Sunday 23rd November 2014 Day 76
We left just after 9.10am this morning and headed south a short distance to a local youth club facility for the morning worship of the Whitsunday’s Baptist Church. We were made very welcome into a lively congregation with a cross section of ages. They appear to be a church plant and are in a time of transition, seeking a new pastor. The service, to a degree, reflected this with the focus, especially in the Word, on the mission of the church which was distilled into Believe, Belong, Become. The underlying message was the importance of commitment to these principles with a challenge for all to join in moving the church forward. Church members were also involved in schoolies ministry, starting this week, there were lots of youngsters in town. We heard of several arrests of year 12 school leavers following incidents along the Gold Coast.
After coffee and a doughnut, in fellowship with church members we set out towards Townsville. Rejoining the A1 we headed north once more for our lunch stop in Bowen, pausing briefly at the giant mango (picture available upon request) for tourist information. We had our picnic at a sheltered table at the top of Flagstaff hill, with a view over a series of islands to Gloucester Island. After lunch we visited Horseshoe and Grays Beaches then Queens Beach, at the mouth of the Don River.
Reluctantly shaking the sand from our shoes we climbed back into the car and resumed the drive, arriving in Townsville just after 6.00pm having traversed another large area of sugar cane production around Ayr. As well as the ubiquitous narrow gauge railway crossings we saw the burning of a cane field.
Once settled into our hotel we walked across the bridge over Ross Creek to seek out the ferry terminal for our planned morning on Magnetic Island. We were unsuccessful in this endeavour but we did find a Zizzi restaurant where we shared a pizza. Joyce then found her second favourite ice cream in the whole world, Baskin Robbins Jamoca almond fudge, which was eaten before returning to the hotel.
Monday 24th November 2014 Day 77 Magnetic mission
We consulted the map again and found we had not walked far enough the previous evening. Checking out of the hotel at 8.00am we left the car in their car park and retraced our steps of the previous evening, pressing on to find the Sealink terminal in time to catch the 8.45 am ferry to Magnetic Island, which lies 8 kilometers off the coast and was named by Captain Cooke, who thought the Island had affected his compass. The island is made largely of granite and boasts dramatic inland and coastal landscapes dominated by tors and rounded granite boulders.
Arriving in Nelly Bay we caught the local bus, which shuttles from one end of the island to the other, along the 8 km highway, intending to spend a couple of hours at Horseshoe Bay swimming and sunbathing. Unfortunately this was not to be, as the beach was closed for swimming as they had yet to install their stinger net. We therefore jumped straight back on the bus and travelled south to Alma bay, Arcadia, where we enjoyed a swim ‘between the flags’ in the warm tropical waters under the watchful eye of a surf lifeguard.
Another bus ride brought us to the very south of the island at Picnic Bay, where there was a stinger net. Deciding against another swim we took the bus back to the ferry port, from where we returned to Townsville and the car. In passing the ice cream shop, Joyce could not resist another shot of ice cream.
From the hotel we drove to the top of Castle Hill, the 286 m pink granite hill which dominates the city and offers fine views over the city on Ross Creek, the Ross River, the coast, Magnetic Island and the hinterland. We enjoyed our lunch at the top admiring the views whilst holding onto our sandwich wrappers in the brisk wind.
We then turned the car northwards again, once more on the A1, heading towards Mission Beach. On the way we passed though Ingham, another sugar can centre and Cardwell, with its extended main street along the beach. Before Cardwell a lookout gave fine views over mountainous Hinchinbrook Island just as the new highway ran through a cutting, complete with tunnels and aerial ropeways to assist safe animal movement.
After passing through Tully we turned east to Mission Beach and found the resort where we were staying. We enjoyed a lamb shank meal in their restaurant, 3 courses for the price of the main course.
Tuesday 25th November 2014. Day 78 Waterfall wonderland
Leaving at 9.10am we headed for Trinity Beach, north of Cairns, via the Atherton tablelands, which has many attractions for the discerning tourist, especially if they are interested in waterfalls. The gps took us on a by pass of the town of Innisfail, which took us through a variety of farmland, including a sugar plantation where we were treated to a display of mechanical cutting and loading of a cane train. As we climbed towards the plateau we stopped at Crawford’s lookout which gave a fine view over the South Johnstone river. On the outskirts of Millaa Millaa we found the waterfall circuit, with access to Ellinjaa, Zillie and Millaa Millaa falls.
In this part of the tablelands the plateau is deeply incised and the hills and valleys, generally used for grazing, creates a very attractive landscape.
From here we followed the signs to Ravenshoe, Queensland highest town with its highest pub. The minor road was narrow and very winding, but the scenery made up for the slow pace. Before we reached Ravenshoe we passed another tourist attraction, Windy Hill Wind Farm. We stopped for a late morning coffee at 12.30pm in the bakery then headed for the Millstream falls, reputedly Australia’s widest single drop waterfall.
