Port Douglas And The Daintree Rainforests

Australia, Queensland 4 Comments »

Yes we want one of these to take home!Port Douglas with the Macalister Range in the distanceAlthough we had absolutely no intention of staying a night in Port Douglas (the exclusive resort town is a little high-priced for our current modus operandi) we dropped in to have a look around on our way down the mountains from the Atherton Tablelands.  Port Douglas is basically a collection of luxurious tropical resorts, a beautiful white sandy beach and palm-lined main street littered with everything from swish cafes to famous restaurants.  Fun to take a walk down the main street and a drive up to the lookout above town afforded us a sweeping view of the coastline extending south.

The main drag in Port Douglas The Tank on the main street in Port DouglasThe main street is littered with shops and cafesLots of high-priced yachts in the Port Douglas marina

One our way into the Mossman Gorge section of Daintree National ParkWe spent a night in Mossman on our way into the Daintree, ducking in for an afternoon look at the Mossman Gorge section of Daintree National Park only a few kilometers from town.  Mossman Gorge is one of the more famous stop-Wurrmbu Creek in Mossman Gorgeoffs in the northern tropics region of Queensland, its proximity to Port Douglas and Cairns making it a popular spot for tours from the two regional centers.  The Main Coast Range springing from the cane fields around Mossman was quite a sight, towering jungle-covered peaks extending toward the clouds make up the almost completely inaccessible National Park.  Mossman Gorge has a few short walks, all of which we explored within an hour, and quite a few spots for a swim along the beautiful length of the gorge, a refreshing way to escape the heat and humidity.

The Daintree Inn in MossmanOur caravan park in Mossman was only a few hundred meters from the Daintree Inn pictured here.  Always keen to check out a local pub and meet some of the townsfolk, we wandered in after dinner for a few beers and a game of pool.  As soon as I’d put my coin in the slot of the pool table, behind me I heard a loud “Hey big fella, you wanna play, I play you!”  Obligingly, instead of enjoying a quiet game of pool with Lisa I played against a middle-aged Aboriginal woman named Doreen (or Dora the Explorer to her grandchildren).  Lisa and I both enjoyed a chat with Doreen throughout the game, having a good laugh at some cringing expletives she let out when things didn’t go her way, and repeatedly surprised at some of the shots she pulled off while completely inebriated.  We later learned from some of the other locals that Doreen hustles herself into quite a few games of pool at the Daintree Inn, usually finding a way to avoid paying for a game even if she’s challenging for the table!  Definitely one of those nights we’ll look back on and have a laugh about for many years down the track…

Waiting for a sugar cane train on the road to MossmanLisa on the Rainforest Circuit TrackRex Creek in Mossman Gorge Wurrmbu Creek in Mossman GorgeWurrmbu Creek in Mossman Gorge 

Mossman GorgeCrossing the Daintree River on our way northWe set into the Daintree proper from Mossman, taking The Tank for another boat ride over the Daintree River on our way into the Cape Tribulation section of Daintree National Park.  The density of the jungle north of the Daintree River was quite spectacular, we couldn’t see more than a few meters into the thick undergrowth on either side of the road.  The humidity was another memorable aspect of the area, it hung over us like we Sam on his way through the jungle to the top of Mount Sorrowwere back in Southeast Asia, we both just wanted to reach out and part View of the coast and Daintree from Mount Alexandra lookoutthe moisture.  We spent the day around Cape Tribulation with a hike to Mount Sorrow, a grueling climb from sea level to the 680 meter (2230 foot) saddle below the mountain’s peak.  The hike is only seven kilometers (4.3 miles) round trip, something we’d usually complete in 90 minutes.  But the near vertical stretches of the climb across slippery rainforest roots and slick mud slowed us down considerably, it took us almost four hours to make it up and back.  We were absolutely sopping wet with sweat upon reaching the lookout below Mount Sorrow, excited to have completed our climb but exhausted after traipsing through the thick undergrowth at near-100% humidity.  We both had some unfortunate run-ins with leeches on the way up, finding a couple in our shoes, and I had a tick make its way into the skin below my collarbone some time during the trek.  Great to get some exercise but definitely one of the toughest walks either of us has ever done. 

 Crossing the Daintree River on our way northLisa getting ready to tackle Mount SorrowLisa on her way through the jungle to the top of Mount Sorrow Lisa on her way through the jungle to the top of Mount SorrowLisa thankful for her bandana from CherylLisa on her way through the jungle to the top of Mount Sorrow The biggest worm either of us had ever seenExhausted at the top of Mount SorrowView of the Daintree rainforest from the top of Mount Sorrow Lisa checking for leeches at the top of Mount SorrowLisa clambering down wet roots from Mount SorrowLisa clambering down wet roots from Mount SorrowCovered in mud back at The Tank

A much needed shower after our Mount Sorrow climbCamping at Noah Beach near Cape TribulationThe section of coastline around Cairns and Port Douglas isn’t overly friendly when it comes to campsites for travelers like us, the stretch of almost 170 kilometers (106 miles) is completely devoid of campgrounds from Babinda to midway through Daintree National Park.  The one and only campground in Daintree National Park is located just south of Cape Tribulation at Noah Beach (S16°07.986’ E145°27.065’), a selection of 15 sites in the rainforest just back from the ocean.  It’s the only time we’ve felt the need over the past 14 Drying the mud on our shoes after our Mount Sorrow climbmonths to book a campsite in advance, and lucky we did because the place was full!  We were extremely grateful for the hot shower on the front of The Tank after our hike to Mount Sorrow, exhausted after the walk it was a godsend to have a cleansing rinse before dinner.  The Daintree rainforests contain an astonishing 30% of the frog, marsupial and reptile species found in Australia and 65% of Australia’s bat and butterfly species.  We had a visit from a few bats buzzing around our heads whilst eating dinner, plenty of small frogs hopping about the place and even a Long-Nosed Bandicoot visited when we were reading up in the Blue Room. 

Making our way north through Daintree National ParkMaking our way north through Daintree National ParkOn our way north out of Daintree National Park we took a quick stroll along the Dubuji Boardwalk and a look at Cape Tribulation.  So unfortunate that the ocean up in this area of the country is off-limits to swimming due to Estuarine Crocodiles, some beautiful stretches of white sand around Cape Tribulation that’d be perfect for a day on the beach.  The road from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown through the remote northern reaches of Daintree National Park is a 4WD-only affair: plenty of water crossings and some nail-bitingly steep climbs and descents made for quite a fun return to the world of off-roading for The Tank.  Just a warm up for our coming trip to Cape York Peninsula!

The Dubuji BoardwalkFlowering tree trunk along the Dubuji BoardwalkThe beach extending north from Cape Tribulation Making our way north through Daintree National ParkMaking our way north through Daintree National ParkA very tight squeeze down some steep terrain in Daintree National Park Almost to Cooktown...The Bloomfield River

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The Atherton Tablelands

Australia, Queensland 2 Comments »
Planet View: S17°15.094’ E145°35.031’
Street View: S17°15.094’ E145°35.031’

The Hotel Tully Falls in RavenshoeThe Tableland Region is a tract of super-fertile agricultural land in the plains behind the mountains that circle Cairns.  The variety of crops we came across in the Tablelands was quite staggering: driving through the area we saw everything from mangoes to pineapples, coffee to tea, maize to alfalfa and even a healthy collection of cattle and dairies.  After our stint in the southern and central portion of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Nerada tea plantations near MalandaArea we spent a few days in the Tablelands with a night in the quaint lakeside community of Yungaburra (S17°15.094’ E145°35.031’) as well as alongside beautiful Lake Tinaroo in the heart of the region.

On our way from Millstream Falls we passed by the Nerada Tea plantation near Malanda.  Quite an interesting visit for both of us, we learned that tea plants are a species of camellia and will grow to a height of 10-15 feet if left untended.  We also discovered that the best tea is made from the top two leaves and bud of a given plant stalk, and the only real difference between ‘black’ and ‘green’ tea is that ‘black’ tea is fermented while ‘green’ is not.  Nerada is the largest supplier of Australian grown tea, packaging over 1.5 million kilograms (3.3 million pounds) of processed black tea per year.

