Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Cape York Peninsula - Days 1 to 6

Never a dull moment Em just said to me.  After she came across a large feral pig snuffling around near our beachside campsite at Chili Beach in Ironbark Range National Park...And that is exactly what Cape York has been like so far.  I have a lot of stuff in my head to remember to put down on the blog, so me & Em were scribbling stuff in a notepad at one stage so we wouldn't forget!

To set the geographic scene of Cape York it is about the size of the state of Victoria, or England, and is divided up into National Park, Aboriginal lands and reserves and other reource reserves, e.g. mining lease land.  It is a wet tropics area, meaning the wet season is very wet, flooding, cyclones, etc.  And the dry season very dry, e.g. fires, dust, etc.  It has a population of about 18,000 as I understand.  This population is all but cut off from the rest of Queensland in the wet season.  Beer and fuel (and other important supplies) are shipped to the coastal communities via barge from Cairns.  The roads are rough, dangerous in places, a 4wd is a necessity not a luxury.  Saltwater and freshwater crocs, all sorts of snakes including the deadliest on the planet - taipan and king brown - many nasty insects, abundant birdlife and a wicked heat all year round....it has been identified by some conservation societies as being as important and unique on the Earth - in terms of wet tropic wilderness - as the Serengeti or the Amazon.  I personally had never heard of it before coming to Australia, but since being here I have read and seen a lot about it, and below are mine and Em's experiences up at "The Cape".

I have been wondering how to differ the style of the blog in terms of not reading "We did this" or "We saw this", and hopefully my day to day stuff was a bit different.  Now I might try writing in a formal, military style, hopefully similar to one used by Captain Cook i.e.  "Began drive to Cape York with stop at Cooktown.  Obtained fuel and supplies.  Cooktown small, but well stocked.  Captain Cook museum very interesting.  Saw Aboriginal communities, no alcohol allowed in vehicle if stopping", etc. etc.  I think it might work as I have a lot to say and dont want to drone on, but we'll see how it goes and if I tail off into normal speak please forgive me, but I am not trained in this art (but do have too much time to think when driving on long dirt roads):

Day 1: Began drive to Cape York with stop at Cooktown.  Narrowly avoided running over snake outside of town.  Obtained fuel and supplies.  Cooktown small, but well stocked.  Captain Cook museum very interesting.  Saw Aboriginal communities on way, no alcohol allowed in vehicle if stopping or heavy fines apply.  Little Lighthouse gave splendid views of town, Mount Cook and surrounding area. 


Departed Cooktown Wednesday afternoon via Battle Camp Road.  Scene of one of few pitched battles between Aboriginal warriors and white settlers.  Now cattle station and 4wd track.  Entered Lakefield National Park.  Landscape appears quite alien with Brahmen cattle and termite mounds everywhere. 


This one has phallic properties, I think you will agree:


Made Camp at Lake Emma, much to Emma's delight as one can imagine.  Two cyclists camping nearby - unusual sight up here.  Had fire.  Drank some rum.  Full moon.  Tent windows open.  Fell asleep watching many glow bugs in tree above our heads.


Day 2: Continued through National Park via Battle Camp Road.  Stopped to view Old Laura Homestead restored ruins, very interesting. 


Passed cyclists, stopped to chat as we were in awe the hard conditions they were riding in (with Land Rover aircon pumping out at chilly 16 degrees in 32 degree day).  Visited Laura (new one) with 2 fuel and stores an airstrip and thats about it, and New Laura ranger station.  Witnessed smoldering bush fires on roadside, dead cow - had exploded after bloating in the heat and smelt...bad.  Visited Split Rock Aboriginal rock art, first we have seen and spectacular too, some figures over 2 metres tall.  Colour a little faded, yet still clear. 


Obtained fuel and water from Laura roadhouse and continued North.

Next stop 6 Mile Waterhole.  First waterhole seen, very impressed, similar to African waterholes as seen on Attenborough's shows, without lions, but with crocs (none seen, yet).  "Magnificent birdlife" (quoted as this is Em's quote, not mine!). 


Witnessed feral pig's decapitated head placed on pole at next waterhole, probably the work of local Queenslanders. 


Some small creek crossings on way through National Park.  Most puzzling working out QPWS reservation system for campsites; write your name on whiteboard, then drive for 1 hour to campsite to find someone (who has not written name on whiteboard) is in pitch.  Good job we didnt pay first.  Kalpowar Crossing campsite busy, but pleasant enough.  Cold shower at end of hot (33), dusty day.  Drank some rum.  Went to bed.

