Friday, April 3, 2009

Driving through the fruit basket (Mar. 26/09 - Lake Eacham, Australia, mileage 214km)

Before hitting the road this morning, we went down to the beach for a look, but were a bit disappointed by the amount of seaweed and old coconut shells, etc. that had washed up in the rough weather. Rough brown waves were coming in, thanks to a lot of wind and the nearby mouth of the muddy Daintree River. We took a quick drive over to Cape Tribulation Beach on the other side of the headland and were happy to see a nice clean beach with calm blue water. No matter how tempting a swim was though, you can't swim at any of the beaches in northern Queensland thanks to the saltwater crocodiles that patrol the shallows. Signs warn you of even going near the water's edge, as they have been known to attack people who aren't even in the water. Needless to say, we took a quick look, snapped some pictures, and carried on.

We drove south the way we came, making a stop at Cow Bay for a peek at the pretty beach there and at an organic ice cream place for a treat. At the town of Mossman, we veered inland, and followed the twisty road up over the Greta Dividing Range that separates the coast from the interior "tablelands". On the other side, natural vegetation was noticeably more sparse, as farmland began to occupy the rolling landscape in all directions. At the town of Mareeba, we stopped at a place that was advertised as Australia's biggest coffee outlet, where you could taste any of Queensland's 43 different types of coffees, a dozen of the Daintree area's different teas, and a bunch fo house made organic chocolates. It's probably a good thing that everything was really expensive!

Beyond Mareeba, green fields of horses, cows, and corn had us thinking that we were in Tennessee or Kentucky. Roadside stands sold bags of fresh peanuts, limes, corn, avocados, mangoes, and bananas - some of the crops that make this the region's "fruit basket". We pulled over at a stand selling avocados, traded a $2 coin in the honour box for a bag that would sell for $8 or $9 at the grocery store. At a pretty park by the road, we took a lunch break and made sandwiches (with fresh avocado of course!) and wandered around once we discovered that this spot was once a huge military hospital, where over 60,000 people were treated during WWII. At the town of Atherton, we turned east and headed for Lake Eacham, where we would call it a night. This and the adjacent Lake Barrine are two little round crater lakes that are both contained within fringing chunks of forests protected as national park. It sounds like the area is home to tree kangaroos and platypus, so we'll take a walk in the morning to see if we can spot them.

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