Troopy goes to Queensland 1999. Part 1

Tuesday, Jun 15, 1999 at 15:58

Member - John and Val

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Our Tasmanian trip in 1997 had left us with an appetite for further travel. We had a house-sitter this year so with nothing to stop us, north we went

On 2nd June we left home just north of Canberra taking a slightly different route than usual, travelling via Boorowa and Cowra to Parkes. Then up the road to Dubbo, Gilgandra and Coonamble. We spent our first night out at Walgett at the Roontheben Caravan Park on the northern side of town. It’s run by a couple of brothers who also have a nursery and have planted a lot of trees on the site which is sometimes covered by a few feet of floodwater for weeks at a time.

Next day we travelled to Collarenebri, then to Mungindi via long dirt road which in places was a bit rough. Remote country, so we passed very few other vehicles. Up through St. George and Roma passing a variety of crops. Looked for the Expedition National Park east of Carnarvon Gorge NP but could find no directions to it. Very few opportunities here to get off the road for the night but finally found a track onto the cleared area and far enough from the road.

Continuing on we passed through Rolleston and Springsure to Emerald and Clermont Along the way we passed a lot of cropping - cotton, sorghum and sunflowers. The country through Qld was pleasantly varied with rugged country at Springsure, then Peak Range north of Clermont and volcanic peaks around Nebo. Quite a long run into Mackay from Clermont, road in some parts quite narrow. Decided to spend the first night outside Mackay at Teemburra Dam. This involved a pleasant drive from Eton through extensive sugar cane areas at the western end of the Dawson Valley and then a steep climb up to the dam that apparently is fairly new. The tourist brochures suggested that there was a camping area there but after a steep climb up from the valley the only facility was one toilet - albeit a fairly new composting type with a verandah and a solar powered light. As there was no-one else about this seemed a reasonable place to spend the night. It was very quiet, just some water birds on the lake. From just above our camp there was a ridge-line giving great views over the valley below - across a huge area of sugar cane.

After a quiet, warm night we spent some time in the morning reorganising Troopy, putting away doonas and jumpers which we needed on the trip up, and getting shorts and t-shirts accessible. Then we set out to explore. Drove up Finch Hatton Gorge through more areas of sugar cane. We walked in some rainforest and saw some waterfalls, then headed further up the valley to Eungella. The road up the escarpment is very steep in places. At the top is a superb view and a hang glider launching platform. Drove on over the tableland through some more patches of very thick rainforest and had lunch at Broken River where there is a platypus viewing platform. But no platypus in sight, just some tame turtles that seemed to expect to be fed, and insistent scrub turkeys.

We decided to pass Mackay, and set out for the coast at Seaforth, a little holiday and retirement village to the north. The beach there was quite pretty, but little surf and coarse sand. The beach is lined with coconut palms that were carrying lots of nuts. There were heaps of nuts on the ground. We were surprised to see that the locals did not appear to value them, using them as garden borders and as cobbles for paths. We collected a few to sample.

Searching for a place to stay we headed out to what looked like a likely spot at Hillsborough NP. The camping area was just behind the beach, which typically was a mixture of sand and mud but with quite a few hoop pines coming down to the edge of the beach. There were wallabies and scrub turkeys in the camping area. There were BBQs but not much wood to be had, so we shared the BBQ with a couple who were travelling around selling hats. We opened a green coconut and decided it was edible.

Next day we went into Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour and found the area quite built up compared to how it was when we were last here. There seemed to be few opportunities for day visitors. We found a spot above the harbour close to where we had camped in about 1965. Drove around the built up area of Shute Harbour, which seems to have been limited by the steep hills. Had a look at the harbour and decided against taking a coral viewing cruise just yet - we needed to get the feel of the place a bit better.

Headed on to Bowen through more sugar. There were some pretty little beaches and caravan parks but they were all very crowded. We went out to Abbot Point in search of a camp but found only a coal loader surrounded by high fences. There aren’t many NPs in this area. So on to Home Hill through some quite uninteresting country. Spent the night in Home Hill caravan park. Most of the people there seemed to be following the crops - had a lengthy chat with a fellow who told us about the crops in the area - tomatoes, capsicums etc. But the working conditions and pay don’t sound very good.

Going on to Ayr and Townsville we found a very good Information centre on the southern approaches to Townsville with very good facilities. We got some more brochures and headed in to find the aquarium and Omnimax theatre. The Omnimax cost $10 for a 1 hour show (Living Sea) but it was worth having a look. It uses a hemispherical screen and the seats are laid back so you look up into the centre of the screen. Shows run just about continuously. Then on to the aquarium where they have living coral reefs in a fully self contained system. There is a tunnel from which the sharks, grouper and other large fish can be seen, and lots of smaller tanks housing specific exhibits. Feeding time was quite interesting, though we did not see the sharks fed. That night we stayed in a large caravan park at Rowes Bay on the northern beaches. Found an excellent seafood place where we bought a large feed of fish and chips for dinner. Troopys curtains are proving excellent especially as we are having to stay in caravan parks rather more than we had anticipated.

