Sunday, August 12, 2018

Townsville

I've never been a fan of Townsville.  I had a bad experience there when I was 19, got food poisoning and had to postpone a flight because of it.  I felt desperately ill and was alone.  And then the wheels on the second plane didn't come down until the very last moment when we were coming in to land in Richmond, a very small airport in North West Queensland with no emergency services. By that time all the passengers had been drilled in crash landing procedures and had bent forward gripping pillows over our heads, ready to kiss our backsides goodbye.   Strange, that experience didn't put me off flying, I just blamed Townsville!  

Regardless, I had booked us in for a two-night stay because I have old, old friends who live there, friends who I haven't seen for a very long time.  

My friend, Loretta already had four young children when I first met her, when I was pregnant with my first child.  I was new to Mt Isa, didn't know a soul - and a long way from home and a mother's advice.  What a Godsend she was.  She even drove me to the hospital when it was time to give birth.  With her third child leaning out the window excitedly shouting, "Pauline's having a baby" to all and sundry.  That lightened my mood considerably.  Loretta and her children brightened my life for the whole seven years we lived in Mt Isa.  

We'd lost touch, as you do.  The last time I'd seen her was in the late 70s but thanks to the power of Facebook her daughter, Karen found me.  Can you imagine my delight to see the pair of them again?  I've come to the conclusion that very few of us change much over the years.  Loretta is no longer young and healthy but the essence of her, the spark, is still the same.  The gentle smile remains.  And young Karen, now a grandmother - it was a delight to see the cheeky little child shining through.  

A young friend I also caught up with, the daughter of other old friends from the same era, as luck would have it, practises Reiki and laid her hands on my foot and back.  Well, laid them all over actually but they are the bits that were giving me grief.  My arthritic accelerator foot had been aching more each day and my equally arthritic back was objecting to the hours at the wheel.  That girl has magic hands, the difference she made to my foot was amazing and she definitely eased my back. 

Townsville from Castle Hill.  
The flowers don't grow there, some previous visitor had fashioned a floral frame, which had mostly fallen apart,  And most of the flowers were dead but they still looked pretty. The Hill is basically bare rock and allows great views in all directions.


There were high school children conducting a survey when we visited.  These three girls were the charm offensive, seemed to be getting at least three times more interviews than the boys.  You can see why.  Aren't they delightful?


Townsville seemed to be economically depressed, as if going through tough times.  Our hotel was in the middle of the city, just around the corner from what used to be the busiest street in town for socialising.  It was practically deserted, shops and restaurants weren't busy, there was very little foot traffic.  Apparently, there is a high unemployment rate as a result of a downturn in the Aussie mining industry.  Like a lot of places that rely on mining, it seems to be on the wrong end of the boom or bust cycle.

A safe swimming lagoon is at one end of The Strand, along the waterfront

The Strand offers a pleasant walking path - and plenty of picnic tables

Children's water park, along The Strand

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Great Green Way

Heading south from Cairns is the Great Green Way.  I think that's a great name for a highway.  Apparently, it is a 4-5 hour drive to Townsville.  My sister and I managed it in 2 days, and even then I would have been happy to linger longer.  This drive is more about the journey than the destination.  There are many distractions.
One of these is Paronella Park - the attraction voted Number 1 must do in Queensland.  It's not every day you get to see a castle in a rainforest.  It's probably the last thing you would expect to see.  But there it is, just a 20-minute drive from Innisfail, complete with beautifully landscaped gardens, waterfalls, tunnels, bridges and picnic areas - the crazy dream of a Spanish immigrant. It opened to the public in 1935, has survived many hard times and is still a popular destination today.

A very well informed guide showed us around, detailing the history of the original Spaniard and his family who kept the dream alive through flood and cyclones until finally selling in 1977.  The current owners picked up on the dream in 1993 and have carried on the work of restoring and enhancing.

The Ballroom


Before I left home I had spent time practising with shutter speeds on my camera in preparation for the spectacular waterfalls in North Queensland.  Then, of course, the day after I arrived my little laptop ate the chip out of my camera memory card so I was left with just my phone to take photos.  Eventually, I replaced the gobbled up chip but by then the waterfalls were behind me.



We stayed a night at Mission Beach, my sister's favourite beach "in the whole world".  It certainly does have its charms.  It was late afternoon on a blustery day when we arrived but we enjoyed a short walk in the breeze. 



Later on, we looked out at a gentle sunset from the restaurant where we dined.  There was only one other group of guests dining.  We couldn't have asked for better service or food.  I hope that business has picked up now that the cold weather has hit the southern states and tourists make their way north to escape.




A reminder that not everything is perfect in this tropical paradise.  In the hottest months, marine stingers love these warm waters and the only safe place to swim is inside a netted enclosure.  The most popular swimming beaches have them these days.  Because there are always idiots who want to take the risk, you will also find stations like in this next photo.  The vinegar deactivates the stinging cells but doesn't reduce the pain.  I remember being on a North Queensland beach in the early 70s when a man was stung by a Box Jellyfish.  I will never forget his screams of pain!  




