A Travellerspoint blog

Week 8 - Townsville

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Today's report is from the Woodlands Big 4 Caravan Park on the Northern approaches to Townsville. Jenny's outside doing the laundry thing and getting breakfast.

Sunday 14 Sep was spent doing next to nothing and enjoying the bird calls and activities in the park.

Monday 15 Sep we drove to Smithfield and found the Ultra Tune depot where we left the Patrol while we wandered into the local Bunnings and bought some extension cord plugs to replace those that were looking a bit frayed and battered. By the time we walked back the vehicle was ready and we topped up with fuel and provisions and headed back to the Caravan Park. We are finding that the SatNav is very handy in these larger cities although I sometimes question the chosen route.

Tuesday 16 Sep - a short drive down to Innisfail and into the Big 4 Mango Tree Caravan Park on the Southern end of Town. Spent the afternoon driving the "Cane Cutters Way", an interesting scenic and historic route through the cane fields and banana plantations. Called into the "Murdering Point Winery" to taste some interesting ports. Finished the day at Etty Bay where we finally saw the elusive cassowary !!

Wednesday 17 Sep - went into the town centre very early and spent almost two hours following the very well documented "Town Walk". The Art Deco Capital of Australia really lived up to its name. The impressive Catholic Church certainly dominates the skyline. The whole place looked clean and tidy and has almost totally recovered from the devastation of Cyclone Larry in 2005. Perhaps last night's intense 'shower' had freshened the public spaces. Caught up with a local Vietnam Vet for a bite of lunch and returned to prepare for the run to Townsville. An activity which occupies a fair bit of our time is deciding where to go next, which caravan park to try for and how long to stay there. An added complication is the fact that the next two weeks are the Queensland School Holidays and many parks are booked out. We don't like to book ahead because it locks us into a time schedule but it looks like we'll have to bit the bullet and lock in at least the next week !!

Thursday 18 Sep - a new experience for this trip at least - RAIN as we head South to Townsville. The scenery is certainly spectacular, green cane fields, lush vegetation and the hills providing a backdrop. Arrived at our destination before lunch and spent the afternoon doing the essential administration. Two phone calls and we're locked in at Bowen and Mackay.

Friday 19 Sep - decided to visit Charters Towers as we're unlikely to be this far North again. The trip out West was well worth while and we found the town to be interesting and considerably bigger than we had envisaged. The local 'Town Lookout' should be a model for any other small city or town with a domination hill, one of the best we've visited. From Charters Towers we headed North along the Gregory Developmental Road. This narrow 'track' carries a constant stream of 55 meter-long Road Trains bringing ores and concentrates down to the Townsville processing facilities. There are frequent signs to warn you of these monsters but a little common sense goes a long way to making the encounter quite safe. We then turned right and headed back to the park along the Herveys Range Road which was wide, straight and deserted for most of the way.

Saturday 20 Sep - drove North back up the Bruce Highway to visit some of the 'famous' beaches starting at Rollingstone and worked our way back down. I can't work out why people rave over these places !! Most of the beach fronts are littered with signs warning of 'stingers', jellyfish and crocodiles. And the beaches are in no way 'better' than those at home. The ONLY advantage would be the weather - if you like the 30+ degrees and high humidity. Bought some local produce from the road-side stalls along the way and topped that off with a visit to a full-blown shopping mall. I really can do without the big cities, their traffic and impatient people.

Sunday 21 Sep - we plan to drive in to the tourist heart of Townsville and visit the Strand and Finders Mall. Tomorrow we head for Bowen.

PS. we've detected a slow leak in one of the tyres of the Patrol. I had to change it for the 'spare' for the first time in over five years. Those wheels are HEAVY !!

Until next week, we hope this finds you as it leaves us, in good health and remember, if the thought of reading this boring stuff for the next 5 weeks isn't to your taste, just let me know and I'll drop you from "the list".

Posted by greynomadm 22:29 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors

Week 7 - Cairns

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Today we report from the Big 4 Crystal Cascades Holiday Park located near Redlynch, a suburb of Cairns.

Sunday 6 Sep was a busy day in Cooktown, the cruise ship Sun Princess was visiting and had discharged almost all of her 2000 passengers into the little village. There's no wharf of any size so the ship was some distance out to sea and passengers were taken ashore using a shuttle of tenders - about 150 people at a time. We stuck with the crowds for a while and returned to the park.

