Oz Wk 8

Monday 1st May [Public Holiday]
We set off from our site after breakfast and headed to Sarina Beach as we'd been told it was a great place to see by the ladies at the information centre we visited yesterday. The weather was pretty grey and very windy at the headland car park. The notices warning of crocodiles in the area didn't make a dip in the sea inviting despite the duty lifeguard telling us the water today is 24 degrees. She laughed when I told her it would be considered a hot day in England if we reached that air temperature let alone the sea!!

Walking back to the van we came across a dead and very flat cane toad which is just as well as they are very poisonus and considered a pest in Australia. They were originally brought to Australia in the hope they would eradicate the cane beetles that were destroying the sugar canes but the beetles can climb and the toads can't so they didn't do a very good job!
Later, while we were travelling to the next high point on our journey, we passed more road kill and this time it was a huge wild boar.

We went out to Hay Point which has a public viewing place to look over the biggest coal terminal in Australia. A train passed by us yesterday pulling lots of coal hoppers and we stopped to count them, it took 3mins 42 seconds to pass us and apart from the front engine there were two more at intervals along the length of it but I counted 126 hoppers altogether.
We also saw a truck hauling cattle, not unusual except that this was a double decker truck and it was also pulling another double decker bigger than itself. 
From here we went into the big city of Mackay but as it is a public holiday here it's all a bit dead. We head out to the beach area and walk along the huge Marina full of catamarans and power boats as well as a few yachts. Similar to the UK though, there seemed to be very little activity.
We have now made our way to Cape Hillsborough Caravan Park where we will stay the night. It is now raining but at least I can get a load of washing done and hope it's stopped by the time it's finished. I am pretty angry that having asked at reception if they have a space for us, we are told there is plenty of room. When I ask the price I am told it is $4 extra tonight because it's a public holiday!! These Australians have no idea about marketing at all. The place is almost deserted and this is so far off the highway they would not expect much passing trade as this is a dead end road. There is no restaurant here and the nearest shop according to reception is back in Mackay!! They ought to offer a discount to get more visitors not charge extra and to be honest this place is a bit of a dump for $40. There is a sign on the Ladies Showers announcing that they are closed for cleaning between 08:30 and 09:30 and checkout time is 09:30 - now isn't that sensible!!!! The shower is not much bigger than the one in our van and if you wash your hands after the loo there is no drier or towels and all this for $40 Hmm!! I enquired about Wi-Fi and that is $4 for 30 minutes, what a rip-off.
Nevertheless for yet another $4 we manage to do a load of washing although as it's raining we're going to have to invest a further $3 for the drier. 
We took a walk around the peninsular to where the aboriginies had made a fish trap thousands of years ago and it can still be seen today. It was getting dark as we returned and found a kangaroo sitting just outside the park entrance. 

Luckily I had some mince and a jar of bolognese to add to some penne pasta so we had quite a feast, finishing off with a mini Magnum we had in the freezer compartment.
We have set our alarm for 05:30 as we have been told that there will be many Kangaroos and Wallabies on the shoreline at 06:00am. 
Tuesday 2nd May
Once we are on the beach at low tide along with about 30 other keen observers, the ranger walked out with a pot and suddenly from nowhere there were 5 kangaroos and about 8 wallabies with a tiny joey wallaby jumping all over the place. We all stayed back and watched while they ate the barley as dawn gradually broke.

Once the food was gone they began hopping back to their hideouts except for two young males that began sparring with one another almost as if they were aware of their audience.
On our way back to the main highway we stop off to walk along the boardwalk in the mangrove swamp area. Again we have been warned there are many crocs in the area but we didn't see any! 
We left Cape Hillsborough and set off towards our next camp site at Broken River. The road here is very steep and winding and not suitable for towing caravans but we manage our campervan with no trouble. This is a very tranquil place next to a river and although it has no facilities still cost $12.30, however, the attraction here is a nice walk along the river where we spot Platypus as well as a large bright blue butterfly and an equally blue irridescant bird that I think must be a small kingfisher. We are amazed at how small the platypus are. Somehow the way they are depicted makes you think they're as big if not bigger than an otter when in fact they are probably only about 9 inches from beak to tail.
We have great photos but haven't got an internet connection fast enough to upload them yet. 
There are also many turtles floating around from tiny ones no bigger than a saucer to big dinner platters. Talking of dinner plates, there are also lots of midges out for an afternoon meal and the expensive insect repellant doesn't seem to phase them at all!
This is a platypus

Wednesday 3rd May

We set off early back down the mountain stopping at the lookout known as Sky Window.

If the cloud had been burned off completely it would have been an awesome view but John still managed toget some good photos.

We then set off for the Finch Hadden Gorge but after crossing three fords and about 7 kms I'd had enough. This photo was taken on the way back through so you can see what the situation was like. I started to have nightmares about the van being swept away with us in it....
 We are now in Nebo, a very small town but at least this is the first Wi-Fi connection in 3 days so you've got a lot to catch up on.

