Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Paronella Park - One Man's Dream Come True

Entry to Paronella Park
South of Innisfail along the Canecutter Way and a few hundred metres north of Mena Creek is the delightful Paronella Park

Not just any park, Paronella is named after it's creator, Jose Paronella, a Spaniard who immigrated to Innisfail in 1913. In the years after his arrival, he became wealthy enough to build his own dream park. Complete with tennis courts, a dance hall, his castle, bridges, tunnels, a variety of trees and plants, capped off with a hydro-electric generating plant that beavered away under his Mena Creek Falls. And it still provides electricity for the park today.

Christina and the Kauri
Paronella was not only a visionary, but he worked tirelessly for years building his dream, mostly with his bare hands.  Today, unfortunately, most of the buildings have deteriorated, but the many trees, including a lovely walkway of kauri, stand strong and provide a testament to his vision.

We had been to Petronella Park years ago, but decided to visit again while in the area. To our surprise, the owners, Mark and Judy Evans provide free overnight caravan and camping accommodation for those who pay an entrance fee, which we did.

Lake from bridge
Everyone who pays the entrance fee also gets a free entry card valid for two years, handy for people living locally who wish to revisit for an invigorating weekend walk, or to show their visitors the sights.

Suspension bridge
If you love nature, you'll love Paronella Park. We did a night tour with a lovely lady who showed us some of the best views during a 45 minute tour. In the morning we moved our caravan to a parking spot at nearby Mena Creek and walked back over a suspension bridge that joins a very pleasant public park on the south side of Mena Creek with Paronella.  We walked for several hours the following day taking in the waterfalls, buildings, Kauri Avenue (see photo), Teresa Falls and Mena Creek Falls, Jose's tunnel, the forest trail and bamboo walks, and finished it off with a nice cup of coffee at the deck inside the entrance.

In the creek we saw numerous turtles and dozens of fish and eels, many of which came to the waters edge at feeding time to fight for their share of the spoils. The eels are large and there were at least three varieties of fish, although I can't recall what types.

We even saw a few common scrub turkeys.

Paronella Park was a stopover worth making and a great opportunity to get some of our daily steps in while communing with nature and Jose's dream. If you are in the area and have a day to spare, you really must visit Paronella Park.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Relaxing at Hydeaway Bay

Our car, caravan and McAllisters house overlooking Hydeaway Bay
Ever thought you needed to hide away? I know just the place and it's aptly named ... Hydeaway Bay.

Hydeaway Bay is 60 km north west of Airlie Beach which is a more well-known tourism hub. Proserpine and Bowen are also nearby if you need to get a mental picture of the location (and you know something of Queensland, Australia).

If you know nothing of Queensland or Australia, all you really need to know is that it is a location of incredible beauty with seaside views, beautiful blue water as far as the eye can see to the east, and hardly any people. Quiet, quiet, quiet.

We are fortunate enough to know Sue and Warwick McAllister who have lived here for years and who invited us to stop over for a few days. Well, we've been here a week and unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for Sue and Warwick), we leave tomorrow and head for Mackay a but further south.

Hydeaway Bay was apparently named after someone called Hyde, thus the spelling, however, I understand that both Hideaway and Hydeaway are used. Confused? Well, it's probably a war of words between government and the people who live here. 

Who cares how it's spelled? It's still a beautiful spot isolated from the frenetic hum of city life. And the small township has around 300 people, many of whom only appear during holiday season and summer. There are no shops here and you need to drive to Canonvale, Airlie Beach or elsewhere for supplies or services.

Many of the houses are built on sloping sites and set so as to view the bay and surrounding countryside. A large number of houses is for sale which is a mystery, but it could indicate that the owners are aging and need to live closer to services. 

Whatever, Hydeaway Bay is a delightful place and a much appreciated stop over on our trek through Queensland.

While here, we've managed some kayaking, revisited Airlie Beach and hung about doing nothing. How good is that?


Monday, September 01, 2014

Town Councils that go the Extra Mile

The author's car and caravan at front

Like any organisation, town and city councils are only as good as the people who work there and members of the public who contribute. Burdekin Shire Council obviously has staff who dreamed up a unique idea that appealed to us and dozens of other grey nomad travellers and was probably done with a view to helping local shopkeepers, publicans etc increase their sales.