Monday 7 Sep was spent looking over Cooktown, it didn't take all that long. Lots of restaurants, three pubs and an RSL and a Bowling club. The to-do thing was to go out on fishing charters, not something we're known for.

Tuesday 8 Sep we're on the move again. We back-tracked as far as Mount Molloy and then drove down the escarpment to Mossman. Lots of sugar cane and cute little cane trains. Checked into the Big 4 Glengarry Holiday Park some distance South of Port Douglas. After setting up we drove to Mossman where we did the tour of the sugar mill. Interestingly we were actually allowed to follow the guide into and around the place. Very hot and very noisy and we left with a better understanding of how the sugar gets to the table. Drove in and out of Port Douglas on our way back to the park. Port Douglas is one continuum of holiday accommodation, eateries and junk shops. Again, fishing and snorkelling charters are the main attraction. Not a place I'd go back to.

Wednesday 9 Sep we drove to Cape Tribulation, reportedly a MUST DO destination. Just over 200 Km for the round trip and quite an interesting drive. The road through the Daintree is narrow with many twists and turns. Despite frequent warnings to be on the lookout for cassowaries we didn't even catch a glimpse of any. Wrong time of the day or wrong time of the year but the lack of wildlife was a bit disappointing.

Thursday 10 Sep we hitched up and drove the 60 Km to Cairns. It takes the best part of an hour because the "Heritage Listed" road isn't all that great, especially with the van in tow. The caravan park is excellent and the staff most helpful. We were guided into our site with a shoe-horn and a minimum of fuss. Reception fixed us up with an appointment to have the Patrol serviced but couldn't fit us in until Monday. There are a lot of worse places to spend an extra day. Drove into the CBD to pick up the mail and looked around the place. Our last time in Cairns was 1968, to say it has changed would be an enormous understatement !! Accommodation, back-packer hostels, bars and eateries wall to wall and thousands of people, mainly young and of Asian appearance.

Friday 11 Sep we were in tourist mode again and drove a loop up to Kuranda, Mareeba, Atherton, Gordonvale and back to Cairns. We made it into Kuranda before the train arrived so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. The village is one big market offering many "alternate lifestyle" items at rip-off prices. We didn't do the train or the cable-car - it would have cost us $200 for the trip there and back. Zipped past Mareeba and drove South to pick up on some places we hadn't looked at on our way North. Of interest was the "Rocky Creek War Memorial Park". It is located where a major military camp was established during World War II and commemorates the units and formations that trained in the area. In Atherton we visited the Crystal Cave which contained an amazing collection of rare and beautiful specimens of natural crystals from around the world. We headed East towards the coast and visited the "Curtain Fig", historic Yungaburra, Lake Barrine and then down the 250+ bends into Gordonvale. The bends down the escarpment are individually numbered !!!

Saturday 12 Sep we visited the Crystal Cascades only 5 Km from the park, they were quite peaceful but we could imagine them in full flood !! Back to the caravan for some essential housekeeping and relaxation.

Sunday 13 Sep we enjoyed doing nothing yesterday so much we're thinking of doing the same today.

We hope this finds you as it leaves us, in good health and remember, if the thought of reading this boring stuff for the next 6 weeks isn't to your taste, just let me know and I'll drop you from "the list".

Posted by greynomadm 22:28 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors

Week 6 - Cooktown

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This email comes to you from Cooktown, the Northernmost point on the coast for our travels, it is all down hill from here. Been a busy week and I'll try to keep it both informative and brief.

Monday 31 Aug we drove to Cobbold Gorge, about 90 Km South of Georgetown with over half of it being firm but rough gravel. At our destination, which was an impressive complex, we paid for the 3 hour Gorge tour $65 per person - a bit steep. The tour consisted of a ride in a 4x4 truck with a coach make-over. Very comfortable and very capable. We travelled out to the foot of the gorge and followed the guide up to the top of the sandstone escarpment. Full commentary along the way. Then back down and into a custom-built punt to glide up the gorge. The gorge is very narrow - less than 2 meters in places - and winds it's way for about 500 meters. There are a number of fresh-water crocodiles and signs of fish. The 'cruise' ends when a large boulder blocks the head of the gorge. The 'skipper' climbs to the other end of the punt and sails us back again.

