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.  The sky was menacing and it was obvious the long cold wet arm of Cyclone Larry was reaching out to meet us 

  What a difference a Day Makes

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

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.  Out of town attractions all started with '188km W. of town' or '280 km N. of town, we got the message, we read and napped 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 

 The Early Arrival of "The Wet" and Cyclone Larry

We were up and off before dawn. Travelling East as our preferred route, North to The Gulf of Carpentaria was impassable with Blot due to the earlier than expected wet season.    We hoped to clear the town of Julia Creek long before the forecasted rain in the afternoon but the police were advising somewhat gleefully that the road 45km ahead was under .5 of a meter of water.  Sure enough at the barriers only 4 wheel drives and trucks were attempting to get through. A line up of low slung cars was forming on either side 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.  Making three round trips per hour  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 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.  Next destination Cairns

  Larry made landfall in Innisfail on March 20th '06

Commonwealth of Australia Bureau of Meteorology      

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, sometimes $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.    Who knows how long it will be before the trees would fill in  the gaps in the landscape


We drove 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.  We hadn't known 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 re plan this part of the trip, then Eureka, We gave Blot a vacation and rented  the last Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier in town. 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 fuelled Troopie behind us was swept off the road



It sounded too good to be true but we had been told 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 a bit and they won, which always helps in the enjoyment stakes. We had lunch in the dining room before the race and a 'barbie' in the evening. 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 

Always made welcome, we took advantage as often as possible,  especially at 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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