Friday, July 25, 2003

Cape York 2003

Dates: July to July 2003

After a false start due to me leaving my wallet at work I finally managed to track someone down to let me in to get it, I finally hit the road northward from the Gold Coast and spent the first night near Mackay, next day I visited Josephine falls before camping at Gordonvale on the banks of the river.

Light rain and high humidity made it too uncomfortable to cover myself with the swag so I made a temporary tent over my bed on the roofrack with a tarp which I improved on next morning, saved a lot of waiting around for things to dry out over the next couple of weeks.

-Monday morning I stocked up and headed for the Creb track but rain soon changed my plans and I headed over the ferry for the cape tribulation road with my only stop [and the rains only stop] being the magnificent Bloomfield falls, the piles of splintered wood down stream from the falls gives a good indication of the power of these falls, I would hate to see what it would do to a human !!

I next headed in to a place south of Cooktown called Trevethan falls [S 15.39.367′ E 145.17.508′], a little known or visited spot off the Mt Amos road, truly a magic little area on private property which hopefully will stay remarkably clean.

There is a few spectacular falls and terrific views over the valley, also a rope swing into the large pool at the base of the falls, sadly here’s no camping here so I made camp back near the main cooktown road but very strong winds had the truck rocking like a ten foot tinnie full of drunken fishermen !

After a last meat pie in cooktown I headed towards Cape Melville via Starke homestead, it looks like the homestead is in use again.

The track deteriorates badly after the homestead even though it had been improved not long ago, I followed the track until S 14.49.090′ E 145.00.949 where I took the right hand track for a few kilometers to the mouth of the Starke River, lots of camping along the beach but at low tide it was all mudflats so I headed back to the main track and kept going to the campsites on the north side of the Starke river, the river did not look very inviting as it was a bright orange colour.

There is a rubbish dump past the little hut so the area was very clean.

Next morning I headed north again and took the right hand track [S 14.48.910 E 144.57.669] to see where it led, just after the turn off I went straight through a crossroad and turned right through the fence line and followed the track for 8.7 kms to the river crossing and after crossing I continued on until the beach at 13.6kms then followed the track north to a couple of huts overlooking the beach.

[S 14.43.893 E 144.57.102]

After lunch I backtracked to the main track again and continued on past the big shed and down the old landing strip to the Jeanie River.

The crossing was dry as there was no water at all in the river so I continued on to Wakooka outstation [S 14.32.305 E 144.32.740] and camped there, the old hut has been fixed up by some bull catchers and is now in pretty good nick.

An old aboriginal fella who lives at the other end of the old airstrip came up for a chat and said it was ok for me to camp there, turns out he used to work for Beaudesert shire council [near home] until his mum got sick and he moved back up here.

There is an old tractor and a newly wrecked purple FJ40 in the shed to have a look at and there is dingoes howling through the night to give the place that eirie feeling.

The old fella had told me about an old track to the beach so next morning I headed north for a couple of kms to a right hand track at S 14.30.391 E 144.33.310] then took the next right [you can see a new house being built to the left] and followed a river for a while until the track crosses the river at

S 14.28.484 E 144.35.536 [the track that continues straight ahead comes to a dead end] and then followed the track on the other side of the river to a left hand turn [left leads to a mangrove beach] and followed the overgrown right hand track until the beach is reached. I followed the beach south for another km to a nice little campsite [S 14.30.776 E 144.39.776] on the north side of a protective headland, a faint track goes south to pass behind the headland to the beach. Could this be cape Bowen ?

After lunch I back tracked the 17 kms to the main track and headed north again until the turn off to Ninian Bay [S 14.22.502 E 144.30.721] The track has been rerouted and cleared and I could sit on 30 to 40 kmh for the 3/4 hour 19 kms to Ninian bay, a far cry from the 8 hour battle we had back in 1999.

Seems a pity as it was a real acheivement to get there back then.

The open air shed is still in good nick so as I had the place to myself I set up camp there instead of under one of the many shady trees on the beach, light rain also might have had a hand in my descision to camp there.

There is a track behind the shed which leads to a fresh water swamp inhabited by crocs and is a scary spot to get some water for washing etc.

The next morning I wandered down to the beach for a feed of fresh oysters for breakfast before checking the crab pot, three small crabs were soon thrown back and I had a go at fishing with no luck.

I made a few repairs to the shower shed and the dunny and had a another go at fishing that after noon but lost all my lures to the rocks at the northern end of the beach.

