(from the Grimm Trip Reports)
We took off from Alice Springs on a beautiful afternoon, July 7th, and flew to Mt. Isa, a large mining town, and then on to Townsville. We picked up our rental car, a little yellow Ford Laser. It’s really strange shifting with your left hand. We drove around downtown looking for a grocery store, but didn’t see one and finally headed out of town. We found a large new Safeway and stocked up on emergency-type supplies – crackers, peanut butter, bread, etc., to use on the road if we couldn’t find anywhere to eat. We started north and got to Ingham about 6:30 p.m.. The two motels were full and we ended up at the Royal Hotel. It was run and operated by an elderly Italian man and what appeared to be his family. The hotel was obviously old with high ceilings, baths down the hall and no apparent signs of any heating source. We had two rooms and also had supper and breakfast thrown in. The homemade supper was not bad and afterward we went back to the rooms and to bed early. It was too cold to do anything else.
I didn’t sleep all that well due to trucks roaring by just outside the window and other assorted things like one of the owner’s big white German Shepherds barking sometime during the early morning hours. After breakfast we headed down to a nearby beach. While we were looking at the water a man joined us and told us a lot of tales about his life in Australia. We moved on and stopped at a sugar mill. This was the sugar-cutting season and all over the coast we saw the sugar cane fields being burned prior to cutting to get rid of vermin and some of the weeds, etc. It is really something to see, and we saw the little narrow gauge trains and little cars they put the cut sugar cane in. Those cars are taken to the mill and put on a device that turns the entire car upside down to dump the cane out. Anyway the tour at the mill was entirely self-conducted, following arrows and wandering around this mill totally unsupervised. It was very interesting and I think even the boys enjoyed it.
We also stopped to see an interesting cemetery, which we had seen on a postcard. It was mostly Italian and the graves or crypts were very ornate, with their pictures on them, statues, wreaths, etc. We finally got on the road and headed north again. We had lunch in Innisfail, at a Kentucky Fried Chicken, but Dwight and I thought everything tasted like sugar cane. We drove north again to Gordonvale past some impressive mountains and turned west. We drove up the mountain on a very winding narrow road and then down onto the Tablelands at Atherton. After we got settled in our motel we went back out to a rock shop Dwight wanted to visit. It wasn’t that great and we went back to the motel in time for Toby to see “Battle of the Planets.” One of the overriding factors of our trip was attempting to get to a motel in time each evening to see “Battle of the Planets.” (Whose kids are spoiled?) That evening on the way to supper we stopped in a book store and met an interesting man who told us about a tour that sounded good so he called up the people, whom he knew, and got the details for us. The next day we awoke to rain, so we went downtown and found some plastic raincoats, then headed out to Lake Barrine to take the tour the guy had told us about. The weather cleared up and at the lake we took a slow trip around a very pretty lake, surrounded by a very old rain forest. The guide talked a lot about the plants and animals in the area and did his best to find one of the pythons that lay along the bank, to no avail. We also saw no platypus, which we had hoped to see. Three pelicans followed the boat the whole way begging for bread the guy would throw out occasionally, and at one point we stopped to feed some scrub turkeys. We also saw a rather large eel in the water.
We left there and drove to a national park, to see a crater, which is a big round hole in the middle of this solid rock. It’s kind of eerie. We moved on to Herberton. It’s a little old mining town reminiscent of some towns we had seen in the mountains of Colorado. There’s a tin mine there still in operation and we ate lunch at the “Dorothy Cafe.” We left and drove back through Atherton, through Mareeba, back down the mountain over some more winding roads through some beautiful country, past Kuranda and into Cairns. We drove around Cairns looking for a motel but were not impressed with the beachfront because there are some wide mudflats between the town and the water. We tried to find a place to stay at one of the beaches north of Cairns, but could find no vacancies, so finally went back to town and stayed.
That evening I bashed my toe on a bed leg and after suffering finally went to the hospital at 1 a.m. The nurse told me it would be a couple of hours before I could see the doctor, they don’t X-ray at night and they don’t do anything for broken toes anyway. She sent me back to the motel with some pills and told me to elevate it and put ice on it, which I did.
The next day we fooled around Cairns, going to various stores, including a stamp shop. In the afternoon we took a boat ride in the “Cairns Everglades.” It was basically boring. We saw lots of the same type of trees with fantastically complex root systems, which sprayed out of the tree above the soil.
