A Travellerspoint blog

Day 58 Uluru

Mouse, heads, storm

semi-overcast 42 °C

It wasn't our intention to be up early, but Dot decided she'd had enough sleep, so that was it for all of us. Sunrise here is at 5.50, so at 5.30 it was pretty light walking over to the shower block. By far the best time of the day to do anything, only mid 20s and with a 40 degree tops forecast again for today, it makes sense to get out early, some things are closed after 11am due to the heat.

We head off at 7.30 for Kata Tjuta, which now seems to have completely replaced the use of the name The Olgas to describe them. It means 'many heads' and its clear to see why these huge group of dome shaped rocks were named as such. Kata Tjuta is just short of 50 kms from Uluru. It's already getting hot as we approach them. It's also very windy

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The Aussies are very good at reminding people about the dangers of the sun and heat. Wear hats, shirts, sun cream and take water and we are being advised to have a litre of water each hour. The kids are covered in factor 50, as always.

The 'Valley of the Winds' is a 7.4kms hike into Kata Tjuta but we know this is beyond us in this heat. The Karu lookout is at 2.2kms round trip and Karingana at 5.4kms round trip. It's 34 degrees by the time we set off. It's a dry heat and inhaling dries and burns your nose. We reach the Karu lookout in better shape than we thought after about 30 minutes, but both feel Karingana is too much, particularly with the reports we get from follow hikers of the heat, wind and no shade at all. It also gets steeper. The reward of Karu lookout didn't justify the effort, in our opinion.

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Feeling like we had a bit more to give and keen to get amongst the domes of Kata Tjuta, we drive round to the Walpa Gorge trail which is a 2.3 km round trip. We snack, saddle up and head off. Finn on Nat's front, with the rucksack on her back, and me with Dottie on my back and the camera. It's 38 degrees now and the wind is filling the air with a sandy haze. Visibility is poor, but a much more enjoyable hike. It may not have been....Dottie's finger mouse got dropped but we tracked back and found it......close one!!

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We are in the Northern Territory, but only about 200kms from Western Australia and 100kms from South Australia, however, there is no tarmac roads directly to either. We head down the sand road towards W.A. just to check it out, we'd need a licence to drive it, and a 4WD.

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En route back to the camp, Uluru can't be seen until we are right up close, hidden behind a thick sand and dust cloud. The wind is like a hair dryer and we take refuge in the aircon for lunch and in the pool all afternoon. It's too hot to do much else, reaching 42 we are told.

We turn out for sunset at Uluru at 7.10 only to watch it slowly get engulfed by a sand storm, and no sign of the sun.

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We plan to see if it is clear tomorrow and get up early for the sunrise, walk around the base of the rock and get back to the pool before it gets too hot. I think this is a pattern here, if it can't be done by 11am.....don't do it.

Posted by cpbrooks 17:50 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Day 57 Cairns to Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Spirit, emotion, tears

sunny 40 °C

We didn't come to Cairns for the total eclipse, in fact it's been a hindrance, but, having eaten our way through as much of our fridge again as possible (and a poor show at that, leaving loads of food, a whole bottle of white, half a red and 8 beers......), setting our alarms for 4.15 and making our way to the airport, we find ourselves looking for the rising sun and debating the clouds and whether or not we'll get to see it.

Five minutes before, and just one minute after the eclipse, the sun was behind cloud. Our luck was in and the clouds left a gap just at the right time. We enjoyed the full two minutes of totality in clear skies. It got darker than we imagined, the breeze picked up and there was a chill in the air. It was amazing. Nat cried. I took pictures.

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We couldn't believe that just a few hours later we were looking at Uluru (Ayers Rock). We felt very privileged and to have two such magical experiences so close together has made us both a bit soppy all day.

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It's been very very hot here today. 40 degrees at its peak. We spent a lot of time in the pool (well predicted Marcus) and returned to Uluru for sunset. It's nice being near the rock, it has magnetic qualities and looks different every time you see it.

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We are looking forward to our time here. Our cabin at the campsite is a bit like living in a port-a-cabin but it has the basics. A fridge, kettle and microwave. Oddly it has TV, but no toilet facilities, they are a two minute walk across the campsite. At least if you wake in the night desperate for the loo you can watch TV to take your mind off it! Just to add further excitement, on Nat's first excursion to the loo she sees a snake.