After a couple of days of blissfull isolation I reluctantly packed up and headed back to the main track and turned right for cape Melville and had a bit of fun in the thick sand and bulldust on the track north, When I got to the beach I took the right hand track and headed to the base of the rocky mountain to fill up with clean fresh water [S 14.15.412 E 144.27.658].

I headed down stream to the crossing and crossed over the creek and followed the beach east for a few kms past the wreck of an old WW2 aero cobra

[S 14.12.412 E 144.28.543] to the turn off at the old “cape melville national park”sign and turned inland and followed the overgrown track to the monument [S 14.11.608 E 144.29.228] to some of the people who lost there lives in a big cyclone up there.

I then continued up the beach a short distance and climbed the boulders along the shore line to the cape. A tour mob joined me for a bit of exploreing around the cape so when I set up camp that night not far from them to the west of where the cape Melville track meets the beach, I joined them around their campfire for a chat. they seemed a happy lot and had all been on previous trips with tony their tour leader so that is a pretty good recommendation for him, I wish I had written the company name down as most tour groups I talked to up the cape were complaining of being rushed.

The wind was really strong that night and the gusts kept waking me up but at least it kept the mossies away.

On the way to Wakooka next morning I misread a high speed creek crossing and drove over a big drop off that used to be the track and nearly pulled the shocker nuts through the shocker washers so when I got back to Wakooka I attempted to remove them to make repairs, naturally I snapped the pin mount off the right shocker…doh !!

I removed the shocker and drove on and as it drove pretty good, [ except for dips] when I got to the bathurst heads road I turned right to explore this area.

On the way I had a look at some old bores and and some old outstations which was quite interesting, the track was generally very good considering it had no maintenance for a long long time.

Near bathurst heads I took a track to the right which climbed the hill and followed the rocky track around the ridgeline and found an abandoned mining camp complete with airconditioned rooms, coolroom, freezer room and commercial kitchen.

It has been heavily vandalised but a couple of the rooms could be fixed up easily if you needed a room to stay in bad weather, one of the flushing dunnys still works if you bring your own bucket of water.

There is a campsite on the beach but someone had left a large queenfish to rot and croc tracks nearby made me think twice about staying there, on the rocky point to the west there is oysters to eat and above the camp is a lookout with a great view of the surrounding islands.

There was Wolfram mining on one of the islands so maybe this camp had something to do with that but by the date on the gas bottles it hasn’t been used since the mid 70’s.

I checked out another track to a small beach where the fishermen camped there told me they hadn’t had a bite for a week, I decided to backtrack to the main track and headed to bathurst heads to set up camp on the low dune along the waterfront, lots of campers out here so the shady spots were taken, I should have stayed at the mining camp as it rained all night and my bedding got wet.

Next morning I headed back down the track towards Kalpower , funnily enough, a couple of hundred metres from the beach it hadn’t rained at all, I think someone has put a jinx on me :>)

I made good time back to Kalpower where I crossed the dry causeway and a couple of km’s later turned right for Musgrave and followed the track past the ranger station.

There is a lot of good camping sites around some of the river crossings along here but I kept going to musgrave and filled up with 137 litres for the 770 km trip from cooktown.

The road north had recently been graded so it was a good run to Coen where I had the stud welded back on to the shock then set up camp just north of coen and refitted the repaired shock and replaced the bushes on the other front shock at the same time.

I talked to a tour group leader who told me that one of his customers had fitted new shocks to his jackaroo before he left home and they had all lost their oil, he was not impressed and had not bought along his perfectly good factory ones for spares.

It was a pleasant spot to camp on the pure white sand alongside the clear waters of the Coen river and I noticed that the CDMA phone works here so I checked in my progress with the missus so she wouldn’t send out the search parties.

As it was tuesday and I had been remote camping for over a week I decided to head to Weipa to restock and as the frequent light rain was annoying me I made up a roll out awning and fixed up all the holes in the mossie net as they were getting in and draining me dry.

Wednesday dawned overcast yet again so with everything restocked and repaired I headed through Batavia Downs to the OTL road and turned left towards the top, I had lunch at the wenlock bridge [not much room for camping here anymore] and not long after I turned left on to the OTL track, there is new building work going on on the corner but I have no idea what is being constructed here.

