19th July, Loyalty Beach, Seisia, Cape York approx 100 kms
It is extremely humid up here with no let up at night, needless to say we are not sleeping well. Today we took a cut lunch and headed for Somerset Beach and homestead ruin. The beach was beautiful, you can camp there- tent only as last 4 or 5 kms very rugged with river crossing and very narrow. The trip up to Somerset beach was perhap one of the highlights although only about 20kms from our CP we travelled on a dirt road with the most magnificent rainforest, the shades of green, browns, greys of trees, twisting vines, palms of all kind tree ferns and sun filtering through after some rain overnight against the red of the road was pure magic. From Somerset Beach we travelled further on to "The Tip" scrambled over rocks for the obligatory Photo Shoot and then we scrambled down more rocks to the beach with the whitest sand. From there we journeyed back to the famous Croc Tent basically they sell souvenirs and the only people with some sort of a decent map of Cape York. Our last port of call was Pusand Bay, quite a nice spot with a CP in a rainforest setting. Bill has not tried fishing as there are warnings everywhere about crocodiles frequenting the beaches we have yet to see one.Today we saw a Wallaby and many Bush Turkeys, not so many other birds though which we think a little surprising.
20th July, Saturday, Visit to Thursday Island and Horn Island
Down at the Seisia Wharf at 7.45 for an 8.00am ferry ride to Thursday Island (TI to the locals). The morning looked bleak, drizzling rain, very overcast still hot and humid. Ferry was full mostly with tourists. Now you are probably not aware as we were not Australia is the largest island in Torres Strait or that is how the locals like to tell it. The trip of.1.5 hours was largely uneventful because of rain we were unable to see very far and most of the out lying islands were obscured, however Red island is named because of the red hue at sunset, quite small and as far as we are aware no one lives on it. POW island has nothing to do with prisoners or war Captain Cooke named it for the Prince of Wales there are about 600 living on this island mostly indigenous. All the days of the week are represented and are largely small islands. During our crossing the sea remained the most beautifual Aqua Blue no signs of pollution here.
We were met at the wharf by our tour guide taken to a lookout that overlooked TI and many of the nearby islands this point is also significant with WW2 as it was where there were gun posts and look outs . At this site there is now a museum about WW2 and the other significant industry in years gone by Pearling. The pearling history is very similar to that of Broome. A short drive around to the TI cemetry has a large monument to 700 Japanese Pearl Divers who lost their lives during the late 1800's through to the 1960's when the industry died due to plastic buttons being available. TI has a population of about 4000 mostly employed by athe Federal Government in security rolls and service rolls for 19 islands of Torres Strait. TI has the hospital that services the area with 10 doctors and 40 nurses, the only High School for the islands, so after year 7 children come from the out lying islands and board for the rest of their education or they may go to a private school in Cairns or Brisbane. The hotel resort on TI is booked out 12 months in advance, I guess by govt people as I can't imagine what a tourist may do here, no ocean swimming, no fishing except in a boat - you guessed right crocodiles. Like the West Coast housing is expensive, rent $700 to $800per week, your basic home 750,000 to 1 million if you live on the hill. After leaving TI our next ferry took us to Horn Island named by Jimmy Cook for the rocky out crop on the hill. HI is actually larger than TI area wise and boasts a population of 800, an airport that services all the islands with around1300 flights in and out of it per month, it also has the only dam for water storage and this piped to TI and Hammond Island. Horn Island was a strategic base for Aust during WW2 as the Japanese realised if they had any one of these islands is was a short hop to conquer the mainland. It would appear some 5000 men and women including Torres Strait Islanders served on this island from 1942, needless to say there is quite a bit of memorabilia around as well, lookouts, gun posts, split trenches, fuel cans a crashed plain etc. Vanessa SeeKee an Australian lass probably in her late 30's has received an AOM for the work done in trying to get the islanders recognized and pensions for their WW2 efforts, she has also set up a museum about WW2 and the pearling industry. Horn Island was also our lunch stop over, served at the only hotel on the island. Back to the ferry at TI for return trip to Seisia a quick look at the handcraft shop they mostly had jewellry and shell wind chimes for sale. Whilst on Horn Island we had purchased fresh prawns we had to cook them and then my job is to peel them, that was tea. Not as good as the first lot we bought these were smaller more like big shrimp, tasty none the less.
As we are leaving tomorrow we decided on a little packing up, we want an early start.
21st July, Sunday Loyalty Beach to Creek Crossing free camp 200kms
Here endeth our trip to Cape York. We left Loyalty Beach around 8.30 to catch the ferry at Jardine River.