(The most dangerous marine stingers found in Queensland waters are the Box Jellyfish and Irukandji Jellyfish.) 


Coffee and leg stretch stop.  I think it might be Cardwell but I'm not sure,  There were so many lovely places, they are getting a bit jumbled in my memory.  My forgettery is a more accurate description these days.

I definitely know where this jetty was though.  It was on my Bucket List.  Goodness knows why.  Somehow, when I first heard about it, it appealed to me.  The longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, the world's largest bulk sugar loading facility.  It's said to be an engineering masterpiece with its length actually following the curved contour of the earth.  


 The Lucinda jetty
It's only 17kms from the highway, so well worth the detour.  Well, I thought so at the time.  Shortly after I'd stopped to take this next shot of fires in the mountains, I realized we were nearly out of petrol.  The fuel efficiency of that little rental car had caught me out. The township of Lucinda is tiny (population 500-600) and there hadn't been any gas stations.  The only commercial enterprise we passed was a large cafe with tourist buses stopped outside but no fuel.  I probably felt a lot more stressed than the situation deserved.  We weren't in a dangerous situation just a potentially embarrassing one.  I'm sure there would only have been a teaspoon of fuel left in the tank when we spotted the next gas station.  Isn't it silly the things we get stressed about?


Right this minute it's the text on this post that is causing me stress.  Can't change it no matter how I try.  Oh well!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Mountain stream


The dreaded lurgi has had me in its grasp.  It was the first cold I've had since I retired and I'd forgotten how miserable it can be.  

How I wished I could be back in North Queensland enjoying the serenity of a gently flowing rocky mountain stream.  Strange, the colour seems to have gone from my photos.  Maybe it is just my bleary eyes!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Atherton Tablelands

One of the delights of my recent road trip with my sister was re-visiting places I'd been to a long time ago with my ex husband.  (I wonder, let's see if I can say it aloud - 47 years ago, a couple of lifetimes for some people!)  Anyway, back then it was a trip done his way, at breakneck speed, barely time to jump in and out of the car to look at anything.  No stopping to soak in the beauty of a place.  This time it was done my way, we were in no hurry, it was ridiculously relaxed.    

Back in the day I'd insisted on stopping for the kids and me to have a swim in Lake Barrine.  It had been in October, very hot and that was before aircon made travel a lot more comfortable.  It was a quick dip and we were on our way again.  This time round we sat on the deck of the little cafe overlooking the lake and indulged in the speciality of the house, tea and scones.   Ahh, the good life!
 
The garden around the little Cafe at Lake Barrine

 Moss covered stone wall in the carpark at Lake Barrine

We'd already done a little detour off the Gillies Highway that morning, just outside Yungaburra to see the Curtain Fig Tree which is one of the largest in North Queensland. It is called the Cathedral Fig Tree, and it is truly cathedral like in its proportions.
 

It's girth is 72 metres. If 40 people linked hand around the tree they wouldn't quite meet together.  The crown of the tree extends over 2,000 square metres, about the same size as 2 olympic size swimming pools.  Magnificent!



As you can imagine it is home to lots of different species of animals- and also lots of little biting insects.  So, for the sake of my bare lower legs we did not linger for long.

A little later in the day we did, however, spend a little time wandering around the lovely Malanda Falls. 

 
 Tricia creeping forward for a close up shot.

The picnic area at the falls, showing the height of flood water in 1967.  In the photos above we had walked down quite a few steps.  It sure can rain in this part of the world.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Herberton

My sister and I had some debate about making the trip to Herberton when we were visiting the Atherton Tablelands.  She thought it was a long way to go to see nothing but I'd read about their museum and, really, it wasn't far from the other scenic spots.  I love it when I'm right!  It was so well worth the trip.  The Historic Village Museum is recognised as one of the best living museums in Australia.  

We really enjoyed strolling the streets with more than 50 buildings including the old time bank, telephone exchange, blacksmith shop, garage, dress shop, toy store, grocery store, butcher, pub, dentist, doctor, and jail.   Almost all the buildings are as they were originally constructed.  Regular maintenance keeps them sturdy and secure with things like modern lighting and steps installed for visitors safety, without losing any of the character of the place.

I think this was a miner's cottage.  
Imagine the heat inside that corrugated iron building in summer!

 Inside that building, we found a replica of our grandfather's farm hat.  He could well have left it there on his last day on the farm.

I shouldn't have been surprised to realize that memorabilia from my school days are now part of history.  Although, to be fair, I think The School Papers on display were a little before my time. 


Another blast from the past was the little sign about the grocer's broken biscuits.  They weren't just for children.  They were also for large families.  How often did I see an lb of broken biscuits on the list I took to Mr Bowes' grocery shop in Nudgee.  He would weigh them out and then throw in a handful extra for me to have on the way home.  He was such a kind man.  They would have to be carried carefully in their brown paper bag or I'd arrive home with biscuit crumbs and Mum would not be happy.
 

