Road Trip Diaries # 8 – Conway National Park, Shute Harbour and The Big Mango
After joining a day tour off the coast of Whitsundays to visit the world-famous Whitehaven Beach the previous day, Charles and I decided it was time to move further North. After the amazing time we had in the Whitsundays I couldn’t help but wonder if there was anything that could top that experience on the road ahead. Little did I know, our last day spent on the outskirts of Airlie Beach would be just as interesting, with an unexpected wildlife encounter, and the opportunity to see one of Australia’s famed “big things”. The former made me wail for a good 5 minutes in the middle of the woodlands, while the other one just cracked me up.
Just 10 kilometers east of Airlie Beach, was the picturesque Shute Harbour, our first stop of the day, after finally checking-out from Island Gateway Resort Caravan Park. Most of the parking spaces, however, were not free and we didn’t want to pay 5 bucks for a few minutes stay. So we ended up driving inside a private village on top of a hill and found a good spot to look at the scenery.
The effort was rewarded with a view of a serene bay dotted with white yachts and a swarm of catamarans set against the densely-covered forest of Conway National Park. We also saw a group of kayakers on their way to one of the islands, another activity on offer at the Shute Harbour. We didn’t spend much time here and drove instead to Conway National Park. It was another tropical lowland rainforest, but we figured, we might as well check it while we were nearby.
Conway National Park
We chose the Mt. Trooper Walking Track among the three trails but decided to walk until the lookout tower only, which was about half of the walking time it takes to do the complete circuit. A swamp full of egrets perched on bald branches of trees greeted us at the start of the trail. It was a lovely walk through low woodland forest growing in stony, shallow clay soils. There were wild ferns, orchids, wattles, and more grass trees. On the way to the lookout, one elusive rock wallaby scooted into the bush after sensing perhaps we were approaching its territory.
After two and a half kilometers of fairly steep walking, we finally reached Mt. Trooper lookout and found a splendid view of the Whitsunday Islands and Passage. Two power bars and loads of snapshots later, we were back on the trail again. For some reason, I walked ahead of Charles for the first time and decided to run downhill back to where we parked our camper van. I usually walk behind him when trekking the forest because I’m terrified of snakes. I have this theory that if someone is in front me, he will scare away any snakes lurking on our trail before I get there.
The pale yellow flowers of Grass Tree produced on spear-like stalks, provide food for many insects.
View from Mt. Trooper Lookout
Jaunt with the carpet python
I ran downhill only stopping to catch my breath. Then, right on a narrow trail bordered by thick vegetation, I suddenly came to an abrupt stop, 3 inches away from my feet was a huge green snake, at least 2 meters long crossing the trail. I screamed at the top of my lungs and out of instinct ran back like I have never run before. I didn’t realize Charles was also running behind me so he had seen the whole incident. It was funny because I cried for sometime on Charles shoulder but when I looked back on the trail, I still saw the last bit of its tail slowly disappearing into the bush as if nothing had happened.
Apparently carpet python is harmless but will bite if provoked.
Photo Credit: www.snakecatcher.com
Jaunt with the Police Officer
A few minutes of pep talk from Charles, I was back on the trail again. But I sure wont be leading any bushwalking trips again in a long time. It was already lunchtime when we had finished the walk so we went back to Airlie Beach to look for a place to have lunch. Just when we thought we had found a good spot near the Marina Bay to make our own lunch without paying for the parking, a police officer came by about to fine us 60 bucks for parking illegally. It wasn’t my lucky day indeed, first a bloody snake scared the crap out of me and then we were going to get fined 60 bucks for trying to save 10 bucks for parking.
An innocent look that says we didn’t know and there were no signs that say it’s a no parking area surprisingly got us off the hook. It wasn’t a bay day after all. We spent the rest of the afternoon stocking up on groceries and researching a place to camp at Bowen, the next town. I joined hordes of backpackers at Mc Donalds to use its free WiFi, which was very slow because of so many users. But at least, it was good enough to get updates back home and around the world.
The French HitchHiker and the Big Mango
Charles with the French Hitchhiker
When everything was set, we finally hit the road again off to the Salad Bowl of the North – Bowen. And just when we thought our interesting day had come to an end, we had picked up a French hitchhiker along the road who had hitchhiked his way from France to Tahiti and then to Australia on a cargo vessel. His stories were of movie material and had entertained us throughout the drive. But there was nothing better to cap our day than seeing the Big Mango at the outskirt of Bowen (which doesn’t really like a mango to me). It was the first of the “Big Things” which we would encounter throughout our trip. And I thought it was only America who is obsessed with the Big Stuff.
Does it look like a mango to you ? I really thought it was a huge egg painted for Easter
(This is part of our 6-week North Queensland Road Trip Series, which took place July- August 2010)