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Time flies when you have fun so Queensland Explorer 21-day Tag Along Tour Brisbane to Cairns ends with vows to return

July 23, 2009
Time flies when you have fun so Queensland Explorer 21-day Tag Along Tour Brisbane to Cairns ends with vows to return

This is the final of our 21-day Queensland Explorer traveller's tales. We hope that you have enjoyed them all; we pass our thanks to GoSeeAustralia for publishing them - warts and all.

By Alayne Russell and Phil Jones

Sunday 19 July - I was very sorry to leave Innot Hot Springs I could stay there for a week!

I love to just soak up the warmth, and my skin feels really silky too.

We stopped again in Ravenshoe for fuel, then went on to Herberton, where we stopped again so people could look at the many interesting museums they have there.

Phil and I went to the Museum of Cameras and Photography, where he has cameras and photographs going back to the first days of photography, early glass-plate cameras, lots of roll-film cameras through to the start of the digital camera revolution.

They also have a collection of spy cameras from the US, UK and USSR, and the oldest cameras through to modern ones, and also some cameras from the German Third Reich. So interesting.

One of the many spy cameras which had a powerful lens attached, had been used to view troop movements across the Berlin Wall back in the cold-war days.

It was set up to show part of a building across the street. From about 75 metres away, all we could see was the letter S from a sign on the front of the building.

Just what it would show after 5km to 10km of distance was anybody's guess, but it was an interesting thought!

Went on to Atherton where we shopped and went to the tourist information centre for lots of info on places to see and things to do in the district.

The Atherton info centre is one of the best we have ever discovered on our travels. Staffed by many volunteers, most being multi-lingual with both European and Asian languages, every time I or one of the group entered, we were soon taken aside and provided with lots of verbal info on topics of interest, along with maps and brochures of all sorts of places of interest.

Unfortunately, the thing that we all had wanted to do, which was to see the raptor Birds of Prey demonstration in Atherton itself, has stopped the afternoon show and is only on at 11am on Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday.

We had made sure to be in Atherton before 2pm, so it was disappointing to miss it. So instead we went out to our camp site for the night at Lake Tinaroo.

This is the dam for the region, a large prettylake. There is a lot of birdlife around, including the curlews which have been screaming at night quite an eerie sound.

Lake Tinaroo is part of the Queensland National Parks, and via the political smart state of several years ago tourists are now required to pre-book camp sites on-line before entering the park.

While in town and with internet coverage, Phil logged in to do this site, only to find that it was down and unable to be accessed, so we went out expecting to find the usual envelope and honesty box so familiar to those of us from the southern states.

But at the park information bay Phil discovered that the slot in the old-style honesty box had been covered over preventing its use.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Koala Mum  Bub Kuranda Koala exhibit<!--mo3-->
Koala Mum Bub Kuranda Koala exhibit

The next day Phil phoned the Atherton National Parks and Wildlife office listed on the brochure to arrange payment and they were not impressed with the system. They said that the park loses people to other venues.

Oncevisitors get out to the park they find there is no phone or internet coverage to do the required booking and they just turn around and leave the park.

Monday 20 July - There was a small pitter-patter of rain on the van (motorhome) this morning, and the day is cloudy and overcast. Neill and Roberta have been experiencing some difficulties walking ~ Neill slipped and fell a day ago and appeared to have a sprained ankle.

Although our first-aid person (Alayne) has strapped it up nicely and he has been using cold compresses daily, the swelling has not gone down.

Roberta has some swelling to one ankle as well (not from any injury though) so they have decided to drive into Cairns and go to the hospital to get their feet and ankles looked at.

So we will (hopefully all going well at the hospital), meet them at the caravan park in Cairns tomorrow.

Phil and I drove around Lake Tinaroo (about 30km) stopping at the Cathedral Fig, which is a strangler fig and it is absolutely huge!

It stands about five stories high, and has a diameter of around 44 metres. Quite an incredible sight.

As we came out of the forest from there we met Bill, Helen, Allen and Suzanne going in so recommended it to them.

Then we went into Yungaburra to get some internet coverage and then continued on to the Curtain Fig tree, another Strangler Fig which has grown like a curtain along the tree, so much like a curtain in fact that I felt I could have found a pulley to pull it back! These things are ancient, too, about 500 years.

On we drove, feeling quite hungry by now, to Gallo Dairy Cheese and Chocolate Factory. They have a restaurant and caf, so in we went, accompanied by a piquant aroma from the dairy next door!

Not sure if it was the cows or the cheese, or a mixture of both, but it was so strong!

We decided to have chicken parmigiana for lunch, and while we waited for it, we looked at the chocolate being handmade and the cheeses in the cabinet available for tasting and sale.