Panoramic of the main street in Malanda Swamp Hen walking on top of the tea plantations at NeradaThe tea plantations at NeradaThe Curtain Fig Tree in Curtain Fig National ParkThe Curtain Fig Tree in Curtain Fig National Park Lake Eacham Hotel in Yungaburra

Lake BarrineOur awesome campsite on Lake TinarooOn our way through Yungaburra we stopped off to see the towering Curtain Fig Tree in Curtain Fig Tree National Park (wonder why they named the park that?), before stopping off to take a look at pristine Lake Barrine in Crater Lakes National Park and heading toward Lake Tinaroo.  Lake Tinaroo is a man-made body of water created by Tinaroo Dam just north of Atherton, the lake is surrounded by an array of campsites in Danbulla National Park and State Forest.  All of the campgrounds were very picturesque, most offering grassy spots on the banks of the lake.  We camped at an area called Fong-On Bay (S17°09.187’ E145°35.889’), Lisa was yearning to find a ski and hop behind one of the boats that cruised past our campsite towing skiers.  It was an awesome spot: a fire pit with a great fire, not another soul in sight, perfect conditions for a swim and a beautiful sunset to boot. 

Lake Barrine in Crater Lakes National Park Tea rooms and restaurant at Lake Barrine in Crater Lakes National ParkLake BarrineReady for a good campfire at our campsite on Lake TinarooOur awesome campsite on Lake Tinaroo Sam taking a swim in Lake TinarooSunset over Lake TinarooCruising through the rainforest on the way out of Atherton

The chocolate room at the Coffee Works in MareebaAfter a night alongside Lake Tinaroo we took a quick look at the rural centre of the area, Atherton, before returning to one of the caravan parks in Yungaburra for some much needed clothes washing.  We coincided our night in Yungaburra so we had access to the Lake Eacham Hotel to watch the second State of Origin rugby game that night.  It was a wet and windy night in Yungaburra, so a great night to spend in the local pub, the Lake Eacham Hotel filled with a good mix of supporters for both Queensland and New South Wales.  There was an array of crazy wigs and clothing in maroon and blue everywhere we looked, as well as some healthy heckling between supporters.  Unfortunately the game ended up being a very one-sided win for Queensland, but there were some great plays regardless of the one-sidedness and a few good punch-ups to keep things interesting.  Sorry it was such a painful game to watch John!

The Coffee Works in MareebaThe Coffee Works in MareebaThe Coffee Works in Mareeba

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Into The Wet Tropics

Australia, Queensland 3 Comments »

Panoramic of the cane fields coming into Townsville

The beach in front of our campsite at ToomullaA beautiful (and quite friendly) Eastern Blue-Winged KookaburraThe Wet Tropics World Heritage Area extends a few hundred kilometers from Bluewater at the southern end of Paluma Range National Park all the way up to Cooktown on Cape York Peninsula.  Innisfail, Tully and Babinda in the centre of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area often vie for the award for the wettest town in Australia, each often receiving over 4500mm (14.8 feet) of rain annually.  Some of the mountain tops making up the Wet Tropics receive over 6000mm (19.7 feet) of rain each year!  All the water results in an expanse of rugged mountain ranges cloaked in dense tropical rainforest, rivers and waterfalls abound. 

We took our time exploring almost all of the southern portion of the World Heritage Area.  After a couple of days exploring The Whitsunday Islands we drove a few hundred kilometers past Townsville to spend the night at a meticulously maintained town park in the sleepy seaside settlement of Toomulla.  A free campground within a few steps of the beach – and also within a few steps of a very crocodile-friendly creek – we enjoyed a walk along the beach and a few slings of the Aerobie before dinner.  In the waning sunlight we had our first visit of the trip from a beautiful Eastern Blue-Winged Kookaburra.  Blue-Winged Kookaburras are endemic to Australia’s northern reaches and have electric blue feathers on their wings and pale body coloring, traits that separate them from their more common Laughing Kookaburra cousins. 

Crocodile-friendly mangroves near our campsite at ToomullaCamping in ToomullaCrocodile-friendly mangroves near our campsite at Toomulla The beach in front of our campsite at ToomullaLisa on the beach in front of our campsite at ToomullaThe beach in front of our campsite at Toomulla A cool old FJ at one of the beach shacks in ToomullaA beautiful (and quite friendly) Eastern Blue-Winged KookaburraA beautiful (and quite friendly) Eastern Blue-Winged Kookaburra

Jourama FallsTowering Wallaman FallsNative plants in bloom near Wallaman FallsWe spent our first morning in the Wet Tropics exploring Jourama Falls in the northern end of Paluma Range National Park.  Jourama is a spectacular multi-tiered waterfall plunging into a series of welcoming swimming holes in the gorge below.  If it was a little warmer outside we would have definitely taken a dip…  Further north just west of the Town of Ingham lies Wallaman Falls in the southern end of Girringun National Park.  Wallaman Falls is Australia’s tallest single-drop waterfall, plunging 268 meters (879 feet) into the 20 meter (66 foot) deep pool at its base.  Roughly five times the height of famous Niagara Falls, it was an absolutely Jourama Fallsan awe-inspiring sight.  It was on our way into Wallaman that we had our first on many Wet Tropics notices to look out for the rare Cassowary bird.  Cassowaries inhabit the mountainous rainforests in this area of the country and although they’re quite rare, can cause quite a bit of havoc for people if cornered.  Roughly the size of an Emu, Cassowaries have a large bone protruding from their head that they use to clear their way through the jungle.  The bone can also be used as a maiming defensive ram so the Department of Environment and Conservation up here makes sure that tourists know to steer clear should they see one in the wild.

One of the swimming holes on the way to Jourama FallsThe creek below Jourama FallsTowering Wallaman Falls The gorge leading to the ocean from Wallaman FallsAt the top of Wallaman FallsOur first sign of Cassowaries in Girringun National Park

Lisa ready for a swim at our campsite next to Muray FallsLisa and Sam by the fire at Murray FallsFrom Wallaman Falls we headed into central Girringun National Park for a night at Murray Falls.  The camping area next to Murray Falls (S18°09.208’ E145°48.971’) was brilliant: a grassy clearing set beneath towering Eucalypts, the gushing sound of the falls in the distance and a series of beautiful swimming holes right next to the campsites.  With a campfire for me and flush toilets for Lisa we couldn’t have asked for more!  After a dip in the creek below the falls we dined on lamb chops and salad with a bottle of McGuigan shiraz viognier, it was definitely camping in style.  The group of campers adjacent to us didn’t have a fire ring and we noticed their three young boys full of energy so invited them to share our campfire with us.  It was a lot of fun meeting the boys: five year old Angus is the big brother to four year old twins Max and Thomas.  Their parents Heath and Anna hailed from nearby The hiking trail to the top of Murray FallsDoes this look like trouble?Townsville and were great to chat to over a few glasses of red and a roaring fire.  The campfire kept the boys occupied way past their regular bedtime, I think they would have burned my whole wood pile in one hit if I’d let them.  Cabbage had been on the menu that night for the family of five resulting in some funny squeaks around the fire from the three boys.  Lisa and I had quite a chuckle each time one of the boys let one rip and immediately blamed Dad! Heath and Anna sure had their hands full with the three of them, they had two cars with them at the campsite for the weekend because just before they’d left on their trip Thomas decided to take scissors to all three seatbelts in the rear of their Nissan Pathfinder.

Picturesque cattle station on the way into Murray FallsMurray FallsDining in style at Murray Falls Lisa exited about dinner at Murray FallsDining in style at Murray FallsThe hiking trail to the top of Murray FallsMurray Falls

Grabbing some fresh fruit from one of the many roadside standsPicturesque Lacey Creek near Mission BeachFrom our brilliant spot at Murray Falls we continued north to the Central Coast section of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.  The plains up in this area of the country still support a lot of sugar cane, but north of Townsville more and more of the cane crops give way to abundant fields of mango, papaya, pineapple and bananas.  There’s often roadside stalls at the smaller farms so we’re always stocked with delicious fresh fruit along the way.  Grabbing some fresh fruit from one of the many roadside standsMission Beach is a backpacker friendly little beach town just north of famous Hinchinbrook Island, we stopped in for a morning coffee in-between some of the short rainforest hikes through Clump Mountain National Park.  The 4.6 kilometer (2.9 mile) Bicton Hill walk afforded us excellent views of Mission Beach and the nearby islands, interesting to read about the endemic native tress along the way which had been labeled by the park rangers.  I had no idea that Australia had native banana, plum and nutmeg trees!

Lisa on the Lacey Creek WalkRainforests down to the ocean at Bingil BayLooking over Mission Beach and Dunk Island

Along the walk to Nandroya Falls from our campsiteMajestic Nandroya FallsFrom Mission Beach we started our way inland toward the Atherton Tablelands, spending a night alongside Henrietta Creek in Wooroonooran National Park on the way up.  Even though it was a little close to the Palmerston Highway, the Henrietta Creek (S17°35.920’ E145°45.534’) campsite had some great walks to nearby falls as well as a beautiful swimming hole called the Bush Pool only a few hundred meters into the jungle from where we setup for the night.  Nandroya Falls, located down a 2.4 kilometer (1.5 mile) hiking trail from the campsite, was definitely one of the most picturesque waterfalls I’ve ever seen.  Lots of signs of Cassowaries in the Henrietta Creek area, we still didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of one but could definitely hear them crashing and calling through the jungle once darkness fell.

