Saturday morning I waited for the train in Bowen. The evening before I took the evening bus back from Collinsville. I was the only passenger in the bus, and the bus driver dropped me off at the fuel station, and even managed for me to stay at the “truck driver” room, so I could have my dinner there. For the night I pitched up my tent at a Mango plantation directly opposite to the railway station and the tracks. Apart from some trains which passed during the night, it was ok for one night to stay there. In Townsville my host Jarrah picked me up from the railway station. He lives with his German girlfriend Marina, but actually she’s already since more than ten years living in Townsville. Due to the next cyclone in the Gulf of Carpentaria, which is about 1000 km away, there’s also a very large downpour along the East Coast due to the influence of the cyclone. Hence, since I arrived in Townsville it started raining for the next three days, just with a few breaks in between. At Saturday evening, in one of the rare breaks, Jarrah & Marina took me to Castle Hill, which is basically the main peak in the town. Even with the low hanging clouds I could get a 360° glimpse which included also Magnetic island. The town is pretty much surrounded by different mountain ranges, and is expanded in the flat areas between them.

Sunday morning we went to a local market and met some friends of them. As it was raining the whole time, we haven’t been in a hurry. So we took our time for an extended brunch. In the afternoon we went out of town, as we wanted to do some swimming or floating on a creek. The first creek was pretty full of water, as it rained 150mm the last 24 hours. Nevertheless, Jarrah wanted to give it a go in one section, which looked a bit more calm. After he finished he said one section was pretty rough, but the end was fine. But as we wanted to head a police car came by and told us not to swim today in the creek. So we went on to a campground and another creek. In this section swimming was allowed. The current was pretty strong, and to cross the creek you need to take into account your downdrift. Each of us had one drift on the mattress. Unfortunately, there were just too much mosquitoes. Hundreds of them were flying around your head, even as it was raining and you’ve been in the water. So eventually after the three floats in this section, we hurried back to the car in order to escape from the mosquitoes. On the way back we stopped for some ice cream made from tropical fruits. I went for Jack fruit, which is not pretty usual somewhere else, and it tasted quite nice.

The landscape got more hilly on the way north with even some waterfalls in the mountains…
…but low hanging clouds are gathering
Finally arrived in North Queensland
From castle hill I got a glimpse to Magnetic Island…
…the mountain ranges surrounding the town…
…and the CBD with the harbour.
That’s how I expected to be rainy season in North Queensland each day 🤣
Back to Townsville for about 40 min along the Bruce highway
My train ticket

Bowen / Scottville

One week ago early morning I got picked up by the bus infront of my hostel which gave me a lift to the railway station in Proserpine. As the train was late as usual, I needed to wait more than one hour at the railway station. The train ride in the morning was quite short, as I already got off the train at the next station. In theory there is a bus each morning from Bowen to Collinsville with an exchange time of just one minute. But as the train is always late, that’s just a theoretical option. In practice I got a lift directly to Scottville where I stayed for three nights with Carol and her husband Vince, which are wildlife caretakers. The Bowen basin is the largest coal deposit of Australia, and she’s also part of the anti-coal grassroot movement. Especially due to the current discussion of the construction of a new HELE (high-emission low-efficiency😆) coal fired power station.

Furthermore there’re currently 7 proposed projects in the Galilee Coal Basin for the future development of it. The largest proposed mine is Alpha North Coal with a proposed coal output of 80 Mio. tonnes per annum. The project is developed by Waratah Coal, which is basically owned by Clive Palmer, a mining baron with mainly interests in iron ore mining in the Pilbara. Followed by two nearby projects, Alpha Coal and Kevin’s Corner Coal. Each of the project has a proposed coal output of 30 Mio. tonnes per annum. Both projects are developed in a joint venture from Hancock and GVK, the latter is an Indian conglomerate. Whereas Hancock Prospecting has a long standing history in iron ore mining and is currently under control of Gina Rinehart. She’s at the moment the richest person of Australia, with a current net worth of about 14 bn A$. Probably the most publicly known project, is the Carmichael coal project, which is developed by the Indian company Adani. This is just another Adani invest in Australia. In it’s current state it’s only looking for a coal output of 10-15 Mio. tonnes per annum.

