Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 311 (121)
Thursday 13th January (2005)
Another superb breakfast was laid on for us again this morning and we once again wanted for nothing. We already said goodbye to Kim last night, since it was a foregone conclusion that he would long be at work by the time we woke up this morning so it was just ourselves, Judy and Grandma at the house by the time everyone was awake.
When I first laid out our plans for how to tackle Australia, we were in another season and in another hemisphere half way around the planet. I knew that it was going to be hot up in the Northern part of the country but I didn’t know it was going to be as wet as it currently is up there. With washed out tracks and road closures due to heavy, tropical rains, Darwin has been starting to look like it won’t be much fun at all and I’ve been quietly worried about this over the past couple of weeks. Judy came up with a good idea this morning and suggested that we forego Darwin in favour of seeing some other parts of Australia instead. Quick as a flash, I had the map of Australia laid out in front of me and was examining our options. We already have several pre-paid tickets for flights from Cairns to Darwin to Yulara (Uluru) to Melbourne so I was hoping that it would just be a matter of calling Qantas to see about changing the routing around a bit. After several phone calls back and forth, I had secured an alternative route around the country for us. If all goes to plan, we will now be flying from Cairns to Yulara to Perth to Adelaide. Once in Adelaide, we will likely pick up a rental vehicle to traverse the Great Ocean Road route to Melbourne and then onwards to Sydney for our departure to Christchurch in New Zealand. This new routing covers more ground but uses less flight legs and the ticketing agent at Qantas was unable to figure out whether we owed them money or they owed us money. I will need to call into them again come Monday to get confirmation one way of another but we should be able to plan ahead using the new route either way.
All those last-minute travel plan changes consumed enough time to take us well into mid-morning before we were able to say our goodbyes and get on the road. Still unsure of where we were going exactly, all we really knew was that we were generally headed in a northerly direction up towards Cairns. We were on the road a good half an hour before it dawned on us that we had not taken a single photo of Judy or their house. Bugger!
Armed with a bag full of brochures and maps that we had accumulated over the past few weeks and several trips to the tourist information offices, we scanned the literature to see just what there was to see. We decided to head for a place called Tully, where white water rapid rafting was the attraction of choice. Our trusty Lonely Planet guidebook provided us with a couple of accommodation options and we mulled over the pros and cons of each before deciding to check them both out upon arrival.
Just like England, the Australian landscape is littered with sights of interest that are marked with brown signs along the major highways. We followed a few of these as we meandered up north, stopping every half hour or so. One of these diversions was a sign to a waterfall so I diverted onto the small inward road to see where it led. Throwing caution to the wind, we even continued onto the unsealed dirt road, at which point we said goodbye to our car insurance. This winding road eventually stopped at a small car park and we set off on foot, following the sound of running water as we went. The signage seemed to indicate the presence of the waterfall just a few hundred metres away but after half a kilometre or so, Sandy had reached her ‘at one with nature’ threshold and decided to allow me the honour of completing the trek to the grand sight of the waterfall for the obligatory shots with the camera. The track just kept on going but I wasn’t going to be deterred, even after passing another couple that proclaimed it would be a strenuous climb to reach the lookout point that was my intended destination. Indeed the winding climb up the very steep incline on the other side of the ravine was a challenging one, but also rewarding when it terminated at a deck perched out over the edge of the cliff face with the streaming waters of the waterfall opposite and above my position. Below, I could see lots of very large boulders with rock pools forming between them and the odd sunbather lying near the water’s edge. After duly enjoying the view, I made my way part way down again and detoured off to find the rock pools for a closer inspection. There was just one couple sunbathing there by the time I arrived. Based on the fact that the woman was sunbathing topless, I would have to guess that they were Europeans. Moving in to get a closer look (at the rock pools that is), I meandered precariously over the smooth rock formations trying not to slip on the occasionally wet surface as I went. Despite my best efforts, I lost my footing at one point and slipped down the rock a good ten metres or more before managing to regain my grip on the rock. Fortunately, the camera swinging around my neck survived the fall and all I managed to come away with was a bruised thumb. It wasn't a major injury and I was sure that I would get some sort of sympathy from my loving wife when I returned.
Having taken in all that the waterfall had to offer from the various vantage points, I made my way back through the jungle terrain, back through the ravine and over the creek to my loving wife, where I was hoping to find a sympathetic ear and a soothing kiss for my bruised thumb. What I found was a very irate woman who had now well and truly surpassed her ‘at one with nature’ threshold having been near eaten alive by ants and mosquitoes (her interpretation) and was none too pleased at my having taken so long to get back to her. I never did get that soothing kiss.
We were soon back on the road again, not to mention back under the protection of our insurance, and heading north once again towards Tully. After another couple of stops to refuel the car, ourselves and to admire some stunning lookout positions, we eventually arrived in Tully. We checked out the two backpacker’s hostels in town and decided to go with the quieter of the two. Are we getting old?
They had no doubles available but the nice old woman manning the front desk decided to let us have a four bed dorm to ourselves for just AU$34 (€21) per night for two nights. It isn’t completely booked out but pretty much everyone else that is staying here, as well as at the other place in town, are all seasonal fruit picking labourers. Fruit picking and the like is a very popular way for passing backpackers to earn some extra money to help sustain their travelling lifestyle as they pass through Australia. There are several places up and down the East coast where such work can be had for those with a valid working permit and Tully is one such town. They can pull in around AU$450 (€275) for a forty-hour work week, which is enough to sustain them with a little spare to carry on travelling after a week or two of working. Having chatted to several of the newcomers here today, however, it seems like it is very hard work. One such couple that arrived yesterday and started work today is already very much looking forward to the weekend break.
In addition to fruit picking, the rafting on the Tully River is the other big pull for backpackers in this area. Indeed, the two competing rafting companies ferry backpackers in from as far north as Cairns and as far south as Townsville on a daily basis to enjoy the ride down the Tully River. Sandy was extremely hesitant to get onto the raft but after much deliberation, she decided to give it a go and I booked us both onto one of tomorrow’s boats. It will be interesting to see how she fares. Including a AU$30 (€18,30) per person charge for the national park entrance fee, the full day trip, including lunch, will cost us AU$165 (€100) each.