Country Road, Take me Home

After a wonderful Christmas, family reunion, and 9 days of luxury living in a house, we were back on the road for the final stretch home.

The NSW coast is a very well trodden track for us, so we decided to avoid the clutter and traffic jams of peak beach holiday season, and travel through the country. Although we had a lot of ground to cover before I was due back at work, we planned the journey around some attractions on our most wanted list.

After having mild weather all throughout Christmas, the temperature started soaring, and the truck struggled a bit on the big hills through the Great Dividing Range. We took it slowly to avoid overheating, and praying we would make it home without any breakdowns.

Our last night in Queensland we set up at Yelarbon, a pleasant little town with one of the best value rest areas we have encountered the entire trip. Ten dollars per night with power, hot showers, clean toilets and afternoon shade. Score…

Virtual Solar SystemCrossing into NSWAfter 3 days of fairly solid driving, we decided to have a day off the big km’s and spend some time in Dubbo. Now, during my life I have passed through Dubbo a couple of times. Passed through but never stopped. To top it all off, visiting Taronga Western Plains Zoo has been a lifelong dream for me. So this time, I wasn’t going to miss out.

I love zoos, and I love seeing animals, both exotic and endangered. Yes, it is more fun seeing them all in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, African safaris are not on my doorstep. But this zoo is the next best thing.

Many zoos are actually quite sad, where animals have tiny and unstimulating enclosures just for visitor’s entertainment and profit. Taronga Western Plain Zoo is unlike most other zoos. As far as animal welfare and conservation is concerned, it is probably one of the best zoos in the world.

Because the zoo is out in the country, they have the land to give the animals space. The enclosures are HUGE. In fact, the entire place is so vast you need a car or bikes to go around it easily. Apart from the space, an enormous amount of effort is taken to keep the animals stimulated and active as they would be in their own environment.

Asiatic BuffaloOne of the main aims of Western Plains Zoo is conservation. It houses some of the world most exotic and endangered species, including black rhinos, greater one-horned rhinos, Sumatran tigers, Asian elephants, gibbons, Galapagos tortoises and cheetahs. They are committed to conservation, research, education and breeding programs. They work with other zoos, including their sister zoo, Taronga Zoo in Sydney, to enhance their research and breeding program.

To read more about our wonderful day at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, click here.

From Dubbo, we travelled to Parkes to see the massive radio telescope, famously known as the dish. You may remember it was the subject of a very entertaining movie called ‘The Dish’ several years ago. It was largely filmed on location, and was about the role of the dish in the transmission on the first moonwalk to television across the world. Of course the story was greatly dramatised for the movie, but it is largely true.The Dish - CSIRO Parkes

The dish is certainly an impressive structure on the horizon of central NSW. It is definitely worth a visit.

For New Years Eve, we set up camp in Hay, and drove out to the local sunset viewing area for the final sunset of 2011. Here the landscape is flat as far as the eye can see, with only scrubland over the salt plains and a sky bigger than you can imagine. This place is renowned for its spectacular sunsets. Unfortunately tonight there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so calling it ‘spectacular’ would be an exaggeration. But we enjoyed the tranquillity and the wide open spaces, and seeing the year out together.Hay Plains Sunset NYE 2011

On New Year’s Day we treated ourselves to a day out in Echuca. We had a lovely lunch in a shaded cafe terrace, and then headed down to the wharf area for a trip on a Paddle steamer.

A century or more ago, Echuca was a thriving port along the great Murray River, where all sorts of goods were transported. The main industry was logging Red Gum, and logs were conveyed down to mills in Echuca, and then transported on for export or to other cities in Australia. Today, some of the vessels have been beautifully restored for the tourist industry. A trip to Echuca would not be complete without cruise up the Murray on a Paddle steamer.

We had our trip on ‘The Pride of the Murray’. It has been converted to a diesel engine, but still holds its original charm. It is also one of the only air-conditioned vessels in Echuca, quite handy considering it was over 40°C on the day of our trip.

