This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Down under revisited - Pt 3

Ok, here was the plan: train up to Surfers Paradise for a few days then on northwards to Cairns before nipping across to Alice Springs, then back down south via the Ghan railway to Adelaide for the start of the next test match. However anyone with experience of travelling Australia will know that you don't 'nip' anywhere here. And that's for two reasons; one, it's too bloody hot and two, it's too bloody big. It may be the smallest continent but it's the biggest country in the world.
So, our first leg was to be by train, a nice gentle 14 hours or so up to Surfers. Australian trains maybe many things but fast isn't one of them. Anyhow it wasn't to be. Think of two words that strike fear and dread into the hearts of commuters everywhere. Yep, that's it; engineering works! Great. We were directed to a manky looking coach around the corner and found our seats.
There was nothing memorable about the journey other than it seemed to go on for ever, the occasional smoke break and food stops for passengers and drivers alike briefly suspending the monotony.
I think we had about three whole days up in Surfers. Trev, still suffering from the effects of sunstroke sweated copiously for over 24 hours having at last imbibed something other than beer. We had a mini bus trip up Green Mountain with a very informative Aboriginal driver and guide. He told us a bit of his life history including the fact that he was married to a white Australian which even in 1995 was unusual. He told us as well, on the way up the mountain, about the number of kids from the little villages around that go down into the 'big city' at weekends to party and never return. Coming from remote out of the way places, Surfers just blows their mind he said. Some are never found again.
We went through the some of the area ravaged by forest fires only a few months previously. You could already see the green shoots of recovery (real ones not political ones!) sprouting from the tree trunks. The trip continued on up to the top where you could stop for lunch and go walking through the forest. We just did lunch but enjoyed the stunning views and the beautiful green and red parrots. The return journey took us back through Surfers and along a portion of the road used for the Indy Car race, the driver commenting mischievously about 'all the tourists'!
The next leg of our journey was a mere hop skip and jump to Brisbane. We weren't stopping here as such, but our connecting coach for the very long ride to Cairns was not leaving until late afternoon so we knocked off most of the time in the nearby science museum which was quite good fun. When you have plenty of time you play with every single little gadget. I remember too that I had my first 'sugar free' cuppa in the café opposite. The waistline was expanding seemingly by the minute so something had to give (except beer, obviously).
The next bit wasn't fun. Twenty nine hours to Cairns. On a bloody coach. On a bloody coach with a leaking window. By my seat. When it was raining. It's fair to say that when we eventually got there neither of us were in a particularly good mood. It's amazing how tired you get 'travelling', when in reality you're just sitting there doing very little.
As was becoming the norm, we'd pre booked a night at a motel outside town, so the first task was to sort out accommodation for the rest of the time we were here (I think it was about a week or so). We had a bit of a wander round but to be honest it was too hot and steamy to do much, and the owner of the motel where we spent our first night done us a good deal anyway. It was a mother and son affair, both very helpful and accommodating, the mother was constantly berating us for not using enough sun cream and the son, seemingly craving a bit of male company was full of advice for things to do whilst we were here. The best way to get into town was on the bus which could be caught from the main road just a minutes walk away. "You could walk back along the promenade by the seafront" he said, "although it's far to bloody hot really, only tough pommies or bloody idiots would do it this time of year. I'm sure you guys will though." He didn't elaborate as to which category we were in!.
The motel had a free laundry and we took the opportunity to freshen up our stuff. Someone, who shall remain nameless (but t'wernt me) decided that it would be ok to put a brand new bright red t-shirt in with everything. Yep, everything came out with a pink tinge - appropriate I suppose. Anyway, the aforementioned mother, still muttering about sun cream came to the rescue with some bleach and colour catcher however and most stuff was returned to it's original colour. Sort of.
We had a trip out on a boat to Green Island, from where we would be able to have a look at the great barrier reef. We were near wheelhouse of the boat as we pulled away from the quayside and soon heard the skipper mutter something about not enough ballast. It wasn't long the boat was heaving, pitching and rolling all over the place. The Japanese tourists almost as one, put down their Nikons and Canons and picked up their sick bags.
We changed boats at the island to go out to the reef, this one was a smaller glass bottomed thing for viewing the reef below. What we saw was impressive, but given the weather and sea conditions we didn't see the best of it. Someone on the boat asked the skipper about sharks in the area. "There's probably more sharks ON the boat than under it mate" came the deadpan reply.
Finding good cheap food when travelling is all part of the fun. Across the road from us was a bar called Dunwoody's. They offered a steak and chips for $5 with a pot of beer thrown in as well. For the uninitiated a pot is about a third of a pint. That's not to say Aussies can't drink, because they can. They just like their beer cold. Very. It was the first time I had seen glasses kept in the freezer. We got talking to the barman as he (frequently) dispensed our pots. He said he was coming over to Europe later in the year to travel with his girlfriend. We gave him a card with our number on, not really expecting to hear from him again. We did however and Ross & Julie became great friends. We would always go and see them when we were over there and were always made very welcome. The friendship continues to this day.
A couple of days later we done a paddle boat ride around the everglades. There was a faint hope of seeing crocodiles though it was really the wrong time of year. Tea and scones were served which was very nice. We got talking to the skipper, who on learning of the purpose of our trip, smiled sympathetically and made some friendly jibe about a wasted journey. (As An English sports fan in Oz, you get a lot of that!). He told us he was originally from South Australia and that the Adelaide Oval was one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in Australia. We took him at his word and he turned out to be right.
There was along way to go before we would see it though.......

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