Omega banner

December 27, 2006

The Barossa Valley wine country

We left Nambucca and headed west over the Great Dividing Range towards Broken Hill. The road up and over the mountains is very steep and has a lot of sharp hairpin turns so the driving was slow and challenging. We spent the night in the same Caravan Park in Tamworth that we stayed in on the way north. It was hot!
From Tamworth west, the climate changed back to the very dry high plains and then into the outback. I made sure that we had plenty of “petrol” for each leg of the trip and stopped to fill up at each major town. Having read bout travelers running out of gas and being stuck for hours (or days) before being rescued, I wasn’t taking any chances. Actually, it turned out to be nowhere as bad as advertised and there were “roadhouses” with food, water and petrol reasonably frequently along the way. The traffic was however, very light and there were stretches where we would not see another vehicle for miles at a time.
Our mid point to Broken Hill was at Nygen and the Caravan park owners had pet kangaroos, an Emu and turkeys. Sue got to give the young kangaroo its nightly bottle of milk and pet it while I took pictures. The Emu was tame but they are big birds and stand face high (eyeball to eyeball) and want to peck (gently) for food from your hand! We had dinner at the local RSL club with an Australian (formerly Spanish) man and his 14-year-old son who were next to us in the same caravan park. It was interesting to be with them and hear about his immigration to Australia and to talk with his son about school.
The countryside from Nygen to Broken Hill gets really flat, bone dry and open. The only thing growing is scrub brush and grass but it is almost all dead from the 8-year drought. In many places, the road goes straight over the horizon as far as the eye can see. Fortunately, the A/C in our van worked fine because it got really hot during the peak of the day and the humidity could have not been more than 5%.
We stopped at Wenthworth where the Darling and Murray Rivers meet for a look around. The woman in the travel information center was most knowledgeable and we had a long conversation about the watershed, the environment and alternative solar energy. Paddle wheel steamboats came past Wentworth to haul cotton down to Adelaide. Hard to imagine given the fact that today the Darling river is completely dried up now due to the drought and the dams built further upstream. It has the 3rd or 4th largest watershed of any river in the world, which makes it even more unbelievable.
We checked into a caravan park in Broken Hill but got a cabin with A/C for our two-night stay there. The town is now virtually dead as a mining town and remains of the famous Broken Hill Property, Ltd silver mine dominates the center of town. The next day we drove north 30 km to Silverton which is really a ghost town with only 50 to 100 residents – many of whom are artists who come there because of the wonderful light for painting, clear blue skies, and great landscapes. Silverton has been used for several movies including “Mad Max II”, and “A Town Called Alice”. Sue had to visit the local cemetery and we bought some small paintings at the local gallery. The Silverton Café served us a nice lunch. Just north of Silverton is a place where the road comes over the crest of the hill and before you the land is completely flat all the way to the horizon for 180 degrees of view. You can actually see the curvature of the earth!
From Broken Hill, we went sough towards Mildura and then west again to Walkena and another trailer park. The next morning we made it to the Barossa Valley and thanks to very helpful people in the information center found a great B&B called Collingrove. It was the home of the Angus family and is now owned by the South Australia National Trust and is run as a B&B by Christine and Craig Colson. We have been here four nights and had two wonderful dinners with them as well as the full English cooked breakfasts that included kangaroo sausage among other things. By the late 1800’s, the Angus family owned over 14 million acres of land or about 1/3 of South Australia and needless to say was very wealthy! The house is still filled with furnishings from the family and a lot of history. Craig gives the tours of the house to visitors and B&B guests and does a great job. In his previous life he was a doctor and Christine worked in the hospitality industry. They have been running it for the last four years and are very good hosts.
At the second place we stopped to taste wines on our way to the B&B, we were standing next to another American couple and after finding out that they were from Maine, I said that he looked very much like a fellow we knew from the Rolls Royce/Bentley club named Bob Small. He answered that he WAS Bob Small! He also owns a Derby Bentley and at a club function 10 years or so ago we swapped cars to test drive each other’s cars. It turned out that we were both staying at Collingrove! We had dinner with them that night and got reacquainted after a 10-year gap. They left the next day to take the Ghan train from Adelaide to Darwin. It is truly a small world.
We have visited many vineyards and wineries and tasted lots of the local wines. It has been cold up until today when it finally got warm again so we were comfortable outside without long sleeves and jackets. We even had some rain on Christmas Eve that is badly needed here. This is a very prosperous part of Australia with the wine making and tourism and it shows in the houses and shops.
Today is boxing day here and a big holiday. Sue called Ethan, Josh, and her sister Linda to wish them all Merry Christmas. I was not so lucky and got voicemail or answering machines for my four children but at least they will hear my voice and know that I was thinking of them.

