Tassie Week 3, Camp # 69 – Bay of Fires, Days 318 – 324

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Our first full day we just hung by the van. Enjoying the rhythm we have created, school, chores, lunch and the afternoon to play and explore. With Ken away working in the library, this meant we had to do it tough with a few hours on the beach.

The sun was warm, the wind was mild but the water was freezing. Strangely thought I just found myself wanting to go back in again and again and again. That little zing of numbness all over your body was kind of addictive. I suppose it was a little rush of adrenaline as your body went into shock with the cold and sudden emersion. Invigorating is probably the best description.

The sand is white, water crystal clear but the setting has the added theatre and contrast of the bright orange (fire) colour lichen growing on the nearby rock and the pockets of dark thick leathery kelp swaying in the swell. These details of our surrounds seem to go unnoticed by the girls as they just delight in the sand, surf and play of a beach afternoon.

The week seemed to pass by in this way, but van life is busy. Aside from the daily routine when free camping you are constantly assessing the status of you batteries and water tanks. We are loving this spot but being quiet shaded by trees I’m continuously chasing the sun with the roaming solar panel trying to max our solar charge and now having bought a couple of 25L water containers a daily run to town for fresh water enables us to stay here for the entire week.

The weather never really struck those notes of perfection during the rest of the week. It was a little too cool to brave the sea again but we enjoy an afternoon exploring St Helens and the visitors centre and museum. It provided a fabulous insight into the local history and the role and experience of the Chinese immigrants who come to make money in the tin mines. A very clever film / automated theater production beautifully told the story helping connect us to the ‘Tin Dragon Trail’ we had been following but not understanding along our travels of north east Tassie.

Our daily trips into town gives us the excuse to regularly visit the local providore. More fabulous local Tassie produce, we even have an oyster farm we have to drive past. Now not being a fan of oysters I didn’t stop in but our Neighbour’s did and on our final night together we sat out and I was coerced into trying them again. In a true ‘green eggs and ham’ moment, I found my taste buds to be delighted, my eyebrows raised, a smile come across my face and I discovered what all the fuss is about. Wow! Fresh east coast Tassie oysters, not to be missed.

It was also on this evening that Georgie took a nasty fall off the tree swing on to the rocks below and badly winded and concussed herself. A scary feeling for her and not having witnessed the crash and but seeing her level of distress was awful. Her breath returned but I still didn’t like the distance she had fallen and was concerned for her back and head. She soon had a headache and vomited and now I was very uncomfortable about her status. We set up a bed in the living room so I could observe her through the night and began to make plans for a hospital. With no further vomiting we just kept a close eye on her through the night.

She was ok but sore and sorry the next day. I tried to get a Dr’s appointment but nothing was available but learned of a good GP down the coast at Swansea so that would be our next stop in a few days when I was able to get an appointment. We had a few more quiet days while she recovered, her back and walking being the main issue.

Feeling a little cabin fever we broke out for a drive to visit the beautiful St Columba Falls. With a little light walk and picnic I thought some movement might be good but she was very sore again and short of breath on occasions. We had planned to also visit Halls Falls but having done enough for the day we just got the picture and returned to camp.

Such a beautiful spot is Cosy Corner North, it was the location of a wedding that afternoon. Campers moved so these people could come in for a few hour with their guests and have the stunning back drop for their nuptials.

One final days play on the beach and it was time to farewell this lovely and memorable camp spot. New friends, turquoise waters, tingling refreshing swims, delicious oysters and unfortunately one casualty it will be remembered with a full array of emotions.

But just when you think all has been revealed. A little bit of last minuet night photography revealed something remarkable to us. What the …….. did you see that ……… is the water glowing? It wasn’t until we downloaded the photos that we were sure. Not that we knew it at the time, but it is bio-luminescent algae in the water and there is a lots of it in the water down here. Too cool for school! Thank you Bay of Fires, Cosy Corner North. ❤️ 💜

A final stop in St Helens to shop and restock. Lulu was pretty happy with the trolleys at the IGA.


Tasmania Week 2, Camps # 68 – Derby & 69 – Bay of Fires, Days 311 – 317

We just love Derby and quickly settled into a nice daily rhythm. Get school work done, followed by a morning ride before swinging by Crank It Cafe for a play, lunch and maybe a little more school. Then back to camp for rafting, platypus spotting, dinner and camp fire.

The girls are enjoying the pace of the routine and without travel days there is plenty of time to play, create and perform. We were treated to a concert of ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ with the newest member (Llewella) of the ‘Sister Stars’ group.

