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.
Birdwatching at lily covered lagoons and billabongs
22.08.2012 - 25.08.2012
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.
Juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle
Magpie Geese on White Lily Lagoon
Skippy watching on
White Ibis, Radjah Shelduck, Royal Spoonbill and Egret
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.
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.
A extremely challenging 4WD track, not recommended for vehicles towing trailers or caravans.....but it is possible.
17.08.2012 - 17.08.2012
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
Scenic part of the Frenchmans Track
Bypass track to avoid fallen trees
Getting more difficult and tricky
Nowhere to turn around
Getting deeper.... into trouble
Oops!... time to use the winch for the first time
Negotiating one obstacle at a time
Will we ever get through this?
This is where it gets really hairy....the decline to the Pascoe River bank
Now it turns from hairy to scary !
This is not a track for towing a caravan, even if it is an off-road
Crossing the Pascoe River
Laying rocks to get the Quantum out of the river
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
Remote beach camp on the east coast of Jardine River National Park
14.08.2012 - 17.08.2012
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.
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.
The northernmost point on the Australian continent
10.08.2012 - 10.08.2012
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.
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!
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.
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.
From Undara Volcanic National Park we travelled to Atherton to get the Land Cruiser serviced. On the way we stopped to view the Millstream Falls in the Millstream Falls National Park, which cascades over a bed of solidified lava and it is Australia's widest single-drop waterfall.
As soon as we reached the Atherton Tablelands the vegetation changed suddenly and we found ourselves driving through tropical forests and it felt if we arrived in a different country. The tablelands are spectacular with its rolling hills and lush vegetation and reminds me of the Natal highlands.
Atherton is a very pretty thriving town with palm trees and jacaranda trees lining the streets. It began as a timber-getters’ camp and a staging post between the tin mines and the coast.
We visited Hasties Swamp National Park just outside the town. A birdwatcher's delight, this swamp is a valuable refuge for resident and migratory birds and we saw many ducks, ibis, swans and jacanas.
Before Atherton was established there was a Chinese settlement, called Cedar Camp established here in 1879. Gold attracted thousands of Chinese to North Queensland in the late 1800s. 'New Gold Mountain' as Australia was called, was seen by many as a way to get rich quickly before returning home. As the gold dwindled and racist sentiments increased, the Chinese were forced to find work in other areas. The discovery of vast stands of red cedar and black bean, among the vine scrub of the Atherton Tablelands region, provided welcome job opportunities in timber and firewood cutting. The Chinese settled in an area known as Cedar Camp - on the outskirts of the growing town of Atherton. As Cedar Camp or Chinatown was primarily a service centre, trade in the town diminished as the displaced Chinese left the area. By the late 1920s Chinatown was almost deserted. The town left a legacy: a highly significant archaeological site and a rare form of Chinese temple, the Hou Wang Temple, which was built of local timber and corrugated iron: typical Queensland construction materials, used in a unique manner but inside the temple is typical Chinese.
From Atherton we are heading north to explore the Cape York Peninsula and we will spend about 2 months here.
From Karumba we travelled east along the Savannah Way to Mount Surprise, a small town along the way. We camped in one of the local camping sites where we were entertained by the campsite owner giving a snake talk and show. Both Lorraine and I ended up with his Black-headed Python around our necks and the talk was really interesting.
The next morning we visited Undara Volcanic National Park, which is notable for its spectacular lava tubes. The park contains the remains of the Earth’s longest flow of lava originating from a single volcano, which formed the lava tubes that can partly be viewed today. The volcanic activity that formed the tubes occurred approximately 190,000 years ago and the volcano Undara expelled massive amounts of lava onto the surrounding Atherton Tableland forming these tubes. In total it was estimated that over 23 billion cubic metres of lava that was released covering an area of 55 km2.
The spectacular insides of the lava tubes can only be explored on a guided tour . Some parts of the tubes have collapsed and remains of that can be seen above ground. The word Undara is Aboriginal in origin and means 'long way'.
