Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Bowen and Home


Mangoes and Bowen are synonymous for Australians. What a pity it was to visit this mecca for all mango lovers out of season. Still, the town has its attractions. Horseshoe bay is one of the nicest beaches I have been to. There are corals growing on the rocks at the high water mark. I was amazed by how soft coral feels. There's also plenty of dead coral to collect on the beach.

Bowen is also one of the gateways to the Whitsunday Islands. One of them, King island I think, can be seen in the distance. Fishing tours are offered everywhere as are reef tours.

We met a lovely old couple who told us about the corals and had a spare set of goggles which they gave to Nina so she could see the corals. We spent way to long here swimming and sea shell collecting and had to hustle to make a few more kilometres before dark.  

We were hoping to make Rockhampton before nightfall but this was an illusion. There are not so many places to stay on this stretch of road. Marlborough has one Hotel and one Motel both of which were not too inviting. Also no shops so we pressed on to Rocky. 

We got there by about 8pm, settled into a Motel next to the Botanic gardens but did no sightseeing. We were all a bit tired of tourism and just wanted to get home by now. I checked Google maps and decided to take the inland route back to Brisbane since the time was supposed to be about the same and we figured the road would be less crowded. This was the case until Miles. 

One of the pubs on the road caught my eye. It seems the town consists of just this pub. 

Unfortunately our trip ended on a slightly sour note. Near the town of Dalby we were pulled over by a police car and fined for speeding. The road is great here, much better than most of the Bruce highway, and we were just following traffic, not passing anyone and not being passed. Why us? The criteria chosen is anybody's guess. Obvious tourists perhaps?

Anyway, chastened I now set the cruise control at exactly 100km and now became a real danger on the road. At every opportunity cars and trucks passed us. I had to apply the brakes several times as vehicles swerved back into the lane to avoid hitting oncoming vehicles. But its not about revenue raising, its all about road safety. 

Conclusion, take the Bruce highway and avoid the "Dalby Tax".

After Toowoomba the road turns into a highway and the driving got easier. By evening we had reached the Gold Coast. More than 7000km later our 3 week trip to the Cape is over. Now I have a clearer idea of just how huge Queensland is, especially considering that we saw very little of it actually. To think that my original idea was to return via Uluru and the Simpson Desert. Seems quite funny now.

This is a picture from Burleigh heads, Gold Coast. We went for a walk on the headland and saw Whales in the distance. The Sun was shining, surfers were enjoying the small but clean waves and despite it being a Tuesday there were people everywhere enjoying a glorious winters day.

When one lives on the Gold Coast is it really necessary to go on holiday?  

Friday, 10 July 2015

Atherton to Ayr

Chief Blogging Bull?

Before I begin our latest travel report I feel obliged to share something with you my treasured readers. I have some Native American genes courtesy of my biological dad whom I did not have the good fortune to meet. Very few people know this, not because I am ashamed of it but because I do not want to brag! I don't feel that a few genes gives me the right to claim membership of such a glorious culture. I now know I am looking at this all wrong.

Last night I wandered over to a group of young travelers hoping to get some help connecting to the wi-fi. I swear it was not to bum a smoke or try to chat up the the pretty German girls. Really truly.

They turned out to be very friendly, got me connected, offered me a rollie and asked about our trip. One young man of a slightly darker complexion felt obliged to "admit" that he was part Aboriginal but not like "the rest of them". He had gotten good grades in school, had an apprenticeship and had never been on welfare. I showed him our pictures on the iPad and told him how people from all around the world came just to see his ancestors art and culture. He seemed to feel better and I hope it lasts. So sad that young people in an attempt to fit in would distance themselves from their heritage.

I take this opportunity to once again plug " First Footprints ". 

Ok, back to the trip. I was nervous yesterday morning. Our Car was leaning a bit to one side and several people I had asked had told me it was a big job, probably expensive, the new part had to be shipped from Melbourne etc, etc. The parts fellow at Mitsubishi Mareeba sent me to see Wilkinson engineering so first thing I went in to see what they could do. Curly, the Boss, and one of his lads got a jack and a crowbar and in a few deft movements, Voila! Have a safe trip, no charge!!

I collected Francoise and Nina from the Motel, dropped a Carton at the Garage and continued to Innisfail with a broad grin on my face. 

If you ever take this road make sure you stop at the Mungalli creek dairy. After a few weeks in Far north Queensland, truly a culinary desert, we were so happy to have a real coffee, real milk, real cheese, etc.


I remember being overwhelmed by the beauty of this town 30 years ago. I thought of moving here then but on my way back to Sydney I had a little mishap and haven't made it back until now. This is Flying fish Point. The Cafe serves great seafood at a very reasonable price. Doubleroo rating 5*

Little Wallabies graze peacefully on the front lawns. Can you spot the Joey?

This is the Cassowary coast so be wary :-)

Water trees! Wow!