There is a new crossing at palm creek 3 km up the track so its very easy now as it has been dug out level but has a steep muddy exit, I had a look at the old crossing on the way back and its over my knees in thick mud on the south bank and would probably be impossible to get through even going down hill, I even had trouble trying to wade my way through on foot !! There is a nice but small campsite on the northern side with a big shady tree and a grassy area around it.

Another 3 km brought me to ducie creek which crosses the creek on a big sweeping corner, its about a metre deep in the middle but you could keep to the edges if the depth bothers you.

The exit had some big diagonal holes in it and when I came back a couple of weeks later one of the tour mobs had dug out a new track so they could get their troopy up, they had quite a few camps set up here.

4.5 kms later I crossed south alice creek [easy] and 7.5 kms later I dropped over the ledge at north alice creek, there is a track to the left which avoids the ledge.

11 kms later, just before the delhunty river, the left front shock broke but as I was going slow I managed to find all the bits and limped in to the campsites before having a swim and then had my first try at welding using the dual batteries and 2mm welding rods, worked really well and didn’t take long to repair the shock, its a nice spot to camp so I set up and then went for a soak in one of the holes in the shallow crossing just above the waterfall.

There is a couple of extreme exits on the north bank if you want a challenge but with both front shocks now welded up I gave it a miss next morning and took the easy track to the right.

Bertie creek was only 1.4 kms away and the bed of the creek is basically a giant rock slab with very deep holes in it, carefully picking a route across I then made my way another 1.8 kms to the heathlands turn off where I turned left and entered a muddy section before Cholmondeley creek, the creek itself was a little deep if you avoided the mid stream rock by keeping hard left.

11.5 kms later I approached a back log of vehicles waiting for their turn at Gunshot creek, there is really only one track passable apart from the two old vertical entrys, I had a look at the original entry but it didn’t look wide enough even though a know a couple of GU patrols had gone down it last year, I decided to drive in from the bottom and check the width so I took the easy track cut into the side of the bank to the bottom, I only got about a metre from the face before the siderails jammed between the side banks so if I had of gone down I would have been in trouble, with a bit of effort I managed to reverse out and continued on the 9.5kms to Cockatoo creek, there is several track on the approach which skirt muddy sections and I weaved my way through them to the crossing and joined the line up while a couple of cars crossed from the other direction.

Our turn came and we took a nearly straight line across, its pretty bumpy, about 500mm deep and there was a crowd of bus passengers watching and taking photos.

The crossing of sailor creek is now a couple of pipes covered with dirt and you hardly notice its there, then not long after you join up with the southern bypass track for about 9kms until the OTL track veers off on the right with the right turn to Fruit bat falls straight after, there was a couple of tour groups having lunch in the carpark and not much room left so after visiting the falls I headed back up to the OTL track and turned right for the 5km trip to the 600mm deep creek crossing of scrubby creek , there was a track up the very steep bank on the left which I had a play at before remembering about my front shocks and took the straight way across and then turned right 0.7 kms later to the camping area at Eliot falls.

I had the whole place to my self but picked a small site not far from the track down to the water and set up camp for a couple of days, it wasn’t long before I was down at eliot falls for some photo taking of the waterfall and then carefully slid under the overhang for a look, Be warned, there is a large hole at the top of the overhang and the force of the water would trap you under water if you slipped in, the hole come out under water at the bottom of the falls but is not large enough to get through, I have previously tried it from the bottom but it is only about a foot in diameter and the force of the water coming through is like a giant fire hose.

Its a weird sensation being under the overhang with the water cascading down in front of you.

i walked over to twin falls and had a nice massage under the waterfall there, the water temp is a couple of degrees warmer in Canal creek so a spent most of the afternoon in the water, had nothing to do with those swedish backpackers being there, honest!!

The next day a explored some of the surrounding tracks on foot and while checking out some pitcher plants I was attacked by some wasps, it was like getting shot with a slug gun.

Back at camp I met up with some guys off the nissan mailing list who recognised my truck.

Saturday morning I headed off again and took the downstream track which was a bit of fun, especially the bogs and holes up near the top.

Sam, Mistake and Cannibal creeks where all steep and rough with lots of diagonal holes and shallow water then it was on to the dodgey log bridge at cypress creek.

It started getting boggy around Logan creek and the road had washed away at one spot which had one of my wheels only half on the track.

I stopped at Nolans brook to check out the crossing and watched in amusement as a couple of bikers drowned their bikes in the metre deep water.

