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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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 pointsand 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’.
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 towinga 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!
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.
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!
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’sa 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!
Sweatwater Lake to Archer River Station to Weipa .04
We awoke to a lovely cool morning. Ken was up early trying to catch more crocs with Dronie II. It was feeling like a good day but then Ken pops his head and and says he’s lost the drone, he’s going to drive down the lake a bit and hopefully get a better connection …….. No luck. Dronie II ditched in a croc infested lake, along with nearly all the footage on the SD card.
Unfortunately the morning didn’t get much better. Firstly, Ken has ripped his two favourite pairs of shorts and this morning did his 3rd and final pair, secondly, as we leave Ken discovers he has smashed the lens in his spare pair of sunnies after loosing the other pair 2 days ago. Thirdly, as we are driving back out through the tricky bit of narrow, windy, river bed, he totally forgets the last obstical and guns it up the sandy bank not taking it wide enough to clear the protruding tree roots. I scream STOP but its too late to avoid impact with the wheel and with a loud crack Goldilocks comes to a stop.
It looked grim and we where both thinking the worst but with a bit of cleaver improvisation we were able to gradually remove small amounts of wood revealing we had been very lucky. Most of the impact missing the tyre and with the root firmly wedged on the rim of the tyre we hadn’t punctured the tyre itself, phew! Not having a chainsaw which we have been thinking of buying, (will now), and the axe being too risky, possibly causing more damage, we used the flat head screwdriver and hammer to chisel away bits till we could drive free.
Carefully monitoring the tyres the rest of the drive we seemed to have had a lucky escape.
Coming out of the National Park after 4 days it was a really treat to arrive at Mulgrave Station for some refreshments. It was only a brief stop before pushing on through Coen to Archer River Station for the night. The Archer River burger is famous in these parts and it didn’t disappoint. However by far the greatest delight of arriving here for the night was water to wash bodies and clothes in. A lovely, and at this time of year bustling place to pull up for the night.
The drive the next day was more of the same dusty, corrugated roads that are taking a toll on our gear. Cape York is certainly an adventure and we are loving it but so far not a day goes by without something surrending to the relentless vibration of these unforgiving roads.
Today’s causalities, the UHF aerial mounting come loose on the front bumper. The aluminum bracket fractured and the aerial fell right on the bonnet of the car bumping away until we could stop safely. After attempting but failing multiple times to fix things Ken just cut it loose hoping we can get it replaced or reattached in Weipa.
Arriving in Weipa was a little exciting. We knew we we’re coming into some sort of civilization because there was a set of traffic lights on the way into to town – admittedly to let the Rio haul trucks pass.
Who would also have thought a Woolworths would be so exciting. Other highlights were a swimming pool in the caravan park and Barramunchies the onsite fish n’ chip cafe. A lovely setting right on the beach, we were relieved to be pulling up for 3 nights.
However it wasn’t plain sailing and we didn’t even get a chance to explore Weipa. We really needed to use the time to do some maintenance and repairs. The corrugation have been pretty full on at times and we feel the van and car need a good going over. Tightening up everything and checking what may have shaken loose and maybe fallen off. Unfortunately we also continue to have dust issues inside the van. So disappointing as this was a big selling point for us and me. So we spent an entire day, screwing of panels and pulling out draws to investigate access points and clean out old dust. It’s been a great chance for us to learn a lot about the van but I’m very unhappy that we don’t have the product we paid for.
The hits just kept on rolling with the pool getting shut down on our 2nd day and then the night before departure we had water issues with very low pressures. Again learning lots about the van, which is great, we were able to establish the problem was the water filter but in the process of removing it snapped an essential connector and now had another more serious problem.
Fortunately we did have internet access so Ken has been able to arrange replacement and spares to be sent up to Bamaga (near the tip of Cape York) and hopefully we’ll be back on track. In the meantime we removed the water filter from the kitchen and attached it to the main supply for the van and just wont have filtered drinking water anymore. Not ideal but at least we can get water back through the rest of the van and keep traveling.
What we did learn about Weipa, it’s a mining town with Rio Tinto having Australia’s largest bauxite mine here. Sunsets are amaizing! The beach is full of some unseen biting creature (probably sand flies again, ugh!), and the bakery makes a great apple turnover.
Our time in Weipa has been a mixed bag and we are looking forward to testing out the new UHF, hopefully Goldilocks being a dust free Zone, and a new drone. Yep that’s right Ken put it out on FB and would you believe someone in Weipa was looking to sell their old one. Beggers can’t be choose and it better than no drone. So welcome to the family Dronie III.
Determined to get away before it got too hot we were up and at it early. Not having crossed the Hann River yet, it was time to get across it and have a little explore. So beautiful. An easy crossing with a causeway built through it, and a chance to cool off. With a few Little Rock pools about and with good visibility people were not only stopping to cross, but bathe and cool off. Bliss!
How could anyone resist. Some spectacular scenery here, birds, flowers and water falls. Just the way to start the day.
