Monday late afternoon, after Jarrah finished with his work, we went to the local boulder gym called “Hot Rock”. As it was still raining during the day, there was not much otherwise to do. The boulder gym has also some kind of top rope routes, but we weren’t interested in that. The boulder walls are also quite small. There’s the vertical section of about 8m width, but only about 3m high, definitely lower than 4m, and the 45 degree overhanging section of the same width, but higher. During construction they made a mistake and measured the height from the floor ignoring the height of the thick mattress. In the vertical section there’re mainly easy routes, which is good for beginners. I only struggled at two routes, but I tried hard to get them a go. In the overhanging section, it all starts from V4, but a V4 in the overhanging part was definitely harder (physically) than a V4 in the vertical section. Not sure if that is common sense of the V rating, or a speciality of the gym. There was even a route with two foot steps, and one bloke told us, that tall persons are only allowed the use the lower one 🤨. I mean seriously, I’ve never heard about that rule at all. Just set up a proper route. Most of the routes were pretty short and only consisted of one hard move, where the rest was either strange or easy. So the overall rating is probably a bit under average. I definitely had better experiences in Adelaide and Sydney, but also worse in Darwin. Yeah, everyone who I mention the gym in Darwin agrees on that…
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.
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.
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.