A Travellerspoint blog

6. Cape York - Weipa to the Top of mainland Australia

sunny 32 °C

General Stuff

There are a lot of flies up here on Cape York! Lots of red dust, lots of corrugation to bump along and also lots of the most beautiful places to explore!

Weipa

Weipa is a place we had absolutely no intention of visiting as it is just a mining town and after spending nearly two weeks there we know why we felt like that and we were right.

As an example, on the way in we noticed about 10 wallabies that had been shot and were lying on the road. We found this very distressing. Len mentioned this to the people at the caravan park they were only surprised to find that the wallabies had been left as they are normally shot by the pig shooters to feed to their dogs. There seems to be more pig shooters here as every other car has 3 caged pig hunting dogs on the back. Such a different outlook to our beautiful wallabies than we city people have.

Some other memories of Weipa.

1.This is an open cut mine and to get to the bauxite they remove all the vegetation, burn what remains, take off the topsoil and then mine the bauxite rich soil. In a windy town this means there is red dust and smoke constantly in the air. We are camping so everything we own is outdoors, so everything is continually covered in really fine, dry red dust - including us.

2. Absolutely nothing to do

3. We met a rooster that had been dumped at the caravan park. Unusual for a rooster to be dumped but not unusual for dogs, cats etc to be dumped at the park. Although we have not personally met a rooster before, this one seemed pretty cute - maybe they all are. He was desperate for food and somewhere to sleep. Every night he would run around looking for somewhere to roost up high. He tried to roost on some caravans and was forcibly removed which resulted in him injuring his leg. He was now limping badly and was easy prey for dogs (the caravan park allowed pets). We of course took pity on him and fed him and let him sleep on a couple of our boxes. To show his gratitude he shat on them and in Cecily's shoe. We named him Cyril and have worried about him since and he is the only thing we miss about Weipa.

4. The car finally got fixed. It WAS the fuel pump. We took it for a 90km trial without a hiccup but lots of nerves on our part. Thank heavens this is over!!!!!!!! We normally think that you should stay in a place for a little while to get to know it - Weipa isn't one of those places.

5. We wish we could have had a swim but there are estuarine croc's and the swimming pool's pump broke down.

6. One good thing - we did spot a couple of Jabiru's fishing for their lunch. They had crab and fish while we watched.

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31 July 2010 - Weipa to Jardine River Crossing

So, we are back on the road. In our haste to get away we decided not to do any sightseeing or detours on the way up, just head straight to the top. For those who don't know the geography of Australia we are heading to the northernmost tip of mainland Australia over possibly some of the worst roads.

We were pretty nervous when we started off wondering if the car would falter again as we still had doubts about the pump being the only fault. We did have a moment of anxiety when the front wheels screeched for what seemed like a long time but was probably only about 2 seconds. It was just long enough for Len to pull the car over and bring the 2 ton beast to a halt. We leapt out and both got on our hands and knees looking for God only knows what. We didn't find it!! Started off with trepidation and it didn't happen again and we took the car over 300kms, all on gravel, sand or dirt roads. Nothing like testing the car out - we'll teach it for making us stay in Weipa for that long.

We arrived at the Jardine River crossing at about 4pm. What a lovely surprise. We booked in to the camping ground and apart from the flies it was fabulous. It is right on the Jardine River it has hot showers, a lovely setting and we were the only ones staying there. The campsite and the barge that will take us over the crossing in the morning are on Aboriginal Land and owned and run by the Injinoo people.

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1 August 2010 Jardine River Crossing to Punsand Bay

We managed to get to Bamaga after getting lost in the small town of Injinoo - the signs up here are appalling. There were a few people driving around Injinoo (about 5 long streets in total) at the same time, all looking equally lost. We now know that we should have bypassed the township. One of the locals told us to follow the bitumen. All roads were bitumen so we followed the direction he pointed and after another circuit of the town we eventually got back on track.

We spent ages going between caravan parks trying to decide where to stay. The final 25km into the caravan park at Punsand Bay had the worst corrugation that we have experienced so far, so no matter what, we were going to stay here. It is beautiful. A really long white beach, torquoise water with the Torres Strait islands in view. But as gorgeous and inviting as the water looks the signs say it all - Achtung - Estuarine Crocodiles.

There are a squillion turtles swimming close to the beach!

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The tip of mainland Australia

We made it and it is very beautiful. We had the obligatory photo's taken at the tip and then walked to Crocodile Creek along a stunning white, sandy beach about 3 km's long. We found a tiny bit of protected water and had a quick splash in Torres Strait. We originally weren't coming up this far but we are really glad we did.