Posted by Dick at 06:21 PM

December 16, 2006

The Sunshine and Gold Coasts

Our trip back down the coast involved some backtracking since there is only one major north south road called the A1. It is the equivalent of Interstate 95 from Maine to Florida except that for the most part it is one lane in each direction with no divider and very few guardrails. I now understand why Australians are so impressed with the US six and eight lane Interstate highways and our traffic jams!
We came back through Townsville, Airlie Beach, Rockhampton, and Hervey Bay. At Hervey Bay we signed up for the day trip to Fraser Island. It is one of the 15 World Heritage Sites in Australia and is totally protected from any form of development.
Fraser is the largest sand island in the world and the sand goes down 600 meters deep before you hit rock. The currents flowing north up the Pacific coast of Australia carrying sediment eroded from the rivers formed the island.
Over time, the native sand dune plants got a foothold and developed soil that over time became capable of supporting a massive rainforest. Just a few weeks ago, there was a large brush fire started by lightning that burned a lot of the interior of the island but even so, there were signs of new growth starting. The brush fires are a natural part of the cycle and the aborigines knew this and would intentionally set them to prevent the build up of underbrush that causes more intense (higher temperature) fires that can kill the trees, etc. Over their 40 to 60,000 year presence, the aborigines therefore became part of the natural process and when they were eliminated (exterminated?), the fires started to do real damage.
When Fraser became a World Heritage site, their “rules” prohibited human intervention so no control fires were set and when they did have fires, the destruction was massive. The World Heritage organization and rangers now understand this process, and periodically set controlled fires to perform the role once played by the aborigines.
It was another delightful and well-run trip. Our driver/guide was Colin and he was a non-stop talker with a wealth of information about the island and the indigenous “Badtjala” aborigine people. The ferry to the island was a vehicle transport barge with a ramp at the bow so we landed on the beach like the US Marines going ashore! Waiting for us there was a large German built 4x4 “Trekker” with a 380 hp diesel and a transmission with 16 forward and 2 reverse gears! It has very sophisticated controls for distributing the power to each wheel so we could go through the deeply rutted sand tracks and on the beach without getting stuck. It was very comfortable but the ride was rough and very bouncy. Colin drove it skillfully up and down the very steep slopes, around the hairpin turns, and between the trees with just inches to spare! Ethan would have loved the ride being a 4x4 truck person.
We crossed the island in the Trekker and had a nice buffet lunch at the eco resort camp. We then went onto the beach and through the edge of the surf in the Trekker. We were offered the chance for a $60 per person small plane ride over the island, which we declined. The plane was on the beach and took off and landed on the sand.
Up the beach we stopped at the Colored Sands cliffs that look like limestone but are actually hard packed sand of different colors. Colin showed us how the aborigines used the colored sand for their body painting and he put some of the white, brown and orange color on Sue’s hand and a photo of it is on the web site.
We also stopped at the shipwreck of the passenger liner “Maheno” and Colin told us how she came to be there. She was purchased by the Japanese in the late 1930’s as scrap and was being towed to Japan to be recycled. She broke loose from the tug during a storm and came ashore. She is pretty well rusted away now and all that is left is her skeleton.
