A Travellerspoint blog

August 2012

Cooktown

Replenishment, recovery and repair base

semi-overcast 28 °C

Cooktown is a small town located at the mouth of the Endeavour River, where Lieutenant James Cook beached his crippled ship, the Endeavour, for repairs to its hull in 1770. When the Endeavour struck the reef, 23 hours passed before she was floated off, everyone on board took their turn at manning the pumps, falling down exhausted before another took his place. This was a very desperate time for Endeavour’s men as most of them couldn’t swim and they would surely drown if she sank. They had to keep her afloat and that they did, finally warping her into the harbour 5 days later after fothering the ship by pulling a sail under her bottom so that she wouldn’t sink.

The British crew spent seven weeks on the site of present-day Cooktown, repairing their ship, replenishing food and water supplies, and caring for their sick. The British scientist, Joseph Banks, and Swedish naturalist Daniel Solander, who accompanied Cook on the expedition, collected, preserved and documented over 200 new species of plants along the Endeavor River. After some weeks, Joseph Banks met and spoke with the local people, recording about 50 Guugu Yimithirr words, including the name of the intriguing animal the natives called gangurru (which he transcribed as "Kangaru"). Cook recorded the local name as "Kangooroo". The first recorded sighting of kangaroos by Europeans was on Grassy Hill, which rises 500 meters above Cooktown. Cook climbed this hill to work out a safe passage for the Endeavour to sail through the surrounding reefs and sandbanks, after it was repaired. He commented that with the prevailing south-easterly winds he will not be able to sail back south (as there are numerous sandbanks and reefs towards the east and south) and will have to continue sailing north, close to the coast. This led to him finding the straits around Cape York and then landing at Possession Island.

Cooktown was founded more than 100 years later, originally named Cook's Town, on 25 October 1873 as a supply port for the busy goldfields along the Palmer River. During the Second World War, Cooktown became an important base for the war effort. The civilian population of Cooktown was encouraged to evacuate in the face of the Japanese advances and by 1942 the vast majority had left. Some 20,000 Australian and American troops were stationed in and around the town. The busy airfield played a key role in the crucial Battle of the Coral Sea when Japanese expansion towards the Australian mainland was finally halted.

Present day Cooktown is a quaint little town in beautiful surroundings. Wide streets with impressive handmade stone guttering, historic buildings that were once the hub of commercial activity, and graceful, well-preserved Queenslander architecture give a hint of days gone by. The bitumen paving of the Mulligan Highway, which reached Cooktown in 2006, now provides all-weather access by road.

We also used Cooktown as a replenishment, recovery and repair base after our grueling 2,900 km corrugated gravel roads and rough 4WD tracks trip through Cape York Peninsula for a month. I had to get urgent repairs done to the Land Cruiser (snapped UHF radio antenna and loose spot light) and Quantum (badly cut tyre wall) after the punishment they received on the badly corrugated roads and the Frenchmans Track. The rest of the repairs to the Quantum will have to wait until we reach the manufacturers in Caloundra at the end of October. Although both the Land Cruiser and Quantum are supposed to be dust proof, we had to do some serious cleaning to get all the settled dust out of the two vehicles. The powdery bull dust of Cape York gets into any small hole and crevice. The worst of the rough roads are now behind us but in a way the rough roads are also a blessing as they keep the crowds away and allow those who are suitably equipped to visit many stunning remote places.

We liked Cooktown and the caravan park (Cooktown Holiday Park) is the best carvan park we have stayed at so far, with big shady sites and nice clean amenities. We received visits by bandicoots every evening and they were tame enough to allow me to take some photographs. We liked the Fisherman's Wharf and had lunch and dinner there on the first and last day, watching the local fishermen try their luck and watching a magnificent sunset.

Unfortunately my stay in Cooktown was spoiled by a thief who pickpocketed me in one of the local shops. When I wanted to pay my wallet was gone and after a quick search we found it on the ground. I was relieved and paid by credit card but did not notice that my cash (about $200) was gone and only discovered that later in another shop. I was lucky the thief only took my cash and I wasn't knifed like Lorraine was in Fremantle some years ago. Ironically, we are now both victims of crime in Australia and we both escaped this fate whilst living in South Africa. I guess you become complacent living in a relatively safe country.

It is now 6 months since we arrived in Australia for this Big Lap and there are still 9 months to go. We have already travelled 23,500 km which is 60% of the original planned distance, due to detours and the vast distances in northern and central Australia. We have been to about 45% (77) of the places we plan to visit. From here the travelling should be relatively easier with less rough gravel roads and 4WD tracks as well as shorter distances.

