Archive | July, 2014
27 July 2014

A Tale of Two Willys

Now who would believe that. We learnt that snakes have but how often do you see them standing up, together.

Well, look here….

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Willy one is a Maori. Willy two is an Aborigine. Willy one is on a bike. Willy two is in a Landcruiser.  Willy one has bare feet. Willy two has boots on. Who’s the smarter Willy?

While we were waiting for our rock painting tour guide (Willy two), Willy one rode up on his bicycle, appearing like a silent ghost at my side window. He wanted to know if he was at the right place and given that we were some 40 km from nearest civilization I couldn’t actually advise with certainty. Whilst we had a ‘mud map’ there was nothing around us to really indicate that we were in the right place to meet our tour guide. However, patience paid off and our tour guide Willy two turned up. Now of course the two Willys had to have a joke about their common name and the banter continued through the day.

Now, back to the beginning. We are in Cooktown. Jude saw an ad for a local rock painting tour so she twisted my arm into delving into some Aboriginal culture. At $95.00 per head I rather thought that was buying into it but anything to assuage my preconceptions of our indigenous brothers seemed to be worth the cost (at least Jude so presumed). It meant that we had to find our way out of Cooktown to a property that was unmarked, some 40 km out by 8.00 of the forenoon. Since that’s about when we normally rise these days this was a serious arm twister. We made the date but then as stated, had to wait. That’s when Willy one turned up for the same experience but he had ridden barefoot from town, although in fairness he was wearing one thong which he’d found along the way. Weird!

Willy two turned up about 8.30 as did a mother and child combo from the UK so then there was six. All follow Willy two up the drive, two cars one pedally, to park up in the bush beside a portable loo. From there on foot, five of us well booted, one of us by now thongless and barefooted. Into the scrub, stopping here and there for guidance on bush tucker and other interesting aspects of Aboriginal use of Australian flora and fauna until we finally wend our way down into a gully where Aboriginal art can be viewed. We have experienced some previously but it only proved my scepticism valid, but this was different, probably because it came with explanation and context…

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I won’t try to explain apart from repeating the explanation regarding the solidarity or otherwise of the imagery . If the character is lined or not solid it is a concept, a ‘spirit’, but if it is solid or coloured in it is an object, a representation of a person , animal or thing.

Willy, our guide, disabuses us of the Aboriginal 40,000 years of  supposed occupation suggesting that it just a handy number that no one will dispute. These cave drawings are not that old he says, attributing them to his immediate forbears perhaps spanning the last 200 or so years. Some anthropological investigation of the site does not prove conclusive otherwise, however the importance of the paintings to the heritage of the family cannot be disputed. He tells us there is ongoing debate over the prospect of  refurbishing the paintings to maintain their existence as an algae is slowly obliterating them. He is also of the opinion that they have probably been painted over in the past anyway but the so-called preservationists argue that it would be vandalous to so do again.

Anyway, the tour walks on….

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and we find our way to another series of paintings….

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finishing off with a showing and explanation of several stone axes and other stone tools.

I have to say the experience was enlightening. Our guide was interesting in both his explanations and candid opinions of Aboriginal history and culture. The tour ran for about 5 hours and certainly required a bit of physical agility as we strode up and down dale and through rock chasms etc but at the end of the day I thought it quite worthwhile.

And, its not too often that one gets this photo opportunity…

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What can I say …. Jude between two……

So that was Monday. Tuesday was time to explore Cooktown with the intention of finding where we were to store Winnie for our trip to the Tip. Nicko, the fish man who does the daily rounds of the caravan parks offers storage on his property as a favour to visitors. Found his place in the outer blocks of Cooktown and what a place it is. Right now here are 6 or 7 vans stored there, the owners of which are all doing what we plan – a trip to the Tip.

Anyway, a trip up to the town lookout seemed to be good starting point to gain some orientation and it proved to be spectacular. Now I remind you that this is where Cptn James Cook beached the Bark Endeavour in 1770 for repairs so like all of the other Queensland towns that have very little to offer, Cooktown has adopted Captain Cooks exploits as their point of difference. Everywhere you look/go there are quotes from the Endeavours log, places named after members of its retinue, memorial cairns to various activities. This is OK cos it’s good history….

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(double click on some photos and zoom in to see the barrier reef).

