Saturday, 12 July 2008

From Cairns to the beginning of the Cape York Peninsula

Cape York is somewhere I seriously never thought I would be writing a blog entry from about 3 years ago.  In fact I don't even think I had heard of it!  I had certainly heard of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory and knew what an amazing place it must be, cut off in the wet season and with such abundant bird and animal life.  But Cape York, as I have since found out from reading so much about it in 4wd magazines and talking to people here in Australia, is equally as beautiful, varied, remote and considered (only just by now I would have thought) to be Australia's last remaining wild and frontier-like place.

I'll rewind 2 weeks first; me and Em had been to Cairns before (flying there from Alice Springs after the Subaru breakdown incident on the Oodnadatta Track in June last year) so knew what to expect.  We approached it from the North via Mareeba - a dusty rodeo ****hole of a town with the most unpleasant and aggressive caravan park owner who threatened me & Em for driving onto his "Private Property" and for speeding through his campsite...."duh - its a campsite you pratt, we drive in for a look before we set up in case lunatics like you own the place!  And we werent going faster than walking pace so wouldnt run down any of your inbred children anyway!"  These things spring to mind as you are driving away rather than when he is leaning in through the window though.  So, a very unpleasant experience that we will remember forever I am sure. 

Also on the way in is Kuranda, a touristy little town up in the rainforesty-mountain area outside of Cairns, a bit of a hippy feel to it, but more commercial than Nimbin (and no Moomins Mum!) where we also had been before and bought locally made honey from the Honey Shop.  I bought some more, avocado flavour this time....delicious.  We got to know Cairns itself a bit better, and quite like it.  But it's quite small and there probably aren't many IT job opportunities there for either of us, maybe in 10 years time.  A visit to the QPWS office was rewarding as we came away with some local info and a great pack with everything we needed to know inside, including a little coloured booklet to identify all the animals we would come across - this was to come in very handy, especially for snakes.

We bought some stuff for the Cape York trip - extra water containers, we now carry 42 litres exactly.  We bought two new soft eskys (cool bags for us Brits) to carry the additional food we needed.  Em skilfully covered all the rear windows of the boot with sunshade foil to help keep the fridge and food stuff a bit cooler in the hot days up North.

Then we went food shopping.....basically there is very little in the way of shops in the Cape, and what there is is around 3-4 times as expensive!  So we decided to shop for 1 month and fit it all in the car.  This included tins of every sort.  Wraps (they keep forever unopened), chocolate, UHT milk, pasta, etc. etc.  However, the most exciting part was getting the meat which we can keep in our portable 12V fridge.....Paul & Emily found a butcher who was helpful and could "cryovac" the meat for us.  This is basically vacuum packing it and taking out the oxygen to keep it fresh for longer.  He also froze it for us so it should keep for weeks in our fridge now, we got 8 lamb steaks, 4 beef rump steaks, 8 sausages and 2x 500g beef mince and it fits in the fridge absolutely perfect - all for $75 (about 35 quid)!!!  Exciting huh?

When we were all set for supplies we agreed to meet the others in Cooktown in a few days, me & Em visited Mossman Gorge, as we didn't do it last time we here, stopped in at Port Douglas to collect our post and some wheel nuts for the car (to replace the crap locking wheel nuts), then drove through Daintree National Park - which was raining, just like it was last time we saw it! - got the ferry over the Daintree River, then came across a fast flowing creek where all the day trippers from Cairns in their hire cars were turning around as they couldn't make it through the water!  We felt rather superior in our Land Rover driving past them and cruising through the creek with no problem!  The water was flowing fast and was a good half a metre deep because of the rain, but this was the first of many, even on this stretch of tarmac'd road!



As we came out of Daintree NP the road turns into a muddy, steep track called the Bloomfield Track.  This is about 150kms North through to Cooktown.  It had been raining for about 2 days when we did it, so was treacherous in places, a lot of 1st and 2nd gear for both up and down hills.  And some creek crossings again because of the rain.  All went ok though and we had our first night camping on the Cape York Peninsula proper at a place called the Lions Den Hotel in Helenvale....

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