Monthly Archives: October 2015

Postcard from Xavier

Xavier's journal

Xavier’s journal

Busy day in Townsville!

We are dropping the dirty car off for a major service to get fixed. We dropped the car off and are in a pick-up car taking us to the fantastic Reef HQ. As we are paying we look at the baby saltwater crocodile (he’s so cute). Then we slowly stroll into the interesting dive show where they talk about animals, then goes to give cuddles, a tiny nurse shark, a big hug.

Then we keep walking through the aquarium when we notice the show at the Discovery Lagoon where we got to touch a rhinoceros seastar. It was bumpy. Then they showed us where its eye was. On its arms there is a tiny red dot that’s its eye.

After we watched the predator feeding and the coral exhibit full of fish.

Treeny the green turtle got a very good feed and even came a metre away from the tunnel.

Overall I recommend going to Reef HQ because I loved it.

 

 

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Categories: Animal Action, australia, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Wallaman Falls and the S.S. Yongala

Wallaman Falls

Wallaman Falls

The highest single drop waterfalls in Australia are Wallaman Falls. A relatively small deviation from Ingham took us up into the hills again and after a steep climb over 500m from sea-level, into Girringun National Park, we were confronted with a surprisingly spectacular sheer cliff face where the water plunges 268m into a pool below that is 20m deep. It was well worth the visit and we even got five minutes of sunlight between the drizzle.

We’d set ourselves a long drive for the day so after a brief lunch we set off back down the hill to the coast. We didn’t stop in Townsville and a last minute change of plan saw us head for the town of Ayr, 100km south from Townsville.

I had booked a dive the next day on the S.S. Yongala, reputed to be one of the best wreck dives in Australia. With winds forecast at 25 knots I was expecting a cancellation but it was confirmed and my excitement levels rose as I had only done one dive in the last 11 months. We also had the car booked for a service in Townsville the next day so poor Amanda drew the long straw to drive back the 100km with the kids. We were told it could be serviced in Ayr but when we phoned the garage at 5pm the response was that the service desk was closed – better to go where they understand customer service.

The morning was sunny again with less wind and I was dropped at the dive shop at 7.30am. The kids were actually excited because they had been promised a trip to the aquarium where a whole portfolio of talks awaited them.

The S.S. Yongala was a passenger ship that sank in 1911 in a cyclone as it headed north up the coast on its 99th voyage to get a refit. All 122 on board died but the wreck was not found until 1958. The Navy performing a mine sweep in the area had noted its probable position in 1947 but the charts with notation were only rediscovered later. The wreck is accessed via a 30 minute bumpy ride in rigid hull inflatable dive boat.

The wreck itself lies on sand and as such provides an artificial reef for a plethora of underwater life. The wreck is covered with corals and among these a profusion of small fish thrive. Schools of damselfish and glass fish shimmy and start in unison as larger predatory trivially and mackerel cruise past. Coral trout and enormous cod lurk in the shadows of the holds, and under the rusting infrastructure. Large Moray eels surveyed the scene from their hide holes and Batfish the size of dinner plates cruise around in small schools. The more you look the more you find. Turtles kept popping up all over the wreck, as did the highly venomous and ever-curious olive sea snakes. Dense schools of jacks and other medium sized fish aggregate at the bow and stern, barely moving as you swim through them. We  were blessed with great visibility making it an unforgettable day’s diving.

Unbeknownst to me my kids were revelling in a more controlled marine environment at the same time. On my return they were gushing over Myrtle the one-eyed Turtle that they saw in the turtle hospital (of course), and the talks they had been religiously attending all day in Townsville aquariuwm, Reef HQ. They had been watching Nemos at close quarters, had up close fun in the discovery lagoons and even tried on old school pearl diving helmets.

This was a day to remember!

Categories: Adventure, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Walks | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Postcard from Oscar

Oscars journal

Oscars journal

We dropped the car off for a service (in Townsville – editors note) then walked around town until we arrived at Reef HQ. As we walked in and paid we looked at a coupe of tanks with fish, saltwater crock and mud crab.

