Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What’s to see at Normanton?

We have a spare day on our tour today, a time to rest and relax, have a look around, and maybe, have a dip in the pool.  Normanton is is a small cattle town and locality in the Shire of Carpentaria in Queensland, Australia. In the 2011 census, Normanton had a population of 1,468 people of whom 696 were Indigenous Australians.  We asked the server in the pub where we had our meal last night what people do in her town, and she replied that they drink a lot!  Must be good for business then. She also directed us to photos on the wall of the last big flood in town, when they were cut off for some weeks.  Crocodiles came with the flood water and her blue heeler dog was taken, along with several others.  Scary times indeed.

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Looking down the main street

The town has interesting stone pitched gutters, made with stone from the Normanton quarry and was laid in the 1880s.  Certainly something that we hadn’t seen before.  Obviously after all this time, parts are starting to crumble away.

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Stone pitched gutters in town

Our accommodation for two nights is at the Normanton Tourist Park, in ensuite cabins.  We have a lovely peaceful view from our shady deck.

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An artesian bore was put down in 1895, to a depth of 2330ft, and provided nearly 300,000gallons per day.  Repaired in 1988 after leaking badly the flow now measures 140,000 galls per day and now services the caravan park’s hot water and supplements the town water supply.

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The old bore

Robin has been happily chatting to caravan owners, as he does, talking about rigs, and tow vehicles, and goodness knows whatever else male campers talk about.  We have noticed that most Aussie caravans seem shorter than NZ ones, and all seem to come equipped with air conditioning units.

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Caravans parked under the trees

After spending a lazy day in camp today, and a refreshing dip in the pool, we are looking forward to having a trip tomorrow on the first of the vintage railcars, the Gulflander.  Watch this space!

Monday, August 21, 2017

A new Adventure–Cairns to Normanton

We’re off on a new adventure, a six day coach and rail trip on the famous Savannahlander and Gulflander vintage railcars.  So it was another very early morning start to board the 6.30am  Trans North coach to take us to Normanton.
 
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Our journey took us along the Savannah Highway, through the Tablelands and over the Misty Mountains.  We whizzed by sugarcane, avocados, and banana plantations.  Driving to Ravenshoe for our morning tea stop  we travelled along the highest bitumen sealed road in Queensland, at 2500ft, we were told.

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Signs seen on our journey

Travelling through the outback country we passes by the many different types of termite mounds, sadly travelling much to quickly to get good photos from the bus windows.  There were fat rounded ones , both pale and red, which we presumed depended on the soil, and these changed to smaller pointed ones which look rather like small steeples.  You may well wonder about our interest in termites, but we don’t have these back home in NZ.  There were small groups of Brahman  cattle sheltering under tree from time to time, but again, we were travelling too fast.  We passed over several creeks and rivers,  some dry as a bone, while one or two contained a little water.

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Junction Creek

It was interesting to note the change in the roads as we travelled.  Sometimes it was a two lane stretch, as far as the eye could see.

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Two lanes

And then occasionally stretched of the road went down to a single lane.  Approaching traffic has to pull off to the side to pass, as we did, kicking up a dust cloud.

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How to pass on a single lane road (Interestingly the rules over here seem to be that all other vehicles have to pull off the tar to allow Coaches, Trucks & Road Train stay in the centre).

Finally, after an 11 hour journey of 682km we arrived at our destination for the next two nights, the Normanton Tourist Park - a cozy en suite cabin, with aircon, with a lovely shady deck outside.

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A camping holiday at Normanton

Later in the evening we wandered up to one of the three local hotels for a meal.  Steak, snitzel, prawns and fish – and very generous servings they were too.  The Central Hotel had quite a history – and was built in the 1890s by a local builder, with a Shaving Parlour on the end.  The hotel had a public and lounge bar, plus a private bar and dining room.  In earlier years there was a crocodile enclosure with two resident fresh water crocodiles.  The crocs are now at Cairns Wildlife Park, one had a broken jaw and is named “Missus Scissor Jaw”.

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Dinner time in Normanton

After such a big day we were ready for an early night, with the aircon going flat out.  It sure is warm in this part of the world!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef

It was another glorious Cairns day when we boarded the Reef Rocket for a day out on Green Island.  This is a beautiful 6000 year old coral cay located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, just 27km offshore from Cairns.  Easily accessible with travel time only 45 minutes by fast catamaran, it is an ideal way to get a small taste of the world famous Great Barrier Reef.

