Hitchhiking Australia Part 4 – Mount Isa to Cairns and Daintree

It’s quiet morning in our campsite. Peter is still asleep. The previous day we drove 800 km through Northern Territory. Camooweal is the first town we visit in Queensland.

My campsite in Camooweal
My campsite in Camooweal

I travelled with Peter since Darwin. We had great time in Litchfield National Park and became friends. 200 km to Mount Isa we drive in silence, Peter will stay here and continue South, I don’t like saying goodbye. I have few friends around the world and do my best to stay in touch. Mount Isa is a remote mining town in West Queensland. It’s not easy to hitchhike here, I was lucky to meet Peter. We travelled 2000 km in 4 days.

I showers at change clothes at gas station. Facilities here are regularly used by drivers. I replenish my food supplies and walk to Mount Isa exit. There is nothing here that interest me. It’s 11 am and the sun is merciless. There are no trees nearby. I use the road sign’s shade to protect my face. Within 3 hours numerous cars drive by, but none stop.

Road condition sign at Mount Isa exit
Road condition sign at Mount Isa exit

Leaving Mount Isa is not easy. The distance to the next city is over 800 km, there is only a small town over 100 km away. People are reluctant to pick up potential serial killer. It takes time to find someone open minded. I look for active couchsurfing host in the area. At 4 pm chance of finding a ride is close to zero.

Two things happen at the same time. I receive a message from cs host and a car pulls over. Keith is my first ever Aborigine driver. He travels to Cloncurry to see his grandsons. The area changes a lot, it was raining recently and the flora regains its colours.

Cloncurry
Cloncurry

Brit and Tanika take me to Julia Creek town. Dutch tourists don’t have much space in their car, but want to help out. We find free camping.

Julia Creek
Julia Creek

4 hours of hitchhiking with no success, there are not many cars on the road. I observe freight wagons going the opposite direction. With 90 of them, it’s the longest train, I have seen so far. I take a break at the local gas station and refresh myself. Motivation kicks in. I have few more hours before it gets dark, lets not waste it.

A random insect in Australia
A random insect in Australia

Harry works on a cattle farm. There is a rodeo in the area, and he is looking forward to it. I observe sunset in Richmond, while waiting for another ride. Only 180 km today and 10 hours spent on the road. It’s my worst day of hitchhiking on this trip. I camp in a quiet place out of town.

Bucket and his partner tell me about floods few months earlier. They were cut off, loocal government organised food drops by helicopter. The owner of their farm lost around 10,000 cows. Dead bodies were a serious biological hazard, government activated army to help solve the problem.

Bill saw me hitchhiking, but I was already gone when he was departing Richmond. He already travelled around Australia. While working in the forest services, Bill trialled putting down fires by dropping water from the helicopter. They used a bucket to collect the water from dam reservoir. Bill was attached outside and recorded the process. He also trialled burning down forest by dropping ping pong balls with inflammatory substance from the helicopter. He had a heart attack at 50 and went through a serious bypass surgery. Bill was given 8 years. 24 years after his surgery we arrive to Townsville.

The weather is unpleasant and I don’t want to stay here. I take a hot shower and socialise with other backpackers in the hostel.

A pet possum in Townsville hostel
A pet possum in Townsville hostel

Mark is a Canadian backpacker from Canada. He used to be a guide in a ski resort and smoke weed with Snoop Dogg back in college.

Crystal Creek is close to Townsville. I find it similiar to Polish mountains, but the nature here is a lot more tropical. There aren’t many palms in my country. Mark convinces me to swim, the water is cold, but refreshing.

Crystal Creek
Crystal Creek

I notice my leg is bleeding, a leech from the creek. I see the little one on the floor of the car. It moves by pulling its body with the help of the frontal sucker.

There are numerous excursions offered in Cairns. I pick up few leaflets regarding scuba diving in The Great Barrier Reef. I’m not interested in a open water course, but ask about a single dive experience. The weather isn’t the best at the moment, so I decide to wait a bit.

A hostel in Cairns
A hostel in Cairns
The view from Cairns harbour
The view from Cairns harbour

I  visit Palm Cove, the beach is empty. A sign warns of crocodiles.

Palm Cove
Palm Cove

The wildlife cruise on Daintree river costs $30 AUD. The pilot talks about local flora and crocodiles. Flood in January destroyed all nests. Young crocodiles are eaten by more mature ones. Even barramundi and sea birds are higher in food chain. Adult seawater crocodiles can easily snatch cattle from land. Quite few pets in the area have died because of them. The biggest recorded crocodile measured 6.1 m and weighted a tone.

I observe the shore with mangrove trees and rainforest around us. We see interesting birds, several young and mature crocodiles. I enjoy the excursion.

The Daintree River
The Daintree River

Mack wants to show me around Cape Tribulation. The signal is rather bad and there is only one shop in the area. You would think there is not much to do. Fortunately numerous backpackers are working here, he enjoys their company a lot. We meet some of his friends and chill. He recommends me hiking trail and warns of crocodiles. 3 years earlier 2 girls were attacked, while walking the beach. One of them was snatched into the water.

