Queensland: The Tablelands and Down the Coast to Brisbane

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Bush-turkey, by K, found everywhere–even in Brisbane!

I haven’t written in over a month. As our year-long trip nears its end, a certain melancholy has set in, at least for me. I suppose, after so many highs, it’s inevitable. We did have some amazing bush camping in northern and mid Queensland before we arrived in Brisbane four weeks ago and what follows is an attempt to describe these adventures . . .

The Tablelands

Northwest of Townsville and southwest of Cairns lie the Tablelands. Slightly higher altitude means lower temperatures, rain forests and rain. We drove past fields of sugarcane and stayed in a state forest full of cheeky kookaburras, one of whom flew down and tried to steal the hamburger meat from my hands—I felt the air from the sweep of its wings, but managed to save the meat. Wildlife was abundant at Kauri Creek Campground in Danbulla State Forest. I went for a lovely 9 K walk and didn’t see another soul. Each evening, after the girls were asleep, Lee and I spotted a musky rat kangaroo, the smallest kangaroo, who came into our campsite.

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View from Our Campsite at Kauri Creek

I had one near disastrous kayak. The level of the lake was way down, due to drought, and when we were walking towards the water over wet sand, I began to sink. The more I struggled, the deeper I sank. Lee had to pull me out. Twice.

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Photo taken just before I began sinking into quicksand

On the way to our next camp in Malanda we nearly ran over a black kitten stumbling around the middle of the road. It was midday and a wedge-tailed eagle had spotted the kitten, too. The eagle was circling as Lee slowed to a stop. I rolled my eyes. Lee got out to rescue the cat and brought it into the car. Now, it must be said that K’s deepest dearest wish—what she wishes for every time an eyelash lands on her face or she blows out the birthday candles on her cake—is for a cat. And there she sat in the back with this little black fluff ball at her feet inside an empty beer carton. I was thinking: how are we ever going to take this kitten back to Sydney? And wouldn’t it have been better for the environment if we’d let the eagle have its lunch?

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A bittersweet goodbye to Max

We drove on, pulled into a caravan park, which was also a small farm, and I said to the woman, “We have a problem.” Then we pulled out the gorgeous little kitty, maybe three weeks old. “We’ll take it,” she said. “My son’s always wanted a black cat.” I was relieved. K was heart-broken, but magnanimous in her loss. Later she told me, “I’m happy that Max has a good home. I saw how gentle that boy was with the kitten—I saw that he was caring for him the same way I would’ve cared for him.”

Babinda

After too brief a time in the Tablelands, we drove back to the coast–lush green mountains filled with sugarcane–and made our way south. Babinda had a gorgeous free camp near a swimming hole in the rain forest.

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R on top of trailer–free camp at Babinda

You can take a short walk through the rain forest to the swirling torrent that is Devil’s Pool, where, legend has it:

A long time ago, Oolana, the beautiful young wife of an elder of the Wanyurr tribe, fell in love with Dyga, a handsome young man from a visiting tribe. The two lovers, knowing that tribal lore forbade their union, ran away together. After having been discovered camping by the creek, Dyga returned to his tribe. Oolana, however, threw herself into the water, which became a swirling torrent. The ground opened up and huge boulders were cast into the air. Today the boulders mark where Oolana drowned.

            Oolana’s spirit is believed to reside here today—she continues to call out for Dyga to return, enticing wandering travellers, especially men. Over the years, a number of young men have drowned in this very place . . .

Platypus Camp

This is one of my favourite places—right up there with the Eyre Peninsula, Karijini and Boodjamulla. Platypus Camp is an hour in from Mackay, but it feels like worlds away. It’s run by an old hippie and environmentalist, Wazza, who was away on holiday. A family was looking after the place and R made friends with their girls. The family is thinking of buying the camp and moving there permanently, after selling their house in Adelaide. I can see why. Platypus Camp is set in the rain forest with its own resident bandicoots, a stunning swimming hole and separate Platypus Viewing area on another section of the river. The showers are donkey showers (heated by wood fire in the evening); they have three walls and open onto the rain forest so your showering in the outdoors. The camp is biking distance to two beautiful walks to falls and swimming holes. It’s stunning and I recommend it to anyone.

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Swimming hole near Platypus Camp
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K biking back to Platypus Camp

Then we made our way down to Brisbane via the town of 1770, named for when Captain Cook landed. Not a lot has happened since.

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Sunset, 1770

The last place we camped before Brisbane was a lovely bush camp on the Mary River near Kenilworth.

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More to come on Brisbane in the next installment . . .

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Author: sarahklenbort

I'm a Sydney-based writer, casual academic, mum, former president of the P&C, and founder of Auslan Afternoons, a play group for parents of deaf children who are interested in learning Auslan.

3 thoughts on “Queensland: The Tablelands and Down the Coast to Brisbane”

  1. Dear Sarah, Lee, R and K,
    What a wonderful adventure you are taking us on. I feel like I am with you as you travel throughout Australia. Thanks for taking me along. I can certainly understand the approaching melancholy you feel as you enter into the last leg of your epic journey. Still, this year will always be one to remember – even the quicksand.
    Love,
    Irving

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  2. I feel sad too, because the armchair adventures are coming to an end. But is that true? For me, it’s all exotic and very different to life here in Dorset in the UK (though I love it here too). So wherever you are, Sarah, I hope you will keep blogging.

    How come you were the only one to sink into the quicksand?

    How big-hearted of K. and the whole family to say goodbye to the kitten.

    I’ve just been in touch with someone who’s bringing out a book on travelling with babies. I recommended your blog to her – in case she brings out a follow up, travelling with children (and why not?). This is her http://travelswithbaby.co.uk/.

    Stunning photos and stories, Sarah. Stunning was a very ‘Mike’ word. But appropriate. love from Dorset xxx

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    1. Thanks Irving and Maria for your comments!
      Why was I the only one to sink in the quicksand? I was wondering the same. Ahem, I think it had something to do with the larger circumference of my legs.

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