After some wonderful days at sea it is once again time to go on and drive. But we start our day with walking along the Esplanade in Cairns once again, where we spot some waterbirds we’ve not seen yet. Our list of typical Australian wildlife starts to grow steadily!
We leave Cairns, a big playground with numerous bars and outdoor activities and drive to Ingham. Along the road we pause at the ‘boulders’, a riverbed with rounded stones in a fast streaming river. According the local Aboriginal legend, a forbidden love between two people from different clans caused this environment. While the guy was forced to leave it’s clan and wander alone in exile, the woman was obliged to respect her pre-arranged marriage. However, she escaped and threw herself in the river, throwing these boulders up.
Another small stop is near the Josephine Falls… Just some more falls along the road. Underway we pass the Bartle Frere (1657m) and Belenden Kerr mountains, the two highest peaks of Queensland.
These locations are all situated within the Wooroonooran National Park. A rainforest park with numerous walking trails inside. However we’ve seen many trails, it stays hard to say this wonderful environment goodbye. Both of us are dreaming to return one day and enjoy some more of this environment.
At noon we make a nice beach walk near Mission Beach, a city which is proud of its colony cassowaries around the city. We spot none, but a lunch with seaview is enough for us.
Afterwards we keep driving to the Girringun National Park, with the Wallaman Falls inside. These falls are the highest, permanent single-drop falls in Australia, 268m high. At the road to the park we can imagine something about… It proves to be a steep climb (up to 12%) along a winding road. But Janis shows her true power and climbs up steadily. The falls are for tomorrow, now we head to the camping area in the park. A comfortable bush camping in the middle of the forest. Once again numerous kangaroo-rats jump around, nosing curious in our dustbin for some food.
Next morning we decide to take a day off… We’ll just stay at the campground in the morning, read a bit, prepare the next part of our trip and do some other stuff, before we head for the walk to the falls in the early noon. The walk is only 3,2 km’s, so after three hours we’re back at the campsite. In this period we enjoyed the view of the falls, made the climb through the rainforest and tried a little swim in the pool near the falls. But the water is too cold, so it is just a jump in and out…
That evening we go for the platypus hunt… It is said they can be seen around here in creeks and yes, we’re really lucky to view one of these shy animals! Swimming in the waters of the Stony Creek. We make a couple of nice pictures of the animal and head happily back to our campsite. I really wanted to see one of them… The next hunts goes for a koala, a tree kangaroo and an echidna.
A day off feels a good choice, especially after all the diving and driving we needed some rest. It is unbelievable how huge distances are over here. 100 km is nearby, 500 km is next door and 1000 km is just a city further… Unbelievable!
The following day is another road day… From Wallaman straight to Townsville. There we enjoy the coastal scenery along ‘the Strand’, the city playground. A beautiful walking trail, a magical children water world, the jetty and ‘the Rock Pool’, a big saltwater swimming pool near the coast. Safe for some jellyfishes and crocodiles.
Back on the road pass we the Burdekin River Bridge between Ayr and Home Hill. This is the longest bridge in Australia, crossing the delta of the Burdekin River.
After that, we leave the Northern Coasts of Queensland and enter the Whitsundays coast, the terrain still remains, some mango trees and lots of cane fields.
We plan a small stop in little Bowen, a sleepy town that had its 15 minutes of fame in 2007 when the entire crew of ‘Australia’ transformed the city in the Darwin of 1940, because of the wooden jetty. For the rest there is just a 20 m high ‘Big Mango’ to mark its status as biggest mango city of Australia.
We drive further till Airlie Beach, or should I say Australian Ibiza? None of us really liked the location, but we wanted to be here to inform about an option to sail the Whitsundays. After all, we just order a big cheese pizza, park our car somewhere and decide to keep driving next morning. In Indonesia we already spent a month at see and in Cairns we enjoyed a lovely water trip to the reef.
So sailing the Whitsundays will be another time.
Early morning we cross some spots on the peninsula on our way back from Airlie. We drive to Shute Harbour to have a couple of beach views and enjoy some views on the Airlie Bay. Next stop is Mackay, a huge city here, where we enjoy once again the big free swimming pool in the city centre. From there we drive further to the beautiful Eungella Park, to visit the Finch Hatton Gorge, with two stunning – however ice cold – swimming holes near the falls. One at ‘the wheel of fire’ and the other at the Araluen Falls, both accessible by a nice forest walk.
That night we sleep at the parking near the start of this trail, in the middle of the forest.
This trip passes through Pioneer Valley, where we got some majestic views on the cane fields. Along the road numerous cane trains pass by and many people are harvesting the cane.
Next day we head to the main Eungella park site. This ‘land in the clouds’ reaches 1280m, so the road to the park peaks with a 12% climb into the main park. This is the oldest rainforest in Australia. It has been cut off from the other ones for a very long time, so some special – animal and tree – species can only be seem here. We decide to go for a huge walk – some 16 km’s – to discover some of them in this stunning park. We walk a big part of the trail along a creek with some falls in it. At a certain part of the track we suddenly see some movement on the walking trail, a closer look shows us an echidna digging for food… Yes another new animal to ad on our spotted list.
The platypuses are the main park attraction, so we give it a try and are once again lucky. The animal swims and searches for food in front of us along the lake.
Today we’re twice lucky… We see the only two monotremes (egg-laying mammals) in one day!
We end the day at the recreation area near the Eungella Dam. A miraculous resting spot near the dams lake, with a stunning view at the full moon. Once again Ilse finds a tick – this time on my shoulder – after the walk. Some friendly Australians help us to remove it and we walk back to our car with some more tea tree oil to treat the tick sting. We receive the advice to wash both of us tomorrow with some oil if there are some other ones on our skin.
From here it is just driving straight to the Carnarvon Gorge, which is said to be one of the most stunning ones in Australia. The location is also known for the Aboriginal Rock Art…
Both of us really want to taste this place, but first we have to cross some more distance. From Eungella along the dirt roads to Nebo, and then on sealed roads again to Clermont and Emerald. There we sleep in town before leaving and driving into the Carnarvon National Park the next day. Along the road we see numerous mining activities (and even more traffic hazards because of the numerous road works).