Then we walked into the aquarium, then we sat down and watched the dive show with Dyan. She talked about a green sea turtle called Treeny. Then she swam to go and give Cuddles, the tawny nurse shark, a big hug.

Then we went through the underwater tunnel. Then we walked to the Discovery Lagoon. There are starfish you can touch, then they fed a stingray, then we walked to the predator feeding. They feed all the fish, sharks and turtles. They feed them big fish heads, prawns, and little fish.

Then we went to a turtle hospital where they help turtles.

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Mission Beach

Cassowary

A Cassowary preens itself in the afternoon sunlight

Back to the coast we headed, taking a less precipitous road, descending 900m again towards Innisfail, then south to Mission Beach, driving past Djiru National Park before entering the quaint tourist village. The council operated caravan park sits behind the beach and offers powered sites for next to nothing so we settled in for a few days. We needed to get some schoolwork done with the kids, and the nearby library beckoned.

IMG_0137The National Park appeared to offer much better walking tracks than in Cape Tribulation so we set off initially on a short walk at Lacey Creek. The narrow path snakes through the thick forest, criss-crossing the creek and a few tell-tale cassowary droppings littered the track but none were spotted. I got mesmerised for 20 minutes watching a tree snake exploring the forest, systematically checking branches for food.

We walked the 3.2km Dreaming Trail, witnessed more cassowary droppings, oversized mounds of semi digested seeds, littering the path, but still no sightings. Many of the seeds were already germinating proving how effective the bird is as a jungle gardener.

With interest waning in the rain only Xavier and I continued from this track onto the 6km Musgravea track to Licuala. There was so much evidence of cassowaries that we were very optimistic about seeing one and sure enough 3km in a beautiful big specimen stood preening itself in the sunlight in the middle of the track. We carefully approached to about 20m, as these birds can be dangerous, particularly if protecting their chicks, but at this point it ducked into the undergrowth never to be seen again. A further 50m on and we encountered an echidna, an animal that we haven’t seen for ages.

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Back at camp the kids were very excited to find a few very large and carefully compiled humpys on the beach, spending plenty of time hanging out in them with other kids. It was good for them to find lots of kids around their age that they could let some steam off with.

The adjacent park was lined with rather attractive palms with clumps of fruit of different colours hanging below the leaves and Amanda got particularly excited when she found out there were markets on whilst we were there. She returned with bags of local produce, including monster bananas a bargain at 14 for a dollar! Oscar scored himself a huge second hand tackle box for 4 dollars, Hannah headed for the pineapple slushie stall, and Xavier spent time at the gemstone stall. He later returned with his collection to show the man.

The laid-back feeling around Mission Beach was very appealing but the dreary weather that had commenced once we hit the rainforest, continued. The wind and rain prevented us from visiting nearby Dunk Island but it was still very relaxing and the kids completed a big chunk of work for school. The time to leave came too soon

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to the Atherton Tablelands

 

Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos

Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos

After a quick trip into Cairns to pick up mail we headed for the hills again. Having not spent much time in the Atherton Highlands we chose to explore a little deeper this time and took the steepest, most windy road available. Well it wasn’t planned that way! The direct road from Cairns to the highlands rose over 900m snaking its way up from Gordonvale to Yungaburra. The glimpses back towards the sea were amazing however I needed to watch the road carefully to avoid mishap. We sneaked a peak at Lake Barrine but with sleeping kids in the back we pressed on to Millaa Millaa which was our planned base for a few days.

Hoping to spot a few new birds I got up early to explore the neighbourhood and spotted two Lumholtz tree kangaroos, about 500m down the road on the edge of the village. The long dangling tails were a giveaway and the beautiful animals resembling oversize teddy bears even put on their best poses for me.

We drove the waterfall circuit that incorporates Millaa Millaa falls, supposedly the most photographed falls in Australia, Zillie and Elinjaa falls too.

The forests surrounding nearby Lake Eacham were alive with new birdsong and I was lucky enough to find tooth-billed bowerbirds and spotted catbirds, the former having a very untidy bower made of overturned leaves in a scraped area. The Lake itself is a a crater lake formed from the explosive reaction of magma meeting the water table. Steep sides descend up to 65m into the deepest part of the lake and the old established rainforest make an interesting bush walk, past, even through, at times, large fig trees whose roots and buttresses clasp on to the sides of the crater.

