Mar 24 -27
On the 245h, from Cairns we did a day on the Great Barrier Reef. The company that we contracted with took us on a fast 90 min ride each way to the outer reef, where they had a large pontoon platform offering a number of services. You could go on a glass bottom boat or a submersible boat or go below to watch the fish. And of course you could scuba swimming as much as you wished. You could also buy extra services to go helicopter riding or scuba diving.
At mid-day they put on a buffet lunch and there were snacks all day, and a cash bar. I did the glass bottom boat twice, my favourite, and the other freebies once, including scuba swimming. Of course my scuba swimming was pretty close to the boat and all I saw were little silver fish. Rich went scuba four times and developed a relation with big Wally. If his name is correct he is at best confused about his sexuality, at least that his Rich’s story. Rich did keep going back for more.
I saw lots of pretty fish, the names of which I will leave to those who know more. One pretty yellow pair, called the Romeo and Juliet fish, have a good story. They always travel in pairs until one dies and then the other pines away and will die within two days. Who says that fish have no soul?
But, for me, it was the coral that really amazed me. The reef, is really thousands of reefs, and the boats took us to a few of them. They are made of a combination of plant and animal and the formations are countless. Formations might look like mounds or spaghetti or cauliflower or plates, or almost any other form you can imagine. All in all, it was an excellent taste of the GBR.
We had a fourth night at the Van Park in Cairns, noting again how many young people can afford to travel in this style.. When Rich and I were their age we would have been sleeping on the beach having eaten a meal out of a can. Here we have access to modern cooking facilities, hot showers, a swimming pools and wi-fi.
Mar 25 – Atherton Tableland
Back up through the rain forest to the Tableland. A few days ago we visited the north end, now we would do the south. We drove around Lake Tinaroo a large reservoir created years ago to serve the tobacco industry, which then left when Australia was one of the first countries to ban cigarette advertising. Today it is a wonderful recreational spot. We visited the Cathedral and Curtain Fig Trees; massive examples of strangler figs. They form from a seed, likely dropped by a bird in the top of another tree. Then they drop bines which take root and the fig groves eventually killing the host. These two examples had thousands of vines, some which grow to 2 or 3 m in diameter and the whole tree may be 50 m in diameter.
But mostly we were un here to see the birds. Our first day was not too good, but we contracted a guide for the second day.
Mar 26 – Ety Bay
We met Alan our guide at 7:15 and for five hours we were pointed to possibly 40 kinds of birds, mostly tiny little birds, many of them honey eaters. We learned to stand in front of a tree, often flowering, and pick out these little birds that never stopped flitting. Naturally Rich did better than I, as he notes each bird seen in his book, but I could not get good photos of many of them. But it was fun trying. Each of the four places we went scenically attractive as well. A crater lake, a sewage swamp, a side road and a reservoir.
After lunch we did the big jump back down to the sea and spend the night at Ety Bay, where we were told we might see a cassowary. We had a lovely campsite by the sea, and a male Cassowary and a young one wandered along the beach and around the campsite. It does make the mystique of this bird a little less when it trying to pick the bread off your plate.
Mar 27 – Townsville
We had another big jump south down the coast. We stopped on the edge of Townsville to visit a nature preserve call the Townsville Town Common. It was extremely dry and so we saw little, but did see four Black Cocatoos, a bee eater and a honey eater. We are now going do make more big jumps.
Mar 28 – Emerald
It was Rich;s turn the drive today. We take turns. This would be a long day. We decided as we were leaving Townsville that it might be faster to make our way south on the inland route, and so we picked up the highway that heads towards Alice Springs. After 100 km we would then turn south and begin to gobble up the country. Leaving the coast might seem strange to those who know Australia as we were giving up some prime beaches for a dry sparsely populated part of the country. The roads are pretty good with not too much traffic. Two lanes with a small shoulder. Our van handles pretty well and we keep it around 100 kph. On this day we saw some small road kill that was primarily being cleaned up by what we presumed to be Black or possibly Brahminy Kites, as they do not have vultures here.
In the Emerald Van Park we saw some good birds as our neighbour was feeding and watering them.
In the camp shelter we used the Barbie to do up a stir fry, had some wine packed it in by about 9:00. Our van has a bed a bit wider than a double on which we stretch out, each with our own sheet. Normally we never need more that the sheet. We have begun to develop a pretty set pattern.
Mar 29 – Carnarvon Gorge Park
Our wildlife destination on this section was a large National Park well away from the coast and 40 km off of the highway. We got into the park around noon, checked into the campground and did a 2 hour hike of so. On this hike we began to see little Wallabies. On the drive in we had begun to see a number that had been hit by cars. They roam out to the road as twilight sets and many hit each night. In the morning we got up and headed to a pool in the creek and were able to get some reasonable good looks at a Duck Billed Platypus, another of Australia’s weird and wonderful characters
We then headed out on a 12 km hike up the gorge, taking in four sup gorges each with their own unique attributes. It was great to get out on our legs.
Mar 30 Miles
Another non descript spot on the map, but distinguished by having one of the most expensive bad pizzas either of us had.
Mar 31 Lamington Park
Heading for one of the highest priorities on either of our lists, we drove hard and got to the west side of the park, Green Mountain It is at the end of a 35 km winding road ending high in the rain forest at the south end of Queensland. We saw some colourful and noisy parrots being fed by visitors and did a night walk. This was also our first night van without electricity and where we cooked in the van. It was cold and miserable and so the heat was welcome.
Apr 1 – Stabthorpe
In the morning we did an hour bird walk with an old birder who had tamed a number of little birds by feeding them. It was charming in its way, but not really very satisfying. I did get some poor pictures of an Alberts Lyrebird and Rich saw the other key bird for the area’ the Regent Bower Bird.
By noon we had enough of the rain and headed on, initially with idea of going to the east side if the park, but we found the forecast the same fo the that end and so down the road we went.
Rich was driving and he chose a back road that was never ending and very slow. We left Queensland but ended up backing for the night. This time at a large campground filled with young field workers. We cooked in the van again, everything was pretty dirty here.
This would end Queensland for us, and it has been great. No pictures yet.