On the other hand there are already five solar farms in operation around Collinsville with a cumulated peak power of 375 MW, which is almost twice the peak power of the no longer operating coal fired power station. Several square kilometres of bushland was cleared for these solar farms. Probably not in the nicest way for the wild life as Carol told me. These solar farms are almost maintenance free, and only during the raining season the grass needs to be mowed. Apart from that the solar farms doesn’t offer many local jobs, which make them not quite popular in the local community as the coal mines around Collinsville.

With Garry, a friend of Carol, and a very knowledgeable member of the anti-coal movement, I had a very long and intense conversation at his farm during my days in Scottville. The other day we went via the Strathmore Homestead to the Bowen River Hotel into the outback. The old Bowen river hotel, formerly known as Heidelberg Inn, is situated along an old cattle track. Back in the days there was every 30 miles an accommodation for the stockmen, as this was the typical distance they could drove the cattle per day.

During another day I helped Carol to release a young Wallaroo at the property of one of her friends. So she put the Wallaroo into a bag, with a small trick, and then sat it onto her lap in the car. I just need to drive the car, and make sure the Wallaroo wasn’t affecting this, while he was struggeling in the bag. The property of Joanne was about 30 min drive out of town. She and her husband living in a self constructed mud brick house. They even made the mud bricks by their own, and used second hand windows and doors. So the appearance of that one is pretty unique.

Passing through green sugar cane country…
…and some bushland in the morning on the way to Bowen…
…to watch the early built up of the cumulus clouds
Coal fired power plant in Collinsville, which is closed since a couple of years…
…and the solar farm directly next to it, with one of the open pit coal mines (I guess the one from Glencore) behind it
Hamilton solar farm with it’s moving panels
Daydream & Whitsunday’s solar farm is even bigger…
…and seem to almost reach the base of the mountain.
On the way to Strathmore homestead, facing a thunderstorm cell
After leaving the sealed road one has directly some kind of outback feeling
In the more than 100 year old Bown River Hotel…
…Garry and I enjoyed a cold beer.
On the way back a thunderstorm was at “Hell’s Gate” and eventually chasing us until Reed’s Road in Scottville😉
My host Carol is feeding one of her small possums
The very unique mud brick home of Joanne, where we released the wallaroo
My train ticket

Whitsunday Islands

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.

Hill inlet…
…with Whitehaven beach…
…makes at picturesque view. The water is so clear, that you even can spot stingrays in the water from the viewing platforms.
No…that’s not an island but called cargo ship, and clearly heading northbound 😅
Hook island, the second largest island of the Whitsunday’s and our next destination
Due to all the pine trees…
…and the mountainous landscape, it looks a bit similar to Canada
Passed Hayman Island with it’s resort on it…
…and heading straight back to the mainland with all it’s mountains along the coastline

Proserpine / Airlie Beach

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.

Passing along green fields during dusk…
…before the sun gets out from behind the cloud.
There’s in theory enough space for your legs, but in practice these brackets for the footsteps are just annoying, even if I know that the design makes sense due to the “second moment of area”
Forgot to chop off that single tree in the middle of the meadow
View to the harbour of Arlie beach, with all the charter boats for the tourists
Finally at the lookout, but completely wet
The thunderstorm approaches from the north…
…whereas the Whitsunday islands still have sunshine…
…before the rain hits the town.
My train ticket

Eungella National Park

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.

Pioneer Valley from Sky View
There’re only some ducks on the Broken river during this calm morning
Turtles are very easy to spot during the whole day
The Broken river is forming a nice valley further upstream
A large lizard stopped by the way…and thought I didn’t see him 😅
The way back went through a nice patch of rainforest
Finally I spotted the first wild platypus…
…and also in the second pond they were freely swimming around…
…they only come to the surface to get some air for their next dive.
In the late afternoon I had the “Wheel of Fire” pool for my own for a refreshing swim