Thursday - Monday July 1st - 5th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Due to the height of the east coast school holidays, previously booked 5 days at the only five-star caravan park; the Big 4 Coconut Resort in Cairns. Expensive at $140/5 days. Compared to our Mission Beach experience it was crowded, noisy and not very relaxing, so we met only a few people, mainly from Victoria. However the order of the days were interior car and clothes washing, preparing and buying our supplies for the upcoming 18 day Cape trip, fine tuning the Troopy, fulfilling prescriptions at the chemist, remedial massage, chiropractic and acupuncture for Christine and sorting out what to take. On top of this, it rained every other day. However we did enjoy Sunday lunch at Mondos, attached to the Cairns Hilton due to a combination of Malayan menu, sitting outside overlooking the inlet and reasonable price.
Tuesday July 6th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Off to Wonga Beach to stay at the Palm Resort, our starting and finishing point for the Cape trip. Unloaded the Troopy of all unnecessary stuff needed for the around Australia but not the Cape trip.
Wednesday July 7th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Headed south to Ellis Beach for the start of the 18 day tag-a-long, 4WD trip organized by Gabby and Dave of Aussie-Off-Road. Great group of people including June and Fay, Beth and Cheryl (two gay lady couples) Mike and Chris from New Zealand and Pete (Navy Lieutenant Commander-Retired) as tail-end Charlie in the convoy. Stopped at Port Douglas for some brief grocery and lunch shopping, enjoyed a rainforest walk at Mossman Gorge and crossed on the Daintree Ferry ($12/vehicle) onto Cape Kimberley for the first camp. This first, easy day allowed us to get to know one another. Everybody prepares their own meals but ate together, followed by a communal wash up and chat around the fire. Many ventured to the bar TV to watch NSW beat Queensland in the State-of-Origin rugby series. NSW won the series 2-1.
Thursday July 8th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Traveled along the Daintree Road, toured quite a good, self guided canopy tower and rainforest walk ($16/head), followed by the beautiful seascape of Cape Tribulation, the wound along the Bloomfield track, had a cold beer at the "colorful" Lions Den bush pub and camped at Cooktown caravan park. Quickly toured Cooktown, stocked up on wine and groceries and all dined at the RSL.
Friday July 9th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Following a fresh pie at the bakery, traveled via Old Laura Homestead (with 100 year old mango tress, the largest butchers block I've ever seen and black cockatoos), over some minor creek crossings and many corrugations in the road and through plenty of dust into Lakefield National Park (NP) and camped at Kalpowar Crossing, close to the river. Sat around the campfire and each reminisced an embarrassing moment - very funny stuff. We did not spot any crocodiles, but the Rangers catching device was at least 20' long and 6' in diameter.
Saturday July 10th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Spotted kites in the morning, changed convoy positions, then traversed the Lakefield NP to Musgrave Station roadhouse for lunch (good Aussie hamburger with "the lot"), then up the Peninsula Development Road to bush camp on the Archer River. Quite, picturesque campsite on the RHS just shy of Archer River Roadhouse. All of us used Dave's hot bush shower, running off his motor.
Sunday - Monday July 11th - 12th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Following a pie at the roadhouse, drove to Weipa and camped for 2 days touring the town, and Comalco's huge bauxite mine. And is bauxite red!! The bus tour could not let us out due to OH&S considerations, but the operation is very impressive with some very big belly-dump trucks carrying 230 tones of ore (10 tires @ $10K each replaced every 3 months), scoop bucket loaders (latest purchases were $2.25M each) and tractors. The bauxite is simply garden mined (scoop up the 3-12 meters of red pellet ore having removed the top soil which is reused in the restoration program). High/low temperatures are now 30/20 C. Cleaned up the Troopy interior washed some clothes and restocked up on fresh bread and vegetables, beer, drinking water and diesel. Repaired the drivers side smashed headlight protector. Christine fell and hurt her knee, wrist and toe.