The girls have been loving the riding and getting out on to the tracks. Vertigo Mt Biking were great for Kens skills lesson and keen to not miss an opportunity to outsource some teaching, we enrolled the girls in a skills class too. An hour lesson together, and it was money well spent. Doing it early in the week meant they were able to put their new skills into practice. During the week Charlotte signed up for another lesson to take on some more difficult tracks.

The Crank It cafe doubles as a museum to the history of tin mining which is the reason Derby existed in the first place. It provided a great opportunity to delve into how the discovery of tin changed our world and explore what a mineral rich country we live in. Schooling was a bit of a focus for the week as the time had arrived for us to complete the homeschooling evaluation with our Moderator (liaison from the education department).

I had been compiling and collating the girls work from over the year, reporting on progress, while aligning all our experiences with the national curriculum. It was a daunting process but also a rewarding one to see just how far we had come on our homeschooling journey.

It’s not been without its ups and downs, tears and tantrums (from both me and the kids), and I have been tempted to throw in the towel on numerous occasion. Still we have found a rhythm (of sorts) and made it through. However, I was still nervous to see how we had faired. A few emails, many photographs and a FaceTime session with Robyn our Moderator and we were given the thumbs up. Oh what a relief! I had been stressing about this and what a load off my shoulders. High fives all round, a big long breath out and the warm glow of pride in my heart.

Ken’s birthday week came to a conclusion with a Keto birthday cake. Looked amazing but tasted down right nasty. A bunch of lovely elements, sponge, rhubarb coconut cream filling, topped with chocolate ganache and berries. Should have been delicious but without gluten, dairy, sugar and experience baking this way, it turned out to be an epic fail! Still the effort and thought was appreciated, the berries were nice and the candle and singing always part of the birthday magic.

We were just loving it here, no one really wanted to move on. The riding, rafting, and location were just totally delightful. Being camped on the banks of a lovely running river we got the chance to use our creek in / creek out system for drawing up water from a water source to fill the water tanks. After a little fiddling around the tanks were full and we were sitting pretty.

Right there in that moment we were living the dream. The planning, hopes and wishes for the lifestyle we maybe able to live on the road had all come together here in Derby. Tassie had been ear marked as a highlight and it wasn’t disappointing.

But there’s more…… I’d got chatting to this couple, and it turns out they are from Parabadoo, W.A. All week I’d been watching them return to camp each afternoon and hang up their waders from a day of fishing, or so I’d thought. Turns out they weren’t fishing but fossicking and the area was good for sapphires.

I’d been to keen to try this fossicking for sometime and when they offered to take the kids and I out the next day, I couldn’t refuse. We didn’t have any luck with the sapphires but it was a lovely morning and after picking up my own sieve in town I was keen to continue fossicking as we travel around Tassie and back on the mainland.

Blue Sapphire fossicking

It had been such a lovely free camp and the people we met there were all really lovely. The kids even struck it lucky, with a gorgeous family moving in next to us later in our stay. Alas it was time to move on and after squeezing in one final ride we packed up and made a late departure for the Bay of Fires. On paper it was going to be a short travel day but what we hadn’t realized yet about Tassie is they are very few straight roads.

After a long, yet scenic drive we arrived at the beautiful Bay of Fires and jagged the lucky last spot with views at the north end of Cosy Corner. But that’s not all, we are parked next to another Zone RV caravan and it’s got three bunk windows. OOOhhhhh super exciting, more children to play with and a chance to meet some other Zoners.

What colours, what a view!

We arrived on dusk and did a quick set but before racing down to the beach for a wee explore. A stunning place with white singing sandS, clear turquoise blue water and dramatic flame colored rocks for added theatre. Total WOW of a camp and we looking forward to a week as beach bums. Finger crossed for some fine east coast Tassie weather.

Not for all of us though. Ken has got a full week of work to get done and a deadline to meet. He is going to hunker down at the library in nearby St Helens and power through it hopefully. So, the girls and I will explore the area solo.

Feeling alive and feeling fabulous.

Tasmania Week 1, Camps # 67 – Bridport & 68 – Derby, Days 303 – 310

Our Tassie adventure starts with the crossing on the Spirit of Tasmania. We have chosen to do the night crossing. We board by driving the van into the hull of the boat then take a few belongings and head up to our allocated room and deck 7 for a feed and some entertainment in the onboard cinema.

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The food was fabulous, with almost the entire buffet being gluten free. I had bought dinner and snacks on board for Georgia but they weren’t needed. The weather was looking ok and we were hoping for a smooth crossing and it was all smooth sailing as we pulled out of Melbourne and spent the next few hours crossing Port Philip Bay, one of Australia largest bays.

