This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2009 Travels July 15

WEDNESDAY 15 JULY     CARDWELL

The alarm went off at 7.15am, half an hour later than I’d set it for. It was getting old and unreliable – or maybe it was just out of practice? So we started the morning in a bit of a rush and thus John forgot his camera, but we were at the office at the marina by 8.30.

It was a nice surprise to be told that today was half-price deal day, so we were to get a refund credited. ( I’d already paid by card, back before we had to postpone due to the fridge trip to Townsville.) So, the day trip only cost us $59 each, and that included $10 for lunch.

Hinchinbrook Island features

There were 39 people on the big cat boat, including four from WIN TV, who were going over to film a Postcards segment, and two hikers who were being dropped off to walk the Thorsborne Track from north to south. One of the other women on board was a housekeeper, off to work at the Eco Resort.

It was a really lovely trip across the bay, past Garden Island, which was the island in the film Nims Island.

Nims Island – in real life, Garden Island

There were great views of the coast to the north, after we left the Marina. The mountainous nature of this part of North Qld was very obvious.

Queensland coast, north of Cardwell

For once, we had a perfect weather day for our adventure.

We were not alone on these lovely waters, passing several yachts. I could – almost sense the attraction of exploring places via this medium. There was certainly no shortage of sheltered anchorages.

The boat went straight to the Eco Resort, at the northern tip of Hinchinbrook Island, at Cape Richards, which we went around, to view that and Orchid Beach beyond it.

Cape Richards

The Eco Resort was just visible, tucked in amongst the vegetation of the hillside. It was certainly unobtrusive.

Cape Richards; Eco Resort buildings barely visible in the bush at the back of Orchid Beach

We pulled up – briefly – at the resort dock, where the driver fed a couple of fish to a huge grouper lurking there. It obviously knew the boat well! The housekeeper got off, another man got on, and a small boat was attached to the back of our boat.

Pontoon jetty at the Eco Resort

We motored back and around to Missionary Bay.

The mountainous spine of the island was very obvious and its highest peak, Mt Bowen.

Missionary Bay and Mt Bowen

Also obvious were the mangroves that thickly lined the more sheltered shores of Missionary Bay.

Mt Bowen and mangrove lined inlet

The mangrove lined inlets off Missionary Bay provided a sheltered anchorage point for yachts – but I thought the sandflies must be fearsome at nights. Not sure there could be much dusk sitting out on deck in places like that.

Our boat entered a channel in the mangroves and we followed this narrowing waterway for some distance.

Eventually, we came to a point in the mangrove channel where, due to depth, the cat boat had to be moored. Now the purpose of the smaller boat we’d been towing became obvious. Half the party were offloaded and went off in this. Ten minutes later, it was back, and took the remainder of us further upstream, to a landing where we disembarked.

Towing our runabout

We had an hour to explore, before we were to meet the little boat again at the landing.

Once, we were told, there used to be a five minute walk from here, across to Ramsay Beach, but a “ladder” that protected the dunes had been damaged in the last Wet. So now it was a 20 minute walk that took us along the part of the Thorsborne Track.

Thorsborne Track

The others who set out with us took a short cut across a sand blow to the beach, but we had a very pleasant walk through the bush, to where the trail emerged at the far end of Ramsay Beach.

The long sand expanse of Ramsay Beach was superb, and peopled only by our fellow day trippers.

Ramsay Beach

Being time limited, we couldn’t spend too long on the beach. I hoped I’d taken some photos that did the place justice – it was seriously beautiful.

Then it was back the way we’d come, with the final part of the walk on the built walkway across the mangroves that bordered the channel we’d motored up.

We got to go back to the big boat in the first group. The little runabout ran out of fuel part way, but he had spare fuel. We waited on the big boat for the rest of the party, then motored back out the mangrove channel to Missionary Bay and back to the Resort.

Lunches were given out on the way back to the Resort, for those of us who had elected to pay for this, rather than BYO. It was good, too – a well-filled meat, cheese and salad wrap, muesli bar, apple, bottle of water, box of fruit juice. John ate his immediately. I kept mine for later, wanting to keep looking around and not be distracted by food.