Our last stop on the trip was the “perched” lake Garawongera in the center of the island. A perched lake is one that is “perched” in a hollow formed by sand dunes. The organic material that accumulates on the bottom seal the sand so the rainwater cannot percolate down into the sand and over time (a long time) the rain accumulates to form a lake. Because of tannin from the bark of trees, the lake is acid (pH of 3.5) and Colin showed all the ladies how to clean their jewelry in the water and recommended a dip to rejuvenate the skin. Sue did this and said she felt great afterwards and that her skin felt much softer.
The weather started out overcast but as the day went on the sun came out and it ended up beautiful. This was another great adventure and one that we both enjoyed very much.
The next day (9/12) we went south and into the Sunshine Coast Hinterland (northwest of Brisbane) to the small town on Mapleton. It is up a very steep road on top of the rim of an extinct volcano. It is lush tropical forests and rolling pastureland and incredibly beautiful. We stayed two nights a the Lilly Pond Caravan Park and the second day made the circle loop around the rim of the volcano. The views along the road that goes along the rim of the volcano are truly spectacular! We stopped at a local cheese factory and sampled their cheeses and bought two types of their cheddar. We also visited the Blind Man’s Bluff boutique winery just north of Kenilworth and heard their story. It is a new winery – first wine produced in 2004 – and the couple that started it are an interesting pair. He has macular degeneration and had to give up his career as a teacher (thus the name of the winery!) and she was in advertising and PR. They produce nice wines and have done a good job (my opinion) of positioning their wine and creating the boutique image. They only sell direct to people like us who stop in to sample their wines! I bought two bottles and am enjoying them!
We then continued south and stopped to see the “Glass House Mountains” named by Captain Cook. He thought they looked like the glass making kilns in England and thus the name. They are actually the remains of volcanoes with all but the lave core eroded away. They are very striking and are of religious significance to the aborigines.
We wanted to find the Gold Coast Hinterland (southwest of Brisbane) and ended up in the really small farming community of Boonah. We had to camp at the town fairgrounds since it turned out that that night was the BIG annual Christmas parade and everyone was in town for the big event! Well, it is hard to describe the place and the people. A very rural setting and it was like a time warp back to the 50’s with the same types of Christmas decorations we had as kids. The parade did have a Santa (on a farm wagon pulled by a tractor) and all the locals were riding their best tractors for the parade. The kids were in costumes that were more like Halloween than Christmas and the Christmas song sing along had a decided warm weather country western flavor to it. We ate dinner at one of the sidewalk restaurants while the parade was going by. It was a pleasant but unusual experience and a lot of fun, but we want all of you to remind us that we never want to be farmers or live in a small farming town like Boonah!
Yesterday we went south and back to the coast in almost steady rain. We stopped to take pictures of the statue of the Knight at the macadamia nut factory castle store, and the BIG Banana. Both are major crops in this region. We also saw and photographed a very large prawn on top of a fish market for our photographic collection. We are now in a Big 4 Park at Nambucca that has Wi Fi service so we are catching up on emails and updating the web site. This park is right on the beach and late yesterday afternoon, we took a short walk on the beach until a rain shower chased us back to the van. Other than a couple and their son and a black lab dog, we had the beach to ourselves. As you look east from here there is nothing but the Pacific Ocean until you hit the South American coast about half way down Chile. We are about as far south of the equator as Fernandina Beach Florida is north. After rain off and on all night, the storm had mostly passed through the area and the sun is coming out with a gentle balmy tropical breeze. Life is good!