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The Reef Rocket

The trip was soon underway and we watched from the rear of the craft as the view of the city of Cairns started to get smaller and smaller.

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Goodbye to Cairns

Reef Rocket was racing along at 20 nautical miles and the trip got rather bouncy once we were out in the open sea.  After a 45 minute trip we arrived at Green Island.  And it certainly looked stunning, sandy beaches, beautiful blue waters, and covered in tropical rain forest.

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First glimpse of Green Island

But before we went exploring we had to depart from Reef Rocket and go aboard Big Cat which was moored at the wharf and was serving our pre-booked lunch.  There were queues of people all with the same idea, and obviously with the same dining time on their tickets.  We found a couple of spare seats, got our choices from the buffet, and sat and ate our lunch while watching a TV presentation of the beautiful coloured tropical fish found on the reef.  Then it was time to explore, walk along the wharf and see what we could see.

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One of the many welcome signs

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I stopped on the wharf to take a panoramic view with my camera.

People were lazing on the beach, while others were busy snorkeling.  We looked down from the wharf and could easily spot colourful fish swimming by.  Others further out to sea were paragliding, and the glass bottom boats were slowly bobbing about looking at the fish.

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There was a luxury resort on the island for the well heeled, but we made do with a quick look  look around the shops.  Set in a lovely shaded area with plenty of seating, we sat and enjoyed an ice-cream  - very pleasant indeed.

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The shops at Green Island

We had to check our tickets and sure enough, it was time to return to the wharf for our trip in one of the glass bottomed boats.  And here comes one now, ready to disgorge the passengers and fill up with a new bunch of day trippers.

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The glass bottomed boat – everyone with eyes down and looking

The skipper took us through a safety talk, as they must these days, and told us what to expect.  We glided over sea grass, and then over some coral.  The tide was out so the water wasn’t very deep.  And then the fish came into view.  A turtle swum by, but unless you were lucky to have your camera pointing at the exact spot, they were hard to photograph as they quickly moved away.  One of the passengers lost a straw  hat overboard and we watched as it slowly sunk under the boat.

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Seen from under the glass bottomed boat

The skipper then threw a handful of fish food from either side of the boat.  That certainly produced a feeding frenzy, with the seagulls joining in too.  Divers no longer get into the water to feed the fish these days.  A very interesting little trip, but we both thought that we would have seen more colourful species – but perhaps they were out in deeper waters.

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All after a free feed

We relaxed with a cold drink, had a little R&R, and all too soon our time on Green Island had come to an end.  It was time to reboard the Reef Rocket and head back to Cairns.

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Goodbye to Green Island

The return trip was even more bouncy and we had to hang on for dear life as a passenger kindly took our photo for us.  Then we sat back down again quickly.  The trip back was much quieter as all around us people were nodding off after their big day out.  Once again, a very enjoyable day exploring.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

On the Waterfront

Cairns is such a lovely, compact little city, and there is a lot happening down at the very attractive waterfront.  Many of the large hotels are concentrated in this area, so of course can offer their customers lovely sea views.  We took a walk along the boardwalk to explore this delightful area, passing a multitude of cafes, shops of all kinds, and tourist operators.  Just look at this view, isn’t it stunning, and looks so peaceful.  And turning in the other direction, we see the Big Boys Toys.

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Down at the sea in boats

A life-size bronze sculpture, valued at about $300,000, took pride of place at Marlin Jetty to mark the occasion of the Cairns Black Marlin 50th Anniversary Tournament.  These days, a tag and release system is in place to ensure a sustainable fishing industry for all to enjoy.  Over the years the fishing grounds have attracted celebrities such as late Hollywood movie star Lee Marvin, author Wilbur Smith, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, US president Jimmy Carter and golfers Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus.

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Black Marlin sculpture

We were on a quest – to find a particular shop for Robin.  He admits that he doesn’t really enjoy shopping, but this was an exception.  And there it was, the Akubra shop.  He had long wanted one of these typically Aussie hats, made from rabbit fur.  The shop owner certainly knew his stuff, took his time trying various sizes to ensure the correct fitting.  There’s three rabbits in each hat, he remarked.  He then told us, in great detail, how to care for the hat to ensure it stayed looking good.

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Looking good in his Akubra

With that accomplished, we continued our waterfront walk along the Esplanade.  We made short work of an ice-cream each then crossed the road to see a group of pelicans – also referred to as a colony, brief, pod, pouch, scoop or squadron, take your pick.  I rather like the name scoop, as they certainly do a lot of that.