The town itself has a gold history. Originally a port to serve the Palmer River gold field it grew to some size back in the late 1800’s. Some remnants of its colonial history are still there, some beautiful period styled buildings including the convent now serving as a museum….

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and the timber Post Office showing a date of 1880.

Well Wednesday came along. At an ungodly hour, nearly as bad as Monday we got ready to head for the Tip. Pack truck and take it and trailer to storage, final pack of Suzie, loaded to the gunnels (there – more Cptn Cook talk), so can’t see out back. Fuel up and off we go.

There are two ways out of here – one back down south to Lakeland and then back up to Laura, all via bitumen and about 144km, or, out towards Hope Vale then battle Camp for  a distance of just 138km. Of course you’d choose the shorter route. Some of it shows up on the map as unmade but so what. Hah!!! Water crossings even on the made bits – this was new and I didn’t really expect the worst corrugations and further water crossings, but here we are. Too late to turn back, press on. No worries, Suzie takes it all in stride and thinking this is good practice for what is yet to come we easily cover the 138k’s in only 3 hours!!! No mishaps into Old Laura Homestead….

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and thence down to Laura for a good lunch. Thinking this may be the last chance to eat a decent meal before starting camp fare I ordered up the pub speciality, a hamburger. Its not much of a pub! Jude, still suffering a bit ordered up a TOASTED egg and bacon sandwich as is quite usual for her only to find it came as a stale plain bread sandwich. With only Asians behind  the counter we were sure complaint was pointless, so most of lunch remained untouched.

Oh! but we’re excited. Lets get moving. We’ll fare better for dinner – baked beans probably but at least we would know where they came from. Off we go. Bugger – road works just out of Laura. OK, not a long wait, off we go. Road works are on the last bit of bitumen, past which dirt is the order of the day with no immediate prospect of future improvement. It is wide though, so are the corrugations and some of the rocks along the road are big but I still didn’t see the one that shot through the window.  BANG!!!  Wipe out drivers side window – glass everywhere. 4WD going fast in opposite direction the apparent culprit – inconsiderate bastard!

At this point we’re  maybe 1/20th of the way into the journey. Do we press on eating flies and dust and possibly lots of water yet to cross or return to Cooktown for repairs. Discretion dictates that we’re not that tough –  back to Cooktown. Call up storage man Nicko, explain we need to retrieve Winnie, attempt rebook into caravan park and tee up repair. What, no caravan park. What, window will take how LONG. How MUCH? So before retrieving Winnie we best find park. No, not here sir. Nor here either sir. Oh dear, last resort, but success. So we here we sit in a caravan park that would not be first choice, let alone second choice for a week (or so) until our $700 window glass arrives. The drive back from Laura with a gaping hole in the side certainly vindicated the decision to return for repairs. The rain and wind was very uncomfortable and I’m too old for this shit!

BUT, its much warmer here than in Melbourne. Ha ha ha !









25 July 2014

FNQ Cont.

Well that was Saturday. Now its Sunday and we’re headed north again this time to the Daintree and Cape Tribulation. Lin wanted to go to the Port Douglas markets, we didn’t so we drove up alone this time. We know most of the road backwards by now and reckon it’d be a great Sprite road if it wasn’t so far to go (bit too far for a cruze night)

First port of call was the Daintree Experience Centre only to find that the tree top walk was $32.00 per head. Overpriced to buggary so we just had an over-priced sandwich for lunch and peered out the window at more tropical forest. I had done the tree top walk in 2003 and had not been too impressed – thought the Otway Fly in Vic and the Walpole tree top walk in WA were better. Of course to get into the Daintree we had to cross the river and I’m pleased to report that Jude didn’t get seasick.

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Back in 03 I was impressed by Cape Tribulation. Not only was it a beautiful beach, it was totally deserted. Amazing what 11 years does to population growth. This time it was overcast, dull and crawling with bloody tourists…

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so we ventured a bit further up the coast towards Cooktown. Once past Cape Tribulation the road turns to sh…  Boy is it fun – ruts, hill climbs, water crossings, all as a test for the Telegraph Track up to the Tip….

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Not much traffic and no bloody tourists.

Back to Cairns.