Posted by Dick at 08:18 PM

December 09, 2006

Tropical Queensland and The Reef

We opted for the cable car ride from Kuranda to the base of the mountain and the Aboriginal Interpretive Center. The weather cooperated and it was clear so we had good views of the Byron River, the rainforest (from above) and the Coral Sea. The cable car is actually in three sections and you can get off at the two intermediate connections to look around. We did this on the way back. The first stop is where you can take (yet another!) walk through a rain forest with a guide, and the second has a walk out to a view of the Byron River falls and the hydroelectric plant. From this view, we saw the train that follows the river through the gorge. It was originally built to access the mining operations in the Tablelands and is now used for tourist rides.
The Aboriginal Interpretive Center was another good value and we were glad that we signed up to do it. It starts off with a presentation that has live aboriginal actors and a movie projected onto a thin cloth screen. It was very well done and explained some of the aboriginal culture. We then went to another part of the park and saw a fire making demo (the old stick rubbed on another piece of wood to make the coal deal) and a dance. One of the actors played a didgeridoo, and all five of them did several dances. They were all painted with the body paint of their tribes and totem. Very few of the aborigines are full blood and all of the ones in the center spoke perfect English and only knew a few words of their “native” language.
One of them (a woman) gave a talk on the bush herbs used for medicines, and we got to try throwing a boomerang and chucking a spear with a throwing stick. They had a nice native arts gift shop and we got our Christmas shopping done there. They are shipping it to the States for us and Louisa has been asked to distribute them to the lucky recipients in our families.
That afternoon, after taking the cable car back up the mountain to Kuranda, we drove down the very winding road to Cairns and the Big4 Caravan Park.
The next day, we went into Cairns to explore and ended up signing up for a dive trip out to the Great Barrier Reef the next day on a boat named Tusa. Again the weather cooperated, and it was clear and sunny with a light breeze. The wind had been relatively calm for several days so we were hopeful that the water would be clear. It turned out to be good but not great and we have both concluded that our times in the very clear Bahamian waters have spoiled us. Sue elected to snorkel while I did the two dives and she thought it was good with a lot of fish. On the way back, our boat developed a heating problem in one engine and it had to be shut down. Just like being back on Omega! We did get back Ok - a little later than expected - but all in all it was a good day.
Based on all the rain forests we have seen and the diving experiences, we decided that we had seen enough of “Tropical Queensland”, and decided to end our northward adventure and turn south the next day.
It started to rain overnight and rained steadily all morning so we were glad that we elected to do the reef trip when we did. Because there is only one paved road up the east coast, we retraced our footsteps and ended up back in Townsville that night at the same park we had stayed in before. Just like on Omega, there is a feeling of sadness and a bit of a let down when we turn back and head “home” on one of our adventures. We will try to take a different route along the Pacific (East) coast as we work our way south.

