Return to Noosa

Almost a year after we last left Noosa with heavy hearts the promise of a joyous family occasion saw us departing Sydney in the early hours and heading north for my cousin’s wedding. The plan was simple – drive the 1,060km up the coast in the first day, the kids sleeping for a good 4 hours before dawn, a few stops to stretch legs, swap drivers, grab a quick snack, five nights in three locations then return more sedately via the inland road, taking two days, and allowing time to fossick for sapphires in gem country.

Our first stop was the relative luxury of the Noosa Islander resort and catching up with cousins and their families, who are usually scattered around the globe. The kids took over the pools and spas and we made the obligatory walk out to Hells Gate in the National Park. Only minutes from the main street in Noosa the National Park always presents fantastic opportunities to see Australian wildlife at it’s best. Our British visitors were not disappointed witnessing dolphins swimming close to the shore, dozens of turtles, and even a pod of 4 humpback whales less than 100 metres from the shore. We indulged in the pleasant waters of one of the beaches then looked for Koalas in the Eucalypt forest of Tea Tree Bay.

A short ferry took us across the Noosa river to the North Shore where we enjoyed two days escaping the very popular triathlon and celebrating my cousins wedding. Lots of dancing and merriment – the chocolate fountain was a favourite with the kids and the day passed all too quickly.

We found a baby frogmouth on the ground and a call to Australia Zoo was made. A pick-up was suggested but we didn’t witness it.

Then as the week came to a close an invite to stay on a houseboat for a night changed our plans and we extended our stay a little longer. We fished, swam in the river, caught up with family for a little bit longer, and looked out for Richard Branson on his island in the river, Makepeace island. He wasn’t there!

A peaceful night on the boat, then home the next day – the extra night meant a long drive back in one day and no fossicking this time.



Categories: Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Location, QLD, Queensland, Road trip, Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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

The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York (Part 1)

With the Lenovo seeming dead I have adopted an Apple to continue blogging!

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The Old Telegraph Track(OTT) is a very popular 4WD track that heads north up Cape York from Bramwell  Station to the Jardine river and beyond with the Telegraph terminating at Cable Beach near Punsand Bay, only 20km or so from the most northerly point of mainland Australia.

We left Morton Telegraph Station early, quickly drove 42km to Bramwell Station, keen but unsure what to expect at the first challenge Palm Creek.

A small wooden sign, not worthy of a photo pointed the track past the station and we pulled up at Palm Creek behind a big tour bus and a couple of other cars. Their eyes lit up and everyone reached for their cameras when we said we were going to cross.

It was certainly a bit more challenging than I was expecting but the word was if you can do this crossing you can complete the track. The entry into the creek was a two step, narrow muddy track with the tiniest bend towards the base. Total drop was possibly ten metres.

With other people arriving behind I jumped to it, handed cameras and video to people and started the GoPro running.

In the excitement of the moment I then made a number of rooky errors. Firstly, the GoPro was in camera mode so I got a photo of me looking at the camera – oops. Secondly, feeling the pressure of people waiting to cross I forgot to reduce my tyre pressures.

The descent was relatively easy as you just have to get your tyres in the tracks and keep them there while descending in low gear. The opposite side offered two exits and we chose the direct one. Naively thinking we could savour the moment with a slow ascent, I underestimated the traction on the slippery incline and sheepishly descended backwards after getting only the car nose to the top. On the next attempt I made my third error trying to ascend before the low range gear had engaged properly. The third time I beckoned to Amanda to grab the winch, put it round the nearest tree and 5 minutes later we were out. The tourist bus was happy with the spectacle but it was a very amateur effort indeed as the next cars showed us, roaring past in one attempt.

The ice was broken and we were on our way at last. Three kilometres later we arrived at Dulcie Creek, where track notes indicated care required to avoid deep holes. A muddy puddle sat in the middle of an otherwise dry river bed so this obstacle was passed with relative ease.

Dulhunty and Bertie rivers provided more water but these were more a case of avoiding deep holes in the rocky bed, nothing a quick wade in the crystal waters couldn’t solve.

One thing we did notice was that there are very few intact telegraph poles remaining. Souvenir hunters have bent the metal poles to remove the porcelain insulators along the entire track. There were some older wooden poles standing but these too lacked any porcelain adornments. They would look more impressive on the poles than sitting forlornly on people’s

The infamous challenge on the OTT is Gunshot Creek and we chose not to do this challenge as we were towing a fully laden Camprite trailer that we still needed to live in for some time. We bypassed this and setup camp at Cockatoo Creek, another crossing where deep holes in the riverbed need to be treated with respect. We camped above a deep waterhole and the kids spent the afternoon fishing and swimming. I spotted a big barramundi whilst spotlighting that night, and a quick well placed cast landed a 70cm fish for the next evening’s dinner.