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Just as the movie was finishing it seemed we were crossing out the heads, a very narrow opening also knows as “The Rip” before entering the Bass Strait. That was the end of the smooth sailing! With the girls now feeling very unwell we retired, medicated and eventually got some sleep. By 3.30am we had stopped rolling and crashing away on the seas but it was all too exciting to sleep and the floor was no longer comfortable.

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Disembarking in Devonport we drove to Bridport where we set up camp for four nights. The first day we were just shattered, (well I was from only a few hours sleep), and did nothing but hang around Bridport. The weather was a little wet, windy and cold so aside from a little walk and play in the playground, I did the food shopping to restock, (as we had to dump all our fresh food before leaving the mainland) and hunkered down for the day.

The following day we drove to Beauty Point to do tours at Seahorse World and Platypus House. Both were fastinating and an a great education. Out of the 47 species of seahorse 26 our found in Australian waters. Seahorse World is an educational centre as well as a seahorse farm shipping these totally fastinating creature all over the world. Pretty cool. And then Platypus House was awesome getting up close and learning about both the Tassie varieties of Platypus and Echidna. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed both these experiences.

Grabbing a quick lunch over looking the Tamar River, we had hoped to visit the Beaconsfield mine also but ran out of time. With Kenny’s Birthday the next day we drove home to get ourselves organized for an early start.

Rightly so the girls get super excited about birthdays. We started with the usual on bed present opening fun, followed by delicious Keto pancakes, (ok, only Ken and I think they are delicious), before driving through to Derby for Kenny do his birthday experience from the family in the west – a private mountain biking skills session! Epic fun and it gave us a chance to scope out Derby as we are hoping to be camping here in a couple of days.

In the evening we went to Launceston for a beautiful meal at Black Cow bistro. OMG, I’m  salivating as I type this. A high quality steak house and it didn’t disappoint. They did their best to accommodate the gluten / dairy requirement and everything was delicious. Tassie has such fine produce and the Cape Grim Beef is mouth watering. The girls really do enjoy these fine dining experiences and it makes it all the more enjoyable for Ken and I. We are very proud of them and grateful we get to share this together.

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On our last day in Bridport we enjoyed the stunning coast line and a bit of 4WD’ing on the beach at Double Sandy Point Conservation Area. Ken loves the driving and rolling through the dunes, the girls love sliding down the dunes on the boogie boards and we even had an encounter with some wild life – a Tassie Tiger Snake!

One of Australia’s best golf courses was just down the road and we’d seen some amazing photos but wanted to see for ourselves. Neither of us are keen golfers but it’s a stunning links course that ranks the 11th best golf course in the world. Something about it reminded me so much of Scotland, so I was instantly in love with the swaying tall coastal grasses making there gentle rustling song and the quaint tunnel entrance to the gorgeous coast line.

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That’s a wrap for our first camp and taste of Tassie and we are on a high. Next camp spot is a fabulous free camp in Derby for a few days mountain biking. With not too much distance to travel and a hope to get a riverside spot we got up early had breakfast in the car and got ourselves to Derby quick smart. Bingo! The plan worked a treat. Being a Friday I was worried about the weekend crowd arriving and I’m glad we did. We jagged a super riverside spot and were well settled by the time the entire camp swelled to capacity.

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What a bueat spot. Just on the outskirts of this grown town. This is a beautiful free camp right on the banks of the River and with the best camp amenities we have ever come across. Derby was an old tin mining town but following a devastating disaster that flooded the valley taking the lives of 14 people the mine was closed and the the town has been dying ever since. THat is until, someone started creating mountain biking tracks everywhere and now it’s a growing and bustle hub for thrill seekers of all ages and stages with visitors and competions from all over the world.

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Just last year they put in a new suspension bridge across the river and established some easy tracks for families and beginners. Completing our first track and loving it we were looking forward to knocking a few more off over the next few days. After a few circuits around the pump track it was time for lunch and Lulu to have a sleep. That afternoon Ken took the girls out for another ride which finished them off for the day before trying another different pizza base in the search for the best gluten free pizza and movie night.

The next day was more cycling in the morning and in the afternoon we got the pack raft out to try and spot some Platypus. Our neighbour, Geoff, had plenty of experience doing rapids and encouraged us to give it a go. What a buzz. With Geoff on hand to haul us out if needed and the water not being very deep at all it was all good fun.

On Sunday the local market in the Town Hall supplied us with plenty of locally grown produce and we were set for the week to come. More cycling and canoeing in cool but sunny weather and relaxing to the sounds of the babbling river was just bliss. This place is going to be a highlight for us and we only just arrived.