We also have access to free washing machine and drier [lucky because it's raining again] so we can get the sheets and bedding laundered with no worry.

There are lots of Kookaburros around here and their cackle laughter almost makes me want to laugh with them.

At least we seem to be clear of the sugar canes now which were beginning to get boring. There are warning signs that Koalas live in this area so we're on the lookout for them again.

We eat at the grill bar behind the roadhouse and it's suprisingly good. I had fish and it was delicious.

Thursday 4th May

Sent birthday wishes to Mick then set off toward Clermont, a coal mining area. The town is not what it was and we've learned that the tours we had hoped to join had not run for more than 4 years. There is a pretty lagoon in town and we park next to it for lunch. There are lots of ducks, ugly looking geese and a comorant.

Our stop tonight is a free area at the back of a truck stop next to a main highway. There are loos, shower and even free laundry facilities again but John walked over to take a look and said they were probably OK for truckers but not my scene so we will be self sufficient tonight. We had a wood fired Pizza in town earlier so we just had eggs for tea. The trouble with truck stops are the refrigerated lorries that have to run generators all night and although we are as far away as we can be [along with 5 other vans] there is still a drone all night.

Friday 5th May
We set off for Emerald today which is a much larger town and choose a site with no power but good, clean showers and loo for just $12 for the night. 

We have driven through more cattle country here and seen what can only be described as Sacred Cows. Those grey beasts with humped backs and floppy down ears that make them look more like a goat, that aremostly seen in India.

We use the van to drive into town and stop at the Info centre to get details about several trips in the area that maybe worth a visit. There are gemstone mines here where they extract and polish Sapphires [my birthstone as it happens] but we probably won't do that although the open cast coal mines are of interest to John.
We are also planning to go to Carnarvon Gorge in the next couple of days which is very remote and again we will need to be self sufficient so we visit Coles Superstore to stock up on supplies and we'll also need to fill up with fuel at Rolleston to be sure we can make it there and back!!
We also take advantage of the restaurant choices in town and decide on an Italian which doesn't disappoint.

Saturday 6th May
We awake to beautiful sunshine and the promise of another hot day.

As we left Emerald this morning we both agreed that we liked the place very much. It had a lot going for it including an airport, major train connections, a large lake just outside town to satisfy water requirements and all the big shops you'd expect. Emerald sits on the tropic of Capricorn and enjoys a pretty good climate year round.

We headed off towards Rolleston where we intend to fill up with diesel before our onward journey to the Carnarvon Gorge. Our thoughts were initially to stay a night there but one look at the campsite and John decided he was OK to drive another 100kms or so and get right to the gorge. In fact we arrived at the Sandstone Park Reception by lunchtime and were met by the most enthusiastic welcome we've recieved so far. Olivia is a fantastic owner of the site and talked us into a helicopter flight through the gorge before we'd even checked in.

She was right that it could not have been missed and the 20 minute ride over and into the National Park with pilot Russell giving us a geological and historical commentry throughout. Our reward was two free nights at the campsite situated about 3km further on. This site would normally be $20 per night with no power or water but some portaloos and enormous sites almost big enough to build a house on. This huge campsite has 360 degree views and we can see lots of kangaroos and wallabies in the field below us.

Just before 4:30pm we drive the van to the Discovery centre where we are told guide will give a talk about the gorge and what we can expect to see. It was very informative and we learned a lot about the ecosystem, wild life and sustainability of the region.

We get back to our campsite and settle in for the evening. There is silence all around and only the smell of wood fires burning on most sites so by evening John gathers some wood and we eat our dinner by the light of the moon and enjoy the warmth of the fire as we watch the sun go down behind the mountains beyond.

Sunday 7th May
After breakfast we drive the van from our site to the visitor centre about 5 kms away and prepare for our morning walk. There are several routes which are clearly marked and we set off along the main route across stepping stones at some points where the path crosses a river until we reach a turnoff to Moss gardens. We take this route and arrive at the most beautiful secret area where the water from way above us has filtered through porous rocks until it hits shale that the water cannot penetrate so it is forced sideways out of the walls and drips down to a pool through many different and rare mosses. It is a sacred place for Aborigini tribes and you can see why.

We walked over 31/2 kms and it took us 3 hours but it was worth it. Our van was parked in the shade so we had lunch there before returning once again to our site for a second night.

On the way back we saw an Echidna walking across the road in front of us so I shot out of the van and managed to get some close up shots. His spines were the most gorgeous orange and browns and his little face was so cute you could have almost stroked him if those spines had not been so lethal.

The sky has been a clear blue and cloudless with the sun reaching 29 degrees on both days with not quite a full moon each night we've been here. Although the facilities here are sparse the views, Olivia's welcome and the whole gorge adventure has been worth a million dollars.

It's hard to think we will be starting our 9th week here tomorrow morning and flying home in just 3 weeks' time.

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