Cape York 2011

Horseshoe Lagoon, Lakefield National park

Horseshoe Lagoon, Lakefield National Park

 

Leaving home

We had a pretty rushed four weeks at home. Baby Ella visited. Nan was sick but is now improving every day and getting stronger. The kitchen got finished at last. The painting is not finished and my furniture restoration project is not finished. Four weeks of work for USQ was put in and some milestones were ticked off there. We finally flew out to Townsville and had some cuddles of Baby Maddie, hugs from Lockie and Shay and shopped for a 4 week trip away. It feels like we have three lives at the moment; one away, one working and one on the reno and other home/family projects. We actually both came away exhausted and been having long sleepins ever since.

Old stomping ground

We have been through Cape York so many times now that it feels very uneventful and ordinary. Not that we ever take any of the trips for granted in any way. We treat them all as requiring significant prep and care; and we make sure we appreciate the beauty of the places we visit. The trip from Townsville to Cairns enabled us to drop in on Kev and Anne and enjoy a quiet wine. Long overdue. Sorry we did not stop long enough for us to be more social but we are trying to get as far north before it rains. On the way back we will call in on Drew, Dutchy, Helen and whoever else we can pull together.  Paul decided to buy new truck mirrors and with the final shop of forgotten groceries we headed up the Daintree.  Image: Clear water and rocks at Mossman

The Daintree is one of the most magical places on the earth I think. It was very spectacular and we were surprised that it was not packed with school holiday traffic. Very quiet. It has been astonishingly quiet everywhere. Not sure where the hundreds of vehicles we saw last year are.  The Pacific Ocean and mountains which meet the sea all through Cape Tribulation were special as usual. We snuck through Wujal knowing we shoulda stopped but we needed to push north. We never even stopped for a beer at the Lions Den hotel.

We did a Cooktown stop at Cassie and Ricks and had a few treats - especially seeing the dragonfruit flower at night. they only flower for one night at night and they are just amazing. The perfume is very heady too. Paul loved the seafood - gotta do that in Cooktown and I enjoyed fresh eggs, herbs and veges. Raided Cassie's herb garden for the trip north. It's good to carry fresh herbs.

 

     Cassies White DragonFruit Flowering for us on just one night.

 

 

Had a fantastic visit to Billy Boil near Hopevale  to visit the Gibsons and see their progress on the new outstation. Fantastic family working hard to build their future with the clan. They are milling timber off the block and then working with Indigenous Volunteers Australia to get help and to learn building skills. They are pretty proud of their progress to date. We were delighted to assess them for a phone. Easy case that one.

Billy Boil outstation on the build.

We fished a few days in Lakefield National Park (while working of course) and yours truly got the fish and several catches of Cherabin. Nice having fish for breakfast and Paul is spoiled on Cherabin. Paul and I both had some sport at the top end of Lakefield with all sorts of little fish in a drying up lagoon. We tossed em back of course. It was a bit scary to see 4 crocs in the lagoon near our camp that night, especially since we spent the afternoon clamouring around rocks and standing very close to the edge.  I was astounded on one walk along the creek to frighten a kangaroo which then fell into the creek and he swum across. I had heard of kangaroos swimming but never actually seen one do it.

We managed to visit two outstations for an update and also checked out the new phone at Kalpowar. It's very cool to see the results of all these reports we write. Unfortunately such visits generate the need for more reports which I must get to.

At Coen Bend tonight 21 Sept - Weds I think; and hopefully we will head out to Deon Creek's place tomorrow before heading up to Chuula. Either way, veges are lasting well. We are having 7 sorts tonight which is amazing. In a couple of weeks we will be down to 3-4.  Paul has fitted mirrors, rewired some lights and rebuilt the shower. Industrious lad! All is well. Not too many mishaps. I fell over down the creek this morning and limping on my knee and hip but it is not too bad; improved as the day went on.                                                                            

Photo: Kalpowar phone

 

New week

Tis Wednesday night apparently and all is well. We are having a long weekend for all sorts of reasons including the “cause we can” reason. We started thinking about what to do on the weekend when we could not make contact with some folks at Coen and Aurukun. So we began heading north and dropping into outstations and camps to see if they were eligible for phones. This is our job after all.