Further on down the road we stopped for a break at Cardwell. With more time we might have stayed here but with Brisbane still a long way and School starting next week we pressed on.

One last picture for you from some lookout between Cardwell and Townsville. After this it was too dark and not much to see.

Townsville was too popular ( expensive ) so I pulled up in the Centre of the city and searched booking.com for something a bit more reasonable. That's how we ended up in Ayr. 
Time to explore our destination :D

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Split Rock Gallery

Just 15 km south of Laura you will find Split Rock but only if you keep your eyes peeled, know it's there and can read a small sign hanging off one rivet. There is an unattended office with an honesty box where tourists are supposed to put $5. After our walk we had lunch in the shade and out of curiosity I watched the people go past and only saw one person put $5 on behalf of his large family. 

The art starts after quite a grueling 15- 20 minute hike but the reward is worth it. It starts under this rock. 

This is one of the "tall spirits" in the highest gallery. These are different not only from the other characters but also unlike the figures we saw on the guided tour.

I'm sure this signifies.....the Sun?

One of the busier scenes.

Quite a few of the characters at Split rock were painted upside down. I didn't notice any at the other Gallery.

The area is littered with suitable surfaced but only a few were used. I wonder how they were chosen. This particular overhang looks like it's bleeding. Did that influence the ancient artists? (completely uninformed speculation)

We took many photo's but again I'll just give you a taste to encourage you to come and see them for yourself. 

These treasures are our Lascaux or Altamira. Civilized nations treasure their history and do their best to preserve it for future generations. If that is not enough incentive then consider how much revenue the Pyramids, Stonehenge and the aforementioned Caves bring their respective countries. If respected and managed properly Aboriginal culture could become a source of income not only for the local communities but for all Australia virtually forever.

On a technological note, the pictures I took on the way up were with my Samsung Galaxy5 and on the way down I used my 4 year old iPad. The iPad ones turned out better. Not conclusive so I'll have to do more tests but it is the opposite of what I expected.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Cape York Dreaming


As Cape York is named by the traditional owners is an awe inspiring  place. Although, as you can see below, it is very picturesque, what left the deepest impression on me were the plaques like the one pictured, that are placed in the rocks of the headland. Trevor dreamed all his life of visiting the Cape but judging from the inscription, he and many others never got around to it. I may be reading it wrong and I hope I am.

I must admit that Pajinka was never high on my bucket list but reading there memorials made me think about mine. Will I ever get around to visiting Machu Picchu or cycle around Tierra del Fuego?
How about something much easier, Angkor Wat? I have been a few hours drive away several times and have always had something more important to do. How many times have I been to New Delhi and not made the effort to see the Taj Mahal?

We are not immortal and living our dreams must be the first priority. 

Cable Beach

But let me start at the beginning. Due to our extended swim at fruit bat falls we didn't get to Bamaga until mid afternoon. I hadn't booked any accommodation and decided just to drive to Punsand  Bay camping. Surely they would have something. Nope, but the owner was nice enough to direct us to a Bush camping spot not far away. Since there were no signs, just a red rag tied to a tree, there was still a spot vacant. School holidays.

The camping was rough, no facilities, but the location was quite special.

Dawn the next morning.

A few hours later we arrived at the tip.

The most northern Trees in Australia?

We were told not to swim anywhere around the cape as there is a 19 foot Crocodile called Gary who patrols these beaches. Nina just accidentally "fell" in the water and it took her a while to regain her footing.  

And this is the photo which cost us two magnificent fresh Crayfish. A local man had sold them to us just a few minutes before. I placed them on our esky when the sunset was pointed out to me. I rushed to take the photo and in the few minutes I was away from our tent a dog pinched them. It is a nice picture but hardly worth the Cray's. 

We are now back in Laura after spending a night in Coen again. The Car suffered a broken rear spring and we had to wait until the next afternoon to get it fixed. Wrong part, long wait, exhorbitant price but we got back on the road and made Laura just in time to have dinner before the State of Origin decider which ended in humiliation for NSW :D

I may add more pictures at another time and a faster connection. Meanwhile we need to check out of the Laura Hotel and visit Split Rock, another rock art site. 


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Coen to the Jardine River Ferry

Archer River

Coen is a funny place. The vibe is different from Laura. Firstly it is more "multicultural", whatever that means. The "Sexchange Hotel" is a meeting place for all with a rather chaotic but friendly camp ground ("wherever you want" ),some rooms. More on this den of iniquity in a later post. We experienced little of it on the way up as we arrived late at night, pitched our tent after finding a place with some difficulty and making dinner. Then I wrote my previous post and it was time for Bed. 

We got up quite early as we were still dreaming of reaching the ferry that day. We were warned about the Archer river roadhouse. It has the most expensive petrol we came across on the peninsula , well over $2 a litre. The coffee is....well, not coffee as we know it.