 Majestic Nandroya FallsAlong the walk to Nandroya Falls from our campsiteMajestic Nandroya Falls Majestic Nandroya FallsCamping alongside Henrietta CreekMajestic Nandroya Falls Lisa hopping into an icy Bush Pool swimming hole near our Henrietta Creek campsiteBush Pool swimming hole near our Henrietta Creek campsiteSam hopping into Bush Pool swimming hole near our Henrietta Creek campsite

Millaa Millaa FallsQueenslandOur tour of the southern and central sections of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area finished with a trip to some of the waterfalls around the town of Millaa Millaa at the southern end of the Atherton Tablelands.  We also drove inland to Millstream Falls – Australia’s widest waterfall – near the town of Ravenshoe.  It’s amazing just how much water is in this area of the country!  We’ve spent so much time in the arid expanses of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, it’s a real eye-opener to see so much water flowing in the middle of the dry season.  I can’t imagine what it must be like up here when it’s raining!

Elinjaa FallsZillie FallsMillstream Falls: Australia's widest waterfall

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The Whitsunday Islands

Australia, Queensland 2 Comments »

The Whitsunday Islands Airlie LagoonThe Whitsunday, Lindeman and Molle Groups are a collection of 74 tropical islands spread around Mackay and Airlie Beach.  Commonly referred to simply as The Whitsundays, the islands were named by Captain James Cook on his voyage through the area during 1770.  The Whitsundays are about as touristy as it gets, but it’s one of those places that you have to stop off at on the way Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Islandthrough.  So we spent a couple of nights in Airlie Beach (S20°16.474’ E148°42.250’) to explore the wonders of the islands and Great Barrier Reef. 

Airlie Beach is a fun little backpacker haven, the launching point for most trips to the surrounding islands.  It has more tour agencies along the main street than I’ve seen anywhere else in Australia.  The massive influx of backpackers to the area means that Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday IslandAirlie Beach main streetwe were able to find some very well-priced pubs and enjoyed a bit of people watching at one of them on our first night in town.  We stayed at a tired old caravan park in nearby Cannonvale, I’ll never forget the showers that came about halfway up my back in the dilapidated toilet block .  They were so bloody short that even Lisa had to bend over to wash her hair!

There are more ways to explore the islands than one could imagine: ex-Abel Point Marina in Airlie Beachcompetition yachts, catamarans, luxury cruisers, high-powered speed boats, seaplanes, you name it.  We took the fast and exhilarating option with a day on a military runabout-inspired speedboat similar to the one that slung us around the seas of Bruny Island in Tasmania.  We were picked up a little before 10:00AM from our caravan park and ferried to Abel Point Marina, a quick pre-board briefing and we were on the water with 900HP behind us on Big Fury.  While I’m sure the boat could handle amazingly, it was quite a tame ride compared to our previous experience on Bruny Island Cruises.  Still a lot of fun to hoon out toward the islands on Big Fury with such beautiful views of Hook and Whitsunday Islands in the distance.

Our boat for the day: Big FurySome lucky devils sailing the WhitsundaysRounding the northern end of Whitsunday Island with Border Island in the distance

Border Island with Hook Island in the distanceBig Fury coming in to Border IslandWe sped across the Whitsunday Passage from Airlie Beach and through the slim channel separating the largest of the two Whitsundays: Hook Island and Whitsunday Island.  Most of the larger islands in the chain have at least one secluded resort on them, Hook and Whitsunday Islands are no exception.  The resort on Hook Island is one of the area’s oldest, established over 50 years ago it’s so far from the mainland A yacht in for lunch at Border Islandthat it generates its own electricity and gets fresh water from its own desalination plant.  Once we rounded the northern end of Whitsunday Island we cruised a little further out to sea for our first stop: Border Island.  The northern end of Border Island has a secluded cove teeming with fish and full of fringing coral reefs.  We spent roughly an hour in the water at Border, a stunning array of colourful fish and some of the most brilliant coral either of us had ever seen.  If there wasn’t a bit of a wind chilling our backs while snorkeling I think we could have stayed in all day!

Our jovial deck hand CamLisa after snorkeling on the reef at Border IslandSnorkeling at Border Island

Yachts in for a break at a secluded cove on Whitsunday IslandBrilliant white sand of Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday IslandOn our way down the eastern side of Whitsunday Island we stopped off for a quick look at the famous Hill Inlet, the fourth most professionally photographed location in Australia according to our jovial deckhand Cam.  Hill Inlet lies at the northern end of Whitehaven Beach, arguably the most famous beach in the Whitsundays due to its strikingly white sand that stretches for seven The famous Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Islandkilometers.  The sand of Whitehaven is the purest sand in Australia, the 98.8% silica is supposedly the result of grinding quartz on top of tectonic plates at the opening of an underground volcano just east of the beach.  We stopped off for a couple of hours at Whitehaven, enough time for lunch, a bit of a relax on the brilliant sand and a quick stroll up the water’s edge toward Hill Inlet.  A fantastic day, great to take a trip out to see the Whitsundays up close, even if it was short and sweet.

Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday IslandRelaxing on Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday IslandSailing ship in for the night with Airlie Beach and Conway National Park in the background

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Eungella National Park

Australia, Queensland Comments Off on Eungella National Park

Finch Hatton Gorge 

Queensland Emerald (S23°31.200’ E148°10.153’) in central-east Queensland was our stopping point for a couple of days in-between Carnarvon Gorge and the coast: I had a late notice article to write and while I was working Lisa was kind enough to tackle the mountain of washing we had piled up.  After two nights in Emerald we were back on the road headed toward Mackay (S21°05.404’ E149°12.874’) for more chores, The Tank was due for an oil change so we figured that One of the many sugar mills around MackayMackay was the best place to get it done.  Mackay isn’t one of our favourite stops along the way, even the mechanic who helped us out said he’d lived there all his life and thought the place was severely overrated (with no prompting from me!).  But it was a necessary evil to get The Tank taken care of.  We definitely felt back in the tropics proper in Mackay, with mangrove-lined rivers and crocodile warnings at all the beaches, it’s been a while since we couldn’t jump in the water at will…

All our formalities taken care of, we headed back inland to nearby Eungella and surrounding Eungella National Park.  The countryside around Mackay leading into the Pioneer Valley is almost exclusively covered with sugar cane.  Seemingly endless fields of the towering cane stalks, the annual cane harvest was just beginning so the fields were a brilliant green and all the mills in full swing.  Some pungently sweet, grassy aromas in the air.

Through the open expanses on the way back to the coast from EmeraldOne of the many sugar mills around MackayA train hauling cane to the millOne of the many sugar mills around MackayA train hauling cane to the millSeemingly endless sugar cane fields around MackaySam and Lisa with Pioneer Valley in the background

Pioneer Valley from EungellaThe rainforests around Eungella are the largest collection of sub-tropical rainforests left on the planet, dense jungles filled with an amazing array of plant and birdlife.  Lisa sniffed out a 4WD-only accessible campground called Lisa not happy at having her picture taken while drawingThe Diggings (S21°10.478’ E148°28.736’) in Crediton State Forest for our night in the mountains.  We cruised Diggings Road from Eungella through the rainforest, eventually making our way to the picturesque camping area alongside Broken River.  It was an awesome spot, not another soul in site and the picturesque Broken River flowing at our doorstep.  I was tempted to hop in for a swim but upon feeling the briskness of the water decided against it, opting for a roaring campfire and a few beers instead.  The photo here of the Kookaburras was quite funny to watch: we noticed two Kookaburras on a branch above our campsite and by the time it was dark there were no less than six of them huddled together to brave the cold night!

Six Kookaburras huddled up for the night above our campsiteBroken River next to The Diggings campsiteSam wading one of the river crossings along the Broken River  The Broken River in front of our campsiteCamping at The Diggings alongside Broken River 

Finch Hatton GorgeThe trail through the rainforest at Finch Hatton GorgeFinch Hatton GorgeFrom The Diggings we cruised back down the super-steep road from Eungella into Pioneer Valley – a road so steep The Tank had to tackle it both up and down in second gear – and stopped off at majestic Finch Hatton Gorge near the town of Pioneer.  Finch Hatton Gorge was an amazing place, powerful rivers have carved their way through the rock over the years resulting in waterfall after waterfall through the dense jungle.  The water cascading over all the boulders coupled with the countless number of swimming holes along the gorge really reminded me of the streams in the California Sierra Nevada.  We spent a couple of hours exploring the gorge, taking in all its splendor with a roughly five kilometer hike to the Wheel of Fire waterfall.  Next stop for us: the Whitsundays. 

