Tuesday 14th December

It’s been a week since we left Cairns and already we have been to Palm Cove, Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas, The Boulders, Josephine Falls, Mission Beach and Townsville.

On the day we got our van it seemed like we had so much still to do. We had to get our rego, sort out insurance and roadside assistance, and then buy everything we were going to need for living out of a van. It took such a long time getting everything sorted. The walk to get our rego took so long –we didn’t realise how far it was and ended up walking in flip flops in the midday sun. I ended up with blisters but we did manage to sort everything out and get our number plates! It’s really quite exciting –you only get number plates once the vehicle has a rego so we ended up walking around town with them and taking pictures by the lagoon! We then headed to Peter Pan where you can use the internet cheaply and sorted out the insurance and roadside assistance. This took a lot longer than expected so we didn’t end up finishing in time to go to the shops. We decided to just get the van and pick our stuff up from the hostel before finding somewhere to sleep. So we fitted the number plates and drove off, only to find that the van was making the most awful screeching noise. We tried to ring the man who sold it to us but he wasn’t picking up and I started to panic that we had been conned. This was a horrible time and felt like all our plans were going to go wrong. We were able to get hold of the seller who was rather helpful telling us it was probably the fan belt and could be easily and cheaply fixed and told us where we could find some garages. In the morning we drove to the garage only to find that the noise had completely disappeared. We asked them about it and they said that the fan belt can screech while it warms up if it hasn’t been driven in a while. So we went off to buy all our goodies that we were going to need but in that time the screeching came back. We went back to the garage and they tightened the fan belt up and we both felt a lot better and headed up to Palm Cove where we would spend our first night.

It was very exciting driving the van for the first time, especially after all the trauma we’d had trying to sort it all out. We only went a little way up the coast to Palm Cove, a little beach side town, with mostly only restaurants and a few souvenir shops. We booked into the campsite and set up for the night and cooked our first meal of pasta with Moroccan tuna. We bought lots of little tins of different flavours of tuna so have been living off those with pasta quite a lot. When we were at the campsite I was walking back from the toilets to see Ryan waving and signalling to me. I was very confused as to what he was doing but managed to figure out that he wanted me to see something. I was so excited to find a wallaby sitting in the grass by the track! He jumped off when I came closer but he was so cute! We saw him later once it got dark as well. We also saw some yellow-crested cockatoos.

The next day we drove up to Mossman Gorge. The highway follows the coast here so it was really beautiful and the sea looked so, so blue. At Mossman Gorge we went on a walk through the rainforest and then for a swim in a river that was so chilly I thought I must be back at home. It was Ryan’s first experience of the rainforest and our first proper trip so was all quite exciting! It started raining when we were swimming but it just added to the experience of swimming in a rainforest in the rain! We then drove towards Cape Tribulation taking the ferry across the river. Once on the other side of the river we looked for somewhere to camp, but the campsites were really quite expensive. We eventually found a rest stop to pull in at and started to sort all our stuff out. But by this time it had gotten dark and there were a million bugs about that were all attracted to our lights. Whilst cooking we ended up surrounded by bugs and eventually ran away to sit in the van as a huge 3inch bug decided to join us. We then went straight to bed to get away from all the bugs but were woken up by torrential rain and storms. It was so scary –the lightning and thunder seemed relentless and at some points seemed to be right over us. It eventually died down a bit and we managed to get a bit of sleep only to be woken up by more. This was not an enjoyable night and I can say that I definitely do not recommend camping in the rainforest –you will be eaten and the storms are ridiculous!

The next day a tired Ryan and Claire finished the journey to Cape Tribulation which is the tiniest of places. There seems to be a shop, a cafe, a hostel and a bat house. We booked in to go Jungle Surfing at 9.45am. This is where you zip wire through the canopy of the rainforest. Ryan got a little nervous but it was a lot of fun. We got given helmets with our new names on them- I got Cookie Monster and Ryan- Tinkerbell. They seemed quite appropriate. We then went through the rainforest to the first platform where we went uphill along a zip wire to the 2nd platform. Purely man powered by one of the guides. I was feeling very sorry for him by the time it got to the last person! We were able to go along the next 2 zip wires in pairs and were able to take some good photos from above. For the last 2 lines we went firstly with no hands and then the last one upside down! Jungle surfing was really good and the beach at Cape Tribulation was nice but there wasn’t much else there for us so we decided to head back after lunch and a shower. Once you have seen the rainforest once it seems to all look the same to be honest. We ate lunch on the beach although managed to undercook the pasta and pick a fairly awful flavour of tuna –tomato and rosemary. It was really quite awful. So we bought ice lollies and I managed to win a free one (instant win a bit like McDonalds monopoly), which I had yesterday and won another one! I’m hopeful that this is going to continue and provide me with ice creams for the entire trip!

