We were sick by now of the rain so we decided to find a place that we at least did not get wet. It was a bit difficult as the whole region between the
Fiji Islands and most of Northern Queensland was heavily influenced by a series of cyclones, the radar showed covered skies everywhere. The only exception at least for the highlands. You see a few miles inland along the coast there are a series of hills that lead to the highlands, the climate there is very different than the coast, it is a lot drier and mostly cooler. So we decided to head inland to the Atherton Tablelands. The Atherton Tablelands are a plateau that is part of the Great Dividing Range. The plateau is named after John Atherton who sttled near the town that now bears his name in the late 1870s. The region is well suited for farming as the soil is very fertile due to ts volcanic origins and it is also well suited for dairy and grazing. The region though was originally developed for its tin that was discovered near the present town of Herberton. It is not an easy drive, especially with the car we had, the road up through the mountains onto the plateau is full of tight curves, there were lot of look out points but the only thing
we could see was a white nothingness as the clouds were hanging very low. It was raining all the way up but once we reached the plateau the weather turned favorable, we even saw some sun. We did not come prepared as we were not planning to visit this area, our idea of Port Douglas and Queensland was sun, beach and tropics but in life you do not always get what you want or even what you paid for. So we just looked at the map and drove to Mareeba. Mareeba is the biggest town in the region with a population of about 7000, as always Australia is just way to big to fill with 22 million people. Nevertheless by now we were accustomed by now and found the town to be bigger than expected. The town grew with the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th century and also during World War 2 when the Australian army used the town as a staging area for the battles in the Pacific. According to the tourist guide the town gets 300 sunny days a year and that was a reason enough for us ti explore the town a bit. We headed for coffee at the Coffee Works. A delightful little place that was packed and offered some very tasty desserts, the Mississippi Mud Pie (I know it is not Australian) was the best and of course excellent coffee from local coffee beans. As with all places in Australia the town was trying to project a sense of history, to somehow tell a story and prove to anyone willing that there is more to the place than meets the eye. Australia is so young though that
to us it did not seem very significant in the big scheme of things, maybe only in the Australian scheme of things. Mind you that this is not a criticism, just an observation. The drive had taken us longer than expected so we decided to head off to Cairns with a stop at Kuranda. The road was better, we also got to see some huge termite mounds, they can be huge! It started raining again, it was pouring like there was no tomorrow. That was to continue for the rest of the day, which was still half the day. We drove to the town of Kuranda, 25 kays from Cairns. Thousands of tourists visit the town either with the skyrail or the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. The rain was so bad that we did not stop to get out but just drove through the town that was devoid of any tourists. We managed to find our way to Barron Falls were Beth and me took turns to run to the lookout platform to look at the -only in the wet season- spectacular falls. It was a pity that we did not get to spend more time but it was uncomfortable so we decided to get on to Cairns and hope to find some respite. The road turned nasty again as we had to drive down from the highlands, I wish we can visit again sometime when the weather is better the views must be breathtaking. We went into Cairns looking for food, we were hungry as we only had had breakfast in the morning but it was not meant to be. The restaurant we wanted to go to was closed and would not open until 5pm, so we took a little walk at the Cairns Esplanade in the
rain and went into a couple of souvenir shops. Before long we took off to go back to Port Douglas. I cannot stress enough how beautiful the drives were, the scenery despite the gray skies were breathtaking, we stopped at Palm Cove and while the beach was closed for swimming the place looked very beautiful.
This was our last night in Port Douglas and we decided to try Thai food, Beth did not allow me to give prik (Thai for chili) to Ben but we had fun and enjoyed a very nice evening out. We also started talking about the return trip and we wondered where two months went. We only had four more days in Australia, we had so much fun and we done so much that we did not realize that our time here was almost up. We went back to the hotel and packed, we had a flight to Melbourne to prepare for….