Travelling Australia
Wayne & Pam BENTLEY

Sunday 19th May 2004 to Tuesday 21st May 2004

Wednesday 19th May 2004

Happy Birthday Jackson Bell - Our Great Nephew is 1 year old today!

We managed to get up this morning to a glorious day. The sun was shining, there was a very slight cooling breeze puffing away and the temperature at 8:00am was 18 degrees. I'm sure there were things that could have made it better - but I don't know what they would have been!

After a lazy start to the day we took a short drive to the top of Castle Mountain, which stands guard over the Townsville City Centre and provides views right out over the ocean and inland as far as the mountain ranges. We remained on top of Castle Mountain for quite some time whilst 'one of us' chatted up an older Czechoslovakian gentleman whilst the 'other one' clambered around the viewing areas taking a good number of photographs.

From here it was down to the flat land again and out to Laverack Army Barracks for a last look at the lines in which I spent some of my seven months whilst training up before my tour of Vietnam with the 6th Royal Australian Regiment. A little nostalgic and I could see the quarters I slept in over that time. I guess I can't lay too much claim on them as there will have been a lot of others sleeping in that same room over the past thirty five years it has been since I was in it. There are no photographs of them in the web site because when I called in at the sentry post at the entrance to the base, I was informed that no photographs were permitted on, in or into from outside the base, all for security reasons of course. Naturally I complied with this instruction but can't really see how they could ever enforce the last bit of that instruction because the main highway drives right passed the length of the base.

Then it was in to the City Centre and on to 'The Strand', which is a very nice grassed area that runs along the ocean front on the North side of the city centre. This has been very well developed to provide access to the beach to anyone, with picnic areas and a few restaurants and take away's just across the road. Unfortunately the water is not safe to swim in because of the very painful or even fatal effects of the local stingers. Consequently there are a couple of areas that have stinger nets enclosing them and swimming is safe in those areas they say.... We did not test them out, so can't verify that claim. However we did have a Red Rooster lunch on the grass, looking out over the water and across to Magnetic Island and thought it was a very pleasant view.

After that it was time to do a few things that needed to be caught up with, including filling the patrol with 80 litres of diesel at 96.9 cents per litre (after 4 cpl Woolworths docket discount). Townsville is a very different place to the one I knew back in late 1968 and we have both enjoyed our visit here this time, but tomorrow morning it is time to move on to Cairns.

Townsville City and port with Cape Cleveland National Park in the background

Looking over North Townsville and 'The Strand' to Magnetic Island - from Castle Mountain

Thursday 20th May 2004

The lights hadn't been turned on when we woke up this morning, but it was 6:am and it didn't take long for the light to show through the curtains. This meant an early start and we managed to pull out of the caravan park by about 7:40am.

Northward Ho on the Bruce Highway again, maybe for the last time, at least on this trip anyway. After about three quarters of an hour we saw a turn off to Crystal Creek Falls in Mt Spec National Park so decided as we had time to spare, we would check them out. After finding at the turn off to 'Little Crystal Creek' it was about thirteen kilometres on a gravel road, we chose to pull into 'Crystal Creek which was only about 4 km in to the foot of the mountain range. We first crossed a small creek that was very thick with lush undergrowth, so we took some photographs before continuing in to Crystal Creek itself. The main creek was quite pretty, although the water level was fairly low. We had only been there for a short time when the sky seemed to go dark and we realised that the mosquitoes were so thick they were almost blocking out the sun. (A slight exaggeration but not too much!) We took a few photographs as well as a few bites and then got out of there pretty quick.

About another half hour up the road we came across a turn off to Jourama National Park and decided to have a look at this one as well. I was looking for a spot I had visited back in 1969 when traveling to Cairns with a couple of army mates in a hired car. This time we 'got lucky' and this was the spot we had called in on thirty five years ago. Although it may not have been made for large caravans, we didn't have too many troubles getting in there and it was well worth the effort. This was a very pretty spot with a couple of creeks still running over concrete causeways. I could explain it all but our photographs will do that when we get the chance to bore people to tears with them.

