Apologies for taking so long to put another blog together; our only explanation is that we have been very much on the move in Australia and now New Zealand and have just not stopped long enough to spend the days it takes to put them together. But we are now in Napier and Hastings, New Zealand, on Hawkes Bay, and are going to just stop for awhile, enjoy the forty or so  wineries here in this area and do some blogging.

We drove a total of about 6000 miles (9500 kilometers) in total in Australia and covered almost 4000 miles (6000 kilometers) just traveling from Sydney to the Daintree Rainforest in the far north and back to Sydney. It is this part of Australia that we will talk about and try to show you in this blog.

For most of the journey northward we stuck pretty close to the coast and stopped in what seemed like countless beach towns. Some were what could be called prototypical in that they constitute a long stretch of beach covered with bathers like Noosa Head

Noosa Head, QLD, Australia_2

Sometimes they are different as in Port Macquarie where the entrance to the harbor is lined with huge rocks meant to hold back the waves, but have been captured by families and friends to leave their own memorials and memories for all to see.

Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia

Most of the swimming beaches in northern Queensland are enclosed with nets suspended from buoys to keep out the box jellyfish whose sting is one of the most lethal on earth. Stung by a cluster of them and you will die; stung by even one and the pain is said to be as intense as any.

Mission Beach, Queensland, Australia

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Probably the must unusual and saddest beach scene we encountered was that of the removal of a lovely sailboat which washed up on the beach just north of Evans Head. Red Sky is a 54 foot Moody from California which had been sailed across the Pacific by her American owners, but struck a submerged object and was taking on water faster than it could be bailed. The crew of four was rescued by a cargo ship 14 miles out to sea and Red Sky drifted into shore and finally ended up on the beach about two miles down from where we were camped. Here is the hull damage that caused the problem.

Evans Head shipwreck, NSW, Australia_3

And this is Red Sky as she was pushed and pulled over the dune facing the beach.

Evans Head shipwreck, NSW, Australia

She was finally dragged to the parking area where she was to be stripped of her mast and other gear.

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If you are interested in a more complete account, here is a link to the story in the San Francisco sailing magazine Latitude 38:   http://www.latitude38.com/lectronic/lectronicday.lasso?date=2014-12-19#.VNrL87CUcmU

Once into the far north, we spent several days in Port Douglas, a lovely Victorian town and from there we went aboard a boat for a day on the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately and rather foolishly, we did not have an underwater camera so could not capture the wonderful sea life we saw, but here are a couple of pictures to give you some idea of the sweep of the reef itself.

Great Barrier Reef, OLD, Australia

 

We finished our coastal trip by going to Cape Tribulation and the amazing Daintree National Park. This is just about the end of the paved road to the north, and even requires crossing the Daintree River on a small ferry just to enter, in our case sharing the ferry with some rather elderly vehicle company.

Ferry, Daintree River, QLD, Australia

Daintree itself was sort of the culmination of the many rainforests we hiked through. It is the largest in Australia, and has exceptional biodiversity. It is the oldest rainforest on Earth as it is the remains of the rainforest which once covered the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. When it broke apart, its landmass formed South America, India, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Antarctica and Australia.

Here is a view out over the canopy to the coast

Daintree, QLD, Australia

and of a huge tree filled with giant basket ferns, air plants which have no roots but gain their sustenance parasitically from the tree itself and from what they can acquire from the surrounding air.

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We loved the walks we took through the rainforest, often on beautifully constructed wooden boardwalks so as to not disturb the roots of the trees towering overhead.

Daintree walk

We made the turn to head back south on December 11th, a month to the day from when we entered Australia. Rather than retracing our coastal route, featuring an almost endless sandy beach but little else except dairy farms and cane fields, we decided to head inland as often as there seemed to be something interesting to be found there. In reality, and perhaps driven by the fact that we are simply not ‘beach people,’ the inland parts of our journey we found to be much more diverse and interesting. From the time we turned inland from Cairns in the far north things began to change.

Here’s an example from that area, called the Atherton Tablelands. We had seen sugar cane growing everywhere as we traveled the coastal route, and the same was true once inland. Everywhere we saw cane we saw narrow guage railroad tracks used by small trains to haul cane from the plantations to the mills where it is processed. And rarely we saw off in the distance the strange and fearsome looking machines used to harvest the cane.

