Wednesday 17 July 2013

Cairns, Port Douglas, The Daintree and Cooktown

As we continued our journey north past Cairns, we decided to head to Port Douglas in the hopes it was a little less packed out than Cairns.
Despite the weather chopping and changing, from drizzle to sunshine, we found the drive to Port Douglas a truly beautiful one. A windy cruise along the coast.

The next day we set out with the plan of going to Cape Tribulation and then onto Cooktown.
After some cruisey roads we hit the water and catch the ferry across to the Daintree. This new location was also a stunning drive. Cruising through some gorgeous lush rain forest, up and down winding hills whilst also feeling the breeze from the ocean not far off.
Not far into the drive you are treated with a beautiful lookout, showing the rainforest packed hills meeting the ocean below.
Once at Cape Tribulation we jumped out and decided to check the "Friendly Grocer" shop, which Jen really got excited about. See early in 2012 Jen lost her favourite hat at a concert, known to all as her rainbow hat, wherever she went to look for a new one, hippy stores, clothing shops and supermarkets she could never find one... until today!
Now with a grin from ear to ear we move over to the "Dubuji" part of the Daintree National Park for some lunch and a cruise around the board-walk. The board-walk was set up really nice, it connects to the beach and gives you a grand tour of where the rainforest literally connects with the beach, a lot of unusual plant life resides here, we saw some quirky white clawed crabs, curious lizards although despite hearing them grunting from behind the thick forest walls we saw no wild cassowaries.
The Daintree area was so gorgeous we decided we'd organise a permit and camp at Noah Beach Camp grounds and wow what a treat. Sleeping in the rainforest, listening to the waves of the beach in pure darkness at night really made for an amazing nights sleep.

Come morning I really had to remind myself as I sat outside, in a rainforest, listening to the waves, in my pyjamas eating my breakfast that it was actually the middle of winter!
We decided we would lock down the hubs and take the 4WD track to Cooktown, rather than return on the ferry and take the long way, besides it was 100ks to 4WD vs 400+ks to backtrack, makes sense to go 4WD!
As previously stated we have minimal 4WD experience, but we had heard the track had been recently graded. It was a pretty damn bumpy and slippery ride, a few river crossings “Rocky” romped over with ease as if to say "Why'd you bother locking the hubs?". As we got further into this amazing drive full of really thick rainforests we hit some pretty steep inclines forcing me to crawl up in first gear. Some vehicles had enjoyed some of the steep inclines back down the mountains a little too much, and as such were rewarded with becoming an upside down decoration by the track to warn others to take it easy. One was pretty fresh too, we think the last few days.
The hard part of the track was only about 30kms and well and truly worth the adventure, we had such a good time just sitting in the car only jumping out to take some spectacular photos.

Once we reached Wujal Wujal, the first dry spot on our adventure, we decided to check out the waterfall, it was close by and only a short walk, perfect way to stretch out after that long 30ks! As we approached the waterfall we looked out over the river, to see a big fat crocodile bathing itself on a rock. After however many "Warning/achtung crocodile" signs we've seen we finally saw a crocodile in the wild!
The waterfall was a pretty site, although we were too intent to find more crocodiles to give it our full attention!

Back on the road towards Cooktown and eventually we drove past "The Lions Den Hotel" a pub/museum/rest-spot/camp ground that a few people have told me I have to visit, so we did a U-turn and went back, parked up the troopy, had some grub and went for a little walk around the place. As we were walking, I hear a sh sh sh from Jen to look up and find a goanna skulking about a BBQ.

The Lions Den Hotel is a great stop for a beer, food or fuel and a welcome stop after the 4WD track through the Daintree, however it is quite easy to spend a little too much money on beer there!
Cooktown wasn't far further on, and was quite a lot quieter and smaller than the previous towns mentioned in this post. It had a quiet breezy atmosphere by the ocean. A great strip by the water for a nice walk with a few touristy things in the park. 
In the centre of this walk lies this big black musical ship, full of assorted percussion setups, lots of fun for young and old alike!

- Cameron

The Musical Ship
Some of the instruments

Friday 12 July 2013

Wallaman Falls, The Pub with no Beer and Lucinda Jetty

After spending some time with friends, having full house amenities and plenty of beer, it was time to hit the road again! What better way to kick off by heading off to see Australia's largest single drop waterfall?
The drive up to Wallaman Falls itself is quite fun, up and along a windy mountain, then follow the ranges along. When we arrived it was pretty cold, we laced up our boots, I grabbed a beany and jumper and Jeni had about 5 layers. From the top you can admire the fall looking over the valley. Very impressive and quite overwhelming. Our brain has a tendency to relate everything we see to something we already know and it's not often you see something completely different that shocks you into admiration, Wallaman Falls is one of those things!

