You really have to love an accent that can rhyme “Australia” with “failure”.
Australia is big. Really big. We knew our month-per-country average was about to be put to the test. Could we really see enough of Australia in six weeks to get the full Aussie flavour?
Right off the top, we knew we had to edit the itinerary. Darwin and the Kakadu National Park in the north were the first casualties, followed soon after by Uluru and driving through the dusty red Outback. We focused on the east coast, from Queensland down to Sydney, and then a one week hop over to Tasmania.
From Bali we flew to Cairns, in the northern part of Queensland. From there, the plan was to head north to the Daintree rainforest, south through farming country on the Tablelands and down the coast.
Knowing that it would be an expensive place to visit, we had decided to economize a bit by having our sleeping quarters and kitchen all under the same roof. A camper van sounded wonderful and we all had visions of a nice, well-appointed unit in which we could cook, sleep and travel comfortably. Unfortunately, those types of vans were still fairly pricey. Instead we opted for a converted mini-van with a fancy paint job, pop-top roof and a single burner, pull-out stove. Ah well, it was fine and once we figured out how to squirrel away all our baggage, off we went. In the end, our little Jucy van served us well as a home for three weeks as we made our way down the coast to Brisbane.
Just a couple hours north of Cairns lies the Daintree rainforest. To get there, you have to cross a river by ferry, and after another hour you reach the end of the paved road. Four wheel drive country, and boy, do the Aussies love their four wheel drive survivalist camping rigs.
In the Daintree, you get a taste of what prehistoric times would have looked like. Giant ferns and palm trees, marsupials and other fauna that clearly took a different branch on the evolutionary tree. In one campsite, we were told to watch out for a male cassowary and his teenage son who wander through the camp in search of Cassowary Plums. An endangered species, they are one of the keystone species in the rainforest in that they can digest the poisonous fruit and poop out the seed ready for germination.
Of course, we also had to take a crocodile tour as part of the “Things that can kill you” Australian experience. Aussies have a wonderfully cavalier approach to living with danger. “Ah, yeah. You got to watch out or the (insert creature) might get ya and you’d be a goner for sure.” We met a couple of guides in the Daintree who assured us that greatest danger in Queensland comes not from crocodiles, sharks, snakes, or spiders, but from standing under coconut trees.
From the Daintree, we headed back down to Cairns. There were things to be chopped from the itinerary, but the Great Barrier Reef was not going to be one of them. See Aran’s account for details.
From Cairns we headed south and inland, and soon learned why most Australian cars are outfitted with metal bars on the front. Roo bars, they are called. We started counting the roadkill, and came up with an average of one kangaroo or wallaby every ten kilometres. Another thing to add to the list of Australian nonchalance – just about everyone in rural areas has hit a roo on the road at one point or another. Not us, fortunately.
Our route took us inland to farming country, back out to the coast to surf, down to Coffs Harbour for a week of relaxing, then back on the road down to Brisbane and Sydney. Each day was magical.