Tag Archives: Cairns

And the heat and beat build

www.travelola.org

Queensland Roadtrip Day 5: Cairns – Palmer River Roadhouse (via Mareeba) (218km)

There was something about Kurunda that caught my attention that was less about the cute, independent coffee bars and tourist shops of the compact town centre and more about everything else. Like the gorge at Barron Falls, and the dense lushness of greenery, an environment of the richest greens.

We were barely half an hour out of Cairns, car weighed down with a week’s worth of drinking water for three people. We wound our way up into the mountains, missed the stop-off for wide angle views down over Cairns and the Coral Sea, and made a brief stop at the gorge.

www.travelola.org

Barron Falls, Kurunda, Far North Queensland

But now to face the matter in hand; the final inland stretch to Palmer River and the Eclipse 2012 festival.

We drove along straight roads towards more mountains and into a plateaued land of spindly trees, thirsty twigs and branches poking out of thin trunks, out into a vast, clear sky. Termite mounds rose up from the tarmac edge, dotted along into the far distance, some heading towards the two metre mark, traditional cone shapes alongside crazy distortions and face-like shapes, trip-like. No wonder the festival was being held out here. Mind enhancement seemed pretty unnecessary: let nature show you some magic instead.

A cow ambled along the roadside. Where was its nutrition?

Those far away mountains loomed close and once again we started to climb. With less than an hour to go, we pulled in at another scenic viewing spot and paused, looking out over a light brown landscape, a tinderbox of dryness.

One guy stops off to  take in the scenery. A moment of peace before the party.

One guy stops off to take in the scenery. A moment of peace before the party.

www.travelola.org

Dry, dusty environment… a taste of things to come

And then the last filling station, a few souls milling around grabbing smokes and snacks, what was left. Bottle shops and convenience stores from Cairns to Mareeba to Palmer River were running low. Fuel needed bulk replacing. It would be a good week for this little area of Far North Queensland.

We turned into the festival site, waved in by two guys and a girl, big smiles and a jiggle dance. A girl walked towards us, little shorts showing smooth, tanned legs covered in a thick layer of dust. She pulled down the cloth that was tied around her mouth.

‘You already got tickets?’ she asked.

‘Yep.’ I dug around in my bag. ‘Have you seen any crocs?’ I asked.

‘Not for a bit. Some guys pulled a couple out. It should be fine.’

Armbands on, we passed the quick car check and drove on down a few more kilometres of bumps and dust alongside water holes bearing signs that read ‘No swimming’ until we reached civilisation in the form of a rocky, hard-ground campsite. Many rocky, hard-ground campsites.

My mind flipped. This was a city of tents and abodes and set-ups, established within what felt to be the most inhospitable natural environment I had ever found myself within. It would be like no other camping experience. Of that, I was sure.

www.travelola.org

The final stretch into the festival site

www.travelola.org

And we arrive! Some 2,307km later. Celebrate.

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, camping, culture, festivals, food & drink, nature, oceania, roadtrip

Keeping it cheap in Cairns

Cairns surprised me.

Because despite a glitzy facelift of the esplanade area, Cairns hasn’t risen to big city status and gone down the ‘we’re-so-good-we’ll-rip-you-off’ route. At least from what I could tell.

Cairns doesn’t seem to be an overly exciting place, with it’s a grid system of functionality, trimmed and watered grasses and all the anticipated visuals of palm city tropics. Before you shoot me for such a low impact first impression report, know that I’m not a city fan. It takes me to know a city to love a city. More on that later. But Cairns, well, on first impressions it seemed pleasant. Surprisingly so.

All I really knew of Cairns – previous to this short exposure – was that it happens to be where many people set off on Great Barrier Reef adventures.

L-man, D-man and me were on a different kind of adventure, a road trip drive-by exploration that had already seen us cover some 2,000km from Ballina in New South Wales. Our destination was the Eclipse 2012 festival, a few hours inland from Cairns, our food was cheap camping cook-ups and our accommodation a couple of mismatched tents.

But on our first night in Cairns we called a friend and crashed his family holiday. So strong was the call of a shower and a social.

