Here, There and Where the Heck ARE We?

Trip Start Sep 09, 2008
Trip End Apr 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

(Happy Birthday Tay-ray!)
Right then, I've got a couple days to catch up on... as usual ;) So I'll back track a bit to Port Douglas, which seems like ages ago already...
The weather continued to keep us on our toes much like it had in the Daintree - not that it's a surprise given that the rainforest pretty much lives on Port Dougie's back doorstep. During the day it was mostly just a bit overcast, with the occasional 3-second shower, but during the nights we just got pummeled with rain! Including our last night there which left us once again packing up a wet tent, since we were na´ve enough to think we'd left the rain behind us in the rainforest, and thus neglected to erect our new tarp. But alas, we're still alive and the tent is still alive, so get over it, right?? ;)
From Pt. Douglas, we spent a day out at an attraction called Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. We failed to see any crocs in the wild (in spite of the hundreds of warning signs at every river bank and beach), much to Dave's dismay, so we relented and decided to pay to go see heaps of 'em! And that we did, along with some other Aussie creatures and critters. We definitely got our fill of crocodile smiles anyway. They really do look like they've got a big smirky grin on their faces all the time! Unless of course they're slamming their jaws shut with the old 3000 pounds of pressure. Yikes eh! I will be keeping my body and its assorted extremities well away from that, thank you very much.
The next day was meant to be a blissful excursion out to the Great Barrier reef on a lovely schooner, complete with gourmet lunch... however, we awoke sometime late in the night (a.k.a early in the morning) to the sound of pounding rainfall which continued until about half an hour before we were scheduled to leave; at which point we panicked and cancelled our trip. Well, I mean, if you're gonna spend 300 buckaroos to go out in a boat and see the world famous Great Barrier Reef, you want to have a nice day for it, dammit!
Of course, the weather cleared within an hour or so, leaving us feeling rather like a pair of schmucks. But we stood by our decision for wanting to have a nice day when we go out there, and to make us feel a bit better, Mother Nature provided some clouds, a bit of wind and a few scattered showers throughout the day :)
Anyway, we had a lovely and relaxed day which is really what we needed after the HECTIC tourist schedule of the last few weeks ;)
We ended up on Flagstaff Hill (not exactly what you'd call a leisurely stroll but we toughed it out) which sits on the tip of the peninsula on which Port Douglas resides... and what a view. We could see the entire stretch of Four Mile Beach (the name is self explanatory, yes?) with its crashing surf and the half of town on that side of the peninsula. And, it was at that perfect time of day - late in the afternoon when the sun is starting its descent, giving everything it touches a soft warm glow.
Come Saturday morning we were back on the road... after a short battle with the rain as mentioned earlier, as well as a colony of green ants who seemed to be trying to build a nest on top of our tent. Ahhhhh, nature.
We decided to take our time back to Townsville and take a scenic drive through the Cairns Highlands and Atherton Tablelands which are just to the west of Cairns. Up in these highlands the Aussie landscape redefines itself yet again. We've been through rugged bushland, endless fields of sugar cane, lush tropical rainforest, dry barren savannah, back to rainforest; and now we're surrounded by graceful, gently rolling hills carpeted by thick green grass - so green you might almost think you were in Ireland... almost ;) The hills are dotted with grazing cows while some of the flatter areas are cropped with veggies and - closer to Innisfail - acres and acres of banana trees. Once again, Dave and I looked each other and said "What country are we in???"
One of the stops we made along the way to the highlands was a place out off the beaten track a bit called the Granite Gorge. It's probably only about 10 - 15km out of a little town called Mareeba (which Dave and I have been adding a bit of Mexican flair to when we say it - Mareeba! Mareeba!) but again it's its own little world unto itself. A caravan park sits on sort of a shelf-like piece of flat land, from which you can see several rather massive boulders, but once you venture inside, beyond the shelf's edge, it's much more than you could have imagined.
