Every long overland trip has what is considered to be its turning point and so did ours. With New South Wales out of limits because of Covid, Victoria under lockdown and the coast of Queensland completed, we had reached our turning point the day we drove into the Gold Coast.
Not a specific place but more of a collection of small beachfront settlements, this area is primarily known as the place that the glamour party people go to hang out with each other. Boasting 52km of golden beaches with almost 300 sunny days in a year, the Gold Coast is a fancy mix of sun, surf, sand and activity.
Infamous as we prefer to be, but still hate to miss out, we picked the chilled-out surf town of Burleigh Heads to get a taste of the coast. Here we spent our time between cheery cafes and beachfront restaurants among Burleigh’s beautiful beach. Heading back north, we passed Surfers Paradise, the Gold Coast’s most famous party scene where everybody comes to see and be seen. Nowadays and although the name suggests otherwise, surfers prefer beaches elsewhere and paradise (except the beautiful beach) has been overtaken by the many sky rises. As we had no interest in staying here, we did a drive by on our way back to Brisbane. Even that way though, there was no denying that this wild party zone attracts a big number of visitors even during Covid controlled times! Party people come here for a dose of clubs, bars, malls and maybe, just maybe, a bit of beach time when their hangover kicks in.
Not long after that, we were back for one more time in Brisbane, Australia’s most underrated city, with its edgy art scene and pumping nightlife. Here, we completed our big city fix. We got together with more friends and stocked up in Greek supplies for the crossing on our way back to Western Australia.
Cotton Tree Beach, our next stop near Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast, surprised us with an amazing beachfront site to camp that came together with a magical sunset. Just what we needed! A bit further inland, we came across the volcanic plugs of the Glass House Mountains. “In Dreaming legend (taken from the visitor centre display description), these rocky peaks belong to a family of mountain spirits. The explorer James Cook, that gave this mountain its name, thought the shapes resembled the industrial glass-making furnaces of his native Yorkshire.” The Glass House Mountains National Park has several spots with picnic grounds but no camping is allowed. So after spending the day exploring, we picked our overnight spot to be a bit further north in Eumundi. This small settlement comes alive only twice a week as it is holding the biggest artesian market in all Queensland. Luckily there was no more room in our car, so Rochelle was forced to behave shopping wise!
As a final stop on Queensland’s coast, we drove one last time into Noosa. For us, by far the most spectacular place from the whole coast here in the south. The last episode of the Queensland adventure was meant to take place in the states extended outback. Fully vaccinated (we had our second dose in Gimpie), we turned east where arguably the most popular road trip of central outback Queensland runs1200km on Barkly Highway.
This is largely flat cattle country, dinosaur country, Waltzing Matilda country, Qantas country and even Crocodile Dundee country. It does not get more Australian than what is out here! Along our way, stops worth mentioning are: Longreach, a prosperous outback town and the starting point of Qantas, the nation’s airline, and Winton, a cattle and sheep centre that does its best to make the most of its Waltzing Matilda heritage. Banjo Paterson (the songs composer) wrote the Aussie anthem after his visit here, and it was first performed at the North Gregory Hotel, 120 years ago. This hotel, believe it or not, still stands and we were able to spend one night Mad Max-style camping on the back of it. Elderslie St, the town’s colourful main street, is full with old timber pubs and historic buildings, offering plenty of photogenic shoots to keep our camera busy, especially at this time of the year that the Outback Festival was about to begin. Finally there was Mt Isa, one of Queensland’s longest-running mining towns. We had heard that “whether you have come to work, to play or you are just passing through, a night spent in one of Isa’s clubs may cause you to forget you are in the remote outback”.
Truth to be told, we were not impressed at all with the place, although we admit, we did not go to the clubs. Therefore, after a quiet overnight in the Golf Club that doubles up as camping, we hit the road for the borders with Northern Territory. Upon entering the territory, the heat made its presence noticed by hitting us with a straight 38 degrees. More bad news were that we needed to spend in this temperature a total of two weeks, as this was required for reentering Western Australia.
So we had to slow down. In reality, the heat did not give us any other option anyway. With our AC in full swing, we came across one more time from Tennant Creek or as it is also known, Jurnkurakurr (I can never pronounce it properly), that has almost half of its population of Aboriginal descent, before we ended up in Barca Barca station for the night. From then onwards, we were on a route already familiar to us. Back in Daily Waters, that as said before, is just about everyone’s stop to have a rest at the famous pub and onwards to Katherine. We enjoyed a couple of days cooling down in Edith Falls and booked a caravan park back in Katherine, to spend the rest of the time in order to complete the requirements.
Guess what Katherine is known for? Its hot springs! Great! Not exactly what you would need with these temperatures, right? Funny enough and most definitely not by choice, Katherine made it in the list of places we have spent more time and probably gone a bit loopy, at least myself for having nothing to do all day for a week. Worth mentioning is that this time of the year (October) is probably the worst time to be here, as the temperatures reach 40 degrees daily. In the end and with the temperatures questioning our mental health, we couldn’t wait any longer. Taking the Victoria Highway towards the border seemed our only solution. Our last stop in the territory was tiny Timber Creek, the only so called town between Katherine in NT and Kununurra in WA.
This place has a pretty big history for such a small place. “Early European explorers stopped here to undertake repairs aboard their expedition boats from the local timber forest (hence the town’s name)”. In the information decorating the wall of the local pub, we read that the expedition’s leader, AC Gregory, inscribed his arrival date into a Baobab tree that can still be seen today, as Baobab trees live for hundreds of years.
We based ourselves for the last three remaining days behind the pub and dove heads first in our phones in order to keep ourselves busy. Unfortunately that and a croc feeding in the nearby creek was the only thing to do in order to go through those warm days. Our only entertainment came in the form of Northern Territory Woman’s Fishing Competition, a cultural highlight for me. After a total of 11 months around “the big lap”, our time had come to return to Western Australia once again. So the next day, we reached the border with all our permits in hand…No, WA border officers informed us that we were 13 hours earlier, as the first day we had entered NT counted as day 0 and therefore we had not had the complete 15 days required. GRRRR!!! At forty degrees outside temperature, we had no other option than to book one of the overpriced quarantine hotels and head to Kunanara till the next day. I could continue on and on about this situation, how government officials cannot think outside the box here in Australia, but I will stop here and keep my frustration to myself.
Our original plan, after entering Western Australia, was to visit some of the places in the Gibb river road that were closed the last time we were here. First was the crossing of the infamous Pentecost River, which proved to be a shallow creek crossing instead.
Then we visited El Questro, a 400,000-hectare station/resort that incorporates the scenic gorges of Amelia and El Questro, as well as Zebedee thermal springs. Once more time unlucky, we were there the wrong season, so they were also partly closed.
As a last tick on the box on the Gibb river road was to visit Emma Gorge, with its sublime plunge pool and waterfall, which is supposed to be one of the prettiest in the whole Kimberley. Yes, you guessed it right, this was also closed or with limited access as well! With the temperature reaching well over 40 plus now and with the rain floods coming up, this whole part of the country was on a shut down mode, so the next day the decision was made: “Let’s head straight to Broome, at least it is cooler there”. Therefore we finally took the long straight road of 800km further southwest towards Broome.
Our adventures in Broome as well as in the rest of Western Australia’s coast till Perth, where we will be shipping Voukefalas to UAE, will be something for our next diary. Until then, “You can either go after the life you want or settle for the life you get”, as Jim Rohn once said.