We drove out of Belyando Crossing on the 16 January. Now, on the 16 March life could not be more different. Since experiencing our first Ringers an Govies meet and greet at Belyando Crossing, we have camped in the rainforest, been surfing in jellyfish infested waters, been flooded (more than once) in the Queensland wet season, had far too many close encounters with snakes, landed a new job, made new mates and changed our travel plans for the remainder of 2016.
It has been an EPIC couple of months!
We have stayed at some exceptional campsites, including the Platypus Bush Camp in Finch Hatton Gorge, which is simply stunning. The entire campground is built by hand out of recycled materials. You can opt to camp there or stay in one of the shared treehouse-style huts that Wazza and his team of helpers have built. They have the most beautiful outdoor kitchen that we have ever had the pleasure of cooking in and the obvious highlight – getting to see a family of platypus’ in the wild! They are SO fucking cute that you just want to dive in and hug them! Our only regret is not being able to snap a photo of them, but all we had were our phone cameras which could just not keep up those sneeky bastards. They were so quick and hard to spot that by the time you saw them and raised your camera, they were gone. Hopefully that problem in no longer plague us as we have just purchased a new fancy DSLR camera to allow us to get those animal close-ups that we’re craving.
After relaxing and reconnecting with mother nature for a week in Finch Hatton Gorge, we started our southward journey along the Queensland coast. Next stop: Calliope River, just south of Gladstone. We were up or some free camping so we headed to the much talked about Calliope River for a few days to save some pennies and continue our blissed out relaxation. All was well on the river, besides the fact that we could not swim as there are warning signs for crocs and stingers all over the place. Not that that stopped the locals though. They were throwing their kids in like a zoo keeper throws in raw-chickens. We tried to take the ‘ultimate Queensand photo‘ here. It was of a family swimming in the river infront of a crocodile warning sign, mum and dad with a stubbie in hand and paying no attention at all to the kids. that photo did not turn out, but here is one of a dude fishing in front of the croc warning sign. Ahhh Queensland. You bloody ripper. You never fail to amaze us.
Queensland also never fails to scare the shit out of us. At this same crocodile and stinger ridden campsite, we took a walk to the the only touristy site in town, the Calliope River Historical Village (mainly to get an icypole and some exercise). On our way out of the shop, Monique spotted a big, red snake and yelled out to the shopkeeper to ask it we should be scared of it. Her reaction was enough to tell us YES! It was a red-coloured brown snake and big. She sent her husband off to get a shovel. We took the long way round and pretty much ran back to our campsite.
A little shaken from our first snake sighting (yes, we have made it from July – January without seeing a single snake), we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at our campsite and reading. A couple of hours into said relaxation, Monique looked up form her book and very quietly said… ‘Anai, get up slowly, very slowly and very calmly walk away’. To her credit Anai knew this meant SNAKE!!! but didn’t freak out and put us in danger. She looked up form her book to see the same scary-as-all-hell sight that Monique was looking at. We were sitting approx 1.5meters away from each other in our camp chairs (basically the same set up us the cooking picture below) and in the middle of us (where the camp cooker is in the photo) was a snake, a big one. She was standing up about knee height and staring at us. No joke. She was in the classic ‘strike’ position.
We slowly got ourselves up, backed away behind the car and ran for our lives!! After a few hundred meters we turned around and the fear caught us both. Legs were shaking and hearts were racing. We didn’t know what to do. We had lost sight of the snake when we ran. Most probably the snake had not seen us because we were sitting so quietly and still, so when Monique moved and saw her, it was the first time she saw us to and freaked the fuck out as much as we did!
We took the hint that Calliope River was sending us. Two snakes in one day. No thanks. in no time, we were outta there! Now… we know from many many months on the road that it takes us about 45 minutes pack up our campsite and drive out of town. That day, it was closer to 15 minutes, and every time we lift something to pack away, we shat ourselves because we had NO IDEA where the snake had gone.
Lesson learned. Never take your eyes off the snake.
As we drove away from the Calliope River praying the snake was not in the car with us, storm clouds rolled over and the sky was black within minutes. We shouted ourselves dinner out in Gladstone and as we rolled into the parking lot flocks of black crows were circling us. It was like the world was ending. We had planned to drive to Agnes Water that night and just wing it that we might be able to get a spot in the campsite, set up in the dark and deal with the consequences in the morning, but after the storm and the crows we took our first bailout of this trip and called a motel.
