Eungella to the end of the road (and back to Cairns)

From Eungella we drove to Arlie Beach (the main launching point to the Whitsundays). We walked along the bicentennial boardwalk into town, gazing at the beautiful turquoise water, the upmarket marinas and a fat guy playing guitar whilst ploughing his way through an enormous packet of Doritos. The next day we took a boat trip to the Whitsundays. The crew included a very extrovert but funny guy called Dave, with dreadlocks and a Captain Jack Sparrow hat, who liked to say “good chat guys, good chat” a lot. We cruised past some of the exclusive resort islands including a 6* resort where the billionaire owner had purchased the next island along so he could build an 18 hole PGA standard golf course (bring extra balls on a windy day) as part of the resort- just what everyone needs in the middle of the sea! It will be interesting to see contrast of this compared to the developing countries we will visit later in our travels. We sailed to Whitehaven beach- which is ranked as the 5th best beach in the world- and has 99% silica sand which is bright white in colour, doesn’t get hot in the sun and is incredibly fine. We had some time relaxing on the beach, saw a turtle and had a BBQ lunch with a group of large goannas (large lizards with beautiful patterned skin which were over a meter long!) We walked up a forested track to Hill Inlet where we were greeted with a breathtaking view across the Whitsunday Islands and the waters were a symphony of shades of blue. We snorkelled in Mantaray Bay over the reef seeing a giant clam, a puffer fish and copious amounts of brightly coloured fish.
From Arlie Beach we had a 6 hour drive to Kurrimine Beach (where Alex got breathalysed at a random police check point – he passed!) and the temperature got ever hotter as we travelled North. We went passed the ‘Big Mango’ (and the medium sized watermelon…), saw numerous wild bush fires and saw our first signs warning of crocodiles in the creeks. From there we travelled to Port Douglas, an upmarket town and had stunning costal views all the way up from Cairns. The scenery quickly turned tropical as we drove up to the Daintree Rainforest and went on a river cruise looking for crocodiles. We saw 6 crocs and lots of interesting birds and mangroves. From there we had to take a cable ferry across the river to drive up to Cape Tribulation, which is literally the end of the road for non 4 wheel drive vehicles. We’ve followed the main road for over 2000km since leaving Sydney and it turns from a sealed road to the unmade Bloomfield Track at Cape Tribulation. We stayed for 2 nights at Cape Trib Camping- a lovely campsite on the beach which had an open air bar called ‘the Sandbar’- spending our time strolling along the beach, taking in some of the rainforest walks and looking out for Cassowaries (the most dangerous birds in the world). We ended up having a beer with ‘Shorty’ (Barry) a local man in his 70s who’d fought in the Vietnam war and loved (old) English comedy and TV. When he found out we were English he started telling us how much he loved Midsomer Murders and was so excited when we told him Kate was an extra in one of the episodes he offered to buy us another beer! (Oh the prestige of being a Z list celebrity!)
Bank holiday Monday (AUS only sorry all!) started with Kate being awoken by screaming kids and Alex putting his earplugs in to get more sleep. We departed the campsite heading for Cairns (famous for having the world’s longest, single day mail run of 1,450km), stopping in at a service station to purchase 5 slices of bread for our final campervan lunch (as ours had gone mouldy in the heat and humidity). We dropped off our camper at the depot and to our delight got our $7,500 AUD deposit back (unlike the guy before us in the queue who was picking up his motorhome and in full view of the office crashed it into a stanchion before getting out of the car park – apparently this happens every couple of weeks!). We also found out that we had driven a total of 3,348km in 17 days and that Britz had overcharged us for petrol which we got back after Alex complained. We walked to our accommodation along the esplanade seeing some spoonbills (one of Alex’s favourite birds) feeding in the shallows. Most of the bay was obscured by the smoke from bush fires. At night we went down to the harbour and watched the bush fires glowing on the hillside across the bay, whilst flying foxes (monster bats) hung from the trees. We stayed in our first grotty backpacker type accommodation of the trip and someone nicked half our cheese from the communal kitchen (how rude!)The next day we went diving on the Great Barrier Reef at Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef. The diving was great with amazing underwater coral scenery and iridescent fish swimming across the reef. It was our first dive for a while so it was great to be back underwater and we got to swim through a hole in the coral into a beautiful area of the reef called The Fishbowl. After our dive we went straight out snorkelling and later regretted not having got back on the boat first to reapply suncream as we are both now suffering from very painful sunburn where our shorty wetsuits didn’t cover our legs. Ouch! Today we flew to Darwin where the heat is an oppressive 35 degrees and tomorrow we will drive to Kakadu National Park, where the forecast is 39 degrees!

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