To read more about our trip on ‘The Pride of the Murray’, click here.

Echuca itself is a lovely old country town. There is plenty to see and do here. Even wandering around the old part of town, with all its historical charm, unique storefronts, and engaging crafts and trade shops will hold some interest for all ages. You can even hire houseboats, and spend a couple of days on the Murray and around Echuca.Port of Echuca Steamers

For our final night, we camped at Lake Bolac, known for its accessibility for water sports in the SW region on Victoria. It was still really hot, and we were grateful for the shady campground and the cool swimming. From here it was only a two hour drive home.

So after 10 months, and over 35,000 km, we were back in Port Fairy. As we entered the shire, the clouds rolled over and it started to rain. This is just how we remembered it. It will take us some time to get organised and settled again. We don’t have a house yet, so we will be living in the caravan for a little bit longer. But it was straight back to work for me.Back Home...

This has truly been the adventure of a lifetime. Both Mike and I will never regret taking the time out to see the country and, more importantly, spending time together as a family while the children are at that critical learning age. It has been the most wonderful experience that has enriched us all.

Is this the end? I think in the future we will always make an effort to spend holidays and some weekends getting away and seeing the countryside. We are all hooked now, and will try and drag others out with us.

But this is not quite the end of the blog. I know many people who read my blog are planning their own jaunt around the countryside, and would like some information and advice from the more experienced travellers.

So stay tuned for my next post, where I will reveal all the facts, figures and costs of the adventure so you can go off and plan your own Big Road Trip.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Merry Christmas to everyone, hope you are enjoying your Christmas break. We are enjoying sleeping in a house for a few days.

Merry Xmas 2011The kids were very excited at Santa’s visit, although a tad confused that the tree had been moved outside to a more convenient location. Coby explained it all to Rhys. Apparently Santa wanted to be able to sit down to enjoy his mince pie and beer after working to put the multitude of pressies under the tree.

Despite the cooler than normal Brisbane temperatures, we all had a Christmas swim in the sun. Christmas dinner is prepared and we can’t wait.

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy 2012…

Turtle Tracks

Its turtle time in Queensland. We have seen then swimming everywhere along the coast, and November marks the start of turtle nesting season.

In case you haven’t guessed already, we are all rather fond of turtles. We purposely stayed in Bundaberg for two nights so both Mike and I could experience watching turtles nesting at Mon Repos, which boast the highest concentration of Loggerhead turtles regularly nesting on one beach in Australia.

Years ago, people power pushed for a development ban along this stretch of coast, to give the turtles a range of beach to continuously visit. It is important that they are undisturbed by the light from urban glow. As a result of the ban, the Environment Department have built a turtle centre, and treat tourists to watching both the laying, and the hatching of baby turtles. It has been used as a centre for turtle research for nearly 40 years.

The nights Mike and I visited; there was a research team there, with the aim of putting GPS tracking devices on nesting turtles, to track where they go and what they do between laying their several clutches in the season.Pitting & Laying

As we had booked a few weeks before, we both were allocated to group one, which meant we got to go first, and with the research team. It was fascinating watching the turtles lay and bury her eggs. The turtles are not disturbed by researches until she has finished laying. She was then measured and weighed. They used ultrasound to ensure she was going to lay at least one more clutch this season, and then they attached the GPS unit to her shell. As turtles usually revisit the same beach all season to lay their clutches, they were confident of seeing her again. The GPS will be removed once she has laid her final clutch for the season.

I got to help rescue and relocate her eggs. The turtle had laid her clutch below the summer king tide mark, so the eggs were doomed to drown. In cases such as this, the ranges and volunteers dig up the eggs, and move them a few meters up into the dunes. This is the only intervention they do to help increase the odds of survival for the turtles. These beautiful creatures are fast becoming an endangered species.

It was, however, a wonderful experience and we want to come back in a few years time with the kids, hopefully to see the babies hatch.

