Leaving the East Coast on a High
Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
92Trip End Apr 22, 2011
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Saturday 27th November 2010
It was time to leave Cairns, we packed up the van which took a while as we had stuff everywhere. The bikes were locked to a tree because we needed the van everyday to drive in the town and didn't want the bikes on the back. We had left the table, stove and chairs set up on the concrete slab so we didn’t have to keep bringing them in and out of the van every day and there was the dead microwave which had been sitting in a box on the slab too. Reception very kindly got rid of the microwave for us as we left the campsite.
We are still heading north although there isn’t that much north left for us do as most of it is only accessible by four wheel drives. As we left Cairns the road hugged the coast all the way to Port Douglas. Narrow winding roads with glimpses of white sandy beaches through the palm tree lined roads. We couldn’t stop as the roads were busy and the rest areas were few and far between. As we got nearer Port Douglas we found a nice easy rest stop on a wide bit of road so we pulled over and took a few snaps of the beach.
Port Douglas was a very smart, clean looking town with palm tree lined roads and immaculate houses. We had a short drive round and then a walk round the marina, we had planned to stop here the night but changed our minds at the last minute and carried on to Cape Tribulation. We will come back to Port Douglas as they have a Sunday Market and we have to come via this way to leave.
To access Cape Tribulation you need to take ferry over the Daintree River, we paid our $21 return ticket and waited at the river’s edge for the ferry to come back, not too near the river’s edge as there were warnings about croc sighting in this area. Don’t worry they are only freshwater crocs they’ll just give you a nasty bite rather than drag you off under the water. The ferry pulled up and the cars drove off, then it was our turn. Very scary, just a platform on the water, dragged back and forth by two big chains. It took all of 5 mins to reach the other side before driving off again.
The road to Cape Trib was amazing, it zigzagged up into the hills through dense rainforests. Slow winding roads that took us over crystal clear streams and past waterfalls that sprayed the car as we passed. It was wonderful, so beautiful I couldn’t possibly do it justice by even trying to describe it. We burst out of tree lined roads in to bright sunshine and coastal scenes, changing again further down the road to fields and tea plantations as we head inland slightly. We arrived at the furthest point we can reach on this road (four wheel drives only further on) and the gateway to Cape Tribulation. We parked up and walked down to the beach and then along a bush walk to the view point to look over the bay. This is the closes place the reef comes into shore, but apparently it’s not worth snorkelling, too much algae. As we looked over the rail in to the sea at the lookout point Gary saw a shark in the shallow waters below, only a small 1.5m reef shark swimming through and round the roots of the mangroves but still not what we expected to see. We also found a peppermint stick insect, well I say we found, we actually tagged on the back of a tour group that happened to do the bush walk the same time as we did and the guide found him. These stick insects are only found in the remote northern area of Australia and a few islands in the Pacific.
We left Cape Trib on a high having really enjoyed the drive up and the fantastic views of the bay, but time was getting on and we had to make a decision on which campsite we were going to stay in tonight. As the roads were slow and in some parts not there at all, there had been a few parts of the highway that had subsided into a creek and temporary access had been set up while they fixed the problem. We thought it might be safer to go back to a campsite we had seen just this side of the ferry crossing so we could get away sharpish in the morning and not have any road flooding problems should it rain over night.
Weather Sunny - 30 degrees
The campsite was very basic, deep in the forest and a bit boggy from the rain, but it was cheap so who’s complaining. This is where we met Wayne Rooney, who would have guessed the white Pele was actually a large black standard poodle. There was a family staying in a tent just the other side of the campsite, as the mother came back from the toilets a large black wet poodle came bounding over to us to say hello. We got chatting and they were originally from the UK and supported Man U, hence why the dog was called Rooney. It was a quiet night, except for the noise of the beetles, we cooked a massaman curry and sat outside in the cool night air (Check out the video).
Sunday 28th November 2010
I was rudely woken with Gary jumping out of bed and grabbing the phone, his mum had text him in the night with the Man U score and he’s thought it had been a dream, well with a result of 7-1 to Man U who wouldn’t. The showers were a bit basic and being deep in the rainforest a bit bug ridden, I am however getting on with this....as long as they don’t bite. Gary came back from the shower having found a leech in his.....this made me tread a bit more carefully on the way to mine.
As we’d had an early start we were packed up and on the road by 9am, heading back to the ferry. As if the roads aren’t slow enough already they have placed road humps and warning signs to slow down for cassowaries. These are large birds that look a bit like a cross between an emu and a turkey, and they are meant to be everywhere...... we however didn’t see one. We did see a croc though. As we pulled up at the port, and despite the warnings all round to keep away from the water’s edge, Gary got out to stretch his legs and spotted a croc just climbing into the water. By the time I got out with the camera he was just swimming along, two eyes and two nostrils sticking out the water. The ferry arrived and we carried on through back to Port Douglas to have a look round the market.