This has been Nat's favourite day so far and it's near the top for me too.

Posted by cpbrooks 17:46 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Day 56 Cairns

Sick, fish, birds, britz

semi-overcast 30 °C

Over an hours catamaran ride out to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef in weather like this. Good luck everyone.

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The mood is pensive, the crew warn of strong winds, rough seas and rain. We sit at the back, on the middle deck, outside but half covered by the deck above.

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I think the theme for today has to be 'All the gear and no idea!' initiated by our friend here with the camera on a tripod on a boat...? Interesting.

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We wind picks up as we head out, the swell increases and it rains. It's still pretty warm though and with both kids fast asleep on us we sit it out, concerned less by the rain blowing in our faces than we are the Japanese vomit being projected off the back of the deck. Not nice. There are a lot of pale faced people about. Not quite geisha but close.

So it's sort of hard to believe that the next picture was taken as we disembarked at Green Island. Not just the improvement in the weather but the fact that non of us are covered in sick.

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It's not long before its blistering hot and a 'hard earned thirst' is once again rewarded.

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Green Island is beautiful, surrounded by a coral reef and covered in rainforest.

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We only have 5 hours here which flashed by and both of us felt we could have spent more time. We each took a turn to have 10 minutes snorkelling. Nowhere near enough. In hindsight we should have done more out on the reef. We attempted lunch on the beach but soon realised why no-one else was taking the opportunity to. The birds literally attacked us and rather embarrassingly, and I'm sure to the amusement of everyone else on the beach, we had to abort and run for cover. They got one of our chips and stole a whole slice of pizza from a guy next to us.

Our second 'all the gear and no idea' moment was this older couple who we watched spend most of their snorkel time trying to walk down the beach in flippers. Everyone else was in trunks and bikinis.

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We got the kids out in both a glass bottomed boat and a semi-sub, expecting the latter to be the better of the two. Although rather fun to be in, the visibility in the sub was rubbish. A big disappointment. The fish feeding on the surface was one of the best moments.

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However, the view back to Green Island and our 'Big Cat' moored on the quay from the glass bottomed boat made it worthwhile.

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Our last night with a landline and wifi so we have to make a decision about what happens on the 18th Nov when we leave Uluru. After much debate we book 9 nights in a campervan to travel from Adelaide to Melbourne. We are excited about being in a van again, and to see friends in Melbourne.

Posted by cpbrooks 04:13 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Day 55 Cairns

Waterfall, waterfall, waterfall...

rain 30 °C

A very cloudy and wet start to the day as we head South towards Edmonton and Gordonvale on the Bruce Highway (I'm sure there is a Sheila one too somewhere). We have torrential rain broken by periods of burning hot sun. Turning off at Gordonvale to head inland into the Atherton Tableland we skirt around Mount Peter, I think the second tallest mountain (?) in Australia. It's odd that a country this size has little in the way of mountains.

The road up into the tableland, the Gillies Highway, is steep and windy and the weather continues to threaten rain.

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Almost as soon as we reach the top and enter the high plain of the tableland we reach Lake Barrine and watch the pelicans on the lake over a coffee.

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Both Nat and I love waterfalls and today we plan to see 5, so if you are not into them, sorry, today's blog is a little waterfalled out.

Right next door to Barrine is Lake Eacham and together they form the Crater Lakes National Park. Still very dense rainforest, but a lot of the tableland is home to cows, producing much of Queenslands dairy products. There are people swimming in Lake Eacham, safe from the saltwater crocs, sharks and jellyfish. We'd have liked to, it was warm, but we decide time and kids don't allow.

We reach Malanda which is where the first waterfall is. Again the pool at the bottom of the falls is the local swimming area.

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Further South on the Millaa Millaa Malanda Road we reach Millaa Millaa. As we head back towards Innisfail on the Palmerston Highway, not far from Millaa Millaa is a turn off on Theresa Creek Road which will take us to our next 3 falls. Its basically a loop off the Palmerston Highway. Millaa Millaa is first, but we have to wait for a shower to pass before we walk down through the rainforest to the foot of the falls. Millaa Millaa Falls is a classic and hasn't changed at all since I was last here 24 years ago. Odd to think the waterfalls has been flowing all that time. Endlessly.