We also saw the 500 year old Curtain Fig, whose root system appears to cascade from the skies. We revisited Mount Hypipamee National Park to see the Crater Lake that we’d missed previously. This crater was formed by a volcanic gas explosion, the granite walls today being sheer and some 70m across. The lake lies almost 60m below the rim and is 70m deep. This park often has cassowary sightings but not when we visit.

We visited a couple of dairies, the Gallo Dairyland one proving to be the favourite. The cheese and chocolate tastings proved irresistible and we came home clutching an array of mouth-watering produce. The tea farm was a bit of a disappointment as the factory was being cleaned and the tea-room didn’t offer any tastings. We did spot another tree kangaroo though there.

There was so much to do we extended our stay, and even as we left we had to explore the Millaa Millaa museum before leaving. Behind the museum is the trunk of an almost 900 year old Kauri pine that fell in a storm in 2003. The timber industry thrived here for many years and the museum is full of artefacts from those times.

The Atherton Tablelands provided a much more interesting experience than the coastal commercialised tourism, offering so much variety of things to do. Once again it felt like we had barely scratched the surface, but were busy from the moment we arrived. All downtime back at camp was spent catching up with schoolwork but the few days we were there felt like we had achieved a lot.

 

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Roaring Meg, Bloomfield and Cape Tribulation

Pool upstream from Roaring Meg falls

Pool upstream from Roaring Meg falls

With balding tyres, worn brakes and a car desperately in need of another service I wasn’t keen to attempt the Creb track (4WD track to Cooktown) this time. It is not recommended for trailers and the steep ascents and descents become particularly hazardous in wet conditions. It had been overcast and we had experienced a few showers so we decided we would have a look at the Roaring Meg Falls at the start of the track, some 24km off the bitumen. We called the locals for permission and were duly given approval. The road was actually in good condition though it started pouring as we walked into the falls. A memorial to a lady who slipped and died on the falls in recent years was enough to deter the kids from going too close to the edge. Upstream was a more inviting swimming hole on a nice day, but the rain put us off.

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Back on the main road again we visited Bloomfield, and another waterfall that was perhaps more impressive than Roaring Meg.

Daintree National Park was beckoning and finally we made it, staying in PKs Jungle Village, offering only a few camping spots. Finally the rains that had been threatening delivered with regular downpours. Given we have probably only had two weeks of rain in the last 11 months it was quite a pleasant change, despite a noticeable chill that accompanied it. We walked along the beach, over the headland and along Cape Tribulation Beach looking for cassowaries without success.

We took the boardwalk walks through the forest and mangroves. No cassowaries but we found a plethora of forest fruit that they dine on. We did find the peppermint stick insects that only live on the mangrove pandanus and are endemic to the area. When handled they squirt a fluid that has a peppermint scent.

Peppermint stick insect

Peppermint stick insect

We were keen to find cassowaries and the roadsigns showing places of recent sightings just served to tease us. Cape Tribulation was quite commercially orientated so we visited the Floraville ice creamery where they manufacture their own delectable ice creams. I tried the Sapote fruit one, tasting like chocolate pudding, finding it hard to fault. All the others devoured theirs swiftly leaving no trace in their tubs.

Next on the agenda was the Jungle Bug and Butterfly museum in Diwan. Housing an impressive cabinet display of bugs from around the world. The kids got to hold some local stick insects too. The property also offered a rainforest area by the river for a swim and cassowary sightings. The kids swam but this was the first day a cassowary hadn’t showed up for a few days.

We drove up and down the coast, up side roads, but still no sightings. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a Bennetts Tree Kangaroo bounding across the road one afternoon, one of only two elusive species in Australia.

The cassowary is an endangered species, numbering around 1200 in Australia, and confined to the dense rain forests of the far north of Queensland. Daintree is where the “rainforest meets the reef” and speed humps line the roads to reduce unnecessary injury to birds wandering onto the roads. Someone has doctored a number of the roadsigns along the coastal road to give their humorous take on the situation (see photo below).