So we drove back down to Port Douglas, stopping off at the cutest little tea shop. It was at the Daintree tea plantation and was just a chest of tea with a money box beside it and a couple of visitor books. There seem to be quite a lot of these honesty stalls around as there are fruit stalls at all the banana plantations, and other fruit farms. We bought a couple of bananas from one and I definitely thought that they were even more delicious for being so fresh.

Port Douglas is a lovely little town so we decided to stop the night and spend the day there the next day. It’s what I imagined most towns would be like here. We went off to look for somewhere to stay but the screeching fan belt had come back. We called out the RACQ and they said the fan belt would probably need replacing but they could tighten it to work just for now. We had it sorted at a garage in Port Douglas the next day while we lazed on the beach. I managed to get burnt whilst Ryan went off to the shops though. When he got back we went for a swim in the 30˚C water which was so lovely, and as warm as a bath in places. The beach there was really beautiful and I wanted to stay longer but we figured there would be plenty more beautiful places to see. We went on the internet before leaving where I booked flight to New Zealand! I will be going on the 26th January and coming back on the 8th of February ready for Jamie to arrive! Ryan won’t be coming so I think I’m going to try and find a tour to book myself on to. I decided to go to the North Island as I want to go to the geothermic hot mud pools! It still seems a long way off now but I bet it will fly by. We then drove back to the campsite at Palm Cove to sleep, although ended up hanging around for ages in the morning as we put a wash on in the evening and then the washroom had been locked up. Whilst we were there we opened all our Christmas cards on the beach. It was 2 weeks before Christmas so seemed like a good day to do it. It seemed so strange opening Christmas cards and still doesn’t feel like Christmas here. I’m not sure it ever will. I got very homesick opening Christmas cards and started to wish I was coming back. I think Christmas day will be even sadder –but at least I’ll be having a BBQ on the beach!

From Palm Cove we headed to the boulders where there is a really nice free campsite. We had a bit of a chilled out day then went for a walk along the river and then a swim. It wasn’t quite as cold this time so was a bit more pleasant. The next morning we got up early and went to Josephine Falls. These are really beautiful waterfalls with a pool where you can swim, including natural water slides! We climbed up on to the rock and carefully made our way across the top to the place where you can slide down. It was a lot of fun and a little bit scary! So we went a few more times and took some videos! Josephine falls has been my favourite place so far –the waterfalls were amazing and the slides were so much fun! From there we drove to Mission Beach which we thought was going to be a huge tourist hub but turns out to be an extremely quiet town where the main activity seems to be sky diving. As we walked along the beach we saw 2 people setting a flag up and then looking up. Wondering what was going on we stopped to watch and suddenly started to see people falling out of the clouds! We watched as their parachutes opened and they slowly made their way down to land on the beach. All except the one who seemed to be the videographer who came flying down and tumbled on to the beach. It looked like so much fun and something which I thought I would never want to do has now become something I think I really want to do!

From Mission Beach we drove towards Townsville and stopped at a roadside rest area to sleep. We then drove the remainder to Townsville the next day only to find that the screeching fan belt had returned! We called out the RACQ who tightened it and said it wasn’t dangerous to drive with it and that we could call them out as many times as we like. I am ever hopeful that it won’t happen again but it does seem to have started a trend that seems set to continue. I am so pleased we decided to take out roadside assistance though as we seem to be making full use of it.

At Townsville we went for a swim in the lagoon area although stupidly I jumped in with my sunglasses on my head and they now seem to be lost forever. The lagoon was filled with sea water and the visibility was so poor you couldn’t even see your feet when stood up. We then went to Reef HQ an aquarium with a turtle hospital. The aquarium was quite good and we went on a feeding tour but the Turtle hospital was what really made it. You get to go behind the scenes to see where all the poorly turtles are looked after and the stories of them all. They had so many turtles there that they were taking over the rest of the aquariums pools as well! It was really interesting to see, although sad to know how long some of the turtles have to stay there for –one of them had been there for 4 months and only just started to eat anything. After that we headed south to camp at Home Hill comfort stop, where I am now. It is really just a back street where a facilities building has been built.

And today? Well I actually have no idea what the plan is for today. We will be going somewhere south –probably.

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