Much more Melbourne

On the way to join Jyoti and Chris for breakfast, I was again reminded of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My God, it’s full of stars!

Other than that, the walk and the tram ride were uneventful. Yes, Jyoti is back in town to spend time with Chris and so we decided to pester them too. Actually, Chris suggested the venue, The Auction Rooms. Liesel and I arrived first and there was already a queue of people waiting to be seated. So, a popular place with locals: always a good sign.

Chris, Jyoti, Liesel, Mick

It was wonderful to see those two love birds, gazing into each others’ eyes, holding hands and, in another place, the Morality Police would have been on the scene, blues and twos, no doubt! Chris had to work (we keep forgetting some people have real lives with jobs and everything) so the three of us went to the Museum.

The Revolutions: Records and Rebels exhibtion was previously shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Now in Melbourne, it includes reference to the fight for Aboriginal rights in the 1960s. It was fascinating, lots of memories for me. Unbelievably, at the time, I wanted to be a little older than I was. Not so keen on that idea, now!

Yes, it was all very interesting, and it’s just so sad and disappointing that some groups of people are still having to fight for equal rights, you know, real weirdos such as women, black people, gay people, Australian Aboriginal people. But we did leave with some fund-raising ideas for the WI.

How many joints in the jar?

The ’60s music was good, too, and we enjoyed watching The Who at Woodstock, just 50 years late to that particular party.

Roger Daltrey

There’s a replica of the first ever computer mouse, invented over 50 years ago.

Computer pointing device

I never knew until today that there was a road named after a top Australian rock band. AC/DC Lane is popular with visitors, partly due to the street art in the area. As usual, the creative work is ruined slightly by the boring, unimaginative tagging.

AC/DC Lane
Jimi, or not Jimi? That is the question
Melbourne

Vegetarian Paul McCartney would probably not be too happy with this tribute to his old band.

Wings night

We wandered around the 19th and 20th century Aussie art display in the Federation Square complex. We would have stayed longer, but at closing time, even we were politely asked to leave. The then new Sydney Harbour Bridge was still under construction but the painting’s finished.

The Bridge in-curve by Grace Cossington Smith, 1930

I was disappointed not to see any works by Michael Andrews: maybe we just missed him by a room or two, but this depiction of the red centre is quite evocative.

Central Australia by Sidney Nolan, 1949

On the way to the old Young & Jackson pub, we made a detour to another lane, where the street art is striking. One of the main news items at the moment here in Australia is about Freedom of the Press. The police raided the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the home of a journalist, in an attempt to discover who leaked some secret information. Someone was quick off the mark with this image.

AFP USB
Binge thinking

Many years ago, my Dad told us about a pub he’d visited at the end of the Second World War. I don’t think he remembered its name but he said it was opposite Flinders Street Station. He told us about a painting on the wall inside, a girl called Chloe. After three or four visits to Melbourne, it was time to track this pub down. If it wasn’t Young and Jackson, then I don’t know where else to look. He visited when he ended his war, serving in the Royal Navy, here in Australia.

It is an old pub, yes, and it’s seen a few changes in the 74 years since Dad was here. But I was really pleased to find Chloe, now 144 years young, on the wall in the upstairs restaurant.

Chloe by Jules Lefebvre, 1875

Cheers, Dad!

Chris joined us for an early evening meal, before he and Jyoti went home. Liesel and I walked over the river to revisit the Arts Centre.

Lazarus

I’ve seen Lazarus twice in London, Liesel just the once, and it was just as good and fun and entertaining but a little sad this time: the David Bowie songs are timeless and always magnifico. The stage set was totally different, and both Liesel and I had a much better view of the stage on this occasion.

Tommy and Elly played by Chris Ryan and Phoebe Panarentos

Fewer people sung along than I expected, so I had to project more to compensate. No, I didn’t, I was sotto voce all the way.

What an unexpectedly busy day then: a museum, an art gallery, some street-walking, a couple of meals out and topped off with a musical performance. Thanks, Melbourne!

And so we come to the final, full day on our travels. We’re looking forward to being home, not necessarily to the 24 hour journey getting there.

After a bit of a lie-in, we went out and enjoyed egg muffins for breakfast. Thinking about home, and being away, it was disconcerting to see this on the wall.

Where are we now?

I had to visit the Optus shop to query a large mobile phone bill I’d been sent even though I’m on a different kind of plan. No need for the AFP to come after me when I get home, I’ve seen what they’re like at the ABC. Thank goodness the bill is for the previous user of my Aussie phone number: forget it, nothing to worry about, the clerk will sort it out. So, fingers crossed.

We visited the ridiculously expansive Queen Victoria Market, walked around for a bit, passing time until Jyoti and Chris joined us.

I bought a couple of apples. Jyoti bought a new coat. We admired the Melbourne skyline. We bought coffee.

Melbourne skyline or a futuristic painting?
Melbourne, Mick and coffee

Yes, Melbourne does like its coffee, there are so many coffee places to choose from, we even saw Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese coffee shops in close proximity this morning.

We listened to Rhys Crimmin busking in the market, he’s not too bad, played the didgeridoo as well as guitar, harmonica and a drum, a good old-fashioned one-man band.

Rhys Crimmin

He performed the Men at Work song, Down Under which always raises a smile.

