Monthly Archives: October 2015

Cape York, the Tip (Part 2)

With the northern most compass point of the mainland behind us there was still plenty to do. We explored a 4WD track from the tip that crossed to Punsand Bay. A fairly tight and rugged track but not too difficult. The old telegraph terminated at a concrete bunker located just behind Cable Beach. Further on little side tracks around Roonba point took us to isolated beaches and mangrove forests, where corkscrew palms  spiralled their way towards the sky. Amanda stopped to investigate orchids growing amongst the tree branches, a few flowers starting to show.

Loo with a view

Loo with a view

One track led along a beach offering camp opportunities all over the place. We even stumbled, almost literally over what was arguably the best “Loo with a view”, a concrete construction, seat but no surrounding privacy. Just sit down and enjoy the view.

There are also a few historical remnants from WW2 in the area and to explore these we moved to Alau Beach as a new base to explore. Firstly we visited two plane wrecks, a DC3 bomber and a Bristol Beaufort, both having sufficient remnants to make them out. There are references to 3 other wrecks but without further information we couldn’t seek them. We drove down to Jacky Jacky creek on a increasing derelict track to a local camp that must be used for collecting mud crabs and mud clams amongst the mangroves.

Muttee Head WW2 radar tower

Muttee Head WW2 radar tower

Another road took us out to Muttee Head, and beyond to the mouth of the Jardine River. An old derelict and severely rusting radar tower stands forlornly in the forest, covered in vines, a stark reminder of the proximity of this part of Australia to action in the war.

Around the sleepy towns of Seisia and Bamaga it was impossible to miss the large numbers of horses wandering around untethered. Roaming along the roadsides, grazing through peoples gardens, some of them looking in very fine condition. Every now and then youngsters would trot past on their unsaddled steeds, all very adept in the art of horsemanship no matter what age.

We moved to Alau beach for a few days and Oscar and I took time out to fish from Seisia Jetty, once the weekly barge had been unloaded, reloaded, and departed. A large group of locals played in the water next to the jetty and a group of youngsters brought their horses for a swim to cool off in the searing heat of the midday sun.

The teenagers led their horses into the water, then stood on their backs and performed backflips into the water, in an effort to entertain the younger boys watching. Once cooled off they mounted the horses and cantered up the beach and back to the crowd swimming and frolicking behind us.

I felt a large tug on my line then suddenly the water surface erupted with a pirouetting shark, over 2m long. It performed this action 3 times, its entire body clearing the water each time, as it stripped line off my reel, then thankfully snapped it. A laconic comment from an elderly local fishing nearby suggested this was why no-one was catching anything. Another fishermen barked a call in local tongue to the crowd in the water and a mass exit, that any lifesaver would have been proud of, took place in seconds. Apparently crocodiles are not scary but big sharks are!

Palm Cockatoo

Palm Cockatoo

Frogmouth

Frogmouth

Back at our beach camp in Alau, the local trees acted as magnets for the birds and we were treated to Palm Cockatoos, yellow bellied sunbirds, frogmouths, kingfishers and many more.

 

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Offroad, Photos, Queensland, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cape York, The Tip (Part 1)

Firstly thanks to all the responses helping with my computer. It probably won’t be fixed until we get home which means blogging will be less frequent and probably fewer photos for a while.

After decamping from the beautifully tranquil Jardine River a short but very corrugated drive brought us to the ferry crossing where the 20m crossing costs you $129 and lasts barely a couple of minutes. It sounds expensive but is a return fare and does include the permit to enter the indigenous area as well as camping in designated areas around the tip of Cape York.

Bamaga is a sleepy township in the far north, offering a decent sized supermarket, post office, tavern, bakery and general store amongst others. A hasty re-fuel and restock and we headed 35km to the north easterly point of the Cape, to a campsite called Somerset. The Somerset Homestead is now in ruins, established in 1863 by John Jardine, farmed cattle, copra and had other commercial interests that included involvement in the pearling industry. Near to the campsite there are some old cannons, gravesites and some derelict ruins providing the inquisitive with a glimpse into the hardships of the past here. Fragments of old hand-blown black glass bottles can be found scattered in the bush, many dating back to the late 19th century.

Along the shoreline, behind the mangroves you can also find the remains of an old freshwater spring that was pooled as salvation for shipwrecked sailors, and graves of Japanese pearl divers.

Also along the shoreline, after negotiating crocodile infested mangroves and climbing the sharp rocks some remarkable indigenous art can be found in a cave, considerably pre-dating the homestead. Figures of fish, crocodiles and turtles, as well as other unidentifiable shapes were all clearly visible.

Some 900m away the large island of Albany offers fishing charter holidays, but has untouched beaches covered in turtle tracks with crystal clear water. The island also offered some protection from the prevailing onshore winds that greeted us all the way up the east coast of the Cape.

We explored the neighbouring coastline taking the five beaches track that weaves southwards through the bushland between beaches. We met another family with kids at SDEPS (whom we hadn’t seen for months) and took the photo at Fly Point of all the 8 kids. At the end of the track we found tracks that kept going and we explored at least two more beaches, the kids finding plenty of their new favourite shell, the chambered nautilus. Surprisingly there was less rubbish on the beaches here, probably because of the protection from Albany island.