We all got off at the Resort jetty and were directed to the dining deck/bar and pool side area.

It was all very tropical and seemingly low key. There was a view through the surrounding trees and bush, to the sea.

Outdoor deck at Eco Resort

The pool was very attractive looking, but there were too many people around looking on, for me to want to venture in.

I sat on the open air dining deck and had my lunch, relaxing with the laid back ambience of the place.

John and I walked down the steps from the Resort, onto Orchid Beach and walked along this small beach to the big rocks at its far end.

Resort was this close to Orchid Beach
Orchid Beach

We could see schools of little fish in the water and I saw a dugong surface briefly, a few times.

Cape Richards from Orchid Beach

We spent over an hour, wandering along the beach and back.

Eco Resort, from end of Orchid Beach – well hidden
Goanna been here

Eventually we meandered back to the pontoon jetty and sat watching the guy who had driven the small boat show some of the kids from our group how to jag small fish – which he then released back.

Our tour boat

The Resort was closed to overnight guests because of Wet Season damage to some of the paths to the accommodation units and water damage to some of the “tree top” units. The place normally had three cabins for guests and fifteen of the elevated units, tucked in amongst the trees. It seemed rather strange to me that the damage from back then hadn’t yet been fixed, if it prevented having overnight guests which would have to be the main source of revenue.

Parts of the place looked a bit tired, too. It doesn’t take long in the Tropics! The pontoon jetty had been resurfaced for day trip use, but apparently needed completely replacing. In short, the place needed a substantial injection of funds. Someone said it was for sale. It would be sad if it did not open again as a resort, because it really was a very attractive place and the environment was superb. It also had the advantage of being not too far from the mainland, so didn’t need a long boat – or helicopter – transfer, to get to it.

We left the Resort at 4pm, and were back at Port Hinchinbrook Marina just before 5pm.

Marina – houses with their private moorings

The whole trip was excellent value. I felt privileged to have been able to visit Hinchinbrook Island. It was certainly worth the effort we made to – eventually – get here!.

On the way back to camp, went to the organic place again and bought some more of their yummy pasta, and bananas.

John decided we would have take away fish and chips for tea. The nearby shop that we went to was a bit poky and old-fashioned, but the fish and chips were very nice, and reasonably priced.

This morning, while waiting at the Marina to get on the boat, John phoned his Land Rover man in Townsville. He booked Truck in with him again, for Monday next. The man told John that the brakes were not likely to fail altogether on the way back, though I could not be totally confident about that. I didn’t like the thought of the “altogether”, particularly in combination with the Cardwell Range. Hi-ho, it’s back to Townsville we go!

John thought we should go back to Rollingstone. It was by the sea, and he knew I loved the pool there. I tried to call them at 5.30pm and only got the answering machine – a bit sloppy, I felt, at the height of the tourist season. Left a message saying I wanted to make a booking from tomorrow and asking that they call me back.

I had some doubts about staying at Rollingstone, anyway. John had already phoned his friend S and arranged to play bowls on Sunday, and he also wanted to play on Friday. So that was already three drives into Townsville. I said Rollingstone was just too far out. It would also be a problem if work on Truck was not finished in one day. We couldn’t agree. I thought The Lakes would be more central if there were transport issues. John did not like it there, he said. So nothing was settled, this night.


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2009 Travels July 14

TUESDAY 14 JULY     CARDWELL

I got up quite early, and did two loads of washing. There was not enough line space – mainly because the park provided such a little amount of same. I ended up having to string some line under the van awning to hang some of the clothes there.

John drove up the street and picked up the bread rolls I’d ordered yesterday. After I’d made up the rolls for lunch, we went driving.

First stop was to check out the Port Hinchinbrook Marina area, to make sure we knew where to go tomorrow morning. This was just south of Cardwell itself. It was a canal-style marina and residential development. I remembered that it was the cause of much controversy, due to environmental concerns, when we came through this way in 1998. It did not appear to have really taken off since then. There were a number of lavish, big houses, with their own moorings, the resort itself, and a few shops. It did not look to be thriving. Quite a few places sported For Sale signs and there was a lot of empty, unsold blocks of land.

