Australia 5: Cape Hillsborough/Eungella National Park

Me, Tiia, Umberto and Matthieu drove in our camper from Airlie Beach to Cape Hillsborough while Toby and Rasmus chose to stay put for another night to see friends. The couple of hours in the camper was spent laughing out of delirium at everything and anything, finally stumbling across a free campsite 5km from Cape Hillsborough beach that had no showers or toilets; this was going to be some serious hardcore camping for the night, with strategic peeing in the buses. We arrived just before sunset so we had time to set up our time before making dinner; Kangaroo steaks with rice and veg. With nothing to do at the “campsite” and darkness upon us we went to bed at 8pm, absolutely baking. Bed at 8pm, absolutely baking.

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We woke up at 5am so that we could pack up and drive to the beach in time to view the kangaroos and wallabies jumping across the beach at sunrise. While we didn’t catch sight of any kangaroos, the wallabies were absolutely fascinating; some playing together, some stood around in groups, some solo wallabies hopping along the beach in front of us. Plus the sunrise – with the clouds creating dynamism – was absolutely spectacular.

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Tiia and I then walked the jungly mountain for the various lookout points across the water, unable to circle the base as the tide had come in, before taking a freezing cold shower at the top of the beach before packing up our camper after lunch and heading towards Eungella National Park.

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On the drive the guys received yet another speeding fine, with me once again completely oblivious (this time because I was sleeping). We drove round winding, narrow roads up the mountains with vast views below and a spectacular, panoramic view from the top.

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We headed to Broken River where we could camp for 6 dollars (£3.60) each and there’s various “nature” things to do that were peaceful and enjoyable in the wonderfully warm weather; platypus viewing (and turtles), a quaint rainforest walk with a stream along the way, and eat like a local with kangaroo or crocodile burgers. Exhausted after 3 really early mornings and not staying in the same place for more than one night in over a week (which means constant packing and unpacking, tent up and tent down) we were in bed by 9pm. Considering the stifling heat of the night before we deliberately put our tent under a tree in the shade and didn’t put the cover over the top until the last minute, and of course we then had the coldest night sleep ever. Typical.

Despite the cold I had the most sleep I’ve had in ages but then felt weak the next morning. We packed up early and drove 20km to Eungella Dam – literally in the middle of nowhere, off dirt tracks and yellowy trees (with not the best signage along the way), is this beautifully blue and still dam surrounded by lush green trees. I felt at peace as soon as we arrived. There were families and campervans dotting the waters edge and, as we set up and began relaxing on the grass, an Australian woman and her husband whom were next to us began asking about our travels, with the woman telling me about her children going off to travel and live in other countries. It made me really homesick and miss my mum, craving to see her and have a cuddle; I’m a tactile, affectionate person, feeling love and warmth through physical interaction, something that I was really missing along with the deep love and support of my parents and close friends.

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During these low moments it’s hard to comprehend still being away for 7 more months; it feels overwhelming and almost impossible, leaving me questioning whether I am cut out for it. Can I do this?? It made me think about when my travels are over and how I will find the balance between the part of me that craves “home” and the love, comfort and familiarity that comes with it and the part of me that has a strong desire to explore and be culturally challenged and be free. I’m still figuring that one out.

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On our drive towards Seventeen Seventy later in the afternoon I spent most of the time staring out the window and absorbing the characteristics of Australia; we passed through Mackay and streets lined with typical Australian bungalows that fondly reminded me of Home and Away, there were train tracks running alongside the road but for transporting coal rather than people, and huge mountains and open fields to our right in stark contrast to the tracks on the left. Being a car passenger at night – with clear skies and bright stars as I gazed out the window – took me right back to my childhood and how small I felt in the world and how anything felt possible. You can still feel magic, even now.

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We decided to stop at Joan Tierney Park, a couple of hours from Seventeen Seventy, to sleep for the night. Everyone was tired and hungry, over a week now of 24/7 with each other, so it can get a bit snappy. I know I am starting to crave time to myself as someone whom yearns for and needs their own space away from anyone, especially after over 2 months travelling on my own. It’s interesting to see how I have changed just from travelling for 4 months and what I now recognise I need.

It was another cold night but we were better prepared this time – we woke early to the sound of birds and families packing away, so I had an early morning swing ride in the small playground with the sun in my face, at once missing the freedom and joy of being a kid. Maybe I’m having some kind of bizarre mid-life crisis in a campsite playground.

LS.

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