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Headed north of Townsville to the Paluma National Park.

Beautiful lush green rain-forest walks up to waterfalls and swimming holes. It's like we have arrived at a different planet from the last few months – no more moon-like landscapes, dry river beds, rocky escarpments, huge cattle stations, one pub towns, etc etc …. Now it is lush palm tree forests, beautifully shaded creeks, waterfalls, and swimming holes, shopping centres and civilization!!!!!.

Walked up to Jourama Falls, then drove up to Crystal Creek Falls, BBQ, and then up to Paluma township along a fairly treacherous windy road where we did a rain-forest walk. Then back down to Paradise waterhole …. which sounds idyllic – and it is – fantastic spot.

Then onto Townsville – a very pleasant city with fantastic foreshore facilities, stunning views from Castle Hill, outstanding botanic gardens, and a nice Marina area …. plus scrumptious fish and chips (barra)!!

South down the coast to one of Australia’ s greatest hidden secrets … Bowen. Stayed at Horseshoe Bay – sensational spot – surrounded by 4 or 5 beautiful beaches, set amongst granite boulders and palm trees. Horseshoe Bay in particular is stunning!!! Played golf at the beautiful Bowen Golf Course, and went to the Art Deco Bowen Cinema – like stepping back in time (saw The Joker). Few beers at the Grand Hotel – one of the most beautiful pubs we have seen … anywhere. It also has a busy port, mural water tanks, and much more – a great find!!!

Onto Airlie Beach – gateway to the Whitsunday Islands - nice town … very very touristy … must be a dozen or more outlets selling cruises to the Whitsundays, Barrier Reef, and other activities. There we were - Donna and I ... and 2,000 young European Backpackers!!!. Wandered around like tourists (which in fact – we were!!!), and drove out to Shute Harbour – once a very busy port, but got blown to smithereens by cyclone Debbie – and is now almost deserted.

We then headed across to Daydream Island – a beautiful 30 minute ferry ride across to the Whitsundays – for a few nights with friends we went on a Europe Contiki Tour with 30 years ago … and we hadn’t seen for many years. Was a very funny few days – which comprised eating, drinking, and sitting by the pool – plus a forest walk Donna forced us all to do …. And of course the afternoon Trivia Quiz (which we won!!). The Islands is very nice – and very small. Was a great few days.

Left the magnificent Lawn Hill and - like Burke and Wills we headed for the Gulf of Carpentaria … stopping overnight at Bang Bang roadside stop before calling in at Burke and Wills final camp – camp 119 … still 40 kms from the Gulf. Burke and Wills actually headed towards the Gulf from that camp – but stopped 20km short … so in fact they didn’t actually make it to the Gulf!!!!

Then ... past a few million termite mounds and starving cattle

- we headed to Karumba - on the Gulf. The beach is actually quite ugly – muddy water and shore – with crocs (apparently!). We stayed at Karumba Point – and enjoyed (repeatedly) the fantastic Sunset Point Pub, and Ashes Fish and Chips – with beautiful Barramundi.

We also played golf at the Karumba Golf Course (Golf on the Gulf!!!) -together with literally hundreds of Agile Walabies.

How's the style!

Booked to go fishing in the Gulf … however – disaster struck – the caravan fridge died – so we cancelled the fishing trip – and whilst we through a line in from the river – they somehow avoided us.

Donna devoured a bucket of Prawns at the Sunset Point Pub – and then went back on Sunday the watch the AFL Grand Final – with Tom Lynch’s Richmond destroying the Giants. We were very happy for Tom – and very happy that the Giants got smashed.

Having made it to the Gulf, it was now time to head towards the East Coast. Driving out of Karumba, we stopped at a waterhole with a massive flock of Brolgas – probably a couple of hundred.

Then through to Normanton – with its eclectic Purple Pub and the replica of the biggest Croc ever killed (think a bit of poetic licence used in the replica!!).