But on the first day on the tableland we drove right by a harvester and one of the trucks used to haul the cane to mills as well. And we could see two men standing next to them. We stopped and walked across the field and had a chat with the men who turned out to be Chris, younger and from New Zealand, and Barney, older, seasoned, even a bit weathered.

Cane machine and workers, QLD, Australia_3

Like all Aussies (and Kiwis as well) they could not have been more friendly and welcoming, and immediately spent the next half hour explaining how the cane is brought into the harvester by the huge turning screws which dominate the front.

Cane machine and workers, QLD, Australia_2

The cane itself is then separated from the leaves and any roots picked up, and then chopped up into two feet lengths and blown onto the truck you see next to the harvester.

Cane machine and workers, QLD, Australia

They were doing maintenance on the equipment the day we saw them but they invited us to come back and they would give us rides on the harvester as they were clearing another cane field the next morning. We had to decline for lack of time, but it sure would have been fun.

By the way, Barney and Dave spent a little time admiring each other’s beards and Barney said that most nights he has three birds who nest in his as he sleeps. We didn’t believe him as there was really only room for one to be comfortable.

The next day we continued south to Paronella Park, a wonderful ruin in the rainforest built by a Spanish immigrant named Jose Paronella who bought the land on the Mena Creek in 1929 and commenced to build a castle, appropriate outbuildings, gardens and fountains and a hydroelectric plant on the creek to power everything. Everything fell into ruin through fire and floods and all slowly slipped back into the rainforest until resurrected in the 1990’s—not to its full prior grandeur of parties and weddings and even movie nights, but at least restored enough to give the visitor a wonderful sense of its scale and splendor emerging again from the undergrowth. Here are the remains of the castle from the garden side with its sweeping staircases,

Paronella Park, QLD, Australia

and the walk through the kauri pines to the bamboo garden beyond.

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We love these romantic ruins in the forests and were reminded of Edward James’ magnificent structures in the deep jungles of Mexico at Los Pozos.

A little further south and we came to the town of Yungaburra, one of our favorites. Outside of town is the famous Curtain Fig Tree, which is really an immense strangler fig that has grown to cover, and kill, an entire giant tree in the midst of the rainforest.

Curtain Fig Tree, QLD, Australia

There is another interesting tree in a park in Yungaburra itself.

Yungaburra, QLD, Australia

We called it the Bikini Tree.

Like nearly all Australian towns, Yungaburra has a ‘hotel’ in the center of things, which is most important for the pub it always contains. And while it does offer rooms as well, frequently on an upper floor with wonderful verandas, those rooms were originally there for imbibers at the pub too intoxicated to make it to anywhere but upstairs with help.

Yungaburra, QLD, Australia_2

Yungaburra is also the site of the magnificent Flame Tree that adorns the top of this blog.

Inland from Noosa Head is the town of Eumendi, famous for an outdoor market which seems to stretch endlessly across fields and parks and even courtyards and sells everything from pocket sized knife sharpeners (which we bought) to clothes, antiques, food, jewelry, drink, garden furniture—everything short of used cars and trips to Disney World. We particularly liked a couple of food stands, one a converted VW Camper.

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Eumendi Market, QLD, Australia_4

Another favorite town was Mountville, on one of the back roads into Nimbin. Mountville is a real charmer, cascading down a hill with wonderful 19th century shops and homes and restaurants,

Mountville, QLD, Australia

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and even the occasional waterwheel as well.  We were reminded a bit of Carmel, California.

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But of all the inland towns we visited, certainly Nimbin is the most notorious and colorful. It was the site of the 1993 Aquarius Festival which launched the hippie movement in Australia, and has managed to preserve that lifestyle and attitude ever since. There are at least 50 communes in the hills around the town and this is where a Mardi Grass and Cannabis Law Reform Rally is held every May, bringing people from all over the country and abroad to celebrate and enjoy the area’s principle agricultural crop. Have a stroll down the main street with us, and don’t let the smoke bother you. Just don’t inhale!

Nimbin QLD, Australia

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Nimbin QLD, Australia_3

From Nimbin we headed down to wonderful Sydney again for our ‘intermediate’ stop, then went on to Melbourne and beyond, to be covered in succeeding blogs.