I was getting to drive today, yeah! It really doesn’t happen very often. Ken does the lions share of the driving (he enjoy’s it), and I am often sat in the back with Lulu keeping things happy or getting her off to sleep. But back to the driving. OH fun fun fun but also intense. You’ve got to have your wits about you. You need to be fast enough to minimize the shuddering of the corrugations but slow enough that you can react to miss large sharp rocks on the road, brake quick enough without locking everything up to get through or around dust bowls (massive sandy holes in the road), and handle corners safely on the gravel.
The track surface changes as does the scenery and terrain pretty rapidly. Occassionally you’ll have a small stretch of bitumen, but mostly gravel or gravel and rocks, or clay bed, or sand, sand on clay, and most often corrugations ranging from the ‘smooth coasting over the top’ type to the ‘bone schuddering, check you still have teeth at the end and shock that the van and car are still in one piece’ type!
But the terrain today was just lovely and varied. Dry scrubby bush, blackened burnt out bush, tall towering trees (that’s been a rare site), dense small woody river gums forrest, dry sandy river beds with big boulders, vast sweeping plains with swaying beige tall grass and even tall charcoal coloured termite mounds, and more lily pad covered lakes.
It wasn’t a long drive and getting to our camp site got even more interesting. Ken shares with me these camp sites aren’t really for caravans especially not 22ft ones. Hmmmm. Anxiety rises slightly and then we hit the dry sandy river bed. With a few murky large puddles, it’s windy and narrow, with protruding tree roots and branches and the exit isn’t easy. It’s a steep, sandy climb to get out, oh and it’s on a bend.
Slow and steady we get through. Phew. Nice driving Kenny! And then just up the road a super site. Just the one so no neighbour’s tonight.
Causalities from todays drive, the light fitting on my side of the bed had shaken out but easily screwed back in, but more immediate and concerning was the entire power system had shut itself down for some reason. No step working, no fridge on, yikes! We’ve had a few issue and had plenty of spare fuses and lucky that was all we needed.
Camp set and again roasting hot. While free camping managing battery usages is key. Kenny said we could lash out and put the aircon on, but only till the battery hit about 50%, grateful for any chance to cool off, it was bliss.
The battle of getting school work completed continued for most of the day, a long with the daily bread making, endless laundry in small batches to keep up, dishes and food prep.
Ken set about trying to catch a croc in the lake. When I say catch I mean capture some drone footage of a croc and after hours of searching he got his footage.
Night time finally arrived and cooled everything and everyone off but only a little and we sat by the fire, for chilli con carne, star gazing and a performance of Aladdin by the ‘Sister Starz’. Quality entertainment considering our remoteness. They’ll laugh and/or cringe about their Sister Starz performing troup when they are older. Golden memories.
I hadn’t really cottoned on that we were going to be free camping for five days and we were running low on supplies and had rubbish stinking us out, so made the call to only stay the one night and head for Weipa and civilization tomorrow.
Lots more dust, dirt, corrugations, fords and lilly pad and lotus flower filled lakes and water birds. Casualties on the drive today none to report of.
On to Hann River crossing for our second night and a two night stop. Ken had selected this spot cause we were right on the river but with very steep banks safe from crocs.
No shade here and the heat was pretty uncomfortable. We set up and just tried to stay cool. The heat just zapping our energy. Ken is keen to catch himself a barramundi and has a new little Barra rod so was straight into it. No joy, but we did have a visit from two little tortoise.
Being distracted by the barra Ken was late getting the fire set and coals burnt down for our second go at the wood fired pizza oven. Massive improvement! No burnt bases tonight and brown of top. Winner winner, pizza dinner or pizzeeee as Lulu calls it. Followed by a mixed berry and banana sorbet whip up in the thermi. Yum.
The evening again bought out the wildlife. Little micro bats are always present, a couple of toads but not sure they were cane toads as they were smallish and yep a croc cruising the river. Our torch is not a great spotty so while we could clearly see it’s reflective eyes coasting up and down the banks of the river we couldn’t make out any size.
Day 2 at Hanh River was quiet domesticated catching up on school work, cleaning as pointless as it is in all this dust, bread making as the freezer is full of meat and meals, and being on tight water rations laundry needs to be done by hand or in my cleaver little wash bag. Which has been one of my favourite items on the trip.
Ken and Charlotte went for a little drive and returned to swelter away in the middle of the day. Sooooooooooo hot and not much breeze to speak of. In the cool of evening we took a wee walk to try and spot the Brolga Ken had seen earlier and more fishing, we all got in on the action this time. And while no one caught anything we all enjoyed it and the girls did really well at casting. The cute little tortoises were back and being playful.
No crocs tonight but stars galore! Astrologically we have totally jagged it with the moon not rising until midnight so we get to gaze in total darkness till we go to bed. Perfect. Talking of perfect – perfection is no midges or sandflies and we have been spared from those ravenous buggers the last 3 nights.