Tag Archives: Far North Queensland

Forty minutes, maybe, at Mossman Gorge


Queensland Roadtrip Day 6: Palmer River Roadhouse – Port Douglas (via Mossman Gorge) (166km)

There was a rustling in the room. I opened my eyes, knowing that soon my alarm would go off, but every fibre of my festival, party tired body was willing me on to further sleep. She saw me stir.

Don’t mind me’, she whispered, ‘I just need to grab something from the cupboard’.

She, the stranger whose room I was sleeping in, the stranger who had said ‘sure, I’m going to stay out partying for one more night so of course stay in my bed’.  She, the stranger who was now sneaking around a stranger in her own bedroom.

She left and by the morning light sneaking in through an unclosed door I saw a photo of a newly familiar and smiling face. The mother of the stranger, I assumed. I tried to think why I recognised her. Everything was a bit blurry. Everybody was a bit blurry. Was she, the stranger’s mother, the weaver from a festival workshop?

The previous evening, two days after the total solar eclipse, me and a crew of dust ingrained folk drove away from the now quietened stages and the shrinking after parties of the Eclipse 2012 festival up in Far North Queensland, Australia, and we made our way towards the Daintree National Park for a dusk dip in the waters of Mossman Gorge.

The buses had stopped running so we waited for the gates to open, 18:00 for free entry, fully aware that we were pushing it on the daylight front. Maps, signposts and curiosity pointed us into the rainforest along wooden walkways until we reached a path that took us down to a pooled area, a scene from numerous Mossman Gorge pictures.


Into the woods

I walked in, up to my waist. Despite a week in the hot, near outback climate of Palmer River where every day some drizzle or drenching were key to a comfortable existence, here at Mossman Gorge the air felt fresh and the waters crisp. I scooped handfuls of water onto my arms and torso, knowing that a full submerge would feel beautifully refreshing but I stood resolute, stubborn, unable to actually dive into the pool. Stop thinking! Just do!

A few guys made their way upstream before jumping from and slipping down rocks.  A couple from our group ran into the water and wrapped up in each other, a coil of kissing and wet hair. D-man was heading towards me and I recognised that look in his eyes. Do it! Now! Before he got the chance, I took the plunge. Ah, clean water. Cold water, but clean water, washing away a festival hangover and a coating of dust.


Ready for a dusk dip?


…a better capture of Mossman River by Australian photographer Mark Gray

Wrapped up in dry clothes we gathered back at the car park, a subdued, tired team preparing for the first post-festival split. Goodbyes. Shared moments, precious memories, people I may never see again. Even in more settled times, the transience of travelling continues.

And then on to the absent stranger’s house where I fought my body to stay awake, weights on my eyelids, muscles not strong enough to reflex beyond the last mouthful of a quick cook-up. Rest my body on the first proper bed in nearly two weeks, rest my head on a fluffy pillow and then sink, deeply, into a dreamy world of colour and costumes,  of humidity and the upward fight and downward choking of a strangler fig.


Filed under activity & sport, australia, forests, national parks, nature, oceania

What to pack for a festival in the outback


Mid day water spray

Outback or bush, call it what you like, this would be the remotest, driest, hottest festival that I’d ever been to and unlike some travels where spontaneity keeps the magic alive, this needed planning.  At least a little.

Event organisers emailed out a survival guide a few weeks before the start date of 10th November 2012, warning of bugs and beasties and dangerous drop access roads, of shrivel-inducing temperatures and complete communication cut-off.


This wasn’t a festival for pussycats.

Instead it would be a moment for thousands of wiry revellers, eclipse chasers, festival die-hards, musicians, DJs and artisans to unite. A seven day festival of music and workshops, of crafting and consciousness building, of stomping feet, raised hands and banging heads, a seven day festival created around the total solar eclipse visible within Far North Queensland, Australia.

Me and my crew were nearly ready. One final stock up and then we’d start the journey inland from Cairns, away from city structure into a landscape of termite mounds and tracks that led to houses a million miles from anywhere else.

