Rollingstone is a tiny community north of Townsville – the type were general store, petrol station, post office and bank are all in one small building and that´s it. But they have a magnificent beach to walk on. A perfect place – as crazy as this might sound – to take a break for a couple of days from all the fantastic experiences we recently had. To allow them to sink in a little. Also a good place to dedicate time to intentional thinking, reflecting and planning.
Cairns – it´s probably best known as one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef. It´s lush tropical climate is inviting, it´s setting between ancient rainforests beautiful. If you like shopping for fresh fruit and veggies you also have a reason to like Cairns. There are many beautiful food markets – we checked out Rusty´s close to the Wharf, which was a wonderful change from shopping at supermarkets (and far more reasonable, too).
Somehow everything was aligned perfectly. The clarity of ocean water is influenced by a myriad of factors: currents, tides, moon phase, temperature, wind and weather are just some of them. On the day we had chosen to go out to the reef they simply all came together to create crystal clear water conditions. The snorkeling was out of this world, the coral and its colours simply incredible. And we haven´t even talked about the fish yet.
After setting over the Daintree river with the only available ferry we happily arrived at our rainforest camp in the Daintree National Park, which is still on the East Coast (North of Cairns). Daintree NP has the oldest rainforests in the world and has been declared a world heritage site. It is also the place, where we were reminded, why the word “rain” features in rainforest. Despite it supposedly being the dry season, we almost got washed away. During the nights it poured down solidly for hours and hours. Thankfully the mud puddles building up around us didn´t make it into the tent.
Cape Tribulation in the Daintree NP received its current name from Cpt James Cook. In the year 1770 he sailed up the East Coast of Australia to take possession of the land for the British Crown, otherwise the Dutch might have kept it. It is here where he hit a reef and almost sank his ship, the Endeavour. Hence the name Cape Tribulation. With a bit of good luck – the coral he had hit broke off and functioned as a plug – and hard work they were able to save the ship and complete their mission.
So far we have travelled some 5.000 km coming up the East Coast from Sydney to Daintree National Park – that includes side trips here and there. For the next couple of weeks we will leave the East Coast behind us to venture into some more arid and dusty areas of the country. The Outback is calling! First we will be heading west towards Darwin, then South through the middle of the continent towards Port Augusta. And then it will be back to Sydney. Roughly 8.000 km ahead of us, so let´s get going!
Never heard of Undara? No worries. But they have something there that´s worthwhile stopping for! Lavatubes. Geologists say the most beautiful and intact lavatubes in the world. During previous volcanic eruptions, a lot of the hot lava was channelled into riverbeds. While the surface of the flowing lava slowly cooled off, beneath the surface it remained hot and continued to flow – leaving behind a lavatube.
Lavatube (“Windtunnel”), Undara
The Savannah Way connects Cairns on the East Coast to Broome on the West Coast. We travelled 800 km of it – via Undara to Normanton. The remaining 2.900km will have to wait for a separate trip. When travelling in Australia, one has to make concessions. There is so much to see and to do, it simply takes some prioritizing.
To say that Mount Isa is in the middle of nowhere is a pretty accurate description. Prior to 1923 there was absolutely nothing here. When lead ore was discovered in the same year, news travelled fast – even back then – and within a short period of time people flocked to the region in search of riches beneath the surface. They came to the right place. The Mount Isa region contains 11% of all zinc and lead, 5% of all silver and 1% of all copper resources worldwide. If you ever come here, join a tour of the Hard Times Mine! It´s a great experience taking you directly into the dark and dangerous world of mining!
A welcome break on the last stretch of the 680 km drive from Threeways to Katherine. Swimming in the 34° C warm and crystal clear water of the natural thermal pool at Mataranka. The water feeds into the Roper river. Embedded between palms and other trees this is quite an experience after driving hours and hours through hot and arid landscapes for most of the day. But then 34° C is not really refreshing either.
Katherine is the third largest city of the Northern Territory – with slightly more than 10.000 inhabitants. It´s situated along the Savannah Highway and also a convenient stop on the way to Kakadu National Park, Darwin or when heading South towards Uluru (Ayers Rock). Apart from its logistical practicalities its close to Nitmiluk National Park with its dramatic gorge. The park is named after the rainbow serpent “Nibilil”, an important dreamtime figure in the native Jawoyn culture – one of the Aboriginal tribes.
Parts of the movie “Crocodile Dundee” were shot here at Kakadu. Does anybody remember it? Back then the area was more known for its Uranium that is still mined here. But by now it is also a National Park with more than 19.000 square km (approx. 1/2 the size of Switzerland) and dual World Heritage status – for its natural and cultural aspects. Well, we can´t wait to discover some of it!
One of our first sightseeing tours in Kakadu was taking the 4WD track to the popular Jim Jim Falls. Usually, the water falls down here up to 200m from the surrounding Arnhem Land Plateau. Not so in the dry season, which we otherwise appreciate for the better driving conditions. The walk is short but strenuous, as it includes climbing over large rocks for most of the time. Highlight: A swim in the plunge pool – which still holds deep waters even during the dry season!
When thousands of (non indigenous) Buffalo walked into the wetlands of Kakadu, they stirred up mud and the water started to look murky and yellow. Hence the name Yellow Water. Not to be confused with the Yellow River in China. Apart from the name, nothing is really yellow. Most of the Buffalo were killed off to protect the natural ecosystem. The Yellow Water region boasts an incredible flora and fauna and is an absolute highlight of the Kakadu NP! Don´t go to Kakadu without visiting this area!!