Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cooktown, Queensland

Cooktown is a charming historic little town situated between the Endeavour River and the Coral Sea in Far North Queensland (FNQ). This region is famous for it's discovery by Capt. James Cook back in 1770, when his ship the endeavour sustained damage on the great barrier reef and he and the crew had to fine a safe place for repairs. Cook's 48 day stay in the harbour was to be his longest onshore stay for his entire 3 year voyage. Cooktown is also famous for it's pristine environment and the amazing Aboriginal culture.

The view of Cooktown from Grassy Hill Lookout
This is my second time visiting Cooktown and I was excited but felt strange driving here. The last time I was here was about five years ago just after my father had died who I had cared for for two and a half years. My time here was spent all by myself and I would say it was my time of mourning my loss. It was definitely a time I needed and was an extremely healing time. So for me I feel a real connection with the area and know I needed to return. 

Cooktown Wharf
We are staying at the Cooktown Caravan Park for three nights. It is a nice little bushland park with really lovely owners. Cooktown itself is quite small but has loads of history, such as the Post Office being established in 1887 along with the Cooktown RSL which was built in 1885. 

As with most of Australia Cooktown also has a Chinese History.
I loved the words inscribed on the figure on the right.
 "A person without a smiling face should not open a shop"
Words that I think is very relevant even today!!
Weather-wise yesterday was a very interesting day. The day started out quite sunny and warm, so we decided to start out with a drive up to Grassy Hill Lookout and Lighthouse. This location is such a great spot to view Cooktown and the surrounding area. But as we looked south we could see a huge series of black clouds role towards us. It looked amazing and I was happy to get some photos - and then all of a sudden it hit with some huge rain drops. 

The storm clouds rolled in ready to give us a drenching
The rest of the day was pretty overcast and very windy, but still Cooktown is a great place to spend some time. Today is a lazy day getting ready to head south again tomorrow (not very far though). Cooktown is also known for it's win. Ask anyone who has lived here or even just visited and they will tell you it's nearly always windy in Cooktown and believe me it hasn't let us down.

These strange steps just sitting in the middle of 
know where appear quite odd .
The Queen's Steps - made for HM Queen Elizabeth 11
for her visit in 1970 to open the James Cook Museum

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation

The Daintree Rainforest is a wet tropical rainforest located approx. 125km north of Cairns. The Daintree as it's affectionately known as, is the worlds oldest rainforest at 150 million years old - Yes that's 150 million years old. I have visited the Daintree River in the past but I have never been deep into the Rainforest before. The forest is just amazing, it is so dense my imagination was going wild thinking of just what this jungle like surrounding would hold.
What you see when you really really look

Female Golden Orb Spider

Crossing the Daintree river

Daintree Rainforest
Next we drove onto Cape Tribulation which is the end of the sealed road before heading onto the Bloomfield Track to Cooktown. We've decided not to tackle the Bloomfield track due to all the rain we have had over the past few weeks. Cape Tribulation was named by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770 after his ship the endeavour was damaged on the reef. Cook recorded in hi notes "...the north point is named Cape Tribulation because here begun all my troubles". As in most areas up here in Far North Queensland there are some amazing beaches but unfortunately you cannot swim there because of those big things with sharp teeth that are always hungry ....... CROCS!!

Amazing Cape Tribulation

Kuranda and Barron Falls

Today's outing was up the Kuranda Range to the small market village of Kuranda and also a walk to view the Barron Falls. I have been to Kuranda a couple of times before but still enjoy visiting all the various market stalls. Although I must admit not much has changed from my last visit five years ago.

The Barron Falls ( Din Din in Aboriginal) is a steep tiered cascading waterfall on the Barron River. These falls are said to be the most visited waterfalls in Queensland. Due to all the recent rains the area has had we were lucky enough to see the falls well and truly flowing. The Barron Falls are not just for the tourist to enjoy, they are also play a major role in supplying thousands of Cairns households electricity from the Barron River Hydroelectric power station.

