Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Places i saw

Now that i'm sat here, i can't think of what to write today. It's not that i haven't done anything, i have, so here are a few photos of stuff i have done.

A leaf. I tried to take photographs in the botanic gardens in Cairns but couldn't get far enough away from the huge plantings to fit them into pictures well, so decided to do arty ones instead. It was amazingly lush and tropical and very green. Giant speciment of houseplants again, well, those that i recognised, and other towering examples of species that are unrecognisable and have unpronounsable names too. A good plant book will be much more informative.

The highest continuous fall waterfall in Queensland, probably Australia, Wallermans Falls, at 268 metres is an impressive sight. More so the constant roar and even though the water pours over the top at a relatively constant rate something happens causing it to fall in lumps and clumps in a very irregular fashion.

Its banana country here too, thousands and thousands of them lining the roads for miles in every direction. Each bunch guarded from bugs and showers of rain with their own protective raincoat. Have yet to do the obligitory Banana Farm tour so can't bore you with nana stats yet. No doubt the time will come.

Shared an interesting evening with an Austrian family at a campsite last night, we discussed our routes and places that we had visited and i have a whole new list of possible destinations to head off to now. The Kangaroo steaks were delicious and washed down with countless of stubbies of beer, maybe thats why i'm finding it difficult to write anything that stimulating today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Daintree National Park

I have discovered why they call it the 'rain' forest, it is supposed to be the dry tourist season at the moment, and the weather is rather like an English summer. Grey and nearly wet most of the time. It must be how the forest gets to be just so green. The locals are more grumpy with the weather than i am, it is spoiling the influx of australian holiday makers and reducing their tourist dollar. More space for those of us that are here.

The scenery is different to everywhere else i have been so far in Australia. Lush green forests with a huge abundance of diversity and wildlife. More animals than the rest of the continent, more birds than the rest of the continent, more plants than....its warm and its the coldest part of the year. There are huge 'house plants' growing everywhere, orchids up in trees, massive climbing swiss cheese plants, dragon trees and ferns growing taller than a person. Exotic birds in the trees, big big creepy crawlies on the ground and the continuing possibility of snakes all around.

A handy tip - Never go to an insect museum the day before attempting a bush walk, it makes moving through the undergrowth that much more difficult when every root could be a snake and each spiders web has the largest most poisonous arachnid guarding its very existence. Hand holds have to be checked out visually before being grabbed and each leaf has a potential hunter underneath. Not so bad when the leaves are small, but when some are over 6' long it could become interesting.

I gave myself a good talking to and went anyway. A 7hour tramp up Mount Sorrow, another Captain Cook discovery, just inland from Cape Tribulation, the poor chap was having a particularly bad time when he landed here by all accounts. The view from the top, incredible and the exercise was just what i needed and my cold has since dissappeared too. I could see the beach and the campsite where the van was and out to sea, the changing shades of water distinguished the reaches of the Great Barrier Reef. Clouds continued to buffet the coastline and it soon began to rain again.

A dry alternative proved to be very interesting and a bit of a taste sensation. A Tropical Fruit Experience, where hard to transport or grow varieties of exotic fruit are harvested fresh from the orchard, discussed and tasted. A few i recognised, others had more commercially available relatives that i knew, but altogether a very interesting afternoon. At least i'll have a better idea of what to buy at the roadside stalls next time i stop and also what to avoid.

Am down the coast in Cairns now, it is still raining, so i shall do the town thing for a day or two, visit some galleries, do some shopping and see what else the town has to offer.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oakleigh pics

Thought a few more images would be good here.

How does it happen that after all the travelling i have done this last year, i go to the most remote place i have ever been in my life and come away with a stinking cold????

No wonder there isn't a cure if it can lurk out there in the bush for years waiting for unsuspecting folk.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Oakleigh Station

After a few days travelling up the coast, checking out the beaches and local sights, i headed inland to meet up with Darcy, Juliane and family at the races. The directions seemed easy enough and it didn't look that far on the map until i added up all the distance indicators. Just over a full day of travelling along wide, dusty, unsealed roads, avoiding huge, 50 metre long, road trains and an extrordinary amount of roadkill i found myself at the turning to the race track. It only took another hour or so to get to the campsite and the races.

