Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cape Fear Part 3 - back to 'civilisation'

Our Cape Fear adventure has come to a necessary end so I can get back to Sydney for a week of hard labour (unless Bill Clinton comes to the rescue on his way back from North Korea).

Of course, I'm naturally pretty excited to get back into Sydney life asap, so this will be a good opportunity to see how further retarded my social skills have become over the last year.

Cape York, particularly north of the Jardine River, is unlike any part of Australia we've been too. It was joined to Papua only ten thousand years ago so shares some unique flora and fauna, including carnivorous plants which made me think again about becoming a vegetarian. Surely it's OK for us to eat meat if plants do?

Another shot of 'Twin Falls'. I have slowly progressed past the automatic settings and have been experimenting with my shutter release.

The driving since Sam Creek has been pretty straightforward which has been nice for a change. Canal Creek was our last challenging crossing before leaving the Old Telegraph Track.

There was a bit of traffic in each direction so really for the first time we got to see good exampls of how, and how not to, tackle various obstacles. It's really hard to get an impression from the photos, but seemingly benign slopes can soon see you with two wheels off the ground, and your exhaust getting squashed.

Which route would you take? I opted for the higher ground until something gave way on the left hand side going down a dip and we nearly toppled over (the car did tip - we were saved by the step on Nessa's side of the car, which is now bent upwards from the weight). Certainly the most frightening moment of the trip for Nessa (as we were falling her way until we were saved by the step), and she burst into tears as soon as we were out of the tight spot.

We never did bump into the guys who took the footage of our crossing 0f the Pascoe (as they bottled it and went back the way they'd come). Click here for a YouTube video of someone else doing it in similar circumstances - good commentary but unfortunately it misses the fun of the climb up the hill.

Morning ablutions at Sam Creek.

After our left turn at Mistake Creek we were soon back on the Telegraph Track bypass route and on our way to Captain Billy's Landing.

The bypass route was pretty corrugated but the side road to the coast was in really good nick and took us through some more low level rainforest.

We passed a group of 4WDs pulling trailers at around 25kms. They were pretty unimpressed with the road conditions so by now will no doubt have had conniptions as they were on the best bit of road they'd see for a few days.

The beach at Captain Billy was nice, but were a bit let down by the weather. The only real shelter from the violent south easterly was a communal hut, so once everyone everyone else had set up their tents, I nudged the car up alongside the shelter and we had a very peaceful night.

The Telegraph Road (much better nick than the Telegraph Track) stretching off into the distance. You can just make out the bone jarring corrugations in the foreground.

Next stop after Captain Billy's was Mungkan Kandju National Park, a mere 75kms off the already remote Telegraph Road just north of Coen. A bird watchers paradise recommended to us by some Dutchies we met at Punsand Bay. Instant success with a spotting (no photo) of the Palm Cockatoo. I did manage to snap this well camouflaged praying mantis who was catching and munching up ants.

We didn't see a soul while we were in Mungkan Kandju with the exception of the police who were coming the other way as we drove out after our second night. Top quality bush camping, and someone had even kindly chainsawed up some top quality firewood.

After Mungkan Kandju we restocked on the booze front in Coen (not sure with hindsight that it was a particularly legitimate transaction as the locals seemed pretty interested in where Nessa had been buying booze before midday, including cask wine).

Anyhow, I was too busy stealing some free electricity from a shed in Coen town centre so I could power my laptop while doing some work.

Next stop was Musgrave for some homemade burgers with cheese (well worth it if you're in the vicinity). I made a bullish estimate of how much fuel we had left without really checking and we pushed on into Lakefield National Park where we intended on exploring the northern camping areas.

Only a relatively short distance from Musgrave I was starting to have second thoughts on the fuel front. On our long term average consumption we should have enough with about five litres to spare. But then again, you never know and our consumption has ranged from 5.5km/l to almost 9km/l. She'll be right won the day and we did have a bit left in the jerry for emergencies.

We spent two nights at Sweetwater Lake, sleepless for me as the Ashes cricket was back on. We were camped perilously close to the edge of the lake so the mosquitoes were pretty bad, but luckily nowhere near the levels of Red Lily at Kakadu. Dengue fever is a real risk this far north and they've had it as far south as Cairns so we did take precautions and covered up as much as we could.

We spent a wonderful hour at Low Lake (day use only unfortunately due to its cultural significance to the locals) watching the birdlife and the sneaky crocodiles before heading on to 12 Mile Waterhole.

The pre-book camping system operated in parts of Queensland's National Parks is great in theory, but is widely abused.

Yet again we found some squatters in our pre-booked campsite at 12 Mile. We did find another spot but you then spend hours waiting to see if someone else will come and kick you out. The rangers don't seem in any hurry to enforce the booking system and there seems to be a few other people who mess up the whole thing.

The other thing the rangers at Lakefield might want to focus on for a while is the feral pig population. We came across a huge 'sounder' of pigs on a walk at Sweetwater which could have been quite dangerous but luckily they seemed more scared of us.

In the end we made it to Laura with around ten litres of diesel left (after me pouring in our emergency supply). After a brief windy stop at Cooktown we headed on for another Sunday Session at another iconic Australian pub - this time 'The Lion's Den' which had a collection of bands playing.

I certainly would never have predicted that a pub would be the surroundings for the most harmonious black fella/white fella communal action, but there you go.

We had a wonderful afternoon, everyone got smashed up and had a great time. There were whitefella bands, and blackfella bands making music in sweet racial harmony.

Plenty of characters at the Lions Den, including an older guy playing spoons with some bones, which we was introducing to people as his grandfather's.

We made a respectably early start on Monday despite approaching double figures in beers and the Bloomfield Track was an absolute breeze despite the wet conditions.

We had two nights at Noah's Beach campsite, part of the Daintree National Park just south of Cape Tribulation. The name was quite appropriate as a boat would have been better than a normal tent. It poured and poured at night time, almost drowning out the cricket commentary.

All was clear this morning though which made for a beautiful drive down the coast to Cairns.

Back to Sydney and work tomorrow so we'll be back with the next installment in a couple of weeks!

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