Townsville & Mission Beach
After Airlie Beach we visited Townsville and Mission Beach. In Townsville we went to Magnetic Island and spotted three koalas in the wild, lots of black cockatoos and rented a jetski. In Mission Beach Mike went white water rafting on the Tully river while I watched the latest season of The Crown – we both had a very nice day.
In the mountains outside Cairns lie the Atherton tablelands, with beautiful rainforests and much cooler temperatures than on the coast, which was a big relief after the scorching temperatures in Townsville and Mission Beach. In the tablelands we did the ‘waterfall circuit’ and saw three waterfalls, as well as visiting an 850 year old curtain fig tree, which was awesome. One of the best trees yet!
We stayed the night by lake Eacham which is a lake created by a volcano, and is the home of a freshwater crocodile. As freshwater crocodiles are not aggressive in the same way estuarine crocs are, Mike went for a swim – he wasn’t concerned as there were lots of other people swimming there.
Next stop was the other crater lake in the area, lake Barrine. We went for a hike around the lake, but the rainforest was so overgrown you could hardly see anything. On our way into Cairns we stopped by Kuranda, which is a pretty unexciting market town, but the waterfall Barron Falls right outside town were pretty impressive! It’s a shame the wet season hasn’t properly started yet, as it would have been spectacular if the falls had more water.
Port Douglas & the Daintree rainforest
Port Douglas, further north, is smaller and more high-end than Cairns, and known for its proximity to the Daintree rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Everything is within walking distance in town, which I really enjoyed.
One of the main things we wanted to do in this area was to go on a crocodile safari. Mike is obsessed with crocs, and the Daintree river is known to be the home of quite a few of them. We went with a local tour company on a small boat on the river to look for them, and there between the mangroves we saw two! Our first crocodiles in the wild! They are very hard to spot in the water if you don’t know exactly where to look.
Another ‘must do’ around Port Douglas is visiting Mossman Gorge, which is a river running through the rainforest with hundreds and hundreds of big boulders in it. So we went for a walk in the rainforest, and Mike had a dip in the river.
Cape Tribulation is the last little outpost on the East Coast before the paved road stops, and you need a four wheel drive to continue. We drove up to have a look. The ‘town centre’ consists of four houses, and that’s it. The beaches and rainforest are beautiful, but you can’t swim in the ocean because of deadly jellyfish and crocodiles.
One of the things to do there is to go ‘jungle surfing’ which is a course of six different ziplines through the rainforest. It was a lot of fun, and we learned some things about the rainforest as well, and even saw the Great Barrier Reef from one of the tree platforms!
Another little bonus of our trip to the Cape was that we saw a wild cassowary with three chicks. Cassowaries are quite shy as well as a threatened species, and we had never expected to see any in the wild, so it was quite exciting to see them crossing the road in front of us.
Driving back to Cairns again today marks the end of our nine months in Australia. We’re handing the van back tomorrow and spending the night in a hotel, before flying out. We’ve had an exciting time here, we’ve seen an amazing amount of wildlife, experienced a lot of nature and thoroughly enjoyed our seven months in Sydney.
Life in the van has also been great, I thought I would get more tired of it than I am, I think I could have happily lived in it for another month! It’s so good, we really have everything that we need in here. But almost a year since we left home, it’s time for another adventure!