Monday, 29 July 2013

Drying out from the Daintree and heading west young man (Granite Gorge Wallaby Park)

B is fed up of rain again, for me it’s not the rain so much as the mud underfoot that is the problem! However…..!

Awoke with the rain, but hey off for showers anyway, I got back to the van, so sitting wearing little more than a towel, and passed the door come the three cassowary, greeted with a casual “good morning” and on their way, still a lovely wake up call, shame B always takes longer in the shower than I do!

Doris with her keeper
Off to feed Doris (who used to be Boris till she laid some eggs) it wasn’t just us, so B didn’t dare ask if he could go in, the answer would probably have been no anyway, although it’s cold which makes them a bit lethargic, she still had a good snap at her breakfast. Most of the Ozzies then wandered off – handfeeding the ‘roos obviously too prosaic for them! Good, so 5 of us went to feed the two old grey kangaroo and the three wallaby with slices of sweet potato. 

Wallaby feeding at the Lync Haven Caravan Park
So ‘animal fixed’ for the day off back to Mossman for a ‘w/end market’ fix! Nothing special, but a few cheap veges so a success. In our bid to head west we went down the coast nearly to Cairns, there was a quicker way, but this bit of coast road actually went by the coast which is unusual, and was very pretty, and we could then turn inland to Kuranda, for more markets! It reminded me of Camden Lock market in London, some lovely clothes and nick-nacks really all aimed at the tourist market (probably Japanese as most of the signs again were in Japanese too) but lovely to wander around. Strangely it all shut up bang on 15.30, oh well we’ll go back in the morning. 
And kangaroo feeding...
Lovely vibe to the place, very hippy and laid back, though still after your money – Bird world, Koala park and venom zoo all of which we gave a miss to (if Wombat feeding had been sooner we may have had to go and do that!) B was tempted by the many signs for Devonshire cream tea (no clotted cream!) so if we were going to succumb it had to be in the Scottish cafĂ© and fudge shop! (Thinking of you Alex xx)

Saw this in a museum in Kuranda, its exactly the same as the sewing machine Brians mum had. It was really nostalgic!
The Scottish cafe and fudge shop

Tea and scones with jam and cream - at 11:00am!
the Granite Gorge Park. As usual B puts in a request and I do my best to oblige - new glasses, fallen off someones nose on the Kuranda railway and ended up on the track!
Don't know what he is, but he could do with a good nights sleep
Finally headed off and still didn’t get very far, Granite Canyon Park, had put us off as there was a charge, which somehow seems wrong for a bit of countryside, but on further investigation, camping included park entrance, and there were some very rare localised rock wallabies. Absolutely fantastic (ok the amenities leave a little to be desired) but a great set of walks, marked by white spots, over some great granite boulders, and then the wallabies! A little bag of food and a very happy time with some of the cutest things imaginable! So tame, so friendly, lovely! Obviously B didn’t enjoy it at all, being as hard as he is!

Whale Rock
Jackie decided this was Rhino Rock
Dinner was all planned for after wallaby feeding, so that was easy, we’d been invited to the campfire of Des and Anna, the couple from the Daintree who had been photographing the cassowary so alerting me to their presence. (Well Des anyway, Anna appeared later looking slightly out of sorts as the third cassowary had pecked at ‘something in a tree’, right by their van! ‘Something in a tree’ had turned out to be a paper wasps nest, who had chased off the cassowary, and then picked Anna as a new target!) So lovely evening planned. 

Is this a rare dragonfly? Helen will understand the humour in this statement!
Dino Rock (not sure who that arrows pointing to!)
Just eating though when our neighbours on the other side, originally from Fiji, both went to Uni in the UK, and lived in Oz for 35+ years, announced they were making scones for us! (when did we last have a scone? Somewhere with Mother, so two in one day?!) Impressively though he was making them in a cast-iron billy can on an open fire! Nestled in the charcoal with charcoal on the lid, they cooked beautifully! The jam and cream were the ‘topping on the scones’ obviously! How does this happen – two invites on the same day? 

