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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.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. SamSamSam permalink
    August 4, 2011 4:07 pm

    You have a knack for travel writing. Don’t worry, you’ll be a true Aussie in no time xx

  2. SamSamSam permalink
    August 11, 2011 10:03 pm

    Finally just got around to watching ‘Tuck Me In’. Absolutely f**kin hilarious! You’re right, I’ll never be the same again!

  3. August 13, 2011 11:00 pm

    Hi Helen,

    We have been in Kuranda a while back and went down towards Ravenshoe and onto Undara to check out the Lava tubes – great place, now moving down towards Charters Towers. Great site btw, will have a look again soon and hope to see you around. 😉

    S.

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