Port Hinchinbrook marina

On the assorted literature obtained from the Information Centre, the Cardwell Forest Drive appeared worth doing, so we headed westwards out of the township, to tackle that.

Cardwell Forest Drive

First stop was the carpark for the Cardwell Lookout, from which we did the 700 metre walk that took in all three lookout points. The views made all the effort worthwhile.

Cardwell and Rockingham Bay
Port Hinchinbrook marina entrance, with Hinchinbrook Island beyond
Where we would be going tomorrow

There were attractive grass trees along the pathway, and an unusual (to me, anyway) cycad.

Cycad?

The walk did involve a lot of stairs. I was definitely fitter – and lighter? – than when we walked in the Warrumbungles a couple of months before.

Lookouts walking track
Very handsome grass trees

The next stop on the drive was Attie Creek and Falls. It was not all that easy to follow the track into there – signposts were scarce. Where the road ended, the creek was a pool, and not flowing. We decided not to bother, in the heat, with the 1.2km walk to falls that would most likely be dry, anyway.

We had our lunch at the pleasant Attie Creek picnic area. There was lots of bird activity, so we got out the binoculars and watched for a while. Spotted a lovely Yellow Robin.

Drove on round to the Spa Pool. Getting to this did not involve a hike.

Spa Pool

As we were driving there, on the dirt road, straddled a nasty looking long, thin snake, sunning itself on the road. We couldn’t see behind, with the rising dust, but as far as John could feel, we hadn’t run over it. I just hoped it was still back there, and not hitching an angry ride hooked up in Truck somewhere. We were not about to stop right there to investigate, but when we reached the Spa Pool parking area, I was careful to look carefully before I got out of Truck!

The Spa Pool was an unusual, pale, milky blue colour. Again, the creek there was not flowing. There was lots of small, hungry seeming fish in the pool and we watched these for a while. The pool did not look at all attractive for getting into! Supposed it would be different when there had been good rain and creeks were flowing again.

We completed the loop drive through pretty valleys with small farms and emerged back onto the Bruce Highway about 10kms north of Cardwell.

Back to the van. Then we set out to walk along the beach to the jetty. It was hard going, with sloping, soft sand, so we didn’t go all the way, and walked back along the road rather than the beach.

Soft sand beach at Cardwell

Tea was sticky pork ribs, with rice. Very, very nice.

This morning, as we were about to leave the lookouts car park, for a moment there were no brakes at all on Truck. John now thought the vacuum pump had really gone, this time. Absolutely unbelievable!

After stewing it over for the rest of the day, he now decided that from here, we would go back to the Land Rover enthusiast – you guessed it – in Townsville AGAIN.


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2009 Travels July 13

MONDAY 13 JULY     TOWNSVILLE TO CARDWELL     160kms

We left the caravan park just after 10am, heading north again over what was becoming our well travelled route.

This morning, John seemed a bit slow with the outside pack up. Then he was diverted by the people on the site opposite, who wanted to talk about where we’d travelled. Great timing! When I’d finished all “my” packing, went and did some of the outside stuff, to try to move things along.

On the way north, diverted on to the side road to the Rollingstone Caravan Park, to buy a couple of pineapples, but drove all the way down to near the entrance in order to turn around. The caravan area – from a distance – looked nowhere near as full as it was when we were there.

Just south of Ingham, we came up behind a Bushtracker caravan. He was one of those who holds everyone behind up, as he dawdles along at about 70 kmh on the no-passing sections of the highway, but then speeds up on open sections when others try to pass him.  John tried to get past him in Ingham, where there was a section of dual lane road, but the Bushtracker pulled across in front of us, to the lane we were in. As there was no reason for him to do so – he didn’t pass anyone in front of him, we could only assume he didn’t want us to get past him. Maybe he saw it as some sort of competition? Idiot!

A little further on, we came to a steep uphill section, with a passing lane. John held back a bit, to let a double semi that had caught up to us, get past. The truck then caught up to the Bushtracker, with still some passing lane left, enough for him to get past the van – which promptly pulled across in front of the truck! We saw the flare of lots of lights as the truckie stood on his brakes. From what we could see from the back, it was a rather close shave. Unbelievable.  After that, we slowed down to make sure we stayed well behind the clown and didn’t get caught up in any mayhem he might cause.

