The sub-tropical Gondwana Rainforests have disappeared now, to be replaced by the Wet Tropical Rainforests. You don’t really notice the difference to begin with. From a distance it still looks like mountains covered in trees but it’s a distinctly different environment, with different plants and animals calling it home.

After the building site in Townsville a few national parks were in order, so we turned off the Bruce Highway towards Murray Falls, a campsite within the Girramay National Park.

It was our longest drive yet, clocking in around five hours. The girls were troopers, and we were all over the moon to arrive and discover that our new ‘home’, was lovely. Probably the most beautiful camp site we’ve stayed at so far. We set up and decided straight away to stay at least two nights. The trees, and the beauty of the place just gave us all an instant sigh. Ahhh… this’ll do nicely.

There wasn’t too much to do, there was no mobile phone reception and there was nowhere to spend any money – which pleased me tremendously 😀

We walked up to see the waterfall a couple of times. There was a wooden platform that took you to the foot of an impressive cascade, and further down there were a series of swimming holes.

Crystal clear water swirling around enormous boulders, with smoothed out rock lining the sides of the river. It was shallow and clear enough to see there were no crocodiles too, so we went for a refreshing dip.

Ever since Airlie Beach we had started to see quite a lot of green ants, and here, beside one of the swimming holes I saw a whole load of them all crawling round a ‘pod’ that had been created by sealing a few leaves together. Must be a green ant’s nest. Jees. Wouldn’t like to stumble into that.

We also saw a couple of Ulysses butterflies, which are a striking cobalt blue, and massive. They’re one of the signature animals of Tropical North Queensland, so it was great to see a few in the wild.

Another animal that’s very well-known up here, but not because they’re seen a lot, is the Cassowary. In fact they’re an endangered species so there’s not that many left, and this stretch of coastline is the only place in the world they can be found.

On top of all that, we had a lot of school to do. Erin and Skye went for a walk and left Katie and I to finish off some maths. We were almost done, so I wandered round to get lunch out the fridge in the back of the car.

“Well done sweatheart, you did really well at school today.”

To which I heard a blood curdling “Aeeeeeegghhhh!”

I turned round and standing about six feet in front of me, and a foot taller than me, was a fucking dinosaur.

I jumped over the A frame of the trailer away from it, grabbed Katie who had sprinted round the other side and threw her up on top of the car. I reached into the back seat for my camera, and by the time I was out again, the Cassowary was gone.

Phooooo. What a rush. My heart was thumping.
Jesus Christ, that thing was fucking amazing!

“Katie that was amazing!
 Are you OK sweatheart?”

“Come on down now, it’s fine.
These animals don’t want to hurt us, it was just curious.”

“I’m scared daddy.”

“I know, but it’s OK now Katie, it’s gone. It was scared too!”

And so was I. Although the rational part of your brain tells you the largest bird in the world doesn’t really want to maul you to death for the contents of your fridge…. on the other hand, maybe it’s hungry. Maybe it’s pissed off. Who the hell knows. And it’s bigger than me, with freakin’ dinosaur claws, and a fucking massive rhino horn on its head. Fuck!


“OK Katie, let’s go and find mummy and Skye and tell them what happened.
  That was amazing!”

We didn’t see it again unfortunately. But everyone we tell mentions how lucky we were. There are Australian’s who go their whole life without seeing one, even people who live in the area.

Two days passed quickly. We could have stayed longer but we had to get on the road again, we had a date with Tony Bourne, who was going to teach us how to drive our 4WD properly. Bring it on Tony. Bring. It. On.

The Bourne Preparation

2o minutes along a dirt track back to the highway, and we were off to Mareeba, the largest town of the Atherton Tablelands. The landscape looked a little less volcanic, and more ‘Scottish’ or ‘Irish’ actually. We slowly, but continuously headed upwards, and emerged into a land of rolling hills, green pastures and a what appeared to be a virtually permanent drizzle. It was also cold. Hmm… now reminding me more of Scotland than Ireland.

No wonder they’re called the Misty Mountains. We hoped it wouldn’t be raining when we arrived, and we were in luck, the sky cleared to give us a good bit of sunshine about fifteen minutes out from Mareeba.

The first camp site was a no go, and while I was talking to the owner of the next one, Erin found a farm for us to stay at. Turns out it was lovely. We were staying in an orchard at the back of someone’s house. There was a wee girl for Katie and Skye to play with, and over the few nights we had there a nice little community formed.

A semi-retired primary school librarian, who had reached the age where she thought ‘shit!’ “I better get on with doing some things in my life!” and was finally prompted into action by an episode of Dr Phil.

A retired couple from Cairns who were trying out their new caravan, and another couple from Melbourne, who had virtually set-up shop living there, becoming best friends with the owners.

It was a nice place to stay for a few days. Mareeba itself wasn’t up to much really, but the reason we were there was for the 4WD course. And I was just as excited by the fact that it was a ‘Bourne’ who was going to be training us – even if it turned out that wasn’t really his name :/

Anyway, Tony was going to go through some theory and a bit of driving with me in the morning, then at lunch I would scoot back to camp to mind the kids, while Erin returned to do some driving in the afternoon.

When I was about to head back for Erin however, he said we might as well bring the kids if they were up for it, and I could in the passenger seat while Erin drove. So that’s what we did. And it was brilliant!

And the biggest surprise of the whole day, was that Erin loved it too!

We drove up and down inclines that I would have been terrified of, without him leading the way in his own car. We drove through massive pools of mud that I thought would have stopped the car in its tracks. We drove up and down rocks that were higher than the actual wheel of the car, we forded rivers, and we were taught how to do all of this without damaging your car, or your relationship, perfect!

He was a really nice fella too, and by the end Erin and I both felt like we were ready to head to the tip of Cape York. Woo hoo!

Mission accomplished, next stop – Palm Cove, for the final preparations, before heading up to the Cape.