We then travelled down to Burrum Heads, to stay with our fellow travelling friends, Tex, Julie, Maddie, Brooke and Tilly. We first met the Kiel’s while hiking in Karijini National Park many months ago. Our paths crossed again several times along the Gibb River Road, and again in Darwin. Their adventure finished two months ago, but they had invited us to stay with them on our way through. We were spoilt with our own private bathroom; lovely BBQ’s and the kids had a ball playing together in the house.

Central RainforestChampagne poolsWith our caravan safe and well at Tex and Julies place, we headed over to Fraser Island for a couple of days of camping, hiking and sand driving. Unfortunately, it was bombing it down the entire first day. By three in the afternoon, the idea of camping in torrential downpours and flooded campsites was no so appealing, so I insisted we get a cabin for the night.

Day two, the sun came out and we had a fun two days exploring Fraser’s major attractions and 4WD tracks. We did camp for the second and third night at Central Station in the rainforest, and loved the green surroundings.

Laker McKenzieSS Maheno wreckI could not get over the many and varied landscapes that are on Fraser Island. It was so interesting, and picturesque. The kids loved swimming at Champagne Pools and the clean and clear Lake McKenzie. We even spotted a couple of dingos. The heavy rains were both a blessing and a curse. The sand was compact and easier to drive on, but in some places it had washed away some of the tracks. We saw a tour 4WD that had come off the road on a hill and was perched in some trees. I have no idea how they will get it out.Truck on 75 mile beach

On the third morning we woke up to more rain. The heavens well and truly opened when Mike and I were halfway through packing up the tent, so we got drenched. We decided to cut our losses and head back to the mainland on an earlier ferry. I was pretty grateful we were staying with friends, who helped us get everything clean and dry the following day. A big thank you to the Kiel’s for their wonderful hospitality.

Rhys feed patchRainbow cliffsTin Can Bay is a lovely, quiet little holiday spot. The kids got to feed the dolphins that visit the bay every morning. We took a day trip over to Rainbow Beach to see the famous coloured sand cliffs and walk along the Carlo Sandblow. Unfortunately, the weather continued to be unkind, so we bailed early and treated the kids to an afternoon DVD.

Oma and Opa met up with us in Noosa. They would have joined us earlier, but my Uncle Bill had finally lost his long battle with cancer, and mum and dad stayed home until after the funeral. We mostly spent our time talking and catching up, but also managed to find the time to have a drive around. Oma and Opa had their honeymoon there in 1969, but remarked that it had changed a bit over the years,

So now we are in Brisvegas for Christmas. The caravan is parked up, and we are getting ready for the big day. After Christmas, we will commence the final chapter in our long adventure.

Forest Flying and Sweet Treats

After our week of chilling in the Whitsundays, we were back to some more modest camping at Cape Hillsborough National Park.

Cape Hillsborough is most famous for its multitude of different eco systems in a small area, and for its friendly kangaroos. You can usually spot them in the day use area, but they always appear on the beach early in the morning to say hello to visitors. We spent two days in peace, going for walks and enjoying the scenery.Cape Hillsborough BeachPioneer Valley

From there we had a small inland trip to Finch Hatton, and Eungella National Park. This was a big recommendation from lots of fellow travellers, and we were not disappointed. The area was beautiful, with gorges, cool misty mountains, rainforest and some platypus viewing (although we only managed to see turtles). We enjoyed some great hiking in the morning, and spent some of the afternoon relaxing at the Pioneer Hotel, famous for its Sunday afternoon live music, and its pies. They were so good.

While we were there, Mike and Coby decided to have a go at some Forest Flying. Basically, this involves getting harnessed onto a cable so you can travel through the rainforest canopy safely and easily. From that vantage point you have a unique way to experience the rainforest.

