Once again we find ourselves on the road. The Covid lockdowns in both Melbourne and Sydney have resulted in a steady flow of Grey Nomads deserting the southern states and flocking to the warmth of Northern Queensland and beyond. We are among that number, although we haven’t come so far, a mere 1,700 km from home on the Sunshine Coast. So far we haven’t had to grapple with any crossing border bureaucracy but that will come in due course, I’ve no doubt.
We start on what has become a familiar route over the years. One thing that has changed – Jacqui has decided to take some of her clients with her on this journey, thanks to the wonders of the internet. This has two major effects.
The first is that we have to make sure that on the designated working days, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we have good internet connectivity via our mobile phones. This ensures that Skype or Zoom sessions don’t start breaking up at critical moments.
The second is that we are not really “on holiday” but more on a working trip. This lets us stay in campgrounds more often without breaking the bank, which in turn results in more time on the beach. At least while we stay on the east coast!
The first of these beaches is an old favorite of ours, which we reach on the second day. 1770, named after you-know-who, (… did he discover or invade?) sits at the mouth of a vast estuary with mangroves and mudflats and all sorts of exciting things.
We make for Mackay, again to stay on a favourite beach, that at Bucasia, where we will visit an old friend. On the way, we overnight at Clairview, another area of tidal mudflats.
Mackay is a city built on sugar. In the early 1900’s the town suffered a couple of destructive fires followed by a major cyclone. This resulted in a council decision to disallow the then common wooden buildings. This resulted in the most comprehensive collection of Art Deco buildings in Queensland.
Friend Eni was kind enough to drive us up to the Eungella National Park for the day, high in the hills behind Mackay. We enjoyed walking through the rainforest and especially sighting that strange elusive creature, the Duck Billed Platypus.
Airlie Beach, Bowen, Townsville and on to Mission Beach
We are keen to get further north and escape the ever cooler nights (yes, yes, I know, but 12C feels pretty cold to us). We continue up the main Bruce Highway, taking a few days in Airlie Beach then continue on up to Mission Beach via Bowen, Home Hill and Townsville.
Mission Beach is now firmly on the tourist map, with it’s large caravan parks and it’s much resisted Woolworths. It’s hippy roots still show, however, and the locals emerge from their rainforest hideaways to set up stalls for the Sunday market.
The beach itself is a delight; coconut palms stretch into the distance along the edge of a flat sandy beach. I wonder had this been an asian beach whether the coconuts would lie untouched and the palm fronds unused.
Port Douglas and the Daintree
We covered Port Douglas and Cairns fairly well in another article from last year. You can check that one out HERE. However, there is a major difference; the crowds are back. After the near deserted streets of our last visit the streets seem very crowded, even without the backpackers and other overseas visitors. The Sunday market is very crowded although just as delightful and one of Jacqui’s highlights.
Also … it is essential to book ahead to stay in a caravan park … they are FULL. One park in Port Douglas had no space until the end of September!
The Daintree proves to be the first real test of the scooter we are carrying behind us. We book for a two hour special trip on a solar powered boat taking us up the Daintree river. The Daintree ferry is 54km away and our 110cc Bali bike does us proud, rocketing along at 80km/hr with the two of us aboard. I put some fuel in before the trip and have to shell out $3 to fill the tank.
The river trip is a delight! Dave and his partner have been running these trips on the Daintree for 25 years and obviously love the river, the rainforest and the creatures that inhabit it. They give us and the other five passengers, a very different view of the life of the salt water crocodiles; they are not the man hunting monsters as often depicted, but incredible survivors from well before the time of the dinosaurs. The females are especially maternal, often cracking open the eggs when the hatchling mews and staying with the young for some time. Interestingly, most nests have eggs fertilised by three or four males. Don’t try and fight the dominant male … sneak in when he’s not looking.
Their main problem is us.
Green Island, Kuranda and a change of plans
While we’ve been in and around Cairns, we have managed to catch up with Jonathan and Pam, friends from WA who are over here for a break in the warmth. Lunch in Palm Cove and a couple of days later another lunch in Trinity beach gave us a chance to catch up with their news. Hopefully, we will see them again when we get down to Albany.
Well, it’s happened! There are Covid outbreaks in NSW, the NT and Queensland, and the lockdowns begin. Short, I know, but very disruptive. Even Noosa and the Sunshine Coast are locked down.
The worst news for us, however, is that Townsville and Magnetic Island have gone into lockdown and we are supposed to be spending a few days in an AirBnb on Magnetic Island at the beginning of July. Mmmm. What to do?
Cancel! Luckily we get onto AirBnb and discover that we still have 15 minutes left to cancel with a full refund! Phew! This does turn everything upside down though. Because the Northern Territory have also been in lockdown, WA have imposed mandatory 14 day quarantine for those from the NT. At one’s own expense!
In the meantime we have booked a day on Green Island, a coral quay 45 minutes off the coast of Cairns. The tourist activity has inevitable taken it’s toll, but we still enjoyed our day with the fish. Not up to snorkeling these days, but the glass bottomed boat and the semi-submersible made up for it.
The Australian Government, in it’s supposed wisdom, has decided that elimination is the way to go with Covid. This is unlikely to succeed unless we completely cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. Covid is out there and it is unlikely to go anywhere soon
For me, vaccination and herd immunity would be a better way to go. Both the US and the UK have managed to vaccinate 50% of their adult population to date whereas Australia currently sits at 7.6% or 38th on the list. Not very impressive at all. (See the current situation in Australia here)
I struggle to understand those reluctant to be vaccinated. The hype around the blood clot issue has been badly managed. The chance of dying from these clots after a vaccination is one in two million, or about the same chance as being killed by a lightening strike. (Graphs here). In the meantime, the chances of dying from Covid are considerably higher especially among older people. (research here). Younger people are doing it for others so as not to pass on the infection to those less able to cope with it, although among the younger population, so called Long Covid doesn’t sound that great.
On a final note, for those who doubt the effectiveness of the vaccine, in the US, 99.2% of recent deaths from the virus have been among the unvaccinated.
We are now in a position of having to wash off some time while we wait for the the border situation to change. We are doing this in Kuranda, high in the rainforest above Cairns. Last time we were here it was deserted (all the state borders were closed and travel restricted) … this time the crowds are back, especially in the school holidays.
We will move on to Millaa Millaa and then Newell Beach near Port Douglas for the next couple of weeks. Then maybe drift slowly west as the inclination takes us.
Oh! Stuck on a tropical beach … life is tough!
May you all be well and happy