Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Australian Adventure: Brisbane, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Cairns, Kuranda, Green Island

DAY 1 - Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast

After arriving in Brisbane, we collected our Thrifty Mitsubishi Pajero (Montero) and headed some 30 minutes south to the fridge hire place - Camping Hire Australia. The onboard fridge is brilliant to keep milk, cheese and meats cold for breakfast between stops and roadside or park lunch stops.

With the fridge in place we could really start our adventure, heading north via the Bruce Hwy to Forest Glen in the Sunshine Coast.

Dinner at the park resturant - Verandahs - was terrific. The Barramundi dish was flavorful and artistically presented. The vegetarian Thai Tofu with Green Curry was supurb as well.

DAY 2 - Sunshine Coast to Bundaberg via Noosa

First stop was a kids activity. Nostalgia Town seemed to fit the bill for fun featuring a ride in Albert's Time Machine, the Enchanted Railway and a round of mini golf in a graveyard.

We visited Noosa for lunch and a few groceries. We also found the Koala Resort has an Internet Cafe where we caught up on some e-mails

After lunch we settled in for the bulk of the day's drive to Bundaburg. Bundaberg is famous for it's brewed Ginger Beer soft drink and of course Bundaburg Rum.

Dinner at the local RSL was functional and very economical, feeding a family of 4 for about A$35.

Day 3 - Bundaberg, Rockhampton, MacKay

At a roadhouse stop we met Ken and Helen Harris on their way to the Brisbane to Gold Coast rally. They'll be joined by rallyists from other capital cities around Australia to support the Variety Club benefits for the needs of underprivileged and handicapped children. We wish Ken and Helen good luck and safe rallying.

Tropical Caravan Park is about 5km south of MacKay on the highway. Our cabin was in the back so the highway noise did not pose a probem.

The cabin at Tropical needed some airing out of musty odors when we got there. The park is recently under new ownership and is recovering from being severely run down.

Day 4 - MacKay to Townsville

We found this little cafe on the beachfront at Horseshoe Cove just outside of Bowen. After lunch we enjoyed a short bushwalk to a lookout.

Saturday night at the caravan park we were treated to an Aussie BBQ and fed the family for $6, listened to some local entertainment, and enjoyed a fireworks display.

DAY 5 - Townsville - Magnetic Island

To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised at how clean and modern Townsville was. The historic high streets were alive with cafes nicely decorated in a quaint way that belies the modern sea port just a few km away.

We took the Magnetic Island ferry ($47 for a family of 4) across the straight for a quick 20 minute crossing. We'd decided to hire the Mini Moke rather than use the bus service.

For those of you who know me, the Moke was a tight fit. Getting the little buggy into reverse required some unnatural contortions. The island speed limit is 60 km/hr but 40 km/hr suited us as the use of 4th gear was limited by the ergonomics of a vehicle designed for those with a lesser stature. The speedo max indication of 140 km/hr was ambitious we thought.

We found a short bush walk before lunch and found some interesting little lizards with orange heads. We were also fortunate to observe a wild bush turkey foraging on the hillside, an eagle riding the air currents over the beach, little swimmer crabs buried in the sand, lorikeets chattering in the trees and guinnea fowl foraging in a field. Our lunch stop found us at a pub on Horseshoe Bay followed by a kids swim in the balmy shallow waters with a gentle lapping surf. Our selection of holiday in August was well chosen as there was no danger of the stinging jellyfish normally active from November to May.

Back at the camp the kids went on a successful frog hunt - two green rainforest tree frogs were discovered. On returning to the cabin we had a special treat - 2 geckos standing guard over our door hunting fat juicy moths and mozzies.

Day 6 - Townsville - Cairns

Today was a traveling day. We made the 4 hour trek from Townsville to Cairns along the Bruce Hwy with a lunch stop in Ingham and a detour to Lumholtz National Park for a short walk and viewing of these spectacular falls.

If We Had More Time.... There were signs to an attraction "Paronella - The Dream Continues" near Innisfail that seemed quite interesting.

Day 7 - Cairns - Kuranda

The gondola ride via SkyRail over the 5.7 mile distance took us high over the rainforest canopy where we had a good look at the treetops and traveled through no fewer than 3 microclimates. The view out to Cairns, the islands and reef was breathtaking with visibility in excess of 16 km.

There were 2 stops along the way where we could get out and explore the boardwalks and interpretive centers. A family of 4 can ride the tram one way for A$75 and return by bus for $16.

In Kuranda Village we found the Butterfly House and a Bird World. Entry for 1 Adult and 2 kids for both attractions was $32.

Our tour package included a return trip by rail in these vintage rail cars over 11 bridges and 15 tunnels as we descended the spectacular gorge.

Day 8 - Cairns - Quiet Day

"Beautiful one day - perfect the next".

We used the day to laze by the pool, for the kid to play in the Adventure Playground, and to do some shopping in downtown Cairns. I also took some time to take photos of the resort seen to the right.

After the low key accommodations we'd had until now, the Deluxe Villa (with spa tub) was like a first class hotel. Breakfast was served on the front verandah and the kids even helped with washing up the dishes.

The kids practiced their swimming and snorkeling in the pool to get ready for the reef snorkel adventure on Friday. For the afternoon we wandered into Cairns and did some souvenir shopping and found a Greek restaurant serving a set menu of Tapas. Yum!

No one was on Cairns beach. This is probably due to the fact that the beach is really a large shallow mud flat at low tide. Nice beaches can be found further north along Daintree and Cape Tribulation - just stay away from the river mouths where the crocs are more likely to be found.

Just in last month, local authorities captured an 8 foot crocodile on Cairns beach! We were also told the secret of how the locals maintain their dark complexions - they sunbathe on the mud beach. Believe It or Not

Day 9 - Cairns, Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation

An important element critical to the rainforest's survival is also endangered - the cassowary. The kids pose with a life size model.

This aggressive - even dangerous dinosaur of a bird is a primary seed disperser of rainforest fruits. The gentle digestive system actually aids in the germination of the seed. Lab tests of cassowary droppings shows a 98% germination rate of 'processed' seeds.

Next on the intinery was a river cruise on the River Train. We opted for the 2.5 hour tour ($83) that included a rainforest walk and talk and morning 'smoko' (tea and biscuits). We sighted 3 crocs, a green tree snake, and numerous birds.

We learned that you don't use the broad leaves of the Gimpie Gimpie (Stinging Tree) for T.P. The mineral silica based hairs on the plant are hollow and the sap is toxic causing extreem pain for months. Use a hair removal gel or race tape (duct tape) to extract the stingers if you get unlucky.

If We Had More Time... We would have continued just past Cape Tribulation and returned to Cairns via the dirt 4WD track for an uncommon view of the Daintree.

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