As we drove towards the Daintree River ferry a spontaneous decision made me turn off the main road and head for Cow Bay. A couple of kilometres down the road two adult cassowaries with a chick emerged from the thick forest and sauntered slowly across the road. We drove slowly towards them for a photograph and some video then within two minutes they melted back into the forest on the opposite side of the road. We were all thrilled at our chance meeting.

We left the rainforest behind once we crossed the Daintree River ferry and headed to Wonga Beach. This was our camp while we had a quick explore of the area. Mossman Gorge beckoned but after all the magnificent gorges and falls we have seen it didn’t seem right to have to pay to visit. We found an interesting site, as we explored, commemorating the only civilian casualty on the eastern seaboard in World War 2. Bombs were dropped in a Japanese air raid on lights that they believed were Cairns. The Suger Cane farm in Saltwater, near Mossman was hit and a two and half year old girl was hit with shrapnel from the crater.

WW2 bombing site memorial at Saltwater

WW2 bombing site memorial at Saltwater

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Elim Beach, Cooktown and beyond

As we left Lakefield National Park we were reaching for our phones to search Wikicamps for our next site. This App has proved invaluable on the trip, although many folks “secret” spots are now accessible to anyone with the App. One that looked good lies just north of Cooktown, on land owned by a sprightly 90 year old local named Eddy. Elim Beach is a fairly large site bordering the mangrove-lined beach, offering all basic amenities at a cheap price, and a short walk from Coloured Sands beach.

We met Eddy just outside his house making traditional style woomeras, or spear throwers. A bit deaf and not a man of many words but an interesting elder to talk to. He was disappointed that youngsters are no longer interested in the traditional ways and he seemed to be making as many woomeras as he could because no-one else will make them when he is gone. When quizzed about the properties of marine putty over original tree sap used as glue he shrugged gently dismissing the inferior quality with “white man’s glue”. He’s happy to use it though as his supply of traditional tree sap has dried up, again due to his fellow clan members rarely collecting it these days. The next morning we saw him leaving for town, dressed very smartly in jeans and long-sleeved shirt, probably one of the last of the “big men” in this region, and a great privilege to meet him.

Sandy, who we met the previous day, joined us at Elim Beach and joined us walking down to the coloured sands. We collected bags of different coloured sands, and Sandy painted the kids faces different colours yellows, oranges, and reds. There was even black sand.

The small art centre in nearby Hope Vale was worth a visit and showcased the local talent. We love the way indigenous artwork embraces natural products, and uses seeds either as “canvases” or for necklaces. On our way through Amanda had got talking to the local Lutherian pastor, the village still being very “church orientated”. When she couldn’t find a lemon in the grocery stall to go with Oscar’s Barra he sent us up the road to see his wife who donated one to the cause. The town of Hope Vale was a very friendly place that we should have spent more time in but we were on the move.

Cooktown was a short drive south from Elim Beach. It was windy, some say the windiest place in Australia but at least it was sunny too. We visited the museum to see the anchor and cannon from Captain Cook’s ship the Endeavour that were salvaged nearby where the ship had hit a reef just off the coast on 10th June 1770. All the ships heaviest items were thrown overboard to save the ship from sinking. Cook climbed a nearby mountain, where the lighthouse stands today, to observe the tricky situation he was in, with multiple reefs and unfavourable winds making further passage along the coast quite treacherous. We visited the spot but not being sailors couldn’t really contemplate his dilemma. The view was impressive though, and the reefs were still there too, scattered across the horizon! Back at the museum the kids performed a treasure hunt and I found it interesting to find European items that pre-date settlement, often by hundreds of years. Of particular interest were 15th century Chinese storage urns (probably brought by Chinese in the gold rush) and a rather ornate piece of Dutch porcelain from the 17th Century I believe, possibly even earlier. It had been acquired from the Jardine family who apparently had found it up near the tip of Cape York. History could have been written so differently!

Archer Point

Archer Point

Archer Point

Archer Point

South of Cooktown we had a couple of mandatory stops on the itinerary, the first being Archer Point. Recommended by a few travellers and Wikicamps, we stopped at a very windblown beach for lunch, the few caravans tucked behind palms for cover. The view was pleasant but the wind was thwarting even the bravest fishermen’s attempts to catch dinner.