I want to give a shoutout to the Gladstone Palms Motor Inn manager/owner who was so kind to us. We must have called her at about 8 or 9pm on a Sunday night. It was the 24th January so everyone was also enjoying a long, long Australia Day weekend. The kind manager/motel owner left her puppy training school to come and book us into the motel. She was so lovely! we really want to thank her for going above and beyond for us. The Gladstone Palms Motor Inn is also plush! Much nicer than any motel I remember seeing or staying in. It was basically a hotel, with the self-contained element of a motel. Nice towels, great bed, clean (very clean) and a hot shower. Free wifi, big TV – we were in heaven! We stayed the night and blissed out on luxury for a change. We deserved it after seeing two snakes within a meter of us both that day!
We had planned to shot off early the next day to Agnes Water, getting there early to ensure that we were able to get a camping spot at Workmans Beach (you cannot pre-book and it was the Straya Day long weekend). However we forgot we were in regional Queensland. We needed to make a big shop in the supermarket before heading to Agnes Water, and the Coles in Gladstone does not open early – so we used that as an excuse to have a nice sleep in (in a read bed!).
We spent the entire drive from Gladstone to Agnes Water counting the amount of rental campervans that were driving the opposite direction and trying to gauge out chances of getting a campsite at Workamans Beach. We were outwardly confident but internally scared that were were not going to get a site. We had no backup plan and really wanted to spend a week in Agnes. We turned up to an almost empty campsite at Workmans Beach. It took us over an hour to choose our site, there were that many options. You can neve pick it hey!
Our first day at Agnes Water was exactly what we had been dreaming of. Beach, sunshine, salty skin, smiles and surf. Perfection. All those magical moments lasted about 24 hours (actually it was more like 3 really good days) before the storms rolled over , the jellyfish took up residency and our campsite became a flooded wind-tunnel. We spent a few days hiding out in the library (free wifi and cheap coffee, thank you very much) then decided that we were braver than this and booked in our much-anticipated surfing lesson. We had been watching the surf groups everyday and they were about 10 – 16 in each group, playing in the small but good waves.
The day of our lesson, the wind was HOWLING and there was over 40 people booked in for the lesson. We had even specifically booked in for a mid-week lesson to avoid the crowds. it backfired. The waves were blowing in sideways, messy as all hell and crowded with first-time surfers. Every time someone wiped out everyone ducked for cover as their board got caught in the wind. All this was ultimately made more stressful by the bluebottle jellyfish who decided to come for the lesson. Nearly everyone left with stinger marks. One poor girl had one wrapped all the way around her thigh and the lifesaver took about 5 minutes trying to get it off. It was like there was one or two jellyfish, and everyone was a little nervous, then we turned around and the waves were literally full of them. We bailed on the lesson about 30 mins before it finished and did not get back into the water for the rest of our stay at Agnes Water. (a couple of days later stingers also blew in – this is not normal at all for Agnes Water and was caused by stronger northerlies than normal. It affected a lot of the coast this summer).
It was a bummer. Our week of sunshine and surf turned into a week of jellyfish and floods. As always we made the most of it, but it was a bit of a let down. We love Agnes Water but it seems like this time, she did not love us back quite so much. Our campsite turned into a river one day and flooded our cooker. That left us using the public BBQs to cook a warm dinner in the rain. Which was… a new experience.
On the upside, the rain meant that the campsite was generally empty – except for a few die-hard old traveller dudes and rotation of international tourists who camped next to us every night – each night a new neighbour. Some were more prepared than others. Our favorite? This guys below, who had a beach parasol to protect his gear in the torrential rain. He also had no fly or cover on his tent. Needless to say they were up and out early and wet the next day.
Our time in the rain at Agnes was made even more delightful by us stumbling upon a snake in the dark one night when we made the soggy mission to the bathrooms. She was slithering about 3 meters from our tent and by the time Anai saw her, she was about 1.5m away from being stood on by us – in our thongs! Gar!
