6th July 2012
Waking up from my deep sleep, I lifted my head out of my snugly sleeping bag and peeked out of the curtain. It was still fairly dark and my hopes to see a spectacular sunrise over the majestic Mission Beach was dashed when the sight that greeted me was a traditional English overcast clouds. Goddammit! Means a couple more hours sleep in especially the mammoth task of driving around the tablelands as a tour guide for Smera and Phil and the dark drive to Mission Beach has taken it out of me!
Waking up a few hours later, I was still disappointed to find the weather was still the same, this time add in constant wind. Smera and I looked at each other. Was this going to be like this all the way down the East Coast? We knew we would be coming in for winter but still we hoped to have warm weather.
As I pulled my trousers on going to the toilet (a skill only learnt by backpackers), Wongaling Beach, just south of Mission Beach and the location of many backpacker hostels, struck me with awe and I ended up walking onto it singing Coldplay’s Yellow. Yep, if you’ve seen the music video..lt was similar weather on that! But wind forced me back to Bruce Freddie and open his back to get the cooker going. I want my English Breakfast! The howling winds nearly didn’t make that happen but with some positioning of the van and my body, the stove was able to light up and cook some sausages, eggs and beans. Nom nom nom! Great start to the day.
After taking a few snaps of Wongaling Beach we took note of the weather and decided not to stick around. I mean, you’re on a beach in cold and windy weather…might as well be back in England! So we popped over 4 kilometres to Mission Beach to check it out. It’s pretty cool. The palm trees on the weirdly soft sand. Yeah it was good. I liked it. My face said it all.
Hopping back into the van, I drove again. Why? I’m more alert in the mornings and Smera is more alert in the afternoons so we agreed to drive when we are more alert. Don’t be getting the impression that Smera is a banshee on acid having a bad hair day in the mornings. It’s nothing to do with THAT impression. Wink.
Turning on the radio to listen to some weird Australian talk show, we whittled away the kilometres (they don’t do miles here) down south and stopped off one of the many Queensland Government Road Schemes on the Bruce Highway. Every 40 mins drive on the Bruce Highway, there is a rest stop. It’s manned purely by volunteers who try and ‘revive’ you for your driving. You got to bear in mind that Australia is BIG and to drive from Cairns to Brisbane in one journey would take 20 hours. Lots of people used to do that in the early days and thus have many road accidents due to tiredness. That’s when the government stepped in and introduced these schemes. At this rest stop, I got given free tea and biscuits. I liked this very much. Actually, Britain should do this instead of highly overpriced service stations. Yorkshire Tea would be given out with hob nobs. I’ll take it to David Cameron. It’s a great scheme I think and I did get chatting to a few Australians who gave me the tea and they explained the schemes.
Back on the road, it was proving to be a mission to get to where we wanted to be. Not that its far…Wallaman Falls was our terminal stop for the day, but rather how long the journey could seem. The terrain is ever changing but the road is extremely straight which I think makes the journey seem longer. At Smera’s suggestion before we get to Ingham and after Cardwell, that we make a stop at Halifax, where Italian Americans went to settle and of course, the place where it shares the same name as a certain town in England. We checked it out. It was DESOLATE! Beautiful town but where were the people? We could see the Italian influence with many pizza offerings but nah, it didn’t impress me. Check out our impressions.
But one think Halifax did impress, their perchance for road messages. I liked this and also a chance to do a bit of modelling of sexy me.
Earlier as I drove past Cardwell, we could see a massive island off the coastline. This my friends is Hitchinbroke Island, a sight of significant untouched Environmental importance that contains reams and reams of wildlife. However, you do need lots of money to get on the environmental paradise. Something I was sadly lacking. But the view of the large island more than made up for it. My camera couldn’t really capture the panoramic beauty.
But as we were in Halifax, I could see on the map that a town further down the road would give us a good view of the southern edge of the island. Lucinda.
