After the caving we headed up to Mackay and got wet putting up our tent, wetter walking to the supermarket and soaking on the walk back. At night the tent did what it does best and warmly invited the rain to come join the party inside the tent – a free water bed! If anyone is planning to visit Mackay then don’t bother staying at the Central Tourist Park – it’s shit. There’s no kitchen (thankfully there was a pizza takeaway over the road), nowhere to sit that’s out of the rain other than the tent and you have to rely on Mackay’s poor public transport (although at least it had some, most of Australia doesn’t) to get you out there. It is also bloody ugly.
Fortunately we only had to spend one night in the crapsite, our next couple of nights were far more pleasurable and spent at Cape Hillsborough national park. As ranted in my previous post we had to get a tour out there which consisted of being shown a low-production value video about the region on the way out there and then being taken on a couple of short walks by a guide. Granted the walks were very pleasant and Glenn the guide did give some interesting insight into the area’s environment but all in all it was a pretty uninventive tour. Anyway once the tour was done we had a couple of days in the park to ourselves before getting picked up again and having to do another tour with Glenn (along 2 tracks that we had already walked ourselves). Our campsite was great – right on the beach and nestled under shady trees and surrounded on all sides by ants’ nests. Actually the later part wasn’t so great as my polka dot feet gladly will testify if asked. We got to see mangrove forests, deadly and non-deadly snakes, rhinocerous beetles, ghost bats, lots of crabs and some birds that didn’t move at all when you approached in the mistaken belief that you couldn’t see them disregading the fact that their plumage wasn’t green and that they were sitting on grass. Probably not contenders for the avian branch of mensa. It was a great couple of days and we even got to have our first camp fire of the trip, made by my own fair hands – I felt like a man! Fires rule! The excessive quantity of seam sealer that has now been liberally applied to the tent also seems to have persuaded the tent that water is best kept on the outside.
We then popped back to Mackay for the night this time staying in the much better YHA which came with the added bonus of getting a free view of hundreds of flying foxes (fruit bats) gorging themselves on the berries in the big tree right outside our room’s balcony. They made a right racket chattering away to each other and such was the rate at which they were eating we had to run the guantlet between the kitchen and our room to avoid getting pelted with discarded berry stones raining down from the tree above! We also got to see our first possum, a friendly fella who was pretty tame and very cute. It’s interesting to note the difference in image that possums have between Australia and New Zealand – in NZ they’re a pest to be hunted and turned into various dead possum products but in Australia (where they are native) they are a part of the national identity. I guess the Australian possums have a better PR man.
In the morning we headed out on a much better tour to Eungella national park where we swam in a couple of creeks and saw the deeply strange but very endearing duck-billed platypus. They’re much smaller than I had imagined. Our two days in Eungella were spent doing the longest walks that we have yet done in Oz through lush rainforest. It was great to get some really decent exercise again with an added shot of adrenaline when a lethal snake came out of the undergrowth and across the path right where I was standing – I’ve never jumped out of the way so quick! We also saw a couple of lace monitors – they’re huge and just lollop around the forest floor, occassionally stopping to bask in the sun seemingly unfussed by our presence. We also found that, pretty as cockatoos are, they collectively make the most offensive noise of any bird that I have yet heard. On our last day there we had just packed up our tent when the heavens opened and in the 5 minute walk to the bus shelter we got soaked from head to toe including most items in both of our rucksacks. The last couple of days we have had the contents of our bags strewn around room in an effort to dry everything out. One casualty of the downpour is my ipod which while it works fine now refuses to charge up so it looks like I’m without my music for the rest of this trip :-(. Gutted.
We’re now at Airlie beach, haven for the bratpackers that have been previously ranted about here. We probably didn’t help ourselves by staying at a backpackers that felt like a university hall of residence complete with neighbours who kept us awake till past 4am last night despite my asking them politely to shut up. Their reputation has not been enhanced.
One bit that we both forgot to mention previously was back at Bundaberg where we got to witness loggerhead turtle hatchlings poke their head above the sand for the first time and make their epic journey down the beach to the ocean’s edge for a life in the sea. It was an amazing spectacle to have witnessed, knowing that those of the hatchlings that make it to adulthood will return to these waters and this very same beach to breed in 30 years time – the journey down the beach providing them with a magnetic imprint so that they know where to return to. The turtles are the great travellers of the ocean, those hatchlings will spread out across the seas some making thier home in waters as far away as South America yet still returning to the Queensland coast to breed. The experience was not as intimate as we might have liked as we had to share it with about 60 others. I have to give the rangers their due here though – there were lots of children in the group and they did a great job of keeping them interested and mostly quiet which helped make the experience as good as it was going to get with that size of group.
Apologies for the excessive length of this post, brevity never was my strong point. I’ll leave you there anyhow to return to the far more interesting world of whatever it was you were doing before reading this post (assuming you didn’t just skip down to the bottom). Lots of new pictures up on both of our flickr sites, check them out! We’re off sailing the whitsunday islands for the next couple of, hopefully relaxing, days.