Cairns...It's all about the Rainforest this time

Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
Trip End Apr 22, 2011

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Where I stayed
Crystal Cascades Holiday Park, Big4 Cairns
Rowes Bay Caravan Park, Townsville

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Friday, November 19, 2010


Friday 19th November 2010

We made the decision to stay one more day while lying in bed listening to the rain pounding on the van roof. Just the thought of packing everything up in the rain, getting soaked, having wet tarpaulin, towels and mozzie nets dripping in the back of the thanks.  So we turned the TV on and watched one more episode of Cold Case.  We did however decide that should it stop raining for more than an hour then we would pack the van up and go for a drive out.  By the time we had watched Cold Case the rain had stopped, Gary went to shower and then I went after him.  At 9.10am we took the Tarpaulin off the van and hung it up.  Forty minutes later we had dismantled all the nets, closed down the inside of the van, put the awning away and put the bikes on the back.  We were like a machine once we started we couldn't stop.  Check out is a 10am at five past we collected our now dry tarpaulin, damp towels off the line and frozen ice blocked from the camp kitchen and were on the road heading to Townsville. It seemed a waste of a day to stay once we had packed up.  Before we headed for the Bruce Highway we made a detour to the Whitsunday Harbour and a visit to the lookout point we didn’t manage to get to on our bikes the day before, it was very beautiful and worth a visit.

Up the Bruce Highway and through a town called Bowen.  Bowen is known for its mangos and even has a Big Mango at its visitors centre on the main highway.  We didn’t drive into the town as we had just spent two hours using McWifi and we had a long journey ahead of us to get to Townsville. A bit of useless information... Bowen was used for the setting of the film Australia, transforming the long jetty and waterfront into Darwin Harbour during the WWII Japanese invasion.

Just out of Bowen we pulled over to a fruit and veg stall to buy some mangos, our first in oz so far.  Further on down the road we hit a stretch of highway that was water logged, all the mango trees and bushes at the side of the road were submerged and it was spilling over on to the road.  A little while later the whole road had been underwater, by the time we had to go through it the road workers had pumped half of it way.  When we were here last time the Bruce Highway was under a metre of water and we were stranded in a little town called Tully for two nights.

Distance                               279km
Accommodation                    $33
Weather                               Rain - 28 degrees

Our journey continued unscathed after that and we arrive in Townsville through panoramic views of mountains on one side and sea on the other.  We headed for our campsite stopping first at a fish and chip shop as it was too late the make any dinner.  The fish was cooked fresh and was delicious, the chips were sprinkled with chicken salt making them incredibly scrumptious and all that washed down with a glass of Wild Turkey (bourbon) and coke was the end of a perfect day.

Saturday 20th November 2010

There was no rain to wake us up but it looked like it was going to rain any minute.  This didn’t dampen our determination to get out on our bikes and explore the town.  We did however wait until lunch time before jumping on the bikes as the weather kept drizzling then stopping then drizzling some more.  We gave up in the end and just got wet.  It wasn’t too bad riding in the rain, nothing like the torrential down pour we had suffered the day before yesterday.  We rode down the cycle track until we arrived at the Strand, which has another man made swimming pool call the Rock Pool and a jellyfish free area in the sea which was basically a big net to keep the stingers out.  We carried on in to town only to find all the shops shut.  This seems to be the norm in Australia the high street shops all close about 1pm on a Saturday....could you imagine that happening at home there would be riots.  So with nothing to look at in town we carried on through for a while and then started heading back to the camp ground.  I remember Townsville being a lot smaller last time we were here, but I did read that it had a big population increase in 1995 when they had another gold rush and the town went from a population of a hundred people to over four hundred as news spread. 

Dinner tonight was Beef Goulash so we popped in Woolies to buy some mushrooms before headed home to make it.

Sunday 21st November 2010

We were up early and on the road by 9am, today was the big drive up to Cairns 358km.   There was so much we wanted to do in and around Townsville but the weather was so bad it wasn’t going to be worth the time and money to do them.  One of the main things we want to do was to take the ferry over to Magnetic Island, we had heard and read some great things about it and it looked like a lovely place to spend the day but not in the rain.  It was also one of the main places we could have seen Koalas in the wild.  We may need to come back to Townsville as we think the road round to Darwin from Cairns is unmade and only suitable for four wheel drives, but we will see near the time.  If we do need to come back this way and the weather is better, then we will take the ferry over.

The journey started off a bit stressful, we have a slightly dodge petrol gage on the van,  it always shows half full when we have filled her up and then show empty when it’s half full.  It is never usually a problem as we always fill her up before each journey.  The issue we had this morning was there were no petrol stations and the petrol gage was showing empty with no real way of telling exactly how much petrol we had left.  We got Sat nav to find some on route but they were closed when we got there as it was Sunday.  Finally like buses we found two petrol stations together and then a minute later there was another one. 

