It’s been a busy couple of weeks, to the point where I had to sit with Ben and work out everything that we’ve actually done to include in this piece. We’ve driven 2,300 kilometres in the time since I last updated this blog, which is some serious mileage. What stands out for this part of our journey is the animals we’ve seen, and the people we’ve met - hence the title of this piece (a terrible take on Mad Dogs and Englishmen, I know).
Our original plan had been to visit the Whitsunday’s on this part of the coastline, but due to Cyclone Debbie, plans had to be changed. We still wanted to visit islands where possible, and Keppel Island had been recommended to us as a great place to explore, and to snorkel from beautiful beaches. We stayed in Yeppoon to do a day trip there, and it was indeed stunning, albeit snorkelling was out due to poor visibility post storms. Our neighbour at our campsite got talking to Ben, and his story was one of change, having given up his former career 9 years ago, retraining as a physio for people with disabilities, and moving via several countries to work during this time. He was a big believer in fate, having had no plans to stop in Yeppoon, until his car broke down there. In that time he talked to someone about local work, and was reassessing his plans to move on to Cairns as a result. He and Ben clicked, and we’ve said we may well speak again, he had a ‘feeling’ we were all destined to keep in touch. Travelling somehow makes you believe in these fateful occurrences.
We moved inland after leaving Yeppoon to Eungella National Park, with our main aim to see Platypus, and to stay at ‘Wozza’s place’ - ‘Platypus Bush Camp’ - a camp built and run by the charismatic Wozza, and a prime location to see these funny little animals. His camp was basic, but pretty cool, with wild swimming holes and huts built into the forest. We didn’t see Platypus there, but we did manage to spy them at a nearby spot called 'Broken River', alongside families of turtles swimming in the water. This area has numerous fords, of which we were slightly wary given recent floods and our lack of a 4x4, but actually the driving was fine, and they made for some fun morning walks to see kingfishers, hopping through in our trainers and getting wet as we went.
We were lucky enough at Wozza’s to meet the lovely Rowle’s family (@rowlesaroundaustralia). A family of four, they’re off on their own Australian adventure to make use of some long term leave, and it was great to meet such a friendly bunch and to share some food and drinks with them before we moved on. We’re hoping to meet up with them again as they share much of the same onward plans. Sometimes you stay at campsites where no-one raises a glance at you, so it was so nice to talk to people who were genuinely interested in your lives and life plans, as were we in theirs.
From the depths of the rainforest, we moved on to Magnetic Island, just off the coast of Townsville. We were visiting on a bank holiday weekend, and had left our arrangements to the last minute, so our only option was to stay in an Air BNB, but one where we lived in someone’s spare room, rather than having the run of the place. I won’t lie, we were pretty apprehensive about the arrangement, especially when we found out that other people were staying in the second spare room. We shouldn’t have been, it was actually one of our better Air BNB experiences, in no small part because of our brilliant hosts, Gabrielle and Brendan. An eclectic couple with experience in the hospitality industry, set design, living in a commune, working as a ‘Jockaroo’ and more, they welcome us with open arms, and home made gin and hummus and crackers (amongst other homemade foodie delights). We chatted to them into the evening, and it in no way felt awkward. Alongside the people part of our stay, Magnetic Island was an animal spotters paradise, with a brilliant walk to the forts affording us close up views of koalas and rock wallabies, and tropical birds wherever you went. We loved our experience there.
We reluctantly left Magnetic Island to move on to Mission Beach, to seek out Cassowaries, huge Emu-like prehistoric looking birds that are endangered. Mission Beach primarily focuses on the adventure seeking crowd of sky divers (which both Ben and I have done before, so this wasn’t our mission…ok the terrible puns stop here). We did a walk along the coastline, keeping an eye out for snakes on the ground, spiders webs ahead of us, crocs in the water nearby, as well as these giant birds popping out of the rainforest (they didn’t). It was a pretty silent walk with all of that concentration going on! Our second walking experience was in the heart of the rainforest, and again, no cassowaries were to be seen, although we did find some wild swimming holes that we tried with Otis (and he loved).
From there we had a long road trip to Cairns, and chose to break it up with a visit to the Atherton Tablelands, to visit their Skywalk, in the canopy of the rainforest near Mamu. Having given up on our Cassowary viewing, we were delighted to have one run out of the road in front of our car, minutes away from reaching our destination. Luckily Ben is always on the look out for birds as we drive, otherwise we could have been one of the many cars contributing to the endangerment of this strange species. As it was, the bird looked shocked, and scurried back into the forest from which it had sprung, and we drove off, grinning at our unexpected spot.
We then reached our final eastern destination, Cairns, which I’ll write about next time as our diving experience there deserves a piece of it’s own, as does our trip to the Daintree (our destination as I write). Suffice to say, it’s been a memorable fortnight, as seeing animals as we travel has been one of our key aims, and it’s been such a pleasure to meet people we genuinely feel like we may keep in touch with. Travel is nothing if not about new experiences, and new people, and this fortnight we’ve been blessed with both.