Day 60: The Best Laid Plans

by ashleighpenrod

Our car broke down on Tuesday. It was a trusty machine that carted us all over the coast of north Queensland, but it just couldn’t make the last few hundred kilometers back to Cairns.

We woke up early Tuesday morning in Mission Beach with plans for a packed day of travel throughout the Atherton Tablelands. After a hearty breakfast of a delicious local mango, leftover pasta primavera and potato chips, we piled ourselves back into Ciara’s ’95 Toyota Camry only to find it “sort of unwell,” as the local mechanic put it. It wasn’t going anywhere.

So after seven hours, a tow truck ride, an exciting Cassowary sighting, a thorough tour of the small town of Tully, pounding rain, a couple of good sandwiches and the sad realization that the Camry’s computer was fried, we were back in Mission Beach, car-less for the foreseeable future.

Happily, neither of us panicked, even with my 5 a.m. flight out of Cairns still a few driving hours away. We’d also received some extreme doomsday warnings about the water levels on the roads heading out of Mission Beach (“Oh you’ll float away, no question. Don’t even bother.”).

The combination of Ciara’s extremely thorough questions and rockin’ Aussie roadside assistance afforded us a cute yellow rental car, a free stay in a fancy hotel and a firm understanding that some of the locals tend to exaggerate the poor driving conditions.

I’m proud to say that even after our unexpected delay, we crammed at least one day’s worth of Tableland-ing into the last three hours of my final day in Australia. I even managed to get a land leech stuck to my leg during a hike through the rainforest. Badass.

Here’s a taste of what’s up in the Tablelands:

yellow submarine

Our new car!


Wallicher Falls, one of many gorgeous rushing waterfalls in the Tablelands.


Lush dairy farmland, which appears only moments after exiting the rainforest.


Easy-going cows, who calmly meander around and in front of driving vehicles.