Cape Tribulation beach
Cape Tribulation beach

The weather is bad, luckily tropical rainforest boardwalk is next to my camping site.  The flora is almost identical to what I’ve seen in Thailand, but the boardwalk makes it easy to explore and admire.

The boardwalk in Cape Tribulation
The boardwalk in Cape Tribulation

I catch a lift to Alexandra lookout and ask the driver about a cassowary. It’s a bird similar to emu. Within few seconds one jumps in front of the car. The driver panics, but we avoid an accident. Alexandra lookout is well situated, but the weather doesn’t allow me to take a picture.

The Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest

Clarence  works on the construction of an another boardwalk. In the past he worked in the agriculture. Sugar cane, prawn farms, banana plantations, he was everywhere and done it all.

Spicy Bite is an Indian curry restaurant located in Cairns at The Esplanade. The food is amazing, the value is great and the walk along the harbor is very relaxing. I strongly recommend it.

Cairns beach
Cairns beach

I meet Barbora and Rebecca. They invite me to join them on a trip to Port Douglas. On the way we pick up Greg, another Polish hitchhiker. Funny enough it’s almost a sport in my country with a contest every year. Hundreds hitchhike to destinations all over Europe.

Port Douglas is a postcard town with a long sandy beach and expensive flashy properties. The most amazing place in the town is the sunset point.

Port Douglas sunset
Port Douglas sunset

Rebecca wants to experience hitchhiking and I’m happy to introduce her. We decide that trip to Kuranda might be fun. It’s a small tourist attraction close to Cairns. Hitchhiking with a friend can be more easy or difficult. People are less scared to pick up a couple, but not everyone has space for 2 people.

We make a sign and hitch at traffic lights. You are clearly visible to driver and can establish a personal contact straight away. A car doesn’t need to slow down or pull over. I smile, show sign and talk to drivers. We find a ride within a minute.

There is only one road going up to Kuranda. There is a lot of space for a car to pull over. It’s perfect for thumbing. We visit the the village and enjoy lunch. Rebecca loves her first hitchhiking experience. It’s not always easy, but it’s totally worth it, every ride is an adventure.

On the way to Kuranda with Rebecca
On the way to Kuranda with Rebecca
Barron Falls near Kuranda
Barron Falls near Kuranda

Visiting The Great Barrier Reef is one of my dreams. I book my trip in a local tourist office. I haggle and get myself a decent discount. It’s a lovely hot day and the waves aren’t bothering me much. I drink a lot of water, munch ginger cookies and socialise on the way to the first snorkelling site. There are about 40 passengers and 10 crew members. James hopes to see a reef shark and is full of excitement. We both paid extra for the scuba diving experience. I’ve done it before, but crave a new experience.

The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef

I’m reminded of scuba diving techniques and go underwater with two passangers and scuba diving instructor. I see a couple of groups in the distance. We explore the area. The site is great, the coral is colourful and I see plenty of fish. We enjoy lunch on the way to the second snorkelling site. I visit sand island, snorkle and see a sting ray.

The sandy island and the second snorkelling site
Sandy island at second snorkelling site

I enjoyed Cairns. Nice city, good food, beautiful nature and new friends. I want to explore Tablelands and continue South along the East coast. I hope to see Barbora on Magnetic Island and Eric in Rockhampton.

My journey
A)Camooweal B)Mount Isa C)Julia Creek D)Hughenden E)Townsville F)Cairns G)Cape Tribulation / The Daintree Rainforest H)Port Douglas

34 thoughts on “Hitchhiking Australia Part 4 – Mount Isa to Cairns and Daintree

    1. It’s pretty sweet. It’s close to Townsville and Magnetic Island so you can definitely check it out once nearby. Unfortunately it rained when we got there so couldn’t explore the area properly.

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    1. Cairns is a great base, The Great Barrier Reef, Daintree and Tablelands are all nearby. You can find there multitude of excursions and rest after a longer journey. That’s what I did.

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    1. Not far from the beach you can find playground for kids and free grill station with automated gas. You just bring your food and can enjoy barbeque with friends. Very relaxed place in more than one ways.

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    1. I don’t see it like that. It’s more like kinder surprise. You are eager to get it because you know a surprise is waiting for you. It might be amazing, it might be just ok, but it’s freaking exciting every single time.

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  1. You are very brave to go hitchhiking in Australia and relying on your tent for accommodation when you don’t find a ride. Australia is not the friendliest country when it comes to heat, rough terrain and wild animals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true Joanna,
      I’m sensible about it. I always stay close to water source and not shy to ask for refill passing by drivers. Finding a good place to camp is sometimes difficult, but you quickly find ways to make it work. I either placed clothes under my yoga mat or continued to hitchhike at night. I had drivers picking me up at 1, 3 or 5 am. The thing, I was very conscious about were snakes. Once, I found a huge one, a hundred metres from my tent. They tend to run away though.

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