A bit more relaxed now having filled up, we started clocking up the miles and the scenery around us got greener and greener the further north we went.  There were still masses of sugarcane in the fields and lots of impressive looking mountains looming over head.  We drove via Tully, the town we spent a few days in last time we came through this way.  It looked like most of the old highway had collapsed into the creek and a new elevated road had been built nearby....confused the hell out of the sat nav.  We stopped at a road side van to buy a couple of pies for lunch.  We asked for pie and peas, and the woman cut the top of the pie off and filled it with mushy peas and then popped it back on again....not what I was expecting, still tasted good though.

Distance                               358km
Accommodation                    $30.60
Weather                               Tropical Showers 30 degrees

We arrived in Cairns and the first thing you notice is how luscious and green it is.  The back drop to the whole town is the remarkable rainforest out of which tiny little villages appear.  We are keeping with tradition and staying with the Big 4’s, they have one in town and one 16km up in the hills tucked nicely in the middle of the rainforest, this was the one we opted for.  We drove off the main stretch and up into the lush green canopy, round winding roads until was arrived at the gates of paradise (their words not mine).  The lady at the reception couldn’t be more helpful, she let us choose our own site and was full of knowledge about the area and what trips are available.  The campground was very big and very empty, we were one of only six other vans.

Monday 22nd November 2010

A number of things have started going wrong, we won’t mention Gary’s leak but it’s sent word out to its mates and we have a number of little leaks appearing, the bulb on the dashboard for the headlights has blown, the cruise control had developed attitude and only goes on when it wants to, we got a chip in the windscreen and the microwave has broken....what a good week, still nothing that can’t be fixed.

We got up at leisure and made tracks for one of the big malls in Cairns town, to buy a new microwave, we checked on line and it should cost us just under $100.  We wandered round the shops and then looked round K Mart, we found a Microwave for $50, bargain, not a known brand but it should last us the eight months we have just the fun of fitting it.

  Once we left the mall we drove to Cairns Esplanade to see what had changed.  We parked the van and then walked along the seafront.  It all looked pretty much the same, but maybe not as pushy as I remember it.  They still had lots of kiosks selling trips and we even found the backpackers we stayed in for one night.  There was a pub around the corner from the main strip that I remember drinking in and of cause McDonalds hadn’t changed a bit.  The seafront was never very impressive in Cairns, because of the reef it has never had the beautiful beach fronts that the rest of Australia has and I just remember it as being a stone wall with water below, but they have build a big lagoon and the front is now brimming with bathing beauties.

We had a drive round town and then headed back to the campsite, for a swim in the pool. The swimming was off as the rain was pouring down by the time we got back, we put the awnings up and unpacked the new microwave.  To get the old microwave out Gary had to take the fridge out first as there were bolts though the feet fixing it in.  The Fridge had four screws and ten years of dust and dirt keeping it took some budging.  We finally got the old one out and the new one in, Gary stuck the feet down and forbid me to go near it until it was dry.

Tuesday 23rd November 2010

We had planned all sorts of things to do today, a trip to the waterfall and to Lake Placid to name but a few, but when I woke up with a bad back and things got delayed.  Not sure what happen to my back I actually woke up fine, but then we went for a swim in the pool before breakfast as the sun was out for once.   I lay on the tiles at the edge of the pool and that was it, something clicked and by the time I got back from the showers I was in agony.  Then it rained so all the outdoors stuff got moved to the afternoon.  Being Tuesday and coupled with the fact that we are in a big town with a cinema we headed for the local mall to watch a cheap flick instead. 

First stop was the Chemist for some extra strong Nurofen to help with the pain, then up to the pictures to see what films were in town.  We decided on RED I do love a good Bruce Willis film and to have Morgan Freeman in as well, no contest. Harry Potter is out here but we’ll wait for a while before watching it. 

The Film was good and we came out in need of some food, being as its Cheap Arse Tuesday we went in search of an Eagle Boys Pizza for their pizza deals of $6 for a large pizza.  We found one just around the corner from the campsite and when we got there the queue was out the door, people were leaving with boxes of pizzas some four or five boxes high.  They were very quick, I ordered two pizzas and 15mins later they were ready....good service.  We went back to the campsite and ate them round the BBQ area.  Half way through we were joined by a Canadian couple, Bob and Lynda, who we have been following up the coast.  They have a very distinctive van and obviously with our St George cross in the window our van is easy to spot too, and although we have seen each other at a few other campsites this is the first time we have made contact.  They are travelling for six months and are doing the same as us, going the whole way round, but they started in Melbourne so are nearly halfway round already.  They were really nice and we chatted for a while, then an Australian family came over to use the BBQ and they also joined in the conversation.  They had flown up from Melbourne for a Fiftieth Birthday and were going home in the next couple of days so needed to get rid of some of their beer....and who better to help them out with a problem like that!!!  Bob and Lynda were leaving in the morning but we swapped details and will meet up again further round, especially as they have very kindly lent us some DVD’s.

Wednesday 24th November 2010

We said goodbye to Lynda (Bob was off getting the van serviced) and then set out for the day to the Crystal Cascades a nearby waterfall.  It was only a short journey down the road before we arrived at the carpark and then started the 1km walk to the top of the waterfall.  There were swimming holes at the bottom of the falls and very lovely scenery all the way up to the top.  It was surprising just how many people were swimming in the water, even little tots and a couple of youngsters had brought a rubber tube to laze in.  By the time we had walked to the top and back to the swimming holes it was a bit too busy for us and it had also started raining so we went back to the van and made our way to our next destination the Copperlode Dam and Lake Morris. 