Barron Falls 
One of the tiny forest inhabitants

The forest vines are intriguing to look at

Beautiful Far North Queensland

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Crystal Cascades

Today was a day of shopping, voting early in Australia's upcoming Federal Election and relaxing. But we thought we would drive the 10 minute drive to Crystal Cascades. Crystal Cascades is a series of small waterfalls that flow into large pools (salt water crocodile free) suitable for swimming. To enhance the beauty of the Freshwater River it is surrounded by large impressive granite boulders. At the end of the easy walk through the forest we were treated to the Cascade Waterfall.
Crystal Cascades

Crystal Cascade Falls
Unfortunately this area is not so beautiful for everyone who visits. In 2014 and 18 year old man drowned when he failed to resurface after slipping over the edge of the waterfall, while he was swimming in a restricted area. From what I could tell he was one of three people who have died in this location.
What the!!! Now I have to watch out for a Stinging Tree as well as spiders, snakes, crocs!!
OK I've found the plant..... No I wasn't tempted to touch it!!

What a way to finish my day. One of the best Garlic Prawn Pizzas I've ever had.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Relaxing in Cairns

After having a night in Myrtle in Laura and starting to get our possessions back into some sort of order we headed onto the town of Mareeba for a night before heading back into Cairns for a couple of weeks. I had heard some good reports about staying at the Mareeba Rodeo grounds so that was where we decided to lay our heads for the night. At $18 for the night and with very clean showers and toilets it was a very comfortable place to stay.
There were a few others joining me in this sunset tonight!!
But we certainly did get a surprise as we drove through the gates and saw over 100 caravans all set up. I asked the caretaker if this was unusually busy and his reply was "Oh no we only have 120 here, next month will be over 250". Certainly is a very popular place. Mareeba is situated in the northern part of the Atherton Tablelands and the countryside is extremely picturesque. 
The next morning our drive down into Cairns was an interesting one to say the least. The highway to Kuranda was great but then it got quite narrow and extremely windy as we descended down the mountain. As if that wasn't enough we also had to contend with drizzly rain and fog (or cloud cover) so thick you could only see a couple of metres in front of you. I am so so glad Shane was driving as I don't think I would have coped very well driving down there with Myrtle on the back. I wish I had taken some photos but my mind wasn't on my camera at the time. 
Cloudy Cairns
But in the end we arrived at our caravan park in Cairns safe and sound. I have now been in Cairns for 7 days and today is only the 2nd day it hasn't absolutely poured - but it's still drizzling. Shane is in Darwin for his annual boys week away. We won't be leaving here for another week, hopefully it stops raining so I can get out and take some photos. I think I'm getting a bit of cabin fever! 

Back Down the Cape

After another quiet day at Loyalty Beach it was time for us to head back south down Cape York.
Another Cape York sunset
Heading out of Bamaga we got stuck in a rather big funeral procession before heading back down the Peninsula Development Road. It was a good drive to the ferry ride back over the Jardine River then the road deteriorated to some very uncomfortable corrugations. This portion of the road was much worse than our drive up and I would say it was due to the increase in vehicles heading north. After a while the road improved and we headed onto Moreton Telegraph Station for the night. Moreton Telegraph Station was one of the last outposts built along the Cape York telegraph line from Cooktown to Thursday Island.
A Cape York casualty
Just to prove that you should never take any situation for granted. This camper trailer could obviously take no more and the owners had to just leave it on the side of the road. 

Dinner time at Moreton Telegraph Station
The view from the our little green tent at Moreton Telegraph Station
Today's drive was pretty good, lots of road works which equals pretty smooth roads. There was also quite a few sealed portions. Coen was our destination for the night, once again behind the Exchange Hotel. Tonight is our last night in our little green tent. Even though our Cape York adventure has been totally amazing I will be glad to sleep once again in my comfy bed in Myrtle.
This trip up to the very tip of Australia has been absolutely amazing. The scenery is spectacular, we have met some interesting people, learnt so much of my country Australia's history, I personally have driven on roads that I never thought I could tackle, and we have both accomplished two bush walks that we would never have thought of tackling let alone completing. It is rumoured and I believe that in another 10 years the Peninsular Development Road will be totally sealed. This will be a great advantage for the people and businesses that are situated up there but I think it will take the adventure of the journey.

