Although we have been along the Queensland coast already this trip, and had some great experiences, there seemed from our research to be plenty more for us to discover. However, it was inevitable that we would end up at one or two locations which we had previously visited either due to timing or that we had just enjoyed a particular place first time around. It was through both of these reasons that we ended up back on the golf course at Balgal Beach. A nice, little two night stop there allowed Steve to cycle up the eleven mile climb to the town of Paluma and for us both to cycle and run around the golf course amongst the huge kangaroos. This time we also managed to fit in a drive to a waterfall and a stop at ‘The Frosty Mango’, a bit of an institution in the area. This is the only roadside stop in many miles and was just along the highway from our campsite. It was another super hot day with temperatures hitting the mid 30’s centigrade, like they have been for the last six weeks, so it was a welcome break to sit in the shade with enormous mango smoothies. Somehow, Steve managed to demolish his in no time at all, it was like he sucked it up with a vacuum, which meant Sarah had to spend the next twenty minutes fighting him off while she finished hers!
The next place on the way South for us was Bowen but before we got there we did an overnighter in a derelict caravan park with no facilities, adjacent to a pub and miles from anywhere. The landlord of the pub had taken on the caravan park and was trying to resurrect it, which was going to be no easy task. In order to spread the word he was letting people stay for free on the proviso you had a drink in the pub. So for the price of a couple of ciders we got ourselves a pitch for the night, but by the time we arrived in Bowen we were ready to freshen up and do some laundry so we booked into a lovely site with power, good showers, washing machines and a pool.
About two and a half years ago, as we were approaching our time to finish work and start our long term travelling, several people suggested we should start a blog. Although we had followed a couple of other travel blogs in order to get ideas and inspiration neither of us had any idea about how to start or write one. Then on one of the blogs called ‘Nomadasaurus’ Steve found a post with step by step instructions on how to set up and ideas on how to run a travel blog. So whilst sitting down with a cup of coffee he set about creating ‘Two Travelling Turtles’. After a dozen cups of coffee, hundreds of expletives later, and as day turned into night he had more or less succeeded. The Nomadasaurus blog was run by a couple called Jarryd and Alesha and although their blog is run as more of a business, they were effectively following a similar lifestyle to how we intended to, and are now living ours, and the blog became a regular read for us.
Anyway there we are in Bowen about to head off for a walk to the beach when Steve saw a campervan two spaces away from us with the decal ‘Nomadasaurus’ on the side. “No way”, said Steve, “That’s impossible”. The rear doors were opened so Sarah said, “Let’s see if it’s them”. So off she trotted and sure enough sitting in the back were Jarryd and Alesha. What a lovely couple they were. We chatted with them for a while before they were due to get ready to attend Alesha’s sister’s wedding (via video link!) and Sarah caught up with them the following morning while Steve was out on his bike. We found them really encouraging about the whole way of life and gave Sarah a few tips on photography as that is one of their businesses. So expect some improved photographs, probably from next year when some equipment upgrades might have to be purchased! They were heading to The Northern Beaches in Sydney in December which is where we are also heading. Who knows, we might meet up again. Sometimes the World seems so huge and other times something happens and it feels small again.
A quick note about Steve’s bike ride in Bowen. Yet again the magpies were after him. He is getting used to it now and expects a few swoops while he is out and about, but in Bowen he met the mother of all swoopers. As he was approaching the end of his cycle a magpie swooped down and hit his helmet, then it came again and again and again. It mounted a persistent attack which in the end caused Steve to have to get off and walk. The magpie still followed him to the end of the street and watched as he walked on. Eventually, Steve got back on to cycle for the last few hundred metres to the campsite. With the entrance in sight he thought he was home and dry, when out of nowhere another magpie came in from the side and pecked at Steve’s ear. He reached up to assess the damage and saw his hand covered in blood!! The magpie had taken a chunk out of his ear! Luckily we were moving on the next day.
We had been on the coast for quite a while now so we decided to take a detour inland and we made our way to Lake Proserpine. This is a big reservoir which provides much of the water for the area. We found a great, free campsite in some trees right by the water’s edge. It was a little cooler than the heat we had been having on the coast and the whole setting made a pleasant change. A herd of cattle came grazing through in the evening and a big old bull sat down for a rest in the middle of the site.
Next stop was a bucket list day for Sarah. A visit to The Whitsunday Islands and she had been looking forward to it for ages. We had planned to go in early September when we passed this way before but the weather was a little bit against us, so we had decided to leave it until now in the hope of better conditions. What a good call that was. We had perfect weather, with blue skies and sunshine but not ridiculously hot. It was an amazing day where we visited three locations. Hill inlet was the first port of call where we climbed up to a viewing point for probably the most amazing view of a beach we have ever seen. The deep blue sky and thick lush green forest are a back drop for the most amazing turquoise waters and brilliant white swirling sands.
