Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cairns and Surrounds

Cairns - 24th – 30th June 09

Cairns Hinterland
Cairns Hinterland North Queensland
From Cairns & Surrounds

After we left Mt Garnet we set off for Atherton, on the way we stopped and marvelled at the green rolling countryside (something we had not seen for months!). It is truly amazing how we can find something we used to see every day in the UK so captivating. We were snapping away with the camera like we had never seen anything like it!! Another reminder of just how dry Australia is. We also enjoyed 4 waterfalls on our way to Atherton, these were all very nice with Milaa Milaa falls being the pick of them. It is straight out of a story book, the way it falls straight out of the forest into a neat pool below.

Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls Cairns North Queensland
From Cairns & Surrounds

Ellinjaa Falls
Ellinjaa Falls Cairns North Queensland
From Cairns & Surrounds

Atherton is a nice little town in the mountains and we stopped of in the ‘Crystal Caves’ store in the centre. This store is home to the largest piece of Amethyst crystal in the world. In the store you can ‘Crack your own geode’. Geodes are mined in South America and start out looking like a big stone. Inside however is beautiful crystal. Cracking your own means that you pick a random stone (guaranteed to be hollow) and then get to split it yourself, this means you are the first person to ever see inside the ancient geode.
We chose our ‘rock’ and the lady in the store explained that the geodes were very easy to crack; they even have small children do it!
Heidi was at the handle end of the giant cracking device and I was at the dangerous end holding the stone and wearing goggles!! With the stone in place Heidi gave a little pull and nothing happened. So she pulled a little harder, still nothing.

Cracking a Geode
Cracking a Geode Atherton Table Lands
From Cairns & Surrounds

The lady came over and tightened the chain and we tried again… nothing. The lady came over to help Heidi and still the stone would not break. With Heidi basically swinging from the handle and 2 of the shops staff helping the geode finally cracked – It was solid all the way through!! The shop manager said that he had never seen this before and looked totally bewildered. He let us pick another geode and this one cracked like an egg first time with very little effort. We ended up with a very nice smoky quartz crystal that will look nice on the mantle piece.
We bought a pizza in town and then stayed in another heavily populated rest area (this one even had a caretaker!).
The next day we drove through the mountains and down into Cairns. Cairns is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and ocean (ocean containing the Great Barrier Reef no less!). It is the commercial centre for the North of Queensland and bigger than we expected. There are a million and one tourists here and a million and one things to do, from snorkelling to bungee jumping, but with our now exceedingly tight budget we will save this for a dedicated trip some other time.

Palm tree at campsite
Palm tree at campsite Cairns North Queensland
From Cairns & Surrounds

We spent our few days in Cairns at a very nice Caravan Park (where you could feed turtles in the river) and stocked up, bought a new tyre (the old now unroadworthy), refuelled, shopped, did washing and carried out all those essential tasks that comes with being in a major city for the first time in a while. We visited a few of the northern beaches and really liked Palm Cove (sunrise looked beautiful here). There were expensive resort style hotels all the way down to a council run caravan park all over looking the beach (The latter being our place of residence for the night!). One problem up here though is that swimming in the ocean can be a little dangerous, there are marine stingers (Jellyfish) and Crocodiles. Needless to say there was no swimming for us!

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