From Cooktown we will travel down to Daintree National Park tomorrow and camp at Noah Beach, Cape Tribulation for seven days.

Captain Cook statue in Cooktown

Captain Cook statue in Cooktown


Cooktown architecture

Cooktown architecture


Canon supplied to Cooktown in 1885 to defend them against a possible Russian attack

Canon supplied to Cooktown in 1885 to defend them against a possible Russian attack


Old well in Cooktown

Old well in Cooktown


Cooktown from Grassy Hill

Cooktown from Grassy Hill

Endeavour River form Grassy Hill

Endeavour River form Grassy Hill

Grassy Hill lighthouse

Grassy Hill lighthouse


Bandicoot

Bandicoot


Finch Bay, Cooktown's beach, with Cape Bedford in the distance

Finch Bay, Cooktown's beach, with Cape Bedford in the distance


Finch Bay with Mt Cook in the background

Finch Bay with Mt Cook in the background


Sunset over Endeavour River

Sunset over Endeavour River

Posted by KobusM 17:30 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Elim Beach

Spectacular beachfront camping

semi-overcast 29 °C

The stunning beach at Elim is home to the famous Coloured Sands, a stretch of coloured sand dunes along a beautiful bay in the Coral Sea. It is also a spectacular camping spot and the Elim Beach campground, Eddie's Camp, belonging to Thiithaarr-warra Elder, Eddie Deemal, is right on the water's edge with fabulous views of Cape Bedford and Coloured Sands. The amenities are run down with but the location and scenery makes up for it. Located approximately 25 km outside Hope Vale, an Aboriginal community 50 km north of Cooktown, this shady beachfront campsite has a large expanse of white beaches with mangroves and paperbark trees growing up to the high water mark. At low tide the wide shallows provide plenty of exploration opportunities but you can get bogged in the mud very easily. The 25 km gravel road is reasonably well maintained and the last couple of kilometers are sandy.

We camped under the trees right on the beach with the water lapping as close as 10 meters away at high tide. The place is very peaceful and we eventually extended our stay to 5 nights. The only complaint is the abundance of horse flies. I must have killed hundreds who tried and succeeded to suck my blood for their breeding cycle. The camping site is also too shady for the solar panels to be effective and I had to run the generator a few hours each day to keep the batteries charged.

The low tide drive on the beach past Coloured Sands is spectacular and not too tricky if you let your tyre pressure down to below 25 psi. The drive through the dunes to the southern beach of the Cape Bedford Peninsula is challenging and very sandy but rewards you with maginificent views. We saw a wreck of a yacht on the southern beach which confirms how treacherous the Coral Sea is.

Elim was not on our original plan but I discovered it in a travel book we borrowed from friends (Mick and Chrisie) we met at Garig Gunak Barlu National Park and we are pleased we came here, which turned out as one of our favourite spots. From here we will continue our journey south to historic Cooktown to replenish stocks and to do some repairs to the Land Cruiser and Quantum.

Elim Beach

Elim Beach

Elim Beach camp

Elim Beach camp

Have a swing

Have a swing

Cape Bedford from Elim Beach

Cape Bedford from Elim Beach

Low tide

Low tide

Coloured Sands drive

Coloured Sands drive

Spectacular Coloured Sands

Spectacular Coloured Sands

Colured Sands beach drive

Colured Sands beach drive

What a beach!

What a beach!

Cape Bedford

Cape Bedford

Sunset at Elim Beach

Sunset at Elim Beach

Paperbark trees on the beach

Paperbark trees on the beach


Elim Beach old dunny

Elim Beach old dunny


Shattered dreams

Shattered dreams

Posted by KobusM 21:25 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Lakefield National Park

Birdwatching at lily covered lagoons and billabongs

semi-overcast 30 °C

Rinyirry (Lakefield) is the second largest national park in Queensland and the most popular in the Cape York Peninsula. The park stretches from Princess Charlotte Bay in the north to the town of Laura in the south. It covers 537,000 ha of land and includes sections of the Normanby River, Morehead River, Hann River, Laura River and North Kennedy Rivers, as well as lakes, billabongs and wetlands. There are more than 100 permanent riverine lagoons in the park.

