We have now said goodbye to our lovely Sheila. She faithfully took us 3821km and didn’t miss a beat. Myself and James are also still together, and have not attempted murder on the other yet despite the prolonged period in such a small space. So far, so good!
It was my birthday the day after our sailing trip (I’ve gone past the point where you get excited about sharing your age) and I had booked to skydive! However, the weather wasn’t on our side and the skies were grey all day so it was sadly called off. James is sure that someone was watching over me and didn’t want me jumping out of a fully functional plane but never mind – maybe another time during the trip?! I still had a lovely day with prosecco, cheese, a Darth Vader card and even a card from my furry baby at home (such a clever bunny) as well as a trip to the cinema and some pick n mix.
Our third week of driving took us further along the East Coast to Cairns. En route we stopped at a couple of places deserving of a mention, including the gorgeous Wallaman Falls.
The route to the waterfall we stumbled upon quite by accident, however you couldn’t have accidentally driven up the hour of mountainous lanes to find it. We drove through fields of friendly cows and kangaroos and I swear I saw wild pigs but James isn’t so sure. In the rainforest climate on the mountain we also saw a rather large Casowary – a big bird similar to an emu. The wildlife here, and the warning signs for them, are quite comical for a foreigner!
Once at the top of the fall, the view was spectacular. The falls are 286m high, making them the highest in Australia. We opted (well I opted and convinced James it was a good idea) to take the 2km trek down to the bottom of the falls. This sounds pretty tame, but it was a hike down the mountain through the rainforest! Although there was a walkway made, it was far from maintained so we were kept on our toes climbing over rocks and fallen logs, as well as looking out for wildlife as there were snake warnings.
The walk to the bottom was well worth it, the views were spectacular and a treacherous climb across the slippery rocks to get a real view of the bottom was rewarded by some refreshing splashes from the Falls themselves. This however left the 2km climb back up, which we tackled in a sudden downpour – the wet clothes went straight in a bag and we only got them out to wash them a few days ago.. oops.
We also drove slightly past Cairns to visit the popular town of Port Douglas. The rain continued, but that didn’t stop me having a wander around the many boutique shops and a look in the locally sourced jewellery shops. Our drive both to and from Port Douglas took us along perhaps the most beautiful road we have been on in Australia; The Captain Cook Highway. It weaved directly along the coast and gave views of the blue sea in one direction, mountains in another, and rainforest from a third angle. We used this road as a stop point for our last night in Sheila, and slept at a rest stop right on the beach. We listened to the waves all through the night and got a perfect shot of the moon reflecting on the dark waters. In this moment I felt, not for the first time this trip, very lucky.
Our final day on the road took us to the Atherton Tablelands. As their name suggests, they are situated on a raised platform of land and provided us yet again with some beautiful views of an Australia we had never imagined, nor expected! Some views actually looked quite British, apart from the sunshine I guess. There is a circuit of waterfalls that we took a drive around and jumped in for a dip at Millaa Millaa Falls alongside some friendly freshwater turtles. We also paid a visit to a volcanic crater turned lake – but with a 60m drop to get to the water and steep sides surrounding it we didn’t take a dip at this one.
We said our sad goodbyes to Sheila in Cairns, after dropping her back as late as we possibly could. When we packed our bags it appeared that we were coming out of the van with almost double the stuff we went in with only 20 days earlier! I’m not really sure how that happened and we are still trying to sort it and lighten our load a little even now, a week later!
We spent two very hot and fairly humid days in Cairns enjoying some space and the opportunity to shower and use a toilet at any opportunity. We swam in the lagoon, and for all of 5 minutes I thought about sunbathing but realised this was quite unwise. Instead we took to shade and ate ice cream.
Our Australian road trip has come to an end, however thankfully our time down under is not yet over! We are now settled with some of the extended Dolan family just outside of Melbourne and somehow it is Christmas in two days?! Not only can I not believe we have been away from home that long, but I applied factor 50 suncream today, and went out in a dress and 32degree heat, so it doesn’t feel Christmassy at all!