Access to the dam is along a narrow road that sweeps up into the rainforest for 16km.  There are amazing views across the whole of cairns on the way up and lots of excitement to keep you alert.  Firstly  half way up there is a sign that tells you to use this road at your own risk, the road is cut out the cliff edge and with all the rain a lot of the rock is unstable so you are dodging large rocks in the road that have fallen off the cliff.  Tree branches and palm leaves litter the pathway just for good measure.  We finally got to the top and the view across Lake Morris was fabulous.  I had made some lunch so we found a picnic table and enjoyed the view.  We had the place to ourselves.
We drove down a narrow pathway and over the dam to get the best views of the lake.  I took a path down to the edge of the dam and Gary walked over the bridge.  He took pictures of me and I took pictures of him...then the torrential rain came down.  We both ran for the van, I had taken the camera with me without a bag so I was worried about it getting wet, Gary was worried about himself getting wet.  The camera survived...Gary not so much.  We waited a few minutes for the rain to ease off before driving back down through the rainforest avoiding the broken branches and large rocks.

We got back to the campsite and the sun had come out again, so we changed into swimmers and hit the pool. 

Thursday 25th November 2010

One of the things I really wanted to do in Cairns was visit Kuranda, a town more than 1,000ft above sea level, up in the Rainforest.  There are three ways of visiting it, by, train, cable car or road, my parents did the trip ten years ago and I really wanted to do it too.  We decide to go up by train and back by cable car. It had been the first clear day we’d had so far so fingers crossed the rain was going to hold off for us.
We arrived at the train station at 9.15am and picked up our tickets, the train left at two times in the mornings, 8.45am and 9.45am.  The station was bustling with tourists all waiting for the train to arrive.  It was mayhem when it did, everyone trying to get the best shot of the engine coming in, it was like the paparazzi gone mad.  Our carriage was practically empty so we grabbed a window seat and waited for the off.  The train was delayed 20 mins as they were doing some line checks due to the massive downpour overnight, but it was worth the wait once we got going.  The trip up was incredible, winding up the hillside, through luscious green rainforest, past cascading waterfalls and over deep gorges.  We were told the history of the railway on the way up and we were able to stop and get out at Barron Waterfalls.  Barron waterfalls was a trickle of its former self, they have dammed the river which has slowed the power of the waterfall.  A couple of times a year they open it up and it looks amazing in the pictures we saw, the water tumbles down so fast it actually sprays back up again creating a huge mist over the waterfall.  During the building of the railway there was a wire suspended over the waterfall with a cage attached to.  Workers and their families would travel over the waterfall as a means of getting to the other side, it was known as the flying fox.

Kuranda was a typical tourist village, once a gold mining town it was now all about the tourism.  There were a number of things to do, butterfly sanctuary, bird world, long walks in the bush, meet a koala, river rides, and more. We looked round the shops and had a drink in the local pub, nothing too taxing, plus the cricket had just started so Gary was keen to see the scores.  A quick pint and then off to ride the Skytrain back down again.  I have to say the train was better but it was still great fun to ride over the tree tops and have the whole canopy below you.  It was a shame the sky wasn’t clearer, however I am not complaining as the weather has been so bad this week we were lucky to get to the clarity we did. We sailed back down through the clouds and arrived at the Skytrain station by 3pm, a shuttle bus took us back to our van and we headed back to the campsite.

We’d had a great day but where exhausted by the time we got back.  Gary made dinner while I put the photos on the laptop and we sat through pick the best ones out.

Friday 26th November 2010

We are meant to be back on the road today but we have booked in for one more night just so we can have a catch up day, blog needs writing, laundry needs doing and cricket needs watching.  We also wanted a lie-in which actually set us back by an hour because I missed the timeslot for the bathroom and they were cleaning it by the time I was ready to shower.  I then had to wait over an hour for it to be free.  Our first job of the day had us back in the van and heading for another mall.  We had spoken to Bob and Lynda about our problems with wifi and they pointed us in the direction of a pre paid mobile broadband dongle they were using that was really good, so this was our mission for the day track down the dongle.  It turned out not to be too hard to find the second Telstra store we tried had the one we wanted.

With our dongle on board and a stock up of groceries we went back to the campsite to settle down for the afternoon, me to write the blog and do the laundry, Gary to cook dinner and watch the cricket.  With beer in hand, a full esky full of ice cold beer, burger cooked on the barbie and the Ashes in TV.....Gary was in heaven.

Our only memories of Cairns from last time we were here was the tacky seafront area so we have really enjoyed seeing the beautiful rainforest side of the town.  We stayed in a village called Redlynch in true Australian style of naming towns this one had a story too.  When they build the Railway in 1890’s anyone who wanting employment had to see the foreman who had based himself in the valley at the foot of the railway.  The foreman was a ginger haired man called Lynch, so everyone was sent to see Red Lynch and the name stuck and when it came to naming the town no-one objected to Redlynch because they already called it that.

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