One of a kind

While travelling in the Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, everyone you meet asks, “Have you seen a cassowary? How about a tree kangaroo?”

Quite unique, and yet found in this specific region, we were lucky enough to see both.

For today’s entry into Becky’s ‘kind’ squares, I’ll include the cassowary. The tree kangaroo was much more shy and could only be captured properly on video – which I can’t seem to get square.

As tall as an emu and just as aggressive, the striking bird can be seen wandering across roadways but can be quick to disappear into thick brush. At other times it can take forever to cross, and as an endangered species all motorists stop for it.

This one was slow enough, but wouldn’t turn around as I got close. So you just get to admire it’s glossy plumage.

Mackay Botanical Gardens

Mackay, pronounced Mack-eye, is about half way along the coast of Queensland, and referred to as both northern and central, as a result. It is a huge sugar-producing area, responsible for about a third of the country’s total sugar. For people who come from a much drier state, the sight of the green fields is wonderful, and when they are set alight at night it’s impressive, if the smell of smoke takes a while to ignore.

cane fields, Mackay region

The very specific farm equipment, too, was fascinating and we didn’t mind when we had to stop and wait while a train went through.

However, when you search things to do in Mackay, the return list is quite brief. Fortunatley, the Botanical Gardens is mentoined, so we stopped there en route to our next destination.

water feature, Mackay Botanical Gardens

The small carpark shouldn’t put you off, as the many ways in, via attractive walking paths, herald plenty of street parking. The entrance is wide and clearly signed, and sunny enough to bring in some local pythons. I wouldn’t have noticed them if people weren’t walking around, casually pointing them out. It appears that they are very common in people’s yards up here.

I think that’s a smile?

You can enter via the cafe and opt for a tour or go straight through to the information board, looking out over the wetlands and letting you know that the Gardens are still in a developmental stage.

the view over the wetlands, and the information board
a pretty array of cups in the cafe

There are two main directions to take, left or right, and we took the right, only to find there were further choices as we went along. Many people were using the paths for exercise and arriving from outside the Gardens. It wouldn’t matter which way you went, as the gardens are very pretty and accessible.

There’s a variety of birdlife and plants and the path is easy and accessible for wheelchairs.

deep into their laughter, heads thrown back

A very pleasant place to visit and lots of shade, but always take a hat and water.

Cape Palmerston

Recommendations are constantly made, when you are on the road, about good, cheap places to stay. One such suggestion we received was for Cape Palmerston. We were told it was beautiful and, as part of Queensland’s national parks, the rate to camp is $6.50pp/night. It was unforgettable.

How hard could it be? The road to Palmerston was dirt off the highway, which was now sugar cane country, but reviews were good and nothing to indicate any special skills or vans, apart from ‘recommended with a 4WD’. So off the highway we ventured and tentatively followed signs until the final turn-off, where we saw two people inflating their tyres. Uh-oh. We stopped and had a conversation, during which they advised driving over the hill, keeping well to the left, following in others’ tracks, unless we could ride their rise, stay well away from the water, watch the tide so we did’t get caught in quicksand (did she say ‘quicksand’?) and we should make it to the first camp. Stay there.

It would be accurate to say we had some reservations and the woman suggested some sand driving would stand us in good stead. Over the rise we drove and saw some other cars, to either side, well back from the beach. We decided to have lunch and then head back where we had come, then forward in our journey, but when one couple came over and said they were moving on and we could have their spot for a camp…well, we moved in.

I’m still uncertain that Queensland Parks intended this spot for a camp, but I got online and paid our fee, and soon we were exploring the beach.

The tide was about 40 m out from our camp and receding. We had taken maybe 30 steps when a movement on the sand caught my eye. Crabs! But no ordinary crabs; these were travelling forward (not sideways) and carrying bulbous blue heads/bodies .

If we approached them, they stopped and spun themselves under the sand in a second. They travelled in groups, alone, in a line and in any direction. The sand was alive!

The entertainment having lasted a good hour, we explored some more and found very unusual jellyfish nested in the sand (waiting for unsuspecting tucker?)

then tucked into dinner. As the sun set, our neighbours fished at the water’s edge, our cameras s clicked and we noticed the waters beginning to return towards us. No cause for alarm, the signs of last night’s high tide were at least a metre from our door. And the others were in a tent, further forward, so any cries of alarm would alert us in time.