We first called at supermarket for bread, there will be no bread or shops only road houses for the next 500kms at Coen. Crossed the ferry with no hassles and maneuvered the horrendous corrugations for next 30kms. Arriving at the Old telegraph road, we decided to visit and have lunch and swim at Fruit Bat Falls, now Bill and I are not swimmers but we did enjoy the refreshing dip and our prawn sandwiches and a coffee. There were about 30 people and a dozen vehicles all doing the same thing. At this point I must say that we did not travel the old telegraph road either way we used the Northern and the Southern bypass roads, this routes is further kms but quicker and no river crossings but rough gravel roads, but as the OTL is strictly 4WD not advisable for campers and caravans with lots of river crossings and steep entrances and exits. We continued our journey and stopped at Spear Creek Crossing (now in Wiki Camps)in a side road and had a campfire the 1st for more than a week. We did not need the fire for warmth just effect. Tea a shower and bed around 8.30.
22nd July, Monday. Spear Creek Crossing (near Bramwell Junction) to The Bend Camp Site Coen
Bill tricked me telling me it was 8.15 when it was only 7.15, so we were again on our way early.
The terrain has not changed maybe a little drier -no rain and road still rough in parts. The scenery still interesting and changeable. At Bramwell Junction we fuelled up and a toilet stop and continued on our way. Around 2.00 we stopped at the quarantine station and opening the door horror or horrors the glass cover on the hotplates had shattered and glass everywhere. Being only 20 kms from our overnight stop we continued on and after selecting our spot right on the river bank the clean up began. 2 hours later I think it was all cleaned up, a drawer that had jammed itself with glass in the runners had been unjammed, runner removed and replaced. The glass had got into everything, Bill says we will be finding it for months to come. Now that cover would have covered almost 10,000km of gravel and corrugated roads why now! GRRRRR. The microwave had slipped again so Bill did some more repairs so it will not slip again. A phone call to the family tonight as Zoe had started her new school today and we had been out of range since leaving the top.
23rd July, Tuesday, Coen Bend Camp Site to Laura 200kms
Camp site was almost empty when we left at 9.00. The night had been a little cooler we slept better, with a blanket on early in the morning. A call at Coen for fuel, I noticed a market well a sort of market, 1 Indian style clothing stall, 1 lady cutting hair for $3.00 to $7.00 and someone selling some sort of food. Nothing of interest to me so we headed off. The road was as on the way up road works still in progress although one lot of people were missing and their sight appeared locked ip maybe gone for a long weekend or whatever. We called at Musgrave Roadhouse for a look, there is verylittle to see at most roadhouses other than check out the price of fuel. Musgrave RH was particularly neat and green. Arriving in Laura early, we visited the Quinkan Cultural Centre, the Quinkan people are made up of about 5 different tribes from this area and their famous in this area for their rock art and dancing. It was late so we stayed , in the Laura CP for then night
24th July, Wednesday, Laura CP to Horseshoe Lagoon (Between Laura and Cooktown) app 50kms
We are travelling to Cooktown via a back road, gravel again. First stop was old Laura Station about 40kms from Laura. Laura Station was purchased in 1890's for £8/15/- for 50 square miles, and continued in supplying meat to the minefields up this way until the 1960's. The National Trust own it now, there is the original homestead and 4 other buildings all in quite good condition. The meat room had the most enormous tree trunk I have ever seen, used as butchers block. Travelling east we decided to take a look at a couple of camp spots along the way the first one was Horseshoe Lagoon, it was just beautiful, so at 11.00am decided this would be our camp spot tonight. We were the only ones there so had the opportunity to pick the best spot. The lagoon was almost covered in water lillies and the bird life was plentiful again warnings of crocodiles so no fishing. During the afternoon we went for a drive to another camp spot and drove the most amazing palm valley the palms so tall and their leaves up to two metres wide, huge. At this waterhole campsite there was only one spot you camp and that was taken. We were just about to leave the area and I spotted our 1st crocdile for the trip, lazing in the sun on a log in the middle of the river about 4metres long Bill thought. Back at camp I cleaned the fridge Bill checked out the Engel battery and we generally enjoyed our beautiful surrounds and watching the birds. Two other campers arrived so as we had a camp fire we invited them to join for us the evening, 3 people were from Proserpine and a lone cyclist from Newcastle and all were heading for The Tip of Cape York.