It does look like a giant turtle!
Still as the ‘social butterflies’ we obviously are we had a lovely evening! Des and Anna are really interesting to us (and us to them I think) as they too have retired early (not quite as early as us) and are enjoying the world of travel. Stopping talking was the problem, both last night and this morning when we finally had to leave! It’s good to not have to explain why you can’t afford to do everything though, if only that lottery win would come up…..

Look at the little joey peeping out!
"What's going on mum?"

Just give me the bag!

Sunset on wallaby rock
Cooking dinner outside in the evening sun
I’ve just had to take a break – I’d already commented to B about the empty Whiskers tin in the bin, so on seeing a cutie grey tabby I had to go and say hi, there are actually 5 cats (of which I met three) 2 dogs and a very talkative owner! Just as well B is on dinner duty!

Saw this rhino beetle today - he's a handsome chap!
Millsteam Falls near Ravenshoe. Ravenshoe is the highest town in Queensland (920m ASL) & Millstream Falls are the widest single drop falls in Australia

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Anyway, back in the real world…..

A night heron we saw in Cooktown

We had a third day in Cooktown to go up Mt Cook, well the one in NZ was far too big, so this one at 472m was a bit more realistic. It was a bit of an adventure as the path was at times not very well defined, or well maintained, but it still didn’t take us long, 3-4 hrs, book time, we did 2 ¼ including scrambling to the top of a boulder, the only way to get a view. It was however a hot and sweaty exercise, so back down and undid all the hard work with a very nice iced coffee – no calories from the cream or icecream I’m sure! Took advantage of the short day by doing some washing, we were both getting low on pants. 

Not the top of Mount Cook, but a view halfway
The ants that had been troubling us (well me anyway) since the Palmer River Roadhouse where we had accidentally parked on an ants nest, until B became aware of the scurrying off all carrying an egg! We moved, but obviously they hadn’t all been on egg transport duty, as some of them had come in for a look around! 

This was the view from the summit with patches of reef visible in the shallow sea
We signed the visitors book on the summit - on 22nd July 2011!
Not into the fridge, and touch wood not into the locker where the dry food is either! I had been trying to adopt a gecko, but sadly had failed. The only other option seemed to have been the huntsman spider on the ceiling above the sink where I’d just been washing up, but if that had come in the van, I’d have been off! They aren’t one of the nasty nasties, but they will bite, they grow to the size of a saucer, and according to Catriona will jump at you from the wall! 
And he was nearby on the summit!
It’s the second one I’ve seen, the first being on the toilet wall at a previous camp, it was there when I went to clean my teeth before bed, and it was still there in the morning , so fortunately I didn’t have the worry of not knowing where it was!

Headed from Cooktown to Mossman, just north of Port Douglas, where the campsites finally came down to a realistic price. We thought we’d get one of the other ‘ticks’ done and go out to the Barrier Reef, having ummed, aahhd and debated long and hard, we’ve decided we will go from Port Douglas rather than Cairns even though they are all more expensive as you get to more pristine, outer reef. Sadly not at the moment as the Trade Winds are blowing 25-30 knots! Oh well, we’ll head up to the Daintree then and come back at the beginning of next week.

The Daintree ferry
We’ve crossed the ferry and are now on a piece of land where 2 heritage sites meet – that of the rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, it is lovely, feels remote and we are really enjoying it, despite the weather having changed, bit cold and quite windy, but I can cope with any amount of that! Sadly it does mean the snorkelling off the beach of the campsite round the reef you can walk to at low tide is off – too rough, too cold and too disturbed! Also makes coconut collecting a bit hazardous, but worth the effort!

The Daintree river emptying into the Coral sea and, in the distance, Port Douglas and beyond
The amethystine python
We had a very successful animal spotting day yesterday – firstly an amethystine python, by a stream, about the diameter of my leg and approaching 5m in length, though as we never saw all of it at once it was hard to tell….. Then, amazingly despite there only being 44 cassowary in the Daintree we came upon pulled over cars and there at the front was a young one (about 12 months according to the guide from the bus in the front!) So very very pleased! It proved to B that driving round at 40 km/h was the right thing to do. He’d been very good it was all the other people who’d been overtaking him!

