Photography

Grafton and the Waterfall Highway

With the passing of the previous night’s storm the air smelt clean and fresh the next morning. The humidity crept up on us though, something we have had trouble acclimatising to in recent weeks.

With local knowledge imparted as we farewelled our hosts, we headed down to the beach, then up the road to get a good look back at Lennox Heads before heading towards Killen Falls. The water wasn’t very inviting following the previous night’s rainfall but the falls were putting on an impressive performance. Not quite as much a local spot as expected, there were plenty of people there though few dared the chilly waters. A collection of small cairns have started sprouting up opposite the falls, adding to the magic of the location. Hannah and I also snuck a quick look at Emigrant Dam while grabbing a geocache on the way out.

Birds on the deck in Grafton

Birds on the deck in Grafton

Well on the homeward leg now, our trip was becoming more of a social event than one of exploration and we headed towards Grafton where our friends “Roving Reeves”, from Perth, were staying. The kids always enjoyed catching up with their boys so it seemed an obvious stopping point for us to catch up with Tash and Stephen. An enjoyable dinner was spent on the deck, chatting and watching flocks of lorikeets, king parrots, cockatoos and galahs queueing up to eat sunflower seeds.

 

The next morning, once a thick fog had lifted from the hills around Grafton, they joined us on a drive towards Dorrigo National Park, stopping first at Dangar Falls, just off the obviously named Waterfall Highway.

A quick lunch and walk to the base of the falls at Dangar then off to the Dorrigo National Park where we wandered into the rainforest, onto the skywalk and listened to the birdsong throughout the hillside. with time once again getting away from us we bade “Roving Reeves” farewell and parted ways heading towards Armidale, via the Ebor Falls. The surrounding woodland and fields there were smothered with a thick dusting of white michaelmas daisy snow, the wonder of springtime flowers was greeting us once more in our last few days on the road.

Spring flowers around Ebor

Spring flowers around Ebor

 

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Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, New South Wales, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Byron Bay – Australia’s eastern most point (Back to NSW)

We did it - the final compass point extremity of mainland Australia

We did it – the final compass point extremity of mainland Australia

The last challenge for us was to stand on the last of the compass points of mainland Australia. In the South, a year ago, we had hiked 40km in 2 days to South Point. In the West an arduous drive took us some 32km along a hideously corrugated sand track to Steep Point. Only a few weeks ago we had stood at the Tip, (Pajinka) on Cape York, in the North and the last challenge was Cape Byron on the East. This had to be the easiest part of our challenge. We parked car and trailer and walked 15 minutes up the hill past the lighthouse to the sign. Once again a storm threatened but on our return we hesitated on the cliffs to watch a manta ray glide past. We also witnessed a shark, eagle rays and dolphins cruisng close to the shore before we dashed to miss the rain.

 

But wait a minute I’m getting ahead of myself!! Leaving the Gold Coast we took a scenic drive inland through forests to a place called the Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park. A short trail through forest takes you to Cave Creek that falls over a rock wall then through a cave making it a photogenic “Natural Bridge”. The river passes several plunge pools before cascading over a large log into a glowworm cave, then flows out to the forest again. The glowworms are only visible at night unfortunately when their green light fills the cave. Another feature of this part of the park are the Hoop Pines, primitive conifers that have existed for 180 million years.

Nearly home!

Nearly home!

Our itinerary was busy and as we pressed on again, then suddenly on a narrow winding country road we were confronted with a sign that grounded us. “Welcome to NSW” meant we were truly almost home. We left NSW over a year ago.

Our next stop requested by the kids was Crystal Castle in Mullumbimby. I wasn’t prepared for what greeted us, but mirth soon overtook apprehension when our guide paused for an unexpected moments meditation. The kids slurped their drinks loudly (we were lunching on the run again). I poked them in the back, half opening my eyes to see if anyone had heard but they didn’t get it and kept slurping. I hung my head for a minute in embarrassment, then let go, relaxed and enjoyed the sumptuous grounds. Giant statues of Buddha and numerous Indian gods occupy strategic positions throughout the Shambhala gardens. Enormous crystals offer healing qualities, and a world peace stupa allows one to close your eyes and pretend you are in Tibet. There is a rainforest walk, regular events, and niches where people seek tranquility for a spiritual experience. Much work and collaboration has been required to develop this place and it is well worth a visit. After a couple of hours here it was time to close the compass point challenge and Byron Bay was our next stop, unfortunately having no time to stop to see our fellow travellers “Our Roaming Home”, who started from our home suburb shortly after we left. They had seen us passing and called Amanda on the phone!