One very dirty......

...dirty car.
I am living such a fantastic life, I wish everyone could experience the things I have experienced. No matter what dreams you have big or little don't chase your dream - LIVE your dreams. Life is meant for living not thinking or wishing you were doing something. 


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cape York Adventure - Day 11

Day 11

WooHoo we did it. Today we walked to the very "TIP" of Australia. We headed off from camp at 8.00am so we could get up there before the day heated up. After walking up and over what seemed like a mountain only mountain goats would travel on we reached the "Tip of Australia" Sign at around 9.15am. The walking track over the ridge was quite rocky both up and down. There were no signs so we just had to follow the tracks and mounds of rocks left by past walkers. As we climbed over the last hill and I spotted the "TIP" sign I became quite emotional and proud that we had done it. After the obligatory photos and Shane having a beer at the "TIP" we headed back. But this time we followed and elderly coach tour group. We figured the tour guide would take them the easier way. Which it certainly was, there were a few rocks before we descended into the beach for an easy stroll back to the car. 

We then headed to Somerset which was the location of the first settlement. There isn't much there now just some ruins and a few very old graves. We had a bit of a fish but kept well away from the water just I case anything with sharp teeth was lurking. After a drive through the dense bush to Fly Point awe headed back to our camp pretty exhausted but very proud of ourselves. 

Cape York Adventure - Days 8 - 10

Day 8
Today we went for a drive to "The Croc Tent" which is a basically a souvenir shop in a tent in the middle of the bush on the way to the tip. I had heard and seen so many recommendations to go here we just had to. Glad we did to as Lea is really helpful and a wealth of information. As we left the tent with souvenirs in hand we headed left for Punsand Bay. This is where we originally thought we would stay but glad we picked Loyalty Beach as the road in was pretty rugged and you would have to keep travelling it every time you waned to go anywhere. Plus Loyalty was cheaper. The resort at Punsand looked nice, has a good restaurant where we had lunch. They are in the process of completing their pool so it would be hard siting there with a pool full of refreshing water and not being able to get in. 

Day 9
We woke bright and early today for our day trip out to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait Islands. First up was a bus transfer to the wharf, then the Peddells Ferry took us on our 1 hour 10 min trip through all the islands to Thursday Island. Once on the island we were met by our tour guide, a local native named Dirk. Dirk is a Torres Strait native being born and breed on the islands, but went to boarding school for 5 years on the mainland. He is married with children and lives on a glorious little secluded inlet on Prince Edward Island. Each day he sails his little boat over the TI for work. We visited a crayfish factory, one of a few on Thursday Island and the other islands. Next was Green Hill Lookout which was originally built as a lookout for what they thought would be invading Russians. The complex is now a war and maritime museum. The views from the hil are absolutely amazing - looking out over the aqua blue water to the many many islands in the region. The Torres Strait Islands have a population of around 700 with Thursday Island have around 300 of that. The population is made up of about 70% natives and 30% non-natives. As the island was first settled due the abundance of pearls a lot of the population were Japanese. Hence the historic cemetery has around 700 of the 900 Japanese pearl divers who died. The scenery on our return ferry was just as beautiful as the day itself. Even though we were very very tired it was a wonderful day. 

Day 10

We decided to have a bit of a quiet day, which was just as well as it is a Sunday and most things are closed - even the Pub. We had to go for a bit of a drive to charge our phones so we decided to go out for a drive to Jackie Jacki Creek and a couple of plane crashes from WW11. The first of the sites was of a Beaufort Bomber that was a little difficult to find but after a drive through the bush we found it. Along the way there were heaps of old rusted 44 gallon drums left by the USA Airforce during WW11. The next wreck was a DC3 Bomber which was a lot easier to find. It was sad to think of the men and woman who lost their lives in these crashes. 

