On a Mission (to the Beach)

It’s raining, it’s pouring

The old man is snoring

He went to bed, he bumped his head

And he couldn’t get up in the morning

Olde English Nursery Rhyme

For the first time on this trip we have encountered heavy and persistent rain. English nursery rhymes are recorded from the 17th century but this one is quite modern believed to be from the early 1900s and sort of sums things up. Except that one version of the meaning of the rhyme is it being a reference to someone who suffered a head injury and died. Guesswork really but it is understood that many nursery rhymes were in fact warnings of dangers or even anti- religion.

We had stayed at the Chimneys free camp before and stopped again this time on our way to the coast. It is over a third of the drive so nice and handy as a stop. The camp, officially the Cumberland Chimney and Dam, is what remains of the Cumberland Battery which was the old Cumberland township – a thriving gold mining town established in 1872. The Cumberland Company dammed the Cumberland Creek as a water source leaving us now with an attractive lake and very popular bird watching spot. It also has the added advantage of being 20 minutes from the bustling central Queensland town of Georgetown. Great for a coffee and fuel stop first thing in the morning. If you haven’t bumped your head that is.

An hour and a half’s drive east from Georgetown on the Gulf Development Road and some 250kms south west of Cairns is Mt Surprise. It is an old gold mining service town that now boasts three campgrounds and is popular with travellers for its simple facilities (a pub, two cafes and a servo) and as the kick off point to the Undarra Lava Tubes, the Cobbold Gorge and the gem fossicking area. Legend has it that the name comes from the surprise the local Aboriginals got when suddenly encountering white settlers looking for farmland. Who knows but the dusty town is now really a stopping point for caravaners and other travellers. This has been a coffee and sausage roll stop for us before.. This time we learned of quite severe rainstorms on the coast and the Atherton Tablelands which was our next stop. Furious debate occured in Mr Gato between Scout (prefer the sun) and the writer (lets get on with it) about staying a day or two in sunny Mt Surprise and waiting out the rain. The writer’s view prevailed by virtue of him having the motorhome keys. It also later transpired that Scout had spied a sign for a pizza night at the Mt Surprise pub. Regardless we forged on into the pouring rain for our nights stop at Archers Creek. Effectively a large paddock with a toilet on the side of the highway, Archers Creek is a popular one night stopping point for travellers going east and west. We could not believe how full it became before sunset. Every piece of land was filled with caravans, motorhomes, campers, tents and hippie vans. The camp is free, of course, but it is quite pleasant with a large creek running alongside it on one side and the highway on the other. We left early the next morning with many others and drove the 25 minutes into Ravenshoe to top up our larder. All the campgrounds and free camps we have stopped at have been heaving and the central and west Queensland roads are a constant stream of caravans and campers. It is really testimony to the fact that Australians cannot travel overseas at present so are acting out their holiday plans internally. Great for the local economy which is thriving. And great for vehicle suppliers as the waiting list for new caravans is said to be six months long exacerbated by supply problems from China. Second hand camping vehicle prices have risen over twenty percent.

Main Street – Millaa Millaa. Not much there but a nice cafe and pretty town.

Ravenshoe looked no less down on its luck than the last time we were here two years ago but it has a good supermarket which we needed before the three days stop we had planned at Millaa Millaa. The translation of Millaa Millaa from the local language means “waterfalls” but it could well mean “continuous heavy rain”. Because that is what we got for three days. Nevertheless the town is small but pretty and the local town volunteers maintain a nice park, flowering pots in the main street and an interesting museum although not for nothing is Millaa Millaa called “the Village in the Mist”. The campground is a pleasant 1.5km walk through bushland into town and beside the local golf course. The camp is on the side of a hill as is the golf course. I played a round one morning during a brief sunny period. Scout walked it with me but went back to camp after nine holes. I should have done the same. Millaa Millaa as the name suggests is at the head of a 17km circuit of three major waterfalls and they are spectacular. We drove the circuit and explored what were some lovely bush walks and sights.

After a quick stop for supplies in Malanda (think milk which is exported around Australia and the southern hemisphere’s largest wooden pub) we spent three days in the touristy town of Yungaburra.

The Big Pub, Milanda – built from local sawn timber in 1911

The Lakeside Campground is … well beside Lake Tinaroo and a pleasant three km cycle into town. Yungaburra is set up for tourists with the town consisting mainly of cafes, restaurants and accommodation. Again set in the middle of the rainforest it is an attractive town and boasts platypus in the creek although after hours of watching we didn’t see any. This became annoying when everyone we met asked “Isn’t it great to see the platypus in the creek”. The campground was full (what a surprise) and the lake a hive of boating activity – skiing, fishing and jet skis. Beside the camp is “The Avenue of Honour”. The first national memorial dedicated to those who served and died in Afghanistan is a beautiful and peaceful place where it is easy to reflect on the sacrifice and insanity of war. The memorial arose after the funeral in July 2010 of a young local boy, Private Ben Chuck who served and was killed in Afghanistan. His funeral procession with his coffin carried atop a gun carriage followed the 250m path of the now completed avenue. Following a suggestion that “there should be a living avenue of trees…” Private Chuck’s parents and support group completed the memorial in June 2013 which was opened by PM Julia Gillard. It is now recognised as a significant national memorial. The avenue is bounded by twin rows of Illawarra Flame trees which bloom a spectacular red from November each year.

It was now time to get back to the coast and Mission Beach.

2 thoughts on “On a Mission (to the Beach)

  1. Hi You Two
    As a kid in England I remember another version of the poem where- ‘he went to bed with a bucket on his head and couldn’t get it off in the morning’
    Just out of interest.



  2. Wonderful detail of your travels, hope the weather has improved and we look forward to the next chapter.
    With our love.
    Thea and Andrew


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