On Monday 17 Aug we headed North.The first night we wanted to camp, so went west of Mackay, crossed the Pioneer River at Mirani, and drove along the bank, in the sand, to set up at a spot right beside the river. We were far enough along that we were not disturbed by traffic or trains on the bridges, and it was very pleasant as the fish jumped all night long (Darryl did cast a couple of lures...but nothing took!)
The morning saw us wake to our 30th Wedding Anniversary! On the way we called in to see Jean and Clive in Bowen. They were going out, so we only had a few minutes with them, but promised to return on our way back.
We finally arrived at Bowling Green Bay National Park (back in our day it was Mt Elliott National Park), just south of Townsville, and we set up camp and went for a swim in the lovely clear pools of Alligator Creek. This is where the wedding was held, 30 years ago, and it hasn't changed all that much. The creek is still full of fantastic fish, but we were a little disappointed that the day before the Rangers had started back-burning. We charged our wine glasses and joined in the Happy Hour with other campers..and were a little put off when the police arrived....apparently a couple had gone bushwalking (perhaps past the 'road-closed' signs) and had been reported missing. A helicopter searched at night, and the abandoned car was still there in the morning....but nothing else happened...so we really don't know the story.
Wednesday morning meant a short trip into Townsville to visit Mum and Dad. I went into the city to do a work presentation just after lunch, and we stayed the next few nights with Steve, Heather and Justin. Friday was Dad's 75th Birthday, and we celebrated at the Centenary Hotel with a family dinner.
On Saturday we drove to Charters Towers, meeting up with Belinda and Bill, who hosted a delicious luncheon for us and Mary and Cliff, at their resort-style home. After lunch we called in to see Owen and Sandra, before driving the 40k north to 'the Fletcher' to set up camp for the night.
In the morning we waited at Greenvale for Steve and his family to arrive, so that we could drive together up to Undara National Park. I had wanted to visit this place for years, as when we both left North Qld it had not been 'discovered' (obviously there were people who knew about it, but had not realised the importance.
Steve, Heather and Justin were staying in a refurbished railway carriage, and we were camping in our Hilux. I am sorry to say that I was sorely disappointed by this place, while the natural features were lovely, their main aim is to extract money from you (just have a look at the prices on the webpage!) - to even see the lava tunnels, the only way was to go on a guided tour costing $45 each. This is apparently the only National Park in Australia which has restricted access - ie you cannot enter it by yourself. (We found out later that it is far better to stay at Mt Surprise).
Admittedly, the tunnels are pretty spectacular, and the whole of North Qld seems to be dotted with extinct volcanoes. We were able to walk to the crater of one, which was very interesting and had lovely views of the countryside.
Driving further North we came to Mt Garnet, where we were able to visit the cemetery and find the grave of Darryl's great-grandmother, Alice Louisa Troy (Ireland, nee Roberts) who died in tragic circumstances in 1908 at 36 years of age, leaving her five young children as orphans.
Not much further up the highway is Innot Hot Springs, and we stopped for lunch and to marvel at the sulphurous hot water bubbling up out of the sand in the creek. In years gone by, it had been bottled and sold as a health tonic. We we also able to visit the beautiful Millstream Falls near Ravenshoe, and a huge windfarm. At Atherton we parted company, Steve, Heather and Justin heading for Trinity Beach, north of Cairns, while we found a quaint little tourist park at Granite Creek Gorge just west of Mareeba.
This place really reminded me of the old fashioned type of caravan park, and was sitting at the side of a small gorge, which boasted the Mareeba Rock Wallaby (which were keen to partake of the food sold at the office). The water was really cold, and Darryl and I sat on a huge granite boulder and splashed water over us to cool off.
At night we had beautiful Stone Curlews coming around the campfire to sing their mournful tune.
In the morning Darryl went off for a walk, but I was soon jumping out of bed when I heard the loud 'breathing' of hot air balloons! Two were making their way over the Gorge, appearing and disappearing out of the fog. Soon we were on the road to Mossman, stopping on the winding highway down at Lyons Lookout, for a spectacular view of the valley below. I had never been to Mossman Gorge, so a detour off the road was required. It was very beautiful, with lovely rainforest (although dry because of the time of year), but it was BUSY. I guess the closeness to the highway makes it unsurprising, but we were really amazed. Despite this, we saw quite a few of the stunningly beautiful Ulysses Blue butterflies.
We drove as far as the Daintree River, and had our lunch at a picnic hut overlooking the tourist boats heading off to look for crocodiles. This is now the furtherest north I have been in Queensland.
The drive south took us along the Captain Cook Highway, with an almost mandatory stop at Rex Lookout. At night we set up camp at Russell River boat ramp, and Darryl tried his luck off the jetty, with his fishing line. It was a really lovely little spot, despite the early morning arrival of the the local fishermen heading out for the day.
Darryl wanted to find spots he had fond memories of, so we drove up the Palmerston Highway. The road has been widened and straightened significantly since the 1970's so it took us a while to find the landmarks we were looking for. There is a nice camping spot here (which we 'had' been heading for the night before, but ran out of daylight). We had lunch on the beach at Cardwell, overlooking Hinchinbrook Island, before going off the highway into Jourama Falls. We stayed in Townsville overnight, then said goodbye to Mum and Dad in the morning. We stopped at Bowen again to say hello to Jean and Clive, before getting to our evening destination, the Scout Park north of Mackay.
In the morning, the GPS led us a really strange back way to Pearl and Owen's place, on the port road in Mackay, and luckily for us, John had stopped in, so we were able to catch up with him as well.
After all these years, I was finally able to find my cousin Michelle's place, so they were the last port of call before we arrived home. It was a lovely relaxing trip, and although, unfortunately, we weren't able to catch up with everyone we had planned to, it was wonderful to see those who we did.