Day 3: Early start.  Crossed Causeway - recent 5 metre croc sighting signs observed.  Took 4wd track to Bathurst Heads between Cape Melville and Lakefield NP's.  One log bridge crossing.


Very interesting drive through typical Cape country - anthills, woodlands, saline mud flats.  Made it to end where rivers and creeks spill out to wide waters of Princess Charlotte Bay.  Gypsy looking campsites at end of road.  Local traffic with dirty, sweaty, lean, rough looking chaps in utes with angry dogs drooling and barking aggressively at us as they pass.  Took a spot of lunch at a bush camp site by side of Normanby River.  Within 10 minutes saw croc swimming upstream (so definitely was not a log) about 50 feet from us.  Quite scared.  Debated benefits of camping there.  Decided to stay, but camp well back from river.  Walked out the required 50 metres which apparently crocs abide by not to attack humans.  Whilst about to make camp witnessed one said local ute vehicle drive past, pull up for short period and then drive away.  At first considered non-suspicious, however following "whoosh" sound and witnessing 3 metre high flames about 500 metres from us, again debated benefits of making camp there.  Hastily decided "let's get the hell out of here, quick!" packed belongings and drove carefully through many small and some larger bush fires - I suspect some started deliberately.  Luckily wind was carrying them away from road, otherwise we may have been stuck.  Not a funny thought I guarantee you.  Local Queenslanders out for a bit of a laugh peut-etre?  Bored pyromaniac idiots.



Returned to relative safety of Lakefield NP.....Attempted to report deliberately lit fires to Ranger, unable to find them at base.  Made camp well South of fires.  However endured terrifying night due to thoughts of fire encroaching on us and crocs in nearby rivers.  Almost stood on snake when walking to car in dark.  Screamed and danced like a girl, snake crawled away.  Identified as "Keelback" or freshwater snake - eats frogs and lives near rivers and woodlands.  Non-venomous.  Very long, hot day and night today.  Drank some rum.  Went to bed.  Suffered with lack of sleep due to frogs throwing themselves at tent and generally scared of everything.

Day 4: Next day packed up camp, onwards to Red Lily Lagoon (as opposed to White Lily Lagoon just down road).  Very pleasant lookout.  When returning to car, found ourselves to be trapped by another snake.  This snake longer, yellow underbody, black head and upper body.  Said snake would not leave us alon even after I bashed around with a flip flop (I was not wearing any shoes cleverly) and screamed at it to go away.  Eventually snake appeared bored and departed.  Identified to be Common Tree Snake.  Non-venomous.  Scary, but funny experience.  In some ways glad nobody else was around, but in others wish they were there to help. 


Caught a small Mangrove Jack (fish), too small to keep so threw him back.  Apparently >35cm are highly sought after eating fish.  Made camp at Hann Crossing, very pleasant outlook over river.  Saw Paul & Emily after their own adventure to Cape Melville NP.  Swapped stories.  Drank some rum. Went to bed.

Day 5: Left Lakefield park via interesting, but desolate and dry looking Nifold Plains, scenery constantly changing.  Ant hills abundant.  Bulldust patches on road.


Hot shower ($3) at Musgrave Roadhouse.  Drove long drive to Port Stewart, not much to report.  Aboriginal fishing community, camp sites and boat launch ramp.  Feral dogs running around wild in a pack on road.  Drove onto Coen.  Obtained fuel ($2.10 per litre - most expensive yet), onions, apples and potatoes.  Coen %80 Aboriginal/Islander ethnicity.  Appeared poor.  Has two fuel stations (2 bowsers each) a pub and two general stores.  Considered capital of the Cape.  Can't understand why.  Camped at very peaceful spot "the Bend" North of Coen.  Met pleasant family - John, Vaughan and Sheryl - from Melbourne.  John was a bricklayer at a factory two buildings down from Philip Morris in Moorabbin.  Small world.  Had fire.  Drank some rum and wine.  Went to bed.

Day 6: Drove to Archer River Roadhouse.  Obtained bread and milk ($9).  Run by Brits.  Took very long road to Chili Beach.  Made camp on windy, rubbishy (supposedly tides wash rubbish from Indonesia/PNG to beaches at this time of year) Chili Beach in Ironbark NP.


Car by this stage very dirty with red clay like mud: 


1 comment:

technobritish12 said...