Again, poor old Chris had to go home to work, leaving the three of us to have a jolly good time. We walked to Royal Park and it was very pleasant, the Sun was out, it was warm, I tried not to whinge too much about being forced, well, requested, to wear jeans today rather than shorts. But we’ll soon be back in an English Summer and I can get my legs out again, for everyone’s delectation.

Royal Park

This view reminds me of the album cover for Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge. So yes, now I have that music in my head.

Final day, last supper. Round at Chris’s with his missus, to coin a 25-year old phrase.

Our Aussie adventures conclude with this sunset as seen from Chris’s apartment.

The Sun goes down on our travels

So we bid farewell to Jyoti and Chris, and to our final Airbnb up on the 9th floor looking over an alleyway into an office block.

And farewell to Melbourne, to Australia, to our adventures.

Here we are at the airport, waiting, waiting…

Wilson’s Prom to Melbourne

Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration but a gloomy, windy, rainy Monday is a good enough reason to stay indoors. These occasional enforced ‘days off’ are quite welcome, to be honest.

Our damp, little red friend came by for breakfast, so we had a little chat about Brexit, Trump and The Carpenters’ back catalogue.

Good morning, Rosie

We passed the time by reading, writing, watching TV and looking out of different windows hoping for an improvement in the weather. There’s a Kind of Hush all over the house so we put some music on. Ironically, no Carpenters.

Later in the afternoon, we did venture out briefly, for a walk around Tidal River. We even walked along the river bed itself, there not being much water in it at this time: the tide was out.

Tidal River estuary

In fact, the tide was a long way out, it would have been a major expedition to even get ankle deep.

Very low tide

Liesel suggested a selfie and like the Superstar she is, she posed for quite a few attempts.

Selfie of the day

Yes, we are dressed up for Antarctic conditions, but it wasn’t quite that bad. 11° here, 11° in London and 11° in Anchorage right now. However, it’s Winter here and it’s meant to be Summer at home. We’ve only just begun walking through the campsite when Liesel spotted a wombat crossing the path.

Why did the wombat cross the path?

I hope we didn’t spook him too much as we approached. The pincer movement was accidental, really, I just wanted a shot of the wombat with Liesel, or vice versa. And here he is about to leap out and surprise her as she is on the phone, Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, I think, or maybe messaging a friend.

Wombat eyeing up Liesel

The wind and rain had caused some damage, at least one tree had fallen down.

Why did the tree fall across the path?

We enjoyed watching a wombat going about his business. He half-heartedly dug a hole, not as efficiently as a rabbit would.

Digging a hole

After a bit of a stretch and a bit of a yawn, revealing some pretty lethal teeth, he made our day by producing several green cubes.

Look at those gnashers
Another crap photo: wombat’s, this time

Yes, they are famous for their cubic poo, although Liesel was disappointed by the lack of sharp edges.

We saw some more birds on the way back, and a couple more wombats, including this one playing Solitaire in the flower bed.

Hiding

From Tidal River, you can see the 558-metre high Mount Oberon, with phone masts and transmitters perched on the top.

Mt Oberon

We walked up the path all the way to the summit, a nice, long, steady climb. There wasn’t much to see on the way up, just a glimpse of a view through the trees now and then.

Can’t see much through the trees except more trees

Then, as we approached the top, the trees opened out more, revealing a blue sky at first and then a magnificent vista. Yes, it was a bit of a slog, but well worth the effort.

One of the hairpin bends

Sometimes on this long trip of ours, I’ve wished to be on my bike rather than walking. I used to sing to my velocipede, I won’t last a day without you, yet somehow I’ve managed 10 months without a single pedal stroke. (Exercise bikes in gyms don’t count.) Today’s uphill tramp would have been tough on a bike, the gradient wasn’t too steep, but it was relentless.

Antennae

The only vehicle on the track was a tanker that had just delivered fuel to the antennae at the top: no electric supply here. On the other hand, what a great 4G signal!

After climbing several steps, we reached the summit. From the bare, bald rocks, we looked down on what could have been a model village Tidal River next to Norman Beach and Norman Bay.

Looking down on Tidal River

We’re on the Top of the World looking down on creation, with a 360° view.

Yes, of course I tried a panorama shot but it didn’t really work, just too much contrast between north and south, between Sun and shade.

Where’s Liesel now?

I know I’m retired from the mail delivery service, but I can sense a few of the more cynical readers saying, Please, Mr Postman, prove that you actually reached the summit. OK then, I will.

Triangulation point

After a bit of rest at the top, the return walk was a little easier. The 2 hour walk actually took us 2 hours and 14 minutes, including a couple of breaks to catch breath and to remove small stones from shoes. Yes, I must walk funny to attract so much grit, but Liesel walks a different funny, splashing muddy water up the back of her calves even when there are no puddles.

I left Liesel in Cambridge while I went for a solo tramp towards Mount Bishop. At a mere 319m altitude, I couldn’t be bothered. Well, I could, but the walking distance involved would have seen me descending at sunset, and I didn’t want to be out alone in the dark. Instead I did the delightfully named Lilly Pilly Circuit Walk and the Lilly Pilly Gully Boardwalk. I saw just two other people on the circuit, a few small birds fleetingly, but no other animals. Mainly trees, ferns, fungi.

