21st November 2003

We headed inland by car to Charlton Towers, an old gold mining town. So far, we have seen only road-kill kangaroos and wallabies as they only come out of the bush in the evening and early morning. Apart from one small six inch snake, we have only seen road-kills including a six foot python.

The bush consists of miles and miles of scrubland parched grass and trees -
mainly eucalyptus. At this time of year, before the rains, all the river beds and creeks are dry.

Leaving early from Charlton Towers, we saw our first wild kangaroos and wallabies. Apparently there are about a dozen at least varieties of kangaroo, even tree kangaroos.

It would have been difficult for us to ride even this not very remote section of bush road by bike,mainly because of the scarcity of water places being up to 60 miles apart  and the absence of shade. In this sort of heat, we normally drink while cycling about a litre every 5-10 miles. As we normally carry only four litres each, it doesn't leave much for cooking or washing.

Cycling at night is not recommended partly due to the huge "road-trains" which never deviate or slow down for anything. The road trains are trucks with three long trailers and up to 50 yards long. All other traffic give way to them, scurrying off road if necessary.

After near 200 miles of driving through the bush  we finally stopped at Undarra National Park. This place is volcanic in origin and has huge underground larva tubes as big as train tunnels, but to see them it costs 30 pounds each and we didn't bother.
Camping by car is easier than by bike and I don't mean that we don't have to pedal. Just sling everything in the back without even folding the tent and sleeping bags and off we go. We haven't slept in our sleeping bag yet, just on them.

At night, camping is very noisy. Thump, thump of wallabies hopping around, fruit bats crashing into mango trees for a feed, possums squealing and scratching around and many other unidentified noises.

Every day we see different birds. Many kites, eagles loads of parrots, cockatoos and other brightly coloured  birds. Whenever we stop, bush turkeys appear scavenging food.

Next stop was at Lake Eacham where we stopped with our bikes a week ago. This time, we had time to relax at the lake and look around. Still no platypus! David spotted a large snake swimming across the lake but it disappeared as he tried to intercept it on the bank. David is not afraid of snakes as he watches Steve Irwin on tele and knows that you just have to pick them up by the tail and wave them around!

Atherton has the best information centre yet. It is complete with an interesting aboriginal museum and wild life exhibits.

Back down to the coast for a night and two haircuts at Mission Beach. This area is known for its cassowaries - large turkey like birds - and many signs tell you to slow down and watch out for them. We never saw any.

At Cardwell David had a go at fishing from the jetty and caught a shark. He
reckoned it was a great white, but a local fisherman said it was a tiny blue about 18" long! Several brightly coloured smaller fish were also caught and they all went back. On the jetty we met a local "Walter Mitty" who knew everything and had been everywhere. He told us about an 18ft crocodile that had been sighted locally and the many warning notices confirmed it. He said he was a radio ham and had spoken to a Mark from Cambridge England.

Two nights at a free campsite by the estuary at Rollingstone before returning the car to Townsville. We plucked up courage to have our first swim in the sea as there was a stinger net to keep the jelly fish out. The lifeguard said it wasn't foolproof as there are very small jellyfish which can give a fatal sting and can get through the nets. If stung, the remedy is to douse the area with vinegar which is provided next to the lifebelt.

Back on the bikes and heading south again into a relentless wind. The road is also very boring as it doesn't actually go along the coast, but several miles inland.


Dave and Joan Wooldridge