Monday dawned late and dull. Weather most Victorian. Time to have  look around town. This is more of a resort town, not appearing to have the built history of Townsville. Even the foreshore is muddy and unattractive although a swimming pool at the shore is quite good…

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The next few days became R&R time as Jude attempted recovery from another bout of pneumonia. A visit to the Cairns hospital ensued and another few days went by before we could comfortably move on. Saturday off to Cooktown for a few more quiet days before we head to the Tip.

Passed through Mt Molloy on the way through and stopped for lunch….











I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger burger and it did beat me.

An interesting old artefact at Mt Molloy, something according to Wiki-pedia to do with an old timber mill….

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but its application defeats my imagination.

Now to Cooktown. Had booked caravan park and was told at the time that space was at a premium. Also tee’d up storage of truck and trailer for when we headed to the Tip. Well there’s more to tell but it will wait for the next instalment, although, suffice to say, we’re still in Cooktown on Friday 25 July.





21 July 2014


We moved camp, primarily because where we were did not have space for us beyond 9 July. The other grey nomads had the place booked out. We also needed to find somewhere that could take us and the Waterhouses in their Winnebago, ideally close together. Cairns Holiday Park managed to fit us both but at $48.00 per night it was the dearest option we’ve yet found. But, beggars can’t be choosers so in we moved. Booking initially for just a week we ended up extending for another few days ultimately to give Jude a bit more time to recover from another bout of pneumonia. This also entailed another hospital visit although most of the time spent in Cairns Hospital was in the waiting room. Antibiotics administered and 6 hours later we got back to the Hovel.

Anyway that was later. John and Lin arrived on Wednesday the 9th and we ten spent a week together exploring Cairns and surrounds. There is a lot to see.

Thursday took us to Trinity Beach just north of Cairns for a lunch with friends of John and Lin, Graham and Laurel from Warrandyte in Melbourne who had come up here for a AFL football match on Saturday 12th. A very pleasant afternoon overlooking the beach watching the world go by and very little football discussion.

Friday had us north bound again all the way to Port Douglas. A stopover for coffee at Thala Beach Lodge was in order. I say a coffee cos at $800.00 per night we couldn’t afford more. Even the coffee was stretching it. Beautiful place but…..

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(I couldn’t justify the expense of getting the waiter to take our photograph so that’s me represented by my hat on the table)

Port Douglas was just a mangrove swamp before Christopher Skase. His “Mirage” development turned the place into a millionaires playground. (Well, that might be a bit harsh, but it certainly came into its own with that little development). The church is somewhat indicative of its roots, but the house on the hill is more of its’ today. So are the boats in the marina.

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I don’t know how this place manages to be a holiday destination for the rich and famous cos you can’t get at the water for the mud and at some times of the year the stingers will hurt you or the crocs will eat you and if you catch any big game fish you have to throw them back. I can do all of that just sitting at home. But, you can shop – all the big name luxury brands are here. Wow!

Debate raged over the means of transport for Saturday. Was it train up, chairlift down, chairlift up, train down. Well I didn’t enter into the debate – for me no choice – train both ways. The chairlift must be 10000000000ft above sea level and it has glass bottomed gondolas – oh what fun and joy looking straight down towards impending death whilst paying heaps for the privilege. Eventually economic wisdom won out – the dual means of up/down was about $120.00 per person whereas the train was a mere $72.00. Besides which I like trains, so my economic rationalism won the day.

Where to ….?   Kuranda is the answer. Just 35km from Cairns the train still took two hours both up and down hill. The track rises at a rate of 1:50, apparently quite steep for a train but the journey is very scenic. The blurb says its the worlds most scenic but I suspect that’s an overstatement.

Heres some of the intelligentsia (notice I’m again out of the picture) but hows this for more “small wold syndrome”..  The woman sitting opposite to the left is Margaret from Adelaide. Isn’t that amazing. She works with Janes fathers sister Genevieve. Isn’t that even more amazing. But just before leaving home she dropped of some material to (some house in Adelaide)(address removed )for Jane Monk. God its a small world and whats more she wasn’t even supposed to be in our carriage.

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Kuranda is a small market village. Full of craft and cafes. Pretty little place but we didn’t need any more handcrafted  meticulously  crocheted tea cosies so we walked the streets to just take in the ambience and an ice cream. I think the journey was the destination.

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and the DC3 is a plant – it came from a junk yard.

