Around Australia Week 10 – Airlie Beach to Cairns

Well, after seeing a lot of Airlie Beach over the past few weeks, we’re moving north… starting with a visit to Bowen with the film crew. We’ve been here several times before (both on day trips and staying at caravan parks) but we couldn’t leave the area without covering it in the DVD! And as always, we loved pulling up at the beach and revisiting old haunts.

Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay

But Townsville beckoned… so after a final appreciative glance over our shoulders at Horseshoe Bay, we drove on to Townsville.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans… we were planning to get to The Lakes caravan park in Townsville in plenty of time for Tony Cook’s musical session in their very pleasant camp kitchen, around the pool, but we arrived several hours late. Why?

Well… we had an all-too-close encounter with an overtaking truck on a narrow section of road!

I think we all wonder how we’d react when involved in an accident, and how it might affect the entire trip. In our case, we found it was over so quickly that we barely had time to think “Huh??? What’s happening?” before we were pulling up at the side of the road to assess the damage. Rob reacted instinctively in holding the rig as steady as possible; I dropped my knitting (!!! Yes! Dropped stiches!!!!) then reached over to apply the Hayman Reese caravan brake. All quite instinctive. (I remember John at Tow-Ed emphasising the importance of being able to reach for this brake without looking in an emergency: “Practise applying it before you need it,” were his instructions. Believe me, it’s excellent advice!)

We were lucky: the caravan sustained some panel damage and the driver’s door copped a bit of a pasting, but after a couple of hours waiting around for the police and going through the usual legalities, we were able to attach the spare tow mirror and continue our journey. And it didn’t curtail our enthusiasm one bit for our Big Trip Around Oz. However, it was nice to get to Townsville and set up on a peaceful site next to the lake!

The picture below shows the car and van pulled over just after the incident, as well as the main damage – the driver’s door and the side panel/corner of the caravan.

An accident...

An accident…

 The next day Rob stayed back at the park to start the tedious process of contacting insurance companies and assessors, while I went off with the film crew and enjoyed myself: first the Billabong Sanctuary, then Reef HQ. (Sounds like a fair division of labour to me!)

I had a great time at the Billabong Sanctuary. I’d already heard about it from four-year-old Lily at the Home Hill Rest Stop (see the Travellers’ Tales on the DVD); her mum said meeting a wombat there was one of Lily’s favourite things. I can see why! Although I have to admit that wombat was heavy.

Billabong Sanctuary

Billabong Sanctuary

 The staff at the Billabong Sanctuary were incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and there was a high degree of interaction with the animals. I wasn’t too sure about that sharp cassowary beak near my fingers when I was feeding it grapes and banana segments… but I came out of it with all fingers intact. And I’d much rather have a Pandora necklace draped around my neck than Mrs. Cuddles!

Reef HQ is also an interesting place to visit. Do take a look at the turtle hospital; what a great innovation – and have a chat to the staff about the coral and the sea creatures while you’re wandering through. Sure, there’s plenty of fascinating stuff to view, but it’s a much richer experience when you find out more about the marine environment and the way the staff propagate coral, thus helping to preserve the precious reef.

Reef HQ

Reef HQ

 Meanwhile, back at the park, Rob had been spending most of the morning on the phone and seeing assessors. I’ll let him speak about this…


Both the van and Isuzu were driveable which made the process of arranging repairs that much easier.  The most difficult task was trying to find the right repairer who could do the job in the very limited time frame we have.  We had some success, but it wasn’t easy.  As anyone who has been in the situation before knows, when you are trying to get a major task done and you don’t know anyone from the area, you tend to be “flying blind”.

The staff at The Lakes Caravan Park put us onto City Crash Repairs in Townsville, who were able to assess the damage to the Isuzu & prepare and submit a quote within 48 hours.  All good!

With the van we had less success.  The first repairer we went to wasn’t able to take it on as they “had too much on the plate already – it’s peak season with everyone coming into town from down south”, another repairer, who agreed to do an assessment, seemed less than enthusiastic about doing the job. After numerous phone calls to them (mostly unanswered and not returned) we were able to extract a quote to do the job.  While I’m not a caravan repairer, I still had a feeling for the work that was needed.  The quote to me seemed excessive and generally reflected their attitude toward the job to be done.

We spoke to Tony from the van manufacturer, Crusader Caravans, and he seemed to confirm our thoughts about the repairer in question.  So after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between Insurance Company, repairer, van manufacturer & ourselves we decided to have the van collected by Crusader & taken to their outlet in Brisbane for repairs.

(NOTE: I should add that time constraints prevented us from visiting other caravan repairers in Townsville, and I’m sure our experience was affected by that situation.)

One other thing that came out of all this is the reliance on all parties to act together to get the job done. The repairer relies on us to deliver the vehicle on time, the insurance company wants the repairer to prepare a suitable quote, the assessor has to be there to look at the job, the insurer needs to authorise the work to commence and the repairer needs all the parts to do the job.  Not an easy exercise for anyone.  However things are back on track pretty well now and we’ll be back to full operation very shortly.


Well, you know what they say… time waits for no man! We were expected at the South Mission Beach Big 4.  We’d been looking forward to this destination, with visions of blue skies, sandy beaches and those gorgeous tropical seas. Instead we were greeted with heavy grey clouds, intermittent rain and gusty winds. (Well, the tropics can’t turn it on all the time, can they?) We were greeted by the funny and cheerful Elvira, who hopped into her little FrogMobile and buzzed on ahead of us to indicate a wide choice of powered sites for larger vans or tents near the camp kitchen. By dark, we were all settled in.

Big 4 South Mission Beach

Big 4 South Mission Beach

 The next day we made our way to Paronella Park. We’d already heard about this from other caravanners as being a ‘don’t miss’ venue, and as it turned out, we found that the rain was actually a plus. The day we visited it was mostly fine, but the rain the day before added a whole new dimension to the park: the moss that materialised on the old stone steps and buildings gave the whole place a truly magical air. It was like a setting you’d expect to find in a fantasy novel.

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

 I’d be hard put to name my favourite thing here: the waterfalls, the majestic Kauri trees; the pools and weathered stone buildings… awesome. Yes, put it on your ‘must see’ list! You can even stay one night in the Paronella Park caravan park: this is included in the entry fee – but DO book ahead. (The owner, Mark Evans, has spent time caravanning himself… so he’s very attuned to the needs and interests of the RV crowd!)

We hunkered down at South Mission for the rest of the week, and as usual met some great people that we’re sure to stay in touch with. In the photo below you can see a Happy Hour shot outside Sue and Peter’s caravan.


On Saturday morning we went for a wander around the Mission Beach “Monster” Markets, and who should we meet but Vicki and John from our caravan park!! Vicki makes beautiful glass beads (her passion!) whenever they’re back at home, and she takes a selection with her to sell at markets as they travel.

Vicki selling her glass beads at the markets

Vicki selling her glass beads at the markets

 We are pleased to report that sun actually DID come out at Mission Beach while we were there… so naturally we spent some time lazing about on the beach, listening to music and reading.

But… I have to admit that we enjoyed our walks along the beach in the rain, too… warm tropical rain is a totally different experience from being caught in a cold rainstorm down south!

Next week, we’re off to Rollingstone. Stay tuned!

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