We are still at the coast, a bit north of Cairns. We have gone as far north as we wanted to on this trip. And then we have started to go south again. The north point of our trip, Cooktown, turned out to be a big disappointment. After a 350 km drive in one go, through some quite interesting bush scenery, we arrived one late afternoon to our camping site. Anton was motion-sick from the many curves during our drive, and threw up just as we arrived. On top of that we were all a bit tired, grumpy and edgy! As we had just come from a super cool camper park, with high expectation for the next (same chain), we realized that it did not live up to our expectations. So far from it! It was dark, deserted and run down. And then it was, by far, the most expensive one we have yet stayed on. This simply did not add up in our heads, and we decided to just stay one night, and then head back south, towards Cape Tribulation. We had to stay that night, as Cooktown is FAR away from everything, particularly if you do not move around in a four-wheel-drive car. Only thing to do, was to drive 350 km back over the hills and bushes. I guess you can say that we caught Cooktown on the “wrong leg” that day. We did try to stroll down the deserted main street (Charlotte Street) with an open mind and positive thoughts, but it wasn’t meant to be. Not this time around anyway!
If we had been on the road in a four-wheel-drive we could have saved ourselves 250 km and drive just 100 km south by the dirt-road to Cape Tribulation. Well, there are pro’s and con’s when driving a campervan. The good thing about our drive over the hills and through the bushes, was that it will most likely be our only chance to see such scenery again. This is what I call “classic australian scenery”: Dry, windy trees/bushes, terracotta-colored dirt-roads and yellow signs warning against kangaroos and cattle.
As I write these lines we are stationed in a camper park in the middle of the rainforest by Cape Tribulation. It is one of the very few places on earth, where the rainforest meets the ocean. Between our camp-site and the coast there is a mangrove-belt of apprx 100 meters, before a very broad belt of shallow waters come. In low tide it is just an endless beach, perfect for walking and playing some ball. In high tide the beach disappears, and we have to watch out. This is certainly crocodile territory, and there is a general warning sign. Not just in case of recent sightings. The croc’s are there, so generally just watch out!
Right now the rainforest really does live up to its name. Its pouring down! Not constantly, but in showers of about 30-45 minutes. The showers are like floodgates opening, and the water simply comes down! Of course we were caught on a rainforest hike by such a downpour. We were walking on a marked path, and just as we were about half way through our route, it started. It was right there where it doesn’t really matter if you go back or continue. You get wet anyway! We tried to seek shelter under some broad palm-leaves, but it did not really help much. So we continued and finally found a real shelter, where we could eat our food, drink our water, and wait for the rain to stop. This took about an hour. This incident brought my attention to the fact that I do need a new, waterproof jacket!
We have learned that the camper parks are excellent places to meet australians. Alexandra has been in Australia twice before, but back then she was staying in hostels. We have done this as well, and it certainly is a good place to meet people. But you mostly meet other, international travelers in hostels. Interesting people to talk to as we always get many good hints and tips for our onward journey. But in hostels you do not meet australians to the same extent. This is where the camper parks of Northern Queensland come in handy for us. Australians from all over south and eastern Australia drive up to tropical Queensland, as it gets cold in their own regions down south this time of year. This is THE place to be from May through to September. By October it usually gets extremely hot and humid, with temperatures well above 40 degrees celsius and everyone flees away again. Thus we have so far met quite a few australians from south and south-east.
We have been to quite a few camper parks by now. And I guess you can say that we have also gotten used to the routines of camping. It really is a GREAT way of traveling with Anton. Very often we meet other children and he will then have a faboulus time playing with them. A good way for us to relax a bit as well. One of the best places so far, was by Ellis Beach, about one hour north of Cairns. The campground is literally ON the beach. By arrival we did not know whether to take a powered site or an unpowered site. The difference was 8 dollars per night, which can be much, as we only use the power to charge our phones and laptop. But oftentimes the powered sites have the best locations. So we started to just look around, and as we got to the very end of the camper park, we came to the unpowered part. This was the sandy beach! Just 10 meters to the waters edge! Matter solved! No power, but great location, great waves and thousands of stars on the night sky, between the palm-trees. And a good play-mate for Anton just two sites away. We stayed here a couple of days, relaxing and walking along the beach.
Our good friend Neil, who took excellent care of us when we arrived in Brisbane four weeks ago, had a business trip to Cairns this past week. This was a good excuse to meet up again (third time actually!). He took us to a great steak restaurant in Cairns, where we could also have kangaroo and crocodile, if wanted. I kept to the well known steak of beef (a great New York steak!) but needless to say, Alexandra had to try the croc meat! Neil recommended a combination plate of “Croc & Roo”, which would give her both kangaroo and crocodile, just in case she did not like the croc. She already knew she would like the kangaroo, so this was a good advice. And even though the crocodile was certainly edible, it turned out to not be quite the experience she had hoped for. A bit like chicken, but with texture like beef. It was prepared like a schnitzel, with lots of butter and crumble. This is not really Alexandras favorite combination, but the meat was “interesting” anyway. As she says: “At least I have now tried it!” She is considering to buy some croc meat at a butchers, marinade it and throw it on the barbecue. I am still “on the fence” on that one. The kangaroo was ok, but croc... I don’t know!
We have booked our flights to Sydney, and will leave from Cairns on the 18th of June. The remaining time up here in the north will be spent watching crocodiles, visit a local zoo with koalas, emu’s and cassowaries. There are still some beaches to walk and we still have to explore central Cairns. So far we have only been driving quickly through.
When we get to Sydney, one of the must see’s are of course Utzons world famous Opera house, Sydney Harbour Bridge and much, much more. We will stay in the area for 10 days, and include a drive to Blue Mountains just an hour from Sydney. It is supposed to be a beautiful area. By the end of June we will fly down to Adelaide, and from there we start our drive up “The Great Ocean Road”, taking us to Melbourne. We will by then have to get used to some different temperatures than we have had so far on our journey. Until now, we have only been traveling in mild/warm tropical and sub-tropical areas. When we arrive in southern Australia, the winter has kicked in, and all the warm clothes that has been stowed away in the bottom of the rucksack since we left Munich, will come to great use. Melbourne will, by the way, be our final stop in Australia, before we fly on to New Zealand.