A young cassowary on an afternoon ramble on his own
Went up to Cape Tribulation this morning, named (you’ve guessed it) by Cook and have done the boardwalks and beach walks, saving ourselves for the 5-6 hours of Mt Sorrow tomorrow! The bad news is that after only a gentle drop yesterday, whilst in its case, the camera is no longer working! So we are down to the rubbish camera on the phone unless we can cheaply get it repaired, or we get to Singapore and buy a new one!

A bit windy on the beach!
Friday 26th July 2013: I’m adding to Jackie’s entry as we have no internet connection so can’t post. We didn’t do the Mount Sorrow walk today as the weather turned typical rainforest – it rained! Was woken up in the night by something thudding onto the roof of the van (didn’t do any damage, but things don’t have to when they fall onto a metal roof), followed by rain and more rain. That’s probably the end of the walk we thought, but we’ll decide in the morning. This morning was windy, low cloud and tending to rain, so we thought better of it, switched off the alarm and went back to sleep! 

They do take this walk seriously here, you have to fill in a slip of paper with your passport/drivers license number on and emergency contact details and leave it with the people at the campsite (we left Jackie’s mums number, though what she’d have done if she got a call we don’t know!). It’s about 6-7 hours return, 1700m high and on an unformed track through bush with added attractions like leeches, spiders and snakes to contend with, so walking up in a cloud and rain on slippy mud is not our idea of fun (been there and done that!), so we’ve had another easy day. 

Our new campsite half in the jungle
Took a couple of very nice rainforest walks – and then it rained! A lot! Got back in the van and came to another campsite on the Cape Tribulation rainforest section. This one is halfway into the forest so has jungle fauna all round with creepers and undergrowth within feet of our van. In the trees alongside are flying foxes making their screeching noises and occasionally flying round looking like small pterodactyls, its brilliant! 

The flying foxes looking like pterodactyls
Our very own camp cassowary!
There’s a couple of rainforest walks that start within feet of our van and we’ve already been round them, very narrow muddy tracks winding through pristine rainforest that is so different from anything we’re used to that its just great to stop and take it all in. The creepers that wind in and out of huge trees, the big circular palms that look so exotic (the berries are a favourite of cassowaries apparently), was that a snake or is it just another creeper? 

With his chick!
We were hoping to see a cassowary as we saw their poo of the ground (undigested fruit and berries that makes them essential for seed distribution and rainforest survival, in fact we’re told that the tree that produces the cassowary plum would not be in existence without them), but we didn’t see any. Got back to our van, Jackie had said we would be just as likely to see them walking through the campsite and very shortly she spotted someone taking pictures of something, went to have a look and saw two male cassowary, one with a small chick, wandering through the campsite not 20 feet from our van. How fantastic is that! It’s only a pity my camera has broken as the photos are taken with my very crap phone camera, but better than no pictures at all.

Then along came another one
Jackie thinks he's been to the Ministry of Silly Walks!

This is Doris, the 3m female crocodile being fed this morning. They originally thought it was a male and called it Boris - until it laid a load of eggs!
Jackies a happy girl feeding a swamp wallaby
This evening we hope to catch sight of the flying foxes on their evening flight out and, tomorrow morning is animal feeding at 9:00am in the campsite. They feed Doris the crocodile and the wallabies (wobblies as Jackie calls them), so will have to go and see that. What a great place Cape Tribulation is, a real wilderness place! Oh, guess what, it’s started raining again. Why did they have to call it rainforest, why not just ‘forest’?

And this is a 12 year old southern grey kangaroo
He's very old for a kangaroo, but he's a happy chappy!

Happened to see this tandem hang glider just taking off as we drove to Kuranda via Cairns today

Kuranda, the 70's hippy village in the mountains above Cairns. They've all grown up now into 50 somethings but the village still has a great feel to it