The Tablelands is a highland region near Cairns. With no idea what to expect, I decide to explore it. The windy road up The Gillies upsets my stomach, but the scenery keeps me distracted. It’s a paradise for motorcycle drivers and many enjoy this curvy road. Yungaburra is a small town with a decent hostel and tourist information centre. You can find a free map of the region and some recommendations here.
There is a platypus in the local creek! As 8 years old boy, I read in adventure book, this mammal is native to Australia. You can imagine my excitement. The path takes me along the creek, many turtles are lying stretched out on stones by the water. It’s important not to make any unnecessary noise. A water dragon!
Australian lizard is frozen for few seconds, but quickly vanishes in the creek once I’m closer. No sign of platypus, but the area is pretty. The blanks of the creek are comfortable and the music in my headphones relaxing. It’s nice to take a break from chasing your dreams and catch a breath in a beautiful place. Good things come to those who wait… A shade is moving across the creek and stream of bubbles is coming up to the surface. The tension is real… a platypus! Tiny and furry with a head like a duck. It is love at first sight!
The bridge above the creek takes me towards the pond and the forest. On the way back to centre of town, I find a funny group of birds and an answer to the ultimate question. What happens when a turkey decides to become a pigeon?
Once a month, there is a market in Yungaburra. It’s mainly local produce, hand crafted art and stands with food. Gail is a quirky, older lady with plenty of spare time. The Tablelands are not easy to explore by hitchhiking. She offers to take me around. Would you refuse? You should see the smile on my face. We visit numerous waterfalls including Millstream Falls, the widest waterfall in Australia.
Gail takes me to Mount Hypipamee Crater and The Curtain Fig National Park with its massive attraction.
The Tablelands have many unique places and the countryside is simply mesmerizing.
Gail tells me about her life in New Zealand, family and her community work. This chatty girl knows the best viewpoints in the area. We often stop to take pictures of the beautiful scenery.
A friend of Gail has a kayak. Guess what? Yes, I can use it! Gail takes me to the right place. The number of birds in the area surprises me.
Lake Tinaroo is cloudy and it starts to drizzle. It’s not exactly how I imagined it, but… a free kayak? Let’s go! With time, the sun chases the clouds away, it’s almost like the lake transforms!
People are surfing, water skiing and socializing, discovering the lake by boat. The view of cattle and the sky above is stunning. Mother Nature is so beautiful!
I thank Gail for her kindness. What a lovely woman?! Have I met more people like that? With hitchhiking it’s kind of a given.
Maury takes me from Tablelands to Cardwell. He is an interesting guy, full of futuristic prophecies, crazy political theories and Star Trek references. I acknowledge some of his ideals and give my honest opinion on other, which leads to change of the subject. The valley we drive through is covered by smoke. We see a long sugar cane train heading to the mill.
Hayato just dropped his ex-girlfriend at the airport in Cairns after a short holiday. He is a bit sad about the break up, but surprisingly to me, very mature about it. Studying and working on a different continent, it’s not easy to maintain a relationship. Hayato wants to practice English and is happy to give me a lift to a place of my choice. We talk about travel, our experience and his country. I’m invited to Japan. Yes, please!
Townsville transformed from an ugly caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. The weather must have either change the place or my mood.
Jarrah and Marina are my couchsurfing hosts in Townsville. We enjoy trivia night with their friends. Later at their place, I eat Marina’s pasta, watch Friends and bond with this lovely couple of rock climbing freaks. I have my own room and mattress for the night. Would you ask a stranger for more?
I want to try hitchhiking by ferry to Magnetic Island. My star shines brightly. Jarrah’s colleague is going to the island for work. I get into his car and undisturbed travel on ferry. The transfer is charged per car, not passenger. Sweet! Cameron is laughing, he had no idea it’s possible, next month he will bring his wife. The coastline of Magnetic Island is pretty with more than one sandy beach.
Rock wallabies are accustomed to people. It’s easy to get their attention and make them come closer. I love animals and these are extra cute!
Tourists driving a small electric car are heading my direction. After a short chat, I jump on the back seat of their car. A moment later another backpacker follows my example. Yeah, that’s pretty much a standard on this island.
Jarah lent me his snorkelling mask. I drop my clothes and jump in warm water of Arthur Bay. I spend hours chasing fish among the coral. Suddenly the sting ray appears and makes me jump scared. I find the courage to look for it, but it’s already hidden in sand.
The Forts hike is very popular thanks to koala residing along the way. It’s really easy to find them. Just look for groups of tourists taking pictures.
The hill has not only fortifications, but also decent viewpoints. Most of the island is covered by trees. I notice few boats sailing along the coast.
Barbora is happily working as housekeeper on The Magnetic Island. It will let her extend working holiday visa. Usually you need to work 3 months in agriculture, but some nationalities can fulfill the requirements by working in hospitality. My friend is the lucky one. We enjoy massive burgers and party. I drink way too much. It’s really not that difficult.
While on a ferry back to Townsville, I remember my unsuccessful yacht-hiking efforts. Finding a boat from New Zealand to Fiji end of the season is difficult. One day…
On the way to Castle Hill, I’m accompanied by surprising number of people jogging back and forth. The place is crowded and it makes sense, the view is amazing. The rays of the setting sun caress my face. Magical!
Val and William are on the way to a family reunion. Val’s grandmother was brought from Vanuatu to Palm Island as a slave. Being a half-caste, a child of a native and a white colonist, she was promised a better life, but the reality was different. Her life was directed by a bell. It told her to get up, go to work, eat and sleep. Val and William are Christians. They play songs about Jesus and share the word of lord. They invite me to join them for lunch the next day. I politely decline.
Felicia is bored. She decides to entertain herself and gives me 115 km ride to Bowen. We see mango, banana and avocado plantations. Do you ever ask yourself how your food arrived on the plate?
Airlie Beach hasn’t changed much in my memory, only the weather is better. That’s a massive difference! There are cheap backpacker accommodations close to the beach. Food tastes so much better, while watching the sea.
Vincenzo and Alessandro are from Italy. Boys bought a van and travel Australia. They are hungry of new experience so decided to help maintaining a boat. The owner takes them fishing and sailing. Awesome deal if you ask me.
2 years earlier, I arrived to Airlie Beach while hitchhiking East Coast. Now, I completed a loop around Australia. It’s crazy! Of course, there are more places to explore like a snorkeling trip to Whitehaven Beach…