Saturday 12 December 2015

A few more days in Cid Harbour – Whitsunday Island

November 16-19, 2015

After our one night stay in Hamilton Island Marina we may have been ready to strike out south on our return trip down the Queensland coast but the weather had other ideas. We were in for strong south easterly winds for a number of days so the more prudent move was to find somewhere nice to shelter until the system blew past.

Cid Harbour on the north western side of Whitsunday Island was a natural choice being well protected from wind and swell as well as being a very attractive spot to hole up for a few days. We left Hamilton just before the 11.00am checkout limit for the short 7.8 nautical miles around to the anchorage just off Sawmill Beach but a strong counter current made sure it still took us two hours of motoring with very little wind assistance.

Hamilton Island to Cid Harbour, Whitsunday Island - 7.8 Nautical Miles - 2 Hours 2 Minutes
Average Speed 3.9 knots - High Speed 5.8 knots

We got hooked in nice and close to the beach and kicked back for another of Karen’s magic lunches on the stern. We always enjoy Cid Harbour for its marine life with an almost endless procession of turtles bobbing up around the boat.

Another outstanding lunch from Karen's galley.

One of many turtles that dropped by for a visit in Cid Harbour.
Tiana and Gary from the catamaran ‘Razzle Dazzle’ popped over in their dinghy in the late afternoon and stayed for sundowner drinks as mother nature turned on another fantastic display.

The next morning Rob and Marc were keen to tackle the trail from Sawmill Beach up to Whitsunday Peak to take in what were reported to be excellent 360 degree views of the island group.  Here’s what the Whitsunday National Park website says about the walk.

Whitsunday Peak (Grade: difficult)
Distance: 5 km return

Time: 4 hours
Details: Stand at the top of the island and enjoy uninterrupted views of the Whitsundays. Accessed from Sawmill Beach in Cid Harbour, the Whitsunday Peak track offers a great getaway from the busy beaches. Climb through diverse vegetation, from rainforest gullies to windblown heaths, and be rewarded with spectacular vistas on the ‘roof of the Whitsundays’.

Walk safely: Remember, this track is steep and physically demanding—please consider your fitness and walking experience carefully before setting out.

With this in mind Karen elected to spend the morning on the beach sketching rather than risk aggravating her asthma in the humid rainforest trail.

Karen picked a shady spot on the beach for some sketching while the boys played mountain goat.

This monument on Sawmill Beach commemorates Captain James Cook sailing past
 the island and through the Whitsunday Passage on June 4 1770.
The boys headed of confident they’d be back to the beach in well under the four hours suggested as five kilometres isn’t really that far. Well it isn’t. But when the trail climbs 407 metres (1335 feet) in just 2.5 kilometres (1.55 miles) we soon discovered our optimism was very misplaced. Quite frankly it was very hard work almost right from the get go as virtually every pace forward is also a step up.

Marc was still looking reasonably fresh early in the climb.
The trail itself is reasonably well defined but we were both very glad we’d worn good footwear rather than our usual rubber flip flops. Rob keeps a good pair of hiking boots on board for just such occasions while Marc at least had solid sneakers with good grippy soles. Like many overseas visitors, he struggles a bit with how much of our Australian wildlife is potentially lethal to humans. Between sharks, crocodiles, venomous snakes and spiders, irukandje jellyfish, blue ringed octopus, stingrays etc he is a little concerned as to whether he’ll get out of the country alive.

We hadn’t travelled far on our trek to the peak when Marc stopped in his tracks at the sight of something moving in the underbrush beside the trail. ‘What is that and will it kill me?’ was his immediate question as a large goanna emerged behind him to which Rob replied ‘Stay still. It won’t hurt you but I might if you scare it off before I get a photo. That achieved before the shy lizard wandered off, we continued on our climb.           

The vegetation was every bit as diverse as described with the tree canopy quite thick for most of the way. This had the benefit of providing shade in the tropical heat but also added very humid air to the equation. We crossed a number of dry rocky creek beds which would no doubt present yet another challenge for walkers in the wet season.

The dry creek crossings would be interesting after heavy rain.
It really is true rainforest for most of the way with wild orchids and stag horns abounding along with all sorts of ferns. We made a few of rest stops on the way up as the climb really was hard work. Every time we thought we were nearing the summit we would crest a rise and find the track winding up another steep climb. We carried a litre of water each with us but it was almost gone by the time we finally reached the top still with the testing descent ahead of us.

Rest time on the way up to Whitsunday Peak
The grass trees near the summit are massive.
We spent about half an hour sitting on the granite slabs of Whitsunday Peak . It was as much about recovering our energy as taking in the magnificent views of the entire Whitsunday Islands stretching before us in every direction. Those thirty minutes made all the effort of the climb very well worthwhile.

Rob and Marc pleased to have reached the top.
Marc soaking in the views and sucking in the oxygen

Looking west to the mainland from Whitsunday Peak.

Gulnare Inlet

Hamilton Island as seen from Whitsunday Peak

Rob on Whitsunday Peak with Fitzalan Passage and Hamilton, Dent and Lindemen Islands behind.

Our dinghy floating off Sawmill Beach below us.
While the descent was a little quicker, it was still physically demanding as we were constantly jarring ankles and knees stepping down from rock to rock. By the time we emerged back onto the sand of Sawmill Beach we were well spent. Boots, shoes and shirts were quickly discarded as we plunged into the water to cool off.  Neither of us had any trouble getting off to sleep early that night.

Sawmill Beach was a welcome sight after our trek.
Sunset behind Tiana and Gary's Razzle Dazzle in Cid Harbour
Next morning we loaded up the dinghy with our crab pots and headed into the mangroves of Dugong Inlet to try our luck. We weren’t too optimistic as there had been very little rain in the islands in recent times to get the mud crabs active and feeding but as Marc had never been crabbing we thought it worth a shot.

That afternoon, long time family friends of Karen’s from Airlie Beach, Malcolm and Carol arrived in the anchorage on their motor boat ‘Campadre’ so we were in for another very social evening. The couple have lived in and fished the Whitsundays their whole lives and are always a font of local knowledge and great conversation.

Yet another Cid Harbour sunset - this time enjoyed from the bow
We picked up our pots the following morning with not a sign of interest in our baits from any living thing but a least Marc had seen how the process works. We had another casual day as the south easterly still howled outside I snug anchorage with a bit of swimming, sketching, reading and blogging before cracking another couple of bottles of wine for sundowners on the beach.

Karen having a late afternoon dip at Sawmill Beach.

Sundowners time again.
 Life’s tough of Our Dreamtime in the Whitsunday Islands.

Good night from Cid Harbour - Whitsunday Island.
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  1. Love all the photos in your blog guys - brings it all to life.
    Cid harbour is a favourite spot - have spent many nights there over the years.
    The views from the top are absolutely spectacular - sounds like a tough trek to get there though.

  2. Thanks Gail. We love Cid for its protected waters, beaches and walks. It's a great place to sit when the South Easterlies are too strong. Cheers


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