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Cairns to Airlie Beach

...mixed fortunes

sunny 34 °C
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On our way from Cairns to stay with our friends Dawn & Alex in Bingil Bay (Bingil is believed to be an Aboriginal word meaning 'good camping ground'), we stopped off at Babinda Boulders. We had not heard of these and, although some of the paths were closed for maintenance, we thoroughly enjoyed our walk alongside the river to where huge boulders create a water diversion which must be spectacular in the wet season - if you can see through the spray! On our way through we passed through large areas planted to sugar cane.

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When we arrived, we were delighted to find that our old friends, Henry & Ruby, had come down from Innisfail to join us for lunch, which we enjoyed in nearby Mission Beach. It would appear that the name, Mission Beach, is perhaps a bit ironic as it is the site of a bloody clash between a couple of ship-wrecked sailors and local Aborigines and then became a penal settlement!

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We unfortunately only had one full day with Alex & Dawn and they took us for a lovely walk at Lacey Creek. It was short but there were so many things to tempt our cameras that we took a fair time completing the trail. We were very glad of the chance to cool off in Dawn's lovely pool when we got back to her house.

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We looked around the Mission Beach area for a cassowary without success and continued through more sugar cane areas, on this occasion seeing one of the little engines in action. We had seen many of the narrow railway tracks as we had travelled through Queensland but this was the first time we had seen a train. We stopped at Cardwell to see the Coral Sea Battle memorial. Neither of us had realised how close this battle was to the Australian mainland. The memorial is very interesting and is surrounded by flowering trees.

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We then continued on our way to Townsville (named for Robert Towns who visited for three days in 1866 and agreed to provide ongoing financial assistance to the new port settlement - naming rights are nothing new!) and came across a lookout point from which there were magnificent, if a little hazy, views over to Hinchinbrook Island. Our next stop was in Ingham where we were surprised to find Lee's Hotel which claims to be the pub which gave rise to Slim Dusty's famous song "Pub with no beer". The next stop had been planned, although we had not realised quite what a climbing, tortuous road we would need to drive in order to see Wallaman Falls which were quite splendid and are, I believe, either the highest single drop falls in Australia or, at least, in the top three. Frosty Mango was our last stop before Townsville, as instructed by our friends in Bingil Bay! We had mango pancakes with mango ice cream and mango sauce - decadent!

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Another change that we made, as a result of our bad experience in Cairns, was to cancel one night at Airlie Beach in favour of a night at Magnetic Island. The ferry crossing was smooth (what a relief!) and we wasted no time in exploring the various bays on the island. Close to our motel we had our first sighting of blue-winged kookaburras. We drove just about every road available on the island and then enjoyed a quite good sunset, taken from the jetty at Picnic Point. Our final entertainment was the (in)famous Toad Races!

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We had time before we left Magnetic Island to walk the Forts Walk and see koalas in the wild for the first time ever. Our return crossing was equally smooth and we were able to head on down to Airlie Beach (probably named after the parish of Airlie in Scotland, at the suggestion of a Jock who was chairman of the local shire council). We had a slight mechanical delay (replacement of air conditioning belt - an essential to our survival!) before getting away from Townsville. During our drive, we passed through open woodland, pastures, sugar cane plantations and mango orchards. The treed areas had an interesting mix of eucalypts, paperbarks and pandanus palms, quite different from both the rainforest and the treed areas in the Outback.

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Our original flight booking had been for a flight over the Whitsunday Islands and a landing at Whitehaven Beach. However, while we were travelling down the previous day, we were asked if we would accept a free upgrade to include a flight over the Great Barrier Reef - we accepted! I was delighted to find that our flight was in a de Havilland Beaver, an aeroplane which I have long admired. The weather for our flight was just about perfect and we had a lovely flight out to the Great Barrier Reef and then over the Whitsundays and landed on the sea at Whitehaven Beach. We stepped off the Beaver and waded to the shore - well, the others did! I managed to find a deep hole in the sand and, with my balance not fully restored, I went over into the sea - lovely, except that I had my camera over my shoulder and our day-pack on my back. Although I was up quickly, my camera was dead and so too was Judith's little 'everyday' camera which had been in the bottom of the day pack - luckily the pictures came off the cards but the cameras were ex-cameras. We had been unable to obtain travel insurance for the duration of our trip and the 90 days cover which came with our Building Society account had long expired. In spite of this mishap, we both thoroughly enjoyed our flight! On the return trip we flew over Hamilton Island which appears to be horribly overdeveloped by comparison with other islands - chacun a son gout!

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Posted by SteveJD 22:22 Archived in Australia

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Comments

Just absolutely brilliant. Were you all right after your fall Steve, you are more important than cameras etc. Plus did Jet Set survive. The photos are just brilliant, and you always write as if we were sitting there with you.
You both look so well, just stay healthy and no more falling.

With love

Hi Lorraine - thanks for your comments, it's nice to know when friends and family are travelling with us. I was fine after my tumble - just very wet! Luckily we had decided to leave Jet Set guarding the LC in Airlie Cove. You should have heard the muttering when we left him in the vehicle in the ferry when we crossed to Tasmania!

by Lorraine Wilson

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