Posted by Dick at 04:49 AM

December 04, 2006

North to the Atherton Tablelands

Tamworth is another nice small town. Most of these towns look the same with a single main street that has very similar looking false front stores along it. Many of the towns have a very wide and divided main street with a planted island down the center. The Australians take speed bumps to a new level and if you don’t go over them VERY slowly, you get a real jolt. They also have deep gutters at the curb so whenever entering or leaving a road to go into a driveway or parking lot, the same applies. It does control the traffic speed so it works!
Australia also had “round-abouts” or traffic circles everywhere and they are interesting to use for us visitors. The usual rules apply, but it is still a bit tense for those of us who are concentrating on the left hand driving and looking for road signs.
Tamworth’s claim to fame is a very old, very large cork tree imported and planted here in the mid 1800’s. We drove by and took pictures. The cork (bark) has never been harvested from the tree and is very thick. It is soft and spongy to the touch, as you would expect cork to be.
From Tamworth we went to Glen Innis and then to Kingroy – two more small towns. The countryside was still dry and reminded me of the northern California area around Folsom in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
On Sunday, the 19th, we finally got back to the coast at Hervey Bay, north of Brisbane. It is a big holiday area and the Big 4 trailer park was very nice and had palm trees and other tropical plants. We walked the 3 blocks to the beach and then down the beach for a while. No one was in the water even though it was a pleasant day. They say that there are no stingers (jelly fish) here but I guess is just wasn’t the right day for the locals to swim. W skipped all the local tourist attractions and headed up the road to Bundaberg and after taking the tour of the Bundeburg Rum distillery and sampling their rum, we checked in to the Turtle Beach trailer park. It is right nest to the “Mon Repos” (French for my resting place) wildlife park where the sea turtles come up to nest.
We signed up for the nighttime turtle watch tour and were rewarded by seeing several loggerheads and a flatback turtle lay eggs! There are only seven species of sea turtles and three of them lay their eggs here. They don’t start to reproduce until they are about 30 years old (almost as old as Ethan and Carolyn!) and lay about 120-130 eggs per clutch (batch). The females mate with many males and store the sperm and then fertilize each batch of eggs, lay them and then fertilize the next batch. The do about six batches at two week intervals or about 1,000 eggs per breeding season. The eggs are laid in a hole about 2-3 feet deep above the high tide line and the eggs hatch under the sand about six weeks later. The hatchlings have to dig their way up and out of the sand and then know to head for the ocean. The ranger said about one out of 1,000 eggs results in a fully mature adult – long odds. The rangers relocate the eggs laid too close to the water and also protect the hatchlings so more of them make it to the water. We all got to help carry the eggs to the new hole. They are soft and leathery to the touch. Sue wouldn’t touch them so she missed out on this unique experience.
These actions improve the survival rate and will hopefully help the sea turtles recover from being threatened or endangered. It was a beautiful balmy tropical night with no moon and a mostly clear sky so it was a great experience. We didn’t back to our camper until about midnight. I suspect that this will become one of our most memorable experiences from this trip.
November 24, 2006
We left the Mon Repois Beach area the next day and continued north and ended up at Rockhampton. Although it was a nice park, it was much like many of the towns we have recently been in so nothing special. We talked to a retired couple from Darwin. He was born in Holland and she was Phillipino. He had worked as a hydrographer and we talked about water resources and availability in Australia. He said that there is a vast reservoir below the central region (driest part) that is so large they still don’t know how much water is there. The problem is that it is about 6,000 feet down!
Thursday, we continued north to Mackay, which is at the real southern end of the Great Barrier Reef(s). We checked in with the local marina and tourist bureau and found out that the real scuba and snorkeling trips are from Airlie Beach and Cairns. Other than a stop at the local library to log onto the Internet and check emails and investments, we didn’t do anything special other than stay at a beautiful park right on the beach where we could look out and see the southernmost of the Whitsunday Islands.
It was low tide and we took a nice walk on the beach before sunset. The sand on the beach is the same color as the earth here – red – and the dirt at the park was very fine so it blows in the wind making is sort of dusty. Our next-door neighbors were a family that had been living there for the last year while he worked in the local coalmine. The labor situation here is so tight that they bring in people from other areas and apparently pay good wages. He said that he generally only worked six months a year and went “on holiday” the other six months. The coal industry seems to be booming – I guess exports to China - but don’t know for sure.
Today we continued north to Airlie and have checked in at another Big4 park that is very nice. Trailer Parks in the US have the reputation of sleaze but here they are almost full-fledged resorts. This one has a beautiful pool, Wi-Fi Internet access, very nice bathrooms and laundry, and each site has power and water and nice trees and plants around it. All for $21 per night! We drove into town and checked out the various options for visiting the reef and ended up booking a full day excursion on a Maxi Yacht that includes a scuba dive, several stops for snorkeling morning and afternoon tea, and a gourmet buffet lunch. They also provide all the scuba gear. They pick us up at the trailer park entrance at 8 AM and bring us back about dinnertime.
To be able to dive, we found out that because we are over 55, we need a current medical certificate, so we spent two hours at “The Doctors” with a US doctor from Delray Beach, Florida! We passed the tests and are now certified to dive! The certificate is good for 60 days – long enough for our purposes!

