Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Leaving Cairns behind

On Saturday, 27th August we packed up and left the coast behind.  As we made our way to the beginning of the Savannah Way we passed a fruit stall selling bananas for $8.99 a kilo.  What a bargain as bananas are still $12-$14 a kilo in the supermarkets.  So a stop was necessary and we loved having banana sandwiches for lunch.  I have so missed having bananas each day.  Alongside the highway there was an information stand providing details of the Savannah Way route from Cairns to Broome.  We learnt lots we didn't know.

The road out of Cairns at the commencement of the Savannah Way is a steep road through the range to Kuranda.  The Skyrail gondolas were passing over the road as we twisted this way and that up the range.    Although we had been to Kuranda Village when we took the Skyrail with Roanne and Roger and children, we stopped off again and wandered through the various markets.  On our return to the car we realised that we had missed disconnecting the power to the caravan which powers the fridge/freezer.  When the car is not mobile this takes a large draw from the car battery.  Fortunately with the assistance from our jump start the car did start but we were lucky. 

Fingers crossed - Kuranda
We continued on to Tolga which is about twelve kms north of Atherton and set up camp at Rocky Creek War Memorial Park - a very pleasant park built in the grounds of the original military hospital from World War II.  There is still one of the original buildings, across the road from the park, but it is in very poor condition now.

The Tablelands is an agricultural area growing a variety of products including potatoes, mangoes, peanuts, various vegetables and hay.  The area is irrigated from the man made lake - Lake Tinaroo - which was built in the early 1950's.  We visited the lake area on Sunday.  There are about five camping areas around the lake and also a number of formal camping grounds.  The area is very popular as their is an abundance of barramundi in the lake.

I had one necessity for Monday - I had been chewing a sweet on Friday afternoon and had broken the side of a tooth.  8 am on Monday I was on the telephone ringing the dentists in the area looking for an appointment.  Initially it looked as though we would need to return to Karunda (about 70 kms back towards Cairns) but a cancellation became available in Mareeba for 9 am - as I was ringing around while sitting in bed it was a challenge to be up, showered and completed the 25 kms trip to Mareeba in forty odd minutes but we made it only a few minutes late.  I much appreciated the good service and a temporary filling is now in place and will need to be fixed when we are in Melbourne in November.

We assisted the economy of Mareeba by buying the service station (or it felt like it just paying for the diesel) and topping up the groceries.  There are a lot of bananas growing in the Mareeba area and we were disappointing to find that they fruit is still not ready for picking so there were no stalls selling the fruit.

On Tuesday the Patrol was booked in to have a second battery installed so we had to be in Atherton (12 kms away) by 8 am.  We spent the morning looking through the shops and the car was ready by around midday.  In the afternoon we went to Yurrabunga which is a small town on the shores of Lake Tinaroo.  Near the town there is a "curtain fig tree" which was really interesting to see.  From here we drove to Milandra to see the falls and visited the dairy museum. There is a lot of dairy farming in the area.  Unfortunately the tours of the dairy factory were not running.  On our return to the caravan we stopped at a farm which operates a cheese and ice creamery.  The milking of the cows was in progress and the public were allowed to visit the calf house and then go to the milking shed to see the progress.  They milked 260 cows on a 42 cow rotary - it was interesting to note the interest expressed by others visiting but of course we have seen the milking process many times before.

On Wednesday we had another early start as the Patrol was booked in for it's 30,000 km service.  We had been fortunate to get this booking as when we had telephoned the Cairns Nissan branch back on the 18th August the first appointment they could offer us was the 12th September.  We did not want to wait around until then so when we could have the service completed in Atherton on the 31st August we made this booking.  The service only took 2 1/2 hours so we can now continue our trip west.

Many communities offer free camping as a way to encourage visitors to the area to stay a while and assist the local economy.  We certainly did our bit for Atherton with both the car service and the new battery plus incidental shopping.

We hooked the caravan on and paid a short visit to Herberton to see the historic village.  From there we made another diverstion to Millea Millea to visit the three waterfalls in the area.   They were well worth diverting to go and see.  As we continued closer to Ravenshoe, which is the highest town in Queensland, we passed the wind farm which has 20 power turbines.  We were surprised that some of the turbines were so close to the farm houses in the area.