We approached the park from the north-west after our stay in Oyala Thumotang National Park and our shopping stop in Coen. The road leading into the park was in good condition except for a few bad spots around creek crossings. We camped at Hann Crossing on the banks of the North Kennedy River which is tidal at the spot we were camping and you can just see and feel that this is croc country. The campsite is remote with the closest site about four kilometers away and the access track narrow and rough.

From Hann Crossing we explored some of the lakes, lagoons and water holes of Lakefield National Park, including Red Lily and White Lily Lagoons. These lagoons and billabongs have excellent bird watching opportunities and we saw many Sarus Cranes that are only found in Cape York Peninsula. We also saw two wild boar close to our campsite. After two days we were pretty tired and dusty and we packed up and travelled south on a very rough gravel road to Elim Beach on the east coast, 25 km from Hope Vale, an Aboriginal community north of Cooktown.

Hann River

Hann River


Juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle

Juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle


Go away!!!

Go away!!!


Watching you!

Watching you!


Sarus Cranes

Sarus Cranes


Magpie Geese on White Lily Lagoon

Magpie Geese on White Lily Lagoon

Skippy watching on

Skippy watching on

Wild boar

Wild boar

White Ibis, Radjah Shelduck, Royal Spoonbill and Egret

White Ibis, Radjah Shelduck, Royal Spoonbill and Egret

Wandering-Whistling Ducks on White Lily Lagoon

Wandering-Whistling Ducks on White Lily Lagoon

Wandering-Whistling Ducks

Wandering-Whistling Ducks

Lotus Lily on Red Lily Lagoon

Lotus Lily on Red Lily Lagoon

Ducks on White Lily Lagoon

Ducks on White Lily Lagoon

Posted by KobusM 01:45 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Oyala Thumotang National Park

Birdwatching in a remote wilderness

overcast 28 °C

Oyala Thumotang National Park, formerly known as Mungkan Kaanju National Park and before that Archer Bend National Park, is a large, remote wilderness park in the center of Cape York Peninsula that stretches from the McIlwraith Range foothills, between the Archer and Coen rivers, and features open eucalypt woodlands, melaleuca swamps and a variety of rainforest types. There is rewarding bird watching around the water-lily covered lagoons and rivers and the common spotted cuscus can be found in the rainforest.

We camped at the first Coen River camp for three nights, which is a nice secluded spot on the banks of the river. This campsite is about 74 km from the turn-off to the national park and the access road is very well maintained (the best in Cape York so far) but the last 10 km is a narrow 4WD track, easy compared to the Frenchmans Track.

Many species of birds can be seen here; the palm cockatoo, rose-crowned fruit-dove, sacred kingfisher, sulphur-crested cockatoo anf sea eagles. We saw many birds but very few allow you to photograph them. I managed to snap a couple of sea eagles who had a rest close to our campsite.

I tried to fish but just caught a couple of small fish. It still remains a relaxing sport. You have to be vigilant close to the river as there might be crododiles in the river.

From here we travelled south to Coen where we did some emergency shopping and collected biltong that I bought online and got mailed here. We will travel further south to Lakefield National Park from here.

First Coen River campsite

First Coen River campsite


Unidentified bird

Unidentified bird


Sea Eagles

Sea Eagles


Crocodile signs

Crocodile signs


Coen River, Oyala Thumotang National Park

Coen River, Oyala Thumotang National Park

Posted by KobusM 19:03 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Iron Range National Park

Tropical rainforests and beautiful beaches

semi-overcast 26 °C

From Captain Billy Landing we travelled south on the Southern Development Road and turned off to Iron Range National Park, travelling for 52 km on the Frenchmans Track which took us a gruelling 6 hours, by far the most difficult and challenging journey we have ever done (see separate blog). We eventually reached our destination 9 hours after we left Captain Billy Landing and camped at Chilli Beach in Iron Range National Park for three nights. The campsite is in the tropical forest just back of the beach and at high tide the water reached about 20 meters from our site. The first night we had a rain shower for the first time since we were in Broome 4 months ago. The rain brought some relief to the heat but the humidity stayed the same. We used most of the first day to relax and do some cleaning and minor repairs to the Quantum inflicted by the severe Frenchmans Track the previous day.

The beach at Chilli Beach is wide at low tide and about 4 km long, fringed with lots of palm trees and a few very old fig trees. Some of the palm trees at the campsite are hosts to hundreds of thongs nailed and hung on the tree, each with names and messages. We drove south on the beach to the first creek to spot the local resident crocodile but he was nowhere to be seen.

Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park features long sweeping snow-white beaches, mangrove forests, rocky outcrops and the largest area of lowland tropical rainforest in Australia. The park is of major Aboriginal cultural significance with story places, ceremonial sites and occupation places dotted about the landscape and is part of the traditional country of the Kuuku Ya’u people. The park has prolific birdlife with endemics such as the eclectus parrot, red-cheeked parrots, Marshall’s fig parrots and frilled monarchs and more than 60% of Australia’s butterflies can be found at Iron Range. It is also one of the few known sites for the endangered Buff-breasted Button-quail. We did a walk from the Rainforest campsite but saw none of these exotic birds but we did see many Beach Stone-Curlews on Chilli Beach.

From Chilli Beach we will continue our journey south to Oyala Thumotang National Park.

Chilli Beach

Chilli Beach

Beach Stone-curlews

Beach Stone-curlews

Old fig trees on Chilli Beach

Old fig trees on Chilli Beach

Chilli Beach campsite

Chilli Beach campsite

Iron Range National Park Rainforest

Iron Range National Park Rainforest

Chilli Beach drive

Chilli Beach drive

Looking out for crocodiles

Looking out for crocodiles

White beaches

White beaches

This is much nicer than the Frenchmans Track!

This is much nicer than the Frenchmans Track!

Thong trees at Chilli Beach

Thong trees at Chilli Beach

Posted by KobusM 02:58 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Frenchmans Track

A extremely challenging 4WD track, not recommended for vehicles towing trailers or caravans.....but it is possible.

sunny 29 °C

From Captain Billy Landing, on the east coast of Jardine River National Park, we travelled back on the 27 km tropical forest track and saw a group of bush pigs at a creek crossing, a rare sight. We travelled south on the Southern Bypass Road until we turned off east onto the Frenchmans Track which is a “short cut” to Iron Range National Park on the east coast.

I have read that the Frenchmans Track is a difficult 4WD only track with a deep crossing at the Pascoe River, but little did we know what we were letting ourselves in for. The start of the narrow single track was already bad as it was severely corrugated but we pushed on hoping we would get better patches. It just got worse as we went on with fallen trees blocking the track and bypass "tracks" which are extremely tight to negotiate with the Quantum to avoid hitting the trees. Further on the track started to be become deeply rutted with extremely deep washouts that made it almost impossible to keep any of the six wheels of the Land Cruiser and Quantum from slipping into the deep ruts or washouts. At this stage we realised that we could not turn back as the bush was too thick on both sides of the track for the two vehicles to turn around. So we pushed on, stopping at each obstacle to assess the plan of action to get around or through it.

We crossed several small creeks and the tracks leading in and out of the crossings were very deeply rutted and extremely muddy. We managed to get through these without incident and about 11 km into the track several off-road motorcyclists approached us. They told us that the Pascoe River was flowing waist deep and that the tracks into and out of the river were extremely steep, rocky, narrow and slippery. They told us two vehicles with trailers turned around as they deemed it too risky to cross from the other side of the river. At this stage we had serious doubts about our chances to get through but decided to continue on to the river and assess its severity for ourselves. We couldn’t turn around anyway so we had to continue and hoped that there may be space at the Pascoe River to turn around if necessary.

About 20 km into the track, after crossing the boggy Wenlock River with lots of effort, we were slowly negotiating a very difficult part of a deeply rutted and washed out part of the track when the Quantum’s right wheel lost traction. It slipped down a washout and crashed against the steep track wall which left it leaning at an angle of about 40 degrees against the walls of the washout! Both our hearts sank into our shoes and our immediate thoughts were: how on earth will a recovery truck be able to get here to recover us? After calming down, I assessed the situation and saw that a thick tree was within reach for a winch recovery. It took a few minutes to set up the winch and recovery strap and miraculously we were pulled out of the washout with only a few small scratches to the Quantum and a bruised finger that I got caught in the winch. What a relief that was!

However, the worst was still to come. We pushed on through numerous bad spots, tight fallen trees bypasses and boggy creek crossings until we eventually reached the top bank of the Pascoe River. When I saw the severely washed out and rocky track, full of obstacles, going down a very steep decline into the river, my heart sank into my shoes for the second time. I waded through the river, ignoring the crocodiles that could have been there (although the water was very clear and I would have spotted them). The river was now flowing about 750 mm deep and the river bed was very rocky with deep holes and large rocks. The exit from the river was even more difficult as it was very narrow and slippery with rock obstacles and deep track washout walls on both sides. The turn-around option came to mind again but there was absolutely nowhere to turn around with the van behind the vehicle, so unless we want to quit and call for a very expensive and time consuming recovery (if at all possible), we only had once option to take the river crossing on.