This was another first for us, to see a group of pelicans in the wild, our previous encounters had been in zoos.  The pelicans were down at the foreshore on a little spit of land.  As the tide kept getting higher, and their little piece of land was slowly getting covered over, they just keep moving closer and closer to the sea wall.  The pelicans were having a great time, bathing in the water, vigorously flapping their wings, and laying their large beaks sideways in the water to wash them.  Others were busy preening their feathers, turning their large beaks this way and that to reach the areas that needed attention.

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A scoop of pelicans

We had decided to have another meal in the Cairns RSL restaurant, and looked at the memorial once more.  On our previous visit  we were informed the significance of the time on the clock.  The clock is stopped at the time that the first Australian soldiers landed at Gallipoli.

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Lest We Forget

It was a little early for dining so we sat at the tables by the footpath with a cool drink and watched the people go by for a while.  And what’s this on the table - insect repellant perhaps?

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No indeed, it is a bottle of “Peaceful Avian Tormentor for Repelling Incessant Overfed Transients”.  In other words, to keep the birds away from the tables.  We rather liked the directions which stated:  “To be used on feathered intruders only.  Male parents on holiday with more than one (naughty) child are to relinquish use of the device to the responsible female partner immediately”.

Our meals were delicious, as expected. Robin chose lamb rump and I got to try the Spanish Mackerel which I had seen on various other menus.  Not imported from Spain, as I incorrectly assumed, and the waitress laughed loudly when I asked her that question.  Seems it is a locally caught fish, a bit like our hoki at home in New Zealand.

Returning back at our hotel after our mea, we spotted this sign.  With sore knees and tired legs after another big day out, of course we will be obeying the sign.  I can’t see us running up and down three flights of stairs at the best of times, can you?

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No chance of us doing this

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Big Day Out – Part 2, Kuranda Scenic Railway

It’s no secret that we love trains, and this trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, together with the Skyrail, has been on our bucket list for some time.  After several hours exploring Kuranda, billed as the village in the rainforest, we made our way back to the historic railway station, built in 1914.

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The historic railway line was opened in 1891 after 1500 men armed only with hand picks, shovels, and dynamite laboured long and hard to carve a track through the mountains.   They slowly created 15 tunnels, 93 curves, dozens of bridges and 75 km of track.  A magnificent achievement in a very difficult terrain.

And there it was, the train all ready and waiting to take the tourists back.  A fleet of refurbished original red-wooden heritage carriages were coupled behind a 1720 class diesel locomotive, painted in blue and yellow.  This design portrays the legend of the Buda-dgi carpet snake, said to have carved out the Barron Gorge.

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Heritage train waiting to start the journey back to Cairns

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Beautifully restored carriages

Our two hour journey commenced, and we travelled slowly through the rain forest, with points of interest being pointed out.  The train stopped for a photo opportunity at Barron Falls.  As we were on the opposite side of the gorge, this gave us quite a different view to that which we had earlier in the day. 

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View from Barron Falls Station

As the train trundled slowly along the narrow gauge tracks, we heard of the trials and danger that the workmen faced while hacking out the track and the fifteen tunnels.  Red Lynch was the feisty Irish foreman with red hair who organised the labour during construction of the railway, and the local area now bears his name.  The original Kuranda Scenic Railway today stands as tribute to the courage, ingenuity and fortitude of the pioneers of this once formidable landscape. In recognition of this feat, the Cairns to Kuranda railway line is Heritage Listed and is also a National Engineering Landmark.

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Enjoying our train ride

An announcement came to look out for two sights coming up simultaneously.  The track was going through a wide curve so we would be able to get good views of the engine and carriages looking back through the windows.out of the left hand windows.

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There’s the engine

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And here come the carriages

Meanwhile, there was a waterfall to photograph, rushing down the mountainside beside the train.  Just as well we had two cameras going.  We heard the story about the time important guests were having a celebration dinner on completion of this part of the track and the waterfall was so full and noisy that the speeches couldn’t be heard so were abandoned.  The dinner and drinking still went ahead though.

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Waterfall beside the railway track

Most of the passengers departed at Freshwater Station to board coaches to take them back to cairns city.  We decided to stay onboard the train for the entire journey, as our accommodation is close by Cairns Station, just a short walk back to our hotel.

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It was another great day out, and we really enjoyed ourselves on both  the gondola and train journeys.  So much so that we may even repeat the trip before we leave.