Tree
Fern
Orange fungi

This path was also well-maintained, albeit with a few modern obstructions, more recently fallen trees.

I stood by this little waterfall and stream for a while to see if there were any fish climbing up the rock or any crayfish climbing up the trees.

Waterfall and stream

Are you mad, I hear the more cynical reader suggesting? Possibly, but this is Australia, the animals aren’t normal. Lilly Pilly burrowing crayfish climb trees. And Climbing Galaxias nip up waterfalls and sheer rock faces like Edmund Hillary on speed.

Crayfish climb trees
Galaxias climb mountains

We’ve seen plenty of evidence of bush fires, whether controlled or accidental, and there was one here 10 years ago. The place was devastated, but it’s all part of the cycle, and these pictures show the difference between then and now.

Bushfire 2009
The same path today, 2019

I arrived back at the Unit just on sunset.

Sunset from the Lilly Pilly Gully carpark

There are now two crimson rosellas pacing up and down, waiting for a hand-out. (They Long to be) Close to You, Liesel, I gently crooned.

We slept, we ate breakfast, we packed, we departed. We have a Ticket to ride back home soon, but we’ll be busy for a couple of days in Melbourne. Or as the recently reformed Spice Girls might call it, Melb. We said Goodbye to love, well, goodbye to Wilson’s Prom, and as we left, we saw six, yes six emus in total: four in a field and two crossing the road. The funniest thing was seeing two people peering into bushes, apparently oblivious to the emus not that far behind them.

A couple of emus

A few days ago, we passed by a place called Bumbo, and the 12-year old me wanted to live there. Today, we saw a sign for Poowong. One day, I want to move there instead!

It didn’t feel like rain today, but there was total cloud cover. The scenery was captivating, as we retraced part of the route we’d followed from Walhalla.

There are a lot of cattle in NSW and Victoria, big black bulls, white and brown cows, signs telling us they might be crossing the road. We’ve seen lorries taking herds of them to their final holiday destination. But we’re very disappointed with how few sheep there are, though. Not even José Merino sheep, brought over to play football a couple of centuries ago, unless I’ve misremembered my Geography lessons. For all we know, they’re hiding up in the trees, dislodging the drop bears.

Tooradin appeared at exactly the right time. There’s an honesty box for the car park fees which we didn’t raid, honestly.

Big chocolate fisherman
Beach at Tooradin

A short while later, Langwarrin’s big silver gnome cheered us on.

Big silver gnome
We passed an old episode of Doctor Who

Before dropping the car off, we made a detour to Liesel’s favourite place in the whole wide world. A little bit of America in Australia.

Where’s Liesel?

We bought a couple of things to take home and had a greasy cheesy piece of pizza for lunch. Better than a slap round the face with a wet fish, I suppose. This branch of CostCo even sells caskets, or coffins, which we both found dead funny.

We traversed this bridge twice today. Once in the car, then again on the Skybus from the airport to Southern Cross Station.

Fair dinkum bridge architecture

When we dropped the car off, the attendant seemingly was not interested in the intermittent beeping from the car, warning of open doors when they’re all slammed closed. And then on the inevitable online follow-up survey, there was nowhere to make such a comment. Oh well, so much for seeking to improve the customers’ experience.

We deposited our new, super-heavy case at the airport until we leave this wonderful country in three days’ time.

It’s a short walk from Southern Cross to our new b&b apartment on the 9th floor.

9.10

Why does this door remind me of a Beatles song? Because it’s the One after 909.

It’s also a short walk from our b&b to the nearest laundrette. While Liesel watched the washing go round and round, I went out to buy us some drinks. I have a pocket full of loose change to dispose of. Why? We’d been saving $1 and $2 coins for the laundromat. But in this one, here, today, The Lonely Sock, you pay electronically, with a card. 50% impressed and 50% peeved at lugging all that weighty coinage around for so long!

Eden to Bairnsdale

The Whaling Museum in Eden is probably interesting, but many other delights awaited us. Again we reminded ourselves that we can’t see everything, and what we miss will still be here next time we visit. We were not wailing at missing the Whaling Museum.

Ben Boyd was a popular guy. We have Boyd Town, East Boyd and the Ben Boyd National Park named in his honour. Not bad for a humble Scotsman.

We drove to the National Park to see The Pinnacles. But before we set off, we had to liberate yet another lethal Australian stowaway from the car.

Exotic beetle evicted from the car

The Pinnacles is/are is a stunning erosion feature, another study in text book geology plus, for us, an opportunity for a nice, gentle walk.

I wonder where all the logs came from to make this staircase?

We’ve realised that we can’t see too many beautiful beaches with beautiful turquoise seas. Lovely to walk on but lovely to look at from a distance too.

View from The Pinnacles Walking Trail

And if the sea isn’t a vivid enough colour, we were bowled over by The Pinnacles. Two different coloured layers of sandstone, still in the process of being worn away by the elements.

The Pinnacles stratified rock

Later on the loop, we saw what looked like termite mounds. In NSW? Not as big as those in Northern Territory, and this one at least was given a head start by being built around an old tree stump.

Termite mound
We’re not sure why so many trees have been felled here in the Park

We made our way to The Seahorse Inn in Boydtown, as it was recommended by a couple of people, features in the Lonely Planet Guide, has its own road signs, and it a very impressive and imposing building. But it was closed.

