Northern Queensland

Wednesday 23.08.2006

Leeches, Bats and the White Sunday Islands

On our way back to the coast, we decide to stop at the Eungella National Park to do some walks. The reward is a refreshing dip in the river. Beautiful. For Reto the water is way too cold. Of course, this isn't a reason for me not to take a dip and I even have to jump in twice. After having warmed up in the sun I change into my clothes. That's when I realise that something must have bitten me. It feels like a little swelling on my rear end. Unfortunately, I can't turn my head enough to check it out myself. Therefore, I ask Reto to take a look. Without rush or any worries he tells me that a leech has sucked itself to my rear end. What??? Back! Even after Reto removed this ugly thing from me, I had to check every couple of minutes to make sure it's really gone and more important, no other leech is hiding somewhere else. I know, that leeches have been important in medicine and still are. However, it doesn't help at all, I just feel disgusted.

Our next stop are the White Sundy Islands. We stay at the campground in Airlie Beach while we organise everything. We're just about to go to sleep when I notice a noise in the tree above us. I grab the big flashlight and tell Reto that an Opossum is crawling around in the tree. But it isn't an Opossum, it's a huge fruit bat. And it isn't the only bat. There are others swinging in the trees around us. What we haven't realized up till know is that we put up our tent in the middle of a bat toilet, which is being used frequently ;-)

Anyway, the next morning we pack our things because we're going on a 3-days sailing cruise in the White Sunday Islands. There's no breeze for the first 2 days and therefore no sailing. Because of that, we are able to go all the way to the Outer-Barrier-Reef and do some diving and snorkeling. Having a lot of experience, the crew knows exactly where the huge Cod fishes live. It's very impressive snorkeling with these "monsters". On the 3rd day a strong wind picks-up. With 25 knots of wind we sail back to Airlie Beach after 3 peaceful and exciting days on sea.



How does the sugar gets out of the sugar-cane?

To be honest, we've never thought about it. However, after having been driving along endless sugar-cane fields for the last couple of days, we decide to learn more about the process in a small village called Tully. The tour is very informative and interesting. For more then 2 hours the our guide explains the whole production process and gives us a tour in the factory. Since we now know that white sugar is just a side product of raw sugar, we only buy raw sugar from now on ;-)

Cape York

Our first stop is Cooktown. Of course, we don't take the bitumen road but the Bloomfield Track from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown. In Cape Tribulation the plan is to stay on a National Park campground over night. We've already made the reservation and have paid in advance. However, arriving at the campground I'm too much of a chicken to actually stay there. I'm scared of being eaten by a saltwater crocodile. Northern Queensland is the "salties" territory. They can reach a length of up to 7m and gain up to 1 ton in weight. Humans, who are too stupid to get cached are also part of their diet. The campground is fenced in up till the campsite next to us. Who knows, the last crocodile might have eaten the fence altogether with the campers ;-) In any case, we're looking for another campsite to get a good night's sleep.

The Bloomfiled track is a real 4x4 track. It leads through tropical rainforests. Steep ascents and descents are interrupted by river crossings. The scenery if one of the best we've seen so far in Australia. We're really looking forward to Cape York.

However, after several 100 kilometers we already get bored by the scenery. The only true adventure seems, whether man (and women) and machine survive the never ending series of potholes. We encounter some interesting river crossing in the first part of the Lakefield National Park. After that we only see dry grassland with a few trees and a lot of termite mounds. There is still more than 800 km way to go to the tip. However, we decide to abort our "non-adventure", since we will still have the pleasure to drive thousands of kilometers of gravel roads on our way around Australia.


After a couple days in the Outback, we finally arrive at the little village of Chillagoe. The highlight here are the various caves. After having booked a cave-tour to the Donna Cave the next morning, we meet Monika at the carpark. She has noticed our swiss license plate. Monika is Australian with a Swiss passport and is happy to see some Swiss in Chillagoe. She invites us to her home for coffee with Willisauer-Ringli and Munz-Chocolat (Famous swiss sweets). Yummie! Since we get along so well, we stay for dinner and even spend the next night at their place. Andrew, her husband, manages the set-up of a new mine. He so kind and takes some time to show us around the future mining area. We are even see one of the shafts, where they are drilling holes to put in the explosives. We're lucky and it's just about time for the next firing. And...tadaa... I'm the one who can press the ignition button. Yes! Boom, boom, boom... about 15 explosions are triggered after each other. So cool ;-) Afterwards, we can climb into all the different mining vehicles to get a feeling of the size of the machinery. We feel like little kids on the playground ;-) Before we leave the next morning, the kids want us to see their local school. Several classes are being taught in parallel with only a handful of teachers, since there aren't enough children for "proper" classes. What a challenge! And then it's time to say good bye. Hope to see you again soon!

Atherton Tablelands & Cairns

It is still very windy at the coast. We decide to move up into the Atherton Tablelands on our way to Cairns. The Tablelands are almost at 800m and provide a welcome contrast to the coast. Unfortunately, it's a bit rainy and Reto isn't too much interested in seeing another waterfall. After my previous leech experience I'm a bit more hesitant to jump into each and every pond ;-)

We move rather quickly up to Cairns where we fight once more with the bureaucracy of bringing our car into other states. The following day we visit the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, to learn a bit more about the customs and history of the native Australians. There is some very interesting information and displays. However, we don't understand why it is highly recommended in all our travel books. Since there are still very strong winds at the coast, all water activities are on hold for us. This isn't a problem, because we are drawn further up north anyway. We're looking forward to one of the last adventures in Australia: Cape York.

Tully Sugar Cain factory

Very interesting tour of a sugar cane factory. The entire sugar-making process is shown. Of course there is a tasting of the different sugar-stages as well.

GPS: 17°56'09.5"S / 145°55'33.1"E

Location / Attracitivity

Sailing / Diving

Sailing and diving on the sailship Anaconda III. Cabins are small and the ship a bit older. The diving at the "Stepping Stones" was a bit disappointing, but the snorkeling was super.


Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Parc

Very touristy theme park about Aboriginal culture. Shows, exhibitions, movies and activities such as Boomerang and spear-throwing are offered.


Bloomfield Track / Daintree National Park

Very nice 4x4 track in the Daintree National Park. River crossings and tropical rainforest are the main attractions.


Chillagoe Caves

Several cave systems just outside of the Chillagoe village.

GPS: 17°09'20.4"S / 144°31.27.9"E