Well after surviving Cyclone Ului, I left Undara NP and headed south towards Charters Towers. Unfortunately, my car was feeling ill again so I decided to divert at the last minute to Townsville, so I would stand a better chance of getting it repaired. About two hours after arriving in Townsville, it started raining and it basically continued to do so for the next 36 hours, coming down particularly heavily for all of Monday afternoon. Fortunately, this gave me the chance to get my car repaired and serviced, catch up on my mails / blog, hang out with my English roommates and go to another movie (The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock).
The next day I headed down the coast but I decided to continue past the Whitsunday Islands as many of the coastal towns (incl. Airlie Beach, Midge Point and Seaforth) were still without electricity. Once I got south of Bowen (150km south), the storm damage became visible with lots of fallen trees, damaged advertising signs and regular road delays to pass the local Electricity company trying to repair the lines. This meant that I ended up getting into the town of Mackay in the dark, not the ideal time to arrive anywhere.
After checking my guidebook, I decided the best option would be head out to the village of Bucasia Beach and camp there. There I met the new campsite owners Adrian and Leanna who had only re-opened the campsite for the season, the previous Friday. Their first action was to get the permanent guests to evacuate before the oncoming Cyclone hit. Adrian & Leanna had actually stayed on the site during the cyclone and said it was the scariest thing that they ever did and that it was something they would never do again. Probably just as well that I stayed off the coast.
Adrian had managed to get most of the fallen trees cleared during the previous days but there was still plenty of damaged branches, palm fronds, twigs and leaves all over the place. So on Wednesday, I agreed to help him clear up and spent most of the day helping him to fill 6 Ute (Aussie Pick-up) loads and take them to the local green dump !! This was extremely busy, with all the locals bringing in the damaged trees from their property.
Just when we finished, it started raining again and this time it continued for most of the next 48 hours. To get away from the rain, I decided to head inland to visit the Finch Hatton Gorge and the Eungella National Park. Unfortunately, the weather made this close to impossible as the road to the gorge was closed because of flooding and the town of Eungella was covered in mist. I did get the opportunity to drive up the 1;12 road to the village however and this was a particular interesting drive, given that it was covered in fallen trees, branhces and road crews trying to clean up. I therefore ended up heading back to the campsite where I spent the evening sharing travel stories with a retired English couple.
On Friday, Adrian confirmed that Airlie Beach now had electricity and that the tours to the Whitsunday islands had started again. I therefore headed back North as many people had recommended visiting the islands. After 3 days camping in the rain, I decided that I would check into a hostel and eventually settled on the "Backpackers on the Bay" hostel just outside the town. This turned out to be a good choice, as it was a friendly relaxed hostel. My choice was made all the better by the fact, that I managed to win a bottle of champagne during the evening Trivia quiz, together with my Irish roommate David and our two German teammates who didn't actually understand any of the questions because of the quizmasters accent !
The following morning, I was up early (06.30) for my Whitsunday Islands boat tour. Having never been on a large sailboat before, I elected to do the tour on the catamaran "Camira". This proved to be a very good choice, as the boat was quite spacious and there was plenty of room to lounge around on the boat. The staff also spoilt us the whole trip with lots of good food (incl Breakfast, morning Tea&Cakes, an excellent barbeque lunch and afternoon wine and snacks) as well as a free supply of drinks during the whole trip. I ended up spending most of the trip speaking German with fellow passengers Suzanne (a Police woman from Nurnburg) and Steve / Daniella (an attractive couple from Zurich). The weather was almost perfect, with some cloud cover, a reasonable breeze, plenty of sun and NO rain !! The highlight of the trip was our stop on Whitehaven beach, a very picturesque beach with very fine white sand. Unfortunately, it had been damaged quite badly by the Cyclone but as you will see from the pictures, it was still looking fairly good. We returned just before the sunset and afterwards Suzanne and I headed for a meal in one of the local restaurants before she caught her nightbus to Cairns. This consisted of buffet of Australian starters, including Kangaroo, Crocodile, Squid, Local Cheeses, Dried Tomatoes and Pesto washed down with a good glass of Pinot Noir. All in all, a great end to a great day.
On Sunday, I was back on the road again, heading south towards Rockhampton, the start of my trip south to Fraser Island and Brisbane. More news on that trip next week !