Tuesday - Wednesday July 13th - 14th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Traveled to Moreton Telegraph station for a strange, campfire heated pie, crossed the Wenlock River by bridge (erected since 2001) and enjoyed a very private bush camp for 2 nights, 35 kilometers east of Bramwell station homestead, Australia's most northerly cattle station. This is probably going to be the most isolated camp of the trip. Soaked up the atmosphere of this outback station and explored the property by heading as far-east as we could towards the Grove River estuary. We lost the road in a swamp due to recent bushfires; about 2 kilometers shy of the coast. During a river crossing, I got the Troopy (with the longest wheel base) stuck in the river bed, held up by logs on the river entry side. Four things; 1) Check that the OX winch will release under winching pressure, 2) Look hard and long at the Troopy's entry and exit angles and capabilities to enter/exit creeks and rivers, 3) Slightly angle the entry and exit rather than being too square-on 4) Make sure the air-conditioning is off. Thanks to Dave who helped winch us out. Did some slight damage to passenger-side rear bumper. Had another great bush shower overlooking the river. The sing-a-long around the campfire was outstanding with incredible creative poems and songs based around our group and the Aussie-Off-Road experience. We sang the politically correct version of Waltzing Matilda. We learnt about the great Australian songs of John Williamson.
Thursday July 15th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Showered, had a cooked full breakfast and listened to Wendy's explanation of life at Bramwell Station homestead before tackling the more narrow and difficult section of the Old Telegraph Track or OTL "road" before arriving in Dulhunty River to bush camp and swim. The corrugations and road were really bad, but apparently can be 50% worse. Replaced a windshield wiper fuse.
Friday July 16th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Headed via the Headlands NP (spotted 3 bustards) and a great section of rainforest out to Captain Billy's Landing with awesome views and spectacular beach. Strong south easterlies blow all day, everyday. The historic, rustic Captain Billy's shed has been removed by the NP Rangers. Traveled over 200 kilometers and camped at Jardine River campground with lots of wildlife including bats. Saw the fresh river prawns pink eyes in the torch light. The color change in the road is amazing with white, red and yellow sands.
Saturday - Monday July 17th - 19th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Crossed the ferry, a 20 second ride for $88/return. The islanders running this were classics as the motor was broken (parts coming from Melbourne tomorrow) and we had to pull the ferry over from the north bank in the morning. Camped at Seisia for 3 nights. Via a tough 4WD road to Punsand Bay, took the short drive to Pajinka and walked the last few hundred meters to the top end of Australia. Fantastic to finally reach our destination and the very picturesque scenes. Visit perfectly to be the only ones there at a cooler part of the day around 4 p.m. Spotted a turtle in the sea. The celebratory dinner at the Seisa camp ground was disappointing due to the poor food. Explored the WW II and DC3 plane wrecks and Bamaga Cemetery. The whole region reminded me of Brazil - poorly kept, littered, red soil, laidback yet with a tropical richness. On Monday, took the 1.5 hour smooth, but a bit damp, ferry ride to Thursday Island. Toured the historic battery on the top of the strategically located island, Japanese peal diver's cemetery and enjoyed a good lunch at the Battery Bistro. TI and the Torres Strait people are very different than the Aboriginals of the mainland - organized, clean streets, nice vehicles and safer, friendlier environment.
Tuesday July 20th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Picked up fresh bread and diesel and started heading south, enjoying a swim at Eliot/Twin Falls and, via Fruitbat Falls, camped on the south side of Cockatoo Creek. The group really clubbed in and shared each others food including the fresh fish Cheryl and Beth caught at Seisa. Then everybody sat around the campfire and relayed a funny/memorable story - NZ Chris's Afghan experience was amazing.
Wednesday July 21st [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Full, tough, 4WDing day south down the Old Telegraph Track to view, but not cross the infamous Gunshot Creek as well as many other creeks. Lost the convoy very briefly coming out of the many Dulhunty River southern exists. Got stuck on the south side of Palm Creek and Dave again came to the rescue using a tow strap to help me up the chewed out embankment. Lessons are to use 4WD, low range first with so much fuel on board (not second as we are heavier than most vehicles), keep the revs up and again keep the air conditioning off to maintain power. Long afternoon on the corrugations of the Telegraph Road. Revisited Archer River Roadhouse for diesel and camped at the same great Archer River spot.
