The Wet Tropics

From desert like countryside to rain and mist was a bit of a shock. After brilliant sunshine every day we now had constant cloud but it is called the wet tropics for a reason. We started in the Atherton Tablelands and visited lots of waterfalls so we couldn’t complain about the wet. We revisited all out favourites from previous visits. A highlight was being shown a Lumholz tree kangaroo high in a tree at Millaa Millaa caravan park – it was a long way away but it was in the wild!

We next visited Paronella Park after having recommendations from everyone who has been to this part of Queensland. Built by Spanish immigrant Jose Paronella in 1929-35 it was a popular pleasure garden and the site of the first power plant in North Queensland. It thrived until setbacks saw it closed in 1979 until being revived by the present owners in 1993. It is once again a thriving tourist attraction and very well presented with camping available and tours provided with entry.

We took a couple of inland deviations to Tully Gorge and Blencoe Falls. Tully Gorge was up an easy bitumen road to a campsite where we watched the parade of rafters and kayakers who come to this river every day. Blencoe Falls was over the ranges on a rough dirt road to an amazing waterfall and peaceful campsite by the creek.

Jourama Creek was another favourite campsite that had to be revisited and then we found our way to Broadwater camp in Abergowrie forest with only one wrong turn. It has a huge camping area that we had almost to ourselves apart from visits by goannas. A night at Taylor’s Creek amongst all the fishermen camped there long term allowed us to enjoy modern amenities.

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Outback Queensland

After missing Lawn Hill on every trip to Queensland because it was too far out of the way, this trip we made sure we got there. First stop in Queensland however was Camooweal where we stayed on the waterhole with all the other caravanners. Everyone had their water view and the bird life was great with resident brolgas. We drove out to the caves in the national park which turned out to be sink holes and the caves could not be accessed. It was still worth a visit with Great Nowranie cave in particular being impressive.

On the way to Lawn Hill (Boodjamulla NP) we passed through Riversleigh, the site of the first fossils found in Queensland. The information centre is in a man made rock and a walk takes you around the site with some rocks with fossils on display.

We couldn’t book into the national park campsite due to school holidays but Adel’s Grove is not far away and has more services. On our first day we hired a canoe and paddled up the middle and upper gorges. It was a great introduction to the gorge. The hardest part was the portaging of Indarri falls as we maneuvered ourselves in and out of the canoe and then hauled it overland. The next day we helped a large man who was having trouble getting back in and kept swamping the canoe.

Walking gives a different perspective as we peered down on the water from above. It made us hotter too so I had a swim at Indarri Falls.

We headed to Karumba, the winter hangout of fishermen, and quickly left again. At Normanton we visited the empty station and then caught up with the Gulflander as we drove along the road to Croydon. Cumberland Chimney was an unexpected highlight. We stopped for one night and stayed two as we enjoyed the birds brought in by the dam, a relic of mining days.

Litchfield to Limmen

We thought while we were so close to Darwin we’d better have a look though we’re not big on cities. We spent a day looking at the museum which had a good display on Cyclone Tracy and the natural history was well done but unfortunately the aboriginal art was closed for renovations. We strolled through the Botanic Gardens and finished at Mindil Beach night market where we bought tea.

We headed down to Berry Springs and had a day at the Territory Wildlife Park which was much more ‘our thing’. We started with the bird display and then made our way around the various habitats with the aquarium, feeding of the whiprays and the bird aviaries being our favourites. Well worth a visit!

It was then into Litchfield National Park, the alternative to Kakadu but I found it quite different. It was more about waterfalls and swimming. Wangi Falls was very impressive and a great campsite as well as good swimming.  Tolmer Falls are very high but hard to capture. The Cascades were fairly ordinary and Florence Falls was smaller though the walk along Shady Creek to the falls was lovely. Buley Rockhole was a series of small falls and little rockholes – we arrived early and enjoyed it’s charm until the swimmers started arriving and filling up the holes. The Lost City can stay lost (fairly ordinary) but the ranger talk at the magnetic termite mounds was very informative.

We passed Robin Falls on the way to Douglas hot springs (not as good as Bitter Springs) and then headed off the tourist track to Limmen NP. The road reflected that being corrugated, full of bull dust holes and with unexpectedly deep creek crossings. The north part of the park was great for fishermen. We stopped off at Butterfly Springs but weren’t tempted to swim. Next stop was the Southern Lost City which was definitely worth a stop with a walk between the formations of towering sandstone spires. We also visited Caranbarini between Borroloola and Cape Crawford where the spires were much fatter and the path wound through narrow alleyways. Our journey through the Northern Territory ended across the Barkly Tablelands with vast areas of grassland.