Back on the Bruce Highway again and we finally made it to the first town. We went through Toobanna, Ingham, Cardwell, Mourillyan, Innesfail, Barbinda, Deeral, Fishery Falls and Edmonton before arriving in Cairns. The further north we came the louder the 'other one' (the camel driver) kept exclaiming '@#$&# I'm $#%& Blown @#$@% Away!!!!!!. We were driving along the mountain ranges with sugar cane plantations, banana plantations and even the occasional pineapple field along the side of the road. Obviously there was the odd photograph or two taken along the way.

On arrival in Cairn we booked into the Cairns Coconut Resort, which is one of about three 5 star caravan parks in Australia. More on the park later, but there is one thing we do know, it deserves the 5 stars it has been awarded.

Tomorrow we have booked to take the historic Kuranda train to Kuranda Village at about 8:30am and then the Sky Rail back to cairns at about 3:30pm in the afternoon. Right now though it is time to enjoy a cold drink.

Jourama National Park

Hinchenbrook Island

Friday 21st May 2004

WOW! might be the word for today. We were up nice and early again and out standing by the gate into the caravan park by 8:30am, all ready with cameras and anticipation for a good day of what us tourist do best - sight seeing.

We were picked up by a tourist bus and taken to the Kuranda Rail Station to await out train ride up the mountains through the forests to the town of - yes - Kuranda! This journey was about 34 kilometres in length and took us about an hour and three quarters to travel. The first part of the trip provided views back over Cairns, the ocean and we could even see Green Island in the distance. As the train climbed higher into the mountains the scenery changed and we were passing through short tunnels and over bridges that were all made the hard way, with picks, shovels and rivets way back in the later part of the 1800's. (about 1894 or so we think)

There was one stop on the way to Kuranda and that was at a platform that provided magnificent views of Barron Falls and down along the Barron Gorge. Although the wet season finished about two months ago, there was enough water flowing over the falls to create a reasonable effect. The falls are also effected by the Hydro Power generating plant that draws the water off the river above the falls and then discharges it again below the falls.

From Barron Falls we made the rest of the journey up into the little town of Kuranda. This is a very pleasant little town that appears to cater almost solely for tourists. There were markets and numerous stalls throughout the few streets of the town, along with a fine array of food outlets, a hotel and shops that seemed to sell all sorts of artifacts. For those interested in wildlife there were parks that had various samples of animals and insects etc.

Whilst in Kuranda, 'one of us' expended a considerable amount of money on souvenirs and gifts for a number of family members. We also sampled the fruit at one of the stores and later tried an eighteen hour steak at one of the restaurants. The ice cream was also tested by 'one of us' and the 'other one' had his arm twisted until he tried one as well.

The journey home was even more spectacular as this was made on the Kuranda Sky rail. This is like a chair lift except that the chairs have been replaced by enclosed gondolas which seat up to 6 people in each one. The views from these gondolas is very spectacular and unimpeded by anything other than the cables and pylons that it rides on. The Rainforest under the gondolas has not been disturbed at all and one can look directly down into the forest and see it as it has been for thousands of years.

There are two stops on the way back and at each one it is possible to get off and enjoy the views and even find out more about the area through the interactive information stations set up for that purpose. At the second stop there is even a guided 15 minute tour of the Rainforest along a built up boardwalk. Well worth the time to take it.

At the end of the Sky rail. journey there were more souvenirs to be examined before boarding the tourist bus that returned us safely to the caravan park for the night. (about $350 lighter in our pockets, mostly souvenirs!)

This days activities were recommended to us by our youngest daughter Jay and also our great friends Graham and Jocelyn Robertson. We now concur with all they said about it and recommend it to anyone who has the fortune to travel this way in the future.

Kuranda Train entering a tunnel

WOW! - Blown Away again!!!

Kuranda Sky rail over the Rainforest