Next we went on for lunch on Whitehaven beach which is one of the most famous beaches in Australia and is only accessible by boat or seaplane. The sand is super white and fine like talcum powder. We tried our hand at Stand Up Paddle boarding but, unfortunately, the boards weren’t inflated very well but that just made for some comical scenes as people gave it their best shot! The final stop was for some snorkelling on the reef where we were fortunate enough to have another close encounter with a loggerhead turtle. The Whitsunday Islands certainly lived up to their reputation and you can always tell you had a good day when you have hundreds of photos to sort out at the end. That should keep Sarah busy for a few days!
Australia is a land of unbelievable contrasts and one day we were relaxing on the white sands and turquoise waters of The Whitsundays, the next we found ourselves walking through the rainforest and waterfalls of Finch Hatten Gorge, dodging the monitor lizards and snakes as we went. Although we both really enjoyed Finch Hatten it wasn’t the main reason we had made the hundred mile plus detour from our route, that was hopefully to come the following morning!
We stayed the night in another pub car park and this time, very unusually for us, we decided to eat in the pub as it was famous for its pie menu. Pie, chips, mushy peas and gravy, Sarah had died and gone to heaven and Steve went along for the ride. It really did taste excellent.
The following morning we dragged our still full bellies out of bed as the sun came up and made our way deeper into the rainforest, to the end of an ever narrowing road. We parked up and took a short walk along the riverbank and then stood all alone and waited. We were at a place called Broken River which is apparently one of the few places in Australia where you can see the elusive Duck Billed Platypus in the wild. The river was flat calm, like glass, and we waited and watched, and watched and waited, then some small bubbles appeared and a few ripples spread out across the mirror like water and up popped a platypus. It took a breath, had a quick look around and then disappeared again. It was much smaller than both of us had imagined and such an unusual mammal to look at, it was at times difficult to distinguish which was the bill and which was the tail. We watched it surface and dive for over 30 minutes, fascinated by this strange looking creature before the pie had finally wore off and breakfast was calling. We hadn’t realised at the time how lucky we had been to see a platypus in the wild but, after speaking to a few people about our experience, it is only a very small percentage of Australians who have ever been lucky enough to glimpse one.
We had enjoyed our trip to Lake Proserpine the previous week so much that we looked to detour inland again, and Steve found another lake a couple of hundred miles or so South. So after our longest day in the van for a while we ended up on a free campsite on the shores of Lake Awoonga. Not big by Canadian Great Lakes standards but at seven times the size of Lake Windermere, still pretty big. At weekends it is supposedly extremely busy but we were there midweek and once more we found ourselves almost all alone with just nature for company. The lake is famous for its wildlife and in particular the vast array of species of birds, 225 apparently, and we felt like we saw most of them. “Look at that”, became our most used phrase. We had a kite’s nest above our campervan with some hungry chicks in and it was a real treat to watch the parents hunt as we were sitting with the doors open. Watching a kite stalk its prey, and then swoop down and emerge with a small python, and then the family feast on it only a few yards away was pretty impressive. We had a similar experience on a walk when a white bellied sea eagle went fishing and brought its catch back to eat on a branch as we walked by. There just seemed to be something happening everywhere we looked.
The time at Lake Awoonga just drifted by and before we knew it our planned stop of one or two nights had turned into four. We had run out of food and with little chance of Steve going out and catching a python for dinner we had to move on.
Without realising it we had steadily been moving a considerable way down the coast and one of our favourite spots from a previous trips was just around the corner and we could not resist another stop into 1770. We really like this place. It is very laid back and picturesque. Seventeen Seventy itself is pretty small, but when coupled with its close neighbour and equally lovely Agnes Water, they seem to have a bit of everything. Calm beaches, Ocean swell, a river estuary, super walks, quiet roads and enough facilities to keep you going. Sarah even had her hair cut at the local hairdresser, and not before time thought Steve!
Our time in Queensland was slowly coming to an end. The State has been a real lifesaver for us during this unexpected extended trip. We have spent quite a few months here, met some fabulous people, seen so many different things and had some amazing times. In a few days we will be crossing the border into New South Wales and in normal times we probably wouldn’t even notice the difference, but these are strange times and the Australian States have in some ways become separate countries, with border crossing closures, restrictions, and different rules and regulations surrounding the pandemic. We are sure we will notice the change but at the same time we are equally sure we still have some great times ahead.