We eventually took about an hour to get through the scary Pascoe River crossing and its steep entry and exit, stopping every 10-20 meters planning the placement of the Land Cruisers wheels, keeping in mind where the Quantum’s wheels will end up. At two points, on the sharp decline into the river I used rocks to build steps to make the sharp drops from some of the big rocks more easy, and on the exit of the river to get the Quantum’s right wheel a little ramp to get over a big boulder that prevented it from being pulled out of the water. The final exit out of the deep washout took all the brutal power of the Land Cruiser's 4,7 liter V8 to pull the Quantum to the top of the track, all four wheels spinning.

Once we got through the Pascoe River we thought it would be easy going, as described in one of the travel books, but that was not true. The road continued for another 11 km in the same extremely difficult pattern as before the river. We finally exited the Frenchmans Track onto the main road to Iron Range National park, exhausted but thankful that we made it safely. The trip tested my four wheel driving skills and our ability to work as a team to the limit and we were thankful we did the 4WD training course in Perth before we started the tour.

It took us 6 hours to travel the Frenchmans Track, only 52 km long and I now realise why they call it the Frenchmans Track……because it is so damn difficult!!

The photos in this blog do not do full justice to the actual severity of this track but gives you some idea of the conditions and the sequence of events.

This was still the easy part of the Frenchmans Track

This was still the easy part of the Frenchmans Track


Scenic part of the Frenchmans Track

Scenic part of the Frenchmans Track


Bypass track to avoid fallen trees

Bypass track to avoid fallen trees


Getting more difficult and tricky

Getting more difficult and tricky


Nowhere to turn around

Nowhere to turn around


Getting deeper.... into trouble

Getting deeper.... into trouble


Oops!... time to use the winch for the first time

Oops!... time to use the winch for the first time


Negotiating one obstacle at a time

Negotiating one obstacle at a time

Will we ever get through this?

Will we ever get through this?

This is where it gets really hairy....the decline to the Pascoe River bank

This is where it gets really hairy....the decline to the Pascoe River bank

Now it turns from hairy to scary !

Now it turns from hairy to scary !

This is not a track for towing a caravan, even if it is an off-road

This is not a track for towing a caravan, even if it is an off-road

Crossing the Pascoe River

Crossing the Pascoe River

Laying rocks to get the Quantum out of the river

Laying rocks to get the Quantum out of the river

The slippery and difficult incline to get out of the river bank

The slippery and difficult incline to get out of the river bank

Here is a video of a guy who did it in a Prado. It looks much easier without towing something

Posted by KobusM 15:29 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Captain Billy Landing

Remote beach camp on the east coast of Jardine River National Park

sunny 29 °C

We returned to Jardine River National Park after our stay at Punsand Bay and travelled south, crossed the Jardine River by ferry again and continued south on the Southern Bypass Road from which we turned off east to Captain Billy Landing. As soon as you turn off you enter a narrow track that cuts through a rainforest for most of the 27 km to Captain Billy Landing campsite on the coast where we camped for three nights, the first time on the east coast of Australia. The campsite is in a nice spot, directly beside the beach, offering sweeping sea views, opportunities for beach walking and photography, with some small bat caves in the nearby coastal cliffs to explore at low tide. The cliffs expose Mesozoic sediments formed by layers of sandstone and siltstone about 95-170 million years ago. This is a windswept coast and the noise of crashing waves was loud at night which is great for going to sleep quickly.

In 1880, Government geologist and explorer, Robert Logan Jack landed here and was met by an Aboriginal who called himself Captain Billy. Captain Billy wanted to barter with Jack but Jack refused as he needed his supplies for the Cape York expedition. Later Jack was attacked by an Aboriginal group of men led by the same Captain Billy but escaped injury and they burned the spears that were thrown at them and pierced their tents. From 1879 to 1881 Jack led two expeditions to map and explore the northern part of the Cape York Peninsula.

The remnants of a barge landing can still be seen at Captain Billy Landing, built in 1968 for the loading and shipping of cattle from an experimental cattle station in the heathlands of Cape York to markets in Bamaga and Weipa . The experiment was abandoned after just three years.

We enjoyed our relaxing stay at Captain Billy Landing and from here we travelled further south to Chilli Beach in Iron Range National Park.