The beach was pleasant though, and it’s good not to have to worry about gingas lurking in the bushes this far south.

Boydtown Beach

As the day progressed, the weather worsened, cloudier, greyer and then it started to rain. Then we discovered there was no water in the windscreen washer bottle. So we now wanted it to rain harder so that the windscreen could be cleaned a little bit!

This was the state in which we arrived in the state we’re in. We crossed over from New South Wales into Victoria.

Welcome to Victoria
This is the song appropriately playing as we crossed the border

Cann River in Gippsland was a good place to stop for a break. Liesel wasn’t happy when I told her about the 10-feet long inch thick earthworms that live here in Gippsland. And how unhappy was I to discover that the Earthworm Museum in Bass is permanently closed. That was our punishment for not visiting the Whaling Museum. Karma.

The little church caught our eye: a cute little building catering for several branches of the Christian community. Uniting and Co-operating, no less.

St John the Evangelist, Cann River

Cape Conran doesn’t sell furniture, that’s The Conran Shop. My mistake. But there’s a beach, there were big waves, a pair of oyster catchers and an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air for a short while.

Beach with oyster catchers
And without … but look at those waves …

A sign warned us about the shallow sandbar, strong currents, submerged rocks and slippery rocks. There’s no life-saving service. The nameof the place? Sailor’s Grave Beach. There’s probably a sad story behind that name, but what a strange way to warn people of the dangers.

Cape Conran Coastal Park and Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary to give the place its full name. We walked on the beach, yes, but that was as big a risk as we wanted to take.

At Marlo, we looked at the Snowy River Estuary Walk and I walked down the path a short way.

Snowy River with Bass Strait in the distance

The sand dunes needed us to go over with a piece of cardboard to slide down on. But, no sheets of cardboard with us on this occasion.

Sand dunes by Snowy River

We drove by a sign on a dilapidated structure.

Don’t think this is the Snowy Rail Bridge

We arrived at our next b&b near Bairnsdale, dropped off our bags, and went out for a Mexican meal. The restaurant is called OzMex. We were called ‘walk-ins’ as we didn’t have a reservation. No idea why, but we were both just very tired.

The house is a new build, just a couple of years old. It blows hot air into our bedroom. When I woke in the middle of the night, what a relief to realise that it was the heating system making that noise, and that it wasn’t pouring down with rain.

We shared the house with our host family, and now, because of our squeaky bedroom door, they know how often we have to get up during the night.

Here’s the bit you may have been dreading: please go away now if you’re not interested in the in-car entertainment we’ve been enjoying this week.

I downloaded some new music and deleted some of the old that we just don’t need to hear any more for a while. This car has Bluetooth, it connected to my phone almost without human intervention, just the way it ought to. We played our new stuff for a few days: Dolly Parton, Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack, Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack, Duran Duran but best of all, IMHO, lots of old Bee Gees tunes.

We (I) had a good old singalong.

But we are now back on so-called ‘shuffle’ and we’re finding again that it just ignores some tracks, focuses on others, and isn’t properly random. I have many ideas about how this could be improved and I shall be writing to Google and Samsung in very due course.

Dubbo Zoo

‘Twas a cold night in Orange. That’s the second time I’ve been able to say that. It occurs about every one third of a century.

In 1986, Sarah, Jenny and I slept in a campervan in a campsite in Orange. It was cold. So cold, there was ice on the windows in the morning. It was our coldest night camping ever.

Today, we woke up to a temperature of 45°F (7°C). A few months ago, we were enjoying 45°C (113°F). One extreme to the other. There was dew on the grass, maybe even frost, that’s how cold it was.

Cold, crunchy grass

During the nearly two hour drive, we passed a few wallabies and kangaroos wondering why their early morning grass was so crunchy. But it warmed up nicely, the sky was clear and blue, so a good day was definitely in store.

I’d last visited Dubbo Zoo in 1986: a return visit was well overdue.

Rainbow in the fountain

We arrived just in time to Prowl the Pridelands, to look at the lions. The bus accommodates over 20 guests, but there were just the three of us on this tour.

Four young brothers live and play together, and take advantage of the shadow cast by the bus.

In the shadow
In the light

Their parents are in a large, separate area, and they all looked very content. So would we if we could sleep for 16-20 hours a day.

It would be cruel and heartless to pull a lock of hair from a lion’s mane, but that’s exactly what someone has done.

Lion’s mane hair

It’s surprisingly coarse and it would have been difficult to untangle the dreadlock into which it had been wrought.

Taronga Western Plains, aka Dubbo, Zoo is very spacious, 300 hectares, so the animals have plenty of room to roam. The disadvantage for us visitors is that sometimes, they’re way over there on the other side of the field.

We hired a buggy to drive around the 6 km circuit. It didn’t necessarily mean less walking altogether, but we were able to visit pretty much all the inmates.

Parking the buggy

The meerkats were very active: well, some of them.

You have a rest while I do all the digging
Black rhino taking it easy

The zebras and other big animals are behind a moat and a fence that are well concealed until you’re up close, giving the impression of wide open spaces.