Up early in the morning I took Oscar for a fish, still seeking his first barramundi, and landed a 72cm Sarotoga on my second cast. Unfortunately Oscar only caught some good-sized grunter. We also got a visit from the rare Palm Cockatoo which is a magnificent bird with a huge beak, black with red cheeks and a huge array of long feathers on his head.

So far the Camprite trailer was holding up very well and all was good. As the sun rose we prepared for as visit to Gunshot Creek.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, Offroad, Photography, Photos, QLD, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

East Arnhemland (Part 4 – Cape Arnhem)

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A special permit is required to enter Cape Arnhem, over and above the transit permit required to travel there. Only 10 vehicles are permitted at a time with no trailers, width, height and weight restrictions also exist due to some of the tracks passing through low hanging bush, between trees or over soft sand. This meant having to abandon our beloved home, the Camprite trailer, and pull the emergency tents from the roof pod. We even bought an esky for the trip to keep our food cold.

The trailer was parked at Chris and Emi’s house in Nhulunbuy and Amanda was excited at their kind offer to do a clothes wash for us while away.

Entrance to the Cape was via a rugged dirt road along an escarpment with glimpses through the forest of beach and mangroves below. A lookout several kilometres in is where the fun starts. Having taken in the views up and down the coastline the road drops steeply down the escarpment into the forest below, weaves through narrow gaps between tall trees before becoming sandy. Taking no chances I dropped tyre pressures below the recommended 20 PSI and pressed on. Without a map there were a surprising number of trails leading off, though most of them return to meet, and without too much difficulty we headed in the right direction. There are over 50 sacred sites on the Cape, the main one known as Twin Eagles, where visitors may drive by but not stop to picnic, camp or fish. The drive north up the Cape involves beach and dune work, sometimes particularly soft and there was plenty of evidence of “boggings” along the way.

The sandy beaches looked attractive on approach but our hearts sank somewhat at the volume of sea-borne debris and detritus that littered most of them. Then sadness turned to dismay when we spotted a bottlenose dolphin washed up on the beach. We pulled over and dashed to see if we could save it but it looked like it had only recently died. Not knowing what had killed it (no obvious visible cause) we paused and walked down the beach collecting thongs (flip flops for those reading in the UK) that covered the sand. Over one hundred were recovered and placed on the car roof. Most of the debris has been brought from Asia by prevailing winds and ocean currents, or dumped from ships passing.

We found a campsite known as the Penthouse, at the furthest point north that visitors are allowed, set up camp and then found a dead turtle on the beach below. Some rangers had obviously stayed prior and had enjoyed a feast of mud mussels and turtle eggs, judging by the discarded remnants on the edge of the camp.

A small crocodile swam in to shelter behind the reef as the rough ocean was still being stirred up by strong easterly winds.

The hammock was brought out and we switched into relaxed desert island chilling mode. The kids explored, we fished (Oscar was happy to catch a queenfish) and Amanda sat in the hammock reading.

The next day we wanted to make a further impact and we chose the same beaches, this time targeting cigarette lighters. Over 300 were retrieved and disposed of. The children were somewhat distracted by their search for Chambered Nautilus shells that they had started to find but all helped fill the bucket. We noticed the difference but we couldn’t collect all the ghost nets, toothbrushes, light bulbs, and a plethora of miscellaneous glass and plastic bottles, jars and other items. And all the time the winds were bringing in new items. We found two more dead turtles too on the beaches. Others had obviously tried before us and had left the debris in a tree. We chose to dispose of it.

On returning to camp Xavier found a fossilised chambered nautilus in rocks nearby making us all ponder how long these animals have been around, long before humans polluted these beaches.

The sandy tracks allow a couple of days exploring. To the south there is another camp near caves beach and whilst folk do swim the crocodiles are there as we saw so extreme precaution is recommended if entering the water.

Despite the rubbish on the beaches this is a great place to escape and experience the beauty of Arnhemland.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Car, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, Natural World, Northern Territory, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gibb River Road – Part 7 (Home Valley Station)

Arriving at Home Valley Station was quite exciting as we knew that the end of the Gibb River Road was approaching and we had every chance of making it without having to be recovered! The entrance gate to the station is a large iron boab tree with following very poignant words
“We are all visitors to this time, this place.
We are just passing through.
Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow
And then we return home”

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The station is well set up for tourists running Heli-Fishing tours for barramundi, riding, boat fishing, a swimming pool, even a massive boat called the Bootlegger, a boat with an engine and propeller that sounds like an aircraft as it negotiates the tidal part of river and its tributaries. It also has a smart bar and exclusive (by our standards) restaurant that needs to be booked at weekends.
We camped at the river camp 4km away, with simpler facilities but views over the Pentecost River and Cockburn ranges that were magical as the sun sank in the late afternoon. The tidal movement was approximately 4-5m, with each low tide revealing a deep expanse of thick mud, lining each bank. In the afternoon sunshine a couple of saltwater crocodiles would haul themselves out and enjoy the solitude on the opposite bank, only interrupted by passing cattle and a myriad of wading birds including spoonbills, rajah shelduck, brolgas and much more.