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Camp # 45, Days 127 to 128 – Cooktown, QLD

We started the day in Laura and before getting to Cooktown learned there was some significant examples of Aboriginal rock art only 15 minutes down the road. The Split Rock art galleries are the most famous of a collection of sites up here in Cape York and are listed by UNESCO as being among the top 10 sites in the world.

Ahh – I se why it’s called Spit Rock

It is a self guided up hill walk to the art sites but worth it. My first time viewing rock art and when viewing history I always love taking my imagination back in time to the people who gather here in this place and created these painting.

Staring out at the same view, walking this same piece of earth. Only separated by thousands of year. Charlotte shares a love of history especially when it’s bought to life.

Our stay in Cooktown is only brief this time. We had left the bikes here with Nico the fish guy. Knowing we’d have little opportunity to use them up the cape it seemed silly to carry the extra weight and get them all dusty.

We had loved Cooktown and wished we had longer to linger but time with family and a new adventure awaited. We overnighted at the same caravan park, requesting a sunny site this time to try and counter the sandflies that mauled us last time. Apparently they like the shade but really there wasn’t much time sit amoungst them anyway. With shopping and washing to be done we didn’t hang about camp much.

The next morning was an early start and we didn’t even fuss with breakfast hoping to grab the bikes early and still have time to grab a delious bite at our fav little spot, the Driftwood cafe. Yum, just as amazing as we remembered. The people, view, food and coffee all completely noteworthy.

With only a short drive down the road to Mt Carbine, Brooklyn Wildlife Sanctuary to stay with Meg and Andrew it was a relaxing start to the day. The drive was spectacular as you come through the ranges and down the other side. Views across the plain and across to the next set of ranges. We did have a near miss on this stretch though with a rather large cow 🐄 standing in the middle of the road right on a bend. Lucky for us he was on the other side but we put the call out over the radio anyway for any other vechicle traveling to cautious.

That night being a Friday we cracked out the pizza oven and shared a night of pizza, chat and the starry starry sky with great Meg, Andrew, Jack and the call of some wild cats fighting in the not to far distance. The young cousins played and watch a movie while the older cousin sat around the fire a caught up.

Beautiful country this and fastinating to learn about it and the management of the land from Andrew and Meg. Very much looking forward to exploring and learning more tomorrow.

Camp # 44, Day 126 – Laura, Cape York

Back on the road again, and another long travel day. We loved our time in the Iron Range National Park and Lockhart River but our thoughts are turning to our up coming overseas trip and we need to get off the Cape and try and piece together as many days as we can to visit with my cousins Meg, Andrew and Jack.

The drive is now mostly territory we have covered on the way up. Dusty, beautiful and bumpy. Roads conditions have remained the same but our feelings have changed. We drive along with the sense that our Cape York adventures are coming to a close. There is a tinge of sadness as we have loved, almost, every moment of it but also our heads and hearts are filled with gratitude to be able to share this together and for the glowing memories we get to take away.

The kilometer pass away with the usual rhythm of the long days in the car we have become accustomed to. We arrive at Musgrave Telegraph Station for refreshments and fuel before reaching Laura where we pull up for the night.

The entertainer we enjoyed so much at Bramwell Station talked or sang about where Cape York begins and ends, and how it’s different for everyone. Is it when you leave Cooktown? Or maybe it’s when you do your first river crossing? For some it’s leaving the surfaced roads and hitting the dirt and dust or maybe it the first telegraph station. For me it was the beginning and end of the dirt road, and there is was just after leaving Musgrave.

The smooth grey bitumen approached and ….. k-choonck, the last bump up onto the bitumen. No more rattling, no more dust, no more bumping around, smooth and quiet. And there it is, finish!

Thank you Cape York.

Camp # 42 & 43, Days 122 to 125, Chili Beach & Lockhart River, Cape York

Chili Beach , Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) NP

We had heard a little about the drive into Lockhart River but in reality it smashed our expection. The road was excellent in some part but awful in others. However by far the most difficult or frustrating part was the constant undulations.

With the dips often being a very sharp and rocky washout we were always needing to be on the breaks to carefully get the drawbar through without incident and keeping things smooth for ‘Goldilocks’ the van and her contents.  Not being able to sustain any kind of momentum and having to continuously judge your breaking and the nature of each dip, made for a challenging drive.

Crossing the Wenlock River on the way to Iron Range NP

Beautiful though! Eventually the Iron Ranges come into view and you suddenly realise the vegetation has done one of its spectacular costume changes again, seamlessly without you noticing. By the end of the day we will be setting up camp in the Rainforest of the Iron Range National Park. The largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Australia and home to some unique species of plants and animals.