The next morning we got up early, left at 6 a.m. and drove to Mission Beach. We got there at 8 and the boat for the outer reef (Great Barrier Reef) left at 8:30. We were warned that it was ‘ choppy but didn’t realize how rough it really was going to be. Also, I didn’t realize until after I bought the tickets that it was a 2 1/2 hour trip to the reef. It was a long, rough 2 and a half hours and I got terribly seasick and Dorothy got almost hysterical thinking the boat was going to capsize. The kids had no problems and had to fend for themselves. Fortunately some nice couple (Karl and Berta Schneider, originally Austrians, now Australians) looked after the kids and tried to comfort Dorothy: We finally got to a little island, and the boat anchored offshore. They had a little glass-bottomed boat that they used to take us all in to the island, showing us the coral reef on the way. (The little boat even bounced around too much.) We stayed on the island almost two hours and collected some neat shells and coral. Some people snorkeled around the reef, but I didn’t feel up to it and besides it was pretty cool. On the return trip to the big boat they again spent a lot of time showing us the coral.. The colors and variety are truly something to see. There was grey and blue antler coral, a flat brownish type, brain coral some that looked like rocks, and bright green coral that fluttered. Also there were the giant clams (one supposedly 100 years old) and beautiful brightly colored fish. It was worth the agony to see it. We got back on the ship and it moved to another spot where they gave everyone a line, hook and bait to try fishing. Only one man caught anything — a beautiful bright red Emperor fish. We finally left and went back to shore. I thought we’d never get there, but I didn’t get sick again. Dorothy and the kids played cards the whole way, while I suffered in silence. We got back to shore at 5:20 p.m. We drove to Innisfail and collapsed in a motel.
We got up to rain the next day and drove up the Palmerston Highway (back up the mountain). We left the main road at one point to visit a tea plantation, but it was closed on Monday, which it happened to be. But we did see some birds that I think were cassowaries, kind of rare, and some cattle in the middle of the road. Later we saw a kangaroo along the road. After taking one wrong road (where we saw some scrub turkeys), we stopped at Millstream Falls, the widest in Australia, outside of Ravenshoe. It was very pretty, but we could see that in the rainy season it is probably twice as wide.
We stopped at Mt. Garnet and visited a couple of rock shops. A mile off the main road, back a dirt road, at a house, where a lady was selling stones, mainly topazes. Dwight bought a topaz crystal sample for $3. We stopped at a store, picked up some supplies so we could eat on the road and left. We got on the road to Charters Towers, 450 km away and the whole way only saw one town, about 20 cars, lots of dead kangaroos and lots of cows in the road. I averaged about 110-120 km/hr and Dorothy was a nervous wreck looking for cows and kangaroos. The road was one lane most of the way, but was not in bad condition- We only saw one live kangaroo, well off the road. (Dorothy claims to have seen another one but no one else saw it.)
The next morning, in Charters Towers, we drove out to the Lady Bird Gold Mine. I was standing at the gate looking in, trying to decide whether to drive in to it or not, when a man yelled out to come in. Joe Donovan is well into his 60’s and the mine was originally his father’s. He showed us a hunk of what he said was 19 ounces of pure gold, and talked to us quite a while about the trials and tribulations of mining and life in general (never tell a lie). He finally took us on a tour of the mine, which is pretty dilapidated. He has controlling interest in the mine, but has a minority partner that wanted to bring in a lot of new equipment which, according to bits and pieces I could understand, either didn’t work properly (or needed people who knew what they were doing to get it to work properly) or was junk. It sounded to me like the other guy ripped off poor old Joe. Eventually, we got away from him, only because some other tourists arrived.
We wandered around Charters Towers for a bit looking at some of the interesting old buildings and then headed east toward Townsville. We turned off the main road to go see Ravenswood, which is almost a ghost town. It was about 41 km off the main road and 33 of it a very rough dirt road. (After the boat trip, I’d rather not bounce around for a while.) Ravenswood once had 30,000 people and now has 70. It has some old abandoned buildings, mill, and mines. They took a lot of gold out of that town in the past. There were cows and goats roaming all over town. (Dwight thought the 70 included cows and goats.) We did stop and investigate the old ore crushing mill and I wished I had had my metal detector. We did see one building with swinging doors that looked fairly well fixed up. As with every other place we did not have the time to really look around the way we would have liked.
We drove oh into Townsville, got a motel and went shopping for a couple of hours (including another stamp shop). After watching some TV, we went out and ate and on the way back saw neon lights up on the top of a high hill in the middle of town so decided to drive up. The view of the city from up there was fantastic. The neon lights were a restaurant and I peeked in the door and asked if I could look at the menu. We were all invited in, in our dirty clothes and introduced to the hostess, waiter, chef and shown their smorgasbord table. It must have been 30 feet long with anything you could want. If I had not just eaten, I would have splurged and eaten there, but will certainly remember it if we ever go back.
We left Townsville on Wednesday, July 14th, to return to Alice Springs, and after driving almost 2000 km in about seven days, the flight home was uneventful.
Notes during the re-typing in 2011…
The evening after we took the trip to the Great Barrier Reef “Love Boat” was playing on the TV in the motel and Dorothy felt she was getting sea sick as she watched. The bed seemed to be rocking. Somewhere on the trip we stopped by a stream where there were supposed to be stones (possibly emeralds) in the water. We used our bare hands to sift some sand (the water was cold) and found some flakes that looked like gems. 1 never forgot that restaurant on top of the hill in Townsville, but when Dorothy and I went through in l994 it was gone.
I think this was the time that the boys made me wash the car at the motel in Townsville before turning it in the next day because it was so dirty. I did it again in 1994 (I believe at the same motel) – part of a tradition.
Dorothy still exchanges Christmas cards with the Schneiders, the couple on the boat to the Great Barrier Reef.