 

 

Kakadu

I’ve heard all the talk about Kakadon’t and Kakadu versus Litchfield but we went anyway to see for ourselves. As long as you have the time to visit all the different highlights we found it was full of variety and amazing places but if you don’t have time to see it properly, by all means go to Litchfield which is beautiful too. Kakadu has more variety with natural scenery and cultural sites as well.

First we stopped off at Umbrawarra Gorge, a pretty little gorge off the beaten track. Then it was in to Kakadu to visit the escarpment at the bottom of the park. This provided the swimming holes and waterfalls lacking in the north. We stayed at Gunlom and were wary of the bottom pool until we saw others swimming there, but the best place to swim was at the top of the falls in the small pools with a sensational view. The host campground manager told us about Motorcar Falls so we ventured there while driving out. The falls were pretty but low in water but the swimming hole was one of the best I have seen. We sat on a big rock at the edge with the waterfall trickling opposite surrounded by this big, green pool.

A visit into Maguk gave us another waterfall and huge pool. We also found the track to the top of the falls where the stream makes its way through a narrow gorge. I wasn’t brave enough to swim through as others had but admired it from the rocks. I was a little nervous at our campsite as there were fires in every direction but this is standard for the dry season in the Northern Territory and they don’t pose a threat, just give glowing red sunsets.

Next stop was Nourlangie Rock with its galleries of rock art. It is certainly more extensive and vibrant than anything we see in southern Australia. More  crocodile warnings meant we couldn’t complete the circuit around the lagoon.

We elected to take the sunrise cruise at Yellowwater for the bird life but we got our share of crocodiles as well with one swimming by and later as they sunned themselves on a bank. One freshwater crocodile gave us a chance to compare their relative sizes. The jacanas were fascinating with their oversize feet allowing them to stride around on the lily pads and dad hid the chicks under his feathers when we got too close creating a comical bird with many legs.

At Ubirr Rock there was another impressive display of rock art and we sat on the rock with everyone else for the sunset. We then returned to our camp and cooked in the dusk swarmed by mosquitoes before retreating to the tent to eat.

Jatbula Trail

I would highly recommend any bushwalkers persist through the booking woes and walk the Jatbula Trail. Every campsite is paradise. It has been on my wish list for a long time and when we knew we were heading up the centre I tried to book. Only 15 walkers are allowed to depart each day and when I tried in April it was full until September. When I looked at the websites of the guided walks I found they only had one or two people booked when they had up to eight spaces. There seems to be an unfair advantage for the guided companies as against individual walkers, especially ones who don’t jump on when bookings open. However they have devised a fallback system where you put your name on a reserve list and they let you know when there are vacancies. We were pleased to be offered spaces when we had been on the road for a couple of weeks. It meant we had to leave Alice Springs sooner than we would have otherwise but we didn’t want to miss out.

We caught the boat across the Katherine River early on the morning of June 6 and pushed our way through the tall spear grass. When we were unsure of the route we looked for the trusty blue triangles and we needed to search a few times in the trip. The Northern Rockhole was the first attraction but we were advised not to swim as they weren’t 99.5% sure it was free of crocodiles. We then had the biggest climb of the whole trip as we ascended to the escarpment but it was done very gently on a four wheel drive track. Soon we were at camp where we quickly met the other walkers as we set up tents and then made for the water. Pools above and below the Biddlecombe Cascades were suitable and refreshing. Another couple of walkers arrived in camp late having left at 1.00pm and walking in the heat of the day after taking up a vacancy at very short notice. The eating of dinner with a view was popular.

Due to temperatures in the high 20’s to low 30’s we were advised to start early so we were up before the sun and walking by 7 each day which meant we were in camp by lunchtime. The 2nd day meandered amongst the rocks and we spotted some of the rock art. Another pool was admired but we waited to camp for our swim. We had to cross the wide Crystal creek to see the impressive falls and used it as a rehearsal for the next day with packs. Luckily an easier crossing place was found and one of our new friends helped us across. We all bonded over shared stories and experiences.

