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Far North Queensland’s Wet Tropics has amazing pockets of biodiversity.  The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area stretches from Townsville to Cooktown and covers 894,420 hectares of coastal zones and hinterland, diverse swamp and mangrove-forest habitats, euclaypt woodlands and tropical rainforest.  It covers only 0.01% of Australia’s surface area, but has:

  • 36% of all mammal species
  • 50% of the bird species
  • around 60% of the butterfly species
  • 65% of the fern species

This amazing bush tucker trip, where the tropics meets the reef, took us from Cairns to Port Douglas, up to Cape Tribulation and down and around the tablelands. It was effortless touring in our modern and fuel efficient camper, which Sam has duly named Larry – Lili’s boyfriend!

We did plan on heading right up to Cooktown, but having already crossed several overflowing creeks, we came to a halt at Emmagen Creek and turned back. It was impassable without a 4×4 and we didn’t want to forfeit our $2,000 damage deposit.

We spent most of our time wild camping (no campsite) and without the need for a electric hookup.  We had been told by many that this wasn’t possible; either the locals or police would move us on.  Quite the opposite, we met and shared a few glasses of wine with some fantastic locals who were more than helpful in finding us a nice sheltered area where we could park up for free.

We seen some weird and wonderful animals, insects and plant life along the way – too many to mention.  If we said we were not nervous of the prospect of meeting a croc we’d be lying.  Almost everywhere warned of the dangers of this fierce predator and you could tell the environment, especially the swamps, was prime breeding ground.  We did swim in a river where two locals assured us the water was too cold for crocs – we have learned since that that was a load of balony – lucky escape I say.

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This creek we did cross.

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This creek we didn’t!

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Larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world.  The spectacular kaleidoscope of colour stretched along the Queensland seaboard from south of the Capricorn to Torres Strait south of New Guinea.  A BBC TV programme rated it second only to the Grand Canyon on a list of 50 places to see before you die (Lonely Planet).

We (more like I) could hardly sleep with the excitement of diving this spectacular wonder.  A 60km ride off the coast of Cairns meant we had to be up and on the boat rather early. It took over 2hrs to get to get to our first drop off.  Sam signed up for the guided tour as she hadn’t dived since November and felt more comfortable with an instructor.  I took an unguided tour and buddied up with Berry, the guy for the Netherlands.

To be brutality honest it was great but not absolutely spectacular which we were expecting.  The time of year, weather conditions and visibility were not in our favour.  Once in, Berry and I headed straight for the 80m coral wall, passing some nice shallow corals along the way, but once there we were a little disappointed.  Although there was a great diversity of corals we were expecting them to be more colourful and surrounded by many more fish.  That said, we got to swim with turtles and a few white-tip reef sharks which was a first and damn amazing – we soon gulped our air as we chased them around. Sam unfortunately seen neither.

If we get the chance we will try another dive somewhere along the coast.  The photos are a little disappointing and come nowhere near those taken in Indonesia.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #17

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Quite Cairns

January 23rd, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (4 Comments)

We arrived in Cairns a couple of days ago and all we seemed to have done, apart from drink wine and chill out at the man-made lagoon (pictured below), is sort out a campervan which we pick up on Tuesday.

Advised by other travellers we decided to rent rather than buy.  Seemingly, many that have purchased vans in Cairns, and have completed the east coast route, are struggling to sell in Sydney – we certainly don’t want to joining that queue.  Because there are a large number of rental vehicles in Cairns that need taking back to Sydney we were able to negotiate a good deal, from $70 a day down to $40 for a hi-top with all the trimmings.  Hopefully we won’t have to pay for too many campsites; they range from $25–40 a night depending on facilities but there are some free ones too.  We are very excited about getting out of the city and getting back in a campervan. 

Cairns by all accounts is really really quite, yet more evidence of a slowdown in the economies of the UK and the rest of Europe where a large portion of their tourists come from.  Some bars are now closing a 9pm because of the lack of trade.  Ironically, there doesn’t seem to be much discount on tourist traps, places of interest or accommodation.

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Aboriginal paintings

January 18th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (1 Comments)

Somewhat inspired by the indigenous people of Australia, one of the most complex and ancient cultures in the world, we felt we needed to gain a deeper insight or understanding of their art, especially their paintings, so we set about trying to find one or more that we both understood and could relate to in some way.

We were taken aback with the prices in the galleries which were priced anywhere from $200 for a small up to several thousand for the large.  Of course these were for some of the more famous artists.  We were told by our tour guide to avoid the shops and wait till we got to Alice Springs where they are sold on street corners and in the parks and some are just as good a quality.

After a couple of hours of talking with the Abos (only kidding) we agreed on the following paintings and struck a deal with the artist’s wife.  It’s also nice to see where the money is going to. Hopefully these will look good on a wall somewhere with the rest of the handicraft we’ve collected along the way.

Subject: Four Women Collecting Bush Berries For Their Kids

Artist: Marissa McMillan

Tribe: Eastern Aranda

Place: Ltyentye Apurte

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Subject: Two Kangroos Looking for Waterholes

Artist: Gabren White

Tribe: Walpiri

Place: Yuendumu

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Some pictures of the artist’s family:

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Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon)

January 18th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (1 Comments)

3hrs sleep and another 4am start so we can visit Watarrka National Park and walk Kings Canyan before heading back to Alice where we finished our six day tour. 

Neither Sam or I did the 3hr walk around the outer rim.  Sam’s ankle was sore from the previous days walking and, if the truth be known, we were just exhausted from the late nights and early mornings coupled with the sun and the dehydration took it toll. Sam stayed in the tour van and I walked the half hour along the bottom.

After the canyon it was off for lunch and you could take a camel or helicopter ride.  The camel ride was $15 for 15 mins and the helicopter $145 for 15 mins.  You will not see pictures of doing either!

It was great being back in Alice Springs at a decent hostel with a pool and kitchen facilities.  We had a late night farwell party with the group till the early hours, had a lie in and went shopping before we caught out flight to Cairns.

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