February 25th – March 1st
Despite Paige’s near-death experience with Deep Heat the night before, we were up early the next morning, somehow completely intact. We decided to leave the campsite early before Paige could find anymore poison to ingest, and began the drive to Cairns, our final stop on the road trip. On the way we stumbled across Paronella Park, which we’d read about since the beginning of our journey, and had been desperately looking forward to visiting the entire time. After crossing a rickety bridge across a waterfall, we had high hopes for an adrenaline fuelled couple of hours exploring the jungle and learning all about the castle by the waterfall. At the entrance we had a lovely man try to sell us two $70 entry tickets, before realising that we don’t care about castles or waterfalls, and would perhaps rather jump into the raging rapids than commit to such a price. We made our excuses and headed back, but not before witnessing a group of elderly women chanting and trying to channel some spirits in one of the most bizarre yoga sessions I’ve ever seen. We of course made sure that the trip wasn’t a complete failure, and had a little photo shoot on the bridge, before completing our last long distance drive.
The one thing that shocked us about a Cairns was that it had real life shops, things to do and people that didn’t look like they’d been left behind as the world around them developed. We started off by going to a shopping centre that had a food court made up of more than just a Subway, and we were honestly moved to tears by the excitement of it all.
Luckily the adventure didn’t stop there. Later that evening we had to call a mechanic because our engine had started to heat up, despite the fact that we hadn’t driven for over three hours. On the plus side, we realised that the rental company we booked with are completely and utterly useless, which is nice. Two weeks prior, we rang and told them that the engine light in our van had come on, only to be told that it was a really common problem with the particular make and model of van that we’d hired (a fact that they neglected to mention when we picked it up). After waiting for a couple of hours the mechanic turned up at half eleven in the evening. The mechanic was lovely, but backed away pretty quickly when we told him about our problem. I believe his exact words were, “Oh I wouldn’t f**king touch that if I was you mate. I wouldn’t be driving it or anything.” Brilliant. He told us that Apollo (the rental company) would be in touch early in the morning to arrange somebody to tow the van to a nearby garage.
The next morning we didn’t get any such call, so I put on my incredibly grown up, very disappointed, adult voice and rang them myself. After explaining four times, to four separate idiots, about the same problem, they eventually managed to tell me that they couldn’t do anything until the next day, and so we’d have to wait where we were until then. Luckily, being a grumpy, mature grown up, I organised compensation for our wasted time, but this did mean that we were stuck with nothing to do for the rest of the day. We spent the next few hours walking to the nearest McDonald’s, dying of dehydration, and ordering a takeaway pizza which they had put mushrooms on by mistake. We were more upset by this last one than anything else, but all in all it was a pretty rubbish day.
The one silver lining was that the campsite we were staying on had a river, which apparently had turtles in. Knowing how our last couple of days had turned out, these turtles would more than likely be killer turtles, blow up, not be there, or we’d end up killing one by accident, so we had incredibly low expectations. Although one did actually try and bite Paige’s toe, we managed to get by without further incident, and fed turtles, fish and eels.
The next day, it took three more phone calls to finally get a result with the van, and in the end they told us that we should drive it (despite a mechanic having told us to drive it under no circumstances) to a nearby garage. Thanks Mr. Apollo man, I understand we wouldn’t be liable if the engine blows up, but I’d rather be liable than dead.
When we eventually got the van back we drove to The Crystal Cascades, which is a river with various waterfalls and rocks to swim in and climb on. Despite being freezing, this was possibly one of the best things we’ve done since we left England. The water was incredibly clean and fresh, and we nearly lost Paige because the current was so strong, but unfortunately we weren’t that lucky. I jumped into a pool where there were two small waterfalls and although I nearly drowned, I didn’t, and so thoroughly enjoyed myself. I couldn’t actually climb out of the pool again so accepted my fate and spent what felt like the next week, drifting down river and trying not to panic.
Apparently we really did love the Cascades, because we decided to do a whistle-stop, waterfall tour the next day. We forgot that sometimes it does actually rain in Australia, and so spent the day hiding in the van so as not to get wet, running down to the waterfalls, getting wet and running back to the van before it rained again, so as to not get wet. The views were pretty impressive, but we didn’t really get to experience them in the same way as we had The Crystal Cascades which was a shame.
We ate dinner at The Marina in the evening, before heading home for our last night in the van. Strangely we weren’t looking forward to leaving Jack behind, although a proper bed, air conditioning, kitchen, toilet, fridge etc. had been greatly missed. We spent a couple of hours the next morning clearing out the van of all the useless junk that we’d been given/bought. We decided to do the right thing and give our $70 fan to two girls that we’d met the night before, because we knew how miserable we’d been in the nights before we’d bought it.
We had one last photo shoot in the van, before filling it up with petrol for the last time and dropping it off near the airport. I’ll admit that it was hard to leave Him behind, but not having to spend every waking moment in McDonalds for the WiFi will be a welcome change. For anyone looking into renting out a van to travel round Australia/anywhere, please don’t let my blog put you off; despite the fact that I apparently didn’t enjoy a single second, I promise that it was the best thing we’ve ever done, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Hopefully this time with an engine that won’t kill us. Hopefully.