More easy walking across the plateau dodging termite mounds and following blue triangles. A highlight of the walk is to visit the Amphitheatre, an enclosed gorge with rock paintings. It was made easy with a staircase leading us down. A view across to 17 Mile Ck Falls and we knew that camp was near. We spent the afternoon exploring up and down the creek and invading the Gecko (guided group) camp. We had the best views over the falls and down the valley watching the sun set and the full moon rising.

The next day was the big 17km day and we were all up super early with some of us leaving by torchlight. The problem with that is we found ourselves following the triangles to the helipad. Clouds had come over in the night and provided a glorious sunrise. They also hung around and blocked the sun making for a much cooler day. We enjoyed the walking as we left the plateau and walked through greener countryside as we approached Edith River. We were surprised when we arrived at the crossing at 10.30. Some had an early lunch and we continued on downstream. We finished walking through boggy grass but it was only half way up the boots and never bottomless holes like Tasmania. We had to cross the river above Sandy Pool on a rock bar which quickly became notorious claiming three of the walkers slipping while crossing. A huge pool beckoned for swimming while the rock pools at the crossing were also popular.

Our group that started as five groups of walkers and had become a group of 11 was starting to break up the next day as two had to leave and miss the last camp. More grass, scrub and bogs led us to Sweetwater Pool, another huge pool by rocks. We had to share it with day walkers and people who had walked in to stay the night. We were farewelled with an amazing sunset and then a very easy last day before final goodbyes at Edith Falls.

A wedding on a mountain

After the exhilaration of the walk we had to come down to earth and get back to the main reason we had come to Tasmania this year – our daughter’s wedding. We tried to do all we could to help as the excitement grew as the day grew closer. We even got an advance peak at their wedding outfits as they made sure they still fitted.

We headed for Launceston where the mainland relatives gathered ready for the trip up Ben Lomond. A trip to Cataract Gorge filled in the day.

The next day we all headed up the mountain where the sun was shining and the forecast winds didn’t eventuate. My job was to put together the bouquets for the bridesmaids with the help of my son and then we helped where possible. The outside ceremony was lovely and we were royally fed, put together by the groom and his mother. The folk band had the feet tapping and the dance floor full. We had to retreat outside to cool down.

The next morning we were treated to pastries and coffee for breakfast before the big clean up and retreat. We retreated to Chudleigh where we explored the nearby Honeycomb caves.

Leven Canyon is another of our favourite stops in northern Tasmania and this time we took advantage of the free camping in this delightful spot. A highlight was walking to Devil’s Elbow where the river makes an abrupt turn under towering cliffs.

We needed to fill in one last day and discovered the beautiful Guide Falls at the back of Burnie that we had not visited before. Ferndene near Ulverstone had us stretching our legs on a walk to old mines and Goat Island was accessed while the tide was out before we returned home on the Spirit.

Return to Bruny

Our now annual trip to Tasmania began with the trip on the Spirit of Tasmania – in a cabin this time as we feel we are past using the recliners for the overnight trip. We headed through the Central Highlands with our usual stop at Liffey Falls, our favourite waterfall in Tasmania. We also scrambled up the scree at Quamby Bluff for a hard climb but little reward due to cloud cover.

We timed our visit to Hobart with the bi-annual Wooden Boat Festival though it was entirely unintentional. The handiwork is amazing and the boats seem too beautiful to put in the water. The sail past was a great display of sail.

The weather was against our plans for walks in the mountains so we retreated to the much more pleasant climate of Bruny Island to complete some of the walks we had missed last time. We began at Cloudy Bay with a walk to East Cloudy Head where we found we could have easily driven along the beach to the very nice Cosy Corner camping are instead of making do with the more accessible Pines. The walk gave views back on Cloudy Bay but unfortunately not the impressive cliffs of the headland. We then moved to the lovely camp at Jetty Beach where a new water tank has been added. We visited the lighthouse where I took the tour to the top between showers and appreciated the magnificent views. We walked the Labillardiere Peninsula the next day, an easy walk showing the contrasting sides of the peninsula.

We headed for Adventure Bay where we revisited the best views of Fluted Cape.  I took the Bruny Island cruise while Ray went to set up camp at the Neck. The views of the cliffs from sea level were even more dramatic and many more features were revealed. We spotted caves, zoomed between rock monuments and were wet by spray from an undersea spout. At the Friars we watched the fur seals basking in the sun and frolicking in the water while a pod of dolphins joined us for part of the trip back.

The Neck campground gives views from both sides of the isthmus and turned on a spectacular sunrise. We returned to Hobart via pretty Snug Falls.