December 2 and 3, 2006
We signed up for a day sail and dive on the Maxi yacht Ragamuffin leaving from Shute Harbor near Airlie Beach. The yacht was originally owned by Allen Bond, the wealthy Australian real estate developer and had an outstanding racing career. She won line honors and outright overall first several times in the Sydney to Hobart race and many other prestigious races. She was converted to a charter yacht several years ago.
It was fun to be back on a sailboat again and we had beautiful sunny weather and a nice breeze for the trip.
The sail out to Hansen Island (one of the Whitsunday Islands) took about an hour and a half and we anchored in the lee of the island next to the fringe reef off the beach. It was our first Scuba dive in several years so we were both a bit nervous but it went well. Much to our surprise, the water was cloudy and visibility was very limited. There was a nice variety of coral and colorful reef fish but nothing unusual compared to our diving experiences in the Caribbean and Bahamas. I got separated from our group due to the visibility and got a lecture from the dive leader about staying with the group – oh well, that’s life!
They served a nice buffet luncheon and we had a pleasant sail back in the afternoon. It was a good way for us to get our “feet wet” with the Scuba diving routine and was well worth the money. The Whitsunday Islands are every bit a beautiful as they are advertised to be and would be a great cruising location. We looked into chartering a sailboat for a few days but decided to pass with the stinger (jelly fish) season starting. It is literally life threatening to swim in stinger season because the box jellyfish toxin is so strong that getting stung is virtually always fatal. It has the most toxic venom of anything in the world. There are also other jellyfish that can give you a real nasty sting so this time of year almost nobody swims except inside the stinger nets at guarded beaches.
We continued north along the coast to Townsville and checked into another Big4 Park. This one also had Wi Fi and I was able to log on and get a lot of Internet stuff done. I signed up for an $80 block of time to get a cheaper hourly rate and can use it whenever we are in a Big4 park. The next day we drove into town and caught the Ferry to Magnetic Island. Captain Cook named it because he noticed a local magnetic disturbance was affecting his compass. We got a day buss pass and took a self-directed tour of the island. We stopped at the Eco Park and signed up for the ranger tour to see Koalas, and other stuff. It was another good decision. The ranger was very good and interested in his work and did a great job. They have a Koala named Barney in a pen and he posed for the camera nicely. They also had a python that we all got to hold – including Sue! They have salt water crocks, several types of lizards and we took a walk through a short section of rain forest and saw a Koala up in a tree with her baby, bats hanging from trees, big butterflies, bush turkeys, and even a peacock.
We talked to a local dive shop about going out with them but they had nothing scheduled until early December. They did give us good advice about diving further north at Mission Beach and Port Douglas.
Next day, we continued north to Mission Beach and another Big4 park. We signed up for a two-tank dive on the boat Calypso II. We left about 8:45 the next morning and stopped at Dunk Island to pick up some additional divers who were staying there at a resort. The trip to Eddy reef took over an hour but we were at last really on the Great Barrier Reef. This dive site is in a nice opening in the reef and the operators have installed moorings inside the opening so when you jump off the boat, you are surrounded by the reef on 3 sides. Again this was an easy dive in about 15 meters (40-50 feet) and the visibility was much better that before but still not the crystal clear water that we expected. Again the coral and fish were similar to what we have seen in the Bahamas other that some local species that don’t occur in the Bahamas. We have seen many giant clams and many of them are vivid blue colors in the open part between the shells. They are not dangerous and the stories of divers being caught in them are false. There were small white tip sharks and loggerhead turtles on this reef. The boat provided a buffet lunch and the crew did a good job with the diving and made us feel comfortable. It was another good experience but we are now both wondering if we will do another dive further north given that is had not been much different that our experiences in the Bahamas and the Caribbean. We will decide when we get to Port Douglas.
The area around Mission Beach and Tully has the highest annual rainfall anywhere in Australia – upwards of 7 meters! As a point of reference, the New York city area get an average of just over one meter (42 inches) per year. The high rainfall is due to the valley between two mountain ranges and the warm moist air coming into the valley dumps its moisture as it rises up over the mountains. Just a short distance away, it is dry and they have been having severe water shortages. Last March, a category 5 cyclone (hurricane) “Larry” came through and did a lot of damage and the area is still recovering. We saw lots of damage to trees, and many buildings that still are not repaired. Like Florida, the “blue tarp” roof is common here following a storm.