Black Mountain National Park

Black Mountain National Park

We then headed inland through the Black Mountain National Park which are very aptly named. The range consists of massive black boulders of granite. With no soil very little grows there, and that which can survive has to endure temperature extremes as the rocks have terrific capacity to absorb solar heat. One large ancient tree high up appeared to have lost its battle to survive and a brown carcass sat perched high above us in the rock pile as we drove past.

Beyond here we stopped in to visit the Lion’s Den Hotel. Built in 1875 in Helenvale, next to the Little Annan River, this country pub is a well known tourist attraction, with all the expected associated paraphernalia. Large artworks cover the walls and any gaps on the wall have been covered in traveller’s graffiti, for a gold coin donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). We left our Fifty Toes Walkabout mark, squeezing it in below the largest artwork in the room gladly contributing to the worthy cause of RFDS.

By late afternoon we arrived at Home Rule, in Rossville, a 100+ acre property, bordering national park, that hosts two large music festivals every year. Nestled in ancient rainforest next to a clear Wallaby Creek we were very surprised to see we were the only people there. The Wallaby Creek Festival is a festival of arts and music that runs for 3 days in late September every year, and considering some 500 people had been camping there only a week or so prior it was still in great condition with lush green lawns and only a few muddy patches. The rock festival hosts a larger crowd and lasts longer.

A 45 minute stroll through the forest took us to the Home Rule falls, actually within the adjacent National Park. A bracing swim was required and thirty toes braved the elements on a very overcast day, clambering over rocks that were as slippery as an ice rink. The tranquility was wonderful, only temporarily spoilt when I nearly trod on a rather large venomous red-bellied snake.

The quiet camp also gave us time to catch up on school work.

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Pennyfather and Mapoon, West of the Tip

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And so the long journey back south begins in earnest. The drive back from Usher didn’t seem too bad with only one termite infested tree blocking our way, then the corrugations to the Jardine River ferry didn’t shake the bones like they did on the way up. Maybe we have finally got used to bull dust and corrugations now? It seems normal to drive to the left of the road markings, along the less corrugated but clearly worn paths of the locals.

On recommendations from travellers we had met on the Cape we were keen to explore a little of the Gulf side of the Cape. After 4 weeks on the Cape we were in need of supplies, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables, and curiosity was leading us to the city of Weipa anyway, so restocking and refueling was the order of the day.

Fruit Bat Falls

Fruit Bat Falls

A quick stop was required, firstly at Fruit Bat Falls to wash away excess bulldust, then at Bramwell station to view the “Rego tree”. then on to Moreton station for the night.

A “short cut” from the Old Telegraph Track south of Moreton took us across Batavia Downs station to York where we joined the Peninsula Developmental road leading to Weipa. With the exception of a few heavily corrugated sections this road soon improved and before we knew it we hit bitumen driving into Weipa.

Just north of Weipa lies the Pennyfather River, supposedly a top fishing spot, but also a beautifully peaceful beach camp.

Access is via a Rio Tinto mining lease and the only traffic lights we have seen for a while were those for mine vehicles passing. The boom-gate was broken so we watched quite a few monster trucks pass by, with loads of dusty bauxite piled high in the hold. Even the water trucks managed to dwarf our cars waiting patiently for the gates to rise. They follow behind spraying hundreds of litres of water on the road to reduce dust levels. In the end Simon jumped out of his car and physically lifted the boom-gate so all could pass.

Being on Aboriginal land a permit is required but once there a very long beach offers many camping options, from basic amenities for a small fee, managed by a ranger to free camping along the beach, south of the local beach shacks. We chose the latter, searching for a site that another family had told us had the makings of a funpark made from washed up debris from the beach. After ten minutes driving along the soft sand it was time to stop and we found a great shaded spot with a tyre swing. The Gulf waters lapped gently on the beach and the glassy water was a welcome change from the wind blown east coast. Thirty minutes later an onshore wind blew up and brought a veritable swell with it, shattering the initial idyllic appeal of this west coast.