We are staying in the small town of Ravenshoe - there are a couple of pubs, an IGA and a Foodworks supermarket, a hairdressers and a couple of takeaway shops.  There is a very active volunteer group restoring a steam train and we are staying in the reserve adjacent to the railway - unfortunately for us there is a long wait to take a train trip as it only operates on a Sunday.  There is ten km track to a neighbouring town.
 Cairns Villa & Leisure Park
Savannah Way sign

 Burketown info
 Next stop Atherton

Mt Surprise to Normanton

Aboriginal artist Kuranda

Perhaps this is the way to travel Australia!

Interesting Signage

How the curtain fig tree happens

Ruins of military hospital Tolga

 Millaa Millaa Falls

 Zillie Falls

 Height of Zillie Falls

 Ellinjaa Falls

 Lake Tinaroo info

Tinaroo dam opened 1959

Across Lake Tinaroo
 Irrigation outlet

 Leakage in wall Lake Tinaroo

Lone camper Lake Tinaroo

 Herberton Historic Village

Herberton Historic Village

Herberton Historic Village

A reluctant cow - art!  Millaa Millaa
Detail about art

Stage Two commences and is different from that originally planned

We had planned our trip around Australia into six sections and our first section has now been completed - Melbourne to Cape York and return to Cairns.  Each of our sections is planned to take approximately two months.  So we are ahead at the end of section one by five days!

We always planned that our trip around Australia would be flexible both in destination and timing.  So the first change is about to happen!  We had initially planned that the second section of our trip would be to go from Cairns to Broome via Darwin and many other places in between.  We have listened to many other travellers who we have met along the way and the recommendation has been to avoid going across the top of Australia in September/October as it is getting extremely hot and humid.  We talked this through and decided that the best thing to do would be to change our plans.  So we will now leave Cairns and travel west to Normanton/Karumba before heading south to Cloncurry (via Lawn Hill National Park) to Mt Isa.  From Mt Isa we will go to Tennant Creek and continue south through Central Australia to Alice Springs and that icon of Australia, Uluru.  From here we will proceed to Coober Pedy and then to Adelaide.  Of course, as we are good at doing, we will add in many side trips and places of interest along the way to make our trip unique to us and always interesting.

Once in Adelaide, we will consider putting the caravan into storage for 2-3 months while we return to Melbourne, and then take a 2-3 month trip to New Zealand.  More about that later!

We are yet to change our map on this blog which shows our route, but we will do this shortly.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to the comfort of the caravan

Gill's help to inflate the tyre doing 'B' all
We took our time packing up in Mt Carbine as we had spent our last night in the tent. As we expected, the tyre was flat again so Peter used his trusty on board compressor (amongst all the other toys he has) and pumped the tyre up so that hopefully we would get to a repairer without having to jack the car up. That certainly saved a phone call to RACV!. My role this morning was to sit in the car and read my e-book while Peter pumped up the tyre. It was clearly not a two man job.

We have now put the tent on to the roof rack along with the stretchers and these will remain on the roof, at least while we have good weather. We are not sure when or where we will need to next use the tent. We have enjoyed our three weeks tenting and certainly look forward to next time.

The tyre was staying up so we headed to Port Douglas, which was only about 70 kms away. The road took us down the range and we were able to stop and take a couple of photos of Mossman and the coast.   We followed a truck carting sugar cane down the range.  I was keen to see if any of the banana plantations were selling bananas but no such luck.  The are plenty of plastic bags on the trees protecting the fruit so it can't be long before they are ready for picking and the price of bananas in the shops will reduce from the current $13-$14 kilo.

Fortunately we made it to Port Douglas without the tyre going flat and found a tyre repairer who was able to fix the tyre and put it back on the Patrol for us. While they did the hard work we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the Central Hotel which gave Peter the energy to again clean the car. It is amazing how that red dust sticks.

Once we collected the caravan we headed south to Cairns and booked into a caravan park for three days to give us the opportunity to catch up with our washing, emails and for Peter to try and upload the photos on to our blog. This task has taken hours as he had three weeks of script to add the photos too and you can be sure he did his fair share of moaning!

The caravan park mainly caters for permanents but was fine for us. We unpacked the car and found space again in the caravan and generally sorted ourselves out again. Peter is glad he is at the end of uploading our photos of this stage of our holiday - perhaps his moaning about doing this will now come to an end!

We have now been on the road for just on eight weeks. We have completed section one of six of our trip around Australia. We have travelled 7,888 kms since we left Melbourne on the 4th July. We are four days ahead of our time plan (each of the six stages of our holiday being approximately two months). We next head up on to The Atherton Tableland and travel towards Normanton and Karumba.

