Where Backpackers, Grey Nomads and School Holidaymakers meet in Queenslands Far North
I love the smell of diesel in the mornings. And the morning diesel death rattle from the vehicles whose owners subscribe to the ‘I MUST start the engine AT LEAST 15 minutes before I want to go’school of thought is almost enough to drown out the shrieks of the Bush Stone Curlews that have run rampant through the last three caravan parks we’ve been in.
We’ve reached Cardwell, between Townsville and Cairns in Queenslands Wet Tropics, and are back on the mass movement trail after a blessed few days of near solitude. Cardwell’s unique position as gateway to Hinchinbrook Island, Australia’s largest island National Park, brings three diverse and generally incompatible groups of tourists together – the backpackers, the Grey Nomads and the school holidaymakers – with not always happy results!
However, it’s been the scene of one of my greatest triumphs. To backtrack … there was an Australian, and American and an Asian. No, it’s not a bad joke, it’s the three young – so young their car had ‘L’ plates – female backpackers we met on the Dalrymple Gap track. The more adventurous (and energetic) can cross the gap following the old supply route – a trek of around 6 hours each way, but the ‘short’ version, a 4km round trip, is to climb straight up the mountainside, on a steep rocky track with multiple creek crossings to an old heritage listed bridge at the top of the gap, then straight back down again.
We met the backpackers on their descent and asked how far to the bridge. The American consulted her watch. ‘It’s taken us 35 minutes so far,’ she divulged. All of them assured us the track got MUCH steeper – concern possibly triggered by my red face and/or general air of sweaty dishevellement. Despite our age, we plodded on up the very steep gradient, thinking that if it’d taken three fit young women at least half my age 35 minutes to come DOWN, it would take us quite a bit longer to go UP. BUT … it only took another 40 minutes! AND … we got back to the meeting spot in only 30 minutes!! How good is that??? Or more precisely, how good are we?!?!?!
Incidentally, with uncharacteristic understatement, the Queensland Government website states there is no wheelchair access on the track.
We’re now within cooee of Tully, home of the fabulous golden gumboot, possibly the only gumboot in Australia, if not the world to have its own festival! It’s 7.9 metres high (311 inches) – to commemorate the record annual rainfall in 1950. To put this in perspective, it’d take 13 years of average rainfall at my home in Australia’s South to clock up that much rain!
Our quest for Australia’s best bakery continues, with multiple visits required for new contenders! Rad’s Bakery (Ingham) actually has curried prawn or scallop mornay pies, and a fantastic melt-in-your-mouth pineapple/ginger slice, along with brilliant versions of the more conventional pie with peas, vanilla slice and jam/cream doughnut. The Cardwell Bakery has huge, amazing pies – the breakfast pie with bacon, egg, tomato, mince and cheese the go-back-for treat, along with massive lamingtons loaded with jam and cream, and an aircraft carrier sized apple turnover that almost – but not quite – defeated my mate! Yes, we need all the strenuous walks we can get!
Till next time!!