Finch Hatton GorgeFinch Hatton Gorge Crazy roots in Finch Hatton GorgeFinch Hatton GorgeFinch Hatton Gorge Finch Hatton GorgeLisa negotiating one of the creek crossings along Finch Hatton GorgeThe Tank next to towering sugar cane on the way to Airlie Beach

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Bundaberg To Carnarvon Gorge

Australia, Queensland 2 Comments »

Bundaberg DistilleryAfter almost a week around Inskip and exploring Fraser Island we were all in need of a scrub and some grocery restocking so headed north to the town of Bundaberg to take care of business.  Only a couple of hours from Inskip and Rainbow Beach, it was a scenic drive through the forestry country east of Gympie and the rolling The three of us in Bessie on the way to Bundaberg DistilleryEucalypt bushland between Maryborough and Bundaberg (S24°52.031’ E152°20.299’).  We’re not huge fans of the coastal towns in Queensland so far, they don’t offer much culture or many good pubs that we’ve found, but we did have one stop in Bundaberg that we really wanted to make: Bundaberg Distilling.  So after a cleanup the three of us piled into Bessie for a tour of Australia’s most famous rum distillery.  An interesting tour for sure, amazing that the rum is produced at 78% alcohol and is so flammable that only a single spark can bring down the whole place.  We thus weren’t allowed to take anything electronic on the tour, so no photos inside.  Fun to be able to taste a few of the Bundaberg products in the bar at the end of our tour, I’m not usually a rum drinker but the reserve rum was a very smooth drop. 

Tasting the product at Bundaberg DistilleryBundaberg Distillery Bundaberg DistilleryTasting the product at Bundaberg DistilleryChris doing his morning stretches in Bundaberg 

Queensland Walking into Cania GorgeWalking into Cania GorgeFrom Bundaberg we made our first serious journey inland in a couple of months.  Over 600 kilometers inland from Bundaberg we really wanted to see the grandeur of Carnarvon Gorge firsthand so made our way west over the span of a couple of days.  The tropical plants and humidity of Bundaberg disappeared shortly after we crossed the Burnett Range, replaced with the arid environment we became so used to traveling through Western Australia and the Northern Territory last year.  We broke up our first day’s drive with a stop at Cania Gorge National Park, a secluded crack in the earth with a few fun bushwalks and a great picnic area for lunch.

The Overhang in Cania GorgeLisa and Sam making lunch at Cania Gorge 

Walking into Cania GorgeThe Overhang in Cania GorgeDripping Rock in Cania GorgeChris and Lisa in Cania Gorge's Dragon Cave Lunch at Cania GorgeLunch at Cania Gorge with the Pied ButcherbirdsLunch at Cania Gorge with the Pied Butcherbirds

Chris enjoying the sunset on the banks of the Dawson River near MouraChris and Lisa on the banks of the Dawson River near MouraFrom Cania Gorge we put in a couple more hours driving for the day, setting our sights on a campground just west of the mining town of Moura in Central-East Queensland.  Upon arriving at the spot, however, we discovered that every other grey nomad and their dog had the same idea so started exploring nearby back roads to find a spot for the night.  We lucked onto a dirt road leading to a dam in the Dawson River, where we setup for the night with an awesome campfire and not another soul in sight.

 Setting up camp on the banks of the Dawson River near MouraSetting up camp on the banks of the Dawson River near MouraSunset on the banks of the Dawson River near Moura 

Chris climbing the stairs on the way to Boolimba BluffChris in the early morning light on the banks of the Dawson River near MouraFrom our retreat beside the Dawson river it was roughly another 250 kilometers (155 miles) across the arid expanses to Carnarvon Gorge National Park.  There are some beautiful cattle stations on the way into the National Park, brimming with creeks and healthy-looking cattle I think it’d be tough not to make a buck out of such fertile, rich land.  The arid landscape morphed into one of cycads, palms and ferns inside the shaded canyons of Carnarvon Gorge.  The remote gorge is made up of towering sandstone cliffs on the sides of bubbling Carnarvon Creek, home to a range of unique flora and fauna.  We spent the afternoon upon arrival with a quick 6.4 kilometer (4.0 mile) hike up the beginning of the gorge to Boolimba Bluff.  Some majestic views of the central highlands and the opening to the gorge from the bluff.  We were a little perturbed to find that the National Park campground is only open for Queensland school holidays, another inane Queensland quirk similar to the phone booking system for National Park campgrounds.  There is a single privately owned camping area within the park, but upon discovering that they wanted $50 for the three of us to camp we returned back to the station property outside the National Park to find a private spot (S25°04.181’ E148°17.330’) beside one of the creeks.

Panoramic of Carnarvon Gorge's entrance from Boolimba Bluff Cattle crossing on one of the station's leading into Carnarvon GorgeChris and Lisa crossing Carnarvon Creek on the way to Boolimba BluffLisa on the way to Boolimba BluffChris and Lisa on the way down from Boolimba Bluff Carnarvon Creek at the mouth of Carnarvon GorgeCamping on one of the station's outside Carnarvon Gorge National ParkCamping on one of the station's outside Carnarvon Gorge National Park

Australian Bustards in the early morning on the way into Carnarvon GorgeCarnarvon GorgeFor our second day in the area we made an early start to conquer the entire gorge walking track, a roughly 23 kilometer (14.3 mile) cruisey walk along Carnarvon Creek from the National Park headquarters.  Quite a cold start to the day, we were all rugged up in beanies and thermals to begin our walk.  Awesome to see the sun come over the tops of the gorge cliffs and illuminate the walls in A male kangaroo munching beside Carnarvon Creekdeep orange hues.  The gorge has quite a few sidetracks along its length to wonders ranging from pockets of rainforest to ancient Aboriginal art.  We opted to walk to the end of the gorge first and explore all the sidetracks on our return, as suggested by the rangers.  Our first stop was at Cathedral Cave near the end of the gorge, a collection of millennia-old Aboriginal rock paintings, some very unique artwork and so well preserved for their age.  After Cathedral Cave we passed the entrance to chasm-like Boowinda Gorge and finally to Big Bend, the end of the main walking track.  Some amazing reflections in the mirror-like water of Carnarvon Creek on the way up, hard to tell when the rocks ended and water began in some spots…

Lisa and Chris rugged up for an early morning hikeChris in Carnarvon GorgeLisa crossing Carnarvon Creek Lisa and Chris taking in the towering cliffs of Carnarvon GorgeCarnarvon GorgeCarnarvon Gorge Chris negotiating the rocky creek bed of Carnarvon GorgeCarnarvon GorgeLisa near the end of Carnarvon Gorge Aboriginal artwork in Cathedral CaveAboriginal artwork in Cathedral CaveAboriginal artwork in Cathedral Cave Boowinda GorgeBig Bend at the end of Carnarvon GorgeBig Bend at the end of Carnarvon Gorge

The AmphitheatreLush Ward's CanyonOn our way back down the gorge from Big Bend we stopped off at Ward’s Canyon, a mildly strenuous hike up the side of the main gorge to a chasm-like cut in the sandstone housing an amazing collection of ferns.  Ward’s Canyon must only see sunlight for a few minutes each day, so narrow in parts there’s no way to see the sky through the towing cliff faces on either side.  Chris was quite enamored with all the ferns, especially the gigantic King Ferns at the canyon’s end.  From Ward’s we then made the trip into The Amphitheatre: an amazing chasm through the sandstone leading to a towering rock amphitheatre covered with ferns and moss.  An awe-inspiring spot!

Lush Ward's CanyonChris making his way through Ward's CanyonWard's CanyonLisa on the way out of Ward's Canyon The entrance to The AmphitheatreChris and Lisa climbing into The AmphitheatreThe Amphitheatre The AmphitheatreSam, Lisa and Chris in The AmphitheatreEntrance to The Amphitheatre

Carnarvon GorgeThe AmphitheatreFrom Carnarvon Gorge we bid Chris adieu, he had a couple more weeks of vacation up his sleeve and wanted to get his new dinghy in the water back in Adelaide (I think there also might have been a member of the fairer sex he was keen on catching up with).  Awesome to have him along with us for a few more adventures, we always enjoy his company on our travels.  Credit goes to him for a few more photos as part of this blog.  From Carnarvon Gorge its back to the coast for us and on our way north toward Cape York…

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Fraser Island

Australia, Queensland 5 Comments »
Planet View: S24°57.977’ E153°20.421’
Street View: S24°57.977’ E153°20.421’

Water Temperature: 22°C (72°F)

Poona Lake in Great Sandy National ParkPoona Lake in Great Sandy National ParkFrom having a house over our head in Coolum for a few weeks we again returned to the comfort of the Blue Room and hit the road.  We stopped off for the night to visit my auntie in Hervey Bay, great to catch up with her and see where she’s been living for the past few years (I’d never been to Hervey Bay before…).  On our way back to Inskip Point from Hervey Bay we stopped off in the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park to kill the afternoon, venturing along the Freshwater Track for a hike through the rainforest to Poona Lake.