I crossed with no problems and followed the track towards the old jardine vehicle crossing, it got very boggy through the swamps but I stuck to the middle and found good traction there.

the jardine crossing was very deep so after lunch I drove to the OTL line crossing point where I managed to disturb another wasps nest and copped several bad bites, a big lump of wood fixed their little red wagon!

I backtracked a bit and then headed out to Vrilya point, while crossing crystal creek a rear tyre slipped between the logs and I had to add some small logs to get the tyre back on top of the main logs.

I explored most of the tracks to the south and after I set up camp near the creek outlet I spotted a small croc in the mangroves so I took off after it but could not catch sight of it again, I kept a special eye out for its mother and was glad to not spot her,

I did manage to see another magnificent sunset though.

The overnight dew was extreme and it took until 11 am to dry everthing out before I could head up to the jardine ferry to fill up with diesel.

I turned south and drove back to the OTL track for some more fun, its slightly harder this way as the exits are steeper but just before canal creek the right hand shock broke again so I set up camp upstream from the linesmans hut beside another set of falls and welded it back together again.

Its a nice spot for a couple of camps.

The next morning I followed an extremely slow troopy who seemed to be very worried about every side slope, I drove south down the OTL to heathlands and then back north again and passed him at the captain billy turn off, it is going to be a long trip for him and he misses out on the best bits.

When I got to captain billy’s landing I camped with a group of rangers who were designing the new camp ground there, sadly the old shed will be removed and all the memorabilia with it but I hope I have talked them into putting at least a couple of sides on the new shelter to help protect from the frequent bad weather there !

The rangers told me about the croc tracks from a fourteen footer they had seen so after a quick explore of the bat caves I walked down the beach further south to check them out, I found only some small tracks at king billy creek and walked on to the next creek but all I got for my trouble was sunburn, I did get a feed of oysters but all that did was make me thirsty and my water bottle soon ran out so I was stuffed by the time I got back and had a pretty early night.

The next morning I headed back to the gunshot crossing and headed south until about 2 1/2 kms north of the heathlands turn off [S 11.47.763

E 142.29.643] and took a westerly track to see where it went.

The track had a lot of fallen trees on it and it took a few hours to go the 68 kms until I came across the

“haul road” for the Skardon river mine…NO ACCESS.

I had no choice but to turn around and head back the way I had come even though Weipa was not too far south!

Once back on the OTL track I headed south until the Delhunty river where I met fellow club member Terry, we were standing in the middle of the river having a chat when I noticed a snake swimming around our feet checking out all the nooks and crannys in the calf deep water, apparently a water python but I was not too pleased to be standing there although it took no notice of my trembling legs !!

It was my fathers birthday so I kept going to Weipa and finally got there about 9 pm to give him a phone call, it was also good to get some real milk instead of the powdered muck I was down to.

Wednesday morning I stocked and fueled up as I was intending to try and find a way into temple bay but after only 50 kms of good dirt road both front shocks broke the pins off and I lost the pins, washers and bushes.

I bounced continuously back to weipa and bought some high tensile bolts and welded those to the shocks and with some spare bushes fitted I was on my way again but decided to start heading south towards home and broke another shocker pin before Archer river,that was the sixth time and I was getting pretty good at repairing them so the other campers near where I set up looked on in wonder as I quickly whipped out the shock,welded it up and refitted it while my billy boiled.

I headed south again next morning and had a straightforward run down to Lakelands where I turned left towards cooktown and then right on to the daintree road and finally right on to the Creb track. [S 15.56.171 E 145.19.477].

There is no signs warning you that you will need permission to drive this track and when I got to the roaring meg falls turn off I found a sign saying I needed a permit [QNPWS atherton 0740911844 or FAX 0740913281] to visit the falls as well as permission from the Burungu corporation 0740603103 or 0740608155.the sign also states that there is no camping allowed anywhere along the creb track so as it was now dark I was forced to do a night drive [woohoo] to complete the track.

The track hadn’t seen rain for over a week but there were several boggy sections at the bottom of gullys and the very heavy dew had turned the clay hillclimbs into skating rinks and I spent more time sideways than straight,what a ball.

The creek crossings were done blind as the lights bounced straight off the water and I couldn’t see what I was driving over or how deep it was, I made it through o.k. and continued on to cairns to camp.

With only an overnight stop at Calliope river I had a pretty boring run back to home on the Gold Coast.

Cape York is still a great place to holiday but gets easier every year and its getting harder to find remote places to go to get away from the crowds