Cairns to Brisbane

June 24 - July 2

Sugar is big business in Northern Queensland whose land is filled with sugar cane fields so on our trip south from Cairns we stopped to look around a sugar museum. Sugar cane is about two metres tall and the fields are so dense that they do block the scenery a bit but when they are in flower they are very pretty with huge pink grass-like flowers sticking up a metre above the rest of the plant. We spent the night in Ayr, not a very interesting little place but we did have another one of those strange coincidences in one of the only restaurants there. The barman, an Aussie guy, used to play rugby for Leicester over twenty years ago. Next day we headed straight to Airlie Beach which is a pretty little town by the sea where we booked ourselves onto a three day sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands for the following day.

The following day we were a bit embarrassed because we broke down on the way to the Marina and had to call the boat company only to realise that we had just run out of petrol (the fuel gauge on the car doesn't work properly we now know) - a quick run down the hill and the fast purchase of a 5 litre can full of unleaded sorted out the problem - we ended up being only 10 minutes or so late for the boat. From now on we will have to fill up when we've done 300-400kms (even though on the open road a full tank will last for 500-600kms) just to be safe.

Cruising the Whitsunday Islands

Three days and two nights on a boat called Ambition with twelve strangers - a truly international crowd with a Kiwi skipper (Duncan), a German deckhand and cook (Sylvia), two people from France (Vanessa and Harvey), five from Switzerland (Andrea, Carolyn, Anita, Xenia and Louise) and five of us Brits (Deanne, Tom, Paul and us). Crusing around beautiful islands, snorkelling with loads of fish, watching the sunset and looking up at the stars while the water gently laps around the boat is really special and doing it with a fun group of people made it even better. This was a really chilled out trip, a chance to relax and enjoy ourselves - let's face it you are a prisoner on the boat and sometimes not being able to go anywhere or do anything apart from what you are told is just what a traveller wants. Ambition, Whitsunday Islands





'You must go sailing in the Whitsundays...' - quote from just about every traveller we've ever met


So to sea. We were a bit unfortunate with the weather though it did get better over the three days but on the first day the wind speed was over 35 knots (technically gale force!) and we were absolutely freezing, hanging on for dear life as the boat tipped at such an extreme angle that at times I swear I was looking straight into the water below us. At one point I thought we might have to go back but it settled down a bit and we were ok - better than no wind at all for sailing I guess and it was definitely invigorating.

Nara Inlet, Whitsunday Islands

Nara Inlet

First stop was the beautiful Nara Inlet where we hopped off the boat into the dingy and motored to the bank of Hook Island. Here we walked up the hill to get this wonderful view over the inlet. On the way back we saw a snake in the wild for the first time. We don't know what type it was and we weren't even sure if it was alive because it didn't move but a lot of the deadly snakes in Australia, such as the death adder, are brown so we didn't get too close.

The first night was spent anchored off Cid Island in Cid Harbour and after a barbie and a few drinks on deck we were forced to have an early night by the rain. We were all shattered anyway.




Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands

Whitehaven Beach

Next morning we cruised through Hook passage to Tongue Bay where we anchored to go to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. Our skipper, Duncan, told us that this beach had been voted third most beautiful beach in the world and it was gorgeous. The clouds spoil the photo a bit but the sandbanks and the turquoise water made it a beautiful spot. We could see sting rays swimming around in the water below us from this view point on the top of the hill and when we went down to the beach we went for a paddle with them. We also stumbled across a massive dead starfish.

Cateran Bay, Whitsunday Islands

Cateran Bay

In the afternoon we went to Border Island where we snorkelled in Cateran Bay with lots of beautiful fish and one absolutely massive fish - a Maori Wrasse which must have been a metre long. The reef here was much more diverse (and alive) than the one we snorkelled around near Cairns. Not many of the group braved the water because it was pretty cold but once in we were rewarded with so many beautiful sights that I didn't want to get out. Oh, and I got stung by a jellyfish! I was told that they don't sting at this time of year but they obviously found me irresistable. Luckily it was only a very weak sting but in the summer there are box jellyfish in this area which are a real danger as their sting can be fatal and anybody swimming here has to wear special stinger suits.


The weather was better today and we were rewarded at the end of the day with a perfect sunset at Whitsunday Passage. After which we cruised on to spend the night at Stonehaven Anchorage, a sheltered spot near Hook Island where we had another barbie, a few more drinks and did some elementary star spotting. We saw the southern cross and the milky way but without a planosphere we found it hard to pick out other constellations partly because we don't know what we are looking for in the southern sky and partly because the sky was so clear that we could see thousands of stars making it more difficult to identify patterns - also trying to use binoculars from a rocking boat is pretty tricky.