View of coast north of Mossman
 View of Mossman

Still heading south

We have now completed seven weeks on the road and what experiences we have had. To wake up on the river bank at Coen and enjoy the scenery is something many people would never have the opportunity to do. We did it and enjoyed it! We have lived very basically in the tent. We were well prepared with a good quality Black Wolf tent which is advertised to take 30 seconds to put up, but that must be with an expert. It takes us about ten minutes but we are happy with that. We also ditched our older stretchers and bought new deluxe stretchers before we left Melbourne. Peter's has extra length which he enjoys. On top of these we have mattresses which automatically blow up, and then sleeping bags. Peter uses his as a duvet as he hates being restricted when he sleeps. We have slept like babies!

In addition we have had two camp tables, a gas stove and chairs. We have been most comfortable and it just proved to us how basically we can live for a number of weeks. The only thing we didn't do well was lighting and our small lights haven't been the best as it gets dark quite early in the evening. We will look at other options when we get back to Cairns.

We packed up again (we are getting good at that!) and headed into Coen where we stopped at the cafe and store. We bought some bananas - we have really missed these and although they are still $12 a kilo it was nice to have some of them.
Met up with a road train, fortunately it was tarseal
Soon after leaving Coen we came to a very steep descent which was signed posted "low gear for all trucks". The road was tar sealed fortunately as we followed a road train down the hill. Peter called the driver on the radio and let him know that he had a flat tyre on the rear trailer. His response was "thanks mate, are you going to change it for me?". He didn't pull over so clearly he wasn't interested in changing it either. As we neared the bottom of the hill the truck driver called over the radio for us to pass as he was "going to let it go". I was a tad dubious as we were on a double white line but nevertheless we passed as he co firmed that the road was clear to pass.

We passed Musgrave Station (where we stayed on our trip north) and took the direct road back to Laura rather than the Lakefield National
Park route to Cooktown which we had previously taken. We had planned on staying at a freecamp just north of Laura but when we looked
at it, it was pretty run down and although there was another couple there we decided to continue south. We stopped at Laura for diesel and
had a late lunch. There is a restored gaol in the picnic area - it is hard to believe that once it housed eighteen, although they were
apparently chained together.

When Peter was filling the car with diesel he asked the guy how much further before the tarseal and believe it or not he said only a further 6-
8 kms. This was sufficient to encourage us to continue on south. As we joined the main road leading into Cooktown there was a public truck
wash. The vehicle we were following pulled in so we didn't want to miss the opportunity to try and get rid of a bit more dust so through we
went through - not once but three times!

We travelled a little further south to a camping ground we had had recommended to us at Mt Carbine. This caravan park is out in the middle
of no where (it was originally a mining area but since closed down) but was really pleasant to stay at. The owners provide stocks of firewood
and so we were able to have a campfire the two nights we stayed (it wasn't cold but just pleasant to sit around). Peter took the opportunity to cleans the car again trying to get rid of a bit more red dust now that we were on tarsal. He even scrubbed the inside of the back doors to
try and stop us getting dirty every time we opened the back door.

We woke up to a flat tyre this morning. To think we had travelled on all those gravel roads and now get a flat when we are in the safety of a camping ground! Peter found a spike was in the tyre so tried pumping it up with the compressor to see if it would retain sufficient air to get us to a repairer. His other suggestion was if that didn't work he may even ring RACV (the equivalent of AA). I am not so sure that they want to drive out into country Far North Queensland just to change our tyre.

There was heaps of birdlife and I saw the first locust - it was sitting on the tent and I had to remove it before Peter could finish packing up the tent.

From our campsite we could hear the road trains heading north overnight. They appeared to be travelling in groups of three or four and were possibly those transporting the houses to Weipa. We were so pleased we didn't meet any of them on the road.
View of road train
 Road train south of Coen
 He told us to pass before he opens it out - note double line
Laura historical gaol
The restored gaol which housed 18
Going through the truck wash down near Laura
Built just for us!
Three trips through but the water was very dirty so didn't
make much difference but good for underneath the car
We are getting good at the Aussie campfire Mt Carbine
Campfire Mt Carbine
We woke to a flat tyre at Mt Carbine
 Another wash to try and remove the dust - Mt Carbine
Even inside the doors
Locust at Mt Carbine on our tent
 Locust on our tent Mt Carbine
We thought he was big

 Locust removed from the tent to a stick
Last night in the tent at Mt Carbine - we will miss it