Rainforest, Reef and Rapids!!

Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
Trip End Jul 26, 2004

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Monday, February 23, 2004

Monday 16th February
We finished our drive to the East Coast and arrived in Townsville, a lovely seaside town which looks to have had massive investment by the local council on the Strand area which is a mile long beachfront walk with loads of BBQs and activities, all free and even free parking. They have a huge manmade rock pool where you can sunbathe and swim with a children's play area and shallow pool and exercising area. They have box jellyfish and other stingers on the East Coast at certain times of the year so they have areas of the beach which are netted off to keep them out so that you can still swim in the sea during stinger season.

We found a campsite and spent the whole afternoon sunbathing and swimming by the pool. We took a long walk along the beach with a wonderful sea breeze. There were lots of people out jogging, roller blading and speedwalking. It was a hive activity with locals out enjoying the evening. We found a nice little restaurant with a big deck over the sea and we sat and had a lovely dinner before making our way back down the strand to get an early night.

Tuesday 17th February
Today we took a walk into Townsville and had a wander round the shops so Mum could do a bit of souvenier shopping. We then headed down to the beach and had a swim in the stinger nets. After an hour or so we decided to head 50km up the coast to a place called Rollingstone which had the best campsite ever. It was on the beach but had a beautiful resort type swimming pool with a waterfall in the middle. You couldn't swim in the sea here because of the salt water crocodiles which is a bit unnerving at first when you're walking along the beach when you came across a sign advising of what might be lurking a few feet away. We when for a swim (in the pool!) to chill out and then went to Fishermans Landing a little way down the beach for some delicious fish and chips. We took a little walk along the beach with a cold beer and then hit the sack.

Wednesday 18th February
Today we got up early and headed up into the mountains to a place called Paluma. We headed out on a walk into the rainforest and spotted lots of red-tailed black cockatoos. We headed to a place called the McLelland lookout which gave us views all over the valley and the coast. We took a walk down to the valley floor where there was supposed to be some beautiful freshwater swimming holes. We came across Big Crystal Creek and parked next to some huge Goanna lizards, quite harmless. We walked down to the creek and it opened up into a huge deep crystal clear lagoon.

We dived straight in and it was icy cold which was lovely as it was 33 degrees today. After an hour or so we headed back to the high way and stopped at a place called Frosty Mango for toasted sandwiches and mango smoothies. We finished up with ice creams and continued on the road to Cairns. We got to Cairns late afternoon and went to book our Great Barrier Reef trip for Friday. We got some shopping at Coles and had a wander round Cairns which has a big saltwater lagoon on the seafront like Townsville. It is reaaly a big tourist town for the Great Barrier Reef but it was nice enough.

We stopped at a campsite North of town as we are heading to Kuranda tomorrow and we had showers, dinner and an early night.

Thursday 19th February.
We made our way to Skyrail which is the worlds longest cable car ride at 7 and a half kilometers long. It takes you over the rainforest canaopy and stops at two places along the way on the rainforest floor before its final destination at the town of Kuranda. It is a ridiculous $34 each way so we decided to just go one way and Simon could go back to collect the van and pick us up. It was a good trip over and we saw some amazing wildlife in the rainforest including some pretty big spiders. One in particular was bigger than my hand. We got to Kuranda and had a walk along the river into town to the Heritage markets which were full of boomerangs and T-shirt shops. We stopped at a little pavement café and had some lunch and then Simon headed back on the Skyrail while Mum and I had a look round the shops.

We met up with Simon and made our way down to the A J Hackett Bungy site where Simon was claiming his free bungy prize that he won at the Sydney backpackers Expo. The Bungy site was right in the rainforest and Simons voucher entitled him to a free Minjin Swing. Which is a cross between a swing and a bungee traveling at 200km an hour! We watched him whiz about and then headed into Cairns for a look about town. We had heard about a gallery for a really good Australian photographer called Peter Lik and we headed there to have a look. He does some really good shots of Australian countryside. After that and a walk round town we headed to another campsite for the night. We have an early start tomorrow for our reef trip so we parked up and had a barbecue and a swim.

Friday 20th February
We checked in at the marina for our reef trip at 7.30am. We boarded our boat and sat drinking coffee and eating biscuits as we headed out on the boat. The Great Barrier Reef is about 35 km out to sea here so it took about an hour and a half to get there. We were getting to stop at two points on the reef for snorkeling with lunch inbetween. The first stop was a little uneventful and a little disappointing with lots of parrot fish and potato cod swimming over a not too fantastic looking reef.

We boarded the boat for lunch while we moved on to our next stop and here was much more rewarding. We saw and swam with two amazing Maori Wrasse which are beautiful and about a 3-4 feet long and 2 feet tall. One was not at all scared and swam against me scratching itself. We also saw a turtle swimming along the reef and followed it for a while before we lost it. There were also some good examples of giant clams which are enormous. Mum went out on a glass bottomed boat and saw one of the clams closing up. We also saw some Manta Rays and lots more Parrot fish and we found Nemo..... We headed back mid afternoon after a knackering day snorkeling. It was a really enjoyable day but the reef was no better that the ones in Fiji or Kenya it just cost a lot more to see this one!

Saturday 21st February
Last night we had a drive up the coast to Cape Tribulation Road and it was dark but we woke up to an amazing beach front. We sat and had breakfast as the morning sun quickly warmed the day. We were taking in a few sights today North of Cairns and making our way slowly south to Tully and Mission Beach. We made our first stop at Mosman Gorge for a swim in the river. It was just beautiful and opens up into quite a big lagoon and is so deep and clear that you can see every pebble on the bottom. It was really hot today so it was well received diving into its cold current. We dried off which took about 3 seconds in this heat and made our way to Port Douglas which is a beautiful bay with a really nice little town.

We had some lunch and then hit the road again stopping off at Cairns to stock up on beer, food and petrol. The cost of petrol in this country varies dramatically. We have paid anything between 70 cents to $1.40 for a litre (still half the price of home!!) We then made our way to Josephine Falls where we spent the afternoon. There was another Creek with a nature formed swimming hole. The great thing about this one was that there was a flat rock that water pours steeply down and into the lagoon and makes a most excellent waterslide!! We spent a few hours here shaded by the trees and dipping in and out of the water. It was brilliant.

We then headed off to Tully where Simon had booked to go White Water Rafting on the famous Tully river with yet another free voucher from the Sydney Expo. I was extremely jealous as it looked fantastic and we sat discussing over dinner how great it was going to be when my Mum gave me an early birthday present! She had booked me on too! She was going to spend the day sunning herself on Mission beach while we were battered and half drowned in the rapids, I couldn't wait.

Sunday 22nd February
What an amazing day!! We spent the whole day from 8.00am till 3.30 with the Xtreme Team from the Tully Raging Thunder Rafting Company. It was fantastic. We did some amazing rafting and some 10 metre rock jumps as well as being tipped from the boat to survive the rapids on your own. There were a few "life flashed before your eyes" moments when we went under for slightly longer than you would ever choose to but then they weren't called the extreme team for nothing. We got some great photos but only hard copies so can't post them up here. We got back to base and had a beer with our team before heading off. We ached all over so we drove a couple of hours south stopping at Frosty Mango again and Fishermans Landing for the best Fish and Chips for tea and a good nights sleep.
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