We had a nice visit to the Old Telegraph Station and although they are not eligible for a phone we continued to gather evidence for phones along major routes and gathered data for our submission into the next generation of telecommunications projects. We can now get the data for the number of vehicles travelling the Cape York main track to add to our arguments.

Batavia Downs was an easy case as they are clearly eligible and we had a good cuppa there and caught up on the local gossip of the cape. Some interesting stories. A great place where lots of Indigenous enterprises are run from and lots of opportunities given.
We dropped into to the beginning of the track to Steve Irwin reserve and learned about who we had to meet with to make sure we spoke to the right traditional owner. So we need now to wait till we catch up with the Napranum Land Trust.

 

Heathlands  Cape YorkWe will go to "the Tip"

So at the end of the road we needed to decide where to go – so we went north joining the holiday makers heading for the tip. “The tip” is the tip of cape York, the most northern part of Australia and it is where all the tourists make their journey in varying degrees of comfort. Some take tours and travel in great luxury while others rough it while traversing the old Telegraph Track, a mecca of accomplishments for the 4WD enthusiasts bent on bending their vehicle or drowning it. Surprisingly for us, there were not as many on the tracks north as we thought and we had places to ourselves or nearly so and the road to ourselves most of the time.

We had some wonderful side trips so we could avoid the crowds (any three vehicles is a crowd) and the endless stream of toilet paper they leave behind. Why on earth don’t folks bury their crap, literally; and all these girls who wipe and leave – must you wipe every time and leave your trail? No wonder Indigenous people want to get rid of silly unthoughtful tourists!.       Photo: Heathlands

The first night we went off the main telegraph road onto the Old Telegraph Track to find a camp. We got to the first big crossing, Palm Creek and we knew our vehicle would not be able to navigate it. We watched some other people go through but knew that even if we did make it and not damage the back of the truck, we would have not made it through the next few. We had no intentions of traversing the old track anyway. See Nimmo, we are sensible, especially on our own. It is nice to take the odd side track though and find the camp spots and swim in the creeks. We had a great camp with coal roasted veges, so all was good.

Next day we went into the Heathlands Resources Reserve which is as spectacular as I remembered it. It was not until I got there, that I remembered that it was there I decided to grow native trees and plants in mass numbers at home. It was the beginning of an obsession. Pity Ipswich rain does not enable me to reproduce the Heathlands vegetation. Paul had not been there before so he was pretty wrapped. The corrugates were awful and we broke the radio aerial. Lucky I find and collect tent pegs and Paul used them to make a splint for the aerial with duck tape. Fixes anything, hey Lindy.

   

Photos: Billy's landing, Fruit Bat Falls, Vrilya Point

The beaches  and rain forest streams of Cape York

We eventually ended up at Billy’s Landing. I think we were sick of the corrugations and thought any diversion was a good one. It was a beautiful drive through the ridge of the Heathlands Reserve and then into rainforest before the sandy ridges of the coast. It was a spectacular beach and campsight. There was only one Britz hire van there and so we thought it would be quiet. While walking away on the beach, the poor Italian people in the Britz got crowded in by a rude bunch from 5 vehicles. The literally took over his shelter shed and cement slab. Bullies. We went and apologised to the Italians for the behaviour of the bullies. It was a very windy night but we got in some excellent beach walks and had a fun fish. Only caught crabs and I nearly got a shark. Photo: Captain Billy's Landing

Then we headed back to the main road/track north and went up to Fruit Bat falls which was amazing. Beautiful waterfalls which you can swim right into and it is so clear and only about 4 feet deep. It only had one group there and we had met these guys everywhere we had been, so we had a nice chat. Another guy at the falls told us about Vrilya Point and gave us a mud map. We had to navigate a pretty awful log bridge with two logs broken so you had to straddle the holes and keep the tyres on the good bit to cross. That keeps most people out, so once we got to the Point, there was only 2 groups there and a huge camping area with miles of beaches. It was really spectacular. Reminded me of the Amban beaches. It was only a 100K or more south, so guess the coast lines will be similar. It was not a good tide, so although I had a fish to use up some bait, it was not a successful venture. The beach walk in the sunset was worth it though. Paul baked a cake and a roast which was far more productive. It’s hard to know which coastal place I like best – Amban I think by a nose. Chilli Beach at Lockhart has been a long favourite but it is getting a bit too popular for us.