I liked the pretty display of dolls.  I don't think I ever saw such lovely dolls gowns.  Mind you, I can't remember having a doll but my best friend did.  Marie, was her name Antionette? 



 We crossed a sturdy and new looking suspension bridge to the railway station on the other side of Wild River.


I was taken with the little ambulance that had been modified to run along the railway line.
 

On that side of the bridge the exhibits were more rural - a farmhouse, tractor shed.  There was a children's playground which, to me, seemed to be a little far from most of the exhibits.  There was also an impressive pile of old junk.


Even the toilet facilities were in character.  Thankfully, internally they were of a modern variety.


Herberton is only a small town with a shrinking population (855 in the last census) but it can be very proud of its museum which is staffed by volunteers.  It was established in 1880 as a tin mining town.  At one stage it was the richest tin mining field in Australia and was home to 17 pubs, 2 local newspapers and a brewery. 

Several crops are grown in the area including avocados, lettuce, tomatoes, maize and pumpkins. Poultry and beef industries are also present

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Back to Cairns




Question.  How do I get rid of that white bit with the name of the place from my map?   Not much point posting a map if one third of it is covered.  I know so many clever people I'm sure one of you will have the answer.

We reluctantly left Cooktown and started our journey back down along the coast, with our accommodation for that night at Speewah, just outside Kuranda.  Kuranda is, to quote their own propaganda,  a  picturesque mountain retreat, 1,000 feet above and 25km northwest of Cairns. And crowded with tourists.  When we reached there we joined the throngs in the market place and found somewhere for a late lunch.  Probably the least impressive meal I ate in all the miles travelled.  In case I don't remember to mention it again, I was more than a little impressed with the quality of meals everywhere we ate all along the coast. 

We'd stopped briefly in Mareeba along the way and had a pleasant stroll around the museum to stretch our legs.


I found the statue of the bull outside the museum much more impressive than anything I'd seen inside.


The weather that day was a little changeable.  Between low cloud and actual rain we couldn't see a thing from one lookout but at another the cloud lifted enough for us to get this view looking down towards Cairns.


The view from Wright's lookout at Kuranda was also a little murky.
 

But we stayed dry when we went for a walk to the Barron Falls Lookout.


The Barron Falls are probably the most famous waterfalls  in North Queensland, are visited by thousands of people each year but weren't all that impressive when we were there.  I guess you can't enjoy good weather and have waterfalls in full flow at the same time, can you?


We visited a supermarket to gather a few supplies so we wouldn't have to eat out that night and stock up on wine so we could watch the royal wedding in fine style.  We did stay awake long enough to see the nuptuals but were tucked up in bed long before the royal couple left the church.  So many hours on the road were starting to take its toll.

 Tricia, wine glass in hand, taking a stroll around Honeybee House grounds

 Honeybee House

But we did enjoy our little home for the night - the delightful Honeybee House, tucked under mighty rainforest trees, surrounded by lovely grounds.  

The next morning, a week after we'd first landed there, we continued on to Cairns, traffic and (for me) driving challenges.  We contacted our niece, Catherine and, after driving in circles a while, managed to meet up with her and, at my request, she took us to Yorkeys Knob. She chose the lunch venue, the Yacht Club.  Yes, Lee, I went to your old stomping ground, and very glad I am that I did.  Those who know her know that Lee is a foodie and I know she will forgive me for not noticing my surroundings all that much once I saw the "Bucket of Prawns" I had ordered.  Golly gosh, Lee.  They were the best prawns I've had in ... as far back as my memory goes. 

Yorkeys Knob Yacht Club

I'm a pretty hopeless tourist when it comes to cities.  I'm happiest away from crowds.  Although it was windy and overcast I enjoyed the stroll along the waterfront.  It was far too cold for the locals to be in the water, the temperature was probably in the low 20C, which, for them, is quite low when compared to the heat they get in summer.  The Esplanade Lagoon must be a very popular spot in warmer weather.  There's a 4,800 sq meter saltwater swimming lagoon, complete with sandy edges, lots of shady trees and landscaped gardens.


Across the road, towards the city, the cranes are competing with the palm trees for sky space.  There looks to be a lot of development going on.


I was delighted to see a Jabiru, Australia's largest wading bird and their only stork.  I don't think this one was fully grown and, to be honest, it did not look all that healthy.  Maybe it's just used to lots of people being nearby.   An adult stands 1.3m - 1.5 m with a 2.3m wingspan. 


The highlight of our Cairns stay for me was our trip over the Gillies Range to the Atherton Tableland.  It's described as "a chain of summits" and that sums it up nicely. There are 263 corners and 800m elevation change in only 19 km.

Most of my photos are a bit like this one below.  If I got a peek of a view I'd try to find somewhere to safely pull off the road and invariably, couldn't creep close enough to the edge of the mountain to get a decent shot.



My grandson will be arriving on Saturday to have some "Granny" time so I probably won't be back with more from our journey south for a week or so.