Drove up to Castle Rock and explored the walking tracks which go to the lookout for spectacular views over the city, to the ranges to the west and east to Magnetic Island. Went shopping for groceries and some more summer clothes - shorts and t-shirts.

Set out for Little Crystal Ck, which is up the escarpment. There is a bridge built by “work for the dole” men in 1932, made of large rocks cemented together in a large arch. There is a picnic area and amenities but “no camping” signs in abundance. Up steep and winding road to Paluma, but again nowhere to camp. Weather drizzly with fog and low cloud so even the lookouts were not much good. So we returned to the highway and went on to Jounama Falls NP, which turned out to have a very good camping area. We spent the evening with a group of motor-homers, mostly older than us who had been to a motor home convention at Townsville. Lots of bonhomie in an after dinner get together.

Drove into Ingham for ice, maps and more brochures. Also to get a fuel filter and some de-squeaker for troopys fan belt. Out to Forest Beach for lunch. On the way we passed the CSR sugar mill - a very big complex but not open for tours at this time of year. Close by was a magnificent old spreading tree - species unknown - with a huge canopy, possibly 50m across. More cane on the way out to the beach, which was sandy and windy. We had our first sight of a stinger net - or at least the mechanism for anchoring it and pulling it in. Across the water were views of Hinchinbrook but a lot of haze spoiled the colours and view.

Back to Ingham and up to Wallaman Falls, which at 305m are said to be the highest single drop in Oz. The road was steep and winding through some dense rainforest with lots of prickly climbing palms. Close to the falls we came across 2 cassowaries with 2 chicks. The adults stood about 5 ft high with bright red and blue wattles. They were very curious, coming right up to the windows which we hastily closed to avoid even closer encounters. Road warning signs advise what to do if encountering cassowaries - stay in vehicle, don’t feed etc. This encounter has been the highlight of the trip so far.

The falls were an impressive sight, although we did not take the 2 km track to the bottom. We stayed that night in a campground near the falls - very quiet area with quite good facilities like covered cooking area, cold shower, phone. But there was very limited provision for anything other than walk in camping. There was only one other vehicle there so we were lucky to find a fairly level spot for Troopy. Up here it rains a lot so the ground was very wet, it was cool at night though the weather was clearing.

So far we are a bit disappointed with tropical Queensland. True camping opportunities are quite limited and there is often considerable discrepancy between the brochures and reality. National Parks are not particularly user friendly re access, and the tourism spin is very hyped up. The beaches and rainforest here are OK but not amazing, there are very few trees of any size. The overcast weather has spoilt the views. It is hot on the coast - high 20s during the day and nights pretty warm as well.

Next morning wildlife sightings included a platypus in a large pool near the camping area, and 1 cassowary and 2 chicks as we returned to the coast. Back to Ingham and heading north again. Came on a lookout over the southern end of the Hinchinbrook Channel. There is a change in scenery here with more rainforest and the hills closer to the coast. We stopped for lunch at Cardwell and watched masses of mudskippers on the mud flats. Also had a look over the (in)famous Hinchinbrook Cove development which seems to be mostly building blocks with water frontage. The views across to Hinchinbrook Island at high tide were beautiful but there would be a lot of mud at low tide. Only a few houses built as yet. We found some interesting signage re conditions of entry - no banners, demonstrations, foul language etc.

We walked out onto the jetty and chatted at length to a Canadian couple, then had a look around a well presented rainforest and reef interpretation centre. We drove up to a lookout just behind Cardwell, and a brisk walk brought us to a couple of lookout points that gave spectacular views over the channel and coastline. Then on to South Mission Beach to the Beachcomber CP, which at $16 was quite expensive but had excellent amenities including a new campers kitchen with ovens, fridge and microwave. The ground underfoot was very wet as they had had very heavy rain recently.

When we left the caravan park next day we back tracked a few kms to have a look at the Liviala Palms forest reserve, which is run for the forestry commission and consists of a walk through a grove of fan palms, which is a typical lowland rainforest community. The walk is well maintained though a bit wet in places. There are a couple of boardwalk sections. The palms are magnificent with leaves up to a metre across. There are signs everywhere about cassowaries, including what do if encountering on in the bush - don’t run away, hold something in front of your face and back away slowly, or get behind a tree. But the only sign we saw was some scratchings and droppings, which may or may not have been made by cassowaries.

At the van park we met a family who had come north and recommended places to go, including at Cape Tribulation. With a long weekend coming up we thought that it would be best to get booked in somewhere for the duration or finding a suitable spot might prove difficult. So we decided to head directly for Cape Tribulation and to work back south from there.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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