August 1, 2008

Magnetic Island and beyond to Cape Tribulation

The tropical North of Queensland. This has been our final destination for the last two months of driving, and I should mention that we finally found hot weather. I know it's winter in Australia, and we figured it would be a little cool, but until we arrived in Cairns, the weather had really been quite chilly. So for all of you who think that Australia is always hot, try coming here in the winter season. The cold weather down south meant it was off-season and not too crowded, but it's the peak season up here.

From Airlie Beach, we decided to drive to Cairns as quick as possible, with a stop over visit to see Magnetic Island off the coast of Townsville. Three of us set off for the four hour drive to Townsville, to catch the thirty minute ferry to Magnetic Island. Three people you say? Well, we decided to invite another traveler to join our trip since the cost of fuel is astronomical over here, and we met Eduardo from Madrid who clicked with us like chorizo y queso.

Unfortunately the weather wasn't the best when we visited Magnetic Island, and we stayed in possibly the worst hostel ever (Arcadia Hotel, formally known as Magnums, and Arkies), but the island is beautiful and definitely worth a visit if you have time. We had a great day of hiking around the island, visiting some old World War Two bunkers. Most people outside of Australia wouldn't know this, but Townsville was actually attacked by Japanese planes. We also had one of the best days of animal sightings in the wild. We saw more koalas, kangaroos, and got to feed the colorful rainbow lorakeet birds, and a huge group of rock wallabies, which look like minature kangaroos. Another highlight was winning our third trivia night at the local pub. This time we took home the gold...three jugs of beer, and two really tacky tee shirts.

After two days on the island, we drove the last four hours to Cairns, the largest city in Northern Queensland, and a major holiday destination for visiting the Great Barier Reef. We spent two days getting a taste for the city where we planned to settle for a bit, and then said goodbye to our new amigo Eduardo, and drove north to see the nice trendy town of Port Douglas and then spend a couple of days in Cape Tribulation part of the Daintree National Park.

You can't come all the way to Cairns and not visit the northern beaches and rainforest. Cairns unfortunately does not have a beach (they do have a man made swimming lagoon), but drive 30 minutes north and you have the breathtaking areas of Palm Cove, Eli Beach, and Port Douglas, plus numerous deserted beaches, except for the crocs! We spent a night in Palm Cove, the affluent and touristy suburb of Cairns, and absolutely loved it. There's even a city-run campground right on the beach if you are lucky enough to get a space.

Drive two and half hours north of Cairns, and you'll finally get to Cape Trib, as the locals like to call it. The scenery reminded us of Fiji with beautiful jungle mountains just beyond the shore. We had to take a car ferry to cross the croc-infested Daintree river, and once you're on the other side it's a sleepy area of several villages without cell phone reception. We spent two nights camping at the Noah Beach campground run by the National Parks, and had a huge beach all to ourselves. I think the highlight for the both of us was taking a cruise down the Daintree River to see crocodiles in the wild. We saw four of them that day, and it was amazing to see them in the wild, just sunning themselves on the river bank. In case you are wondering, crocs are found in Australia and are more aggressive than American alligators. The salt water crocs can get as big as 5 meters (about 15 feet)!

Just another note if you decide to visit North Queensland. Don't go swimming in the ocean near a river mouth as crocs probably live there. If it's the summer season (Nov-May), wear a stinger suit in the ocean, as the tiny box jelly fish can actually kill you. And if these two things don't get you, then there are the sharks. Basically, Australia has more animals that can kill you than anywhere else, including several snakes and spiders, but the chances are slim, and this place rocks anyway!

We are back in Cairns now, settling into our new jobs and new apartment, but that deserves a whole separate post. Here are our pics of Magnetic Island and Cape Trib.


Nomadic Matt said...

when do you two get to asia?

Julie said...

Hey Matt, we'll be in Asia in October. Will you be there then? Would be great to meet up.