On December 1st we headed inland towards the Atherton Tablelands. It is a steady uphill winding drive and you come out onto the relatively flat “table top” plateau at several thousand feet elevation. The Tablelands have lush rolling hills, dairy cows, rich farmland, and even a tea plantation! They also grow coffee in this part of Australia. Last night, I was looking at an Australian magazine called Outback and it dawned on me that aside from tourism, the vast majority of the Australian economy is based on farming and natural resources such as mining and timber and the export of these commodities. I have seen very little evidence of “high tech” or heavy manufacturing industries. If this observation is true, it explains the rural, farming mentality of the country – not a criticism, just an observation. Obviously, the majority of the population lives and works around the major cities, but it is basically a farming and natural resources based economy.
After stopping at the local information center, we booked into another wonderful B&B called “Blue Gum”. The owners have 7 children between 18 months and 12 years old! The kids are well behaved and seem under control. They own and operate another up scale B&B just down the road and he is a schoolteacher part time.
Just up the road on the top of the hill the B&B is on, there is an observation deck and a walking path down into the bowl of extinct volcano that formed the hill. Inside the bowl of the volcano is a rain forest and it is a nice walk. This part of Australia has the oldest rain forests on earth since Australia was the original continent before the others broke off and slid apart. There are plant and animal species here that don’t exist anywhere else on earth and the clearing and logging years ago as the Europeans settled have almost wiped out these unique rainforests. The locals (including our hosts) are working to replant the native species and protect what is left of these unique natural places. In general, Australians seem to very environmentally oriented.
Yesterday, we drove to Herberton that was a big tin mining area in the mid to late 1800’s. It is now a sleepy almost ghost town of a few hundred people. Our hosts recommended we go there and visit the Photographic and Camera Museum run by Roy Jacques. He is a professional photographer who was with the British SAS in Korea and personally runs the tours. Sue and I were the only customers so we got a personal tour.
He has the most amazing collection of cameras and related photographic stuff – some really old from the mid 1800’s. He was a spy for the SAS, and many of his cameras were made for the CIA, British Intelligence, the Soviet KGP, etc. and have fascinating histories. Many of them have been used in movies and most are quite valuable. It is a place that Josh would really like, given his interest in photography.
Roy is an interesting and enjoyable person who makes the tour very personal and entertaining. At the end of the tour, we posed for pictures with him and his very old wooden portrait camera that you work by removing the lens cap for 5 seconds to expose the film. It was another unexpected highlight of our trip to date.
We also visited the mining museum in Herberton but it wasn’t much.
That afternoon, we went to Lake Barrine and took the boat tour around the lake. The lake is the bowl of an extinct volcano and the water is very clear and clean. The area around the lake is a virgin tropical rainforest that is now a protected World Heritage area. Again we were the only passengers on the tour and the driver/ranger was very informative and made it another special event. He had some breadcrumbs and fed the resident ducks, turtles, eels, bush turkeys and lizards. There are beautiful 1,000-year-old Kauri pine trees, various vines and other tropical plants along the shoreline. After the boat tour, we had home made scones with strawberry jam and thick whipped cream and the locally grown tea. Nice!
Today we visited the Aboriginal Interpretive Center at Malanda Falls and took the walk through the rain forest with Ernie Raymont, the aboriginal guide. He was another friendly interesting Aussie who went out of his way to make us feel welcome and we were his only customers on the walk. He told us about “Bush Tucker” (natural food in the forest) and pointed out all the various trees, vines, plants and a few animals. Ernie’s grandfather was a Scotsman so he is far from a pure bred aborigine. There are very few of these left and even those drive 4X4’s and use modern conveniences so the “stone age” aboriginal culture is all but gone.
We continued north and stopped at a woodworking shop and are now in a Caravan Park in Kuranda. Tomorrow, we are planning to take the scenic train ride down to the base of the mountain and the skyrail gondola cableway back up. It is suppose to be spectacular and I hope the weather cooperates and is clear.

Posted by Dick at 03:45 PM