Track to Captain Billy Landing

Track to Captain Billy Landing


Captain Billy Landing camp area

Captain Billy Landing camp area


Coastal cliffs at Captain Billy Landing

Coastal cliffs at Captain Billy Landing


Captain Billy Landing rocks

Captain Billy Landing rocks


Captain Billy Landing beach

Captain Billy Landing beach


Eroded rocks at Captain Billy Landing

Eroded rocks at Captain Billy Landing


Old barge landing at Captain Billy Landing

Old barge landing at Captain Billy Landing


My new office

My new office


Bat caves

Bat caves


Coastal caves at Captain Billy Landing

Coastal caves at Captain Billy Landing


Low tide at Captain Billy Landing

Low tide at Captain Billy Landing


Captain Billy Landing beaches

Captain Billy Landing beaches

Posted by KobusM 18:17 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Punsand Bay

At the tip of Cape York

sunny 28 °C

We finally reached the northern tip of the Cape York Peninsula and the Australian continent, and camped at Punsand Bay, 6km west of the northenmost point, called The Tip (see seperate blog). Punsand Bay has 10 km of beachfront where you can watch the sun rise over the Coral Sea of Pacific Ocean and set over the Arafura Sea in the Indian Ocean. Punsand Bay's unique geographical position makes it one of Australia's untouched wildernesses with an abundance of wildlife.

Our campsite was frequented by purple-necked bush turkeys, bandicoots and and an owl. I also spotted and photographed a giant white-lipped tree frog, endemic to the Northern Cape York Peninsula. It has a loud, barking call but when distressed it makes a cat-like "meaow" sound. The can reach op to 13 cm but the one I saw was about 10 cm long. We also saw a stick insect about 10 cm long.

At Cable Beach, west of Punsand Bay there are remains of the Old Telegraph Line and it’s junction to the undersea cable to Thursday Island (via Cable Beach and Horn Island). Just to the north-west of Punsand Bay is Possession Island, where Captain James Cook, then still a Lieutenant, took possession of the north-east coast of Australia when he landed here and erected the British Union flag (the 1606 version without the Cross of St Patrick) on 22 August 1770.

From Punsand Bay and from The Tip you have great views of the Torres Strait and you can take scenic flights in a helicopter. In 1606 the Spanish navigator, Torres, sailed through the Strait, subsequently named after him. Although they did not penetrate the Strait, the Dutch ship Duyfken explored the west coast of Cape York the same year. As the Torres Strait offered the shipping trade a valuable short cut to Asia, the route slowly became popular. However the need for a port of refuge, pilot base and government outpost was acknowledged and after a short attempt at settling Albany Island, then Somerset (south-east of Cape York), authorities decided upon Thursday Island. Thursday Island offered a sheltered harbour and is located virtually on the doorstep of the only navigable shipping lane through Torres Strait, the Prince of Wales Channel. The traditional inhabitants of this group of islands stretching from Cape York to the PNG coastline, are a culturally unique group, these Torres Strait Islanders lived, fished, traded and where possible on a few islands tended vegetable gardens. They were masters of the sea and its products.

We stayed at Punsand Bay for 7 days and thoroughly enjoyed it, with our campsite nestled in the bushes on the beach. So far we have found the most remote places the most enjoying.

From here we plan to travel south for about 7500 km, reaching the southernmost point on the Australian continent at Wilson Prom about mid December. Our first stop will be at Captain Billy Landing on the east coast of Jardine River National Park.

Punsand Bay

Punsand Bay


Scenic flights to The Tip

Scenic flights to The Tip


Punsand Bay campsite

Punsand Bay campsite


White Lipped Tree Frog

White Lipped Tree Frog


Punsand Bay beach

Punsand Bay beach


Remnants of the Old Telegraph Line at Cable Beach

Remnants of the Old Telegraph Line at Cable Beach


Possession Island

Possession Island


Mangrove tree

Mangrove tree


Stick Insect

Stick Insect


Northenmost point on the Australian continent

Northenmost point on the Australian continent

Posted by KobusM 18:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Tip of Cape York

The northernmost point on the Australian continent

sunny 28 °C

Whilst camping at Punsand Bay (seperate blog to be posted next) we made a day trip of driving to the northernmost point of Cape York, called The Tip by Aussies or Pajinka by the Aboriginals.