With light fading fast we headed for our camp at Lis and Greg (friends of Amanda’s brother) in Lennox Heads, put the trailer up and the deluge began. As hailstones began to rattle the roof on the house I hoped that they wouldn’t be big enough to damage the car. The kids were fascinated with them as they haven’t seen hail for a long time. Finally we sat in the house watching Malcolm Douglas episodes on TV, a rare event in the last year, until it was time to retire to bed.

 

 

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Fraser Island (Part 2)

The following day saw us heading north to Sandy Cape, up past Indian Head, Waddy Point, through the cute settlement of Orchid Beach, before heading up the beach again. With the tide being quite high on the way up we had to briefly leave the beach at Ngkala Rocks taking a bypass track that squeezed us through the rocks. We spotted two more dingos on this trip and at Sandy Cape the road to the lighthouse was impassable due to the tide, so we took to foot to walk over the dunes to the Carree campsite. The tall sand dunes plummet to the seashore and the kids ran up and down in the hot sunshine whilst we watched. The lighthouse poked out from the trees several kilometers to the west of us but too far to walk in the heat.

On the return trip we visited the Champagne Pools, somewhat disappointing due to the fact that each pool had fifty backpackers wallowing in it, some of them stripping off and crushing snails to feed the fish, despite the “no collecting” signs.

When challenged one said he was with an Aboriginal who said it was ok to do so. Whilst indigenous people do have privileges to collect within National Parks, tourists don’t and when others started copying the marine life will soon be stripped and spoilt for the future. I found it surprising that the indigenous guide had allowed this, as most aboriginal people we have met consider themselves to be guardians of the land they occupy. In this case perhaps the lure of the dollar was more important than preservation of the environment.

We walked to the tips of Waddy Point and Indian head to look for sharks, turtles and more but returned disappointed.

On the return trip we headed east at Orchid Beach to visit Wathumba, a large estuarine area, with a wooded coastline and mangroves growing in the sand. This beautiful spot is notorious for sandflies but we didn’t witness many at all.

Another day, another excursion and we headed south to take in the Central Lakes drive. Out timing of the tide wasn’t good and when we arrived at Eli creek some thirty cars on both sides of the creek were awaiting the tide to abate. Some of the Tag-Along tours had fixed itineraries though and were not prepared to wait. The 4WD vehicles driven primarily by inexperienced backpackers nervously entered the water, sometimes to their leaders horror even taking a precarious passage over rocks. Whilst the water wasn’t too deep I was prepared to wait a bit longer rather than taking a brine rinse under the bonnet.

One vehicle stalled on the exit and couldn’t be restarted by the driver. Without a snorkel it looked like this could be the end of their day but the leader emerged from the back of his vehicle with a can of CYC spray and with a prolonged spray under the bonnet life was restored in the engine and off they drove.

As we crossed shortly after four guys were digging sand out from the wheels of a very bogged car near the front of the queue.

Once across the creek and past Yidney and Poyungan rocks along the beach the track heads inland and a short drive through the forest brings you to the Lake Wabby Lookout. The lake is easily accessible from here and despite the threats of a dark storm approaching we couldn’t resist. The water was surprising warm for the deepest lake on the island and with steep dunes plunging into the deep water it was a favourite with the kids.

Beyond that is another major attraction, Lake Mackenzie, whose brilliant white sandy shores and pale blue acidic water grace all the tourist brochures. To avoid crowds, a short walk along the beach, and over a few steps, brings you to a second beach. Still no sun but plenty of crystal clear warm water to swim in – irresistible. The drive continued past Lakes Birrabeen, Benaroon and Boomanjin, all picturesque and much less frequented by the crowds of tourists but time was flying and we had to drive back up the beach.

As the rusting wreckage of the Maheno emerged from the sea spray in the distance we knew were almost back at camp again where the kids needed to be woken up, having fallen asleep in the car, after another exhausting day on Fraser Island

Rusting hulk of the Maheno

Rusting hulk of the Maheno

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

Fraser Island (Part 1)

After over a week’s unscheduled stay in Noosa it was time to revisit our last major 4WD challenge of our trip, Fraser Island.

Having visited twice previously the plan this time was to explore beyond the typical tourist attractions. Previous trips had been restricted to 3 days and had seen us staying on the south east side of the island exploring only half of one side of the island.

Personal ferry service to Hook Point

Personal ferry service to Hook Point

The ferry terminal at Inskip Point is a beach of soft sand 100m from the unsealed road. As we drove onto the beach the ferry had just departed, but as I accelerated across the beach the skipper must have seen us, reversed and returned to pick us up. The ferry was empty so we got our own personal ferry service which made it seem worthwhile considering the rather pricey cost for a 5 minute crossing. The deckhand joked that he would save us a place on our return trip in a week’s time.

We had timed the tides well and drove from Hook Point along the beach and up the eastern beach, some 65km to Yurru campsite, just north of Cathedral Beach camp. The beach is under normal road regulations with a speed limit of 80km but following recent rain the unwary can be caught out at this speed with washouts.