Burketown and Karuma, popular fishing towns.....for those that can catch fish
22.07.2012 - 27.07.2012
We stayed in Burketown for three nights although one night would have been enough as this is a very small, sleepy outback town in the Queensland Gulf Country. It only has one shop with the post office inside, a fuel station and a caravan park. The famous Burketown Pub burned down earlier this year and since then the only entertainment left is fishing, if you have a boat. But it was nice and quiet in the caravan park and I used the time to wash the vehicles (they were very dirty!!), to relax and for Lorraine to catch up with her studies. I tried to fish from the jetty in the Albert River but my reel broke, so until I have replaced it the big Barramundi with my name on it is still swimming free.
From Burketown we travelled the Savannah Way (mostly relatively good unsealed road) to Normanton where Lorraine took a photo of me with the local huge Barramundi in case I don't get the opportunity to catch the real one. On the way to Normanton we drove through savannah grassland with patches of woodland and occasional termite mounds and crossed both the Leichardt and Flinders Rivers. There were huge flocks of pelicans feeding in the shallow water of the Flinders River close to the causeway. Normanton is a small but characterful town and the Purple Pub seems to be the center of activity. From Normanton we travelled to Karumba, located on the coast of the Carpentaria Gulf at the south-western base of the Cape York Peninsula, where we stayed for three nights. Karumba is also a very small town but very popular with grey nomad fishermen and both caravan parks were packed to capacity. It has excellent facilities to go fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria and I did a half day fishing trip with Kerry D Charters but dissapointlingly only caught a catfish......, and the fact that the other fishermen and woman caught lots of mackerel made it even more frustrating. I have now consoled in the fact that I am a scuba diver and not a fisherman. I am destined to look at and photograph fish, not catch and kill them.
The Sunset Tavern in Karumba is a nice place to have a sundowner and to enjoy the spectacular sunsets over the Gulf. It also serves delicious local seafood.....especially for those that can't catch fish. Karumba also has lots of birdlife, pelicans, sea eagles, white ibis and kites, as well as the odd mob of wallabies to enjoy.
From Karumba we will travel more than 700 km to the south-east of the Cape York Peninsula to get the Land Cruiser serviced in Atherton and from there we will set off on our two month long Cape York Peninsula tour. On the way to Atherton we plan to visit Undara Volcanic National Park.
Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park has two parts that we planned to explore. We first stopped at the Riversleigh Fossil D Site after travelling more than 300 km from Mt Isa, mainly on reasonably well maintained unsealed road and 4WD tracks. Riversleigh is a World Heritage listed site and the expectations were high but for us it was a big disappointment. There is an information shelter and a 800 meter walking trail that only has three fossils identified, a turtle bone, a freshwater crocodile bone and a giant flightless bird bone…….that’s it! Apparently paleontologists have found fossils of carnivorous kangaroos, ‘lion’ marsupials, giant crocodiles and many more, dating back 25 million years, but it must be at one of the other sites that are not open to the public. You can see many fossil fragments in the rocks that appear ancient but only the three mentioned above are identified. This might be a very significant site for paleontologists but certainly not worthwhile travelling 300 km to get to for a visit.
50 km north of Riversleigh is Lawn Hill Gorge and we camped at Adels Grove under a thick canopy of Ghost Eucalyptus and Carpentaria Palm trees on the banks of the Lawn Hill Creek. We liked the campsite and decided to stay for three days. One of the days we hiked about 8 km to the Upper Lawn Hill Gorge and enjoyed the spectacular views of the Gorge and Indarri Falls.
The gorge part of Lawn Hill National Park is certainly worthwhile visiting but I would not recommend the Riversleigh fossil site.
After Lawn Hill we travelled further north into the Gulf Country and will visit Burketown and Karumba on the Gulf of Caprentaria for three days each. Hopefully I can finally catch my big Barramundi here.