We were excited to experience a night in the rainforest. Imagining the sights and sounds to be different from that of our usual camps. But a little of that excitement waned as we faced a couple of the steepest and challenging river/creek crossings. Not unlike what we had done on our day on the Old Telegraph Track, accept this time we had the van hitched on. Yikes! It certainly cause a pause for thought ……. , then with breath held we edged through and Audrey pull Goldilocks up that hill. Love that beast of a car, she’s a total star!

At this point I have to acknowledge the amazing job Ken had done in getting the vechile, (Audrey) and van, (Goldilocks), set up for doing this rough and tough stuff. The amount of research and extra work Ken has had done on the Cruiser may have seemed excessive for a couple of novices. However when we have found ourselves in need of a little more specialized performance; Kenny twists a few knobs, pushes a few buttons (all of which I have know idea what they do) and viola! Beast and van lap it up.

Camp # 42 – A Night in the Rainforest, Iron Range National Park

Hot and Shitty! Obvious really, but I think we both had this romantic notion of it being adventurous, cool and noisy, teaming with wildlife. Humid and draining with too much shade (funny that in a rainforest) to run the a/c. No matter, the show must go on. Set up, camp fire, a delicious dinner of fish curry and a freaky night time walk through the forest looking for a green tree python 🐍 made it memorable but this little travelling family has learnt we are more beach people than rainforest folk.

Gordon Creek Camping Area 04 – In the Rainforest

Camp # 43 – Nirvana!, Chili Beach, Iron Range National Park

Again another one of those spots vans the size of ours, raise eyebrow’s at. And you know what they are thinking, because I’m thinking it too. How are we going to get that van into there. Kenny always full of confidence never seems phased and true to form, he nails it. WOW! What a spot. Just meters from the beach of white sands and turquoise waters (shame we cant swim in it). A quick set up as we’re busting to explore the beach a little more.

Ken does one of his manouvers to get is in to site 25

The kids are straight into building a cubby with palm frond and coconuts and i’m keen to try my hand at the basket weaving i’d seen on Thursday Island. The feeling is relaxed and delight. We are going to be here for three days and have the sense we are just going to chill at Chili Beach. A lovely feeling and somehow seems to lasts despite, reality being the usual rhythm of no time to stop.

The Girls Beach Shack
Leonie trying out her new weaving skills

There is always more bread to be made, dished to do done, washing to hang out and the next load to go on, firewood to collect, snacks and meals to prepare, toddler and big kids to love, nourish and cherish, school work to be prepared and done, planning and research into where and what’s next, oh and musn’t forget to make the time to say ‘f#*% it’ to that never ending list and go and enjoy the sublime piece of the planet we find ourselves in. Amen!

We just loved our time here, and to think it was touch and go if we had the time to make it. Beach walks revealed treasures like gnarly trees to climb and hide in, coconuts at variant stages of their life cycle, kooki coconut faces and views views views.  A drive on the beach took us to a great pool to swim in (YEAH!!!!) And the surrounding forest provided ample wood for the magic of camp fires and pizzas too.

We did make one little outing to nearby Portland. In the past it had been a harbour/supply port during the war. Now however, it’s a tranquil spot with delicious little cafe. The last thing you are expecting to find which makes it all the more exciting. Views, cold drinks and a scrumptious prawn roll. It really doesn’t get much better.

View from Portland cafe, what a gem

Chili Beach is also famous for its wind, and it certainly did pick up during our stay. We had jagged a fairly sheltered camp site and with the van we had name bother. For the campers in tents, it did reek havoc and finally they abandoned camp and moved on.

There is a magic to this place, a feeling or energy that just slows you down. Definately a happy place for our tribe.

Chili Beach

Lockhart River Community

Before leaving we wanted to pay a visit to the aboriginal art centre and did so before continuing our journey south down the cape. We knew it was a dry community and after planning a couple of other visits into the town for supplies this time we had forgotten about the one bottle of bubbles I had been carrying for a special occasion. After debate we decided it wasn’t worth the risk of the fine (max $75,000) and decided to empty it on the road side.

The art centre was super and we left with a few lovely pieces that will hopefully adorn our walls as a reminder of these magic lands.

One of the pieces we picked up to remind us of our time at Lockhart River.

Camp # 41, Days 120 & 121 Archer River Roadhouse & Moreton Telegraph Station, Cape York

A couple of long travel days ahead with little else to report. Being territory we had already covered and nothing more we wished to see, it was just about getting south in the best time the roads permitted.