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Thursday Island

We caught the ferry over to TI for a day visit. It is such stunning area and we were really glad that we didn't go on an organised tour as we walked around and explored the island at our leisure. We met a Torres Strait island woman, Cathy who sat and shared her experiences and thoughts on what it means to be a Torres Strait isander and her vision for the future. She holds a somewhat different vision to her elders and is trying to influence a change in their thoughts. Her optimism and enthusiasm was inspirational.

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The trip back down the Cape

Our first stop after leaving the top of Cape York was Eliot/Twin Falls in the Heathlands Resources Reserve. After all the heat and dust of the previous month it was a welcome sight to see these beautiful, freshwater swimming holes safely out of reach of the croc's that live further downstream.

There was an astonishing number of fruit bats hanging around in the trees on the walk to Twin Falls. It surely must rate as one of the largest colonies. We watched them leaving on their nightly forage from 3:30pm to 6:30pm. There were thousands upon thousands of them!! It was a little smelly but they are so cute! Oh - and there are a million flies living off their droppings.

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Down to Mareeba

We finally left the Cape and the gravel roads and headed into Mareeba. It was a great drive with some stunning scenery. When you look at the size of the dry river beds you can see how much water flows, it would be fabulous to see this area in the wet. It was so different to be on a quiet road, no bumps, no corrugation and no bone or car crunching dips and floodway crossings. Next stop a supermarket and then Chillagoe.

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Posted by cecandlen 15:18 Archived in Australia

5. Iron Range National Park (Chili Beach) to Weipa

semi-overcast 26 °C

General Stuff

So the car has now started to intermittently lose power as well as whine and rattle. We really need to find a mechanic!

The trip to Iron Range National Park

A bumpy, dusty but overall uneventful trip to Coen. At first glance Coen seemed a strange town. We booked in the "the homestead" for the night. We went to the pub to get a couple of beers and started to chat to 3 Vietnam Vets who subsequently offered to come and look at the car and see if they could help identify any of the problems. They arrived with one additional member of their group who happened to have some mechanical experience. After many "expert" opinions and having paid mechanics to work out what the rattle is they found the problem. It seems the bolts that hold the manifold onto the engine were all loose. This is a worry as the rattle started just after Len left Burleigh so it seems the garage at Burleigh made the mistake and could have been a disaster.

The road to Iron Range NP was steep in parts with lots and lots of river and creek crossings. The car started to lose power which is a huge worry especially as we are trying to get up muddy, slippery and quite steep tracks after crossing a creek. Had to stop a few times to let the car "cool down". Arrived around 4pm at Chili Beach to find the campsites were just about all taken. We snuck into a small spot that the little blue overnight tent would fit.

Chili Beach

We walked down to the beach - it was beautiful. There seems to be a bit of a sheltered "lagoon" to swim in. We went down to it later in the afternoon with the lady in the campsite opposite. It was so good to get some of the red dust off even if it was with salt water! Had salmon sandwich for dinner and went to bed. A long, hard, taxing day.

It was windy the whole time we were there but luckily we didn't get any branches falling onto us or the tent.

When we walked to the northern end of the beach the amount of rubbish that is washed ashore is a disgrace. It takes away from the beauty of the place but it is also good to be reminded how much rubbish is dumped at sea.

Spent the rest of the time walking along the beaches, drove to the little town of Portland Roads that overlooks Weymouth Bay, walked around the point, stopped for coffee and cake at "The Cafe". The cheesecake was the best cheesecake we have had in years!!! What a treat.

Chili Beach
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North Chili Beach and the rubbish
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Portland Roads overlooking Weymouth Bay
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Iron Range NP to Weipa

The car didn't get much further than the main road out before it started to lose power. We were concerned with the Pascoe River crossing and the car not making it out the other side.. We know that it is a steep bank on the other side and hope the car won't lose power going up. We rested it before we got to the river and it crossed it well.

That was the last good thing about the drive. We ended up having to stop at first every 20kms, then 10kms then 5kms and occasionally 4km. It took over 5 hours to drive the last 146 kms. It was a really long, hot dusty frustrating day. The less said the better.

We arrived in Weipa at about 5:30, booked into a cabin (no facilities), showered, opened a can of stew, watched the news and found an election had been called and went to sleep.

We really need a mechanic!!