Zebra laughing at our shadows
Giraffes over there by the trees

In 1986, when we visited Dubbo Zoo, we hired bikes to cycle around. Sarah had 2-year old Jenny on the back of her bike. After a short while, I realised there were no brakes so I rode back to complain, and was told that you have to back-pedal to brake. Obvious. Well, later on, as we rode towards the hippopotamus pond, down a slope, Sarah momentarily forgot how to brake and she and Jenny nearly ended up joining the hippos in the water.

Today, we arrived at the hippopotamus enclosure in style, on four wheels. We listened to the Hippo Talk, haha, no, we listened to a zookeeper talk about the hippos. There is one way apart from the obvious to tell the difference between males and females. A nice, neat pile of poo is probably deposited by a female. Males tend to poo and pee at the same time and get their tail spinning round like a propellor to spread it far and wide. A better metaphor for Brexit I have never seen.

Hungry hippo
White rhinoceros way over there

We watched a baby elephant having a nice mudbath followed by a dry dirt shower.

Elephant eating apples

I started singing “There’s a starman waiting in the sky” as we approached the black apes. The sideways text on the sign soon became clearer: siamang.

Siamang hanging about

Two of them were playing on the rope bridge over the water. Later on, one ate a carrot while the other ran off with a lettuce or something. Both kept their backs to us, they obviously know humans would be after their food, given half a chance.

Liesel and I hadn’t seen camels in the wild in the Northern Territory, so we were delighted to see some here. Liesel asked the question so I told her about the two different kinds. Bactrian camels have two humps, like the letter B. Dromedaries have one hump, like the letter D. I was hoping to find a sign confirming this.

Camels

The sign just described all the residents here as Arabian Camels. No Asian Bactrians, it seems.

We heard a booming noise. I thought it was the siamang using the echo chamber built into his throat. Liesel thought it was the lion. We never did find out the origin of the slightly spooky noise.

A quartet of locals: emu, koala, echidna and quokka

The quokka was cute but we couldn’t approach any closer than from the viewing platform, several metres above.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we were sitting outside the giftshop. I was eating my apple and this did not go unnoticed. The ring-tailed lemur over the water was watching me like a hawk. It wanted my apple but I don’t feel guilty about eating the whole thing all by myself, thank you very much.

Salivating ring-tailed lemur

If we’d wanted to visit Africa, this signpost would have been very helpful.

Kalahari: this way or that way?

It was a fun day at the zoo, probably one of the best zoo days we’ve ever had. Not once did we think the animals looked a bit unhappy or stressed and that makes a lot of difference. The weather was perfect, there weren’t too many other people, the buggy was fun to drive and none of us fell out.

The drive back over the hills to Orange was pretty, especially as the Sun began to set.

Sunset near Orange
Mick resting his eyes

This photo is being used as evidence that I fell asleep in the back of the car. Well, yes, I did rest my eyes for a minute or two.

As we were in Helen’s car, we mostly listened to her music. So lots of Snow Patrol and Killers. At Liesel’s request, we listened to the soundtrack from the film The Big Chill.

We kept the house slightly warmer tonight, but the floor was still cold, made from some material designed to suck all the warmth out of your feet.

Castlerock Farm Eco Stay

Before leaving Dolphin’s Head Resort, I went for a quick walk as we were in for a long drive later. The part of the beach close to us was rocks but way over there in the distance is a nice sandy beach.

The rocky beach

But it is out of reach to us mortals. All the ‘beachfront’ accommodation is private property. I could buy a house here and get my share of the beach, but I’ll leave it for the crocs and jellyfish to make friends with the occupants instead.

One of the exclusive beachfront properties

We refuelled the car, bought some vittles and set off. We decided to miss out on seeing Mackay due to time constraints.

It was Mother’s Day here last weekend and I always miss my Mum on that day. This year, I would have bought her the best present ever.

Happy Mother’s Day

It was another grey day but not raining. The road was long, we drove for the best part of five hours. We passed more sugar cane, more cattle, more trees, lots of grass, caravans, campervans, a crocodile… yes, that was a surprise.

Crocodile on a shop front

Some of the roadsigns were quite funny.

How long to go, Dad?
Still 2 hours to Rockhampton, kids!

We saw signs warning us of stock on the road for the next 10 or 20 km, but we only saw cattle in fields.

There were signs telling us about the presence of koalas for the next 20 km, but we didn’t see any at all. In fact, as far as we could tell, there weren’t many eucalyptus trees for us to look in as we drove by.

The authorities have our welfare at heart. So many signs telling us to have a rest, where the next rest area is. “Rest or RIP”.

I thought this one was a Batman logo from a distance.

Driver fatigue crash zone

“Don’t sleep and drive”.

Today’s soundtrack was provided by Pink Floyd. I tapped my foot and drummed my fingers on the door handle. Liesel accused me of tapping completely out of time with the music. I pointed out that Pink Floyd sometimes have very unusual time signatures and crazy rhythm patterns and… but I couldn’t keep a straight face.

Tropical Cyclone Ann is likely to make landfall in northern Queensland in the next few days, the first May cyclone to hit since 1989. I heard a couple of guys talking the other day about a place that had been evacuated.

After hours and hours of taking it in turns to drive, we turned off the A1 (Highway 1) towards Byfield National Park. I keep saying Byfleet of course, because my larynx has muscle memory of familiar placenames from home.

