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Back to Oz

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 21 February 2018 | Views [171]

I got out of Christchurch just in time with a state of emergency called because of cyclone Gita which had flattened Tonga a week earlier approaching. The flight had a few bumps but wasn't too bad.  I picked up a worryingly new rental car, prayed over it, and set off up the Gold Coast stopping to enjoy sunset over Surfer's Paradise which has massive tracts of golden sand stretching for miles.

My Brisbane hotel was built in the 1800s and may not have been decorated since. A wooden building with nice terrace on the outskirts of the city. Reception was just closing at 8 as I arrived so I was just in time. 

Brisbane itself is a pleasing city with river running through, and some modern skyscrapers. I enjoyed my day sight seeing taking in the splendid town hall and museum, botanic park, river bank and excellent art gallery with extensive collection of early Australian art. What a contrast to its cruel beginnings built on the backs of convict labour and aboriginal exploitation.  I particularly enjoyed seeing so many long beaked ibis in the park. Quite a sight!

Having checked out of my room, I headed up by car to Mt Coot to look down over Brisbane, and then down to an even better botanical garden with an excellent Japanese garden, rain forest and other native fauna. Many shrubs and tree were flowering colourfully and thankfully temperatures were down a bit although still humid. 

I drove over to the granite outcrops of the Grass House mountains so named by Captain Cook. They are an odd but impressive sight surrounded by beautiful woods. With the help of a local tourist office I set off inland and thoroughly enjoyed a scenic drive although by late afternoon the rain (from Cyclone Gita?) was again torrential so forcing me from the tent to the car. Another highlight was seeing 4 red headed parrots  (King Parrots?) sheltering on a line of 4 or 5 on a telephone pole, a kookaburra and several other exotic birds.

Sleeping in the car was rather uncomfortable but at least I awoke to more parrots and a nice coffee at the cafe nearby where colourful lorrakeets were feeding on nectar.  A host of cattle egrets were in the field and more parrots and cokatoos along the road. Incredible.  Given the further rain I ventured as far as Edmundi and then along the Sunshine Coast before it bucketed down. The campsite was so nice and only $13 so I went back for another night.

Back to Brisbane which was another nice drive. The hotel however had the guests from hell who shouted and screamed for 2 hours before the police took care of them. The night was noisy too so I didn't get much sleep before my 5 am uber. The cheap booked one didn't turn up so I had to get another for a bit more. However the flight managed to miss the storms and was peaceful enough. 

I took the hire car up to Daintree Village close to Cape Tribulation seeing lots of black and then white cockatoos on the way. I stopped off at various beautiful bays including Cape Palm which does have palms but also crocs. Another massive downpour with extensive lightening caused me to pull over before stopping of at an aboriginal wet tropical rainforest forest but it was still incredibly humid.

I got up early and took the incredibly beautiful train ride up to Kuranda.  The line cost over 30 lives in the 19th century and crosses a decent mountain through the tropical rainforest. We stopped to look at the Barran waterfall swollen by recent rains. I went for a rainforest walk in Kuranda and really enjoyed the tropical bird park where the multi coloured inhabitants enjoyed taking food from the hand and in a couple of cases perching and trying to eat my cap. The town has a frontier feel. I took the cable car down over the rainforest with spectacular views opening up to the coastline.  It wouldn't surprise me if this is the longest cable car in the world. As seems common, a lightening storm little up the evening sky.

Day 3 took me across to Fitzroy Island where due to threatened afternoon storm in was offered the chance to go snorkelling as well as enjoying a glass boat. Glad I did. You saw little from the boat bit so much beautiful shaped ando coloured coral with the snorkel. The multi coloured fish were also incredible. In the afternoon I visited the turtle rehab centre which has taken off after cyclone damage in 2009 to the undewater grass feeding beds. Most now come in starving having eaten plastic which impedes their breathing and ability to feed. So they float to the surface and suffer algae and barnacle attacks. The recovery process can take years but the restoration rate is hood.

Fortunately the storms pushed back just enough for me to get to Darwin smoothly by air. In hot humid weather i took a look at the botanical gardens and art museum. The waterfront was underwhelming but at least afforded some shade. It was too hot to contemplate camping so I sent my gear home and booked an extra 3 nights in the comfortable leprachaun motel. I drove over to Northern Territory Wildlife Park which put on an incredible bird show with owls, lorakeets, hawks and many others coming onto the grass stage on queue. Superb. I drove onto the Litchfield National Park with its waterfalls. It was quicker to drive home and office again the next day to Kakadu National Park which was even furather, some 300 KM. The drive was worth it to see the ancient aboriginal art on the red outcrop. A stunning sight. Much of the park was already looking wet with some road cover. The other main aboriginal sight at Ubirr was closed off but I saw enough and was pleased to retreat to the air con of the car. On the way back in took a look at the Wetlands bird park and dam. That was just before dark grey clouds gathered and the heavens opened. No doubt there will be some more flooding tonight.

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