Tuesday 1 Sep we break camp and drive to Undara expecting to fill in time at Mount Surprise, we were somewhat 'surprised' there's not a lot there, so we pushed on arriving at Undara about 0930. We'd booked in for 2 nights ($60) but found we could stay for three for the same money. Third night free, what a bargain. The complex is most impressive and was built around a number of refurbished railway carriages. They are used for motel style accommodation, the reception and office, the kitchen and as dining cars. Additionally there are powered and un-powered camp sites, bunk houses and safari style 'tents'. Spent most of the day finding our way around.

Wednesday 2 Sep - We go on the 0800 two hour Lava Tubes tour. The only way to see them is on an escorted tour. Because of possible dangers you can't enter the area on your own. I was a bit sceptical about the claim that these geographic features are unique, well they certainly are in my experience and well worth the $45 per person. We booked in for their bistro dinner - $38 for three courses and all you want to eat. We both tried a small portion of kangaroo, emu, crocodile and a local gourmet sausage. Plenty of vegetables and side salad and even backed up for a serve of grilled fish (species not specified but very nice). Free tea of coffee and we pigged out on sweets and cheese.

Thursday 3 Sep - we both decided to walk off some of last night's excesses, I did about 3 1/2 hours and Jen about 2 hours early in the morning. There's 20% off any additional tours so we booked on the Sunset tour. 'Interesting' drive with Steve the guide. Saw a number of wallabies and other macro-pods - can't remember their names. Watched the sun go down over the range whilst sipping sparkling wine and eating cheese and sliced fruit. Very decadent. We then visited a cave and watched the thousands of tiny bats leave for their nightly hunting.

Friday 4 Sep - break camp again and head for Mareeba. Stopped briefly in Ravenshoe, a little town that has a lot going for it. Then through Atherton and on to Mareeba. With one or two stops and detours we were booked in at about 1100. Spent the afternoon restocking the larder and indulging in some retail therapy. Back to the van to work out a plan of attack for tomorrow. Wineries or coffee plantations or both ??

Saturday 5 Sep - did the Coffeeworks. WOW !!! So many flavours and blends and what an awesome museum !! The gift-shop was great and they do chocolates too so Jenny was happy. Can't imagine any place where they would have so many espresso machine, percolators, plungers and coffee pots. They also have a comprehensive history of coffee's spread around the world. Visited an old Italian's plantation and listened to his stories. On to a Mango Winery. Yes, wine from Mangos - tasted OK too. Very pricey but what the hell.

Sunday 6 Sep - on the move again and we head for Cooktown. Left early this morning and after 278 Km arrived in Cooktown. Perhaps we should have booked ahead. Lucky to get in anywhere. Camped at the Big 4 (Big $$) just out on the edge of town. Very nice park, very shady site. Just watched two scrub turkeys chase each other across the park. They look a bit like the cartoon Road Runner.

We're here for two nights then start heading South again.

We hope this finds you as it leaves us, in good health and remember, if the thought of reading this boring stuff for the next 7 weeks isn't to your taste, just let me know and I'll drop you from "the list".

Posted by greynomadm 22:25 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors

Week 5 - Georgetown

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This email is being sent from Georgetown Queensland where we've just set up camp for two days.

Last Monday (24 Aug) we left Longreach and decided to travel through to Cloncurry, arriving there at about 1400 after travelling just over 540 Km. The weather continued hot and at times windy. We stopped briefly at McKinlay Road house. Lots of road-trains carting mine concentrates to the railway line East of Cloncurry.

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Cloncurry, generally sweltering in 35 + temperatures. The town itself is not particularly remarkable but does have some huge old pubs. We looked in on the Home Hardware store there and were greatly impressed by the enormous range of items stocked there. As the manager said, they are the only thing around for 100 Km and they have town, pastoral and mining customers.

Thursday (27 Aug) we packed up and left for Karumba. Sections of the 480 Km road were as good as any we've travelled but other parts were the original 'ribbon' type. A narrow strip of black-top with wide gravel shoulders. With a cross-wind and a considerable amount of dust it was a bit hairy when we had to move over for oncoming trucks. It was hard to imagine that the whole area was covered in flood waters only about a year ago. We stopped for 'smoko' at the Burke & Wills roadhouse and again for a break at Normanton, arriving at the caravan park just before 1300.

We packed a fair bit into the three days in Karumba. We had Barramundi & Chips at Ash's and watched the sun set over the Gulf of Carpentaria. We bought some freshly cooked Endeavour Prawns and some Barramundi fillets. We visited the Barramundi Discovery Centre where the breed barramundi for a re-stocking program. On Friday evening we went on a sunset cruise and enjoyed about 2 1/2 hours on the water. The skipper and his mate were most informative and provided a running commentary on the history, the wildlife and the fortunes of the town. Many of the local fisherman have parked up their boats because the cost of diesel has risen more than 10% since the Queensland Gov cut the subsidy.