Then it was back down hill. The Kuranda railway has a great history, all hand built. Some 13 tunnels and 50 odd bridges all dug or built by hand. They tell us some 37 men died during construction but was that just from old age? It is a sweet ride although the seats do get a bit hard after the first few minutes. And, I didn’t suffer a moment of vertigo.

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Old carriages all nicely restored. The railway is still operated by Queensland Rail. On this day there were 14 carriages all fully booked. Two trips a day, $72.00 per person, must translate into a very profitable rail line.


15 July 2014


Now that’s a novel title.

Here we are in Cairns, having arrived on the 4th of July. The weather is terrible. Its just 25 degrees with blue skies every day. Can’t stand it!

There’s lots of Victorians here who are also having difficulty adjusting to non-Victorian weather. Yeah, right!

Haven’t done much for the first few days – housekeeping being the order of the day. Cleaned the inside, washed the truck. washed the car, washed the clothes – first time in months (well for some of the aforementioned). There is actually water here to use so, ashamed by the appearance of the Longreach next to us, I just had to wash the Hovel. It now looks a bit less of a hovel….

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but anything looks good in this setting.

This park, Crystal Cascades Big 4 is yet again one of the best we’ve  stayed in. Just a bit far out of town and I’ve been lost on the townward journey and return twice now. Sometimes sat-navs are good things. We’ve sort of been biding our time until John & Lin Waterhouse arrive in Cairns so we can do the sights together. They’re expected by the 9th. In the meantime I had planned to do some work for Civic Guides but upon inspection it became apparent that most of the signs were missing so selling space on them became a little academic.

The park did put on some entertainment and a sausage sizzle on Saturday night – singers, sausages and slitherens……….

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Our first close up of a couple of man-eaters (which ones I hear you ask).

We also had to move parks. Crystal Cascades didn’t have space for us beyond the 9th so we had to book ourselves and the Waterhouses into another park. We are closer to town but the park isn’t as good and its $5.00 per night dearer (at $48.50 per night the dearest we’ve yet experienced). At least we don’t get lost this close to town.

Cairns is a surprisingly large city these days of some 160000 people. It’s spread out over a big area, surrounded land side by beautifully forested mountains, slimy beaches to the east (some have sand).  Everything is green, such a contrast to land just over the mountains. I guess this is the tropics and over the mountains is the ‘Savannah’. This is a good time of year. It’s not too humid. I think we would have difficulty adapting to the summer humidity but right now its a great place to be.

More when we get to explore.


6 July 2014

Croydon is a long way away

Over 500 km west of Innisfail Croydon is a long way away from anything. But, it completed our westerly exploration of Queensland for this trip. Dirt roads prevented us from exploring Burketown and Hells Gate and Camooweal was just too far west to then have to turn back to Mt Isa, a near 400km round trip.

Croydon has made an attempt to attract tourist interest with the restoration of several period buildings, an operating ore crusher at an old mine site and a very pretty lake with great tourist facilities. It’s also the other end of the track from Normanton for the Gulflander. We ended up spending a couple of nights in Croydon parked up with Ross & Paula and Graham respectively from NSW and Victoria in a small caravan park.

The old buildings are set out in a small historic precinct in the centre of the township….

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The police sergeants house, jailhouse to the rear, an occupant pleading for release, natural release, sites for natural relief (cleaned), the courthouse complete with re-enactment, Croydon on a hot night, the townhall, courthouse, another residence and back to the police sergeants house. Even new imitation gas lights adorn the square.

Spread throughout are remnants of Croydons gold mining heritage……..

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and then theres the new station……

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note the steel sleepers and the rails bolted to them. You might even see the the undulations and unevenness of the rails. And one of the original steam engines although the one at Normanton is in better condition. Croydon was he end of the line. Back to Georgetown

But, Georgetown was just the base from which to explore one of Queenslands most fascinating natural attractions. Cobbold Gorge, some 90 km southeast of the town accessed by 40% good bitumen, 60% bad dirt was surprisingly well patronised. On the drive out on one of the dirt sections we followed two caravans in a cloud of dust. We also had to contend with loads of cattle across the roads but 1 1/2 hours later we rocked into a resort……..

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where we met Zeke and Helena. From here we were taken across country in 4 wheel drive buses…

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which we were eventually forced to leave and go on a cross country trek on foot to learn how to survive on bush tucker and too see what happened to people who didn’t….

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But then it was back to the rescue boats and the cool of the gorge proper…….

