From Perth, we flew to Ayers Rock. We had a good view of the Olgas and the Rock (known to the aborigines as Uluru) from the plane on the descent to the airport. From the airport itself, Uluru wasn't visible. I thought of scampering through the sand dunes to find a better vantage point, but our next flight was already boarding. One day I'll have to actually visit Uluru; I've been near it several times.
Into the outback
We arrived in Cairns early in the evening, checked into our hotel and crashed. I don't think we even had dinner. Next morning, we picked up a rental car and headed out of town. It was raining, but started to clear as we got further inland. We drove for hours through the outback. Late in the afternoon, we decided to stop at the next place on the map, Lynd Junction. When we got there, we found it was just a roadhouse - a combination gas station, corner store and motel -- and the few motel units they had were already taken. The next place with accommodation was Greenvale, about 70 km further on. Greenvale turned out to be not much larger than Lynd Junction, but we were able to get a room at the Three Rivers Hotel (immortalized in a song of the same name by the Australian country singer Slim Dusty). We had an excellent and inexpensive dinner of grilled barramundi in their restaurant. A few nights earlier, on our last day in Western Australia, we had been treated to dinner in a very expensive French restaurant by a friend of Lorna's. That had been very nice, with excellent food and service, but if anything I enjoyed this modest meal more, set as it was in the real outback.
Charters Towers & Ravenswood
former bank building (now a theatre) in Charters Towers
view of the Charters Towers area from Towers Hill
ruins of the Pyrites Works, Charters Towers
Charters Towers was founded in the late 1800s after gold was discovered there. It grew to a prosperous town of 25,000 people, called "the World" because it was said that anything you wanted could be found there. After the gold ran out, the population dwindled to 9.000 or so, but there are still many beautiful old buildings from the town's heyday. We had been interested in seeing the place for some time (I can't recall exactly what sparked our interest), and we spent a half-day there.
the Imperial Hotel in Ravenswood, rumoured to be haunted by a rather nasty ghost
the ruins of the Mabel Mill, Ravenswood
old trucks beside the Imperial Hotel in Ravenswood
On the way to Townsville, we took a short side trip to Ravenswood, another former gold mining town, now nearly a ghost town with a population of about 100. There are 2 big old hotels there and not much else, other than the ruins of various mining facilities.
climbers on Castle Hill in Townsville
panoramic view of Townsville & Magnetic Island from Castle Hill
We stayed overnight in Townsville, in an oceanview room on the Strand, right across from the beach. Townsville is a small but prosperous city catering to tourists. I liked it there, and wanted to go to Magnetic Island for a day, but time was getting tight.
Along the Bruce Highway
Wallamana Falls is the largest single drop waterfall in Australia, tumbling nearly 1,000 feet to a large pool. Getting there was quite a task. The sign said it was 42 km off the main highway, but most of that was on a narrow, very winding road up a mountainside, or an unpaved road through dense rainforest. Then I somehow missed the turnoff to the lookout and we spent a while hiking up a trail that we wrongly thought might lead to the falls.
Flying Fish Point
There are many beaches along this stretch of highway. It would have been nice to spend more time exploring them, but time was running out and we wanted to get to Kuranda.
L's brother & niece
exotic flower in Kuranda
panoramic view of the Cairns region from Kuranda
We wanted to see Lorna's brother G and his daughter S, so we spent a day at Kuranda, which is in the rainforest just northwest of Cairns. We got to hang out with them, and visited some of the attractions in this popular tourist destination -- the Australian Venom Zoo (!), several art galleries with incredible aboriginal art, etc.
Then it was back to Cairns, where we had an early morning flight home.
This was the first time I had booked an overseas vacation by myself online, without the help of a travel agent. Everything went very smoothly. I was a bit over-ambitious with the amount of driving required (it is easy to forget how big Australia is), but it worked out OK. I had thought that this would probably be our last trip back to Oz, but now I am looking forward to going back again. There is so much to see, you could spend a lifetime exploring it.