A hillock in Baga National Park

In an otherwise flat or gently undulating area, this rock could not be more out of place.

Susie met us at Castlerock Farm Eco Stay, where we are staying in a caravan for a couple of nights.

Our home: caravan plus tarp cover

A caravan with an awning. It’s gonna be a tight squeeze. The waterless composting toilet is quite a trek so we’ll leave a couple of lights on. The cooking area is ok but not 100% mosquito-proof. We’ve been warned that small bats sometimes come in and leave their mark on the floor.

We really are in the middle of nowhere, no 4G, the only wifi is just outside Susie’s house and it feels a bit rude to loiter there too long, although she said we were welcome to.

We’ve heard several birds, especially around the time of sunset.

A bit of a sunset

Susie told us about the snakes and the huntsman spiders, putting a little more adventure into our planned bush walks!

It rained all night and when it wasn’t raining, water continued to drip (pour) onto the tarpaulin ‘roof’ just six inches above our dozing noses. Despite that and a few nocturnal bladder-related excursions, I felt refreshed in the morning. Liesel not so much.

Hello there, Sunshine

I brought cups of tea and bananas back to the caravan. Liesel later brought back jam and peanut butter rolls. Then we got out of bed and went for a walk around the farm hoping to see spiders at least, but no such luck. No snakes either which I have mixed feelings about. A few birds and butterflies full of the joys of what passes for Autumn here

I lost count of the number of mosquito bites I acquired: the Germolene will be working overtime later.

Very pretty red and yellow flower

We enjoyed walking by a variety of fruit trees: lemon, lime, mandarin, persimmon, mango, banana and although we didn’t come across any, there are avocado trees here too.

Fruit bowl

It was the perfect temperature, just a little damp. We’ve gone from hot and humid to comfortable but damp in just a few days.

Small pond

We both returned to our kitchen/living quarters with sweat pouring off, something we’d not anticipated.

The rest of the day was a day of rest. Reading, writing, arithmetic. Well, two out of three, anyway. We listened to the wind in the trees, the odd few birds, we chatted with Susie before she drove into Yeppoon.

The outdoor shower water is heated by a donkey. Not that sort of donkey, but a wood fire burner water heater that Susie lights each day at 4pm. We can have showers at other times, but we’d have to fight, I mean light, the donkey ourselves. It was a very pleasant shower: I think we both would have stayed longer if the water was on tap rather than from a tank. Maybe a bit strange having a shower outside while wood fire smoke billows around, but it was a mosquito-free zone.

The Moon rose and the Sun set marking the end of another fantastic day.

Moon behind the palm trees

The buzzing sound in the kitchen was made by what we thought was a plain old housefly, but it was much more interesting, we noticed, when it landed on the window.

Pretty fly

Again, it rained for much of the night but being inside, under cover, warm, cosy and dry is a wonderful feeling.

To Airlie Beach

We said goodbye to Trudi, and drove up to see the view from Castle Hill. That’s a high outcrop in Townsville, not to be confused with the school of the same name in Chessington.

Castle Hill

We drove, but many people were walking, cycling or even running up the hill. Not a pleasant walk, we thought, with all the traffic. After parking, we walked around, climbed to the highest points, and looked down on Townsville and the surrounding area. The views were stunning, helped by it being such a clear day, contrary to the earlier forecast.

Townsville with mountain
The Strand

The Summit Loop track at 260m was one of the shortest walks on offer and the only one we completed. Radio transmitters are on top, and they are today’s hazard – no crocodiles, snakes, parachutists, asbestos here, just radio signals out to boil your brain.

Castle Hill conveniences

We had another long drive today and I think we enjoyed watching the changes of scenery, but less time in the car would be nice.

We drove by Billabong Sanctuary but decided not to stop for koala cuddles.

Billabong Sanctuary entrance

This was another place Sarah, Jenny and I visited in 1986. The highlight was being chased by an emu known as Gonzo. At the time, I thought it was because he thought I had some tasty emu treats in my camera bag. When the photos came back from the film processor, I realised what was going on. In profile, me and my bulky bag were a very similar shape to an emu. I think Gonzo just fancied me.

Billabong crocodile

Brandon is a nice up-and-coming little place: they even sell videos, now, in one shop.

We stopped in Ayr for breakfast and I was disappointed not to find the Ayrdresser. I thought the speed cameras might be labelled Ayr Traffic Control but the closest we got to that was the sign showing the end of the Ayr Traffic Zone.

Bowen was bypassed so if there were any archery shops selling Bowen arrows, we’ll never know.

As suggested by Alison whom we would meet later, we made a detour to Cape Gloucester. We walked on Hideaway Bay beach which had a much steeper camber than any of the beaches we’ve seen for ages.

Hideaway Bay

The sand was coarser too and there were rocks and coral and many seashells. An interesting beach, yes, but not proper seaside.

Selfie of the day

I have no idea how that Egyptian pyramid got into the picture. Liesel reckons it’s a small island to the south of Gloucester Island, and she’s usually right.

Shark, brown bread
Coral, tree

Airlie Beach greeted us and we looked at the lagoon, visited the booking office and ate at the Hog’s Breath Café, or Hog’s, Australia’s Steakhouse.