A quick 9km away, we pulled up to the seafront and were utterly gob smacked at the obstacle in our way. A huge Sugar Train Track running into the sea into the horizon where I guess Brisbane laid. The area we were in is known for its sugar production. There are sugar cane fields with its sugar cane train tracks that run for miles on end as your roar down the Bruce Highway. Check out the pic. It was pretty unusual.
Snarfing down lunch on the beach, I tried to get a shot of the island but the damn track was in the way. I did the next best thing. I took a picture of myself. In glasses.
Soon it was mid afternoon, I duly handed over the keys to Smera and chilled plenty with my iPod stuck on shuffle as I gazed out at the sugar cane fields and the odd squashed snake on the road.
Australian people are especially friendly and will help you out if you have a question. Despite studying a poor map, we ended up going the Wrong direction and pulled up at a roadworks stop. The guy holding the STOP sign was able to point us the right way, bless him, and then we were headed to the tallest single drop waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. Wallaman Falls. It’s a journey to get there but it’s worth it to see Girrigan National Park Mountains come jutting out the sugar cane fields and come closer. Again, for the second time in 2 days, we forced Bruce Freddy to climb uphill the mountains. If you do head this way, watch out for potholes and stroppy cows. I don’t mean Smera, I know what you guys are thinking, but it’s the real roaming cows that just sit in the road without a care in the world. You could beep your horn at them. They won’t move. Yell at them, they won’t move. They just stare at you. I didn’t get out of the van as they looked like they could get mad cow disease at any moment and go zombie like on me but we managed to skirt our way round them with menacing looks from the bovine creatures.
Finally we arrived at Wallaman Falls lookout! Now, for me seeing these falls is one of the top highlights for me. It’s stunning! It’s noisy and it’s great! The water looked like it was evaporating before it hit the pool creating a shroudy illusion at the bottom. It’s very cool.
A few snaps later, I needed the toilet. The falls had that effect on me.
Pulling up at our final stop, Wallaman Falls Camping Ground, we met a extremely nice elderly couple on their travels in their campervan, John and Hazel, who immediately told us their life story. It was pretty cool to listen to them. They were the 10 pound pommies that came to Australia in the 1960s and brought their 2 daughters with them, they actually travelled around Australia and took their children out of school to do correspondence schooling. Very cool indeed. They saw everything. They went on to list where they have travelled to Peru, Bali, Canada, Italy and everything. They had EVERYTHING cool to say. They were even on one of the last old Concordes coming to Australia.
They even helped us out when we had a problem with the gas container, thinking we already ran out, but after a few bangs with their spanner, we had gas again! They knew their stuff and already in their 70s, they were more agile and fitter than me!
The rest of the night was spent sitting round a bonfire with them as we exchanged stories and impressions of Australia and England. They did give Smera and I a huge perspective on why Australia could seem backwards to us in some aspects and on why they could seem more advanced to us in some aspects. A big example was having a shower in the laundry room. So that coming back from smelly inducing activities, they could strip off their dirty washing in the room immediately after the back door and take a shower before coming into the rest of the house. That australian principle definitely seemed sensible. But I didn’t ask the question, if they stripped and showered…does that mean walking around the house naked to the bedroom? but I suddenly got too shy to ask such a question to my elderly peers!
Calling it a night, we were given a special surprise as we climbed in the van. A bandicoot came to say hello to us! This rat looking animal did not seem fazed at having humans in such close proximity and carried on eating even as Smera positioned her camera literally less than 30cm away from the animal. Another wildlife spot checked off, in no way it looks like the creature from the Playstation Game, Crash Bandicoot.
So that’s Koala and Kangeroo next on the wildlife spotting hit list!
In bed, I remained excited as I couldn’t wait to wake up to walk down to the bottom of Wallaman Falls and hopefully have a little bracing swim around the pool. It’s gonna be goooood and sweeeeeeeeet!