Dawn broke on boxing day and presented us with another sunny day. Not too hot, not too windy, just beautiful. The perfect day for a road trip.
Jared and I had been planning our Christmas break adventure for weeks. We had it all sorted out, the days the activities, the stops. I knew though, from many past experiences, things never go exactly as planned. This trip was no different.
We drove north out of Clermont, up the long, straight road towards Charters Towers where we stopped for icy poles. It may have not been a forty degree day, but it was still a hot drive without air-con. We continued past Charters, going to our final stop for the day, Townsville.
We pulled into the parking lot by Civic Guest House, then went to check-in. It was a very clean little place, but not much like a hostel. It was more of a boutique hotel with dorm rooms. That was okay though, there would be wild parties in the days to come, so I had no issue with a good night of rest. Before sleep though, we had to eat.
Unlike boxing day back home, it’s not the wild shopping day in Australia. In fact, nearly everything was closed. We couldn’t find food anywhere. Jared and I walked for an hour and a half before coming across a McDonalds and a Subway. We opted for Subway, managing to get in just before closing time.
The next morning we got up and checked out of the hostel. We were planning to spend the day picking our way up the coast to Tully, where we had booked in for White Water Rafting. Unfortunately, our car had other plans. It’s plans were to sit in the parking lot. It would start, it would sound like it was good to go, but no matter what gear you shifted it into, our not so little old landcruiser did not want to go anywhere. With all the mechanics closed for the holiday, it was time to phone a friend.
Cade and I exchange phone call after phone call for the rest of the morning. He would give me instructions on things to try. I would try them a few times, and when it didn’t work I would ring back for the next thing to test. When nothing would get the car going again, Darcy came to the rescue. The rescue just took 7 hours as we waited for our hero to arrive.
While we waited for Darcy to arrive we decided to head to head over to the Reef HQ Aquarium, just a few blocks from our hostel. It was a little over $25 for admission but we managed to kill a couple hours as we wandered through, looking at all the different sea creatures in each tank. Reef HQ Aquarium is the world’s largest living reef aquarium, so there are some pretty neat things to look at.
Jared and I were both thrilled to try on the old dive helmet near the entrance before we made our way through the different sections. We sat and watched turtles with extremely long necks swim around, we scared a shrimp back into hiding, and had a laugh at the box jellyfish swimming upside down into the bottom of the tank. Box jellies may be the fastest killing animal on earth, but they’re not exactly the smartest. We spent a bit longer watching saw sharks and nurse sharks and all sorts of other things under the sea that I couldn’t identify before heading out to catch up with a friend.
It’s always odd running into people in one place that you know from another place. When I had done my dive course back in Canada we had all had dive buddies for the term of the course, mine was Matt. Matt had been planning to head to Australia in November and had said he would be living and working in Cairns. I had messaged him to see if he was still in Cairns as we were heading up that way and could catch up. It turns out he was on his way down the coast on a trip and we happened to be in Townsville at the same time. Matt came by and picked Jared and I up and we made our way to the lagoon to cool down for a bit.
It was a hot day and Townsville is much more humid than Clermont, so a swim was just what we needed. I thought it was strange that the lagoon wasn’t down by the beach where it is in many cities, but instead in the middle of the city, along a channel. As we sat at the edge of the pool watching water skiers whiz past along the channel we chatted about our adventures so far. It can fun seeing a familiar face in a strange place, so I enjoyed my visit with Matt before he dropped me off to meet with Darcy.
Darcy drove Jared and I back up to our car so he could have a look. As much as I was hoping the car would be an easy fix I would have been very embarrassed if Darcy had driven all the way up to solve the problem in two minutes. The car ended up being more of a problem than Darcy could fix, so we made a plan B. We didn’t bother to book into the hostel again, instead we just camped on the back of Darcy’s ute, ready to rise before the sun and put our plan into action.
When the phone alarms went off at 5am we packed up and got ready to take action. Our car was parked in a pay parking area, so we had to get it around the corner and down a block to a free parking lot where we could leave it for the week. Darcy hooked up the tow rope between our cars then hopped in to drive. I climbed in the passenger seat of Darcy’s ute, while Jared got to steer our wagon. There wasn’t much in the way of traffic at that hour in the morning, but we were aware of the fact that the police station was just a block away. We crossed the road and the line went slack. It had snapped with our car towed into the middle of the street. We quickly retied it and tried a second time.
Down the road we went to our free parking lot. The only other sign of life we saw was the taxi driver at the car was across the road. He watched us as we pulled into the lot and parked under a streetlight. The lot looked a little sketchy, and I wasn’t sure we would come back to find our car with all it’s windows still intact, but it was the best we could do. We loaded up our gear onto Darcy’s ute and headed on our way north again, with an extra person in tow.
We drove up the coast stopping at different little hiking trails and waterfalls. We had all day to do a four hour drive, so we were in no rush. We wandered through rainforests and talked about how green everything was while Darcy chowed down on the raw bacon we had left over from the night before. The most notable waterfall we stopped at was Wallaman Falls, Australia’s tallest single-drop waterfall.
Even the drive up to Wallaman Falls was spectacular, climbing up, up, through mountains and rainforest. Along windy roads. Stopping to admire the view at lookouts. It was like I was travelling through New Zealand again but instead of just me and Little Red, it was me, Darcy and Jared, and a much bigger vehicle.
Once we arrived at the top of the falls we decided to hike all the way down to the bottom. The track was only two kilometres long, which was fine on the way down, but walking back up is a whole other story. I definitely need to get into better shape.
At the bottom of the falls we decided to go for a swim. Well, Jared and I decided to go for a swim, Darcy decided to take a bath. We were all stripping down to our swim gear when Darcy pulled a bar of soap out of his jeans pocket, I suppose I couldn’t blame him as we had camped on the ute all night, I just hadn’t been expecting it. In the end, I had a wash at the bottom of the falls too.
The water was chilly, but beautifully fresh. I swam with my mouth open, feeling like a pelican, taking big drinks of the cool, clear water. I swam over under the falls and tread water while the falls crashed down over me. The spray made it hard to see anything else, but I felt alive and it felt good. I swam around behind the falls, taking it all in from different angles and hoping there were no freshwater crocodiles enjoying the beautiful waterhole as well.
As other hikers began to descend to the base and followed suit to go for a swim we decided it was tome to continue on our way. Next stop was Mission Beach where we would pull up for the so Jared could take his leap of faith.