Just past the roadhouse however is a free camping spot and this nice little river. We took a dip and took some pics.

Archer River

My favourite feature was this tree, growing out of another tree of another kind. Never seen that before!

If we had had more time we would have stayed here. The Lockhart river was on my wish list.So much to see, so little time.

These huge termite mounds are everywhere.

Bramwell Station

By now it was clear we were not going to reach the Ferry in time and stoppped for the night at the Bramwell Station. To our great surprise the annual festival was taking place. There were lots of kids activities taking place so we stayed so Nina could take part in the Foot race, the Egg and Spoon race  jelly eating...

Nina did not do well in the jelly eating because her french palette clashed with the jelly and the foot race was 8-12 year olds (4th anyway) but the shone in the Talent quest (U10 div) coming 2nd. This meant she was in the final and we had to stay another day. She finished 3rd winning $50

Fruit bat Falls

We finally got back on the road on Sunday morning. The show was fun but after a weekend where Dagwood dogs were the best commercial food option....

One of our fellow campers (who made us a nice dinner on Friday night. suggested we should stop at these falls. Words fail me so just the pictures will have to do.

Nina didn't want to leave even after more than three hours but eventually we got back in the Car heading north.

Jardine River Ferry

Next: The Cape

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Quinkan spirits

I'm sitting under a tree in Coen drinking wine out of a plastic cup trying to piece my thoughts together after a particularly emotionally jarring day. We nearly didn't end up going on the guided tour of the spectacular rock art gallery because of my impressions of the town the night before.

We decided on Motel camping again due to our late arrival in Laura and my laziness. There were no cooking facilities in our room so we walked across the road to the Hotel. What first struck me was the stark segregation of this town. All the businesses, Motel & Store, Roadhouse and Hotel were owned by white people, their employees were all young Asian girls (backpackers) with average to very bad English skills, while all the Aboriginal people I saw bought groceries at the store with some transaction not involving cash or card.

I was later told that most had been banned from the Pub, some for life! Is that even remotely legal? One lady informed us that even their dogs were "bad". I still can't believe that such blatant systemic racism exists in Australia. Even worse, I suspect my impression only scratches the surface.

Francoise had similar feelings and we decided to just get out of this place after quickly visiting the Quinkan Cultural Centre. We walked around the centre reading about the history of the area and our mood only got darker. We read how in the past the first people were rounded up to do forced labour (aka slavery) and if they "misbehaved" in any way their families would be sent to Palm Island from whence 25% didn't return. I'll just leave you with that little taste. I'm sure you can find information of other atrocities by yourself. Francoise by this point was crying and I needed to go outside to get some fresh air.

There I met Lex, the gentleman who runs the centre and who was just having a ciggie break. We got to chatting and I decided we should do the tour.

Lex got on the phone and rang one of the local guides, a fellow who goes by the name of Steve and who's grandmother coincidentally originates from Coen, where she raised 13 children in a tin shed. He is a very friendly, extremely knowledgeable and talkative fellow and he immediately put us at ease.

Lets get to the gallery.

This is the first cave where animals and good spirits are drawn. Steve was the first to admit that the exact meanings are now lost in the mists of time.

Many paintings show animals that were revered or eaten or both. Below is a river eel which is native ti the Laura river.

Human forms if I remember right (as opposed to spirits)

To me this looks like spirits pushing from inside the rock (no hallucinogens :-)

Across the top of the animals and people runs the rainbow serpent.

An Alien surfing? Calling Von Daniken :D

Lastly we got to the inner sanctum. This is where the healing was done. I will resist the temptation to retell the story poorly, rather I encourage you to come and hear it yourself from one of the people like Steve who has a connection to this land going back to before the last Ice age.

I cannot resist one last picture, who I will name the Venus of Quinkan. As soon  as I saw her she reminded me of the Venus of Willendorf . Francoise and I went to see her in Austria many years ago. Funny how "sexy" has changed in the last 30,000 years.

I hope this taste of one of the worlds oldest and most magnificent art galleries inspires you to come and experience it for yourself.

Another advantageof going with a (talkative) local guide is that he/she can tell you about the local flora and fauna. This is a Blackboy bush which was used for food, water making spears and fire.

The Geology is fascinating as well, unless you believe Steve that he placed the rock on top of the other one this morning.

Lastly Francoise couldn't resist being photographed next to a good looking man for a change.

Well, my bottle is now empty and it is time for me to sleep and let my brain try and process the day. It is clear to me that I live in an occupied country with a very dark history. The few pieces of legislation we have passed in the last few decades have not removed the injustice that is an enduring stain on our national identity.

My appreciation of Aboriginal culture has crystallized coming into such close contact with this inestimable human cultural heritage. I recommend you watch first footprints to see just how awe-inspiring the civilization that inhabited this country we now call Australia was. 

Then come to Laura
Good night.