Rain approaching across the tropical forest..
Home from home?
It was always going to catch up with us sooner or later.
December is the start of the rainy season in Northern Australia after all. But there is rain and there is rain. In England it’s cold. In Queensland it’s warm. And it tends to come in short, sharp, very sharp, showers and then clears to sunshine once more. After a long hot dry season it was almost possible to see the soil sucking the water in. An hour later and you’d be hard pressed to tell it had rained at all.
The early morning basking rock.
Getting to the Whitsundays had involved the most tedious journey yet, the 700km (435 mile) drive from the Daintree Rainforest to just outside Airlie Beach. Ten and a half hours, including petrol, loo and food stops. On Christmas Eve. The Bruce Highway is just one lane each way for the majority of its length and with more than its fair share of slow moving traffic. But it beat hanging around in an airport terminal and we certainly saw more of the country this way, albeit most of it covered with sugar cane.
Our resident kookaburra. Noisy chap. Or chapess?
Scenic flights aside, this was always intended to be the chill out part of the trip. We’d found a cottage, secluded within a remnant of rainforest well off the beaten track and spent Christmas morning on the terrace photographing birds. The temperature for mid morning coffee was already in the very pleasant high 20sC.
Olive backed sunbird, female
To keep the costs down for this trip most of the time we stayed in holiday rentals with a couple of hotels thrown in as ‘a treat’. But there really is no better way to experience a country than living in it like a local. And a cottage or apartment offers so much more space. Even the smallest, with an open plan living area and bedroom & bathroom off, was twice the size of any hotel room I’ve ever seen. The largest, in Palm Cove, had us rattling around in two living areas, two terraces, two bedrooms and three bathrooms and yet it was the second cheapest of any of the Aussie places we stayed.
Olive backed sunbird, male
And, sad person that I am, how I fell upon a place with a washing machine. After a few days on the hot and dusty roads of the outback nothing gave me more pleasure than tipping the whole suitcase straight into the drum. It beat hand washing. We could have waited for hotel laundry but, quite aside from the exorbitant cost, where’s the fun in that? When you could be sitting out on the terrace, Tasmanian Pinot in one hand, googling for washing machine manuals in a last ditch bid to fathom out how a top loader works? Just as well I did it too. Otherwise I’d never have known about diluting the suds.
Shopping is shopping pretty much anywhere in the developed world but UK readers may be pleased to learn that Woolworths is still alive and well. It’s a supermarket in Australia, on first impressions the equivalent of Tesco with at least two stores per town and an accumulating land bank to ensure there’ll be many more yet to come. The selection of goods on offer is pretty similar to here with the exception that they aren’t so big on ready meals, most cooking is from scratch. Somewhere on the long drive down to Airlie Beach Mike asked an assistant if they sold pre-prepared sandwiches and received a look which suggested that we might have just landed from Mars.
The more significant difference is that supermarkets in Oz don’t sell booze. You’ll understand that it didn’t take too many days to work that one out. It’s the essential holiday purchase after all. But, no, you need a Bottle Shop for that. Unless one happens to be driving through the Clare Valley or similar wine region, in which case seek out a Cellar Door. How wonderful to be able to purchase direct from the source.
Cochlospermum gillivraei (Kapok Tree)
Cape Gloucester peninsular
Way off the main tourist trail. A prime spot for locals enjoying a Boxing Day barbie on the beach.
The road back to the cottage cut through agricultural country.
But one day I did a double take..
S/he refused to look at the camera. Perhaps it got the hump.
Enough of all this idling around, time for a walk.
Mt Rooper lookout, with a wonderful view across the Whitsundays.
The rain shower missed us. Just.
From the path we’d climbed to get here, the sound of huffing and puffing and then a head appearing above the brush. “G’day!” As with everyone else we’d met in Australia, this native was friendly. I wish I had a dollar for each time we’d been asked where we’re from, where we’d been and where we were headed next. Our new chum pointed out the islands in the bay, gave a name to each one, then pulled a bottle of beer from his shirt pocket and settled down upon a rock. “I only come up here to get away from the wife. Don’t tell her if you meet her.”
For us though it was time to up the pace and get back on the road once more.
And if you happen to be on the east coast of Australia for New Year’s Eve, where do you go?
Does it need any words?