Daily Archives: October 25, 2015

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.

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

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