Then we decided seeing we were only 100K from Bamaga, we might as well go the last bit. The corrugates were dreadful and it was very slow. Once we crossed on the Jardine Ferry, it was better. Paul used his senior card discount for the ferry. The old fella tag, can be useful sometimes.  Photo: Palm Creek

Tipper treats

We made some phone calls in Bamaga and then headed out to the tip. The road through the rainforest there is very special and although we had traveled a bit of it late one afternoon a couple of years ago, we never actually got to the end of the road. It was a marvelously clear afternoon but not hot and so we parked in the carpark and walked along the beach, climbed the hill and there it was: the most northerly point of the mainland. The mecca all the tourists try to reach in their trip of a lifetime. It was fun to stand there and because we took a photo of someone else they took a shot of us. We felt like real tourists and it was a great feeling to do something everyone else does too. We did not take a beer which is something you are supposed to do apparently. Nor did we take the fishing rods just to say you fished at the tip. We did see some great turtles so that was special enough for us.

While hanging there, a big Chinook helicopter came over and buzzed it. It was a very cool thing to have a huge chopper hanging in the sky just in front of you. We thought it was so wonderful, especially up so close. Then a Hericoy (sic) came over and buzzed us and hung even closer. We got great photos. They came around twice and seemed to have as much fun buzzing us as we enjoyed the buzz. It was awesomely cool. A real treat.Paul and Michelle

On the way over to Punsand Bay for a camp, Paul decided to take the hard track and bogged it. My rule is no bogging after 5pm and so he bogged her at 4.59pm. It was in soft sand and not too hard to dig out thank goodness. I filled in the track at the next potential bog too while he let down the tyres.

Punsand Bay is probably the nicest place to stop and camp on the tip by the way but take the m ain track to get there, not the side track.

After the best cream bun in Australia at the Bamaga Enterprises bakery, we headed south again to face the 1,000,000 corrugates. This time we kept the tyres low and the ride was heaps better. We decided to go in and visit some spots on the old Telegraph track.

Best place ever

We found what I think will become our new favourite place at the tip. Sam Creek. It was the most beautiful spot. The creek is crystal clean and just off the track drops through a waterfall into the most beautiful secluded pool. We had a couple of dips there and just loved it. We met some people who camped over the other side to us and they had been coming there for 8 years and had never walked 100 metres down the creek to the falls. How dumb is that? You can hear the water roaring from the track so how they never knew falls were there beat me. There were lots of insect eating plants there too – we got some great photos.

The track through Sam creek is a bit of an issue for us. There are some really deep holes and so Paul decided to go around them by climbing a side track up the hill. But he slipped into a hole and our Wednesday began with winching the truck out of holes, digging and filling in holes. The only positive thing that came out of it was we got another swim in our favourite pool to clean up. We also have to learn more about the winch. I reckon it is faulty. We can’t get it into neutral. Lucky we could still get the wire rope threaded through though it took many hundreds of winch handle movements. Eventually though we got the truck out. I got a digging job and it was not sand this time.

    

Pictures: Sam Creek, Pitcher plants, Driving Canal Creeks, Elliot /Twin Falls

Then we headed down the road to Canal creek which was a bit tricky. It’s a very popular camp site. We finally had to encounter the driving idiots- just as we are about to cross after working out which route to take through the creek, 4 trucks pulled up on the other side, blocking the track and getting out for a wander, ignoring us and another truck waiting to get through. They then did their best to wreck the creek bank so it was more difficult for us. Hope they broke their truck on the high rocks. One was still there when we went through. Anyway, Paul managed it by dropping into the creek, but we may not have been able to go the other way.