Further on again, we were passed by a 4WD towing a large van. He took a risk, passing us on a winding, hilly section of the Cardwell Range road. Then we could see in the distance, he got impatient with the moron in the Bushtracker, who was back to dawdling along, and passed him – on double white lines and approaching a blind corner. No wonder there are accidents involving caravans! There had been one such fatal crash somewhere around here, a couple of months ago.

We had been consistently surprised at how many Qld drivers totally ignore white line markings. Both the fools we encountered today were towing Qld registered caravans.

The Beachcombers Holiday Village in Cardwell was our destination. After discount, our powered site cost $24.75 a night.

The sites in this park were quite strange. They had small slabs that would be adequate for small campervans, but the sites themselves, overall, were far too small for most vans. The reception lady said they were not using the central two rows of sites, except occasionally for small campers, therefore we shouldn’t have problems accessing our site. As we hadn’t yet seen it, this sounded a bit ominous.

It did prove to be a hard site to get on to, because of the narrowness of the access lane and the lack of depth of the site. We had to drive Truck back and forth over the high and jagged edges of the slab on the other side of the roadway. Bad for tyres. Having an extended length drawbar – originally for the bike carrier – had its benefits, but it did mean we needed a bit more wiggle room, sometimes.

Cardwell site and slab with raised, rough corner

At book-in, we’d been offered the hire of a co-ax cable to plug in for TV. It was a plus that they offered that before John spent time fiddling around trying to get a signal in the usual way. But there were not many other positives in this park.

The place was over the road from the beach front, but its associated motel units had all the views of that. The caravan park section was at the back – right by the Bruce Highway.

I was not happy with the female showers. There were four of these, with a common drainage channel. Unfortunately the wash from adjacent showers went not into the drain, but the other way, across the floors of the neighbouring ones, and pooled in the end shower, in a rather revolting mass. It certainly kept me from wanting to linger in any shower! But there were a couple of beautiful, dark green tree frogs up in the wall corners, and geckoes around the windows. The paper towels by the handbasins ran out early on our second day there, and had not been refilled by the time we left. Much too slack.

After we’d set up, drove to the Information Centre for a browse. It was a very attractive one, nestled in a jungle of greenery, between the highway and the beach. I collected some interesting looking pamphlets. In keeping with the wildlife in the shower, green tree frog illustrations featured prominently.

Nearby was a little jetty and we walked out to the end of that and back. Wandered up and down the line of shops along the highway. I ordered a couple of bread rolls to be kept for us for tomorrow morning. Bought a paper and a small cook book that gave lots of different ways to use mountain bread and pita bread. We found an attractive organic fruit shop, where John bought some bananas. I bought some locally made herb and garlic pasta – some of which was later cooked for tea, and was yummy, with pesto (from a jar).

There were wonderful views from Cardwell, across to Hinchinbrook Island and other little islands dotted about in the sea, and along the coastline itself.

Looking south along the Hinchinbrook Channel

It was quite a narrow coastal strip here, with the mountains looming behind the town. The town itself was small and kind of lacked  definition. The van parks, and a lot of the shops, seemed rather second rate. It obviously did quite a trade, though, as a break stop for buses, not to mention other travellers passing through.

Hinchinbrook Island, just off Cardwell, is one of the largest island National Parks in Australia. Its core is mountainous, with peaks reaching over 1100 metres above sea level. Given this range of altitude, for an island, it contains a unique number of different ecosystems and environments, and has had National Park status since the 1930’s. It contains the Thorsborne Track,  a rugged walking trail between the northern and southern ends of the Island, that takes at least two days to traverse; and on a small leased area at the northern extremity, a small resort.

Hinchinbrook Island from Cardwell

Whilst the extended hike along the Island was beyond us, these days, we were booked to take a commercial tour day trip to the Island – the reason why we were in Cardwell.


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2009 Travels July 3

FRIDAY 3 JULY     TAYLORS BEACH

I didn’t sleep well last night. Sometime, during my waking periods, I became aware that the fridge was not behaving properly. Then, of course, I couldn’t sleep, but kept listening to it. Seemed to me that it was running for far too long, then starting up again far too quickly – even making allowances for the heat.