It did improve the next day and we had fun trying unsuccessfully to catch massive trevally that were cruising up and down the shoreline. The fishing gods were not kind to us and once again sausages hit barbeque instead of fresh fish.

The kids built hammocks from fishing nets, strung between trees, and spent hours on the tyre swing.

Whilst we didn’t find a plaque, and there must be one there somewhere, the Pennfather River has historical significance as being the first place that a European landed in Australia. Willian Janszoon, a Dutch navigator, sailing in the Duyfken landed here in 1606, long before James Cook.

Today this area is totally alcohol-free and it is not permitted to even carry alcohol into this area, however, with no-one policing it, discarded bottles and cans litter the sand and bush where some people found it easier to discard rather than take the rubbish with them, thereby spoiling it for future visitors.

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From Pennyfather we headed north for a couple of days to Mapoon where the Dulcie River meets the Gulf. The camp on the western ocean side offered more protection from the wind and on local advice Jackie Creek some 12km south along the beach offered good fishing opportunities

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The kids together with Simon and Hilary’s girls scoured the shoreline for materials and commenced building a “humpy” city. Humpys are the temporary shelters that aborigines used, conical huts made from logs, with leaves or fur to cover the roof. The kids made scaled down versions from the long mangrove seeds that can be found everywhere, washed up with each tide.

Jackie Rivermouth

Jackie Rivermouth

Oscar and I slipped away for a quiet fish, driving down to Jackie Creek where we saw locals using spears to catch mud crabs amongst the reef. We had no success but witnessed plenty of “bait balls” of fish being doggedly pursued by larger fish around them and by a large flock of hungry terns diving wave after wave into the throng for a meal. The next day we returned at the right point of the tide and for a busy half hour caught mangrove jack for dinner, whilst keeping an eye out for a large crocodile we had seen when we arrived.

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The wild horses called brumbies proliferate around Mapoon and Pennyfather too and it isn’t unusual, driving along the beach, to spot small groups or see their footprints coming to and from the beach and swamplands behind. We only saw the one crocodile and had a couple of shallow swims, then a local advised that they live in the swamplands behind the beach at this time of year, waiting for the big wet to arrive when they become more mobile and visible.

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Shorebirds were present in abundance but with my ailing Canon EOS camera struggling to focus correctly, I couldn’t capture images

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Back to Lakefield National Park – Oscar bags a barra!

Oscar's big barra!

Oscar’s big barra!

We bade 100 Around Oz a farewell as they sped towards Cairns to pick up schoolwork. We headed for Oyala Thumotang National Park to try to catch some Barramundi in the Archer river. When we arrived a large sign explained that the park was closed due to pig shooting, feral animal poisoning, fires, fallen logs and more. I think plague and pestilence would have been added if the notice had been bigger and I must say it was disappointing that none of the four horsemen of the apocalypse were there personally to deliver the message. Needless to say our plans hastily changed and he headed for Coen again where we met up once more with Simon, Hilary, and the girls, all of whom were somewhat surprised to see us. After a night camped behind the sExchange Hotel (yes, the sign even says this) we finally parted ways at Musgrave to head back to the Lakefield National Park.

These signs are everywhere

These signs are everywhere

Well Oscar had given it a good go so far but still hadn’t bagged himself a barramundi. With my recent change in fortune I was confident that Lakefield National Park was the place we could catch him one, so we returned to Twelve Mile Lagoon. After two hours he had lost three decent sized ones and he thought I had caught his one, a very respectable 64cm specimen.

Dad's even bigger barra

Dad’s even bigger barra

He had almost given up when I lobbed a bait out for him in a likely spot and witnessed a large fish go for it. Another cast and five minutes later he was on for the fight of his life (the fish and Oscar). With an initial tug he handed me the rod complaining that he was snagged again. I took it, felt a fish and quickly past it back to him. The noise levels increased as Oscars cries together with the fishes splashes threatened to attract a big crocodile that we had already witnessed in this area. What was worse was the prospect that I had to climb down the precipitous bank to land the fish before Oscar broke his tiny rod trying to lift it up. With Oscar sufficiently calmed down and me nervously standing inches from the water level a couple of grabs saw it landed safely on the bank. Oscar pounced on it and got stabbed in the leg by a sharp spine in a fin, temporarily distracting him from the catch. By the time he got back to camp his leg was covered in blood but it no longer mattered as he had caught his first “keeper”, a 60cm one.