Our days hiding in the library were put to good use though. We were on the hunt for a new job! After leaving Belyando Crossing 4 weeks earlier than planned, and with a new exciting adventure on the horizon for late 2016, we needed to bulk up our bank account and fast! Good old Gumtree came to the rescue and we applied for a range of positions. Al, the Operations Manager from the Scenic Rim Trail called us to have a chat and set up and interview time. He liked our resumes and we liked the look of their website! After a phone interview and 24 hours of nervous waiting we were rewarded with that great ‘the job is yours’ call! We had one week to spare before we started work again – now… how to spend it?!
We opted for a direct trip to Noosa, then a few days on the beach at Coolum. Noosa was it’s lovely fine self, except for the small ‘stingers’ in the water one day. They were not lethal or anything, but just enough to annoy you and make you paranoid about what else might be in the water. We blobbed about, relaxing, catching up with mates, walking the beach, sunbathing and the time passed by too quickly. Before we knew it we were of to Coolum Beach and hoping for beach weather. We should have hoped harder. We could not get near the water! the swell was huge and messy, the wind wild and the rain hard. We spent our time at Coolum Beach cooking great food in the camp kitchen, drinking coffee and splashing in puddles. We made sure to pack up the tent well, she’s not coming out for a few weeks at least, and made ourselves look as presentable as possible to make the drive up to our new house, our new job and and meet our new co-workers.
We were nervous. We had locked ourselves into a 6 month contract at this gig, which was more than either of us had wanted to commit to – but as I said, our bank account was looking a little lack-luster for what we have planned in late 2016. Our nerves were unnecessary. The crew out here are LOVELY, the house AMAZING and the job well suited to us. We are now three and a half weeks into the job and still loving life up here in the Scenic Rim. We have been lucky enough to be taken on part of the walk (the third day for those playing along at home). The walk was more of a hike, and covered 14kms of territory from Canopy Lodge, where we walk, up Spicers Peak, across a narrow ridgeway with incredible views of the Scenic Rim region and then a final hike up the last hill to Peak Lodge, our sister-hotel up the hill. I don’t know how, but the whole 14kms felt like it was uphill. One part was especially demanding and we both struggled to overcome the mental block that is inherent to a walk like this. That good old ‘I’m not going to make it’ that sings away in the back of your head as you turn the corner and see MORE uphill track in front of you. We will write more about the walk another day, but for now, just believe us that it is incredibly exhilarating to walk up these hills, then be rewarded with views like this.
You cannot see too clearly in this photo, but tight in the middle of these hills above is a small clearing with 10 luxury safari tents, a lodge and a conference room – that is where we work. Right in the middle of this view! Yep, life really sucks right now.
The only thing we have to worry about out here is the wildlife, namely the snakes. We’re okay with the lizards, dragons, wallabies, frogs and eagles that call this place home. It’s just the snakes the scare the shit out of us! And there are a lot of them around at the moment. Next to our house two brown snakes and a red-bellied black snake have been spotted. I have seen a baby brown snake at the lodge and co-workers say a red-belly the other day at work. I cannot wait for winter for them to all go back into hibernation – or hiding – anywhere away from us will be fine. We even got up close and personal with a python the other day on a bush-walk through Queen Mary Falls – check out this photo on our Instagram for proof! We also saw a kookaburra attacking and eating a baby snake.
Shit. Got. Real.
We are living with the snakes. I’m constantly paranoid that one is going to jump out of the corner of the laundry, the shed, the car, the lodge, the bathroom, our front stairs… basically everywhere. The words, ‘it’s okay, she’s only a python’ are said WAY too often around here. We are blessed to be living with and within very knowledgeable scientists who all have animal handing and conservation backgrounds. If anything gets into our house, they can take care of it for us. It also means that they have a trained eye and point out many snakes that we would have happily gone about our lives not knowing they were there.
So life out here is interesting. Fun. Exhilarating. and educational. We are a WORLD AWAY from where we started in January. Who knows where we will end up after this.
That reminds me… our plans for the remainder of 2016. We’re headed to Central America!!! Starting in Mexico and heading down the tail end of this small continent, we hope to cross to Colombia and see parts of South America also. Plans are very rough currently, but we will fly to Mexico in September and be in there and travelling south for at least 6 months. So…. friends and family around the world, if you want to catch up that is where we will be. Get in touch with us to check dates and see if we can meet up on a deserted Caribbean beach. Like we said – life is tough.
Chilli and Monique!