The Lagoon, Airlie Beach

Our new Airbnb is up the hill and boasts views of the town, the sea and the mountains, depending on which window you look through. We met Alison and Trevor but their dining companions vamoosed as soon as we showed up: no offence taken.

Here’s the next (and possibly final) episode in the ongoing in-car entertainment saga. It’s not for everyone, so if you want to stop reading the post at this point, no offence taken.

The car we hired in Cairns doesn’t like to play music from my phone, so we’ve been playing the songs through our little portable speaker. Normally we think its acoustics are ok, but with all the background noise in a car, it’s really hard to tell.

The main problem is still that different CDs and other music sources provide music at vastly differing sound volumes. I hope we can find a way to fix this at some point.

Imagine you were having a dinner party and you could only invite people from songs on my phone with titles beginning with the definite article. Who might turn up? A strange collection of folk, that’s for sure. Hundreds of ’em!

  • The Artisan
  • The Charmer
  • The Colliers
  • The Courier
  • The Hurlers
  • The Ranger
  • The Saddest Crowd
  • The Sender
  • The Wanderer
  • The Emperor’s Wife
  • The Impossible Girl
  • The Speeder
  • The Fool on the Hill
  • The Lovely Linda
  • The Lovers that Never Were
  • The Man
  • The Other Me
  • The Real Me
  • The Bewlay Brothers
  • The Laughing Gnome
  • The Supermen
  • The Man Who Sold the World
  • The Man With the Child in his Eyes
  • The Maid of Culmore
  • The Bloke who Serves the Beer
  • The Boxer
  • The Only Living Boy in New York
  • The Little Cowboy
  • The Player
  • The Rascal
  • The Poor Stranger

Them Heavy People just miss out an an invitation because the song is the first after the ‘The’s.

The excitement in the car was palpable as we finally reached the end of the Ts and we were eager to plough through the Us, Vs, Ws. Whoa, lots of Ws, many asking questions, Where, When, Who?

A couple of good segues came up by accident. Tomorrow Never Comes was followed by Tomorrow Today.

The raunchy Wake up and Make Love With Me was followed by the innocent Walking in the Air, which made us chuckle.

No Xs, lots of Yous and other Ys

Today was a landmark day, though. We’ve played all the music tracks from my phone, from A to Z. Actually, there were a few before the As even started: punctuation and numerals are sorted before the alphabet.

The first Z was Ziggy Stardust (performed by Seu Jorge rather than David) and we knew there wouldn’t be many Zs.

The final Z song came to an end. Zui-Zui-Zukkorobashi by Hiro Fujikake and James Galway.

But wait, there’s more!

What comes after Z? ÞAð Sést Ekki Sætari Mey, an early Icelandic song by Björk, that’s what! It was playing as we drove past the Billabong Sanctuary, a moment to be cherished throughout the ages. People will probably write songs about the occasion.

Meanwhile, what do we do now for in-car musical entertainment? We’ll revert to ‘random shuffle’ knowing that some songs will never play, but the plan is to download some new music when we get a good enough wifi connection. The request list (from both of us) is quite long.

To Port Douglas… and beyond

Goodbye to all the lovely ladies in The Territory: Katherine Gorge, Mary and Adelaide River, Edith Falls and Fannie Bay, Apologies to Alice Springs, we’ll catch up with you next time.

I felt sad to leave NT, almost homesick, which surprised me. Plus, Liesel wasn’t feeling 100% either. We returned to The Fannie Bay Coolspot for one final NT breakfast before jetting off to Cairns. The most entertaining part of the drive to the airport was listening to the Google Maps lady telling us to turn right into Dick Ward Drive. We went round the block several times just to hear her strange pronunciation.

Inside Cairns Airport, there’s a bicycle with a bamboo frame.

Bike with bamboo frame

This bike is much more interesting than our new rental car. New? It’s so old, it’s been driven around the world 5¼ times and it has no Bluetooth connection, just a USB port.

So, hello, Queensland, just a little cooler, we thought, for the drive north to our first port of call, Port Douglas. We didn’t stop, we just wanted to get there, eat and rest, but I did take a few pictures on the way and maybe we’ll get better ones on the return journey.

Just north of Cairns, looking west
Somewhere near Kuranda, looking north-ish

Nicola met us at her house and after she left, we went into town for dinner. We had a bit of a walk before settling down at a bistro near the marina. Queensland teased us with a sunset of weird, spooky and eerie colours.

Sunset over the Marina

I couldn’t see the lorikeets in Batchelor well enough to take a picture, but these Port Douglas residents made up for it. Probably thousands altogether, trees full of them and their chattering.

Rainbow lorikeets in a tree

Ooh, here’s a bonus sunset pic.

Sunset and a yacht

After a good night’s sleep, we rose early to drive even further north. Early, he said, hahaha.

Driving by all the sugar cane fields plus seeing old wooden houses in Cairns plus some of the place names on signs, all conspired to remind me of my very first trip to Australia, in 1986.

Sugar cane field and mountains

There’s an awful lot of sugar in Queensland. We passed a sign to a Tea Plantation and all we needed now was a source of milk. Would you believe it, we actually passed a few cows too. The group of three having a chat about the mechanical digger in their field would make a good photo/cartoon.