The 4WD track from Punsand Bay to The Tip was rough and narrow, cutting through lush rainforests, deep muddy creeks and deep sand. We have seen pictures of people posing at The Tip before we went there and it didn't look too spectacular, but we were pleasantly surprised when we reached the beach at the start of the short walk to The Tip. The bay is spectacular and you have sweeping views of the Torres Strait, the coasts of Cape York and the islands, including York Island to the north of The Tip. We avoided the beach shortcut to The Tip as we saw a huge (about 4 m) saltwater crododile feeding in the shallows. We have finally reached the northernmost point of the Australian continent and a friendly couple offered to take our picture to record the moment.

From The Tip we travelled south-east to the lovely, peaceful Somerset Beach to have lunch. Somerset was the first European settlement in Cape York and it was established in 1864. John Jardine was placed in charge of the settlement, later succeded by Capt. Simpson he was succeeded by John's son, Frank Jardine who became a legend due to his ruthless dealings with hostile local tribes and cannibals from New Guinea. He was later dismissed and died in 1919 but legend has it that fearful local tribesmen exhumed his body from his grave and reburied him upside down so that his spirit could not escape to come and haunt the native people of the area. There is a monument and three canons at the site where the old residence once stood.

From Somerset we started the Five Beaches Loop Track on the east coast of the peninsula. It is a very narrow, rough and sandy track and we saw at least one guy with a trailer that got bogged down. The track follows the beaches along the coast and through patches of rainforest where creeks run into the sea. The views are spectacular and it made the effort that I will have to polish the scrathes out of the Land Cruiser worthwhile.

Tip of Cape York 4WD track

Tip of Cape York 4WD track


Views from the Tip of Cape York

Views from the Tip of Cape York


Beach at the Tip of Cape York

Beach at the Tip of Cape York


Northernmost point

Northernmost point


Tip of Cape York

Tip of Cape York


Somerset Beach

Somerset Beach


Canons at Somerset

Canons at Somerset


Tracks in the tip of Cape York

Tracks in the tip of Cape York


Beach 3 on Five Beaches drive

Beach 3 on Five Beaches drive


Five Beaches drive

Five Beaches drive


Rugged east coast of Cape York

Rugged east coast of Cape York


Windswept east coast of Cape York

Windswept east coast of Cape York

Posted by KobusM 17:37 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Jardine River National Park

Remote tropical rainforests

semi-overcast 28 °C

Jardine River National Park is in the remote northern tip of Cape York Peninsula and is a boundless wilderness of tall dense bushland and patches of rainforests. The vegetation has dense foliage, twisting vines and a tall canopy. It has many rivers descending precipitous slopes running down to the sea of which the Jardine River is the biggest. The park contains several stunning waterfalls and rock pools, including Twin Falls, where the waters of Eliot River and Canal Creek meet, Fruit Bat Falls, The Saucepan and Eliot Falls.

We accessed the park from the south via the Telegraph and Southern Bypass Roads and the last 7 km on the Old Telegraph Track which is very rough and strictly high-clearance 4WD with a deep crossing (750 mm) at Scrubby Creek. We camped at the Eliot Falls campsite for two nights. The campsite is nestled in woodland between Canal and Eliot creeks, close to the famed scenic Eliot and Twin falls, a fantastic spot to camp or to swim in the deel plunge pool at The Saucepan. We also visited Fruit Bat Falls south of Eliot Falls.

Many of the plants and animals in Jardine River National Park are found nowhere but it Cape York and New Guinea. Eclectus parrot, cuscus, green tree python, palm cockatoo, Australian bush turkey with purple collars and carnivorous tropical pitcher plants are only some of the examples. We saw Australian bush turkeys (the ones with purple collars) and bandicoots at night.

From Eliot Falls we could not travel the rest of the Old Telegraph Track north because the steep, slippery creek crossings that are not suitable for large trailers or off-road caravans, in fact some 4WDs battle to get through on their own. So we backtracked the 7km on the Old Telegraph Track south to get to the Southern Bypass Road that took us to the ferry at the Jardine River crossing, the only way to get to the most northen tip of Cape york. The Land Access and Ferry fare is pricy at $99 return but we decided not to try to avoid the fee by crossing the river. I understood from blogs on the internet that the river crossing is dangerous and full of hidden holes and you cannot walk to inspect it due to the crocodiles in the river. The famous Jardine River ferry doesn't really rank up there with the best for transport experiences but it is the gateway to the delights of the Tip of Cape York.

We travelled north to Bamaga on badly corrugated roads where we took a detour to see the WWII DC-3 plane wreck that crashed here in 1945, killing all on board.

From Bamanga we travelled the last 25km to Punsand Bay at the Tip of Cape York where we will camp for 7 days. We have finally arrived at the top of Australia!

