We’ve had our fair share of beaches since we last posted. Beautiful, beautiful beaches with amazing scenic backdrops down to the ocean. We’ve slowed down a little lately, it’s been good to have a bit of a rest from travelling so much and we felt like we needed a little more time between us and the end of the wet season before hitting Cape York.
We’ve really been in sugar cane country for the last two weeks, there is acres and acres of the stuff. It’s not quite harvesting season so we’ve missed out on doing any of the factory tours that only run when the cane is being cut. As we’ve travelled further north the cane has been flowering with tall fluffy flowers reminding Ben and I of the Toi Toi flowers in NZ (although we couldn’t agree on what they were called and I think they’re Toi Toi!).
We had a brilliant time in Bingil Bay, spending a week there right on the beach, flying kites, making huts, taking day trips and it was here that the boys started sitting their NAPLAN tests.
The kids befriended two Dutch couples who were camped next to us and spent one afternoon making a mini-put course in the sand, it was five holes of absolute hit-and-miss golf! The score was tight, but in the end the Dutchies pulled away and Thys took the Coral Cup.
We had a brilliant day-trip up to Innisfail to the Johnson River Croc farm. It’s a great place to visit, really friendly staff who gave us some really good advice for our time on the Cape York peninsula. I’d definitely recommend this place for a stop, they had all sorts of animals to get up close and friendly with… and at no extra cost!
In the hills beyond Innisfail we walked on the Mamu forest boardwalk, taking in a view of the forest from a great height. On the drive home we saw a sight that will please all banana lovers in the country… bananas are making their way back to the supermarket shelves!
All of the time we were at Bingil Bay we were on the look out for the elusive cassowary. There are said to be as few as 50 in this area and we’re told that we should consider ourselves lucky to spot one. I spotted one! Out for a walk one morning he (or she, I have no idea) was mooching around at the end of a cul-de-sac on the edge of the forest. I stopped and watched him for about five minutes and although he saw me he wasn’t particularly bothered and just carried on his way. We thought that was going to be the only sighting, then as we drove out of Bingil Bay we spotted another one crossing the road, but didn’t manage a photo before it took off into the bush.
We’re still feeling the tropical weather at the moment with rain showers most days and that continued on with our stay in Cairns. I had no idea that Cairns was such a big city (it has a population of around 165,000), the suburbs all merge into one from Edmonton in the south and also to some extent in the north along the Northern Beaches. We really loved Cairns, the area around The Esplanade on the waterfront has excellent recreational facilities for the public, both local and tourists. There is the lagoon of course and playgrounds, a skate park, BBQ’s, a bike track, a running/walking track and cafe’s dotted all along. The bike track goes in a big loop around the town and ran right past the Cairns Holiday Park where we were staying, so we biked into town on the day we stayed and hang out there all day.
The drive along the coast from Cairns to Port Douglas is absolutely beautiful and it didn’t let up once we arrived in ‘Port’ either. The typical scene in this area of the rainforest meeting the ocean is an extra special thing to be able to see first hand.
The stinger season is officially at an end now, the stinger nets have all been taken away and there are plenty of people swimming in the sea, although the warnings are still all around and if you ask anyone for their opinion of swimming they will always tell you that there is no guarantee, which I guess there isn’t. But hey, off we went to swim in croc and stinger waters… we sent the kids in first just in case they prefer a smaller morsel to start with!
Once we hit Port Douglas we were well and truly out of the rain and into the sunshine. We’ve not had a drop of rain in the week since we arrived in Port, just blue blue skies and beautiful temperatures in the mid-high 20’s. The big highlight in Port and something Ben and I have been dreaming about for such a long time was snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. We went out one of the smaller Quicksilver boats – Silversonic and had such a brilliant time. The water was so clear, the corals so colourful and the tropical fish so plentiful. The boys even saw a shark! We all had such an excellent time in the water, you could not get Jake and Tobey out of it and Indianna only gave up once she got a little cold (you get cold snorkelling when you’re not kicking and you’re being pulled along by Mum!). If the cost of a trip out to the reef was less than 3 weeks groceries I’m sure we would have gone again!
Port Douglas was also a highlight for meeting some new friends. We ran into the Dunkleys from Victoria again after briefly meeting them at Big Crystal Creek. Unfortunately they are on their way south, so we said good-bye in Port and will catch up again as we come through Victoria around January. We saw our first croc in the wild just out of Port Douglas, it was quite far away – this photo is a zoom on a zoom, but it looked pretty big, after all bets were in we reckon it was around 3 metres long – enough to have a good chew on your leg anyway. At the same spot we watched a guy net a big mud crab. So now to add to our fishing paraphernalia we have a mud crab net. Man, I can’t wait until we catch something!
Only about half an hour out of Port Douglas is Mossman Gorge, one of the must do sights in this area. There’s a wonderful boardwalk following the river up as far as the Rex Creek suspension bridge and for those without winging children there’s a 2km walking track beyond the bridge. We made it to the bridge. On the way back we jumped in for a little dip, but it was really just to say we’d done it more than anything, the water was VERY refreshing and the day hadn’t heated up yet.
The 60-odd kms from Mossman to Cape Tribulation is stunning. After the ferry crossing on the Daintree River the road is fairly windy and also pretty busy. The sealed road ends a little past Cape Tribulation itself, so there are still a lot of hire cars on the road with overseas tourists. It is off Cape Tribulation that Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour hit a reef and where he is supposed to have said “all our troubles began”. It certainly would not have been the welcoming place it is today in 1770!
We stayed just overnight at Cape Trib before heading on over the Bloomfield Track. The beautiful scenery continued, driving through the dense rain forest with occasional glimpses out to the ocean. The Bloomfield track was really no problem at all, the surface of the road was well graded and although there are some very steep sections the steepest of these are concreted. The road was very dry though, I’d not like to attempt this track with the trailer if it had been raining. The crossing at the Bloomfield River had only recently reopened after being the causeway was washed away in early February. One of the cars in the convoy before us was obviously doing a little too much sight seeing and slipped off the rock causeway, needing a little tow out from the digger working on the road repairs. We made it across fine!
Just at the river crossing you come into Wujal Wujal aboriginal community and to the west of here the Wujal Wujal (Bloomfield) falls. We were hoping to do a tour here with the Walker Family, but the ladies were unfortunately out of town. We headed out to take a look at the falls ourselves though.
Not too much further up the road we made it to the Helenvale and the Lion’s Den Hotel. We bought our camper from Max and Faith who own the Lion’s Den. The Bulloak had come home again… well not really home, because this was where Max and Faith ended up after their Oz tour two years ago. We camped here for a couple of nights, had a great dinner in the pub and managed to catch up on some school work before heading into Cooktown.
Cooktown is actually far smaller than I thought it would be although there are plenty of caravan parks here (4 or 5 of them), so obviously a great stopping place either for those going no further or a great recharge place for those heading off or coming back from the Cape. Considering the road to Cooktown was sealed only five years ago I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised by the size of the town. There’s plenty to see here though, the historical sights are enough to keep you busy for a couple of days, then there’s the fishing (still haven’t caught any!) and the national parks close by. We’ve been here two nights and are heading out tomorrow towards the tippy top of the country. We’ve been looking for some travelling buddies to do the rougher sections of the road with (the Old Telegraph Track), but things still seem really quiet here. We’ll start out in the morning and pick up some friends before we get to the rough stuff in a few days time.