Old Laura Homestead

Old Laura Homestead

Leaving there next morning we paid a visit to the Old Laura homestead where the relatively well preserved buildings give you a pretty good idea about life on the land up until the 1960s.

At this point we were planning to go to Cape Melville but it sounded like a lot of soft sand work to get out there and fishermen coming the other way had not seen much action so we skipped this and kept heading south.

Butcher's block at Old Laura Homestead

Butcher’s block at Old Laura Homestead

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Offroad, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Usher Point, Cape York

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With the Tip thoroughly explored we decided to take a 50+km track with Simon, Hilary and the girls to Usher Point. The road condition and distance is sufficient to deter all but the hardened traveller, and from the Hema guide the track was going to be tough. We had heard reports of 5-6 hours travelling time required with bush tracks so tight you would be relieved of paintwork along the way. Parks and wildlife don’t encourage trailers either but we were up for a challenge, the first, and by far the hardest, booking one of the four campsites. Once again we wrestled with a ridiculous booking system, being told only one site was available by a second operator.

The drive out was actually nothing like what we expected. It took two hours and the road must have been cleared in recent years judging by the size of the track and regrowth rates. No paint scratching on this track and very few challenges other than a couple of sections of soft sand. The Camprite trailer cruised through as it has done for the last 11 months without a hiccup.

Camp fun with beach flotsam

Camp fun with beach flotsam

Our campground greeted us piled with flotsam and jetsam salvaged from the beach, a blessing in disguise as whilst unsightly it did provide hours of entertainment for the kids. The coastline was rugged and exposed to the strong onshore winds. The four campsites are spaced across 2+km of track, one in the rainforest, one in deep soft sand behind the beach, another perched precipitously on a totally unsheltered overhung cliff (not good for sleepwalkers), and ours, nestled in low-lying bush, very slightly sheltered.

A lot of beach combing yielded more chambered nautilus shells, and a surprising source of multi-coloured clay that the kids insisted on bringing back to camp to play with. Much of the cliff was clay, however large islands protruded from the sand in places, with thin layers of many colours.

Go-karts made from beach rubbish

Go-karts made from beach rubbish

Gunshot Creek re-enactment

Gunshot Creek re-enactment

The kids used their imagination with items of rubbish found on the beach and from home-made go-karts made from fishing floats, raced down the track, to re-enactments of the Gunshot Creek crossing on the Old Telegraph Track, a lot of fun was had by all.

Turtle embryo in shell

Turtle embryo in shell

A broken turtle shell washed up one day with a dead embryo with features fully formed and clearly visible, including yolk.

The drive from the camp to the beach was the biggest challenge requiring lowering tyre pressures to handle the soft sand track and campsite. This sandy camp was separated by a murky but shallow creek, but fresh tracks indicated that it was inhabited by a small crocodile.

Sadd Point panorama

Sadd Point panorama

We stayed for three days, exploring the beaches, driving to Sadd Point nearby, and pushing an extremely scratchy track towards Escape Creek, where at times we were pushing over saplings higher than the car that were growing in there middle of the track.

The road to Sadd Point

The road to Sadd Point

I found a new favourite bird, the aptly named Magnificent Riflebird. Having heard its call I managed to coax one in close to see its beautiful metallic green collar, and hear its rustling feathers as it chased a female through the treetops. It eluded my attempts to photograph though.

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Around the campfire on the first night we were interrupted by the erratic flight of a nightjar fluttering past several times. Following the frog-like sounds I found two sitting on the track every night. A Woompoo fruit dove allowed a close photo too one evening and once Simon’s very successful coconut lemon cake, cooked in the camp oven, wafted into the air we got regular visits from the local bandicoot.

Despite insistences from the booking consultant that campsites were full we saw no-one for three days at Usher Point. As we drove out a fallen tree across the road might have explained why, but four adults could move it aside quite easily, before we needed to reach for winches or saws.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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