Cape York - Days 6 - 7

Day 6 
From Weipa we headed along the shortcut to Batavia Downs. As we turned onto the road we didn't know what the road was going to be like. But as it turned out we were pleasantly surprised. It was a pretty good road with a few little creek crossings and some road upgrades in process. We decided to spend the night at Bramwell Station and as it turned out it was a great night. The State of Origan rugby was on TV, there's was a guy singing and we could get dinner. Dinner was pretty good but I'm not sure if it was worth the $35 per person. We met four blokes who were on their way back from the cape so I had fun picking their brains for lots of useful information. 

Day 7
After another humid night we set off from Bramwell Station at around 9.30am for our journey further up the pointy bit. First stop was at Bramwell Roadhouse. Luckily we didn't need very much petrol as it was $2.10 per litre and the price below the stubbie holders was $40 and $50 for a shirt!!! Needless to say we didn't buy any - but I thought that would have to be wrong. The road was a bit dodgy most of the way today. Then it was onto the Jardine River where you have to get a ferry across the river at a return cost of $99 for a single car. The Jardine river as narrower than I thought it would be, although it was pretty fast flowing. The road to Bamaga was pretty good with a couple more sealed bits. We then had a beer in the Bamaga Pub before heading to Loyalty Beach where we will spend the next 5 or 6 night. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Catch up on our Cape York Adventure... Days 3 - 5

We've had a few days without internet reception and power so I haven't been able to any blog updates. But I have both for the moment so I will try and get in as much in as I can. At Laura we locked up Myrtle (camper) safe and sound and started on the 700+km dirt Peninsula Development road. We really had no idea as what to expect as there had been lots of recent rains. We had also been told there were some patches sealed but we had no idea how much or where. Some people said let air out of your tyres and some said don't! There was so much conflicting information we decided to just take it as it comes and see how we go. We also decided to let the tyres down to about 28psi for a smoother ride.

Day 3
First stop was at Hann Roadhouse for Shane to have something for breakie. Then it was my turn to drive and wouldn't you know it, it was the worst surface we drove on all day, there were bumps, potholes all over the place. There were a few sections that were sealed which made the rough bits easier to deal with.  We also crossed lots of creek/river crossing with about eight still having water flowing across the road. Next stop was Musgrove Telegraph Station, where we were going to spend the night. But as it was only 12.30pm we decided to head on further. So we filled up with petrol and headed off. Of course the road was great now because Shane was driving! We reached Coen at about 2.30pm and pitched our tent at the back of the Coen Exchange Hotel for $10 for the night. After cooking ourselves ribs we had an very early night. 

Day 4
We headed off early from Coen, packing up on a very dewy morning. Today our destination where we will lay our head will be the mining town of Weipa on the western side of the cape. The road was pretty good with a few sealed sections but even the unsealed sections were pretty smooth. After crossing the quarantine station we drove onto Archer River Roadhouse. We stopped here to get fuel and even though it was only 10.00am decided to have an early lunch. Before the Weipa turnoff we struck a very long stretch of roadworks where the road became very slippery and slidey. Yes, guess who was driving again - me!! The road to Weipa started out pretty good but became very bumpy and had a lot of potholes. We arrived in Weipa at around 2.00pm and set up our tent in a nice shady spot in the Weipa Caravan Park. We had a lovely spot overlooking the ocean, but no swimming here due to those big things with sharp teeth - crocs!!

Day 5 
Today was a bit of a lazy day, the only thing we did was have a look around. Weipa is the largest town on the Gulf of Carpentaria coast of the Cape York Peninsula with a population of around 3000. The present town was constructed mainly by Comalco ( Rio Tinto Alcan) and is now one of the worlds largest producers of bauxite which is used in the making of aluminium. We went and had a look at some fishing spot but were told by the guy in the fishing tackle shop we needed much bigger gear than what we had! We then drove out to Lake Patricia which was a pretty lake with a lovely picnic area - but no going in the water - CROCS!!!