23.04.2013 25 °C
After recovering from Fraser Island and clearing sand out of everything we decided to hit the road again. Sand truly does get everywhere and I’d be surprised if I’m not still finding it in months to come. Our next target destination was Cairns far North Queensland. Tony has just over 2 weeks left before he flies back so we decided to carry on and experience the far tropical north before he catches a plane from Cairns to Sydney to get his long haul flight back to UK. It makes sense as it only costs $140 and allows us more time to reach the tropics.
Cairns was still 1,300km (around 700 miles) north up the coast so we decided to spend the next few days mainly driving. We would miss some things on the way including Whitsunday Islands, Rockhampton and Townsville but we didn’t have the time for everything. It took us 3 days to cover the distance to Cairns doing roughly about 450km a day (280 miles) and I took to sleeping outside again on the blow up mattress to save time pitching campsite every night and allow us the convenience of sleeping in the Highway Rest Areas or Aires which are along the Bruce Highway and quite impressive large areas of mowed park with trees and toilet facilities. The larger rest areas have free camping and sheltered BBQs. At night you see the usual mix of travellers – Caravans and campers including small hippy camper vans which are getting ever more popular and stuffed with young European backpackers who come over and rent one for a trip up or down the coast
It started to rain heavy and the forecast wasn’t good for the coming week. It wasn’t monsoonal but still heavy rain with intermittent strong squalls. I guess the best place to be is in the vehicle travelling in this weather. One morning having our coffee in a rest area that we had stayed previous night in we chatted to some locals, a man and his son travelling south from Rockhampton. North Queenslanders are noticeably different from folks down south near Sydney. Both are open and friendly but the Queenslanders use of language and accent is noticeably different and they are more curious and interested in where you’re from and where you’re going, often suggesting and providing great local information and tips. They also have a steely dry humour which is great to experience, similar to some of the Welsh humour you get. They continuously grinned at us as we spoke to them over our coffees and the conversation turned to the weather. It was still pelting down and the forecast was only looking worse. They said Townsville up the road was expecting 600mm of rain today, their grins got bigger as they said it was just a shower and not to worry... Christ! I guess they were right, the monsoon rain can drop 2 metres of water around these parts.
After 3 days of driving through heavy rain we arrived near Cairns and decided to head inland to Lake Tinaroo to setup camp for a couple of nights and rest. The rain was now clearing to heavy shows but the drive up was hard and tiring but at least the Highway stayed open. During the monsoon the main Bruce Highway often gets flooded and you’re in danger of getting trapped for several days along with hundreds of other motorist, they say there’s quite a camaraderie develops when this happens and everyone bands together to share milk, bread and play cards!
Lake Tinaroo is a manmade lake with a large dam up on the Atherton tablelands at 670m above sea level surrounded by old gum tree forests and modern pine plantations. It’s high up so is cool even in the tropical climate and is spectacularly beautiful with multiple camping sites setup all around its shores. Funny enough the lake got its name from a European prospect explorer in 1875 called Mr Atherton and it’s reported that upon discovering Alluvial Tin, Mr Atherton shouted "Tin, Harroo!!" to his prospecting mate - hence the name. Very Australian I thought!
The lake and surrounding is spectacularly beautiful and it reminded me of some of the lakes in Mid Wales, particularly Lake Clywedog near my mums house, except with parrots, dingoes and wild pigs . There also a number of snakes and spiders of course and this area boasts Australia’s largest snake the Amethystine Python with the largest ever recorded at 8.5m long! There are also tree snakes and many wild ducks taking advantage of the still lakes. The highlight of the stay was seeing a wild pig, it trotted by our campsite just after dusk. Tony was walking down by the lake when I saw this large thing trot past the front of our vehicle, I assumed at first it was a dingo wild dog so grabbed my torch and then noticed it had a curly little pigs tail. It swiftly ran off carrying on with its territorial patrol. It was tall and quite slender and seemed shy… Christ! Wild pigs are one of the most dangerous animal you can come across in Australia but luckily this one seemed to be a female and certainly not one of the large gristly boars you see pictures of… oh boy.