Last week I returned from a great trip in the very north east of Australia. The small town of Cairns was our base for the next few days as we travelled around the countryside and oceans of Queensland.
Cairns is a tourist hotspot for backpackers and Australians alike who look to see the Great Barrier Reef and rainforest's that surround it. Like a lot of Australia Cairns has not evolved naturally as a town. The roads are gridded and the buildings are mainly one storey 70s/80s shops and clubs. More like a lads holiday destination than an avenue to paradise. We therefore hired a car and over 4 days drove around 660km through the most beautiful scenery in the world.
We largely spent the day around Cairns, buying bits and bobs - in my case camera parts - for the next few days of travelling. We booked a day trip to the reef and spent some time at the amazing harbour of Cairns. This is a generalising statement but Australia's most beautiful areas are largely untouched by humans. Cairns' surrounding hills and water are fantastic...the town itself, not so.
We took to the water on the 'Reef Magic' boat to a pontoon in the middle of the ocean residing next to.. I believe Moore Reef, a small section of the Great Barrier Reef. It was a surreal experience to be eating a buffet lunch miles from solid ground! Anyway snorkelling and semi-submersible boats were at our disposal and I managed to get a few photos along the way. The water is literally teeming with fish, coral and life. Of course this was only a small section...but the destruction you hear of couldn't be seen here. I wish I had bought a waterproof case for my camera to make the most of the amazing coral and fish but sadly I didn't have a spare $1000.
Our first day in the hire car took us up to the oldest rain forests in the world (according to the hire company). We drove along the Captain Cook highway through miles of farmland and past miles of beach (stopping off at a few) before finally reaching our destination Cape Tribulation.
"Lieutenant James Cook on 10 June 1770 (log date) after his ship hit a reef as it passed over it, north east of the cape, at 6pm. This made Cook pull away from the coast, looking for deeper water. At 10.30pm, the Endeavour hit a reef almost sinking Cook's ship, on what is now named Endeavour Reef. Cook recorded "...the north point was named Cape Tribulation because here began all our troubles"
Anyway we wandered around there watching out for the apparent dangers of crocodiles and then made our way back to Cairns. We stopped off at the magnificent Daintree Ice Cream Company for some very 'local' flavours. Wattle seed, yellow sapote, blueberry and pineapple. All grown on the premises. Our last stop before Cairns was Port Douglas for some food whilst admiring the harbour sunset.
Today we drove from Cairns south to visit Paronella Park. The park was the creation of a rich sugar cane plantation owner who decided to build a castle and theme park in his back garden. The castle is built from concrete, local stone and steel from railway tracks. A long drive that wasn't to me exactly worth it. I think to an English person the 80 year old castle is more of a personal project than a tourist attraction, and in general was a bit of a wreck. Anyway on we drove high up into the hills to visit Millaa Millaa falls and on to the town of Yungaburra to see the sun set over Lake Tinaroo. At one point (according to Google Earth) we reached an elevation of 900m above sea level. Our little hire car struggled up those hills!
It was an amazing holiday that I won't forget for a while. The sheer scale of Australia is mind blowing, after all that driving we cockily checked the map to see how much ground we had covered...as you can see below it was minuscule! Like I said before oz is an amazing place, hills, beaches, rivers, waterfalls...wild turkeys, you can't beat it. But admittedly it is sometimes let down by the poor choice of architecture with housing and shops etc...my Dad likened it to an alien dropping a 4 bed detached house down from the heavens into a field. He's not wrong.
Anyway it has spurred me on to see more of the oz when time and money permits...I will keep y'all posted.