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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

Among the Banana Benders

AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 18 September 2008 | Views [5851] | Comments [3]

'Banana Benders' sounds dodgy, but people from Queensland are just given the nickname because they grow (and apparently put the bends in) so many bananas.

A few days after arriving up in Cairns, I picked up my hire car.  Having booked the smallest and cheapest car available, I was a bit surprised when I realised how tiny a Hyundai Getz really is, having thought that it'd be about as big as my old Peugeot 106.  Driving north and starting to climb the hills towards Cape Tribulation, I realised that they must put lawnmower engines in them!

Getting across the swampy Daintree river involved a short cable ferry journey, then I was driving through full on rainforest, and stayed in a kind of permanent tent near the beach - the area is supposedly one of the few places in the world where a proper rainforest meets the sea.

The weather was pretty bad, warm but overcast all the time and drizzling quite a lot.  I suppose you can't have a rainforest without the rain!  I couldn't really see the Cape of Cape Tribulation, so went for a few rainforest walks instead.  These were great, but I didn't escape without a few hangers-on - bloodsuckers in the form of a tick and a leech, both of which took a bit of getting off, but I think I got them before they started properly gorging on my blood.  

I was later quite pleased that I'd noticed the tick, when I was told that a common tick in the area is the Paralysis Tick, which does exactly what it says on the tin - paralysing and killing mammals in a few hours, occasionally killing people.  It seems as though Australia has at least one of every type of living thing that's capable of killing people, except as far as I know they don't (YET) have any plants which can kill you.  There were quite a few gympie gympies or 'stinging trees' though, which will apparently cause 'severe prickling and then intense pain'.  The pain then lasts for several days, but can recur for up to two months!

On getting to Port Douglas, a posh tourist town up the coast from Cairns, there were warnings of the deadliest of all Australia's deadly things - the box jellyfish.  Fortunately I didn't encounter any of those (I did see a washed up jellyfish, but decided not to give it a prod to find out if it was a nasty one).

While I'm (still!) on the subject, a bird that can kill is the Southern Cassowary (apparently listed in the Guiness Book of Records as the world's most dangerous bird, and one of the most dangerous animals to have in a zoo, based on zookeeper injuries [thanks wikipedia]), but despite my best efforts and carefully reading this sign in a park, I didn't manage to find one in the wild.  This one was in a sanctuary, but it still looked like it was about to go for me a few times.

But despite all the fuss, most animals in Australia are not deadly, and people certainly don't seem to live in constant fear of animal ambush!

So heading South in the 'Tropical Far North' of Queensland, I went inland to the Atherton Tablelands, and stayed at the brilliant 'On the Wallaby' hostel, definitely one of the best I've stayed at so far.  Here, after being very surprised that it wasn't all that difficult to see a Platypus in the wild, I made it my mission to try and photograph one at a nearby creek, but had mixed results since they're pretty much only visible at dawn and dusk, are smaller than I thought (about the size of a small rabbit), and move quite quickly.  Being Australian, obviously the even the platypus has a poisonous bit - males have a sharp retractable spike, but they're so shy that there didn't seem to be much chance of them using it against people.

Getting up ridiculously early for a few mornings of platypus spotting also gave me the chance to see hundreds of Brolgas - huge cranes with 2+ metre wingspans which came onto the fields at dawn, making incredible prehistoric sounding shrieks as they flew in.

At a big swamp called Hasties, I thought this kingfisher was cautiously watching what I was doing as it sat on a branch nearby, but then suddenly it dropped like a stone into the water, then came out and gobbled up the fish.

After another walk in a forest, I was driving along a winding road when I felt something on my leg, and looked down to see another pesky leech busily getting into position for some bloodsucking!  I somehow managed to remove it without crashing!

Another hazard on the roads are the quite frequent 'oversize loads'.  They're always escorted by cars up ahead with flashing lights, but normally they're not too wide and you can keep on driving.  But sometimes you definitely can't!... This time, a police car with lights blazing came careering round a corner on my side of the road, and made it very clear that I should get my car off the road immediately, then this monster came tumbling along at high speed!

Going south along the Queensland coast, I did pass lots of banana plantations, but also an unbelievable amount of sugar cane - hundreds and hundreds of miles and days of driving through it.

This is one of Mission Beach's Beaches... I stayed up in the rainforest in this permanent tent / cage thing, which was cool as the rainforest sounds really were all around...

This is Wallaman falls - the longest drop (permenant) waterfall in Australia at 268 metres.

...This is Whitehaven beach on Whitsunday Island...

Further on down the coast in Hervey Bay there was a huge fruit bat (or  flying fox) colony.  They were fun to watch in the morning as they mostly slept, but occasionally squabbled and rearranged their impressive wings.

If you've ever wondered how bats take a poo (since they're normally upside down), here's how ...

This one then decided to fly off and find somewhere else to hang!

As I'm sure you know, much of Australia has severe water shortage problems, and this was one of many roadside protests to the proposed Traveston dam which will/would flood a large area, apparently larger than Sydney Harbour.

This is Mount Beerwah, part of the Glasshouse range a bit north of Brisbane.  Captain Cook gave them the name when he sailed past and thought they looked like greenhouses.

Some of the many tributes to Steve Irwin at Australia Zoo, just north of Brisbane.

So after clocking up thousands of Kms and doubling the mileage on my little Getz, I arrived in Brisbane (Aka Brisvegas or Brisneyland) where I'm being joined in a couple of days by Nicole (who's on holiday from the UK) and also hopefully meeting up with Mandy (who lives here), who I travelled with in the Kimberly and in the Wicked vans on the West Coast.

NB. To purchase a license to use any of the pictures here, please go to www.istockphoto.com/resonants or contact me: georgeblog (at) foogaloo.com

Tags: australia, east coast, queensland



Love it George. Sooooo interesting. Guess we'll catch up for a beer at some point in the future else I'll try to track you down whereever you may be!

  Mark Sep 21, 2008 5:05 PM


Cheers Mark... a beer somewhere would be great!

  George Sep 27, 2008 2:40 PM


Hi, Im afifi from Malaysia.
Have been following your blogs, they are all wonderful.

May I know what camera and lens you are using? The photos are great!


  afifi Oct 28, 2012 4:45 PM



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