Fraser Island is the world’s largest island composed completely of sand.  It’s a staggering 124 kilometers (77 miles) long, the length of its eastern side bordered by beautiful beaches and pristine turquoise ocean while its inner reaches are covered with thick bush and rainforest.  One of Fraser’s main pulls for tourists is its collection of perched freshwater lakes, supremely clean bodies of water that are fed from underneath by aquifers that filter water through the sand.  Without any hint of a road anywhere on the island, Fraser remains a completely 4WD-only paradise, right up our alley!  Keen to test out their new Toyota Prado (whom we named Peter) after recently moving to Brisbane from London, my cousin Sarah and boyfriend James came up to explore Fraser Island with us.  After three weeks with us exploring the Great Ocean Road and Victorian High Country earlier this year, Chris was also keen for some more adventures with The Tank so put in a marathon slog to cover 2400 kilometers (1490 miles) from Adelaide to meet us at Inskip on Friday evening.  That’s some serious desert to cover in a span of 39 hours!

Camping for the night at InskipCamping for the night at Inskip Lisa enjoying the hammock at InskipChris on his way through central AustraliaChris, James and Sarah at Inskip before heading over to Fraser IslandSarah cooking up a mean breakfast at Inskip

Peter Prado on his way onto the Manta RayFraser Island After a wet night camping at Inskip and a quick trip back to Rainbow Beach to grab some fishing tackle (something big bit one of my Tailor lures clean off the day before) we all boarded the Manta Ray Barge bound for Fraser Island.  The only way to access Fraser is via barge or plane, there are two barges operating at Rainbow Beach and a couple more further up the Great Sandy Strait toward Hervey Bay.  With tyre pressures lowered and 4WD engaged Bessie and The Tank next to a dead Shovelnose RayLooking back at Bessie as we round Fraser Island's Hook Pointfor a week on the sand we all boarded the barge without any dramas.  I’ve heard many a story detailing the number of people that get bogged boarding the barge…  Not us!  We did have to wait on the barge to depart though, one of the rental 4WD vehicles got itself bogged within a metre of exiting the barge.  We were all amazed that they let tourists without a skerrick of off-road driving experience onto the island in rental cars.

The beach around the base of Fraser’s Hook Point is only passable at low tide, so we coincided our arrival with the 11:00AM low and cruised around the point to the eastern beach excited to finally all be together on a new adventure.  At low tide driving on the seemingly endless eastern beach was a real hoot, almost level sand packed down by the receding tide makes the sand a veritable highway for 4WD vehicles.  The speed limit is 80KPH (50MPH) on the beach, so much fun buzzing across the sand in a troop of three vehicles with nothing but the turquoise ocean and amber beach in sight.  (I think Chris pushed Bessie to 100KPH [62MPH] a couple of times but we’ll keep that on the down low…)

Bessie on the Manta RayLisa and Chris on the Manta RayThe Manta Ray barge to Fraser Island The Manta Ray bargeSam driving along the sand on Fraser IslandLeaving Inskip on the Manta Ray barge 

The Tank and Peter crossing one of the many freshwater streams running into the ocean along the eastern beachThe Tank, Bessie and Peter on Fraser's eastern beachIn the old days a trip to Fraser was a lot less restrictive than it is today.  You used to be able to camp anywhere along the eastern beach and have campfires to warm up the evenings.  These days the massive influx of tourists in rental 4WD vehicles, and the increase in home-grown 4WD adventurers like us has necessitated the Parks and Wildlife Service limiting the areas in which camping is allowed and ban all campfires except in two designated campsites at the north of the island.  Fair enough, Fraser is a real jewel of wilderness and a very unique place that deserves all the protection it can get!

Clouds rolling in over Fraser IslandWe spent our first night camping in the foredunes in the Wongai beach area just south of Eurong.  A beautiful spot in the bush a few meters back from the beach, we spent the afternoon fishing in the surf and I managed to nab a few good-sized Tailor for the troop’s dinner.  Most things you’ll read Sam with a trio of Tailor on Fraser Islandabout Fraser include some kind of warning about the dingoes endemic to the island.  Fraser houses the last purebred dingoes in Australia, the limited land mass and rife breeding of the dogs means that a lot of them struggle for food.  As a result, there’s been a few occasions when the usually standoffish pups have attacked humans.  The conniving canines also manage to steal quite a bit of food from campsites.  We had a rude introduction to the Fraser dingoes on our first night at Wongai, away from camp for no more than five minutes and only 20 meters away at the beach we returned to find that a dingo had got all the way into the back of The Tank to steal our bread and English muffins!  We certainly didn’t leave anything out for the rest of our trip, crafty little devils…  A pretty wild and windy first day for us on the island, the storm clouds pictured here looked like they were going to open up on us but fortunately just provided some awesome cloudscapes and a warm covering for the night.

Peter on his way into our first campsite at WongaiBessie on her way into our first campsite at WongaiThe Tank at our first campsite at Wongai Long afternoon shadows at Wongai camping areaSam manning the BBQ at Wongai camping areaGourmet chicken sausages and fresh Tailor

Crystal clear waters of picturesque Lake BirrabeenThe weather turned perfect for us on our first full day on the island, brilliant blue skies and calm ocean met us on Sunday for our adventure inland to some of Fraser’s famous lakes.  We took the inland track from Eurong toward Central Station and Lake Birrabeen, a beautiful drive through some of the island’s rainforests covered in towering trees and majestic ferns.  Lake Chris with a Carpet Python on the inland track from Lake BoomanjinBirrabeen is one of the few clear lakes on Fraser, the crystal clear water and soft sand made it quite a surreal experience taking a dip.  As we’d heard, the silica in the water really did polish up the jewelry and metal watches we were all wearing!  We also stopped off at Lake Boomanjin, similarly The Boss supervising an awkward turnaroundBessie crossing one of the many freshwater streams flowing into the oceanpure water but stained by the tannins from the surrounding vegetation, the water of Boomanjin was a striking tea colour.  Chris spotted a nice sized Carpet Python on the track back to the coast from Lake Boomanjin, growing up with reptiles and being a zoo keeper by trade he confidently picked up the slithering reptile and put it out of harm’s way in the bush.  What an action packed morning!

The beach in front of WongaiOn our way inland toward Central StationThe Tank on Fraser's eastern beach Fraser Island's eastern beachChris taking care of BessieThe Tank on the track to Lake Birrabeen Bessie on Fraser Island's eastern beachBessie on the track to Lake BirrabeenThe track to Lake Birrabeen Crystal clear waters of picturesque Lake BirrabeenChris taking a dip in the tannin-stained water of Lake BoomanjinChris with a Carpet Python on the inland track from Lake BoomanjinLisa the communications expert 

Peter crossing one of the many freshwater streams flowing into the oceanThe Tank, Peter and Bessie next to the plane that transports the rangers to and from the islandAfter our tour of the lakes we buzzed further north up the eastern beach, crossing a myriad of freshwater creeks running into the ocean on the way toward Eli Creek.  Eli is one of the largest streams flowing into the Pacific on Fraser’s eastern coast, a tranquil brook flowing beneath the palms across some strikingly white sand.  In some spots the water was so clear and sand so white it was hard Bessie crossing one of the many freshwater streams flowing into the oceanto tell if there was water in the Stunning moonrise over the ocean from Gurumancreek at all!  We passed the plane that transports the park rangers to and from the island each day, stopping for a chat to the pilot as he was lapping up the afternoon sun.  The sand is so flat and packed on the eastern beach that the planes can land almost anywhere along its length at low tide.  We also stopped off at the famous Maheno Wreck, one of the many boats that have come to rest around the island and a great spot for a few photos.