Forest Flying CobyOne of the owners, Dave, took Mike and Coby on their Forest flying experience. Coby was harnessed first, and then hung up in the room to check she was comfortable with it all. When it came to the real thing, Dave took care of Coby, pushing her along the cable at her own pace. She and Mike just loved it, and were happy to just enjoy the experience, forgetting that they were actually 30 metres up in the air. She came back after it all, full of stories and talking ten to the dozen about it. They both had such a great time. Check out the Forest Flying website here.

I wanted to go Forest Flying myself, but unfortunately I had come down with a pretty nasty gastro bug. Rhys stayed back with me to ‘take care of mummy’, and was happy to sit quietly watching movies and playing with toys while I napped.

My tummy was back to normal by the time we reached Mackay. Here we did some errands, and visited the new Bluewater Lagoon and water play park. I also managed to sneak off one night to go to the cinema to watch Breaking Dawn Part 1. I have coped so well this year with a lack of TV, movies and news etc, but I was not going to wait until next year to see this one. I have to confess I am a big Twilight fan.

So we have been in North Queensland for the better part of three months, and we are still seeing endless fields of sugar cane, cane trains and rail networks. This has left me wondering, what happens to all the sugar cane once it is harvested? Well, we were able to find out everything we wanted to know when we visited the Sarina Sugar Shed.

At the Sugar Shed, they have a miniature mill that mimics the entire process from cane to raw sugar, and you get to see all the machines in action. The tour includes an opportunity to smell, see and taste various products of the process. At the end of the tour, you can taste sauces and beverages made with the produced sugar and by-products of the process. Coby and Rhys also got to try some fairy floss for the first time. It was a terrific morning, informative and interactive, and a lot more fun than we were expecting. To read more about our visit at the Sarina Sugar Shed, click here.

Fishermans Beach - Great Keppel IslandFurther down the coast from Yeppoon, we travelled out to Great Keppel Island for the day. The main resort at Great Keppel was closed down over three years ago, but you can still camp and stay on the island. Despite it all being a bit run down, the main beach is absolutely beautiful. Its biggest attraction is the great snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, and peace and quiet. There are still some businesses running on the island, so you can get a feed, drinks, and all the essentials. We spent our day playing with the kids on the beach, and walking up to the lookout for the views.

On our way to Agnes Water and 1770, we passed through Rockhampton, and crossed back over the Tropic of Capricorn ending over six months spent going tropo. This part of Australia is known as the Capricorn Coast, and is home to the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. As a special anniversary treat (nine years and counting), we all spent a day on Lady Musgrave Island and in the Lagoon. This was probably our last opportunity to see coral and tropical fish. Mike and I took full advantage of our time there. Every time we go snorkelling on a reef we spot something new.

1770 from boatLady Musgrave IslandThe boat was anchored at a pontoon, where the children got to experience the reef in a semi-submersible boat. Rhys was the first person on a packed trip to spot a turtle swimming next to the boat, and he was pretty proud of himself. On the pontoon, they also had a visy board, so Mike took Coby out over the reef so she could spot the marine life. Rhys was just happy jumping off the pontoon with his new found water confidence. There were plenty of fish hanging around to keep him happy.

Captain Kids on return journeyWith four weeks left, reality is starting to kick in. We have to start thinking about serious things, like renting a house and Mike finding a job. But we still have a few last adventures ahead before the big finish. It ain’t over yet…

Deserted Islands and Daydreams

From Paronella Park, we headed back to the coast to one of our favourite places from our trip ten years ago, Mission Beach.