More corrugation, endless beautiful country to travel through (I never get tired of the vast nothingness), more dust in the van and now in our water tanks too, one audio book “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio (fabulous), many more movies on the iPads for the kids, one bout of car sickness and an endless supply of car snacks. We covered nearly 600km but it felt like lots more.

We broke the trip up with a nights stay at Archer River Roadhouse, happy to report the burger is still delicious, showers are hot and folks friendly. Arriving at Moreton Telegraph Station was like visiting a little oasis. Lush green grass!

We also run into a few folk we had met along our travels up here and hadn’t seen for a week or more. One couple we met at the IGA in Bamaga as they were rescueing this particularly desperate looking soul of a dog. She was so skinny and in such an awful way but now just 5 days later, wow so much better and even fatter. Hats off to this Melbourne couple, it was so heart breaking to see these animals suffering and feeling helpless to do anything for them. And the other family with a daughter about Georgie’s age, so the girls all enjoyed having an extra playmate.

You’ve probably been up here long enough when she didn’t even look dirty when I put her in the bath!

With our time on the Cape coming to an end there was still one more adventure for us to squeeze in. As we don’t imagine we’ll be back, I didn’t want to miss a visit to Lockhart River. A dry aboriginal community know for its Arts, the Rainforest of Ironbark National Park and the beautiful Chili Beach.

Colour of the water coming out of our taps. The kids keep thinking I’m trying to feed them brown rice when its cooked in this water. I just say “no no, its Cape York Rice, its a speciality up here”.

Camp # 40, Day 119, Jardine River Crossing & Elliot/Twin Falls, Cape York

Having left the tip of Cape York a few days ahead of schedule we planned to travel the short distance to the Jardine River crossing campsite to spend a couple of nights. Stopping here would allow us to unhitch and visit Elliot and Twin falls.

Elliot and Twin falls are just off the northern section of the tele-track with no way to get in there with our van and we said it was a must visit given how amazing Fruit-Bat falls were.

We made a classic error this morning. Keen to get going we left the townships of Umagico without filling up on fuel, telling ourselves we’ll fill up at Jardine River. Only once we had crossed the river did we discover the fuel pumps were out of order. In researching our travels in Cape York we read ‘never drive past a chance to fuel up, you never know if your next planned stop will actually have fuel’! Doh!

Being it was such a short drive day we had time and little other options but to unhitch the van and for Ken to dash back to Bamaga a township at the tip to refuel before returning to us. At $130 a pop to cross the river we were grateful the guys running the ferry took pity and let us go back without extra charge.

The girls and I set up camp, did some school and just settled in till Ken returned. As soon as Ken got back and Lulu finished her sleep we jumped in the car to get Elliot falls. The local guys told us of a short cut which was great because we had wasted a bit chunk of the day chasing fuel.

Q: When is a short cut not a short cut? ……… Well, it may have been shorter in distance but with two not so easy river crossings and some hairy cut out sections of track it took us longer than if we’d taken the long route to the falls. It did however add to the drama and theatre of our day and overall adventure of Cape York. At the time I recall feeling a little miffed as we were already short on time but they were two (Canal creek and Sam Creek) of the more significant crossings we did and incredibly beautiful.

 

Finally we arrived at the falls and the sun was setting but actually it was a beautiful time to be there. Most people were leaving and we ended up with the falls all to ourselves. It was a lovely swim initially in clear what but after a while the pools turned milky.

At first I thought it was from us stirring up the sediment on the bottom but later we read as cars cross the river further up stream the sediment is carried down and it changes from clear to cloudy and back to clear again. Maxing out time there we returned to camp, driving home to the red and orange hues of the setting sun and finally the darkness of night.

Camp # 39, Days 115 to 118 – Umagico, Cape York

Well we are almost at the very tippy top and today covered some terrible sections of road. Wicked corrugation and a few numptys overtaking in clouds of dust without notifying us on the UHF. It’s impossible to see behind us and we are all over the road trying to find the path of least destruction. Anyhow we arrived without incident.

On the way we stopped off at Fruitbat Falls for a beautiful swim. A well known and popular swimming hole. Surround by a series of falls so it is safe from crocs, a real oasis. It seems we had just missed the rush with a steady stream of traffic leaving but on a tight road with the van in tow it was a little ridiculous at points. After a swim and lunch we travelled onwards to the Jardine ferry crossing.

Carnivorous Pitcher Plant

The crossing itself was fine but getting off the ferry was very steep. Relatively easy fix with the max trax and the air bags on the van lifting it high enough to clear the road. The next section of road was pretty rough. Now we had a sense of being on the final stretch to the tip and we were, but I also sensed we had crossed over to a new frontier. While we are always on the lands of our nations first people from now on we were going to be mostly in aboriginal communities.