Sunrise was lovely and, although we had both spent some of the night listening to waves lap near our door, we awoke high and dry. A little trouble with midgies, which were also new to us.

Plenty of cars had taken to the sand trail the day before, during the late afternoon and early evening, speeding off in other people’s tracks or on their rise, way off to the point, where we hoped they avoided the quicksand and made it around to the first campsite.

An unforgettable experience, nonetheless. Sorry Queensland National Parks if we took a liberty. Cape Palmerston is for the more adventurous and experienced and by all accounts is excellent for fishing and beaching.

Take your hate, sunscreen, water and 4WD manual.

Blackdown National Park

After a cold night in Emerald, we headed off early for Blackdown National Park. The reason we had chosen Emerald was its proximity to the park, as the other, nearer, towns had bad reviews. On passing through Bluff, however, we saw a popular free site at which you could leave your van.

The road was good at first and then winding and finally dirt and corrugated, with some potholes. Cows wander close to the road in some parts.

We took about 2 hours to get there, with roadworks, and began following the loop, starting at Yaddamen Dhina lookout,

but missed a stop at Mook Mook so went on to Gudda Gumoo lookout and gorge walk. This leads 240 steps downward to the falls. As the falls weren’t gushing with water, it was easy to get around the rocks and levels and climb to various spots for a look. Very picturesque, with tall fern walls and rocks of so many colours.

Mook Mook lookout displays a massive panorama and the best thing was the sounds of the birds chirping in this huge expanse.

We really enjoyed the treks and although the loop drive is said to be 1.5 hours long, we spent about 3.5 hours there, doing walks and taking photos and listening to the park, which the Ghungalu people advise.

If you have a compact camping style, then you can camp here at a cost set by National Parks of Queensland, which at the time of writing is $6.50 per person per night.

Take a hat and plenty of water. Wear swimming gear if you intend to get wet and attend to signs.

Safe travels.

Outback Queensland – dust and dedication.

It’s hard to describe the region from Mt Isa to Rockhampton in an all-encompassing way, as it ranges from grazing to politics to the mining industry. Driving through Cloncurry and Winton, which are decent-sized, pretty towns, we made it about 20km from Longreach before setting up in the bush for the night.

Longreach is quite large and we admired the heritage train station before moving on. I would have liked to enjoyed some of their pioneer adventures and do the stagecoach ride, but due to Covid-19 it was not running. Another year!

An unexpected find this day was Ilfracombe. There is a substantial display along the main road, of old cars, tractors and machinery. Called the Lynn Cameron Machinery Mile, in recognition of his contribution which made the town what it is, the historical facts are recorded and it is fascinating. For example, there is a disused army tank from WWII that was converted to farm machinery.

Barcaldine was our lunch stop and what a beautiful place, buzzing with grey nomads on the move. Apart from some welcoming craft shops and eateries, the town is known for The Tree of Knowledge.

You can’t miss this structure and once inside it is hard to capture the dimensions.

In 1891, under the tree of knowledge, next to the train station, an organisation was formed that later became the Australian Labour Party. There is a statue, by Mylinda Rogers, to commemorate the shearer’s strike

The original tree was a ghost gum, that dies in 2006 so a monument was built by the Barcaldine Regional Council and a plaque explains that “the tree of knowledge monument, signifying protruding shear blades, is in recognition of the stalwart men and women of the west, who, through their courage, determination and dedication to the principles, ideals and objectives of the Union Movement, played a leading role in the formation of Australia’s Labour and Political Movement which emerged from beneath this Tree of Knowledge in 1891, and spearheaded the many reforms which were to result in a vastly improved way of life for Australians generally.”

There are other historical buildings in the town and a huge xylophone (?) that you can play.

We moved on and found a park in Emerald, which was much bigger than we had expected. Emerald is considered the richest coal and mineral centre of Australia so there’s plenty of work, people are on the move early in the morning and supermarkets are full. We visited the Botanic Gardens which are small but very pretty and used by many for fitness it seems.

A good playground in the Botanic Gardens

Ezmerald was chosen as our base to explore Blackdown National park, but I think there was a spot closer to the NP, Bluff, that we could have chosen, but didn’t know until passing it.

From Blackdown we went to Yeppoon, via Rockhampton. The latter has an unusual amount of bull statues! It looks substantial and attractive but we pressed on.