We then dropped into Elliot Falls and had a wander but it was not as swimmable as Fruit Bat Falls. We then did the big run into Weipa. The corrugates paid their toll but. A spotlight fell off and lucky Paul notice the beam drop and stopped. It was hanging down and could be unclipped from the wire. The bolts have since been replaced at Weipa and we are mobile again with full lights. Lucky it happened at night so we noticed it fall.

Attending QSITE conf from Weipa

So here we are in Weipa, having a beer while I watch the QSITE conference back channel and make comments. Been sending questions into the audience to keep things stirred along. Sounds like I am missing some great sessions. Its 35 and getting hot. Clouds are gathering and we start a race against the rain.

We have restocked today for a big trip down the Archer river. Taking extra supplies in case we get stuck. Might do a trip to Lockhart for the weekend to catch up with our mates and visit Iron Range Nat Park and the crazy Erica.

 

And so it is time to leave
 

We are having our last night in the Lockhart area and have manged to visit all our favourite spots. We are currently parked at Chilli Beach. We had a day of favourite spots really. Breakfast in the rainforest near the old Lockhart walking track, lunch at Quintell Beach and dinner at Chilli Beach.  We came back to Chilli Beach tonight because of the starling swarms. The other day, we saw about 15000 starlings mass on dusk to a little island off shore. It was really astouding to watch these huge black moving clouds of birds swirl around. They made dancing shapes in the sky. It was so much better than any fireworks display. We got to see a smaller  swarm tonight and they were a bit later but it was stiill awesome.

We came into Lockhart to get David Claudie to sign some forms and have to wait a couple days for him so we spent the weekend hanging round here. Chuula is a great place to camp with a cure fresh water creek to swim and bath in. Thankgoodness. We suddenly had 35 degree days plus 30 degree nights. It was a bit of a shock as it had been cool. I try to make it a rule that we don't go to bed unless it is under 30 degrees; so at 29.9 we try to slither in and sleep. It is better tonight at Chilli the breeze has  come back and it is a reasonable 27.

On the way here we stopped for a coffee at the Weipa intersection on the Cape Development Road. There were wasps and bees everywhere so I slapped around for a few minutes to make the coffee and then hid in the truck. Mr "stop dancing, they can't hurt you" got stung and has now had an uncomfortable few days nursing a swollen arm. Some antihistamines and he is back to normal shape. I just had to say that.

Not a lot to report really. We know this place and it's people so well that it seems like coming home in some ways. We caught up on the gossip. We also visited the art gallery and walked away with a painting on canvas and one on clay which will become a feature in our yet to be completed bathroom. We had a dinner with Erica and she fed us her hand caught fish. As a chef, she made a spectacular and flavoursome dinner which has us in awe given the produce available in Lockhart. It was good to see how well she is doing and how good she is for Lockhart. Awesome chic really! We were sad to leave Lockhart which we have visited every year for so long now.

Now we are in Mulkan Kanju National park writing reports and submissions. It is 37 degrees but we do have beer. We had to go to Coen for a meeting and had a pub to visit. It was funny seeing some Kowanyama people there including one of the councillors who brought us up to date with the progress on the phone installations we instigated last year.

Mulkan Kanju is about 70 K off the Development Road and not many people bother coming down the track. We like it and we have the entire National Park to ourselves as much as we can tell. Isn’t that amazing? I’ve just dropped the pots in to get some live bait and disturbed a croc in the process. Hopefully this afternoon our fishing will be as good as last year. Nearly time to light the fire. Apparently I am getting banana cake for desert and roast for mains. Suits me. I’ll just keep writing reports till it is cool enough to fish off the bank. We will check the Rokkeby phone tomorrow and choof on up to the end of the road to check out a couple of places before heading back.

We are calling in Cassie, to get my dragon fruit plants.

Last update: Had a night and some of two days at Coen Bend, writing a tender for another job ( still wondering why) and taking wonderful photos of this beautiful area.

Had good night with Cassie and Rick and spent the morning fertilising vanilla beans. Now off to Cairns to visit Kev and Anne before heading south.

Okay and out!

 

Images: Above; Native Hibiscus Mullkan Kanju:    Right; Vanilla Beans ready for hand pollination: 

Below: Coen Bend, New Growth in MUlkan Kanju. Wildlife at Coen Bend