I spent the weekend of 4-5 September relaxing in Alice Springs, finishing ‘The Return of the King’ and reading Bill Bryson’s book on England. A lot of people that wanted to go to Cairns decided to fly there in the end, since it is a 2500km drive with few interesting stops along the way. Nevertheless, driving turned out to be quite a bit cheaper than flying.
On Monday I got a call from Dom (Dominique) from Germany, who wanted to drive with me to Cairns, and we left pretty much straight away. We spent the night at the Devil’s Marbles, so we got to see these fascinating rocks at both sunset and sunrise.
On Tuesday we drove all day to cover the 750km to Mt Isa in Queensland. When we crossed the state border, I had to set my watch half an hour forward. So now I am on GMT +10, or 8 hours later than mainland Western Europe. When we drove into Mt Isa, I almost could not believe the fuel prices, since 1 litre of unleaded petrol was less than A$1 (=0,58 euro). This is a price I have not paid since leaving Perth, more than 12.000km down the road. Usually unleaded fuel was about A$1,20/litre (=0,70 euro), with A$1,38/litre (=0,80 euro) the most I have paid at a roadhouse in W.A. Still very cheap compared to European fuel prices. In Mt Isa Dom and I met up with Amy (a friend of Donna’s, whom I met in Perth) and had a few drinks. Afterwards we went shopping, got dinner and set up the tent on a campsite.
Wednesday we drove on to Normanton, not a very interesting town, but it made for a good overnight stop. Since we drove into Queensland, the roads have gotten significantly worse, and even the highway from the Northern Territory to Queensland was single lane seal for a long way. This means the highway is only sealed wide enough for one vehicle, and if two vehicles pass each other, both have to get their left wheels on the gravel. Except in the case of road trains, because they stay on the seal because of their size. If they would have to get off the seal for a car, it would mean this car would get showered with stones. Not good for the windscreen.
Thursday Dom and I drove from Normanton to Undara Lava Lodge, where we camped and did a tour to the lava tubes. These are huge tunnels created by the lava flow from the Undara volcano. The tour guide told us all about it in a very enthusiastic way.
Friday morning we did a few short hikes in the Undara Volcanic National Park, before heading to Cairns. On the way to Cairns we made a few more stops with short hikes to Millstream Falls and the Crater Lakes. The scenery really changed today: whereas outback Queensland is all flat with dry yellow fields, coastal Queensland is all mountainous with green fields and forests, very similar to South Germany. This made the last bit of the drive a lot more interesting, with hundreds of bends in the road that goes up and down. It also meant we left the outback, since there are no more road trains, little towns everywhere and decent fuel prices (we paid A$0,92/litre = 0,53 euro/litre in Cairns). We got to Cairns in the evening, where we set up the tent at Tropic Days and enjoyed a free dinner at a bar.