Our meals arrived and wow! they were huge! And delicious as well. But having finished them, we had no room to taste any cheese, and did not feel like buying any chocolate either. We went into the gallery to watch the cheesemaker, which was interesting and much more high-tech than I have ever seen before.

When we got back to Lake Tinaroo, I had a phone call from Roberta, to say that the Cairns hospital had examined Neill and found that he has a fracture of the fibula!

They need to operate on him to put in a pin and a plate. No wonder it was painful and not getting better.

Tuesday 21 July - We headed off towards Mareeba this morning, and called into the War Memorial at Rocky Creek north of Tolga on the way.

This was the site of an AIF (military) Field Hospital during World War 2, as an awful lot of battalions were stationed on the Atherton Tableland before they went overseas. It explains some of the many signs all over the Tableland warning that there may be unexploded ordnance and not to touch it.

On into Mareeba, and straight to Coffee Works. This place is marvellous. You can taste about 15 different coffees, a similar number of different chocolates, four different teas, and three liqueurs.

Then you can buy all of the above, plus another 15 coffees and chocolates in the shop. There is also a museum of coffee making and equipment and a coffee shop where you can have coffee and cake and ice cream, and a gift shop. We would all thoroughly recommend this place, and all of us have vowed to return!

<!--mo1####mo2-->Coffee Works staff talk to some of the Tag Along group<!--mo3-->
Coffee Works staff talk to some of the Tag Along group

We then headed off to go over the mountain to Kuranda, where we spent about four hours. Kuranda is a real tourist Mecca, where you can buy almost any souvenir you can think of.

Most of our group went to the Butterfly House and the Bird House, and really enjoyed both places. Phil and I had been only 12 months ago, so we looked around at other things. But in both places, you are among the butterflies and birds as they fly around, and they can and do land on you. It is quite something to experience.

Phil and I went to the Koala Sanctuary, where as well as koalas, we saw wallabies, a wombat out and about in the middle of the day, and a number of reptiles, including turtles and Johnstone River crocodiles.

One of the koalas had a joey, which was just too big for the pouch, and crawled all over its mother and was extremely cute.

We left Kuranda, and called in at a viewing area on the way down the mountain. This gives marvellous views of Cairns and the coast.

Then we headed off on the last part of the Tag Along Tour, the trip into the northern Cairns beaches where we walked on the sand beside the Coral Sea. We made it! Our three weeks have come to an end.

We went on to the Cool Waters Caravan Park, where, Im sorry to say, we are all packed in like sardines.

The site Phil and I are in is so narrow that to reverse into the site and give us space to open the door, he have to miss the tent pegs from next door's annex.

But our wheels are wider than the grassy area so we are partly up on the concrete pad which is supposed to be for us to use as an outside living area.

Not impressed. Phil ran a tape measure over our site - it is 8m long and 4-1/2m wide between the small bushes on each side, and Allen's site is much the same.

Bill and Helen are celebrating their 42nd wedding anniversary today, so they wanted to take us all out to dinner. We hired a maxi cab to take us all so that we didnt have to negotiate the caravan park sites in the dark, and went to a steakhouse recommended by the office staff. This was nice, and was a lovely way to end the Tag Along tour.

Tomorrow, we will all go our separate ways. My three-weeks of leave from work comes to an end also, so I will catch my flight back to Canberra mid-afternoon, which I am not looking forward to.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Pod of Johnstone River crocodiles Kuranda<!--mo3-->
Pod of Johnstone River crocodiles Kuranda

Phil has not decided what touristing he will do then, but as he makes his way back south he has a number of learn digital photography sessions planned for coastal caravan parks, so that will keep him busy for a while.

The othertwo couples want to go to the Daintree and to Cooktown, so I daresay they will see one another along the way.

So there I will stop - it has been an enjoyable 21-days of travel. It is funny how time can go so quickly when you are having fun!

PS from Phil: Some budgetary information for 21-days of travelling. We have travelled well, we have seen many sights, we had had a number of meals out and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 21-days of travel ran out to around $2800 for us.

The main costings were:-

Fuel $615. Camping Fees $485. (caravan national parks). Major Supermarkets $315 (Woolies, Coles, IGA mainly). Local Shops $870 (other food items, gifts, books, pharmacy). Take-aways, coffees and extras $260

(often cuppa cake, some main meals). Other $285 ( Items include museum entry fees, photo prints, laundry and gas refill).

Regards, Phil Alayne

Disclaimer: none of the businesses referred to herein have supplied any services or discounts to Phil Jones Photography Tours to secure any preferential comment in the above travel blog.

Editors note: Follow the wholeBrisbane to Cairns Explorer Tag Along Tour. Use the links at the end of each story.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Koala Mum Kuranda Koala exhibit<!--mo3-->
Koala Mum Kuranda Koala exhibit