The market was ok, very touristy, but we managed to get two books for $4 and buy some fruit, couple of banana’s and half a papaya. Heading inland we drove up steep winding roads to a town Called Atherton. We stopped at a couple of view points and got talking to a couple from Victoria, he was originally from my home town of Leigh-on-Sea, small world.
I have always marvelled at Australia’s ability to put free BBQ’s everywhere....that is until you actually want one then they are harder to find than Wally. We had bought some steak at the supermarket on special and wanted to make a steak sandwich for lunch but couldn’t find anywhere to cook it. We did however manage to find the Big Peanut which was outside a shop selling peanuts...obviously. We went in for a nose about and came out with a bag Wasabi flavoured nuts.....oh boy are they hot, you can only eat one at a time anymore and you get the mustard burn in the back of your nose.
Weather Rain - 28 degrees
Finally pulled into Atherton and stayed at one of our favourite Big 4 campsites, we have actually joined as members now, only $50 but it will be worth it in the long run as we will get discount at everyone we stay in. Pulled up to our pitch and Gary had set the TV up before we had even unpack the rest of the van, desperate to get his Ashes fix for the day. I finished the blog and uploaded it using the free wifi from the campsite, Gary made steak sandwiches using the camp BBQ and continued to watch the cricket and drink beer for the rest of the afternoon. We had a message from my parents to see if we wanted to Skype, as I had just started making dinner I asked them to wait a while, but the time we tied up again a storm at rolled in and we struggle to hear them over the noise of the thunder and rain battering the roof.
Monday 29th November 2010
Gary came back from the shower rushed in the van and grabbed the camera, I followed. There was a mummy wallaby outside with a baby in her pouch. We stood for a while watching her until she was frightened off by a man walking too close. Our first wallaby on this trip, the last trip one came out the bush at a swim hole in the way to Ayers Rock and I tickled it under the chin....they are very friendly animals.
We’re back on the road and heading for Mount Surprise which is home to the Undara Lava Caves that I have been keen to visit. On the way we passed green rolling hills that looked like the English countryside and we turned a corner and there were twenty or so wind turbines up on a hill. We pull into the view point to take a closer look at them. There are massive, I have obviously seen them at home and in Europe but up close they are huge. We took photos and moved on.
Forty Kilometres short of Mount Surprise we saw a sign for Undara Lava caves and pulled in. Purely a recognisance mission we drove the 17km off the main highway to the Undara Lodge. As we drove down the long tree lined road we hit a dip in the middle a bit too fast, it didn’t do any damage but bounced us around a bit and I am sure we were airborne for a few seconds, anyway it shook Gary up a bit and made him slow his driving right down, which was a good job as we would have missed the Emu’s at the side of the road.
Weather Sunny - 30 degrees
Although it is a national park the caves can only be visited by organised tour guides, firstly due to the remoteness of them and also because the caves can be unpredictable, emitting carbon monoxide fumes or possible cave-ins. We ended up booking on the 8am tour the next morning and also set up camp here in the camping area of the lodge. As we drove to our pitch the first thing we had to do before setting up was remove the kangaroo’s that were lounging on it. While we set up a mummy roo with her joey came over to have a look at us. After a while the joey got bored and climbed back into her pocket, he looked far too big to still be carried around but she didn’t seem too bothered. Later on they both returned and I took some close up photo’s of the baby.
After we had set the van up we decided to go for one of their recommended bush walks. We had a list of walks which were all colour keyed and gave an indication of time, distance and difficulty. We chose a fairly easy walk for 50mins which was about 2.8km. These are proper bush walks and there is always the chance that you could take a wrong turn and get lost, so you have to sign out at the reception before you leave and then sign back in again when you return.....if you don’t return they send a ranger out to find you. The walk was fantastic, through bush land over granite rocks, past breathtaking views, and along roo lined swamps (Video). Every corner we turned there were Kangaroo’s and wallabies, just milling around happy eating grass and keeping one eye on us. We came back along the swamp, where most of the trees had seen some fire damage, twisting them into fascinating shapes. Then we got attacked by a magpie! I think he was after my camera as the sun kept catching the screen on the back making it glint, but he kept swopping really low over our heads and followed us for a good half a km up the path, very unnerving. We got back to the camp ground quite warn out after our walk, had a shower and made dinner, early night tonight have to be up and out by 8am for our Lava Tube tour.