Essentially we were walking in a very large, but mostly dry, riverbed, but as the name Granite Gorge implies, it's not your average riverbed made of a relatively flat path of sand and pebbles. It is, instead, a miniature mountain range of granite, smooth and rounded by torrents of water that have passed over it year after year when the rainy season comes. At the top of the gorge, a few small dams - or "weirs" as they're called - provide an awesome swimming hole, free of crocodiles no less! Dave and I sat on the edge of the rock and cooled our feet in the river for a while, and then went off to explore the giant granite slopes of the Gorge.
There are a fair number of rock wallabies that live among the boulders of the gorge so we got a great close-up of the cute little creatures - smaller than any other wallabies we've seen and with longer tails for extra balance on the rocky terrain. We even got a great view of a mama with her young joey peeking out of her pouch!!
Also, in Mareeba! Mareeba!, we stopped in at a tropical fruit winery to sample some of their very fine products... mmmmmmmmmmm. They had wine made from mango, lychee, bush cherry, passionfruit, and a Brazilian fruit called Jaboticaba. The wines were sweet, cold and so refreshing - much nicer drinking in this hot climate than regular wine! They also made a fabulous port from fruit as well as a few cream liqueurs... it was sensory overload!! I could have bought the lot! But we restrained ourselves and left only with a bottle of Lychee wine... and a bottle of the port... and a bottle of their Tropical Temptation cream liqueur ;) I think we're going to have to become alcoholics to drink all the wines and liqueurs we seem to keep collecting!
Continuing along through the hills we stopped at a dairy farm for a cheese and chocolate tasting of the most exquisite nature - Gallo's it was called, somewhere between Atherton and Malanda. Outside we watched the cows as they plodded in for their afternoon milking on a huge moving turntable. It was very interesting.
Next we came across the rather impressive Curtain Fig tree. It's one of those strangler figs, but this one, in its process of strangling the host tree, manages to knock it over into a neighbouring tree, and from there proceeds to drop its roots to the ground in great numbers, forming - you guessed it! - a curtain!! I mean, really, the name pretty much says it all right?? These Aussies don't mess around ;)
As the sun started to drop we embarked on our last adventure of the day: we went in search of the elusive, nocturnal platypus. In a little town called Yungaburra, there is a large creek that is home to several platypuses, er, platypi...? (The debate continues. I think it should fall into the cactus/octopus rule, but Dave reckons that the plural and singular are actually the same - like moose. I'm not convinced.) So with great stealth and diligence we traversed the creek-side, looking for any sign of the curious-looking creatures. And would you believe it? We got lucky!! And not just once, but 3 times!! And by "lucky" I mean we saw them floating briefly on the surface before diving back under out of sight. One fella did this several times as if he knew how excited we were and thought he'd give us a good show ;) They are much smaller than I imagined - I thought they'd be quite big, like a seal perhaps; but, in fact, they are only slightly bigger than a duck -- shaped differently of course, well, aside from the bill. Anyone else confused yet? Let's just say they're funny looking little guys, but oddly, kinda cute :) Needless to say, Dave was once again thrilled to have sighted yet another elusive Aussie critter. ;)
After a night in the not-so-clean motel room in a pub in Milaa Milaa (that one actually IS a double name, not like Mareeba! Mareeba!), we trundled down the homestretch back to Townsville, our home for the next 2 months-ish. We are settled into our carefully selected caravan park (after much research and comparison charts... you know me!) which happens to be the Woodlands Big 4 park.
We have a nice big site for our caravan-sized tent and our accompanying massive tarp that was a pleasure, as always, to erect. The essential caravan park component - the pool - is a lovely curvaceous body of water surrounded by palm trees and other tropical foliage as well as some nice loungers that I can definitely foresee myself spending some time in ;) But the piece de resistance of our new home is - are you sitting down for this?? - our own PRIVATE bathroom ON OUR SITE!!! Who could have imagined such luxury?? No longer do I have to tote all my shower amenities to and fro, day after day!! I am officially spoiled.
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