So what did we bring? What might work for you next time the eclipse festival fever grips Australia again in 2028? Or whatever hot and humid festival that might be coming up shortly?


  1. Drinking water. Lots. We each got through about 4 litres a day. Onsite water was not considered safe to drink so we brought what looked like a ridiculous amount and it only just lasted.
  2. Water sprayers/misters. Handheld are fine but the full on backpack, gardening maintenance style were best. And fun. And in demand. Spray and dance and stay safe and hydated.
  3. Sunscreen. Far North Queensland heat and full on rays need a little thought.
  4. Sunglasses. Super bright light. Some hangovers. Sensitivity.
  5. Longlasting snacks. Nuts and other nutritious, energy giving nibbles.
  6. First aid kit with all the basics including antiseptic cream and plasters/bandaids. Obvious.
  7. Ear plugs. The music never stops (apart from during the actual eclipse, so that’s maybe an hour of quiet in a whole week).
  8. Eye mask. Days and nights get a little mixed up and who knows when you want or need some shut-eye?
  9. Tent, sleeping mat and a sleeping bag liner/sheet. Make sure your tent has plenty of ventilation, or do as some people did and only set up the inner tent.


  1. Tarpaulin. A friend lent this to us and it provided an extra layer of amazing sun protection over both tents whilst also marking our tenting territory.
  2. Cool box/Eski. Ice available on site meant cold drinks and a longer life for fresh food. And every Aussie seems to travel with an Eski. Maybe if I was Australian this would be up there as an essential item.
  3. Face/dust mask/scarf of some sort. Dust got everywhere. You learnt to live with the constant dirty taste it in your mouth, of a layer coating your teeth (and everything else).
  4. Alcohol/cigarettes. Both could be bought at the festival but prices were a little inflated and most people came suitably stocked. The same was true for all other poisons.
  5. Baby/wet wipes. Crawling in to bed having wiped off some of the dust layers was more than a luxury.
  6. Electrolytes. We brought a big tub of GatorAid and although I can’t stand the stuff, I needed it to replace all those salts lost through dancing and dehydration. We stuck it in water bottles and brought it along on daytime missions into the festival.


  1. Solar shower. Yep. Although they offered $5 showers on site (outdoor but with privacy), having our own rig meant that once a day I had about five minutes of feeling dust free and clean. It was wonderful.
  2. Cooking gear. The festival didn’t actually allow open flames and the discovery of our cooking gear could have led to us being kicked off site, yet it saved us some money and meant mornings could still start with a percolated coffee. What we soon realised was that there were so many great eating spots serving great quality feeds at decent prices that cooking at camp wasn’t actually quite as desirable as we expected.
  3. Parasol. I carried mine with me everywhere, a plain green thing. Other’s carried theirs everywhere and I realised my idea of a parasol was entirely unoriginal and everyone else’s were much more beautiful and decorative. But functionwise? They all did the job.
  4. Light sabers, wigs and glow masks. And face paints. Even if we transported a broken light saber all the way from New South Wales to Far North Queensland, it still formed part of an essential festival fancy dress kit. Okay, maybe not essential. But adds to the fun.
  5. Fairy lights and decorations to create home. I’m a Cancerian so maybe my want to nest wherever I base myself was realised through these little camp set-up pleasures. Others clearly have this down to an art.
  6. Proper pillow. Some people would scoff but few people complain when they get to lay their head down on a comfy pillow rather than a squished together, hard pile of clothes. I slept beautifully, through doof and human traffic. I’m sure the pillow helped some.
  7. Change of clothes and pillow cases. Clean, dust free stuff saved for near the end would have been amazing. Instead we slept in our own dirt and dust. Ah well.

Anything I’ve forgotten to mention? That I should know about for next time?


Filed under activity & sport, australia, culture, festivals, oceania, travel

Road Trip! Heading up through Queensland, Australia


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.


Filed under activity & sport, australia, oceania, roadtrip