Our next target was the Mount Hypipamee National Park where we admired the crater, a most impressive volcanic feature 60 meters diameter and over 80 meters deep, with a lake at the bottom. The path leads to a viewpoint perched right on the edge of the vertical sides of the pipe. Descending from here we viewed the Dinner Falls, a popular site full of tourist, made up of apparently gap year students (mainly female), swimming in the plunge pool.
We then turned east to Malanda, with its waterfall, via Bromfield swamp, which lies in a volcanic crater. Our next objective was Eacham and Barrine Lakes, a pair of crater lakes. Unfortunately access to Eacham Lake was impossible as all roads were closed for some unannounced reason. Eric tried to walk in but was discouraged by the sight of people in orange coveralls.
Barrine Lake was open and we enjoyed the view of this feature. Time was now pressing so we ignored the myriad other enticing prospects and drove via Yungabarra, Atherton, Mareeba and Kuranda. Joyce was disappointed that we were too late to visit the coffee plantations we passed, which complemented the nearby tea plantations.
From Kuranda the road made a very steep and winding descent to the coastal plain, with a fine viewpoint over Cairns and the northern beaches. Once near sea level we joined the Captain Cook Highway which took us north before diverting east to Trinity Beach where we soon found our B&B accommodation. Once settle we popped out for an Italian repast (repasta?).
Wednesday 26th November 2014. Day 79 Trinity tranquility
We had, for only the second time in the trip so far, nothing planned for today so we took full advantage of the lacuna. A leisurely morning was followed by a shopping trip for lunch, groceries and a replacement pair of sandals for Eric. We then had a walk on Trinity beach followed by a swim. A roast chicken dinner cooked in our B&B completed our rest day.
Thursday 27th November 2014. Day 80 Reef reprise
This morning again started early as we had to be at the Reef Fleet Centre in Cairns by 7.30am for our second visit to the Great Barrier Reef. As we are staying around 20 kilometres north of the city Eric reckoned that leaving by 7.00am should give ample time to get there and park, forgetting that we would be travelling in rush hour. The other assumption he made was that the gps would find the address published on the website. Alarm bells rang when the building number of the address was not recognised by the machine, but we pushed on regardless to end up in the middle of a street with no sign of our destination. From the gps display Eric was able to find the centre and the car parking immediately next door, which cost us $12.12 for the day, including the 1% surcharge, at the second machine we tried.
We rushed across the road fearing we were late, only to find a long queue at our company’s check in desk in the terminal. After 20 minutes we were processed, given our numbers, and found our way aboard a small boat with over one hundred other people. This compared unfavourably with our first reef experience, especially as all the activities were to be conducted from the vessel, not a separate barge as at Reefworld. Diving on this trip had to be pre-booked therefore we both were only snorkelling, so soon after the boat left the dock we were issued with snorkelling gear and stinger suits, an optional extra on this trip. Eric opted to hire an underwater camera, rather than risk his own, which had worked on the reef off Mombasa but which was now four years older.
The trip to our first stop, Saxon Reef, was a little lively and because of limited seating and a full boat we were confined to the inside main deck cabin. Once at the reef we had a good couple of hours to snorkels. Eric headed off on his own with the camera, as happy as a kid at Christmas. Joyce again opted for a safari with one of the staff, her partner was fearful and clung to the life ring and this curtailed the trip. However, she had a second opportunity to go out further and saw more fish and coral.
Lunch followed this adventure, a BBQ with steak, sausages, fish and the ubiquitous prawns. The boat then moved to North Hastings reef where helicopter and semi-submersible trips were on offer. Joyce decided not to snorkel again but went on the semi-submersible and was rewarded in seeing several golden clown fish, but no Nemos. While Eric again happily snorkelled round and round for a couple of hours taking pictures of anything that moved. He is not expecting great results from his efforts as photographing wildlife that is usually in constant motion and that can move in three dimensions while the photographer is also moving in three dimensions, driven by the swell, means that measured and carefully composed shots are few and far between. However Eric had great fun in trying.
After the final recall to the boat, returning kit, changing and paying for the optional extras we enjoyed crackers and cheese as the bat headed back to Cairns. Once we had disembarked we strolled along the Esplanade, admiring their recently erected and decorated Christmas tree set among palm trees and against a brilliant blue tropical sky, and the lagoon, the swimming pool replacement for the miniscule natural beach. After a brief pause for ice cream (Joyce only noticed afterwards that there was a shop selling her very favourite ice cream, Movenpick chocolate, she considered having it, but decided one ice cream was enough – hoping to return another day) and coffee we explored the centre of Cairns further, finding little to excite, before driving back to Trinity Beach.