In the morning, John agreed with me. Naturally, it was a public holiday today in Ingham, for the Show. Rather than wait until Monday to try to find someone who might be able to deal with it, he started phoning refrigeration  places in Townsville. One gave him the name of a place that would work on our type of fridge. John booked it in for Monday.

We are going back to bloody Townsville!

He also managed to get us into the Woodlands Caravan Park – for EIGHT days! It was the V8 Super Car Race period and they told him it was the last spot they had.

I hadn’t envisaged going back there at all, let alone for so long. But I guessed, just like last time, it allowed plenty of time for the repair work and, if I was being uncharitable, for lots of bowls.

I phoned Cardwell and cancelled my bookings. The tour company said they would hold the deposit money I’d paid by card, against a future Hinchinbrook trip. Right now, that possibility seemed a tad on the optimistic side, given the way this trip was going!

I did not want to do any driving trips today, having decided to turn the fridge on and off manually. There was too much cold stuff in there to fit in the outside Chescold, and I really didn’t want to lose my frozen seafood and meat, if it could be helped.

The fridge was very iced up – probably from all that extra running, so I defrosted it. Didn’t make much difference.

I reminded John that we had a spare thermostat, left from 2007, when we’d bought one and didn’t need it. He’d forgotten all about that, but after a search, found it in “his” cupboard of bits and pieces. He phoned the Melbourne dealer in Vitrifrigo parts and ordered a new fan too, to be sent up to us in Townsville, asap.

John drove into Halifax, where shops were still open, and bought some glue. He wanted to do some repair patching to the flyscreen meshes on the poptop openings. Insects like moths and flies had, over time, gotten into the van, then died trying to get out the screened top openings. The bodies fell down to where the fixed mesh met the canvas zip-up flap. Then some birds have thought they’d spied an easy feed, and pecked holes in the mesh from outside! John cut little squares of plastic mesh that he carried for this purpose, and glued them over the holes. Not particularly pretty, but effective – and needed in these areas of midges.

Cane train beside the road to Taylors Beach

 I read, sewed, operated the fridge, then cooked barra in beer batter for tea. Very good it was, too.


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2009 Travels July 2

THURSDAY 2 JULY     TAYLORS BEACH

The humidity here, and the day/night temperature range, was causing much condensation under the awning roof overnight, and in the mornings, until the sun dried it off, it dripped onto everything below. That would normally include me, sitting outside with my morning coffee and juice!

It was another slow morning, as John slept in.

I went for a long walk around the streets of the village. It was hot, but the exercise was welcome. I noticed that the grid of streets all had “fish” names – Grunter, Groper, John Dory, Herring, Bream and the like. The village seemed to be a mix of holiday homes and permanently occupied ones – the latter probably in the minority.

After lunch we drove back through the intriguing sugar cane country to have another look around Dungeness and Lucinda. We spent a while at the Dungeness boat launch area, watching boats come and go.

 At that time of the day most were coming in. It was interesting, watching the different types of boats – and especially the differing levels of competency of the drivers, at getting them back in! That was actually very entertaining, though I suspect some of the less competent mariners did not appreciate the audience.

Then back to camp, so John could head off in good time for his early evening bowls. He bought a Subway tea in Ingham, first. I had soup for tea, and some cheese and biccies.

I phoned Cardwell and booked into a caravan park there, for five nights, and also booked a boat trip to Hinchinbrook Island, for next Tuesday.

Hinchinbrook Island

I had a very welcome email from friend M, who was over in the west again this year, with another set of travelling friends. She said they had reached Kalgoorlie ok, after bad weather and head winds across the Nullarbor. Tomorrow they were heading to Wiluna, and thence up the Canning Stock Route to Halls Creek. That was going to be an adventure, that would take them at least three weeks. We had, months ago, thought about joining that planned trip, but John was not keen. He didn’t trust the mechanical state of Truck, this year, to tackle the sand dunes and rough surfaces of the Canning. He also felt that demanding driving would be too hard on the problematic hips. It was a pity, but understandable. However, M’s email did make me wish that we were going, too!

John enjoyed the evening of bowls, and the people he met at the club. Very positive.