The sign told us (as if we didn’t already know and as if this wasn’t one of the main reasons for being here) that this was cassowary country.

Cassowary country

The road was winding so we had to drive slowly anyway, but the frequent road humps, with embedded rocks and a speed limit of 20 kph, forced us to crawl.

We half expected to see cane toads too, either live or squashed, but we didn’t. We did see a couple of birds of prey, one hovering above a field.

When we saw a man crossing the road in front of us, we thought he could have at least worn a cassowary outfit, then us visitors could leave thinking we’d actually seen one.

Looking upstream from the Daintree ferry

So, ferry ‘cross the Daintree ’cause this land’s the place I love. The road became narrower if that’s possible, we really were in the place where the rain forest meets the road.

Daintree Road, take me home

The road took us right next to the coastline occasionally, but there were very few opportunities to pull over for a proper look. Oh and here’s a surprise: a cassowary wearing Father Brown’s hat.

Caution: Cassowary wearing a hat

Daintree National Park is a rain forest, and it does extend right down to the beach. In fact, our first proper stop for a walk was at Cape Tribulation Beach. Lt James Cook had grounding issues with his ship in the area, hence the name.

There were some turkeys: not as exciting as a cassowary would have been! And butterflies, loads of them, all full of energy and determined not to trouble my camera at all. And just when you think it’s safe to walk on the beach…

Warning: crocodiles

…and…

Warning: box jellyfish

But what a lovely beach. Hard, compacted sand, very few people, the water looked inviting, apart from the possibility of box jellyfish, the rain forest behind absolutely stunning too.

Cape Tribulation Beach
Where’s Liesel?

“The only place in the world where two World Heritage listed areas, Daintree Rainforest and The Grest Barrier Reef, exist side by side.”

Selfie of the day

Very few people but surprisingly only one bird. He was very patiently fishing, caught a couple while we were watching.

Cormorant or darter or something else but not a chicken

A bit further along the road, we went for a walk along Dubuji Boardwalk, through the forest but one path also took us down to the next beach, Myall. This was a fantastic walk: fascinating in its own right, but also because we were much cooler than we’ve been for a while and it was mostly in the shade.

We heard noises from birds and animals, but other than butterflies, some shrub fowl and a few fish in the mangroves, we saw nothing but trees, bushes, climbers.

Thick-leaved raphidophora vine wraps around tree trunks
Fig tree climbing up another tree

Myall Beach was as fabulous as Cape Trib Beach (we’re friends now) but a little smaller.

Myall Beach where the rain forest meets the reef
Looking up through the umbrellas

The contrast between the brightness on the beach and the darkness in the rain forest was amazing. And hard to believe crocodiles live here.

Bright sea, dark jungle

On the drive back south, we stopped at Thornton Beach for a quick snack. Blimey, their portions were huge: I think this is the first time I’ve been unable to finish a bowl of salad and chips. We were pestered by a swarm of very small flies.

Pretty fly

No, they weren’t pretty flies, that was the next song played on the radio in the car. Oh yeah, I forgot to say: it won’t even play music from my phone with the USB cable connected. So, Triple M it was. With its fascinating and innovative new programme format. Get a couple of blokes who are funny, or who think they’re funny, and get a girl in to laugh at their every word. It’s a surefire winner. Between that and the election adverts, I think it’s fair to say, we’ll be glad to get back to the music on my phone!

One thing we did learn from Triple M was that the current batch of $50 notes have a misspelling in the micro text: ‘responsilty’ three times. That’s an absolute outrage so I will be returning all ours to the bank and demanding my money back.

Someone should take responsibilty for this

Thornton Beach is another where we could have stayed and walked for much longer, but we weren’t 100% sure when the last ferry would carry us back over the Daintree River.

Little island off Thornton Beach
Thornton Beach

Back on the road again, I was watching the sea on my side and watching the road still looking out for… [expletive deleted] said Liesel as she braked and she was right: there was a cassowary crossing the road right in front of us. Fumble fingers messed up the photo but ooh, how exciting, we actually saw a real, live cassowary out in the wild and we could not have been more excited!

There were a couple of waterfalls too but, well, they’re a lot easier to come by than actual cassowaries.

We stopped at Walu Wugirriga, or Mount Alexandra Lookout, from where we could look over the Daintree Valley towards Port Douglas.

Looking south over the Daintree estuary

Luckily, I got my pictures just in time, before a bus full of tourists turned up. We also set off before them, we didn’t want to be following a bus all the way to the ferry. I know, we’re such snobs.

Looking downstream from the Daintree ferry

Back in Port Douglas, Liesel went indoors while I went into town for a few bits at Coles. On entering, I was delighted to hear the strains of Tasmin’s Sleeping Satellite over the PA and I thought, what a wonderful shop. Then they played something modern and I thought, maybe not. I know, I’m such a music snob!

I’m glad I went into town, because I felt bad about not taking a picture of the cows chatting earlier so I made up for it by snapping a cow on roller skates. No, I was not hallucinating.

Cow on wheels

Tonight’s, early sunset wasn’t as colourful nor as interesting as last night’s but what a fabulous first day in Queensland. A cassowary!

Overnight, we heard some strange animal noises from outside while in the comfort of our room: birds, possoms, squirrels, bats, monkeys, teenagers, I don’t know if we’ll ever know.