We kept driving through Croydon towards Cobbold Gorge. Stopping for the night on the way, we sweltered through our hottest night – maybe 30 degrees still at 10pm – struggled! Onto Forsayth – lovely little town in the middle of nowhere – and onto the oasis of Cobbold Gorge. What a fantastic spot – great campground, and with the mercury hitting 38 degrees, the lovely pool was the spot to be during the afternoon. Early start next day for a nature walk followed by a fantastic cruise through the spectacularly serene gorge – beautiful spot. Back to the pool for the arvo, followed by a scrumptious dinner overlooking the Billabong (spotted our first snake of the trip!)

Then headed towards Porcupine Gorge, stopping overnight on the banks of the Gregory River. Another beautiful spot, we were accompanied by a croc in the river (a freshie!), and an owl at night.

Porcupine Gorge was a bit prickly to get to, if you get my point, but a fantastic and under-rated spot. Awesome National Park campground, and a challenging but rewarding walk down into the gorge. At night, we were visited by a family of Rufus Betongs – basically a pocket sized Kangaroo – very cute little fellas.

Then started making our way towards Townsville and civilization. Stopped for a few beers at the bizarre Prairie Pub… chatted to the publican for a while, and checked out his strange collection of memorabilia, stuffed pig, mannequins, and other bits and pieces.

Stayed behind the Pentland Pub and had a feed in the pub – very popular spot on a Friday night – despite the cranky unwelcoming bar maid!!!!

And so - after nearly 3 months traversing through the big, dry Australian Outback (of NSW and Queensland) - we were now heading back into civilization, as we headed towards Townsville on the coast. The outback has been an amazing and eye-opening experience - we are very glad we have done it - but we certainly don't want to live it. We feel a bit sorry for the farmers, and the folk in the isolated outback towns - they have it very tough ... and we are guessing that most Australians have no idea!!!

Drove through Cloncurry (not much happens in Cloncurry – the town highlight is that they have Burke and Wills water-bottle!!) and stopped at Corella Dam for a few nights – awesome spot – camped right on the waterfront – full of waterbirds and parrots.

Chilled out a few days – including a drive to a place called Mary Kathleen – once a mining town built by Rio Tinto for the nearby Uranium Mine … but now a ghost town … fascinating really. Also drove out to the old open cut mine – with the most stunning blue water you will ever see …. Amazing what toxins can do!!

Then it was onto Mt Isa – which is a large mining town. The mine continues to operate and dominates the town – it is massive. The town itself is actually quite nice – contrary to expectations … in fact so nice that I left Donna there locked in the caravan for 4 days while I flew to Melbourne to watch Sorrento lose the Grand Final against Dromana. Great to see Jackson and Sean – few beers, and then it was back to Mt Isa … Donna had survived.

Then it was onto Lawn Hill …. A long long drive – past the Burke and Wills Roadhouse (of course!!!) stopping at Gregory Downs Pub for the night – before trekking into Lawn Hill on the "worst road in Australia". Drove most of it in the wash off (not the actual road, but the bit beside the road) to avoid the large corrugations. We were glad to get to Lawn Hill – although as bad as the road was … it wasn’t as bad as we expected.

Lawn Hill is stunning – amazing!!!!! Camped in the national park – a short walk to Lawn Hill Gorge – with its beautiful clear green waters covered in lilypads and surrounded by huge Livistonia Palms. Stayed for 5 nights, and did various walks, including a long trek to the Top Gorge, and the shorter walk to the top of the Stack with great views down the Gorge, and to Wild Dogs Dreaming – with Aboriginal Art. In between we saw plenty of Agile Wallabies, lots of fish, colourful birds, and even a Wild Pig!!! Also celebrated Donna's birthday with a day of feasting …. Egg and bacon brekky, picnic lunch and a swim at Indarri Falls, and a butterfly lamb roast for dinner!! With the mercury hitting 35 degrees every day, we did walks in the morning or evening, and then chilled at the Van during the mid-day heat, broken up with a couple of refreshing dips in the gorge each afternoon. Surely one of the best spots in Australia.

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