Our memories of Mission Beach were of a quiet, sleepy coastal town surrounded by thick, lush rainforest. Well, the place certainly has changed. The entire area really copped it from all angles, cyclone Larry from the south, and cyclone Yasi a few years later from the north. Hardly any of the old, big trees were left standing, and you can see the devastation as you walk through the coastal lowland rainforest (or what is left of it). The rainforest will recover, but the process will take decades to get it back to its former glory. This is assuming it is left alone to grow.Wongaling Beach

Alas, Mission Beach has grown in popularity over the past decade. Despite the never ending fight to conserve rainforest corridors for the critically endangered southern cassowary, money hungry developers and councils continue to push development. They estimate numbers of birds to be as little as 1000 in the wild now. Mission Beach used to boast the highest concentration within the wet tropics, but with all the environmental pressure, numbers are falling. Yet the close knit locals continue to fight for the birds, collecting seeds from poo, germinating saplings and assisting regenerating the rainforest. As it comes from the poo, the grown trees are native fruit trees providing food for the cassowaries and other native species. The process can take years, but the locals have not lost their passion.

So if you want to visit the area, and can spare a few days, arrange to do some volunteering at the environment centre to help save the cassowary. I wish we could have, but it is a bit difficult with young kids in tow.

While at Mission Beach, we took a water taxi to check out Dunk Island, and to explore Bedarra. Cyclone Yasi had pretty much totalled the resorts on these two islands, and they have been left closed to overnight visitors ever since. Dunk Island is on the market, but needs some work to get up and running again. Bedarra was famous for its rich and famous visitors, and also its celebrity price tag at $1600-$3200 per night. It has been abandoned now, with only two staff to keep an eye on things. A second resort at the other side of the island was abandoned in 1991. We were let off there for a few hours to explore the remains, and to swim off a deserted beach. It was actually loads of fun.Bedarra Island

From Mission Beach we had a bit of a meander down the coast, taking advantage of some excellent free camping spots, right beside the beach. Unfortunately swimming was out of the question, due to crocodiles and the start of the stinger season. But we enjoyed our long walks and the lovely views.

We managed a flyby stop in Townsville, where we visited our first Multicultural Playgroup. To read about our visit, click here.

We also spent a couple of pleasant days in Bowen, now on the Aussie map due to its Big Mango, and its massive role as the Darwin Backdrop in the film ‘Australia’. Boy, are they milking it.Murray bay

Our next big stop was Airlie Beach, and our stay coincided with the annual ‘Come Camp with BIG4’. Every year in November, BIG4 nationwide put aside one night for charity. Basically, anyone can camp for $20 per site, and all the money goes to a local charity nominated by the individual parks. It is a great way to put something back into the community, and give visitors a great excuse to get away and have some fun.

To read about our fabulous stay at the BIG4 Adventure Whitsundays Resort at Airlie Beach, click here.

Illusions CruiseLagoon @ DaydreamNow the thing to do from Airlie beach is to go on trips around the Whitsunday Islands. There are plenty of island resorts to visit and nice beaches with snorkeling. We couldn’t decide what to do, so we ended up doing two day trips. The first trip was on a sailing catamaran and have a go at snorkeling with the kids. The second we visited Daydream Island to check out the resort and its manmade ‘Living Reef’, and then spend an hour on the famous Whitehaven Beach. We tried to teach the kids how to play beach cricket, but after a while they just wanted to dig holes and build sandcastles in the perfect while sand. We all had a great time, but now we want to add overnight sailing trip to our to-do list for the future.

Whitehaven BeachKids at play on Whitehaven beachAll this swimming and water activity has finally resulted in Rhys losing his long-term fear of water. The BIG4 had waterslides into the pools, and he was constantly up and down. He is also learning how to jump into the pool, but the word ‘jump’ is lost on him, and he always looks like he is falling. Forever amusing.Slide time

We will soon be leaving the tropics, after spending more than six months above the Tropic of Capricorn. But that’s OK as the southern Summer is upon us.

Music and Fun for Everyone

After our second unexpected stay in Cairns we headed inland back up the mountain pass, towards the Atherton Tablelands…..again.