The day was getting on and it had been a long driving day so we decided to pull up and make camp in Umagico at Alau Beach Campgrounds. This will be our base while we expose the Torres Straight Island and visit the most northerly point of the Australian mainland.

The drive into town to find the caravan park was certainly different from anywhere else we had been, and not in a good way. The streets were littered with rubbish, yards full of hard garbage, no signage anywhere which had us going in circles, loads of mangey, skinny, wild dogs roaming the streets and the odd bumby two. We certainly had the “feeling were not in Kansas anymore”.

Finally we found our way with the help of a bit of finger pointing from the locals and jagged a beach front spot! Magic alright, however I was a little on edge with the wild dogs and the girls. Our neighbour’s were the most gorgous gently folk and we were soon visited by the local kids. Curious with lots of question. They ended up coming back the next day and hanging with us most of the day which was lovely or maybe it was the fresh baked banana bread they hung around for.

The corrugated bumpy roads hand not been kind to our bananas and turned them to mush. When life gives to smashed bananas, make banana bread I say.

That afternoon we went out to find some of the WWII plane crash sites and storage sites. Living so south in our large country it’s easy to forget how close to invasion we were. A great reminder for me, an education for Ken and the girls. It was humbling to be at the site were some of our service men lost their lives trying to defend our shore. Lest we forget!

The following day we took the ferry to Thursday Island. What another great education for us all. Both Ken and I felt we never really understood the inclusion of ‘Torres Straight Islander’  box to tick that you see on all government forms you complete, but here we are in the beautiful Torres Straight and now it all makes sense. Ken and I are learning so much and I just hope some of it is sinking in to the kids. It’s a pretty awesome classroom they have, not so sure about the teachers though.

The thing that sticks in my mind most about Thursday Island is the colour of the water. Vibrant aqua. It wasn’t the nicest weather. Windy and overcast at times but we enjoyed our day all the same. It started with a bus tour of the main sights (the fort, cemetery, church). After the tour we wandered the Main Street, enjoyed a delicious lunch before visiting Gub Tutui the Cultural Centre.

Fabulous day, fastinating culture and a fastinating history of migration, intergration, pearling and WWII. Loved it!

Big moment for mummy and Lulu last night ……… she slept in her own bed (for the first time). It’s been getting very tight with Ken, myself and Llewella in our small queen bed. I’ve not been sleeping well and have been trying to sleep on the couch or floor. Not a moment too soon, she just followed her sisters and climbed into her bunk. Of course I still didn’t sleep through getting up to check on her a number of times, but oh, the space to spread out!

Our final day here and we made it to the tippy top of the Australian mainland. Timing it for the setting sun, we first visited the croc tent (an iconic souviner tent in the middle of no where) and did a bit of 4WD on the beach. Collecting about three bags of rubbish as we went. This particular bit of coast was just covered with rubbish mostly plastic, we just couldn’t drive by without taking with us what we could.

The last stretch of dirt road to the tip was through dense dark rainforest, then a 20min walk up and over rocks before reaching the ocean and the post and sign announcing you are standing at the most northerly point of the Australian mainland. It felt momentous to finally get here. An achievement to get this far from home, through such rough and remote terrain. A deeply satisfying moment for Ken and I.

Feeling satisfied with our time here we decided to start our journey south a few days ahead of our loose schedule. With the extra days we hope to be able to take in some extra sights like Eliot falls and sometime at Lockhart River.

Camp # 38, Days 113 -114, Bramwell Station and the Old Telegraph Track

Bramwell Station is a great spot to stop in on your way up the Cape, it’s got loads of space to setup your van and is famous for it’s bush dinner and entertainment.

On the way in we seen this lying in the middle of the road!

Friday night with the Hall’s is home made pizza night. So we fired up my fire pit oven for wood fired pizzas. Llew-Llew approves – she loves ‘Pitzzy’!

Bramwell is also just before the start of the ‘Old Tele Track’ so perfect to use as a base to leave your big van for day trips to check out the track.

I’ve been watching 4WD shows and YouTube videos about Cape York and the ‘Old Telegraph Track’ for years. It’s probably the most well know track in Australia, famous for it’s remote location following the line of the old overland telegraph line in the northern cape. It strikes fear in to many four wheel drivers given the number of deep creek crossings, each marking an oasis of insurance claims! It has a legendary status thanks to it’s reputation of “testing the best and drowning the rest!”

Old Telegraph Track – Creek Crossings

I had already said we wouldn’t do the track, too risky this early in trip, we have well over a year of exploring Australia to do. If the worst happened and we got stranded/flooded in a creek and had to rebuild the car with all the modifications we had done that alone would take at least two months.