In addition to being a fishing port, Karumba ships out live cattle (about 6 times a year) and zinc concentrates from the Century Mine almost 300 Km to the South West. The mine concentrates are pumped through a 36 inch pipe as a slurry which is then settled, dried and palletised in Karumba.

Saturday we dropped into the general store next to the caravan park. Doesn't look like much from the outside but stocks a good range of just about anything you could need. Food, clothing, fishing and camping gear as well as more general hardware. The business is for sale and it will take the buyer a month to count all of the stock on hand !! Spent the rest of the day relaxing at the caravan and preparing for today's departure.

Sunday, left Karumba early and headed off into a damp fog. Lasted at least two hours until we were well clear of Normanton. Stopped briefly in Croydon - really a very tidy town will most of the old buildings tarted up and painted. The road was generally good but deteriorated to a narrow strip as we got closer to Georgetown. Fortunately there was very little traffic so the single lane was fine.

We're set up in the Goldfields Caravan Park for two nights - we're off to Cobbold Gorge tomorrow then head further East.

We hope this finds you as it leaves us, in good health and remember, if the thought of reading this boring stuff for the next 8 weeks isn't to your taste, just let me know and I'll drop you from "the list".

Posted by greynomadm 22:23 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors

Week 4 - Longreach

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G'day Long Suffering Readers

Today finds us still in Longreach for our last day. It has been a busy week.

Last Sunday we welcomed a flood of people off the train and the aircraft. Jenny and a team of volunteers ferried many of them to their motels and on to the RSL Club for the 'Meet and Greet'. There was a good supply of liquid refreshments and hot 'finger food'. Whilst the room was quite cramped by the time all had registered it was great to see so many happy and excited men and women.

We spent most of Monday printing off 'mug shots' of each of the participants. We had an almost constant stream of 'visitors' dropping in for a chat. Didn't go anywhere or do anything much.

Tuesday we assembled for the commemorative service at the cenotaph which was well attended by other veterans who were in the area. The local newspaper photographer was there, as were a good number of locals. After the service we sat down for a three-course lunch which was both excellently prepared and presented. Staff were efficient, friendly and very obliging. To my mind definitely the highlight of the event.

Wednesday was spent recovering and working out how the finances were holding up. In the evening the ladies dinned in the Longreach Club while we held a meeting in a separate room. After considerable discussion it was decided that the next Reunion - 2011 will be either in the Perth area or Broken Hill.

Thursday we saw off a few of the revellers and finalised the Income & Expenses report. We also took our mate Bert to lunch at the Eagle's Nest Grill. I demolished one of the biggest burgers I've seen. In addition to the usual salad and healthy stuff there was a beef pattie, a chunk of rib fillet steak, rashers of bacon and two fried eggs. It required a 10 inch skewer to hold it together. The whole creation sat on a bed of hot beer battered potato chips. This was polished off and then topped off with a slab of cake, fruit salad, whipped cream and ice-cream. No need for any dinner !!

Friday we saw Darby off on the Greyhound Coach and Bert, Geoff and Barry at the airport. Returned Bert's wheelchair, did some grocery shopping and sweltered in the caravan annex as temperature climbed to 35+.

Saturday we ferried the Mulhollands and the Barsenbecks out to the airport and said farewell to a number departing from the caravan park. To the best of our knowledge we're the only members of the reunion group remaining in Longreach. Filled up with fuel and some last-minute purchases and retired to the caravan. Temperature in the annex is now over 37 degrees. Most of the town packs up at noon on Saturday and re-opens on Monday morning. Drove out to the Thompson River just out of town. There are over 50 rigs there at the free-camp.

Did my usual walk this morning and packed up some of the gear while it remained a little cooler. They are predicting a top of 40 degrees today so we won't be doing much of a physical nature. Tonight I'll pack up the rest of our camp and be ready for an early departure in the morning. We head North West from here and then North up to Karumba on the Gulf.

We will try to keep in touch but we're uncertain about the Network coverage until we get back to the more populated areas.

We hope this finds you as it leaves us, in good health and remember, if the thought of reading this boring stuff for the next 9 weeks isn't to your taste, just let me know and I'll drop you from "the list".

Posted by greynomadm 22:20 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors

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