We left Millaa Millaa and took the Gillies Hwy to Cairns. As you can see, we are
no longer in the Outback!
Hooray, the roads have curves and hills!
We arrive in Cairns and setup camp near where our friends Skip and Rachel live. But
they are touring the USA, currently at the Grand Canyon, and have given us the names
of their neighbors and friends Graeme and Vera. We need a tune-up and oil change
on the van and have messaged them and they suggested a shop. We went to the shop
on the way into town and set up an appointment for 0800 the next day. When we arrive
for the appointment he says we can’t wait there while he does the work. We tell him
that is our only transportation and we have to wait. He is extremely insistent and
we end up going to a shop two doors down and making an appointment for 0800 the next
morning. That night Graeme and Vera invited us to their house for a very, very good
dinner. Thanks go out to our new friends.
Because we now have a free day we limp up a nearby mountain to the village of Karunda.
It is an arts/crafts village with a strong “hippie” influence. We wandered the
shops and museum, bought a couple souvenirs and had a beer at the hotel. The “hippie”
part of town was a warren of narrow paths/stairs/ramps leading here and there.
But there was also a main street with more standard businesses and shops. Spaced
down the street were these islands with trees that had aerial root systems.
Nearby is a waterfall/power house that has an excellent viewpoint. The viewpoint
is accessed by walking an elevated pathway through the upper sections of the trees
eventually coming to ground about a kilometer down the hill. The waterfall is nearly
all consumed by the power house at this time of year.
There are three ways to get to Karunda. One, is an aerial gondola system that is
8 km. (5 mi) long. Two, is a scenic railroad the runs past the falls lookout. Three,
is self-drive. I had planned to take the gondola up and the train down but with
the change in van repairs we opted to self drive.
It is a good thing that we did, the train wasn’t running for some reason and we would
have had to take the gondola back down. The 3:30 PM train I had planned to take had
wine and food for the passengers (at extra cost). This truck full of workers went
by, backwards, on the tracks, while we were at the viewpoint. I have no idea what
the problem was but these are the guys to fix it. And by not taking the gondola/train
package we saved $150 but missed the thrill of the two rides.
The following day we were again at a mechanic shop at 0800 but this time the mechanic
suggested that instead of waiting for the 3-4 hours in his hot office he would take
us to the air conditioned mall where we could have food and sit in comfort. We agreed
and had an enjoyable wait. I think the other mechanic had decided to not do the
job but didn’t have the honesty to tell us and suggest an alternative place. The
van had been running very ragged with a misfire in its running. It turns out that
the #2 spark plug’s gap was set too close and a piece of carbon has shorted it out.
It now runs very smoothly.
With the van fixed we were free of worry and did a Great Barrier Reef dive/snorkel
trip. That is not our boat, but it looks very similar and was following us out. We
booked our trip on Compass Cruises at the suggestion of Skip and Rachel. It was
$110 per person and a very good value. Thanks guys. We had an all day trip, breakfast
and lunch as well as wine and cheese on the way back. That is on top of them providing
all equipment and the trip out and back.
We had several safety briefings. This one is for people going diving. I had signed
up for a “tourist dive”, which is an escorted dive with the tank. I have no dive
license so going on my own was not an option.
The boat had platforms that lowered down on the back and two sides. The back was
for divers and the sides for snorkelers.
I got my turn at the diving too. I have a Garmin VIRB action camera (like a GoPRO)
and I’m taking a picture of him taking a picture of me.
I was disappointed in the quantity and variety of the fish. When I snorkeled the
reef off Key West it was much better. Now we are talking about two small spots on
two large reefs, but the spot at Key West was much better.
I also did some snorkeling, that’s me in the middle in black.
On the way out Kathy was violently seasick. The ride out was an hour and a half
and she was miserable the whole way. The way back was much smoother and she survived
without much difficulty. But then she had nothing left to throw up either. We had
had breakfast before boarding and skipped it on board. We skipped lunch because
she wasn’t hungry and neither was I. I wasn’t really seasick just not hungry.
Now seasickness goes away quickly when the motion stops. So when we landed we were
quite hungry and headed to a Mexican themed brewpub I had heard about. We had a
very good fajitas and some of their beer. The Green Ant Cantina was colorful and
Tomorrow we head south again to see more sights, Paronella Park and other things.