Doyle Family ShowDress upsOur destination was the Yungaburra Folk Festival for a weekend of music, markets and kid friendly activities. The Saturday morning had a massive market, selling local produce (tropical fruit is coming into season – Yay), crafts and novelties. We headed over to the children’s festival, where they had storytelling, crafts, hula hoops, and a dress-up box to ensure Coby was happy for hours. We sat in on some musical entertainment, and the kids got to try out some instruments. During the Doyle Family Fun Show, both Rhys and Coby got up on stage to sing with the band. Since this initial stage performance, Rhys has developed visions of grandeur, and practices his singing all the time.Dress ups - Nice hair

We set up camp at Lake Eacham Caravan Park, right next to the Crater Lakes National Park and in the middle of more rainforest. There was an abundant amount of wildlife just wandering around the park, including chickens, ducks, a turkey (of the Christmas dinner kind), bush turkeys and a gaggle of interesting birds I couldn’t identify. Feeding the birds scraps of our food was great fun for the kids, as was feeding the resident goats and enormous pig.

The sun finally came out, so we borrowed some swimming noodles from the Caravan Park, and headed to the lake for a swim. It was cool, but very refreshing.

The next morning we made our way north to Port Douglas for my special Birthday treat. The sun was holding out, so we were looking forward to a relaxing couple of days. We decided to stay at the beautiful BIG4 Port Douglas Glengarry Holiday Park. To read more about this lovely caravan park, click here.

As we have spent a lot of our time recently in isolated places, it has been a long time between Playgroup visits. Our family was welcomed to Port Douglas Neighbourhood Centre Playgroup. We managed to time our visit really well, because it coincided with National Children’s Week. This group got together with Mossman Playgroup and other groups in the area for a special Children’s Week Playgroup. We were all invited to this session as well, and it was one of the best mornings the kids have had during the entire trip. To read more about our wonderful North Queensland Playgroup experiences, click here.

Special thanks to Deb, Alex and Emma for your hospitality and kindness.

Ellis BeachEllis Beach SunriseMy birthday afternoon was spent strolling along four mile beach, and having a relaxing lunch at the local Surf Club. Late in the afternoon we went back to the Caravan Park for another swim and more relaxing by the pool. The kids insisted my birthday wouldn’t be complete without cake, so we put some candles on a chocolate muffin. I felt very special.

Now the children’s choice of birthday cards gives great insight into their subconscious. Coby chose a card with butterflies and flowers, no surprises there. Rhys chose a card with two chimps, which he thought was rather hilarious. It was of a mum chimp hugging her little chimp, and very cute. I wonder what was going through Rhys’ mind when he chose it.

Mike had a dream this trip to camp right on the beach. I think we got as close as we could to fulfilling it when we camped at Ellis Beach. At high tide, we were literally three to five metres away from breaking waves, quite a soothing sound at night. We also managed to sneak out together to watch the sunrise, while the kids slept peacefully.Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walk

The next big highlight was the enchanting Paronella Park. In the early 1930’s a Spanish migrant, José Paronella realised a childhood dream of Catalonian castles by building his own castle in the rainforests… He acquired 13 acres of virgin forest next to Mena Creek Falls to build his inspiration, complete with refreshment rooms, banquet halls, tennis courts, gardens and Queensland’s first Hydro Electric Generator. Despite several floods and cyclones over the years, periods of abandonment and a bad case of concrete cancer, the park is still a vibrant, unique and captivating attraction definitely worth a visit.Paronella Park Waterfall

Paronella Park also has a caravan park attached to it, which is free for a night if you have paid for entry into the park. I highly recommend staying for the evening, as it is worth doing both the day and night tour. The caravan park boasts all the usual facilities provided by other parks.

All of us enjoyed our visit, but for Coby it really was an extra special highlight. She got to indulge her love of all things princess and fairy, got dressed up and ran around the park pretending she was in a fairytale. I loved watching her have so much fun.

To read more about our fabulous stay at Paronella Park, click here.

We have been exploring Far North Queensland for just over 6 weeks, a bit longer than we anticipated. It’s dawning on us that we have only two months to go, so we have to make the most of it…

It’s all south from here.