Despite being the largest sand island in the world, over 100km long and 20km wide, there is no shortage of static and flowing freshwater and the erosion of beach sand caused by creeks can cripple the suspension of even the most sturdy cars if hit too fast.

Driving up the beach we were treated to the sight of two inquisitive dingos, then as we approached the Eurong settlement six dingos including young pups were running around the vehicles of some fishermen. Nothing beats the traditional dingo welcome to Fraser island. A ban on dogs on the island has retained the pure-bred status for these dingos as inter-breeding often occurs back on the mainland.

Shortly before Yurru camp the majestic wreck of the Maheno emerged through the sea spray in the distance.

The Maheno sank in 1935, washed ashore in a cyclone, but sufficient remains make it an interesting stopping point for tourists. Original wooden decking still lines some of the wreck, even after exposure to daily tides and the occasional cyclone storms over the last eighty years.

On our first day a transmission warning light came on and when actions recommended by the car manual failed to rectify it we were in a bit of a quandary. It still drove so we chose to ignore it until we got off the island again!

With a very changeable and wet long range weather forecast we chose to explore as much as we could in the first two reasonable days.

The northern forests scenic drive took us initially to a lookout over Knifeblade sandblow where the tops of overrun treetops poked starkly out of the sand. Lake Allom, further inland offered a warm refreshing swim amongst the freshwater turtles. We then took a couple of tracks to explore the western coast, Awinya and Woralie creeks. With a prevailing easterly wind, it was nice to experience calm beaches with no surf on the western side of the island. The camp at Woralie was very attractive though the creek crossing was very deep and not one that we were prepared to attempt. We were half way across when I decided it needed to be waded and when the water reached my chest I was glad I hadn’t proceeded.

Woralie Creek beach

Woralie Creek beach

It was fun to watch a car coming the other way, without a snorkel, as the bow wave poured over the bonnet and up their windscreen.

We explored another track that headed towards Moon Point but not being the scheduled track resulted in many scratches and a nasty ding in the side of the car. To add insult to injury the last 7km to Moon Point were closed.

The track leads through magnificent forest, where mature trees dwarf the cars as they pass through. Giant Kauri trees give way to lower scrub and the outlook continually changes. The narrow roads are restricted to 30km and constantly keep the driver busy negotiating the way through natural obstacles and fallen trees can easily halt progress.

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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!

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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

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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

The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York (Part 3)

Following the fun at Gunshot Creek watching others trying to avoid breaking their cars it was time for us to have some fun as we headed to Fruit Bat Falls and Eliot Falls. Less than 30km north we turned off to Fruit Bat Falls for an early morning swim before the crowds arrived. The river is fairly shallow running over a rock platform then drops a couple of metres per the falls into a sandy pool below, great fun for swimming with the kids.

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Sufficiently cooled off we decide to head to the camp at Eliot Falls for lunch. 12km away we had heard the road had a particularly deep crossing, marked innocently as a ford. Scrubby Creek as it is known was silted up on arrival so we had to wade it, water levels reaching the thigh, deeper in the middle. After watching cars go through on both sides we crossed without trauma, sticking to the one side. The park itself sits on the edge of the Jardine River National Park and Heathlands Regional Park. At Eliot there are three main waterholes called the Saucepan, Twin and Eliot falls. The former was a deep section of the Eliot river with cascades into it, allowing older kids to jump from the sides. Twin Falls was more picturesque with a series of small waterfalls into sandy bottomed shallow pools, fed from Canal Creek and more suitable for younger children. The clarity of the water proved popular with our kids as they fossicked for stones in the river bed. Pitcher plants, sundews and bladderworts, all insectivorous plants lined the riverbanks, testament to the nutrient poor soil on and around the limestone rock.

Eliot Falls themselves were the biggest falls offering 3m jumps into the middle of the horseshoe shaped falls. Below the falls deep rocky sections flowed rapidly over large boulders offering lap pool alternatives, swimming into the current. Where the two rivers meet it was noticeably warmer water coming from Canal Creek.

We spent two days here relaxing with plenty of swimming to cool us from the searing heat. For such a popular spot it was a shame to have no visible Park Ranger presence whilst we were there. People had dogs in the park, generators on at night, people ripping down trees in the campground for firewood, and Simon and Hilary even spotted people soaping up ready to wash in the rivers. It won’t be long before it becomes a lot less attractive if Queensland Parks don’t raise their game, focus on the site preservation rather than the ridiculous online camping booking system aimed at revenue raising rather than customer experience. The city-dwelling consultants who sold that one to the government should be ashamed of themselves as they clearly don’t understand how travellers operate. Maybe another blog for that one!

 

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

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