Eternal optimists, we hugged the east coast hoping to find a beach without stingers or crocodiles with disappointing results. North of Agnes Water and the Town of 1770 there are no beaches without risk. The few that have life guards have stinger nets and the further north we travel the more likely there are to be salt water crocodiles in the ocean. They travel between creek outlets and estuaries via the sea so vigilance is necessary in these locations.
Balgal Beach offered free camping right on the beach but of course no ocean swimming possible; and it was so warm too. We kept close to camp, chased the sun around with the solar panels and stopping to meet the new influx of campers. The solar panels have worked well and so far we have done nineteen consecutive days with no electricity. Being self-sufficient helps keep the costs down and gives us flexibility in choosing where we can camp. Our preference is no cost camping but sometimes there are no alternatives and those nights we opt for unpowered sites and use the solar panels to recharge the caravan battery.
The area is predominantly farming and grazing but recently a lot of that land has given way to a 500 rural and residential development in a bid to increase the population in regional areas.
The beaches were pristine, as they are the length of the east coast, and because ocean swimming was off limits we walked the shoreline to the first headland. It seems like you could walk forever on most beaches along this coast, they go on further than the eye can see. Coral, broken away from the reefs – the area is part of the Great Barrier Reef a world heritage site – made the walk more interesting as did the sand patterns created by tiny sea creatures.
Coral types washed up on the beaches
Next stop was Vincent “Bushy” Parker camp; less crowded and large grassed sites beside a creek. From here we explored the Paluma National Park with 22kms of hairpin bends that climbed to 3, 000 feet and the village of Paluma with a school, closed cafes, a pottery and not much else. Like the photoshopped interiors of houses for sale, tourist brochures have a lot to answer for by way of misleading visual information. We were promised a quaint village with boutique cafes, magnificent lookouts and a number of short walks. We were disappointed on all counts. Instead we were faced with a return trip on the same road: the same trip that turned me a nauseas shade of green.
After a while I forgot how ill I felt and focussed instead on the colours of the changing landscape. We wound our way through dense sub-tropical forests and I decided an attitude change was in order if I was to redeem the trip. It is easy to be distracted by how beautiful everything is in the national parks and forests plus we were promised ‘prolific bird and wild life’.
Part way up the road to Paluma Village
Distractions are good. Like the eye spy games our parents’ initiated on long road trips. It reminded me of Mum’s preparation of the trip by wrapping my midriff with heavy brown paper to help with motion sickness. Whether it worked or not I don’t remember but it did leave a welt-like gravel rash on my plumptious little torso. Thank goodness we’ve moved on since those days. By the time we reached our destination I was aware of my whining about how far we had to go and wondering if we were there yet. Maybe some things don’t change.
Paluma National Park to the sea and islands, from McClellands Lookout
Partway up we stopped at the arched stone bridge that looked like something out of Lord of the Rings with lichen growing on the sides and the darkened stonework. Beautiful nonetheless and the water cascading underneath looked refreshing, making the short walk to the riverbed worthwhile.
Arched stone bridge across Little Crystal Creek, Paluma National Park
The quaint village at the top of the range wasn’t quite up to our expectations. Where were the promised boutique cafes and art galleries? And what happened to the people who were recorded in the last census? And the birds and wildlife?
However, three thousand feet above sea level, the views were spectacular from McClelland’s Lookout and it was cooler. Thankful for our thermos of tea we had a cuppa at the local playground before heading back. Yes, back the same 22kms of winding wending nausea-wielding road. We were never so thankful to see our campsite.
Next stop Ingham.