Friday, September 11, 2009

Whitsundays weekend

I'm not really sure when it started, but it has definitely been feeling recently like the wheels of the trip are starting to come loose. Not falling off yet, but definitely wobbling a bit.

If I'm being honest it was probably after my trip back to Sydney, but things have slowly become less coordinated than usual, planning where to stay has become more of a chore and I've struggled with the non existent boundaries between work and personal time. It sounds ridiculous but I long for weekends even though I am only supposed to be working 1 day per week. We even managed to leave our saucepan behind at Alva Beach, which is the first thing we've lost since before Christmas.

So the other day we each focused on things we were looking forward to when we got back to Sydney, and also the things we will miss the most from the trip. Thankfully both were long lists!

We last wrote from Alva Beach where Ness was launching out on to the Yongala wreck for a dive.

This freed me up for the day to go exploring on land.

I looked at the map and decided to make my way to Burdekin Falls Dam, Queensland's largest. It turned out to be a mere 460km round trip from Alva and to be honest probably wasn't worth the trip. Poor research from me but I did get to listen to Dr Karl on Triple J and also managed to read the whole paper in peace and quiet while scoffing Maccas when I got back to Ayr.

We were both pretty glad to be pushing on from Alva Beach caravan park. Definitely one of the better value facilities we've stayed at, and none of the pretension of Mission Beach, but we did have a few issues. Be wary of any place with signs in the dunnies advising the old people that it's unhygienic to wash out pisspots in the hand basins.

An example of our poor recent planning was that first stop was Cathu State Forest, roughly 100kms past the turn off to Airlie Beach. 100kms which I promised we'd retrace the next day so we could visit the Whitsundays.

Cathu turned out to be a beautifully quiet spot and we're glad we went there, just would have made a lot more sense to go after Airlie rather than before.

It was well worth making the trip back to Airlie. After a relaxing afternoon of Ness washing clothes and me doing work we booked ourselves on a tour for the following day and then headed over the road for another counter meal.

The tour was absolutely sensational and we were blessed with a clear and calm day. First stop was Tongue Bay for the short stroll up to the Hill Inlet lookout. Next back on the boat for the cruise round to Whitehaven Beach for some time to relax and for Ness clean her jewelry in the fine white sand.

After lunch we headed around to the North side of Hook Island for some snorkel action. To top things off we were treated to some whale action on the cruise home.


Next time Russell, Freddy and Paul invite me on a sailing holiday in the Whitsunday's I hope I have the common sense to accept!

We sneaked out of Airlie Beach early on the Sunday morning and headed down and then inland to Eungella National Park.

After watching lots of turtles (but no Platypus this time) at the Platypus viewing platform on Broken River, we got back on the dirt roads to seek out a quiet bushcamp at The Diggings.

After the hustle and bustle of Airlie it was awesome to be away from the crowds again, the rainforest was amazing, and the sun was streaming through the tree tops. The seemed to be a slight mist as we headed round a bend which made the sunlight look even more beautiful. As we rounded the corner however we realised it was smoke from a ute which had overturned after coming the other way too quickly and hitting the bank (if they'd gone the other side it was an almost vertical drop down with no crash barriers).

We couldn't see anyone at first but luckily everyone was OK. We lent them our winch extension strap and they were able to right the ute, and then drag it to the side of the road (they'd bent both axles and oil was coming out of the exhaust so they weren't going to take it far).

Excitement over we carried on our way to find the only others at The Diggings were a family of daytrippers having a picnic. There was even a nice pile of timber ready to go next to a firespot so we were able to take the chill out of the mountain air.

If you're ever up this way we definitely recommend this as a top spot for a bush camp. Sheltered from the strong winds, and wildlife galore. Just beautiful.

We strongly considered stopping an extra night, but we had to push on for our date with Fraser Island (which had been prebooked since June). We headed back to the Bruce Highway through more stunning Queensland agricultural land (mainly sugar cane fields) and then on to Byfield National Park, just short of Rockhampton.

We stopped at Upper Stoney Creek in the State Forest which was a beautiful spot to ride out a couple of days of unusually ordinary weather. The camp site was set under pine trees, which had thousands of pine cones on them. Less each morning as the strong winds shook them free, some of them hitting the car (and putting a nice dent in the roof). Never a dull moment.

Next day we headed on further south past Bundaberg (home of Bundy Bear) and on to Woodgate Section of the Burrum Coast National Park. While the Bruce is in parts a fairly boring road, we spiced things up with a few experiments with the car.

The first one was to test our long held theory that when the fuel light comes on there is still 15 litres in the tank (as it usually takes 75 to fill her up if you go straight to a servo). When the light came on we were over 80kms from the nearest station, which per the theory should be OK if you stick to 80kms/hour and turn the air conditioning off. (The theory would predict that 15 litres x 6 km/l = 90kms range). Of course this depended on the road being flat (so there was no sloshing of fuel around the tank), and the fuel intake being at the lowest point of the tank.

Cut a long story short we finally made it to a servo, despite a long slow up hill for the last 10 or so kilometers. But it was a close call, and one you'd think we'd try to avoid again, but the same thing happened the next day! When you get used to there not being any servos you are a lot more careful. When you see them every day you get complacent.

Burrum Point provided another example of the shortcomings of the Queensland EPA's online camping booking system in that obviously when the system is down you can't book. And if you phone in your booking they use the same system so can't book you either. The helpful lady recommended finding a caravan park or risk being fined by a ranger. Luckily the awkward converasation with the range never eventuated and we got some all important sand driving practice in the way in and out of Burrum.

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