Monday morning I was picked up for my day excursion to the Whitsunday islands. There’re a lot of different operators and all are offering more or less the same. You can also book a multi-day “sailing” through the Whitsunday islands. They offer all the time, but if there’s no wind, you’re just cruising with the engine at low speed from island to island. In the end I hadn’t had the impression that you see more, this is because just the sailing from island to island takes longer. So after pickup, we needed to “check-in” at the wharf. That was mostly a data survey, but the good thing was the system just wanted to have some characters in the boxes…so don’t expect that I disclosed any information there 🤣. After that we got our stinger suits, as it’s high season for jelly fish at the moment. After about 45 min waiting time, we finally embarked the boat. This was a high-speed boat, no idea why they still get an “eco-tours” label, with two 350 horsepower engines. The average fuel consumption is 140 litres per hour, whereas it can peak to 240 litres per hour at full load and full speed. So after leaving the harbour with a speed restriction of 6 knots we headed directly to the Whitsunday island, the largest of the 74 Whitsunday islands. Indigenous people lived here for about 20,000 years, but nowadays this island is uninhabited. We got off the boat and walked up to the famous Hill Inlet view point, probably the third most photographed point of view. From this lookout you’ve the view to the Whitehaven beach with the Hill inlet in the background. The Whitehaven beach consists of a very pure white sand with more than 98% silica content. As it’s so white, the sand doesn’t get hot during the day, so you can easily walk over it. After we got some lunch, I went to the ocean front for some swimming. The surf and current wasn’t that big. I even spotted three sting rays in total quite close to me. But as long as you don’t step on them, they just try to escape. All the other guests stayed next to the boat and splashed with a cold drink and a pool noodle in the warm water. At noon we headed off to Hook island, which was supposed to have some nice snorkeling spots. Surprisingly the islands are mainly covered with pine trees, and only have limited freshwater reservoirs. The sand from Whitehaven beach came originally from the mainland and stayed here since the water rise of the last ice age, as the islands itself are of volcanic origin, they wouldn’t be able to produce that kind of sand by it’s own. The first spot at Hook Island is not longer that nice since the last cyclone. A few different fish were around, but the coral wasn’t that pretty at all. The second spot had a nice coral garden, with some quite colourful corals. Additionally, it had also some bunches of soft coral and sponges. I could have stayed much longer in that area, but I was already the last to get back to the boat, as the others could not longer float with their pool noodles…well without it’s much easier. But anyway, if you can’t properly swim in open waters, then snorkeling might not the right thing for you. From there we passed Hayman island and cruised directly back to Airlie beach. This whole spot reminded me to Komodo island. It’s a big tourist trapp, but contrary to Komodo island, they don’t try to get your money during the trip, rather than before and also after, as you can buy photos which they took for 6$…each! No thanks, I’ve my own camera.
Saturday early morning I drove with the rented car back into the town and returned it, so Heather didn’t need to give me a lift. Nevertheless, I needed to walk 2.5 km to the railway station with all my belongings, and as I was some minutes late, but also the train was supposed to be – but you’ll never no, I better worried up. And after 25 minutes I arrived at the platform, exactly the same time as the train did, and sweated already. After departure from Mackay I could see the sunrise from the train and the lovely early morning. It was only a short ride until Proserpine, where I already got off the train. The transfer bus to Airlie beach already waited, and after less than half an hour I got dropped off in the middle of thsi tourist town. After the rain shower during noon I started some hiking. I crossed the town and ascended on the other side, at the start of the Honey Eater trail. Luckily this trail was mostly shaded, but nevertheless the high humidity made you immediately sweat. The trail was steadily going uphill, but easily to follow, just some patches were a bit muddy and slippery due to the recent rainfall. In total after less than two hours I arrived at the Honey Eater lookout, which give you a great view over Airlie Beach to the Whitsunday islands. The afternoon thunderstorm was just approaching, and this made a spectacular view over the bay. Luckily the trail was only partly affected by some rain drops. The main enemy were all the mosquitoes. The spray obviously doesn’t work anymore, as you just sweat it away, so I only relied on my clothing. I made a break on the lookout and observed how the thunderstorm passed by, before I made my way back down. More or less opposite to the supermarket the Airlie Creek trail starts. That’s a short one way walk along the creek, basically through the same forest as the Honey Eater trail. So even as it is a pretty nice and calm walk, it’s not really any added value, after you did the Honey Eater trail.
