Alice to Ocean

Devils Marbles - Cyclone Larry - Cairns

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The next two days were spent covering some of he ground between Alice and Ocean.  The 530 km to Tennant Creek were made pleasant and memorable by hundreds of towering termite mounds which we unfortunately did not stop to photograph, a visit to The Devils Marbles which we did and everywhere oceans of shimmering pale gold spinifex and our crossing of the Tropic of Capricorn 23.44 degrees South.  The Drowsy Drivers Die signs pass by as we dutifully take our turn at the wheel.   We didn't give Tennant Creek a chance to impress and it didn't

Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve

We didn't intentionally photograph a termite mound but I think Tony caught one masquerading as a rock beside the large 'marble' on the right

 

"This is the Devils country, he's even emptied his bag of marbles around the place"  John Ross - Overland Telegraph Line expedition 1870

As we moved on next morning the road sign said Queensland 450km, in other words there isn't much between here and the State border.  The drive safely signs now said Stop Revive Survive.  Maybe there is a prize for the most catchy.  On these empty roads it's hard to imagine having an accident but the stark white crosses along the way reinforce the messages
What a difference a Day Makes
The sky was menacing and it was obvious that the long cold wet arm of Cyclone Larry was reaching out to meet us 

Many times over the past few weeks we had idly wondered what the Australian interior would look like after rain.   This was the day we found out.  It looks.... wet and green,  Just as the novelty of trickles of water in creek beds was beginning to pale, we crossed one and did a double take.  Blot came to a screeching halt and went into reverse so we could check it out

Hundreds of blue pink and white water lilies rioting over the swollen creek.  Even in miserable weather it was stunning

We were also taken with the 'downs homesteads', miles and miles of flat land with one mega homestead seemingly home to a dozen or so horses, the next having no apparent occupants.  We hardly saw a car all day and only a couple of buildings

The next day was a wash out with roads closed in all directions.  If you happen to get stranded in Mt. Isa, try to make sure it's not on a Sunday, it's closed.  The out of town attractions all started with '188kw West of town' or '280 km North of town, we got the message, there was nothing we could do but read and nap and read some more.  Thankfully the Irish Club was open and serving dinner

And The Difference Is Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        

 

 

          Welcome to the Sunshine State it said as we crossed the Queensland border, they lied

 

 
We were up and off before dawn.  Travelling East as our preferred route, North to The Gulf of Carpentaria was impassable with Blot 

We expected to clear the town of Julia Creek long before the forecasted rain in the afternoon,  So there we were at Julia Creek, the police had barriers up and were somewhat gleefully telling us the road 45km ahead was under .5 of a meter of water

We decided to drive to see for ourselves.   Sure enough only 4 wheel drives and trucks were attempting to get through.  A line up of low slung cars was forming but nobody seemed ready to give up just yet

Then to our great delight we spotted a latter day St. Christopher approaching in a huge truck towing a flatbed with a vehicle on it.  He was charging $50 per car and passengers to ferry us all over.  He could only make three round trips per hour and a quick assessment of the queue told us we would be there for at least another 3 hours
Not long now

We're next

From our perch in Blot

So happy to be up here

Once on the other side we decided to forgive the RACQ and the police who had misinformed us about the status of the road and even went so far as to say they did us a favour as we would not have set off if we knew the road was flooded.  The sun was shining, all roads ahead were open and we were on our way.   Shortly thereafter the heavens opened to torrential rain and it continued most of the day.   We didn't know Blot could water ski but he could and he did.  It was a relief to arrive in Charters Towers or Charlie's Trousers as the locals call it

 We surrender and rent a Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier, the last one available in Townsville

We made if from Charter's Towers via the flattened cane growing areas to Townsville en route to Cairns and but approaching Innisfail we were advised the roads were only open to trucks and 4 wheel vehicles.  What we hadn't appreciated was that the cyclone had made landfall at Innisfail and had destroyed half the homes along with the sugarcane  and banana growing plantations.  We drove back to Townsville to regroup and maybe re plan this part of the trip, then Eureka, perhaps we could rent a 4 wheeler and carry on, Tony really wanted to get to Cairns and the Tablelands.  Even in Troopie we almost came a cropper,  conditions were just on the edge of a 4 wheel's capability, fortunately we had a diesel engine,  a gas fueled Troopie behind us was swept off the road 
                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

c. Commonwealth  of Australia 2006 Bureau of Meteorology

 
Larry made landfall in Innisfail on March 20th '06

There was no loss of life but substantial damage to 40 % of the homes and 80-90% of the bananas and rice crops.  Bananas now cost $12 a kilo and in some places $3 each 

Due to the risk from pest and disease there are very strict rules for the importing and moving of fruit and vegetables from state to state.  Bananas were scarce for the rest of out trip a high class problem for us

I saw reports of up to 6000 agricultural workers without jobs,  rice can recover quickly from being blown down but banana plantations take longer.    Goodness knows how long it will be before the trees would fill in  the gaps in the landscape

Cairns

It sounded too good to be true but we had been told by Gail, a fellow Ziner, that if you went to a yacht club in Australia on a Wednesday you would be able to sign up for a crewing spot for the days racing if one were available.   Tony only needed to be told once and I suspect our arrival in Cairns early on a Wednesday morning was no coincidence 

 I wandered around the town while Tony had a great sail, it was blowing quite a bit and they won, which always helps in the enjoyment stakes.   We had lunch in the dining room before the race and a BBQ in the evening.   More great Aussie hospitality.  What an amazing country, what amazing people

                                 Sundowner and crew preparing to race

 
 

Tony had taken a PADI course in Thailand especially so he could dive on the Great Barrier Reef and we were in Cairns for him to book a once in a lifetime trip.  We were advised against it as the waters were muddy and visibility poor in the aftermath of Larry and visitors expensive trips were not what they had hoped for

We didn't have the time to wait for it to improve so we headed for Port Dover next day

   One of the great surprises of our time in Australia was the welcome private clubs (golf, bowling, sailing etc) gave to visitors 

You could just sign yourself in and enjoy the facilities.   A lot of them hoped that included their slot machines which offset some of the expenses for members 

We were always made welcome and took advantage as often as possible.  Especially the RSL where we had many good & reasonably priced meals.  Thanks for the tip, Brian and Shirley

Saltwater Swimming Lagoon.  No need to brave the stingers in the ocean

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