Bramwell Junction on the Southern Bypass Road

Bramwell Junction on the Southern Bypass Road


Scrubby Creek Crossing on the Old Telegraph Track

Scrubby Creek Crossing on the Old Telegraph Track

Old Telegraph Track

Old Telegraph Track

Eliot Falls upstream

Eliot Falls upstream

Eliot Falls

Eliot Falls

Eliot Creek upstream from the Saucepan

Eliot Creek upstream from the Saucepan

Upper Twin Falls

Upper Twin Falls

Fruit Bat Falls

Fruit Bat Falls

The Saucepan

The Saucepan

Australian Brush Turkey

Australian Brush Turkey


Jardine River Ferry

Jardine River Ferry


WWII DC-3 wreck

WWII DC-3 wreck

Posted by KobusM 03:31 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Weipa

Mining and fishing town

sunny 32 °C

Weipa is the largest town on the Gulf of Carpentaria coast of the Cape York Peninsula. Weipa began as a Presbyterian Aboriginal mission outpost in 1898 but it only became established as a town after a geologist, Henry Evans, in 1955 discovered that the red cliffs on the Aboriginal reserve were actually enormous deposits of bauxite (the ore from which aluminium is made) and to a lesser extent tungsten. The bauxite mine is the world's largest and is owned and run by Rio Tinto Alcan.

Weipa is just south of Duyfken Point, a location agreed to be the first recorded point of European contact with the Australian continent. Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon, on his ship the Duyfken, sighted the coast here in 1606. This was 164 years before Lieutenant James Cook (later promoted to Captain) sailed up the east coast of Australia.

Weipa is also known for its excellent fishing and I gave it another try without success, the tides were not right for fishing.....

The waters around Weipa are placid and inviting but also the home of many saltwater crocodiles. We saw a huge one laying on a sandbank in Albatross Bay and I managed to get close enough to take a photo. There are also many sea birds feeding in the shallow water.

The weather was nice, a balmy 31-32 degrees with bright sunshine, not too bad for winter.

From Weipa we will travel further north via the Telegraph Road and Old Telegraph Track to Jardine River National Park in the tip of the Cape York Peninsula.

Weipa Harbour

Weipa Harbour


Albatross Bay

Albatross Bay


Salty

Salty


Black-headed stork and Egret

Black-headed stork and Egret


Red Beach, Albatross Bay

Red Beach, Albatross Bay


Cormorant

Cormorant


Weipa sunset

Weipa sunset

Posted by KobusM 18:25 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Quinkan rock art on the way to Weipa

Exquisite preserved Aboriginal rock art

sunny 28 °C

From Atherton we travelled north over the Great Dividing Range to Laura where we visited the Quinkan rock art sites. Famous for its rock art, Quinkan Country contains a large and dramatic body of prehistoric rock paintings. These galleries have been identified as being at least 15,000 to 30,000 years old and have been included on the Australian Heritage Estate and listed by UNESCO as being among the top 10 rock art sites in the world.

From Laura we continued north and from here it is mostly gravel road with the occasional bitumen stretch to allow you to overtake. The Peninsula Development Road varies from excellent, travelling at 100 km/h, to pretty bad with severe corrugations and deep rough dips, reducing our speed to 40 km/h. From Laura we will travel about 2,400 km on gravel roads and 4WD tracks whilst in the Cape York Peninsula, until we reach Cooktown.

We stayed overnight at Hann River Roadhouse which has a cute resident Emu, many peacocks and flying foxes that mess on your car and camper van at night. From there we travelled to Archer River Roadhouse to spend the night, our last stop before Weipa. On the way we saw magnetic termite mounds again, similiar to the ones we saw in Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory. From Archer River we travelled further north to Weipa on the north-west coast of the Cape York Peninsula and we will stay here for three days.

Great Dividing Range

Great Dividing Range


Quinkan Rock Art site

Quinkan Rock Art site


Woman, Dingo and Man

Woman, Dingo and Man


Evil Spirits

Evil Spirits


Flying foxes

Flying foxes


Quinkan Rock Art

Quinkan Rock Art


Quinkan Rock Art at Split Rock

Quinkan Rock Art at Split Rock


Quinkan Rock Art figure

Quinkan Rock Art figure


Kiss me....

Kiss me....


Resident Emu at Hann River Roadhouse

Resident Emu at Hann River Roadhouse


Magnetic termite mounds

Magnetic termite mounds

Posted by KobusM 19:59 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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