Friday morning I took the first bus from North Mackay to the town centre in order to rent another car for one day. Instead of booking a tour, which even doesn’t run every day, that option was much cheaper. Especially, as I could return the car whenever I want. At 7:30 I was on my to the west along the Pioneer valley into the mountains. At the end of the Pioneer valley, the road went pretty steep to Eungella. From the village there’s a nice platform with a great view all along the Pioneer valley, which is today mainly used for agricultural purpose, that means growing sugarcane and producing milk. I then went to the Broken river, which was just a 5 min drive, and arrived there at about 9 o’clock. It’s the best spot to view platypus, which I already tried to spot back on kangaroo island. So I went to the platforms and spent several time there. But unfortunately I hadn’t had any luck at all three platforms. It was written that the best times to spot them is either before 8 o’clock or after 15 o’clock. As I did all this effort I decided, after one hour patiently waiting, to spend the whole day around here. So I started the Granite Bend Circuit bush walk. The first section is going along the river, which is very beautiful. You can even extend the river walk for another 8 km (one way), but I skipped that for this day. I rather went back through a nice rainforest, which high trees, which reminded me to the rainforest in Cambodia. As I had time I drove back the road and stopped at the Sky Window, which offers probably the best view over Pioneer valley, and then even on to Peases lookout. Actually that’s only worth to stop there, if you’re anyway on the way to hike all the way up to Mount Dalrymple, the highest mountain of Queensland. As I had some time I stopped at a Café for a coffee, but I immediately dropped out of it, as I had a strange gut feeling. So I went back to the platforms at Broken river, and now in the afternoon, the platypus came out for eating. Sure, you need to be patient and silent, but after a few minutes of waiting you typically have the chance to spot them. I had great success on two platforms, and enjoyed this calm scenery for a while. It was definitely worth to make this excursion to the mountains. In the late afternoon I headed back, but made another detour to the Finch Hatton gorge. It was already a bit late, but I hurried up walking to the “Wheel of Fire” pool. Just when I arrived the last group were leaving, so I had the whole pool for a refreshing swim for my own. Shortly after sunset I walked back, and just reached the car, before it went completely dark.
Wednesday shortly after midnight my train arrived with 30 minutes delay. I’m no longer surprised. I haven’t seen any train to be on time. And as there’s only one train travelling north of Rockhampton, that’s the only option. Additionally, this train only operates for 5 days in a week. Hence, one has to make sure, that the travelling happens at the right day. At least the waiting room was open the whole evening. It had TV, but also freezing cold AC. Hence, after a while a sat again outside, and attracted all the mosquitoes. The diesel powered train (yes electrification ends in Rockhampton) is pretty modern. There’s definitely a lot of space for long legs, but the footrest is designed in such a bad way, that I always hit my shin on it’s sharp edges. Additionally, each seat has it’s own small screen, where you can opt for your own entertainment, similar to airplanes. But as it was in the middle in the night, I tried to catch some sleep. I got a new, small blanket, which helped only marginally against the freezing cold air conditioning, and getting out wasn’t an option now 😅. Additionally, the bogie of my carriage was worn out. It went easily into it’s natural frequency at the driving speed (which means the damping went to almost zero). Hence, it caused a terrible vibrating noise, which made it hard to get some sleep all together. After about 4 hours I arrived in Mackay early in the morning. I needed to wait some time until Heather picked me up from the railway station. I stayed at the house of Heather & Garry, which I met in the train ride from Adelaide to Sydney in the Indian Pacific back in November. They’re very welcoming, and Heather gave me some very good local recommendations what to do, as both were very busy during my stay.
So I took the bus to Shoal point. Actually this bus stopped about 2 km before it, so I walked along the beach to Shoal point. The beach is pretty shallow, not really for swimming, but rather than for relaxing for some minutes in the shade under a palm tree. As the bus operates only every two hours (yes it’s inconvenient, so not surprising that almost nobody uses it), I needed to make sure that I’m back on the road. Luckily the next bus was operating all the way up, so I could easily catch it. Then I asked the bus driver to a direct connection of the bus to Eimeo, which worked out pretty well. Otherwise I would have to wait for another 2 hours, are walk for additional 3 km. Both not really an option. The beach in Eimeo was quite nice, had a lot of shade and it was high tide…but I forget my swimsuit in the morning, as I was in a rush to get the bus. Hence, I just relaxed for a bit, until I walked back to the bus stop. There was no shops at both sides, and I hadn’t too much supplies with me. Hence, I was pretty starving, once I returned to the town and went to a supermaket 🤣.
Monday morning I wanted to rent a scooter in order to drive to Cooberrie park, which is about 50 km away from Rockhampton. But first the scooter was pretty expensive with 65$ a day, and also I couldn’t take a second person on the back seat, as Hannah another traveller from the Netherlands wanted to join me. In the end we found a cheap car from a local rental service for just 57$ a day. Even as we used more fuel, it was cheaper, as we could split the cost. So in the end at noon we finally arrived at Cooberie park, which is a wildlife sanctuary for injured animals. The goal is to release the animals back into the wild, if it’s possible. Sometimes the animals will not be in a position to get released, or it’s just forbidden by law. Some animals kept illegal in captivity and are not endemic to Australia, so these will never be released back into the wild. We stayed for about 2 hours in the park, and even enjoyed a short show. In that show we got different animals presented, and had also the possibility to hold them or stroke them. In the afternoon we went to the southern part of the Byfield national park, which required a drive along a bad gravel road for a few kilometres. The last few hundred we walked to the Big Dune and the beach. Actually the beach is very shallow, and not very appealing. So we just put our feet into the water before we headed back. After short stops in Yeppoon at various beaches, unfortunately it was low tide, and all the water was muddy, we headed on to Emu park. The weather went a bit bad, and some showers came by. So during dusk we drove back to Rockhampton, for half way along the old railway tracks, which once connected Yeppoon and Emu Park with North Rockhampton. But unfortunately, these are no longer available for public transport.