We decided to head down the track to see the waterfall from the base. It was only 2k each way and it was quite a cool day, so we just set off nice and relaxed. The trip down was pretty cruisey, until the humidity smashes you. A word of advice for those who want to do the walk, dress light, but not too light, you wont be cold, but you want to be covered up, a rare poisonous plant grows in the area and stings bad if it touches you!
The walk itself isn't the most exciting, mainly zigzagging back and forth down the hill pretty steep, but the view down the bottom makes it more than worth it! As we stood there and admired Wallaman Falls, people came, took a couple of photos and shot off back up the mountain. It is really worth staying a while and admiring the fall. As it isn't such a wide, but extremely long waterfall, a lot of the water seems to turn to mist before it reaches the bottom almost appearing as droplets turning into mini missiles and then melting away. Along the sides of the waterhole other mini waterfalls are formed purely from the mist created as it hits the rocks, some of these mini waterfall streams get blasted by the mist and the water soars back up the rocks until there is enough weight in water to fall down. Really amazing.
The walk back up was a little harder, being over dressed and drenched from the mist and humidity did it, or maybe it was the previous 2 weeks drinking too much beer? It was almost a blessing every time people approached heading down the track, giving you an excuse to pull off to the side and let them pass. Once up the top we were freezing again! We had some lunch and then cruised back down the mountain, past Trebone and back into Ingham.

As we went through Ingham Jeni noticed "The original pub with no beer", which upon closer inspection had beer! Now known as Lee's Hotel, the pub earnt it's name from having soldiers come through during the war, drinking the place dry, which inspired a poet to write a poem, which inspired Slim Dusty to write the song. The pub was far from the fanciest I've encountered, but had to drop in so if I ever hear that song played I can smugly say "I had a beer there!"

Continuing on, we weren't 100% sure where we were headed except that it would be somewhere north, which is what I love about travelling without strict deadlines! We ended up in a place called Lucinda, by a little beach, not the prettiest beach in the world, but it did house Australia's longest jetty!

- Cameron

Townsville: Castle Hill, Reef HQ, V8 Supercars

Townsville is the one of the last cities you'll visit while travelling north up the Eastern Coast.
Jeni and I took it pretty easy here, we first stayed with a friend from back home and then we caught up with a bloke I went to school with for a couple of years and hadn't seen in almost 15 years!
Had a lot of great nights having some beers whilst trying to remember stupid things we did, was great! Was also good having a solid location to watch the second game of Origin, despite how bad QLD slaughtered NSW! Bring on game 3!

The Strand is a great place for a jog or stroll, but another great spot is Castle Hill. Some fitness fanatics use the hill for training, walking, jogging and riding up the steep incline whilst others engage in other fitness activities up the top. For us we drove up the top, had lunch and enjoyed a few short strolls whilst admiring the amazing views all around Townsville. A beautiful spot with something for everyone!

Townsville is also home to Reef HQ and we decided to venture through to celebrate Jeni's birthday! Reef HQ is an amazing Aquarium where you can get close up with all sorts of amazing reef fish, sharks and turtles. The aquarium also works as a Turtle hospital working to rehabilitate huge sea turtles. One particular turtle had finished being all fixed up and was happily swimming through one of the aquariums. Seeing them from a boat is one thing, but seeing these things swim overhead is beautiful.
Throughout the aquarium is a variety of different themes, fresh water turtles can be seen, deep sea critters zipping about, seahorses and even a little saltwater shark calls Reef HQ home.

Another awesome thing about Queensland is Sizzler, we made sure we got a mad feed in to continue celebrating Jeni's birthday, unlimited awesome salad and dessert bar? Don't mind if I do! What is a Queensland trip without a trip to Sizzler?

We happened to still be in Townsville during the time the V8's tore up the track, scoring some free tickets from another friend I went to school with briefly, score!
I had been to Bathurst a few times as a young child but had no appreciation for the power these vehicles could muster up. Several races through the day caught our eye, including the Utes and the Porches, but the V8 Supercar really took the cake!
Was pretty sweet sitting trackside trying to keep an eye on these things fly by! Definitely a lot faster than when I was a youngen.
We also bumped into the Crackup Sisters, those girls seem to be everywhere! No idea what they were doing, but as they cruised by us in their comical undersized vehicle we were sure to slap them a high five!
other highlight of the day was sitting behind the wheel of the new 2013 SSS, quite a sexy car indeed. Smaller engine than the old one but stock turbo on a 1.6 sounds a lot of fun, on the inside felt very similar to the old one, just leather trim and all the fancy pants dash stuff of modern cars, will have to take one for a spin sometime!
As the sun went down and the engines stopped roaring, the bands started playing, we stayed and listened to a few tunes before calling it a day!

Cheers Townsville for the good times! Will see you again, hopefully a bit sooner this time!

- Cameron