Yellow-bellied sunbird

Yellow-bellied sunbird

The abundant and unique birdlife at the tip of the Cape York also provided an interesting diversion at dawn whilst everyone else was still waking up. The tally is now fast approaching 300 species on the trip and favourite birds have been changing regularly. Here the yellow-bellied sunbird was a welcome treat around the trailer.

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The next day we had a challenge to meet, the third compass extremity of the mainland, Australia’s most northerly point. The dirt road wasn’t too bad, weaving at times through lush rainforest, before opening up at the beach. A short walk over the craggy headland past enormous rock cairns brought us to a very unimpressive simple sign at the northerly tip. Three down one to go!

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Journey Narrative, Natural World, Photos, QLD, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York (Part 4)

Having had time to check the vehicles were ok and contemplate how we would complete the river crossings on our last day on the Old Telegraph Track (OTT), we left with mixed emotions. I was excited at the prospect of quite a few challenging water crossings, Simon was more concerned, suggesting he might not accompany us the whole way, and Amanda displaying some trepidation at the prospect of having to do this “solo”.

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The first ten kilometres beyond Eliot offer three water crossings and a log bridge crossing then beyond that Nolans Brook offers the deepest crossing on the track, often over one metre in depth. Simon had also heard of another crossing, Logans Creek, innocuously labelled as a ford on the map, that was reputedly as deep as Nolans Brook. We decided to assess each crossing before progressing.

All electronic gear had been moved as high as possible in the car, and recovery gear made easily accessible for this day. Amanda seemed to think water would be flooding through both car and trailer so had moved essential clothing to a safe height too. Really? We are not driving a sieve! I cut up a tarp to cover the radiator to help create a bow wave when crossing deeper water too. We also wanted an early start so we got a good look at crossings before they were silted up by traffic. Most clear pretty quickly but we wanted to be sure.

Canal Creek was fairly straightforward, avoiding the deep sections then crawling up a steep section on the far bank. Then Sam Creek and Mistake Creek past with no incident, the challenge being avoiding potholes and steep entry/exit points.

The log bridge at Cypress Creek didn’t look too bad until half way across when loud wooden cracking noises sounded beneath the car. Knowing that we were a tad overweight a touch on the accelerator got us quickly across before anything collapsed beneath.

Arriving at Cannibal Creek I had flashbacks to Palm Creek. A steep descent into the creek looked fine but a deceptive steep drop off the rock platform into the creek was unavoidable, followed by a horseshoe turn across the thigh-deep creek and a steep exit. It would be difficult to exit back out should Logans or Nolans Brook prove to much of a challenge, and at this point Simon and Hilary reluctantly chose to turn back and take the deviation road but I felt we could still do it. As a result most of the coverage is video format rather than photos

The rock drop-off took its toll as one of the support struts was broken of the Camprite. Not a critical part and easily fixable when we return it was put in the car and off we went, Simon offering to provide support at Nolans Brook from the opposite bank when he got there.

Very soon we arrived at Logans to find a deep channel and an ankle deep crossing so we took the easy route. Then came the signs offering towing and recovery assistance, so we knew we had arrived at Nolans. A quick wade proved it to be waist deep but I was confident the Pajero and Camprite would easily do it. Just in case I rigged up the winch and a strap.

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Just as I jumped into the car a car pulled up behind us and two guys jumped out with cameras. I could see dust clouds not far behind indicating further traffic arriving. I took off before they arrived keeping hard to the right of the main crossing, the bonnet sinking fast, but seconds later I emerged, pulled out of the creek, pulled over, left the engine running and checked for water – nothing inside.

By the time I walked back to the creek 7 cars were lined up waiting to cross. Apparently our early passage had caused everyone to quickly pack up to avoid having to cross in softer sand as more vehicles pass through. The fourth car, a Landcruiser took the central line, briefly disappeared and only partially re-emerged from the water. Stuck in two-wheel drive it needed a tow to exit and as he did the doors were opened to let water gush out from the front and back doors – lovely to watch especially as it wasn’t us. They hadn’t moved the shopping bags off the floor either which could have been disastrous.

Everyone cracked open a celebratory beer once over the creek except for me, who had run out a few days prior. It is actually quite hard to buy alcohol in Cape York and there are strict restrictions to protect the local indigenous communities.

 

We all jumped into the creek for a swim and the kids made the most of a rope swing over the water while we waited for Hilary and Simon to arrive from the opposite side. We had lunch at Nolans then convoy again we drove north to the Jardine River to our camp on the south side. We camped at what used to be the river crossing but after too many people got eaten by crocodiles attempting the crossing, a ferry crossing to the west was mandated. Looking at the crossing at the end of a very dry year I believe we could have made it but was happy to go swimming in the water with the kids instead. That may sound dangerous but we always send the kids in first to be sure it’s safe!

The Jardine River was approximately 50m wide here, with gin clear water flowing up to a metre over sand. It was delightful to see such a major waterway in pristine condition. Birdlife again was bountiful with kingfishers, a fawn-breasted bowerbird, honeyeaters and many more inhabiting the forest and scrub close to the river.

Clouds formed in the sky and threatened rain but at the end of the day we had a gorgeous campfire on the riverbank with 110 around Oz and talked about the OTT and our other journeys to date.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, National Park, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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