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These boats are electric, don’t make noise and don’t move fast. They also have a motor at each end which seemed a bit strange until we got to the end of the gorge….

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and , yes, that’s a freshwater croc languishing on the banks. Oh, and there’s no room to turn around at the head of the gorge hence the motor at each end and electric so no noise stirs the crocs as food arrives in the boats.

The gorge on water is spectacular, a naturally beautiful place. The cost of the guided tour was $79.00 per head, probably a bit exorbitant but we are really pleased that we did it.

Back in Croydon cos I forgot this bit about their lake and the old gold mine….

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Then it was back east. Covering territory already passed through was a bit boring but necessary. A couple of free camps along the way and into Atherton. Passed Herberton cos the park wouldn’t have us so into an overflow paddock in Atherton. Turned out to be one of the best parks we’ve yet stayed in  (Big 4) despite our poor cousin status.

Drove back to Herberton to the historic village. Fantastic, whole day experience. Owned and redeveloped by the owners of Just Jeans this is probably one of the highlights of the trip and certainly the best of its type anywhere…..

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Individual exhibits and contents are terrific……

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and that’s just buildings one and two and not everything that’s in them. The John Deere shed was something else….

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and the pharmacy…

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and this is but a smattering of whats on offer.

Everywhere you turn there are reminders of history, of things you can remember from childhood (and earlier) all displayed in category and context – clothes in the clothing shop, tools in the workshops, toys in the toy shop, bowsers and cars in the service station, pills in the pharmacy and on and on. We were worn out before the day was up – brain drain and weary feet. Terrific but in too many ways a vivid reminder of our age.

Athertons offer to the tourist is the Crystal Caves – a man made  cavern behind and under a shop that sells jewellery, but displaying one mans collection of crystals. Its certainly interesting…….

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This post seems to be all about photos. Perhaps I’m just lost for words but we’ve certainly seen some indescribable sights over the last couple of weeks. Its interesting to note that there has been far more to see and do as we’ve moved closer to the coast but perhaps that is a reflection of the isolation and low population of the west of the state. Some towns try to make the most of their attributes but it would seem that tourism is the key these days and most are sticking to the coast.

We’re now in Cairns, resting up then starting work until the Waterhouses arrive on Wednesday 9th July.



2 July 2014

Go West (old man)

Back out west. As we didn’t make Croydon on the Gulflander from Normanton and time was on our side (for a change) we decided to head back west and pick up Croydon and places in between. Along the way we found a cheese maker and bought some, waterfalls and didn’t and some fantastic scenery…

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It had been suggested that we saw the caves at Ravenshoe but we were ill-advised – they weren’t there. However we found a train station and moved in for the night…

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Interestingly this site was just $15.00 per night for all facilities and it was full. They managed to squeeze us in. It was here that we learnt that the “caves” were in fact further inland at Undarra and they weren’t caves but lava tubes. So, next day, further west we trundled into Undarra. Shock horror – the only way to see the lava tubes is to take a guided tour at $55.00 per head and there are no concessions. Well we’re here so we pay. I won’t say that it was worth it but I must say that it is spectacular and very interesting. I guess you do need the guide to make sense of the geology.

These are lava formed tubes from a volcanic eruption just 190,00 years ago. Formed as a consequence of cooling of the fringes as lava flowed down hill, but discovered only because some of the ‘roofs’ collapsed leading to the growth of rainforests in an otherwise barren savannah. They are situated on private land but part taken up by State Government as a national park with the tours run by the landowner. I think they’re doing better out of this than farming. But it is worth seeing……

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There was a caravan park attached to the property but it was too dear on top of the entry fee so we found a free camp not far down the road and had a very pleasant happy two hours. Moving on the next day found us in Mt Surprise a bit before happy hour so we found a place to stay and for $17.00 got a reptilian bonus….

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Russell and “Wendy” entertained the assembled masses for over an hour with ‘tails’ of snake bite victims, information on how to recognise snakes (long and thin typically) and how to treat snakebite by lying down (but not dying). I baulked at his offer to try “Wendy”. I really only like male snakes now cos they have two penises (bet you didn’t know that but Russell told me so). Oh there’s s much to learn, I just wish I could remember better or at least more of the important stuff.

We had drinkies till late with Jim and Joan in an effort to forget the snake tails.