‘If we get caught’, he said as we skulked down the side of the holiday apartment building, ‘you guys are gonna have to pay up’.

www.travelola.org

$8.50 breakfast + a proper coffee from next door = sorted stowaways

The next morning we breakfasted with two other stowaways at a hole in the wall offering $8.50 big breakfasts before wandering around the free public pool on the ocean’s edge. Ah, the irony. All that salty water so close, a forbidden territory of jellyfish deadliness, and you have to make do with a man-made structure and a dose of chlorine. But at least there is a man-made structure, I guess. The heat of the day was rising and even a paddle in the shallows of the pool brought some cool-down comfort.

www.travelola.org

Lagoon on the ocean’s edge

www.travelola.org

Heaps* of paddle space (*loads for non-Aussie speakers)

Before leaving the pool area I noticed a sign and I realised that if I didn’t dislike organised aerobics quite so much, Cairns would be a great place to live. Here in the park, every day, were free fitness sessions. No ‘I’m too poor’ excuses for anyone. Aussies and their mission to stay on top of health and fitness, bold and in full colour. Gotta love it. Or at least appreciate the intention.

www.travelola.org

What’s your punishment? What’s your happiness?

So what were the tricks to keeping Cairns cheap? Dishonesty in terms of accommodation, grease in terms of nutrition, killer chemical in terms of health and fitness and keeping cool.

More realistically, though, we barely spent any time in Cairns – half a day – so of course it was easy to keep it cheap in this compact city centre.

Why this blog post focused on budget, who knows? The main thing I realised is that I like Cairns enough to go back, maybe to spend some time exploring it’s surface normality a little deeper (whilst not doing zumba classes). It was that kind of place, and it surprised me.

4 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, cities, costs/money, culture, nature, oceania, roadtrip, sea, travel

Road Trip! Heading up through Queensland, Australia

www.travelola.org

Squashed down and ready to roll… for a 4,000km+ round trip

Nerrell, our 1984 Mazda 323, looked good to burst; even a sturdy bum slam onto the boot struggled to keep her closed at the seams. Water, snacks, a tent, a tarp ready for some shade in far North Queensland, an outback first aid kid, two feather pillows, a bulky tool kit, parasols and two lightsabers.

What were we thinking?

I mean food and drink, all good, but it made me wonder: with knees to chins at the start of this mission, would the early smiles and whoops soon dissipate into a thick air of frustration, the three of us sworn enemies before the initial 2,397km leg up past Cairns was even complete?

And no map. Seriously. We did have a National Park camping book, balanced on top of the picnic basket, but other than that just a Cairns Google Maps print out shoved somewhere beneath the front passenger seat. It would be a while until we needed that print out, no need to worry. Hours of driving and discovery ahead.

And with one main road up the north east coast of Australia, how hard could it be to navigate?

It was Wednesday 7th November 2012, I’d finished work midday and quickly packed up too many socks and undies and heavy tops. Squished into the car, we set off, three friends on an Aussie adventure, heads filled with bubbly lightness brought on by  the promise of two weeks of freedom and adventuring up ahead.

15 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, oceania, roadtrip

Happy New Year!

Here’s wishing you all a 2013 full of adventure, good health and good times.

travelola.org will be starting the year with a couple of final posts from my time in French Polynesia before embarking on the next stage of this adventure, a more settled period back in Australia (but still far from family and friends in the UK).

Some planned posts include:

  1. How to get settled after a long time on the road
  2. Splendour in the Festival Mud (it’s not just Glastonbury that does dirty)
  3. Road tripping Australia: NSW up to Far North Queensland
  4. Artwork, dancing and a whole lot of doof at Eclipse 2012
  5. Total Solar Eclipse 2012

And! I’ve been putting together an ebook containing all travelola postings since July 2011. As I’ve been reading back over this journey,  I’m reminded of some amazing moments that I’ve been lucky enough to experience, and I’d love to share them with you. Now I just need to get my head down and focus on the finish.

I’m really looking forward to meeting more great people, having lots of active fun and learning more about the world in 2013. I hope you’ll join me on my adventures.

2 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, blogging, random, solo travel