Our second night on the island was spent at the Guruman camping area just south of Dundubara.  We actually planned The five of us watching the moon at Gurumanon spending the night at Dundubara and having a campfire, but the obtuse bureaucrats at the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service have developed a system whereby you must book a campsite ahead of time via phone to stay at a designated camping area.  To Californians that may sound commonplace, but in a country where I’ve never seen a National Park campground full it is a very frustrating system.  A system adopted only by Queensland and one that surely needs some rethinking…  Anyway, Guruman was a great spot, we setup in the foredunes overlooking the eastern beach and Pacific Ocean.  We had the place to ourselves and spent the afternoon fishing, swimming and slinging the Aerobie up and down the wide expanse of the beach.  Without a fire to keep us warm we instead opted to warm from the inside with a few beers and some port, taking in a brilliant moonrise and amazing stars late into the evening (the photo to the right here is us watching the moon, but with the shutter open for 30 seconds it looks as bright as day!).

Chris wading the stunning waters of Eli CreekMaheno WreckMaheno Wreck Camped at GurumanFresh Dart for dinner at GurumanCamped at Guruman

Sam with a Lace Monitor at Dundubara Lisa, Chris, Sarah and James on the vast expanse of the Wungul SandblowBefore continuing north to Waddy Point we stopped into Dundubara for a hike across the expansive Wungul Sandblow.  Kind of gave us an idea what it would be like to be lost in the desert, such a massive swath of sand.  We had a bit of a wildlife experience while lunching at Dundubara: I encountered a big Lace Monitor patrolling for scraps and James ran into a python crawling into the toilet block.  Wouldn’t fancy meeting him in a stall!  More speed driving up the eastern beach took us to Indian Head and the majestic Champagne Pools at Middle Rocks.  Champagne Pools are a couple of natural rock pools that fill with water at high tide, when waves crash into the pools they form bubbles, hence the name…  It was an awesome spot to relax on our way to Waddy Point, couldn’t have asked for better weather to take it all in and having the pools to ourselves for a dip was a real treat.

Chris and Lisa walking to the Wungul SandblowAn Orb Spider on the way to the Wungul SandblowThe Wungul Sandblow The Wungul Sandblow with Fraser's eastern beach in the distanceLisa, Chris, Sarah and James on the vast expanse of the Wungul SandblowA python making its home in the Dundaburra campground toilet block! Looking back at The Tank from BessieThe beautiful beach north of Indian HeadThe beautiful beach north of Indian Head Bessie making her way up the Middle Rocks inland bypassThe beautiful beach north of Indian HeadChampagne Pools Sarah and James at Champagne PoolsSarah and James at Champagne Pools Lisa  at Champagne PoolsChampagne PoolsSarah and Lisa at Champagne Pools

Chris, Sam, Sarah, James and Lisa at Champagne PoolsThe Tank on the inland track to Waddy PointAcross the inland track from Middle Rocks took us to Waddy Point, the other of the designated camping area on the island where campfires are permitted.  Due to the fact we could have a fire and the place was almost deserted except for us we ended up staying a couple of nights at Waddy.  Tucked behind a freshwater marsh from the north facing Waddy Point beach it was awesome to have the warmth of a fire during the cool evening air.  After a brilliant dinner of eye fillet steaks the wine, beer and port all started flowing quite heavily during our first night at Waddy.  I don’t remember a great deal of the photos taken below but it looks like everyone had a pretty fantastic time.  I’ve never seen Sarah tear up the dance floor like she did that night.  I think it’s a good thing we had the place to ourselves!

Camped at Waddy PointTending to the salad at Waddy PointChris and Sam preparing dinner at Waddy PointChris attempting a Michael Jackson imitation with his new jacket Lisa, Chris and Sarah tearing up the dance floorBananas and chocolate in the coals at Waddy PointJames after plenty of glasses of port at Waddy PointJames and Sarah at Waddy Point Sarah tearing up the dance floorChris and Sam at Waddy PointChris and Sam at Waddy PointDancing the fire ring at Waddy Point

Peter on the way up to Sandy CapePeter tackling the Ngkala Rocks bypassFrom Waddy Point we embarked on our most challenging day of 4WD tracks, the infamous Ngkala Rocks bypass on the way to Bessie tackling the Ngkala Rocks bypassFraser’s northernmost tip at Sandy Cape.  I’ve seen photos of vehicles flipped off the edge of the dunes and onto the rocks below at Ngkala, so was a little wary when we reached the track after buzzing up the eastern beach from Waddy Point early in the morning.  Ngkala Rocks is the point at which all hire vehicles on the island must turn back, so we were of course keen to test our mettle with the island’s toughest section of sand.  In 4WD low-range we all powered up the first section of the track and through the drop back onto the eastern beach on the other side.  It was actually a lot of fun, Peter Prado (Sarah and James’ vehicle) made it look so easy, Peter’s much lighter and lower to the ground than The Tank.  Unfortunately no pictures of The Tank conquering Ngkala as Lisa hates driving in the sand, but it was some pretty deep sand, definitely put the low-range to work.

Remnants of vehicles at Sandy CapeRelaxing in our own world at Sandy CapeRoughly 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) further north of Ngkala lies Sandy Cape, Fraser’s northern tip.  It’s a very isolated cape where the currents converge in such a way that all manner of debris is washed up on the beach.  There were a few rusted vehicle chassis lying on the beach below the Sandy Cape sandblow, a striking reminder of what can happen in such a remote location if you lose concentration behind the wheel or attempt something silly.  We spent most of the day at Sandy Cape, enjoying the crystal clear water and trying to pull in some of the Tailor we could see powering through the waves.  James pulled in a Longtom but unfortunately no Tailor.  Regardless, an awesome place to spend the day and take in the beautiful coastline of Fraser Island.

The Tank on the way to Sandy CapePeter on the way to Sandy CapeBessie on the way to Sandy Cape Remnants of vehicles at Sandy CapeAn old engine block rusting away at Sandy CapeA vehicle flipped in the sand at Sandy Cape The three Toyotas at Sandy CapeAn afternoon in the sun at Sandy CapeSam digging for cockles at Sandy CapeChris enjoying a beer and the sun while Sam digs for bait 

Crystal clear water on the beach at Sandy CapeA lone Dingo on the beach near Waddy PointPeter making it back around Ngkala RocksThe return journey to Waddy Point from Sandy Cape was a little more challenging.  The reverse direction around Ngkala Rocks took us all a couple of tries each.  The steep entrance through deep sand up the track caused The Tank and Bessie to bog down and lose momentum, while James and Sarah had a little trouble with their lower The Tank on the way back to Waddy Point from Sandy Capeclearance and skid plate bottoming out.  We all made it through eventually though, a hell of a lot of fun and quite rewarding to complete the track.  There was a lot of hooting and hollering as each of us made it up the embankment.  On the way back to Waddy we caught a glimpse of a dingo on the beach, Sunset over Fraser Island from Waddy Pointcomfortable enough around the vehicles for some great close-up photos.  We also stopped off at picturesque Ocean Lake, another tannin-stained freshwater pool encompassed by reeds and trees.  It was another great night around the fire at Waddy after enjoying a fabulous Fraser sunset, a little quieter than our escapades the night before, James was definitely steering clear of excessive amounts of port!  

Along the eastern beachBessie making it back around Ngkala RocksPeter making it back around Ngkala RocksA lone Dingo on the beach near Waddy Point The Tank powering up the Ngkala Rocks bypassThe Tank powering up the Ngkala Rocks bypassThe Tank powering up the Ngkala Rocks bypass A lone Dingo on the beach near Waddy PointOcean Lake just north of Waddy PointChris, Lisa, James and Sarah enjoying the fire at Waddy Point

Lisa and The Tank at Red CanyonChris seems to have misplaced his knife...Lake WabbySarah outdid herself with a pancake breakfast for us all before we packed up and headed back south from our Waddy Point campground.  After a quick look at Red Canyon we headed inland toward Lake Wabby, another of the aquifer-fed freshwater lakes perched in the sand of Fraser Island.  It was a quick walk from the vehicles to the Wabby lookout, from where James and Chris saw a swath of European tourists in bikinis and convinced us all to make the couple of kilometer walk down to the water for a swim.  It was well worth it, the giant catfish in the lake were quite a sight and a quick dip very refreshing.

