Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 Trip: Cairns

Thursday 8th Sept to Tuesday 20th Sept:

It was a short drive from Mission Beach up to Cairns. We stayed at the Cairns Coconut Resort Caravan Park.

This is promoted as Australia's first, and Queensland's only, 5 star park. It was great. Particularly for families with young kids. They had a terrific time. We got a real kick watching the kids on the water playground. We wish they would set aside an afternoon for "big kids" so we could have a go too.

There was a family of Bush Curlews near our van and they welcomed two chicks into the world while we were there. I'm glad that this park maintains a "no pets" policy, otherwise these birds would have been breakfast for some poorly supervised pet.

We drove out to Barron Gorge national park. Very pretty. It must be out of control in the Wet Season.

We also took a drive up to Port Douglas. Once again, a bit yuppified for us. Nice scenery though.

We spent a few hours in the Botanical Gardens. Outstanding. It amazing what rich soil and good rainfall (and an army of gardeners) can achieve.

Tuesday 13th September:
Today we went on a reef cruise with Sunlover Reef Cruises.

It was a rough day. A huge swell and big waves. Some of the tourists aboard with us did not survive the trip. Well, at least the contents of their stomachs chose to abandon ship.

This photo is one of Sunlover's taken on a fine day.

Once out at the reef there were various activities available. The large permanently moored pontoon was the activity area where everyone prepared for what they would do.

Robyn and I had booked to go on a Seawalk. This involved getting into a wetsuit, first time for both of us, and a diving bell type of helmet. I explained to Robyn how to make the wetsuit warm. It worked for me.....

We were then taken under the boat onto a submerged platform where the staff, in scuba gear, attracted the resident fish to us with some food, and took a bunch of photos.

On the surface the wind was blowing and creating choppy conditions, even though we were sheltered a little by the reef.

A glass bottom boat was included in the tour and we went out amongst the coral outcrops.

Despite the heavy seas it was a very good day out. All the staff looked after us very well, running around collecting sick bags everywhere.

Wednesday 14th September:
Today we went on a tour of the Daintree Rainforest with Billy Tea Safaris.

It was an excellent day out. The driver/guide, Mark, had a wry sense of humour.

There are signs on all the roads asking drivers to be cautious in case a cassowary crosses the road. This one was modified by a local. Apparently it has been seen on T shirts.

We went a few kilometres up the Bloomfield track and had morning tea, billy tea actually, on a river bank.

A walk on the beach at Cape Tribulation was pleasant.

After lunch we fed a couple of kangaroos. One was particularly greedy and took things into his own hands... paws.

The tour ended with a river cruise with a few salties sighted. This was good.

We have been on 3 river cruises. One in Kununurra, one on Yellow Waters in Kakadu and this one on the Daintree. Yellow Waters was the best of the three for wildlife spotting.

Friday 16th September:
Today it was up to Kuranda on the Skyrail. 

Last year we came down to Cairns on the train and back up on Skyrail but this time it was Skyrail both ways.

That's a cable water ski park.

You can see an aircraft coming in to land at Cairns airport. Just to the right of the tower.

In Kuranda we went to Birdworld. 

They were very friendly.

We were warned that they tried to remove the winding pins from wristwatches, so it was off with them before we walked in.

I must remember to shave more than once a week.

After that it was a short walk to the Butterfly Sanctuary.

We came here last year but it is always worth visiting.

When we got back to the van, Ken and Lyn had caught up from their flying visit back to Perth. On Sunday 18th September Robyn and I had our 40th Wedding Anniversary. We set up our BBQs and tables and chairs between our vans and had a lengthy seafood dinner: fresh oysters, scallops, barramundi. Superb.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2011 Trip: Mission Beach

Sunday 4th September

We left our campsite on the south bank of the Hull River mouth and drove back around via Bruce Highway to the north bank where South Mission Beach is. There are actually three villages together. They are South Mission Beach, which is nice and quiet, Wongaling Beach which is where the main shops are, and Mission Beach which has all the trendy coffee shops and restaurants.

In South Mission Beach we caught up with Richard and Jill, our friends from Mandurah, who have quite a spectacular holiday home here.

It copped a bit of a hiding from TC Yasi and so did the surrounding rain forest. Richard & Jill now have views they never had before.

Unfortunately Yasi destroyed the rain forest canopy and the floor where the Cassowaries found their food. Now they are out in the open a lot more, looking for sustenance. Richard said they regularly come into his yard looking for food.

It was a cold day and Richard had his log fire going in his lounge room. Apparently all the locals thought he was a nutcase from WA putting in this fireplace, but now they all want one.

We stayed at the Beachcomber Coconut Caravan Park in South Mission Beach for four days.

The Mission Beach area was Ground Zero for TC Yasi. The people at the Park are doing an excellent job in getting it back to its former high standard. But a glance at the rain forest behind the park tells the story of that terrible night.

A brave kite surfer was out enjoying himself. That's Dunk Island in the background.

This is Dunk Island after Yasi. It will never be rebuilt.

Robyn and I took a run out the back of Tully and enjoyed a few hours exploring the river. This is popular with white water rafting expeditions when the water levels are a little higher.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 Trip: Cardwell, beautiful Cardwell

On our trip last year with Steve & Glenda we passed through Cardwell. It was our first time up the coast in Queensland and we thought Cardwell was just beautiful. The main highway, the Bruce Highway, is the waterfront road in Cardwell. Shops on one side and an expansive lawn area and markets on the beach side.

I wish I had taken photos.

In February this year, just 7 months ago, Tropical Cyclone Yasi crossed the coast at Mission Beach. Cardwell is just a few short kilometres south and also received a direct hit. We watched from home, hoping for the best.

This shows TC Yasi overlaid on a map of Europe, just look at the enormity of it.

After a night of 300 kph winds, this is what the residents of Cardwell woke up to:

This is the marina at Port Hinchenbrook, just a stone's throw away.

This is the newsagency, just to the right of centre in the photo above of the wrecked foreshore. The gent in the yellow shirt owns it. We spoke to him today. A good man, and is back behind the counter in his shop. Personally, I would have walked away. He has my admiration, as do all the other residents of Cardwell and the other towns, Mission Beach, Tully etc, battered by Yasi.

Saturday , 3rd September:
This is the foreshore at Cardwell today. What trees remain are shredded of their foliage and the grass reserve that used to hold the markets has gone.

Behind the CWA (Country Womens Association) building is a clothesline that could not resist the onslaught.

Neither could the building itself.

We spent some money in town. Cardwell and many other towns like it, rely heavily on tourism dollars and we did what we could.

We drove north to spend the night at Hulls Head Recreation Area (QLD26 in CAW6) on the southern banks of the Hull River. On the north bank is South Mission Beach. We wanted to stay here after seeing this photo in Mick B's blog (

Here is the area now. The big tree in between the 2 palms in Mick's photo has virtually disappeared. The hill on the northern bank was not visible in his photo.

This is the beach. There were vacant waterfront blocks where houses used to be. As we drove out the next morning we saw a large area filled with piled up building debris, all that remained of several houses. All that remained of peoples lives and dreams.

We left the Cardwell area feeling shocked and helpless on our way to Mission Beach, just a few kilometres away. Here we would catch up with friends from Mandurah, Richard & Jill, who have a holiday home there.