Caravans as far as the eye can see
You see, caravanners like to free camp occasionally. That is, instead of paying $30-$45 or more per night to stay in a caravan park, we like to pull up somewhere near a toilet block where we can stay for one or two nights at no cost. Across the country there are probably thousands of such places, but I haven't seen one as well planned as that at Home Hill, Queensland.

Home Hill's main street is on the Bruce Highway, the main highway servicing Queensland between Brisbane and Cairns and perhaps farther north. Running parallel with the Bruce Highway, two streets west is a long, wide, nicely bitumenised road along which the council encourages travellers to park and stay for up to two nights. The encouragement comes in the shape of a well designed, attractive, comfort stop building with toilets, showers, a free electric barbecue and tables and bench seats. It's all very well done and immaculately clean and maintained.

Caravans and RVs line half the street
The only undesirable feature is that a railway line also runs parallel with the free camping street and while we were there, a few trains rumbled by late at night, making a great noise ... one with sparks flying out from the wheels, which was entertaining. However, when you sleep at free camp spots they are often near main roads and other places where there is traffic, so you become accustomed to not taking much notice. You can't really complain when it's free eh?

We contributed to the town shopkeepers' wealth by having a couple of beers at an hotel and buying some groceries from the local supermarket. No doubt the dozens of other free campers would also have contributed to some extent buying fuel or other goods.

The Burdekin Shire Council is to be congratulated for having the initiative to dream up such a scheme that helps thousands of travellers per year and also brings sales for local shopkeepers. I've emailed them to congratulate them on such an innovative and excellent effort.

Many other town councils should follow this example, perhaps even the Alice Springs Town Council, where I live.


Barron Falls, Kuranda and the Scenic Railway

Far North Queensland, as the locals call it, is a tourist magnet with dozens of beautiful, sunny places to visit. One of the most popular is Kuranda in the Barron Falls National Park which I believe is on the tail end of the Great Dividing Range. (I stand corrected).

Kuranda is accessible by road, but many tourists prefer to use the Scenic Railway and Skyway, the latter of which provides a gondola trip through the top of the rain forest. Tickets provide for a return trip using both media either up or down ie, take the Skyway up to Kuranda and return via Kuranda Scenic Railway or vice versa.

Barron Falls
Preying Mantis Statue
Enroute to Kuranda is the Barron Falls which at the time of year we visited (late Winter) was down to a trickle, but still looked outstanding. Barron Falls has a railway station to which one can walk via a well designed and constructed walkway with several lookouts into the falls and local rain forest. Along parts of the walkway are bronze statues of some of the wildlife found in the national park.

Train Entering Station
When the scenic train winds its way to Barron Falls station, people properly situated can see both the train engine and the tail end carriages. Always a novelty.

Kuranda is a smaller township with a moderately "Hippy" marketplace built into the side of a hill on several benches. Shops sell the usual multi-coloured clothing, cheap jewellery, ice cream, other foodstuffs and from memory, I think you can have your chakra balanced, get a Thai massage or have your palms read if you are so inclined. The people at the market, and indeed, all over Kuranda are friendly and accommodating.

In the town itself is a police station (it must be the most comfortable posting in Queensland, if not the prettiest) and numerous shops selling clothing, pharmaceutical supplies, various massage therapies, and art and trinkets to tourists. There are only so many fridge magnets, caps or pens you can have in one lifetime, so we never bought any of the branded tourist wares.

We'd been on the scenic railroad and skyway previously, so this trip decided to drive up and back and take in some of the sites not usually seen from either of the previous eg, those from the walk to Barron Falls. The walk is pleasant and not too demanding and as with many of these type public facilities, seems to have been designed to include people in wheel chairs or who can not traverse stairs.

There's nothing much at the Barron Falls railway station but a few bench seats. At the time we were there the downwards train just happened to pass, so I managed to get a few photographs of it before we headed back to Kuranda along the return walkway.

The trips and visit to Kuranda are well worth doing if at any time you are visiting nearby Cairns.