We did though intend to jump into the track from the main Bamaga Road at a couple of points and check out the ‘crazies’ doing ‘Gunshot creek’. There are also a couple of great waterfalls and swimming holes off the track that are a must visit on any trip up the Cape.

So we left the van at Bramwell Station and after checking the winch, uhf radios and making sure my recovery gear was close at hand we headed off just a little bit north to Bramwell roadhouse and the start of the ‘Overland Telegraph Track’.

‘Plate Tree’ – rare species only found on Cape York near Bramwell Roadhouse.

Palm Creek

The very first creek crossing is one of the toughest, ‘Palm Creek’. A very steep drop-in to the creek and an equally steep exit. I had just watched an online video from the 4wd action guys and they we’re pretty nervous about this crossing. 

We watched a couple young guys tackle it – with high 4” lifts and plenty of welly from their V8’s on the exit. I knew our car could do it but what damage might occur! 

We met a couple here – Simon and Sarah who we’re towing  a trailer through the track and learned they we’re very experienced – they decided to find the ‘chicken track’ that bypasses the main crossing. So we tagged along to bypass it ourselves.

The chicken track turned out to be more of a ‘Rooster Track’. Still pretty steep entrance and a tricky exit especially steep at the top. Sarah and Simon showed us the line and said use your lockers and take it real easy – great advice.

You may not know that normally, when one of the wheels on the front or rear axle is off the ground or loosing traction the other stops turning providing no traction whatsoever. This can happen to both front and rear. Differentials which are needed in all cars, allows one wheel to turn faster than the other to make turning corners easier.

Locking differentials or lockers – lock the wheels in sync, providing traction to that set even if one wheel is in the air – having both front and rear lockers provides the best traction possible – although it’s very difficult to turn the car when the front lockers are engaged – it feels like you’ve lost power steering.

Anyway rear lockers engaged going in and both front and rear going out enabled us to conquer Palm Creek in control and style!

Gunshot Creek

We always intended to just check out Gunshot and watch some other mad 4wd’ers cross it as it’s the most famous of the Tele-track crossings with a near vertical gully entrance. 

The day though was getting away from us and we needed to make a call if we go all the way there and then potentially have to double back and take the long detour of the Gunshot Bypass.

To Bypass or Not?

Bumping into Sarah and Simon again turned out again to be fortuitous, giving us a boost of confidence, assuring us that there were sure to be chicken tracks that we could take and so go the direct route – so onward we went!

Once there, seeing the vertical dropoff into Gunshot Creek in person was an instant no-way! 

Looking down the barrel of the infamous Gunshot entry

The exit looked pretty step and muddy as well, and a few drivers earlier in the season had cooked the exit too much and gone straight over the thin ledge and rolled their vehicles. This was now cautioned off with a strip of pink tape!

We watched a couple of other drivers navigate the creek using one of the other entrances and got ready to take it on ourselves…

You had to be careful getting under the tree in the middle of the creek – you can see part of the tree has had a neat corner chainsawed out to allow taller vechiles to get through and the turn from the creek to get up the exit was real tight as well.

I took it real easy on the exit to make sure I never ended up on the wrong side of the pink tape, but lost traction in the mud. A quick back-up, engaging the front lockers, then made it look easy and in control. We’ve done Gunshot! Time for a photo!

Cockatoo Creek was up next – it’s a beautiful clear flowing creek with a hard rock base with some huge potholes and ledges caused by the constant erosion from the flowing water. We walked this on our own to pick the line we would drive to avoid the potholes, some of which would easily swallow a wheel.  

We took it easy and kinda zig-zagged across the creek, with Leonie spotting for me. The big cruiser’s turning circle makes this a bit harder than it should be, but no problem taking it nice and easy.

At Salior Creek the final creek of the souther section, we met a 4wd convoy that had pulled up just before the rickety wooden bridge because the leaders Nissan Patrol had broken an axle. They were waiting for a recovery truck coming all the way from Wepia – that was going to take a while! Someone had marked / closed off the bridge as being dangerous, so we ended up with a bonus creek crossing to end the day.

By this time, there was no way we we’re going to have enough time to visit Fruit Bat falls and get home before dark, so it was back to Bramwell via the PDR, faster, but no-less less bumpy.

We had cleverly booked ourselves in for the famous bush dinner back at Bramwell Station that night knowing we’d be exhausted from the days adventures. Turned out to be a cracker of evening with some awesome bush comedy and entertainment by the Bagman!

So much for not doing the tele-track! We done the entire southern half and would do even more in the days to come!

K.