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Posted by cecandlen 01:07 Archived in Australia

4. Lakefield National Park

sunny 30 °C

General Stuff

We are now heading out of the Wet Tropics and into Savannah Country. One big difference when you are driving is the condition of the roads. No longer is it muddyas it has become very red and very, very dusty so much so Len's hair went ginger!!

Lakefied National Park
Now we are somewhere we really want to be. Lakefield is accessible only by 4WD as the tracks are deeply corrugated, rough and ungraded. The park only has bush camping so it means that there are very few people and lots of open space. Lakefield NP is Queensland's second largest National Park and has wetlands, rivers, crocodiles, grasslands, squillions of anthills and lots of gorgeous birds. It has an entirely different landscape to the Wet Tropics although in the wet season this park is inaccessible and completely isolated due to flooding. It is the season they start on the annual feral pig cull and general maintenance.

We stayed for 6 days and spent the time exploring the park. Saw our first big croc - he was between 4.5 - 5 metres in length and quietly sunning himself on the opposite bank of a waterhole. The birdlife is fantastic. Spotted jabirus, jacanas, magpie geese, brolgas, buzzards, blue winged kookaburras, black throated finches, hundreds of red tailed black cockatoos, sunbirds, radjah shelducks, egrets, sulphur crested cockatoos, whistling kites, nankeen nightjar and lots of lots of little grey and brown birds. We found spots in the rivers that were pretty safe to get water and a couple that were shallow enough to have a quick dip (watching for crocs the whole time).

We reluctantly left and headed further up the gulf.

Lakefield is a fabulous park and one that we want to return to some time in the future.

Catfish Waterhole and the croc
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Kalpowar Crossing
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Hann Crossing

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Nifold Plains
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Posted by cecandlen 20:56 Archived in Australia

3. Cairns to Endeavour Falls National Park

rain

General Stuff

Our home: Is a Black Wolf Turbo Lite plus tent. It is 4.8 metres long by 3 metres wide. It has 1 bedroom, a lounge room, alfresco kitchen and dining area no ensuite or walk in robe but sometimes has great views. It takes about 15-30 minutes to put up and after we have put away all our dining/kitchen goods about 30 minutes to pack away.

Mossman Gorge and the Daintree

Once we left Cairns we first popped in to Port Douglas. The combination of school holidays and market day meant there was a traffic jam, no parking and squillions of people. We didn't stay. Moved on to Mossman Gorge which had exactly the same problem as Port Douglas. We took the circuit walk and stopped at the gorge, compared to other areas we had been to it was very disappointing. We didn't stay for long and decided to head towards the Daintree.

The Daintree is very beautiful but not what we thought it would be. There were beaches and a few short bushwalks but before we arrived we had thought we would able to find lots of long and interesting walks. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.

Daintree/Cape Tribulation
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The Bloomfield Track

We are heading from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown. Finally we are getting away from bitumen roads. The first creek the track crosses is Emmagen Creek and although there had been quite a bit of rain in the previous week it wasn't too deep - about 60cm. The track then skirts a lovely beach then heads further inland. There are some very steep, slippery sections that were slow going but manageable and quite a few more creek crossings. Len enjoyed finally getting into diff lock, low gear and putting the Land Rover to the test before we head into more remote and more challenging tracks. Once past Bloomfield it becomes a pretty well graded gravel road until it meets up to the main road into Cooktown. By the time we reached the Cooktown turnoff the car had picked up a whine to go to the rattle!

Bloomfield Track - Emmagen Creek crossing and preparing to cross
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Emmagen Creek and a lovely Beach
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Cooktown to Endeavour Falls National Park

Not much to say about Cooktown except that it took us 2 days to find the supermarket. Quite amazing as there are not many streets in the town! The caravan park had some gorgeous wallabies that stayed near us but it was windy and we were surrounded by big gum trees that looked as though they were going to drop a few branches on out tent. A bit nerve wracking.

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Next stop Endeavour Falls where we had booked to go on a tour of Aboriginal Rock Art. The guide was the story-keeper from of Nugal-warra clan and took us to the ancestral rock art sites, set high in the hills above Hope Vale, outside Cooktown. He told the stories behind the art, and explained how the cave paintings relate to the culture and history of his people. Fascinating.

