A brief encounter with the Aussie life, camp site style:
Saturday 2 Jan – We arrive in Cairns and my first instinct is that everything is off. Well, not off, but uncomfortable. It’s hot and clammy and everything is new. After an easygoing family week in Bateman’s Bay, the upcoming camping life seems daunting. Cairns actually looks like Jurassic World. Like raptors could dash out of the bushes at any second.
My brother and I find our campervan and he drives it to our airbnb for the first night – I was too nervous. Driving on the left, man! The house is in a quiet street, there’s no one home. We duck under lushious plant life and find there’s a guy living in the apartment. It’s uncomfortable. He doesn’t seem to realize we are coming. I treat the place like a student accommodation.
After lunch we meet with Bec, and it’s so fun to see her in her natural habitat! I understand now, why she always thought it so cold during our UK year. We see fancy and less fancy beaches and of course they are all like post cards. Palm trees, bright colours and nets against jellyfish.
Sunday 3 Jan – I don’t know whether I can describe this well enough, so bear with me while I try. We get up early and drive to the port of Cairns to find our Reef trip boat. Cairns is a small city with wide and easy roads. It’s Great Barrier Reef time! The introductory dive is a little scary as there’s so many things going on at once, and of course the breathing under water is new. Once my diving instructor convinces me being nervous is okay, I go under and discover the incredulous world of blue. I see so many different types of fish, all living their reef lives! We go diving a second time in the afternoon. It’s very surreal.
After our boat day, on which I decide I should really work on one and spend all of my time on sea, we drive to our first camp site. It’s basically a little lot next to the main road. Night has already set at seven thirty and we don’t know how the tent bit of our campervan works. So we sleep in a closed off car. Needless to say, it’s suffocatingly hot. All the sounds are unrecognisable. We decide to go North. (This makes it sound like we are in Game of Thrones a bit, doesn’t it?)
Monday 4 Jan – We discover the Daintree Rainforest and pay too much for a bus ride through aboriginal communities. Later we see people who walk the two kilometres (for free). The rainforest is, again, super dinosaurfabulous. So green! All the pictures I took of this day have, unfortunately, not worked out because it was just too green for the camera to handle. There might be cassowaries, but we don’t see them.
For lunch we wander around Port Douglas, the fancy villa resort town. It’s so much like a postcard it actually dazzles me. So pale. So blue. So many palm trees. I drive for the first time and end up on a very twistybendy coastal route, one that is beautiful but slightly too much for a first drive on the left side of the road. Our camp site is green and quiet and says we shouldn’t feed cassowaries. Come to me, cassowaries. There’s a friendly bird running around our car. He’s our pet.
Tuesday 5 Jan – Slightly confused about what we did today. Our goal is to get closer to Townsville, and on the way we stop at Mission Beach to swim. We drive through cassowary territory and see lots of signs, then we’re on the cassowary coast. No sign of the actual birds, though. I can charge my camera at a nice food truck and we buy ice lollies, which almost instantly start to drip down my fingers. Help. We swim within the anti-stinger nets and have lunch (always salad, bread and tzaziki dip) in the shade of some palm trees.
Then it’s off to Murray Falls! There’s so many national parks in the area I just randomly pick out things to do, like now, as we haven’t seen waterfalls yet. It’s too long a drive, and it’s warm, but we make it. The last bit of the road is dirt road and one of our hubcaps falls off. I get out of the car to retrieve it just as we’re very close to a creek. Slightly scared to be grabbed by a croc! The falls are cool, lots of children swimming in the pool down below. We sleep next to a creek, again, and I can’t stop looking for crocs. Come on, dinosaurs!
Wednesday 6 Jan – WOOHOO Wi-fi in Townsville! Did I mention that there has not been any internet on the road? It’s good. We sleep at eight or nine, because it’s dark and there’s nothing to do but watch the stars. We wake up at seven. It’s nice. Just like lunch in Townsville. I have a real coffee!
On the road again we try to book a Whitsundays tour. After a lot of hassle we book one for the eighth! We drive to 2 camp sites we aren’t feeling – one’s in the middle of nowhere and looks like a parking lot and the other one’s next to a petrol station. We end up in Eungella National Park, home of the platypus. I don’t see one until I’m in Melbourne, unfortunately. We eat hot dogs while slapping tiny flies from our faces. Camping life is very primitive, in a glorious sort of way.
Thursday 7 Jan – My brother doesn’t want to stay at the camp site for much longer in the morning so we head to Airlie Beach, where we’ve booked a place on an actual camp site. It’s not free, but that’s because it’s a super nice site. SHOWERS! Wi-fi! A full kitchen! A pool! The toilet building is so big and clean it excites me. There’s also, for some reason, a leather couch outside to wait on. We take life slowly today and walk into town to take pictures of the pretty sunset. It’s nice to know where to go to (harbour-wise) tomorrow, for our boat trip to the Whitsundays. When we get back to the camp site we cook cous cous with falaffel, very fancy. I spend too much time on the camp site wi-fi. Damn you, internet.
THAT’S PART ONE OF OUR AUSSIE ROADTRIP. It’s the life.