Our friends Marty and Crystal arrived and we soon had the punt sitting on the muddy banks. Fishing the river was a challenge, because once you negotiated the knee-deep mud, the water movement was so great it was hard to keep a sinker with bait on the bottom, outside of 30 minutes around the change of tide. Undeterred Marty and I tried trolling lures in every corner with limited success over two days. When a crocodile over a metre longer than the boat floated past we decided it was time to call it a day!
Once again there was abundant birdlife on or around the river, and on a daily basis new birds I hadn’t seen before, would fly into the tree next to our site. The drive past the tip was always interesting as it would be mobbed by raptors, especially black kites, looking for scraps of food.
The kids spent time in the pool and playing with our friend’s (the “Grismacks”) children. One evening we drove up to the lookout over the Cockburn Ranges with them to watch the sunset and have dinner on a large stone table there
The station has plenty of bushwalks too, with several going from the station to nearby Mt Baldy. We explored Bindoola Falls and billabong, a short 16km drive back up the Gibb River road. A very short walk takes you to the cliff overlooking a pool inhabited by freshwater crocodiles. We saw a couple of very small ones, then decided to go for a swim as it was a hot day and climbed down the cliff for a refreshing swim. The freshwater crocs sank beneath the water and we didn’t see them again. Oscar threw snail shells into the water to attract archer fish and sooty grunter.
Bindoola Falls billabong

Bindoola Falls billabong

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Offroad, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Gibb River Road – Part 5 (Mitchell Plateau to Kalumburu)

On our return from the Mitchell Plateau we took a 20km detour to see Surveyors Pool. Again the road was slow and rocky but we were the only ones there and a short flat walk took us along a creek to the falls to Surveyors Pool below. Whilst looking very inviting we had been warned about saltwater crocodiles being present so just enjoyed the views. Pools above the falls were supposed to be safe but there wasn’t much water anywhere except in the creek down and I had already seen a crocodile in there. The return trip suggested they were freshwater ones but we weren’t that desperate for a swim.

Another crossing of the King Edward river, then a left turn onto Kalumburu road headed us north to Kalumburu itself. The road was quite acceptable for the next 80-100km, notwithstanding the occasional dip or floodway that causes you to brake sharply to avoid testing the suspension to its limits. On one stretch we were entertained by a pair of Brolgas performing a dance for us only ten metres from the roadside. So mesmerised by one another they didn’t seem to notice the car and trailer screech to a halt, the massive cloud of dust that followed, nor me jumping out of the car clutching a camera and proceeding to enter the grass near the performance. Finally they did notice and very calmly beat a slow retreat into the grassland where we left them in peace.
Then we had our first major casualty as the trailer drifted on a corner hitting a rock and giving us our first flat. As I was remembering how to change the trailer spare (squirrelled cleverly under the trailer) a posse of young guys on a fishing trip, in 5 cars, pulled over and proceeded to take over. What probably would have taken me an hour was completed in fifteen minutes and we were all on our way again. Thanks guys, we hope you caught lots of fish up there for the good karma.

Most of Kalumburu was closed as we arrived late on a Sunday afternoon so we didn’t have a chance to stop and explore but a couple of lads showed us the way to Honeymoon Bay. We got there to find Crystal and Marty had arrived shortly prior and Hannah quickly resumed her dog-minding duties with their dog Zoe.
And with the next rising of the sun the mighty Marty punt was launched skippered by Captain Marty and his crew were Oscar and I clutching our tackle box, rods and bait bucket. Early signs were not favourable with no action but as our intrepid skipper “sailed” further towards the point things heated up. Oscar was catching batfish the size of dinner plates and Marty was straight into a sweetlips. We could see fish all around following our lures and bait in, so it was time to bring out the “desert island jig”, so named because if you were only allowed one lure to take to a desert island this white feathery one would be the one. I had bought this after seeing what people caught with it in Broome.
Bingo! Almost first cast I caught my first Queenfish and quite a respectable eating size too. Crumbed fish pieces that night were divine.
Day 2 on the mighty Marty punt yielded similar results though we did have a couple of break-offs and we saw a couple of large spanish mackerel cruising around too, though couldn’t hook them. Happy fishermen all round as we had at last started to catch some decent sized fish.
We could have stayed longer and missed a few things but finally we had to leave Honeymoon Bay and head south again, leaving the big boab tree, with eagle nest in its branches, overlooking the bay.

Categories: australia, Australian Outback, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Offroad, West Australia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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