Peter tackling the Lake Wabby track to Central StationLisa, Sarah and James walking around the Pile Valley rainforestFrom Lake Wabby we continued on the inland track toward Central Station, through some swampy sections amidst the Eucalypt bushland and across a couple of mildly technical climbs across gnarled roots poking out of the sand.  Peter Prado managed to sustain the only damage of the trip, I have a feeling the photos here are going to be used as evidence in a few heated discussions between James and Sarah over the damage to the front fender!  The track wound across sandy low-growing Eucalypt scrub and eventually into Pile Valley, a collection of towering rainforest Satinays and Brush Box Pine The Tank and Bessie on the Lake Wabby track to Central Stationthat are some of the last remaining old growth trees on the island.  When the logging of Fraser was in full swing the trees from the island’s centre were used to make sailing ships and even the walls of the Suez Canal, where they remain to this day.  We also took a look at Central Station, the centre of island activity during logging times, and took a walk along the pristine Wanggolba Creek.  The water for the creek is spring fed from underground aquifers and is allegedly some of the purest water on the planet.  As with Eli Creek, it was tough to even see the water over the white sand in some spots, so amazingly clear…

Chris and Lisa walking across the sandblow to Lake WabbyBessie tackling the Lake Wabby track to Central StationSam setting for a photo of Peter along the Lake Wabby track Peter tackling the Lake Wabby track to Central StationPeter tackling the Lake Wabby track to Central StationThe Tank amidst the towering trees of Pile ValleyChris taking photos in Pile Valley (this one for the ladies!) The Tank on the Lake Wabby track to Central StationThe inland track from Lake Wabby to Central StationParked in the Pile Valley rainforest Supremely clear Wanggolba Creek (hard to even see the water!)Central StationSupremely clear Wanggolba Creek (hard to even see the water!)

Brilliant sunset over the mainland from Manta RaySam taking care of The Tank in Rainbow BeachWe had originally planned to spend the night on Fraser after our trip to Central Station, but upon arriving at our intended campsite, seeing all the mosquitoes and reminding ourselves that we wouldn’t be able to have a fire we instead opted to jump on the last barge off the island and spend another night by the beach at Inskip.  It was an absolutely awesome trip, everyone got on like a house on fire (except for Sarah and James when James ate Sarah’s banana cake) and will definitely be remembered as one of the highlights of Our Walkabout.  Credit to Chris for letting me steal some of his photos for this post!

The Tank, Bessie and Peter with Manta Ray to themselves on the way back to InskipPeter, The Tank and Bessie getting an underbody wash in Rainbow BeachSam taking care of The Tank in Rainbow Beach

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Coolum

Australia, Queensland 6 Comments »
Planet View: S26°32.667’ E153°05.968’
Street View: S26°32.667’ E153°05.968’

Our house in CoolumTea Tree Bay in Noosa National ParkA little down time for us on the Sunshine Coast these last few weeks: Andy and Allyson were kind enough to lend their beach house in Coolum to Mum and Steve so we bunked-in with them after our trip west of Brisbane to Laidley.  Unlike the Sarah demonstrating her circus trickugly, towering skyscrapers of the Gold Coast south of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast to the north of Queensland’s capital city still has the majority of its coastline covered in bushland.  The roughly 60 kilometers stretch from Caloundra to the famous Noosa Heads does have a few high rises dotted along its length, but otherwise the sandy beaches stretch to the horizon with a few rocky outcrops breaking the amber sand.  The house where we shacked-up was located at Point Arkwright, the headland nestled between Coolum and Marcoola beaches, a short walk from downtown Coolum and its open expanse of beach. 

We had a couple of days to settle in before a visit from my cousin Sarah and her boyfriend James (whom we stayed with in Brisbane).  They came up for a night and explored the nearby Yandina and famous Eumundi markets with us all on Saturday.  The Eumundi markets were awesome, thick with vendors offering everything from foreign cuisine to artwork and clothing, it was hard to know where to look.  It’s no wonder the markets are so famous…  Sarah and James helped us christen the Coolum house’s ping-pong table, a venue that was the source of a lot of heated outbreaks during our three weeks in residence.  So heated, in fact, that the next door neighbor came over a number of times to tell us to keep it down!

At Yandina Markets with Jenni, Steve, Sarah and JamesYandina Markets: a table for LukeSteve and Jenni playing table tennisSam cooking an Aussie breakfast

Cheryl and Chris arrive from ArizonaThe path down Mount CoolumSunshine CoastA much-anticipated event coinciding with our stay on the Sunshine Coast was the arrival of Cheryl and boyfriend Chris from Arizona.  Cheryl was Lisa’s maid of honor when we were married in Fiji five years ago, Fiji was her first trip out of the United States so we’re glad we could add another stamp to her passport with another trip Down Under.  The couple arrived in typical Cheryl style: red wig and custom t-shirts with ‘Got Valt?’ plastered across the front, it was a very funny and attention-grabbing arrival to the Brisbane airport (for any antipodes reading this take a look at the Got Milk? website if you’re not familiar with the California Milk Processor Board’s popular advertising campaign).

Sam, Lisa, Cheryl and Chris in CoolumWe tried to pack in as much as possible to Chris and Cheryl’s week with us, taking the time during their first full day to explore Noosa National Park.  Unfortunately the weather wasn’t too kind and rained on us just as we were readying the sun cream for an afternoon at Tea Tree Bay.  The next morning greeted us with blue skies though, perfect for a hike up Cheryl and Lisa with the locals at Joe's Waterholetowering Mount Coolum for unparalleled views of the coast from Maroochydore all the way up to the end of Sunshine Beach.  After our adventure up Mount Coolum we ventured north to Eumundi for the evening: we wanted to show Chris a true blue Aussie pub during his time in Australia and had eyed a couple of good watering holes when we visited Eumundi with James and Chris at a picturesque Coolum BeachSarah.  We visited both Eumundi pubs during the evening but definitely had a favourite in Joe’s Waterhole.  Not only did we stumble on the night of the week when all meals are $12 (Tuesday nights for anyone venturing to Eumundi) but also managed to observe the weekly locals’ darts tournament.  They were one short for darts so I found myself playing partners with Al – a Eumundi carpenter – and in my absence a couple of the local mechanics decided to move in on Cheryl and Lisa.  I wasn’t too worried at their advances though, the picture above to the right speaks much louder than words!  A very fun night…

Lisa excited at the Brisbane airportCheryl and Chris arrive from ArizonaSam fishing with Lisa in the surf at Tea Tree Jenni enjoying a present of See's Candies from Cheryl and ChrisMount Coolum National ParkHiking up Mount CoolumHiking up Mount Coolum Panoramic of the Sunshine Coast from the top of Mount Coolum Hiking up Mount CoolumSam, Lisa, Cheryl and Chris at the top of Mount CoolumCheryl and Chris at the top of Mount Coolum 

Eumundi MarketsJoe's WaterholeWe returned a couple more times to the Eumundi markets after our initial visit with Sarah and James: once with Cheryl and Chris, and also with Gail and Randy when they arrived last Sunday.  The markets seemed to change a little each time we visited, we found some masseuse parlors on our third visit where Mum and Lisa enjoyed a very relaxing neck massage from a French woman who resides in Sunshine Beach.  Some great artwork at the markets, we walked away with a Michelle Pike limited edition canvas, she had some uniquely Australian work with brilliant depictions of some of the country we’ve seen over the last year.

Eumundi MarketsCheryl and Lisa at Eumundi MarketsEumundi MarketsEumundi Markets Eumundi MarketsEumundi MarketsEumundi Markets Eumundi MarketsEumundi MarketsEumundi Markets Eumundi MarketsJoe's Waterhole during the day 

Carlo Sand Blow at Rainbow BeachCarlo Sand Blow at Rainbow BeachCheryl and Lisa at Coolum BeachChris, Cheryl, Lisa and I took a day trip 150 kilometers north to Rainbow Beach and Inskip Point, the launching point for most tours of famous Fraser Island (Fraser is the world’s largest sand island and the exclusive domain of four-wheel-drives, we’re heading to Fraser next week).  Rainbow Beach is a quiet little seaside town with a beautiful beach extending north to Inskip Point and east to Double Thousands of tiny crabs on the beach at InskipIsland.  Rainbow Beach received its name due to the over 70 different colours of sand endemic to the beach and dunes around the settlement, an amazing array of shades from black through red and orange to bright yellow.  We took a detour on our way into town to Carlo Sand Blow, a striking stretch of white sand formed amongst the bushland at the top of Rainbow Beach’s dunes.  We all felt like we were on another planet standing in the middle of the sand blow, hundreds of meters wide and stretching to the horizon in both directions, fantastic views of Rainbow Beach from the cliffs on the beach side of the sand.  We ventured to the end of the road at Inskip Point for a bit of a swim, the turquoise water and warm temperatures making for a great spot to relax.  Cheryl snapped some fantastic photos of the sand crabs scurrying across the beach at Inskip, thousands of the little crustaceans made for quite a sight.

