Australia 2011: Towards Cairns

Fraser Island seemed to be a ‘must’, so we made a stop at a site nearby and made reservations to go over there the following day. We got up early ready for the bus to take us to the boat, waiting by the site gate…and waiting…and waiting. An hour later, as we were about to give up, the bus came. Our mistake- we hadn’t accounted for a change of time zone. But the island of sand was worth the wait- if only for the wacky traffic on the sandy beach- several vehicles including a small plane.

We had a stopover before reaching Cairns at Townsville, where a large site faced the ocean and was semi occupied by permanent residents. We are used to staying in all kinds of sites, some purely for tourers and others where people have their permanent homes, either being perfectly acceptable to us.

It was while we were at Townsville that something happened to us which had never happened before…and has not happened since. We were robbed.

It was in the morning. We packed up ready to go and had decided to go and visit the town’s aquarium before we moved on. The last couple of morning jobs included taking the recycling across to the bins, which I did, whilst simultanaeously Husband had nipped out to empty something, meaning that the van was unlocked and open…for all of one minute, our bags left on the front seats. Thus far we’d noticed nothing amiss. We drove from the site and to the aquarium, where we entered and prepared to buy tickets. Husband drew out his wallet- which was empty of all cash. I drew out mine- also empty of cash. I don’t recall how much cash we’d had, but it was a substantial sum, however we still had our bank cards. Phew!

I’ll never know how someone was able to get into the van, access both wallets from our bags and lift all that money in such a short time! It was a salutary lesson on van security though and I think we have to see it in the context of all the years we’ve travelled safely and without incident.

Before going to Cairns we went to the Eungas National Park, a site in a great position up in the hills where we hoped to see some wondrous wildlife…and we were not disappointed. It was a peaceful and beautiful place, views over the valley below punctuated with impossibly tall palm trees. There were walkways through the forest giving access to waterfalls and pools, delicious, in the tropical heat, to bathe in. We were thrilled to see all the wonderful bird and plant species, but far and away the best thrill, after waiting patiently by a quiet pool in the early evening, was spotting a duck-billed platypus paddling around, oblivious to us.

As we’d still not spotted any koalas roaming wild we resorted to visiting a wildlife sanctuary where the cuddly creatures were in abundance, mostly slumbering, as is their nature. Wandering around, we were followed so closely by unfenced wallabies that I stepped back and trod on the toes of one, leading me to apologise profusely…and foolishly. Among the other animals there were cassuaries, dingoes and the most enormous, ferocious crocodile I have ever seen.

Then it was on to Cairns itself…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

Australia’s East Coast, 2011

This is the second episode of my Australia Travelogue. Part 1 can be found in last week’s post.

While we’d barely looked at Sydney we couldn’t delay the pick-up of the campervan for another day, so we escaped the cheerful grime of the backpacker hostel and went to fetch our wheeled home for the next 4 weeks.

The plan at this point was to motor up the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns, about 1500 miles. We allocated one week for this journey.

To begin with, the beaches and harbours where we stayed were very similar; wind and wave-swept stretches of coast, for the most part almost deserted except for an occasional walker. The character of the campsites differed from New Zealand’s in that they were larger, bleaker and less intimate. On the first night’s stop we were thrilled by the sight of moderately large lizards which loitered around the pathways and tracks with a studied nonchalence, looking like security personnel.

This was a long drive, punctuated by mainly overnight stops. En route we needed to shop and [of course] pick up beers and so on, using the ‘bottle shops’, since alcohol is not sold in supermarkets as it is in the UK.

As we motored north towards Queensland the landscape gradually altered. Towns were further apart and there were vast stretches of agricultural land where sugar cane is grown. We’d sometimes spot a goods train transporting the cane and these long, snaking vehicles seemed to stretch for ever across the flat fields. The coast was also changing, the beaches huge, the tidal range massive. Along the road we encountered land trains- gigantic lorries pulling a number of large trailers. The roadsides were sometimes fringed with eucalyptus trees and during my turns as a passenger, I was constantly scanning the trees for koalas, a pursuit which was never successful.

There were, however, encounters with wildlife in other areas, such as site showers, where we’d share an occasional shower with a cane toad or a lizard.

For some reason we had high expectations on the approach to Surfers Paradise, a large city south of Brisbane- maybe it was because we’d spent long hours on deserted roads or looking at miles of sugar cane fields and the idea of a surfers town appealed to us. I was thinking of our own Newquay, in Cornwall, UK- a surfer’s paradise for sure. But Surfer’s Paradise, Australia was not at all what we expected. It is a high rise conglomeration and no glimpse of surf greeted us as we drove through. A motor racing event was taking place, so all there was to see were stands and flags. We passed on through.

I was also in a fever of anticipation to see Brisbane, and indeed it did look wonderful as we drove along the river front, searching for somewhere to park the van so that we could explore the place. But here, we drew a blank. We could find nowhere at all to park our wagon and I had to be content with photographing what I could see from the windows. Ho hum. Perhaps we’ll make a return visit at some stage?

So we continued onwards and northwards…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.