Our first two weeks in Australia.
Cairns Travel Blog› entry 1 of 5 › view all entries
We arrived in Cairns late into the evening. Surprising we were not held up by customs at all, despite both wearing and declaring our muddy walking boots. We were greeted by thunderstorms, that lasted during our stay in Cairns. We had expected the hot, humid weather - but the thunder and lightning was like nothing we had experienced before. It hard to describe, but it was almost like you could feel it. Whatever, the storms were amazing and caused quite a few oohhh and ahhhs from the pool area. Simon and I huddled in our room, and I was glad that we were not in the pool. Such tropical weather is typical for Queensland for this time of year i.e. the wet season, but it didn't seem to put a dampner on the backpacker's partying.
One of the best things about Australia so far has been the trains. They are clean, spacious, well-equipped, good value, with helpful staff and the foods not bad either. Many people ask us why on Earth we use the train as it's quicker to drive. Well we don't have the option of driving, and so far the trains have been fantastic.
Anyhows enough about the trains. I could talk about how wonderful they are all day, but I don't want to bore you.
Our next stop was Townsville, which I believe is North Queensland's biggest town. Well, it certainly has a lot of places to drink. Plus we found Townsville confusing enough, and that was before we started drinking. The confusion started as soon as we arrived. The train station was not where we thought it was, because they had built a newer one. When we reached the hostel, it was all deserted and locked up. No new address or nothing, just the details of a security company. Things were soo bad that I was the one trying to convince Simon that we needed a drink. Fortunately the chaps at tourist info helped us out, and it turned out the hostel had relocated not that far away. Unfortunately the hostel seemed to have just opened, without doing any decorating, repair work ect. The hostel was sooo bad we turned to the local Irish bar for some sanctuary. Here we met some very friendly, but rather crazy people, and also found a pool table which was round.
In an attempt to avoid our new crazy friends at the pub, (without having to stay in the awful hostel) I persuaded Simon to join me on a trip to the local Reef HQ. This combines an o.k. aquarium, with a pretty cool omnimax theatre. We watched a film about the Great Barrier Reef projected onto the large domed ceiling.
Our other day out was to the Billabong Sanctuary 17km away from Townsville. Here we watched the koalas, feed the local wallabies, (they were very cute, but covered in ticks)! Had a picnic, met a wombat and Simon made friends with a snake. (A black headed Python). I've included some pictures from this lovely day out.
Our next stop such have been Airlie beach. However we were decided to give this party place a miss, and made our next stop at Mackay.
We arrived at Mackay on a busy Saturday night, with me pointing out that a lot of the girls should really have their cardies on. The rain that night was torrential! Mackay was supposed to provide a break from the backpackers pub crawl along the east coast, but there were still plenty of places to drink. We never did really undersatnd the pub opening times though, mornings yes, early evenings closed!?! The Guiness was good though, so Simon was happy. The evenings were pretty raucous, not with party goers but with the lorakeets squawking in the trees.
We were pretty lucky to booked our accomadation in Mackay when we did, because it had been raining for days and days. Many of the tourists at Airlie beach, had to leave because they were flooded out. Many more tourists could not go north to Airlie beach, because the roads were flooded. The trains were not running North either. As a result Mackay became flooded with backpackers, and all the accomadation was completely full.
We did get one nice sunny day, so we decided to hop on a bus to the Botanical gardens. The council is spending millions on developing the gardens, in the next 15 years. They aren't very established yet, so we didn't see many plants. Plus I was soo worried that I might step on a snake in the more grassy areas that we didn't stay for long. We did see a pod of pelicans, and the gardens are free to look around. I'm sure they will look absolutely lovely in a few years time.
Seeing some pelicans was good, but what I really wanted to see was a platypus. So we booked ourselves a tour to the nearby Eungella National Park which is apparently platypus capital of the world. The tour started with a drive past one sugar cane plantation after another. All I can say is that there is a whole lot of sugar going on in this part of the world. The mills are pretty cool too, especially when you learn that it takes hardly any staff to run them. We enjoyed morning billy tea & lovely damper bread (with a choice of molasses, syrups and honey) at the Finch Hatton "Hilton". The rain was running off the roof, but we were determined to carry on with the help of some umbrellas. The plan had been to take a dip at the bottom of Araluen Falls (pictured), but because of the rain we were happy just to take photos. The tour guide was quite choked as he had never seen it following so well. We headed back to camp for a BBQ lunch. However the rain continued to fall, and our guide was becoming concerned that we might get trapped. So we packed up the lunch things and set off. We were half way across the final river crossing, when we got stuck. Water had got into the motor, and we were told we needed to get out and push. I soon realized that our guide wasn't joking, and the four of us piled out the van and into the river. I was a bit worried about what might be lurking in the water, but thought it would be better not to ask. The river was running pretty fast, but we were able to push the van to the other side. We knew that we wouldn't be going anywhere further in the van, but at least it made for a memorable day. The van was soon towed out of the river, and we were soon on a rival platypus tour. We were all keen to see a platypus, but the platypus didn't seem to be around. We waited,listening to the cockatoos overhead and then we saw a platypus in the murky water. O.K i'm sure that we saw the same platypus about five times, but we had seen a platypus and got photographic proof, and that was all that mattered.
The tour rounded off our final day in Mackay. Then we set off at gone 11pm on the train. (again we were lucky to be going South, as no trains we going north of Mackay). We slept reasonably well in our seats, (we could have upgraded to beds) and arrived in Bundaberg the next day.