Port Douglas

Before leaving Queensland’s Gold Coast I visited several places where forest walks are common. There is nothing common however about the scenery and I experienced some beautiful views around Springbrook National Park and glimpsed some of Australia’s wild-life that I had not previously seen. This included a Lace Monitor, a type of lizard, which was crossing the road as I returned to base. The reptile was over 3ft long and had green bands. I have never seen a lizard this size before and at first it seemed almost as big as the car. I thought for a moment it would mistake Bridget for another monitor and either attack her or try to mate!

I had arranged to meet some members of the Queensland Sprite Car Club, based in Brisbane, on the way through the area and join them at a ‘Barbie’. I was amazed when around 25 people turned up at very short notice just a couple of days after Christmas to meet me and talk about my adventures. Just like the MG clubs before them they were extremely welcoming and curious as to what sort of person takes on a challenge pushing at the boundaries of the capabilities of a British sports car. They also brought a terrific display of Sprite cars including the iconic ‘Bug-eye’.

The following day Bridget and I drove to Noosa Heads, on the Sunshine Coast. Neighbours of ours from Chinnor in England moved to Australia in August 2007 and now live here. Mike and Tricia Fairburn brought their MGB GT with them and I promised to visit even though Mike thought I would never make it. He had helped me re-cover the seats for Bridget before he left the UK and demanded to see if I had looked after them.

Whilst in Noosa I was also lucky enough to meet Graham and Sheila Peters who invited me to join them for lunch along with Phil Evett. Graham is the President of the Sunshine Coast MG Car Club and Phil is the club Secretary. They were disappointed that I wasn’t staying longer and able to attend a club meeting but the road to Port Douglas, north of Cairns, was beckoning and I really had to get going.

Everyone keeps telling me that we should have gone the other way around the coast therefore visiting Darwin after Perth. The reason is that January is the beginning of the wet season and also when typhoons hit the area. There is a very real chance that we will be confronted by flooding and Bridget cannot swim, moreover she can only safely paddle in water less than six inches deep.

The journey north entailed two one-night stopovers and advanced me by some 1,200 miles. To put that in context it is the equivalent of driving from London to Glasgow each day for three days. Bridget found the first day hard going in the 35ºC heat and so the next two days I reduced our cruising speed to around 55mph. We are losing a little oil from the filler cap still but the engine is running well.

Whilst in Port Douglas I decided to do the normal tourist bit and take a river trip up the Dickson Inlet to see some of the local wildlife. We spotted a couple of crocodiles hiding at the side of the water amongst the mangrove roots. There was also some interesting birdlife including a majestic Sea Eagle.

The following day I went out to The Great Barrier Reef for some snorkelling. I am told there is no need to look out for sharks as the ‘crocs’ have eaten them all. So if the Box jellyfish sting all the Sea Kraits it should be relatively safe. The reef is absolutely beautiful and well worth the effort to get there. The different shapes and colours of the coral and plant life are stunning as are the thousands of different fish.

Then the time arrived to start the trek to Darwin  that everyone has said can be difficult. I now have one 20litre jerry can of fuel and one containing water. The water tank I have wrapped in cooking foil to try to keep the temperature low. I don’t know if it will work or not but it’s worth trying.

We drove south through Mareeba to The Lynd Junction. It was my intention to then drive on to Hughenden but a chance meeting with a fellow traveller informed me that the route was flooded to a depth of about 3ft and there was no way the Bridget would get through. I had a feeling of de ja vous but realised that this advise was more informed than that which I had received on the Iranian/Pakistan border. So I decided we would drop down to Charters Towers and then turn west on the highway A6 to Mount Isa.

Some 45 miles south of The Lynd Junction I rounded a bend and the whole road was awash. One of the creeks had risen above the flood level, only by about 8˝, but it was still rising and flowing very fast. I decided to risk a crossing being mainly concerned with being washed off the road more than anything else. Bridget made it quite easily, helped by the extra wait on her rear axle from the fuel and water. The most worrying thing was that the creek level had risen to the flood level in less than 30 minutes and there is still plenty of rain about. The whole area is very flat and widespread flooding is possible.

Having arrived in Charters Towers, a little tired, I decided to watch the local news and heard that the whole area from Julia Creek to Mount Isa is impassable and the police have asked people not to attempt to drive through there. We will have to wait and see what develops. The following day I spoke to the Mount Isa police and was advised not to attempt the journey. The rain is the heaviest for several years and one car was swept off the road yesterday. Fortunately the occupants were rescued. I will just have to wait.

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