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Next is Zillie Falls which we view from the top. Another lovely waterfall

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The last of the 3 on Theresa Creek Road is Ellinjaa Falls but unfortunately the bridge that would take us the single kilometre to the falls and back out onto the highway is being repaired, so we have to double back and return to the highway the way we came. We have to reach Ellinjaa by coming in the other end of the Theresa Creek Road loop. It's a short hike down, but worth it

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It's funny, the tableland is sometimes tropical and other times reminds us so much of home. Ignoring the small white mini heron like birds that sit on the cows here, this could be England.

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Mungalli, our 5th and final falls of the day is on another loop road off the Palmerston Highway. Aptly names Brooks Road.

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We head home via Innisfail and Babinda, looking froward to our day out on the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow and hoping for better weather. The weather is a major topic here at the moment with people from all over the world coming to Northern Queensland, and Cairns in particular, to view the total eclipse on Wednesday morning. Will it be cloudy or won't it?? It's all over the news, the papers and shops are reportedly selling out of provisions. We are not sure what all the fuss is about.

Posted by cpbrooks 04:08 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Day 54 Cairns

Boomerang, rainbow (not what you think), arm, vodka

sunny 32 °C

Just 10 minutes from Cairns is the Barron Gorge National Park and a very well trodden route over to Kuranda. There is a cable car (gondola) called the Skyrail that runs across the top of the rainforest canopy for 7.5 kms and the Kuranda Scenic Railway which cuts its way up through the gorge, running past waterfalls and edging along sheer drops. Obviously everyone wants to do both, but they go to the same place so doing them separately doesn't really make sense. What everyone seems to do, and we are no exception, is take one up and get the other back. However, although they end at the same place, Kuranda, they start at different places in Cairns so it leaves everyone with the need to get back to their cars, at whichever base they have left it, cable car or train. It creates a nice little business for 'tours' which basically sell you both the one way tickets and a transfer from one base to the other. Easy money.

Anyhow. We choose the cable up and it provides a brilliant view of the rainforest from above and allows you to see the scale of the place.

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Kuranda fills with tourist as the cable and train arrives and then empties again around 3pm as everyone heads back down. Very few people stay over. Markets full of opal, aboriginal art, crocodile Dundee hats and jewellery occupy most of people's time, although some people opt for the aboriginal experience, the koalas or rainforest walks that are here to fill your time.

Are non returning boomerangs just called sticks?

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We duck out the back of one of the bars and sit overlooking the rainforest and have a few beers (although Nat looks great in the kangaroo leather hats and there is a straw pink hat that would fit Dot......we have no space). Dottie sleeps and we have some rare time to have a play with Finn on his own

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Kuranda is beautifully surrounded by rainforest. It's full of colours and Dottie cannot resist the rainbow flavoured ice cream.

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The train station at Kuranda is beautiful, well kept, tropical and hot.

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The journey down takes us through 15 hand cut tunnels and over more than 50 bridges. We get a great view of Barron Falls, Stoney Creek Falls and Bridal Veil Falls (our 5th Bridal Veil Falls of the trip so far). Our friendly conductor offers to snap a quick picture of us at one of the stop offs

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It's a long and slow train ride. Probably too long and too slow. It's certainly too hot. Dottie needs a change and Finn has had enough. We are all pleased to reach Freshwater, the station at the bottom. Our transfer from the train back over to our car turns out to be very entertaining. Our coach driver has only got one arm and his first words to us all over the mic is "welcome to the most scary part of your trip. Yes, I've only got one arm and this is a 53 seater coach and I'm your driver. If that doesn't get you worried I'm starting to think that finishing that last third of the bottle of vodka was a bad idea". Nervous laughter. Confidence grew as we successfully negotiated the first few bends, stopped appropriately at lights and gave way as required. Turned out he was a complete comic and by the end of the trip had everyone laughing. I didn't shake his hand as we disembarked, he only had a left arm and I was unsure what to do.

Posted by cpbrooks 03:40 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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