Langford Island, Whitsunday Islands

Langford Island

Another day, another beautiful island. Some people explored the island, some people lazed on the beach (including Richard) and the rest of us doned our fins (I've been told not to call them flippers - not sure why) and snorkels again to go into that magical undersea world and explore the wonderful coral and fish around Langford Reef.

With our sailing adventure over, that evening we all met up for a few drinks on dry land at one of the backpacker bars in Airlie. Tired but relaxed - oh, did I forget to mention?, you must go sailing in the Whitsundays....it's the best!




Richard on Ambition, Whitsunday Islands





Sailing is, of course, a time to look cool - nice try, Richard




Eungella National Park

Eungella National Park After our rest we decided to go exploring - we'd heard that there was a chance to see platypus (no-one seems to call them duck-billed platypus anymore) in the wild in Eungella National Park so we headed south and then inland through more sugar cane country and up into the mountains. From the top there was this wonderful view. When we parked near Broken River in the late afternoon we saw our first wild kangaroos (or possibly wallabies, we find it impossible to tell the difference) which were looking for some dinner. It was also a busy time of day for the birds and the really loud squarking and screeching turned out to be hundreds of beautiful sulphur-crested cockatoos like this one.

Platypus, Eungella National Park

Platypus spotting at Broken River

After just a few minutes of patient observation we got our first glimpse of a platypus. They move very fast but they keep coming out above the water so we just had to be quiet and keep alert to spot them. We were surprised by how small they are, probably less then 50cm long. They are such freaks of nature because they are mammals that lay eggs and then they have that funny bill but they are oh so cute that it was fantastic to see them in the wild rather than in a zoo. They move so fast that there is no way we could have taken a photo of them but this picture has been grabbed off the video we took.

Sunrise, Eungella National Park We're not known for being early risers but for some reason we woke up early at the Eungella Chalet Mountain Lodge (I think it was because it was so cold) and when we opened the curtains this was the view over the mountains and the valley. Before we left Eungella we went platypus spotting again and saw another couple of glimpses including one which sufaced very near us and stuck his bill out at us before disappearing for good.

We also saw some lovely birds here including: the cockatoos, a Kookobura (a bit like a kingfisher and known for it's laugh) and diving birds that would get out of the water after fishing and sit on branches with their wings extended waiting for them to dry.

Writing this in October (yes I know we are terribly behind - I know we are on holiday but we still don't seem to have much free time) I can tell you that we've seen the sunrise three times in Australia in the past five months, this was the first, since then we've seen it rise over the sea at Surfers Paradise and we woke up at 4am last week to see the sunrise at Uluru - well worth it.

Rockhampton

Further south to Rockhampton (Rocky as it's affectionately known) where we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. It's not a big place but I did manage to pick up a nice fleece for less than £4 which was badly needed as it is the middle of winter here and not that hot - despite the Aussie tourist board hype they do have a winter here, and it does get cold: and this in in the tropics! The other thing Rocky has is a fantastic zoo, and even better it's free. We spent a great afternoon first of all watching the hundreds of little turtles, ducks and geese in the lake outside and then the rainbow lorikeets, roos, wallabys and saw that rare and odd bird the Cassowary. We'd seen lots of signs to watch out for them on the roads like the one near Cape Tribulation but we'd never seen one in the flesh. But, of course, the reason we went to the zoo was to see our first koala. These wonderful cuddly creatures that spend most of their days half asleep munching euclyptus are soooo cute that we took far too many pictures of them but they are really photogenic. Koala, Rockhampton Zoo Koala, Rockhampton Zoo Koala, Rockhampton Zoo

Maryborough

Onto Maryborough to see a big thing! There are lots of big things to see in Australia, if a town has nothing of interest to tourists then it will have a big thing. Maryborough had a Big Ned Kelly and further down the road in Nambour we saw a Big Pineapple and you can see pictures of them and all the other big things we've captured on camera so far on our dedicated Big Things page.

Quite an eventful journey to Maryborough as I got my first, and only so far, speeding ticket. I couldn't believe it, not another car in sight and then a police car comes towards me, turns around and catches up behind me with lights flashing and pulls me over. I was speeding (122kph in a 100kph zone) but it is very difficult to do 100kph (60mph) on an empty straight highway. As we said before the speed limits here are less than they are at home and with so many empty straight roads in the middle of nowhere it's difficult to keep the speed down. The fine was $135 which is a stiff 54 but if I'd been in New South Wales rather than Queensland it would have been almost double that. This could be an expensive trip!

After ten days on the road we arrived in Brisbane.


Back to Index