Thursday July 22nd [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Mungkan Kandju National Park was once a private cattle station named Rokeby and it presented us with typical North Queensland open bush land, river crossings and another great bush camp at Langi Lagoon, 88 kilometers in off the main track. Solitude and unique beauty. Spotting the horses eating the lilies in the lagoon was a real bonus. After us all clubbing together for a buffet (gourmet) dinner, everybody sat around the campfire chatting, but knowing it was our last bush camp.
Friday July 23rd [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Big 355 kilometer drive south via Coen and Musgrave Station for our last camp at Laura. Checked out the newly built pub for dinner - not bad with a BBQ @ $7/head. Did not spot any crocodiles or feral pigs (though spotted by others) all trip but saw brumbies, wild cattle and many birds, butterflies (including the large, deep blue Ulysses), insects and a few kangaroos.
Saturday July 24th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Viewed unique Aboriginal rock art on the Laura escarpment and continued south via Lakeland for breakfast, Mount Molloy and Mossman, returning to Palm Resort, Wonga Beach for a farewell lunch. Dave, Gabby and us had a great afternoon and dinner reminiscing over the trip and unwinding over a few drinks.
Sunday July 25th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Had a well deserved massage, washed clothes and repacked the Troopy with all our stuff we had stored at the Resort. Caught up with Steph and Dale for lunch at Mossman and proceeded to Julatten (up the mountain) for a relaxing few drinks, chat and pasta dinner at the inexpensive van park.
Monday July 26th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Decided to join Steph and Dale through the Black Mountain State Forest (permit required) after both evening and morning's rain. Dale pulled the Troopy out of two left hand side deep wheel mud holes where again the towbar got stuck. Got a bit lost when we found Quaid's unused seal highway between Mt. Malloy and the coast, confusing it for the Kennedy. Fortunately the cross country motor cyclists were very helpful. Had a gourmet Annabel's pie at Kuranda for lunch. Steph and Dale headed up the Kennedy Highway on their way home. CC and I headed for Innisfail.
Tuesday July 27th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
After cleaning both the Troopies interior and exterior thoroughly that morning, Pam and Jack met us, having driven up from Lucinda Beach, near Ingham. Went to Etty Bay, a top spot, for lunch and were lucky enough to get close to a large female cassowary.
Wednesday July 28th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Back to Cairns for the Troopies 45K service, Queensland blue slip for NSW registration and check out after the arduous 4WD Cape trip. Checked out the internet, credit/ATM cards (still no activity since Atherton), quick shop and trip planning while waiting. Overnight at another noisy, expensive caravan park at Ivory Point just south of Cairns.
Thursday July 29th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Headed towards the Savannah Way, via Kuranda on the Kennedy Highway. Chillagoe's tourist center was the best yet and very helpful and useful information. Toured the Royal Arch limestone cave in the Chillagoe Mungana Caves NP. Viewed the Balancing Rock where we spotted the rare white rump swift which adapted ultrasound like the bats for cave flying. Much of the Italian marble is mined here. Also toured the old copper smelter ruins, BP depot vintage Ford vehicles and enjoyed a drink at the country pub. Camped at a beautiful peaceful spot at Mary's Chillagoe Creek Homestead surrounded by birds, peacocks butterflies, kangaroos with their joeys and big shady trees.
Friday July 30th [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
Continued to enjoy the campsite (buckwheat crepes and maple syrup) and fire heated, overhead tank pressurized shower before heading, via Pinnacle Spring Station, towards Undara Volcanic National Park. Bushwalked out to Armstrong's Lookout across the many non-active volcanoes. 2 hour tour and campsite $82/2 persons.
Saturday July 31st [more pictures 1] [more pictures 2]
The newly appointed tour guide was great and the larva tubes worthwhile viewing - CC even spotted a well camouflaged, silvery grey Mareeba Rock Wallaby. Now on the Gulf Development Road, typically a single track of bitumen, where you pull over and stop for oncoming 50 meter long, 3-bogiied road trains. Spotted emu and chicks on the roadside. Stayed at Talaroo Hot Springs - brief tour, use of the pool and campsite $29/2 persons. Most relaxed place we have stayed, with only 7 other campers, afternoon, evening and morning warm baths in the mineral rich, hot springs pool and an amazing sleep. The red sunrises were unique to the whole region. Full moon.