So this was what they called the outback, it wasn't just out the back, it was miles and miles from anywhere, i hadn't passed through a town or village on the journey, just the occasional roadside store and a few entrances to cattle stations, the properties hidden deep in the bush. I was glad that i had made firm arrangements to meet and had plenty of fuel and provisions on board.

The races were an amazing event, the annual local get together and a chance for the country folk to dress up, catch up and enjoy themselves. The actual horse races only lasted a few hours, but the whole event was attended for about 10 days with camps set up in the bush complete with bars, catering, sattelite TV and all the necessary facilities. Drinking and socialising were the order of the day

The family had just turned up for the day and were keen to get home before it got too late. The children, Ethan, Bryce and Sammy 4, 2 and 1 let their parents know in true toddler style that they had had enough, which was just as well because it was another 3 hours drive back to the farm.

I followed as best as i could, through the twilight and into the night, with no idea of where i was heading or what lay ahead. It wasn't until the following morning that i got to see the farm and countryside around. Well, some of it, the station covered 90,000 acres and supported over 5500 cattle, no other signs of civilation for miles, and when i left, realised that the driveway was over 12km long.

This will turn into an epic if i carry on at this rate, so a shortened version.......

the deal was to experience life on a cattle station, which was what i did, there were no opportunities to do anything else locally because there wasn't anything local. I spent each day with the family, having breakfast, feeding the cattle, delivering feed suppliments to distant areas of the farm, helping hand milk the milk cow, and do whatever the day entailed, right through to evening dinner and a good beer, the kids tagged along with their parents, Ethan preferred helping at home and Bryce would do anything to be allowed to ride on machinery, whether it be a tractor, dozer, truck or motorbike he loved it and they were both keen to tell me how it all happende and what i could and couldn't do!! Sammy would get strapped into a seat and taken off to do things with both parents taking turns to mind and have time off.

I got to horse ride, help out with dehorning, cutting(castrating) and innoculating young cattle and herding them out to the bush. Hunting down wild pigs. Saw emu, kangaroos and wallabys and an incredible number of birds. The major project was installing new underground power lines between the properties so i had plenty of time shovelling dirt either out of the ground or back into the holes that i had dug earlier in the week and also designing a garden around the main house on the property. When i wasn't busy there was always something going on with the boys to keep me occupied, Juliane has offered me a job as childminder, home schooler and gardener so i can return more permanently if i would like.

The time flew by, and after another 2 days on the road am back in a more populated area, heading north towards Cairns and beyond.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A week later and we got our main project completed, along with much more beer and a couple of excellent days out. One to the beach, one of the last surfing beaches on the east coast before the Great Barrier Reef starts - to get in a bit more surfing and try our Simons board which he bought with his van. And the second, a day trip out to Lady Musgrove Island, a coral cay 75km out into the ocean.

An amazing day made more exciting by the large swell on the way out that made the ride more like a roller coaster than a catermaran trip. Many folk ended up with their heads in plastic bags..... The island has evolved over thousands of years and is situated at one end of a sheltered lagoon, ideal for snorkelling and diving, populated by sea birds and a small campsite that you have to take everything too, including all your drinking water. Several varieties of tree that survive on bird droppings and plenty of white coral sand. Under water was much more interesting, both from the glass bottom boat that ferried us to the island and also with an afternoon of snorkelling, i so wish i had an underwater camera but the memories will have to do. Keiran and i had a great day.

The garden project was a resounding success, with both the hosts hugely more enthusiastic about their project now that a big dent has been made in the plans that had taken so long to get moving. It was great fun to work as part of a team of 4, all with our own ideas, rather than individually and we got loads done. The french guys english was limited so plenty of amusement with trying to explain almost anything even slightly technical, though once they got it, the work was never a problem.

Since i left the farm, three days ago, have headed north, towards Cairns almost continually, have driven over 2000km and am heading inland to mining country and the outback, the roads head off in to the distance and go on forever, then when you get to the end and go round a corner, they head off into the distance again, though at the moment still through trees and bush. I'm expecting a vast expanse of nothing to appear before too long.

Plenty of time to take in the sights and wonder how the creeks and gullies got their names. 'Short Goodbye Creek' followed by 'Goodbye Creek' later on 'Jacket Creek', did someone loose or find a jacket there? 'Five Mile Creek' that was at least 100 miles from the sea, there must be a reason.... 'Crocodile Creek' probably obvious, but not in crocodile country. Who knows.