Carlo Sand Blow at Rainbow Beach Carlo Sand Blow at Rainbow BeachChris and Cheryl at Carlo Sand BlowRaibow Beach toilets Crystal clear water at InskipCheryl and Lisa on the beach at InskipLisa on the beach at InskipRaibow Beach Thousands of tiny crabs on the beach at InskipThousands of tiny crabs on the beach at InskipChris' first burger with the lot at Rainbow Beach Rainbow BeachRainbow Beach 

A sleepy koala in Noosa National ParkBordessa breakfast sandwiches at CoolumDolphins off the point at Hell's GateThe Coolum beach house made for a great launching spot for a ton of adventures, as well as an almost countless number of ping-pong tournaments in the garage.  My personal favourite beach spot on the coast was Alexandria Bay, a secluded beach in Noosa National Park accessible only by foot.  There was a fantastic spearfishing spot at the southern end of the beach around a reef called Lion Rock, I ran into a man-sized Barracuda (which I wasn’t going to take a stab at with a hand spear!) and also missed a couple of chances to bring in some metre-long Amberjacks (or maybe they were Yellowtail Kingfish, hard to tell…).  Unfortunately all I came home with from Lion Rock was a good-sized Sweetlip, but I’ve been dreaming about those Amberjacks ever since I saw them.  Noosa National Park was a trove of wildlife for our visitors: koalas, dolphins, plenty of turtles and I even managed to give Cheryl and Chris a close-up look at a sizey Gould’s Goanna on a walk to Tea Tree Bay.

Beautiful Alexandria Bay in Noosa National ParkCheryl, Lisa and Sam hiking out to Hell's GateChery and Lisa at Hell's Gate Hell's Gate in Noosa National ParkSam with a sizeable Gould's Monitor in Noosa National ParkChris, Cheryl and Lisa enjoying the sunshine at Tea Tree Bay in Noosa National Park Sam with a sizeable Gould's Monitor in Noosa National ParkLisa, Cheryl and Sam out for dinner in CoolumLisa and Cheryl out for dinner in Coolum

Kondalilla FallsCrazy clouds above Point ArkwrightGail, Randy and the Newbys arrive in CoolumGail and Randy arrived from California last Saturday after a few days cruising the New South Wales coast with the Newbys.  We welcomed them all with a true blue Aussie BBQ for their first meal at Coolum – which was also unfortunately our last night with Cheryl and Chris – as well as some fun ping-pong tournaments in the garage.  Gail and Randy scored brilliant weather for the first few days of their stay with us, Randy all dressed up for the nightduring which time we took them to our favourite Alexandria Bay for some snorkeling with the turtles as well as back to Eumundi Markets for our third visit.  We also ventured up into the hinterland to the town Lisa, Cheryl and Chrisof Montville, where we took a one-and-a-half hour hike along the Kondalilla Falls Circuit in Kondalilla National Park.  It was a beautiful hike through temperate rainforest with a couple of waterfalls along the way and majestic views of the Queensland hinterland stretching to the horizon in the west.  Mum clued us in on a good spot for an afternoon drink, we sat enjoying unparalleled views of the Sunshine Coast from our cafe perch in Montville, a great spot to enjoy the weather and watch the world go by.

A night of table tennis in CoolumA night of table tennis in CoolumA night of table tennis in Coolum Lisa, Sue and CherylIncognitoJohn, Lisa and Sue Sam and Lisa with John and Sue NewbyThe beach looking south from Point ArkwrightJenni, Lisa, Gail and Randy walking along the beach near Point Arkwright Gail, Randy and Lisa with Point Arkwright in the backgroundLisa and Jenni hiking to Kondalilla FallsPicnic Creek Falls Randy, Gail and Lisa at Picnic Creek FallsRandy on the Kondalilla Falls CircuitView across the hinterland from the Kondalilla Falls Circuit Kondalilla FallsPicnic Creek Gail and Lisa on the Kondalilla Falls CircuitQuaint storefronts in MontvilleQuaint storefronts in Montville Panoramic view of the Sunshine Coast from Montville Enjoying an afternoon drink with a view in MontvilleEnjoying an afternoon drink with a view in MontvilleRandy and his surfboard with their rental car Randy and Sam napping at CoolumA nice sized trevally from the reef below Point ArkwrightA nice sized trevally from the reef below Point ArkwrightLisa hitching a ride on Coolum Beach 

A couple of nice Sweetlip from the reef in front of our houseRandy waiting for a wave at Tea Tree BayWith a few days of almost no wind and minimal swell, the water around Coolum and Point Arkwright became clear enough for a bit of a snorkel.  The reef off the rocks in front of the house was a good spot to snare some Trevally and Sweetlip with my spear.  There were some huge schools of Golden Trevally buzzing the reef, too fast for me with my little hand spear, but amazing to see the powerful fish in such large schools.  A fisherman’s delight…  On one of the calm days we took Randy and Gail up to Tea Tree Bay in Noosa National Park, Gail excited by the opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal look at the Koalas residing along the trail to Jenni, Ali, Lisa and Gail all in pinkthe beach.  The water colour was amazing at Tea Tree, Randy had the surfboard along in anticipation of the right-hander point break that often peels off the eastern end of the bay.  Randy waiting for a wave at Tea Tree BayUnfortunately for Randy nothing but mirror-like turquoise ocean greeted us that day, but he still managed to score a couple of rides when sets came through.  When you’re waiting for waves in a spot as beautiful as the one pictured above to the right, I don’t think anyone is really going to complain at a lack of swell!  Such a picturesque place…

Allyson and Andy, the owners of the house where we all stayed in Coolum, joined us for a number of dinners during our time on the Sunshine Coast.  A wonderfully welcoming couple, Lisa and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them both.  Allyson was kind enough to send us on our Steve and Jenni in CoolumTea Tree Bay in Noosa National Parkway with a few of her farm-made savory delicacies – I’m really looking forward to sampling the mango chutney we have in The Tank’s food box.

A couple of nice Sweetlip from the reef in front of our houseGail enjoying the sun at Tea Tree BayA friendly gecko in the house at CoolumJenni, Ali, Lisa and Gail all in pink Randy waiting for a wave at Tea Tree BayRandy waiting for a wave at Tea Tree Bay

Dinner at Coolum with Wade and MichelleWade and Michelle's girlsToward the end of our stay we caught up with Wade, Michelle and their two lovely girls for a couple of dinners.  We originally met Wade and Michelle when I got Wade hooked on spear fishing at Peaceful Bay in Western Australia, then ran into them again when crossing theSam, Lisa, Jenni and Randy with Coolum in the background Nullarbor Plain, and again when we were working our way down the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula in Streaky Bay.  Wade and Michelle reside on the Sunshine Coast a few kilometers down the road from Coolum, it was great to catch up with them again. 

Andy and Allyson's farmBundy Campbell ready to drive Harry HiluxOn our last day in town Andy and Allyson invited us out to their beautiful farm a few kilometers inland from Coolum.  The farm is a picturesque piece of property with Red Claw ponds, cattle, Guinea Fowl and a few Green Tree Frogs lurking in the electrical box!  Coolum was a great spot to spend a few weeks with a roof over our heads, thanks very much to Mum and Steve for hosting us in Coolum and of course Andy and Allyson for allowing us all the use of their house.  So many visitors in such a short time: awesome to see Cheryl and meet her new boyfriend Chris, and fun as always to spend a week with Gail and Randy.

  On the farm with some Green Tree FrogsLisa with a Green Tree FrogGreen Tree Frogs in the electrical box! The Red Claw ponds on Andy and Allyson's farmOne the farm: The Tank, Harry Hilux and Trevor Toyota Green Tree Frogs in the electrical box!Lisa, Andy and Allyson on the farmLisa doing one of her favourite things: organizing her wardrobe before we hit the roadMum and Steve in their ride

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Camping With Your 4WD

Australia, Magazines, Northern Territory, Western Australia Comments Off on Camping With Your 4WD

Camping With Your 4WD Camping With Your 4WD Camping With Your 4WDCamping With Your 4WD issue five hit the shelves today, in it is the second article of our two part piece on Western Australia’s Kimberley region.  Also are a couple of short articles I did for the editor on a selection of ‘Escape The Winter Blues’ destinations.  Of our travels are single page briefs of Kakadu National Park, Mitchell Falls and Karijini National Park.

Camping With Your 4WDCamping With Your 4WD

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Australian 4WD Action

Australia, Magazines, Western Australia Comments Off on Australian 4WD Action

Australian 4WD Action Australian 4WD ActionAustralian 4WD Action

An article detailing our adventures in the northern Kimberley around the Mitchell Plateau and Mitchell Falls hit the shelves earlier this week.  We stumbled across it in a shopping mall in Brisbane, it’s in Australian 4WD Action issue number 148.

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