By now you could well be used to the pathetic attempts at humour in many of our blog posts. It may therefore, come as a bit of a surprise that this one has a slightly more reflective tone. We learnt so much during our visit to Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta and it really opened our mind to the history and beliefs of indigenous Australians.
After our trip to Cape York*, we’d booked five nights relaxation at Palm Cove, about 25 km north of Cairns. Unlike most visitors, we approached from the north having departed our tagalong group at the Daintree River Ferry. In G’Day Bruce we identified the fact that the major highway in Queensland isn’t a picturesque coastal road. The Captain Cook Highway heading towards Cairns from the north really makes up for it. If you want to drive along the ocean in Queensland, this is where we’d recommend you go – some stunning views which certainly rival The Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
*You can read about our Cape York Adventure in three of our posts; ‘Duct Tape, Zip Ties and WD40‘, ‘The Quest for Pajinka‘, and ‘Ants’ Bums, A Sexchange Hotel and The Sisters of Mercy‘
We’ve had some fairly random blog post titles in the past but this one probably takes the prize. As ever, all will become clear, but equally true to form, feel free to entertain yourself with one of The Sisters of Mercy most popular hits, This Corrosion, instead. They really don’t make videos like that anymore.
After our time at the tip and the Torres Strait we prepared to hit the corrugated roads again and travelled back over the Jardine river ferry. With brief stops at Fruit Bat Falls and Captain Billy’s lookout on the east coast we drove towards our camp at Moreton Telegraph Station. Along the way John had a couple of special experiences in store. One was to see a huge termite mound which he assured us was bigger than the one recorded by the Guinness Book of Records. Apparently, it had been even taller but about a metre had been lost in a lightning strike. The other experience was not for the fainthearted and that was to lick a green ants bum.
It was told in the Targ-alung runes that the twice nine would conquer the Pajinka and so it came to be. At their head strove, Johndalf the Khaki. Most knew him only as a trickster who could conjure fire, but his wisdom spanned aeons and he knew the differential magic from before the syncromesh.
We met our fellow adventurers and guide, John, in a Cairns car park at 8 am on a Sunday morning. We’d decided some time before, that an Australian road trip wouldn’t be complete without reaching the top of Cape York, the most northern point of the Australian mainland. However, we were also aware that to make the most of it, some fairly challenging four-wheel driving had to be undertaken. Given that our 4WD experience wasn’t that extensive we booked a tagalong trip with Tagalong Tours of Australia. We’d be driving in a convoy of vehicles with a tour leader and we figured we’d learn a fair bit for the rest of our trip.
We set off at a pretty cracking pace over The Great Dividing Range to Mareeba and on to Dimbulah for morning tea. After our break we had our first dirt road experience on the way to Chillagoe. We also had our first casualty as the corrugations on the road shook our UHF radio aerial off.
You may be wondering what a 70s / 80s ska and two-tone band from the industrial heart of England has to do with a road trip in North Queensland. You’ll have to carry on reading if you want to find out, it is worth it, honest. If you really can’t be bothered you can entertain yourself by listening to ‘Ghost Town’, one of their most famous hits.
You’re going to have to carry on reading if you want to find out the answer to that question, let’s talk about Airlie Beach. We were pleasantly surprised by Airlie. After spending a few days in the solitude of Cape Hillsborough, we were a bit nervous about visiting somewhere that is a major draw on the tourist trail. We’d previously visited Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road and didn’t like it all. Airlie, however, had a different feel. It’s obviously commercial and there are plenty of tour operators trying to get you to part with your money. Nonetheless, it had a friendly feel and the views out towards the Whitsundays across the marina were beautiful. Dare we say it, we also preferred Airlie Beach to Byron Bay.
We stopped for four nights at Cape Hillsborough National Park about 40 km north of Mackay. It’s not somewhere that’s on everyone’s must see list for Australia but we’d been recommended to visit so thought we would give it a try. It was also an opportunity for a trial run of our camp set-up before we joined our tagalong trip in Cairns to travel to the tip of Cape York over 18 days, camping every night.
Cape Hillsborough formed around thirty million years ago as a product of volcanic lava flows. The Pennant Rock is a volcanic plug remaining from that time. The first human inhabitants were the Juipera Aboriginal people and the current name was given by James Cook in honour of the Earl of Hillsborough. Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park was first developed in the 1950s and this was to be our home for the next four nights.
The Bruce Highway is the main road route spanning the length of Queensland, named after Harry Bruce, Minister of Works in the 1930s. It starts in Brisbane and finishes in Cairns, a total of approximately 1,670 km. Bundaberg is about 50 km east of the Bruce but we had to join it to travel to Brisbane so knew that southern 350 km section well. Andy’s work took him to Rockhampton often, so that section was also well travelled. However, we’d never driven further north on the Bruce until this trip when we will be following the road to its northern conclusion.
It seems that visitors to Queensland have a bit of a romantic preconception of driving from Brisbane to Cairns and imagine that the road trip might be similar to the Great Ocean Road. Unfortunately, and with the greatest respect, we don’t think that the Bruce lives up to that. If you imagine you’re going to be driving along the ocean, you’ll be disappointed as the majority of the road is a fair way inland from the coast. There are places where you travel through some spectacular scenery but on the whole, it’s a fairly monotonous drive. Also, dual carriageway only extends to Gympie, about 200 km north of Brisbane, so you can end up stuck behind a lot of slow moving traffic. Having said all of that, The Bruce did provide our means of reaching the first destinations on our road trip, Tannum Sands, Gladstone and Mackay.
Yes, I know, another excuse for a cheesy music reference (check out those perms) but we really are in the final stages before we head off on our big trip. We’ve had multiple work leaving celebrations, people have been very kind and said nice things and now we’re without gainful employment and making the last preparations for our travels. How good is the cake that Andy’s colleagues had made for him. We’ve included a picture of our jeep, OTIS, as a point of reference.
We’ve been spending a bit of time taking in Bargara and surrounds before we go, so this post includes some random pictures of our home for the last eight years. We are really looking forward to seeing parts of Australia and the world we’ve not yet visited, but we do feel privileged to have been part of this community. We think we’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere more beautiful. To find out more about this region of Queensland, check out our post ‘This is Australia’. We’re also starting to try and increase our fitness levels. Sedentary jobs aren’t great in that regard so we’re beginning with a conscious effort to walk more, and complete our 10,000 steps every day (well nearly every day). We also thought we’d share with you some of the practicalities of leaving behind a permanent base and beginning a life on the road.