25th July, Thursday, Horseshoe Lagoon to Cooktown 95 kms
The lone cyclist had asked if we had any spare drinking water and as he was leaving around 7.00 am.Bill got up to make sure he had it and made him some toast for breakfast, needless to say I was awake also but I didn't get up until 7.30. Crossing 2 small river crossings with water we were into Cooktown around 11.00am. Finding a nice Bush type CP we set up camp and headed for the laundromat, supermarket, and to post Zoe's scarf I have been knitting. All the jobs done we headed for Grassy Hill Lookout, which has the best views of Cooktown, but the wind nearly blew us off the lookout, so we retreated to the Captain Cook Museum. Captain Cook spent quite a bit of time here in 1770 when he ran aground and came into the harbour for repairs, the Chinese have also played a major part in the history of this area. Cooktown is a pretty town with some lovely buildings that have character. The CP here is a working farm and amongst whatever else they do the grow passion fruit, I bought a bag of 11 for $5 they are huge and so sweet really delicious. Tomorrow we will have another look around these parts. Apart from wind in these parts it rajned over night just tomakeourcar and caravan look worse than they already were.
26thJuly, Friday, Cooktown.
We were on our way to start the day before 9.ooam. First stop was the "I" centre, this proved a little more difficult to find. There was so much to looks at a Chris Tanner displayof all sort of creepy things. Chris was a well known herpetologist in these parts and specialised in snakes and milking them for their venom. Next was the art collection, by a lady who had painted nearly all the plants of Northern Queensland that Joseph Banks painted when he was in these parts for 7 weeks in 1770. Displayed beside each painting was the repro. print of Joseph Banks-excellent was my verdict. On display and for sale were water colour paintings of fungi from the rain forest, I can't remember the artists name but they were beautiful. Whilst in the same area we walked the Botanic Gardens created in 1878, Bill and I think it was partly tstop the Chinese creating Market gardens everywhere. Lots of interesting trees, palms and other plants. In the , late 1800's if you contributed money to the gardens it entitled you to a bunch of flowers each week. Well now wouldn't that be a nice idea today. Leaving the gardens behind we intended to look at a cannon from the late 1770's but road works were in progress and a construction site so no go. We purchased another kilo of fresh COOKE Prawns and headed out to Archer Point around 20kms from Cooktown on the road that takes you to Cairns. Another gravel road but the scenery at the point was stunning if we had been able to get out of the car to enjoy it. WIND gale force wind. On our return journey we stopped at a ridge over tbe Annnan River to checkoutthe fisherman, we now know were not catchinganything.Walking along this old wooden bridge with my tablet at the ready to take photos, I tripped and fell ending up with6 large splinters in one hand 3 smaller in the other hand. The largest one went through my right thumb and came out the other side about 1" long a kindly man came along and pulled it out, I wouldn't let Bill, he is to rough. That was the end of our sight seeing as I needed a doctor (from Geelong) to get all the splinters out, anisthetic in my hand, a tetnus injection, antibiotics and it was 4.00 so we headed back to camp. As I was a little handicapped we decided to do a bit of packing up to getan early start to head for the Daintree area. Photo is from Lookout Cooktown a particularly scenic town.
27th July, Saturday, Cooktown to Lync Haven CP in the Daintree Forest Area 286 kms
Rain again overnight. We left early 8.30am. The Endeavour River Escape CP was one of the nicest we have been in a bush setting , not on top of one another, very new clean facilities although no power or water and no dogs. We are self sufficient would prefer to "free camp" but up here not always possible. There was a produce market in Cooktown so we called ther for a look, passionfruit, peanuts, wood fired bread and bananas for $1.50 per kilo. Moving off heading towards Mossman and our destination the Daintree Rain Forest National Park. The scenery changed from rain forest to Sugar Cane. Arriving at the ferry around 3.00 we crossed for $23.00 for a return ticket. Immediately off the ferry we entered the rain forestand the climb and windy narrow roads. Bill did not enjoy the driving this road at the 1st CP although it was not our 1st choice we pulled into it any way. We could only get an unpowered sight but we could choose our own site. Chosing our own site proved to be interesting as all sites available were ankle deep in mud - unseasonal heavy rain over recent days. We thought we had chosen wisely until rain over night increased the mud rating and very slippery underfoot. Bill and I took a walk on one of the tracks around CP we could hear plenty of birds but only saw one scrub turkey. Back at camp prawns were again the evening meal, this time they were big, had been cooked and Bill helped me peel them as I still had bandaids on my splinter wounds. Tomorrow we head for a day in the Daintree Rain Forest.