek, about 120kms south of Cairns, it’s basically the preserved remnants of a castle and other attractions dreamt up and built by hand almost entirely by a single man, José Paronella, in the 1930’s. José was an amazing man, not only for the unashamed grandeur of his dream, and the years of work he undertook to create it, but also for his innovation. Examples of that innovation include the entirely gravity-fed fountains (no pump required), and the fact that the Park had electricity about 20 years before the rest of the Cairns district due to José’s custom-made hydro unit, run off Mena Falls. When José’s wife, Margarita, realised that children were taking coins out of the wishing well to buy her gelato José put eels in the fountain and erected a “Warning: Electric Eels” sign. The kids who, understandably, believed José capable of anything then steered well clear and Margarita received no more tell-tale wet coins in her shop.

The Park in it’s hey-day must have been mind-blowing for the locals. Not only was there a castle, the area included a ballroom, with what must have been one of Australia’s first spinning mirror balls and a projection room, for screening the news as well as films. There were tennis courts, outdoor picnic tables, Margarita’s gelato shop, and Mena Falls were lit up at night. José even had plans for a tunnel through a hill, the walls of which were to be be lined with tanks full of tropical fish.

The Park has a fascinating and extremely checkered history, marked by cyclones, floods, and being abandoned to the whims of the rainforest for almost 40 years before the present owners began their long process of careful recovery and preservation.

Mark and Judy Evans, the current owners, really are doing a wonderful job of pouring money into the site without looking like they are. Mark says that they’re very deliberately not “recreating” or even “restoring” the site, but strictly preserving it. Which is a wonderful thing, as its air of decaying but still-proud glory is poignant and beautiful.

Eungella National Park

July 29, 2011

About 2kms from Platypus Bush Camp was the start of two walks in Finch Hatton Gorge, Eungella National Park. I spent a couple of hours walking through here just soaking it up.

(ps. you guys know you can click on the little pictures to embiggen them, right? okay good.)

Platypus Bush Camp

July 28, 2011

I’ve made it to Kuranda, my Final Destination (for now)! Hooray!

I’m going to do an overall post regarding my trip up here, but firstly a few posts regarding some of the absolute highlights. 

Platypus Bush Camp is an amazing little place in Finch Hatton Gorge, near Eungella and Eungella National Park. Owned and run by the amazing, irrepressible “Wazza” for the past 20-odd years, it’s a true gem tucked away off the beaten track. The rainforest setting is gorgeous and Wazza has created a place (predominantly from wooden slab and found items) that feels like it’s grown with the trees that surround it.

In some ways it’s not for the faint-hearted, the showers are completely open on one side to the rainforest (bliss!), and the huts are even more open to the elements, but it all adds to the charm and feeling of really “being amongst it”.

I spent two nights at the camp and met some fantastic people including, of course, Wazza and his dog “Dog” (when I enquired Wazza said “Her name’s Dog. Ya just a dog, ain’t ya?”, scruffing her head), and two cockatoos Rocky and Rhoda. Wazza found Rhoda on the side of the road (yes, hence the name) about 20 years ago, with a badly broken wing. She’s now quite obviously devoted to him.

And, of course, the eponymous platypus. I was lucky enough to see him (her?) three times, both evenings I was there and also my second morning. Due to the cold and damp I was a little grumblesome about getting up at 6:20am, but then reminded myself that I was doing so on a Monday morning to go and watch a platypus and not to catch a train, and so basically to shut the hell up. I was lucky enough that morning to not only watch the platypus for some time, but also to see a gorgeous little kingfisher sitting in the branches above and diving to catch gribblies disturbed by the platypus’ industrious activity.

What a place. I’ll definitely be back.

Rockhampton Botanic Gardens

July 22, 2011

On a whim, looking for somewhere nice to have lunch, I ended up going into the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens today. I had a wander ’round and made myself a sandwich in the pagoda in the Japanese Gardens area. Luuverley!!

 

*I was planning on doing a big post updating from the last few days, but WordPress momentarily has the better of me. This will have to do ’til I next get a chance to wrestle with it (tomorrow hopefully). x