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Posted by cecandlen 17:53 Archived in Australia

2. Townsville to Cairns (via Mt Molloy)

rain

General stuff

We are still on the east coast and the trips have been short with lots to see and do. We now have two tents - the quick one for those overnight only stops (we haven't done many of those) and the larger tent for the longer stays. When the tent is wet in the morning and we have mud over everything the packing up of the tent is tedious. Other than that we are becoming incredibly efficient at managing to get all our belongings into the Land Rover. Len is the culler of anything that is not essential and Cec is trying really hard to stop wanting to buy stuff. Between us we are getting it right. We can't believe how much stuff other people are carrying on their travels. Trailers, boxes stacked on their roof racks as well as the car (nearly always a 4WD) packed to the rafters. We sometimes look and wonder at what we are missing but really we think we have enough.

Next stop:


Waterfalls and Mission Beach

Heading into rainforest and waterfall land. The first stop is Jourama Falls near Ingham. These were a great introduction to what we will see in the next couple of weeks. Next stop the Wallaman Falls in the Girringun National Park. The statistics say it is "the highest, permanent, single drop waterfall in Australia". The lookout is spectacular and the walk to the bottom is hard but well worth it. 45 minutes downhill on a slippery, wet, rocky, muddy path.

Photo's don't do it justice.
Jourama Falls - Paluma National Park
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Wallaman Falls - Girringun National Park
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We then drove to Tully Heads and finally spotted a cassowary just casually crossing the road - it was a real WOW moment.

The weather has become windy and wet so we decided to stop for a while at Mission Beach. The car has had a rattle since it left Burleigh so we booked it into the local mechanic. He had no real idea what was wrong but changed the oil and tinkered around and of course charged us for his effort. The rattle didn't go away!!
We spent the time taking long walks in the dense rainforest looking for more cassowaries (to no avail), going on beach walks where we spotted a bevy of turtles, visiting markets and generally relaxing.

Mission Beach
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The World Heritage Wet Tropics area

Wow - what a place. This is what we have been looking for. Beautiful walks amongst ancient rainforests, stunning waterfalls, no people. It was pretty damp no wonder they are called the misty mountains. The forest is so dense you rarely see any critters but the evidence is there in their scats!! We contine to look for another elusive cassowary but as yet no sightings. They are a listed as an endangered species and over 80 rainforest trees only germinate by their seeds passing through their stomach. Loss of habitat is the main reason for their decline as well as dogs and cars.

As we walk through the National Parks the destruction of the rainforest by feral pigs is becoming really noticeable.

Nandroya Falls - World Heritage Wet Tropics
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Some random stops we made around the Atherton tablelands/Ravenshoe area.

Hypipamee Crater

OK - a bit of geology. Mt Hypipamee crater is a volcanic pipe formed by an explosive eruption of volcanic gases which blasted through solid granite. It has a diameter of 61 metres at water level and goes down at least 85 metres. To get to it is a short walk through yet more dense rainforest. We just thought it was very, very impressive!
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Curtain and Cathedral Fig trees
The Curtain Fig tree one of the largest trees in north Queensland. Its curtain of aerial roots drop 15 metres (49 feet) to the ground. Large basalt boulders cover the forest floor, which is probably why the forest here wasn't cleared for farming - and why the curtain fig tree remains standing. The Cathedral Fig has a girth of about 44 metres. No one knows exactly how old it is but historical studies suggest it has been arund for about 500 years! They are also very, very impressive.
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Steam train - Ravenshoe
Maybe not so impressive but fun. A restored steam train that runs from Ravenshoe to Tumoulin. Love the steam and the hooting that goes with it. Brings out the child in us. From our first impression the town of Ravenshoe really didn't look as if it would have anything of interest to us but they also had a cake shop that sold the best jam doughnuts ever.
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Atherton to Cairns via Mt Molloy
We drove from Atherton through Mareeba (very disappointing) to Mt Molloy. We had been told there were a few lakes that were worth visiting - unfortunately we couldn't find them. Sometimes the signage in Qld leaves a lot to be desired! We stopped at Mt Molloy for a couple of photos and a picnic lunch by the creek. We continued on to Cairns - the rattle in the car is now much louder!! We arrived in Cairns fairly late in the afternoon and hadn't realised that it was school holidays so all the campgrounds were full. We ended up staying in a nice apartment at Trinity Beach. Had a look around Cairns and had lunch at the esplanade watching all the curlews, sandpipers, crabs and mudskippers.We sure know how to have a good time!! I guess Cairns is not where we wanted to be.

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General stuff
The nights up here are pretty cold but the days are warm.
After a few nights without the curlews crying us to sleep we are once again in their territory. We also spotted our first jacana at Atherton, saw lots of magpie geese, ducks and the gorgeous sulphur crested cockatoos

Posted by cecandlen 03:40 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel

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