Thursday, 15 August 2013

Croydon to Mareeba

From Croydon, we continued easterly until we came to Georgetown where we parked the caravan whilst we had a dusty drive down to Forsayth (another soldier's grave to photograph) and then on to Cobbold Gorge. We had heard such a lot about this place and so we treated ourselves to an overnight stay in a very nice cabin and had booked a morning walk with a guide through the bush and then by boat through the gorge.

We arrived at the resort mid-afternoon and sat outside admiring the view when our 'neighbours' -  the retired people in the next cabin invited us over for a chat and a nice glass of red. After about half an hour we got around to asking their occupations before retirement.  Another startling coincidence for us -  the wife had worked in schools and the husband had been an electrician. This is the second time this has happened to us on this trip. We must attract them!
Next day after breakfast we joined the morning tour group and travelled by 4WD coach into the bush some distance away. Our knowledgeable guide was a mine of information on the history, flora and fauna of the area and on the way we passed the grave of John Corbett, an early settler in this area who had died and was buried in the bush. Everyone stood around quietly only for me to dispel the reverential silence by pointing out that the spelling on the headstone was in error - 'Who's body is buried here' which should have been 'Whose body....' - oh dear, I can't help myself! After about an hour, we were taken down into the gorge to board a very silent narrow boat through the astonishing gorge - so remote it was only discovered about 15 years ago.

Along the banks of the creek and on the massive rocks, several freshwater crocodiles were sunning themselves - so still we all thought they were 'props' until with a sudden swish of their tails they disappeared into the water. The gorge itself is a beautiful waterway rarely if ever without water even in drought. It is very narrow in parts so the boats were long and narrow to fit, and being electric powered, they moved silently along.

We returned to the resort, had lunch then drove back to Georgetown to our caravan.

Next day we meandered on eastwards and gradually the landscape changed from the dry, red dusty plains to small hills with more trees and vegetation. The hills we travelled up were so gradual we didn't realise quite how high we had climbed. But the trees became taller and the vegetation more lush and at a place called Archer Creek - quite far from any town - we came to an area off the road and beside a bubbling creek which allowed 'free parking for 48 hours'. This meant any travellers were welcome to stop here overnight (free of charge) with the only facilities - a very basic toilet.

However it was a very pretty, shady place and so was quite popular with other caravanners, RV-users and campers. Some people were already set up by early afternoon and one even had a market tent selling clothes and another lady provided hair cuts for $10! By sundown approximately 30 assorted campers were well set up, some with a few outdoor fires to sit around. Of course with no electricity, we relied on our LP gas for cooking and battery operated LED lamps for light so I was still able to have my half hour of reading before an early night.

I must say that despite piling on the bedclothes, it was FREEZING overnight, so very quickly first thing in the morning the gas oven was lit and the door left open for ten minutes or so to warm up the caravan. I didn't envy those sleeping in tents.

Continuing along the Savannah Way towards the coast, we came to Mareeba and decided to stop a few days here. As it was the first place we had come to in quite a while that didn't have water restrictions, it was a good chance to wash down our caravan which was still just about covered with the fine red dust from the outback roads. A trip to the local supermarket stocked up our supplies and the park's washing machines gave us nice fresh clothes.

Coffee, as well as many tropical fruits are grown in this area and so one day we visited the Australian Coffee Centre at Skybury not far from Mareeba. We had a delicious coffee while waiting for the next tour then had a guide show us the plantation and tell us all about growing and processing coffee. Papaya, banana, limes and pineapples are also grown on this farm by a family who came here from Zimbabwe about 25 years ago. As well as a few bags of coffee beans, we also brought some delicious lady finger bananas, and a papaya - a fruit which we hadn't tried before.

Onwards to Cairns to stay a while with long-time friends, Alison and Fred. The few days planned for Cairns has since turned into almost two weeks as our car is in for repairs here. More about our stay in Cairns in the next posting.


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