Cape York – an Adventure to Top them All

The caravan has gone into storage, and we spent a day packing and repacking the truck for two weeks of camping. It was with great excitement we started heading northwards up the Cape York Peninsular to the top of Australia.

Our friends, the O’Callaghan’s, had also caught up with us after their diversion trip to the red centre, something we are leaving for another trip. Apart from the wonderful company, we thought that teaming up again for this trip would be a great idea. Safety in numbers, and Chris had a winch to pull us out should either vehicle get into trouble.

We spent our first night at Lakefield National Park. As Chris and Jayne had been living in a tent for a few days already, they set up camp in record time. Mike and I needed a few days practice. We caught the tail end of the Queensland school holidays, so the campsite was busy with families. The boys all had a spot of fishing, but came back empty. We looked with envy at some fellow campers, who managed to pull in a respectably sized barra for their family feast. This lack of fishing success was becoming a too common theme.

A couple of long driving days through some small, aboriginal communities, and we made it to Weipa. It’s another mining town, mostly driven by the largest bauxite mine in the world. There were plans in place to expand in the near future. There are plenty of jobs and opportunity around here, but nowhere to live. It’s becoming a common theme in mining town.

Weipa RioTinto Mine TourWe spent a morning on a mining tour, learning about the practice of surface strip mining, and processing the ore to get aluminium. It was all very impressive, and different to the open cut mining we had seen in other areas of Australia.

Our stay in Weipa was also well timed (arguably) to coincide with the AFL Grand Final. As our travel companions are fans, we all sat in air-conditioned comfort at the Bowls club to watch the game.

Old Telegraph Track startIt was after Weipa we started to traverse the Old Telegraph Track. This was our most challenging road of the trip, with difficult creek crossings and washed out sections. Mike couldn’t wait. Daniel and Emma had been studying photos of some of the precarious crossings in a Cape York 4WD magazine, gearing us all up for the trip. But since 4WD is Mike’s domain, I’ll let you read all about our Old Telegraph Track adventure in Mike’s Page. Our journey makes a good story and there is a link to the video of Mikes deepest creek crossing yet.

Loads of people we have met on the road recommended Loyalty Beach to us, so we decided to camp there for a couple of nights. From there, Mike, I and the kids took a ferry to Thursday Island for a day. This is the central administration base for all the Torres Strait islands. We had a great tour around the island, learning about the history, and some of the culture of the Islanders. They consider themselves very different to Australian Aborigines, as they were not nomadic hunter gatherers.

Last night Sunset Loyalty BeachAustralias Top Pub. Thursday IslandThursday Island is also home to Australia’s most northerly pub. We stopped there for a nice lunch, and a relaxing drink. It was a hot and windy day, much like the normal climate for seven months of the year.

Back at Loyalty Beach, the guys treated Jayne and I to a cocktail, as the kids played together and the sun went down for another spectacular sunset.

At the TipSunset off the tip of AustraliaThe next day we made it all the way to the tip of Australia. Unbelievably, we had the place to ourselves. It was a lovely afternoon, with a gentle cool breeze. We had been saving the sparkling wine and posh cheese for this occasion, and had a feast and a toast. The boys all threw in a line, so they could say they have fished at the top. The sunset was one of the most beautiful of the trip, and one of the most satisfying, as it had taken so much effort to get there.

A day later, we said our goodbyes to the O’Callaghan’s again. The difficult parts of the trip were over, and we wanted to do different things on the way back down.

 Sunrise over Chilli BeachChilli BeachWe ventured off to Chilli Beach in Iron Range National Park, and enjoyed two days on a pristine and virtually deserted beach. Rainforest came all the way up to the coast, and our camping spot had shade all day long. Coconut palms lined the shores, and we ate the fallen and ripe fruit. Definitely could have stayed here longer.

Having experienced the highlights of Cape York, we travelled back to Cairns so I could catch a plane to Melbourne. Find out why in my next post.

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