Cairns – Sun 11th to Wed 14th Oct
We were not originally intending on spending so long in Cairns, but I had to fly briefly to Sydney. The girls made good use of my time away, heading out to the Great Barrier Reef for a day snorkelling. So over to Hils:
With so many companies offering Great Barrier Reef cruises it is hard to pick which is best value for money and offers the best range of activities. In the end we went with Reef Magic and were so glad we did.
We checked in at the reef terminal just before 8am having parked the car in a $3 all day car park just around the corner (the car park at the wharf is per hour), thanks to the staff at Lake Placid for that advice. Our departure time was 9am so plenty of time to get a quick coffee and choose our seats. Now I’m not the best sea traveller and should have thought about this before and armed myself with sea sickness tablets, not to worry as they sold them on board for $2 a dose.
The trip took 90 minutes and towards the end, having got blown to pieces outside, it seemed the fresh air and sea sickness tablets had worked. Unfortunately the same could not be said with Pippa and Charlotte who hadn’t taken anything and were feeling a bit nauseous. Again the Reef Magic crew were very helpful, directing us to the lower deck and towards the back of the boat which didn’t have as much sway as up top. I think we reached their floating platform, Marine World, on the outer reef, just in time…..
We got off the boat and found a table to put our bags then headed straight to get our snorkel equipment before the rush. The snorkelling area is marked by buoys, basically a large circle around the platform. You can spend as much time as you like in the water, we went in 3 or 4 times, and the variety of fish and coral was amazing.
In between the awesome snorkelling we filled our 5 hours on the reef with sun bathing on the top deck to warm up, eating an amazing lunch and afternoon tea, taking a trip on a semi-submersible, viewing giant trevally from the walk-through underwater platform and sitting on the dive platform, dangling our legs and feeding the fish, including Wally the giant Maori Wrasse.
Wally is big, and very very friendly – as he unexpectedly brushed past my legs I let out a little shriek of surprise!
A fantastic day, but a long one; everyone was exhausted – luckily the trip back was a lot smoother.
Barron Gorge, at whose mouth Lake Placid Caravan Park is located, runs inland into the national park of the same name in to the direction of Kuranda. A hydro-electric station is located in the gorge, taking water from above the Barron Falls. In the lower section of the gorge there are various rapids, with tour companies offering white water rafting.
Wonga Beach – Thu 15th Oct
Time to briefly head north again, before the long journey down the coast – the home leg of the trip.
North of Cairns, to Mossman, the road hugs the coast, winding its way over headlands and behind white sandy beaches, one of which was a lovely spot to stop for some lunch.
Wonga Beach is a small place just over 10km south of the Daintree river. Unfortunately the weather did not do it justice, the south easterly blowing in off the sea and bringing showers. With sunnier weather this beachside spot would be great.
The Lions Den – Fri 16th to Sat 17th Oct
A short drive north of Wonga is the town of Daintree. At this point you have a choice; take the CREB track inland or the coast road, which becomes the Bloomfield Track north of Cape Tribulation.
Although the CREB is the road less travelled, in this case common sense ruled – yes it possible to get a trailer through, but it is also very likely you will end up stuck. The slopes are incredibly steep and the surface clay, so the tiniest bit of rain and it’s a slippery dip. Talking to the manager at Wonga Beach the story was a local guy, travelling alone, got stuck in a dip – four days later someone came by……
So the Bloomfield Track it was, but first the ferry. It feels like a bargain after the Jardine River ferry – a third of the price and three times the distance.
As soon as you are across the river you are into the rainforest, the road winding through what is in places a tunnel of green. As it climbs over the first hill, there is a fantastic lookout to the coast.
Shortly after the lookout there is what advertises itself as an information centre plus canopy walkway – in reality there seemed to be little information on offer, and the canopy part of the walkway was just a small tower, the rest a ground level boardwalk. With rain also closing in, it made it an easy one to pass.
Just before the bitumen ends is Cape Tribulation, this is the last accommodation along the track heading north until you leave the national park.
1.5km later the dirt kicks in. However after the heavily corrugated roads elsewhere it was hard to tell the difference, there is a lot of work going on along the track so the surface was excellent. The only danger was being taken out by the convoys of trucks hauling dirt about – just of the ferry half a dozen flew past, cutting the bends in a crazy way.
Although it is a lovely drive it is not really one for the views, there are glimpses of the sea but in the main the track is closed in by the trees, even on the ridge tops.
Ah yes, the ridges. The track goes over a couple of ranges, Donovan and Cowie. These bring a new meaning to steep, yes there are mountain tracks which are steeper, but a graded road, 1 in 3 anyone? Very apparent early on was not to attempt too high a gear, after a tricky hillstart on the first one as the revs ran out. Low 2 seemed about right.
The council has helpfully put concrete into some of the steeper sections, which is very helpful but presents a challenge going up – typically the surface reverts to dirt as the gradient eases but before the top. So the question is whether to attempt the climb with the centre diff locked, risking transmission wind up, or go open and risk wheel spin at transition – at times like these traction control is a comfort.
At the head of the track is the Aboriginal community of Wuja Wuja, with a café and art centre. Just along the road from the centre there are the Bloomfield Falls, which are definitely worth the short walk (and better if you scramble another 150m over rocks to the base of the falls).
From here on it is bitumen all the way, a delightful meandering drive through every shade of lush green imaginable until you reach the Lions Den. Built in 1875 on the banks of the Little Annan River, it was named after the nearby tin mine.
Wikicamps is a very useful app which we have used extensively in choosing places to stay. However the posted comments need to be read with an eye to things like time of year etc. For us this was a very peaceful couple of days, the extensive and well shaded campsite behind the pub not at all crowded – however in school holidays you can see how it could be noisy as some comments had flagged. At the end of the day you can’t expect a pub to be silent, unlike a bush site.
The pub has a great deck for those lazy afternoons, and a swimming hole on the other side of the river. An interesting feature is the writing covering every wall. Harking back to its origins, it is said the writing first started with miners who left their pay for safekeeping – as they spent they kept a total on the wall. The oldest writing now is only 30yrs old, and in any other context would be called graffiti; here it lends an interesting charm.