We are now up to day six of our tour and our two groups are all getting along famously. We have been swapping positions in the car every day so no one can hog the best position. You’d think that would be the front passenger seat but when I was in front I found as I could see what was coming up on the road I tended to tense my body more and by the end of the day I was feeling pretty tender. To be fair all the seats were more comfortable than I had expected.
As we left Lockhart and headed towards Coen we traveled along part of the southern leg of the Old Telegraph Track, stopping at the Archer River roadhouse. There was a lot of roadworks there for the new bridge and road that’s going through. It’s expected to be another two years at least before completion.
While at the Archer River Roadhouse we got talking to a couple of motorbike riders who were part of a tag along group. One guy’s wife had also hoped to ride her own bike on the trip but she’d had an accident on the way up to Cairns from Sydney. She was now riding in the support truck with a broken ankle. How disappointed would she be? We were told their trip cost $3000 each rider for 7 days Cairns to the tip and back again. We were also told that they all needed to have brand new tyres fitted in Cairns before they left. They would have had more expenses and nowhere near as many inclusions to their trip as we had. It makes our trip of $6650 each look like really good value.
We get to Coen and after a quick tour of the town, the museum and the supermarket (there’s not much else to see) we check into the Homestead Guesthouse which is the oldest house on the Cape Peninsula. We were first allocated room 8 with single beds but then asked to move as two single guys had booked in. We were moved out of the house to room 9 out back. It had a queen bed so we were ok with that. Later while chatting with some workmen also staying at the guesthouse I was asked by one if I was in room 9. When I answered yes, he told me we had kicked him out of his room and he was now sleeping in a swag outside. Another guy slept on a lounge that night. They were both very good about being turfed out of their rooms and made jokes about the situation but I did feel bad for them, although I knew it wasn’t our fault the guesthouse was overbooked. For dinner that night we all shared pizzas from the Exchange Hotel, (renamed the SExchange Hotel as the S had been added to the sign by locals so many times over the years, the owners decided to leave it there.)
It’s in bedroom 5 in the guesthouse where the ghost of the old lady owner is said to haunt. She’s known to pull the covers up over the guests in the night. Ross and Sue spent the night in that room but disappointedly they said they didn’t experience any strange goings on overnight.
We had another early start with a 6.30 breakfast at the hotel the next morning, along with some of the 100+ tag along bikers we had seen at Archer River. They had all spent the night camped next door to us, behind the pub in their little KMart tents.
We leave Coen heading towards Cooktown, via the Running Creek track. We visit the Old Laura Homestead, reading the posters at the little museum. Again Darryl takes us off the usual tracks and shows us more lagoons and wildlife. We have been surprised that we haven’t seen much wildlife so far, crocs especially but Darryl insists they are out there and the mantra of the whole trip was “Don’t go near the water” If any of the group started to wander off he was on to them straight away to come back and stay as a group. We have driven through big cattle stations and along the way have seen Crocs, Jabiru, Brolga, Feral Cattle, Brumbies and Egrets. We’ve seen many old mango trees, flocks of Magpie Geese and evidence of where wild pigs have been with all the churned up land around the lagoons. We saw the most wildlife at the “Welcome Waterhole” wetlands and Darryl was always watching while driving, to catch a glimpse of something of interest. He would stop the car and reverse back so we could try to see what he had seen. Sometimes it would be a small bird on a high branch or a rare flower he’d seen a good distance away. He must have amazing eyesight.
Darryl was a great driver and not once did we doubt his abilities, even when he would take both hands off the steering wheel and drive with his knees while he stretched his back or showed us somewhere on the map. Admittedly he knew the roads well as he has spent many years travelling them, but even so we were able to relax and not stress. I can only imagine our own high stress levels had Chris and I attempted this trip on our own, not to mention the arguments! I also know we wouldn’t have seen half as much of this beautiful land.
Leaving the wetlands, we travel along Battle Camp Track to Cooktown. We check into the Cooktown Seaview Motel, a large long building with all the rooms facing the water. Here we again get to talk with some of the bikers group who are also staying at the motel. These guys are part of the support group. There was a young girl paramedic and an Irish male nurse, mechanics, lead and backup drivers and also general helpers/organisers. Apparently there was also a doctor making the trip as well which the support team considered a real bonus. It sounded like a well organised group.
We had dinner that night at the RSL and with the pick of the menu of a 3 course meal, we all enjoyed a great evening and beautiful food. Chris and I, along with Katrina, Federica and Charles stayed after the others left while we watched two committee members do the spin the wheel draw which was supposed to have happened earlier in the evening. We had bought a couple of tickets and wanted to see if we would win anything. We didn’t but considered the $10 spent good value for the entertainment of watching these two old boys taking their job so seriously.
The next morning we had breakfast at the restaurant opposite the RSL club and this was a full buffet style with lots of choices. There has been so much food on this trip that I’m sure we have all put on a couple of kilos.
After breakfast we went to the James Cook museum, previously known as St. Mary’s Convent and School. This used to be run by Irish nuns. We spent an hour in the museum and as we left one of the staff asked us to take note of the old stone wall outside the museum. It was the exact length of the ship the Endeavour, 100ft long. We wandered around town and the small market which was mainly selling fruit/veg and hot foods. Something that we definitely didn’t need. I did check out the Vinnies op shop though, just because I could!
Heading back to the trucks again we stopped at the Reconciliation Rock where Australia’s first recorded reconciliation with the aboriginal people happened. We then head off to the Botanical gardens where we wander around this beautiful place. Scattered around the gardens were benches to sit on and all made from different Australian woods. We saw some beautiful flowers in bloom but missed out on the Powerhouse museum as it was closed at the time.
We’re off again, now heading along the Bloomfield track and through Cedar Bay National Park towards the Daintree. We pass the huge “Black Mountain” so named as its made up of black volcanic rock. Our next stop is the Bloomfield Falls, knowing as Wujal Wujal in aboriginal language. Darryl explained that when the same word is repeated it means many. We walked over the rocks to see the waterfall and make out the shape of a man’s face at the top as the water rushes over. We stop for lunch at the iconic Lion’s Den Hotel in Rossville and I had the largest Caesar salad that I have ever seen and with the side extra of prawns, I struggled to finish it all. Laurence, who is always a big eater helped me out with the prawns. Then it was back into the trucks to drive around to the waterhole at the base of the falls for a quick swim. The water was much colder here making for a refreshing swim.
Now we are heading towards the Daintree and our next stop is Cape Tribulation.