19 Aug 2019

Airlie Beach, Queensland, 19th August 2019

It's my birthday today, twenty one for the third time, where has the time gone? Still, can't dwell on that, there's too much of life still to live, and today is no exception. After a lovely bacon and egg breakfast sandwich (it's so nice being back in civilisation where we can get proper provisions!) we went segwaying in the rainforest. We have done this a couple of times before, but when it comes to getting back into one of these strange machines after a long period of absence, you always wonder if you are going to make a complete fool of yourself by falling off.

Fortunately, we both remembered how to do it, and there were no embarrassing moments! We went 5km into the rainforest, stopping off on the way to discover some facts about the world's second most poisonous plant, a completely inocuous looking heart shaped leafed thing that if you brush up against it, it leaves you in absolute agony. The guide did mention a story about a policeman who, about a century ago used a leaf to clean himself up after going to the toilet and ended up shooting himself dead as he was in so much pain afterwards and couldn't stand it any more. Warning! Do not try this at home!!

We also had the opportunity to climb inside a giant strangler fig.

It was very impressive looking up inside this leviathon.

On we went further into the rainforest until we reached a river and stopped for a snack lunch, thoughtfully provided as part of our trip. It turns out that the wife of the tour operator is a professional baker, and her chocolate brownies were to die for (hello, my name is Paul, and I am a chocoholic). After relaxing by the water for a while, the photo opportunity was too good to miss.

On the way back, we were able to go at our own speed, and we took off on our own, leaving the novice riders to go at a slower pace, made it back to the car park, then turned back to meet up with the following group, so we really made the most of the time allowed. All in all, a great morning.

In the afternoon, we took a courtesy bus around to Northerlies, a waterfront restaurant that had been recommended to us. We enjoyed a late lunch of Wagyu burgers with fries, sitting in the sunshine overlooking the sea. There are so many yachts in this area to look at. After  our meal,  we chatted with a group of locals who were on the next table, then we got a taxi back to town and relaxed on board for the evening watching a movie. All in all a great day!!

17 Aug 2019

17/8/2019: South Molle Island, Whitsundays, Queensland

Yet another scenic former mountain top today, former home to a luxury resort before a hurricane flattened it a few years ago, and now largely national park with wonderful hiking trails, how could we resist?

By 10am we were ashore setting off on a 'bush walk' through the dry rainforest and up onto an open plateau. Myriad colourful butterflies fluttered around us as we enjoyed the gradual climb up to Spion Kop, a rocky outcrop towering above Bauer Bay where Tumi was snuggly anchored. A much easier climb than yesterday but the views were equally special.

We were lucky enough to see another kookaburra today and this one was much closer when it sang it's song ... it's really distinctive. The variety of vegetation in the dry Forest is fascinating, ferns, palms, eucalyptus trees, trees that look like Ponderosa pines, and lots of fallen logs being devoured by ants. It's a very different feel to the UK!

Tonight we are at anchor in Airlie Beach, the mainland town that acts as the gateway to the Whitsundays. It's a bit of a party town but has a nice feel to it. We'll probably hang around here until a suitable weather window arises for our journey south to Bundaberg.

16 Aug 2019

16/8/2019: Cid Harbour Whitsunday Island, Queensland

We earned our lunch today … up reasonably early we embarked on scaling Whitsunday Peak, 407m above sea level (and that's where we started of course!) and it was basically 2.5km straight up! Our legs aren't used to such a challenge after 9 months afloat but we made it along the trail through the dry rainforest in around an hour. Walking out onto the rocky outcrop at the top revealed a stunning 360 degree view over the surrounding islands …. we can now really see why someone rather poetically described them as a handful of emeralds tossed onto turquoise velvet.

Paul got to tick off another box on his Australia list, this time sighting a kookaburra in the tree alongside the trail. A relative of the Jay family it has a very distinctive call. We were the first people climbing the peak today and so Paul, leading the way, cleared it of all overnight cobwebs as he strode out and scared away the critters, only nearly treading on one snake! I'm very glad he went first!

The anchorage at Cid Harbour is very sheltered and pretty, and popular too with both cruisers and sharks! Signs warn against swimming following a number of shark attacks in the last year … we're happy to comply! We'll spend another night here before venturing to the mainland over the weekend.

15 Aug 2019

14/8/2019: Nara Inlet, Hook Island, Whitsundays

The Aborigines in this area were actually called Ngaro, which is where the fjord like inlet got its bastardised name of Nara. We pushed our way into the inlet almost to the end where we tried unsuccessfully twice to drop the hook, but the bottom of the inlet was silt so soft it was like silk to the touch. We moved a bit farther out and managed to get the anchor to bite properly.

All around us in the tree lined inlet there came the squawking sounds of hundreds of sulphur crested cockatoos, and some even ventured down to sit on the backstay of a catamaran we were invited to have sundowners on last night. A very unusual sight for us, but exciting too.

The main reason for our visit to the Nara Inlet was to see the aboriginal art in a cave up on the hillside. We ran the dinghy up onto a small beach that had steps rising up the hillside and we followed them. Passing several brightly coloured butterflies on the way up, we finally arrived at the cave. We also passed signs that respectfully asked us to request permission from the spirits to visit the cave. This done, we want to have a look at the art.

The paintings have been carbon dated and are 5000 years old. Still remarkably well preserved as you can tell. It was well worth the visit.

13 Aug 2019

12/8/2019: Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island

We're blown away by Whitehaven Beach and so are still here four days on. Yesterday we hiked up to a look out and saw the full magnificence of the beach from above, all 7km of it it transpires! 

The locals are very friendly too. It's the Hamilton Island race week very soon and a lot of boats are here a few days early. It's apparently a big thing in the Australian sailing calendar, almost as big as the Sydney Hobart race but with not as big an international profile. We had drinks on board one of the race boats last night, skippered by a chap who owns a vineyard in the Yarra Valley, called Medhurst Wines. They make the Lonely Planet guide so are presumably a sizeable concern … and very nice wines they are too! Everyone is so welcoming and obviously impressed we have sailed here from England. Offers of local advice are readily forthcoming as are offers of sundowners. It felt strange leaving the company of the rally after 7 months together but we're soon slotting back into the cruising community!

We've got lots of photos to upload but will have to wait for a stronger signal ....