Our first stop after leaving Proserpine was the Big Mango just south of Bowen where we stopped for a delicious mango smoothie before continuing on to the town of Bowen to look at the 25 bright and colourful murals which depict the rich and historical past of the town’s early settlement history through to present day.
We then headed for Townsville where we spent a few days doing some sightseeing. On Sunday, and despite the weather being rather drizzly, Adrian and Trudy (other members of the FJ Cruiser forum) very kindly took us on a guided tour during which we visited the nearby Little Crystal Creek (which is well known for its historic stone arch bridge built in the 1930s), Paluma and the Crystal Creek Rainforest before returning to Townsville and driving up the rather impressive Castle Hill (an isolated pink granite monolith standing in the heart of the city) for a 360 degree – and rather misty – view of Townsville.
The following day we visited Reef HQ which is the largest living coral reef aquarium. The Coral Reef Exhibit has 130 coral species and 120 fish species along with hundreds of species of sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, feather stars, snails, worms and sponges. We were also lucky enough to see a marine turtle named Penny who was found injured some months ago and is being prepared for release – fortunately she seems to be managing quite well in the reef predator tank! We then visited the Jezzine Barracks which are located on the Kissing Point Headland, where we wandered along the coastal walkways and visited some of the observation decks before catching up with my niece Sally and her partner John for some afternoon drinks.
Our next stop was Ingham for two nights and during our stay we visited the Wallaman Falls (and we saw our first cassowary walking along the side of the road) and the TYTO wetlands where, although we didn’t see much in the way of birdlife (not the best time of year), we did manage to see a Jabiru.
One of the things I have really liked about this trip so far has been the variety of birds we have had a chance to see and/or hear each day – with the exception of the nocturnal bush stone-curlew! (This bird, which has been nicknamed the ‘screaming woman bird’, starts its high-pitched, drawn-out shrieks and wailing late at night and sometimes resumes in the verb early hours of the morning – thank goodness for earplugs!) We have been gently woken some mornings by the soft and melodic calls of a flock of magpie geese landing nearby and most days we hear the calls of willy wagtails, kookaburras, cockatoos (both white and black) and lorikeets. We’ve also seen numerous raptors flying overhead on an almost daily basis and at most of the places we’ve stayed we’ve also seen varieties of birds that are not found in south-eastern Australia. Unfortunately I don’t have a good enough camera to get close-up pictures of them (with the exception of the Tawny Frogmouth that stayed around for a whole day at Agnes Water) but I am enjoying the experience is seeing them just the same.