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Camping : Lake Pedder

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Our time in Hobart was over and it was time to leave the congestion of the city for something a little slower. We made our way to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

 

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was formally listed in 1982 and satisfies more criteria than any other world heritage property in the world. Covering 1.58 million hectares, it is one of the largest reserves in Australia and makes up about 20% of Tasmania’s total area. It’s home to one of the last temperate rainforests in the world.

 

Russell Falls

We drove through Mount Field National Park and stopped to see Russell Falls – a must do tip from Juz’s sister. It was an easy 25 minute walk to the waterfall, and if you have the energy and time, you can go further to Horseshoe Falls. However, it was the end of the day for us and we only had enough energy to see Russell Falls.

 

This truly is a beautiful part of Tasmania and has been reserved as a treasured location since 1885. The two-tiered waterfall showered amongst the ferns and moss. The national park was included in the World Heritage Area in 2013 – don’t forget, you need a Park Pass just to enter the national park.

 

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Lake Pedder

We were getting into dangerous territory as the recent bushfires were a threat to this area. The road to Strathgordon was closed, which didn’t affect us really because we were heading south to Edgar’s Dam Campground. Still, some park rangers took our details down just in case the wind changed.

 

The road down to Lake Pedder was fantastic and quite possibly the best gravel road we have travelled on – period! The surrounding scenery was also stunning, and as the sun moved across the sky, various mountain tops were illuminated or cast into shadow, making for an ever-changing backdrop.

 

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Our evening started off fairly standard – we found a great spot in the spacious campground right next to the still waters of the dam. We had never seen water to still, and the way it reflected the sky and the dam wall, it was quite the illusion to the eye.

 

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Just as we were preparing to offload the bag of Geeveston Fannies we had purchased on our way back from Cockle Creek to a pair of French travellers, our campsite was visited by two of the cutest cuties we have ever seen!

 

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Eastern quolls are the smaller, cuter cousin of the Spotted Tail Quoll. The pair that visited us varied in colour – one being a fair, tan colour and the other far darker, like chocolate, but both had spots and thin tails. There were also a few wallabies scattered around the campground as well.

 

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In the morning, we packed up as usual and made our way north towards the West Coast Wilderness.

 

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Camping : Cockle Creek

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This is the most southerly point of Australia that we have ever camped.

 

Cockle Creek is at the end of the road when you’re heading south from Hobart. You’ll pass picturesque Franklin with the beautiful river and mountains for all the retirees to enjoy. There are also plenty of blackberry bushes to pillage on the way there, and apple orchards where you can buy a bag of Geeveston Fannies for $3.

 

Just beware of stinky beach…

 

“Did you fart?“

“No, it was the ocean.”

 

You’ll know once you get to Cockle Creek – you’ll see a few shanties by the sea and then the campers begin. If you continue over the bridge to the car park at the end of the road, this is the southernmost point accessible by vehicle. As French Admiral Bruny D’Entrecasteaux described in 1792 when he accidentally discovered Recherche Bay, the area is a ‘lonely harbour at the world’s end’. If you continue south, you’ll get to Antarctica, which is closer in distance than Cairns in Queensland.

 

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There is a bronze whale sculpture on the headland. The Whale Sculpture is a life-size representation of a whale babe and if you examine it closely, you may find a rock with origins at Cape York!  There are also a few hiking tracks that start from the Whale Sculpture and head deeper into the national park.

 

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Cockle Creek on the Hobart side of the bridge is free camping, but when you cross the bridge, you’re in a national park and you at least need a parks pass to enter. We had a parks pass, but because we found the pass completely useless, we decided not to use it and we free camped instead.

 

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There’s heaps of space on the free side of the bridge, but you’ll be lucky to find a campsite that has a nice flat surface. The ground is quite uneven and undulated, and you have to work around copious amounts of fire places as well.  Once you’ve found a spot, it’s quite lovely.

 

There’s a great beach that turns into a shallow estuary after the bridge. Seagulls and albatross hang out there but they’re not pests. If the site hasn’t already been raided, you may be treated with the biggest oysters you’ve ever seen. We were not treated with huge oysters – just huge, empty oyster shells – piles of them everywhere. Someone had been there a few days earlier and consumed the entire colony.

 

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Once the sun goes down, small wallaby start to graze through the area. Take a torch with you when you wander otherwise you’ll get as startled as them. You may also want to light a fire to keep warm because it gets quite chilly, being so far south of the equator and all.

 

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Explore : Bruny Island

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Every journey to Bruny Island (pronounced brew-nee) starts on the ferry. Our ticket to and from the island cost us $33, which includes a lovely 2×15 minute ride across the D’entrecastreaux Channel. Our journey would take us from the ferry terminal south through the Neck to the southernmost pub in Australia and onwards to Cape Bruny.

 

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FAST FACTS

  • Bruny Island is actually two land masses that are joined by a sandy isthmus, which is known as the Neck.
  • The whole island is 100km long.
  • Adventure Bay was named after the ship that was captained by English navigator Tobias Furneaux, who landed at the island in 1773.
  • The island is named after French explorer Bruni d’Entrecasteaux, who sailed the channel and discovered that it was in fact an island in 1792. It was known as Bruni Island until 1918 when the spelling was changed to Bruny.

 

When we got down south, radio and reception was starting to fail. At one point, all we got was some church radio station. We listened for a little while and chuckled about the breastplate of righteousness that guards your heart against the evils of the world.

 

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The Neck

The Neck is the sandy isthmus that connects the north and south parts of Bruny Island. There’s a lookout there, Truganini Lookout, and it’s one of the best lookouts we’ve visited on our entire trip around Australia.

 

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Once you ascend the umpteen timber steps to the top, you are gifted with a 360 degree view of the ocean and the narrow strip of sand that connects the north and south ends of the island.

 

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Get Shucked

By far the best oysters in Tasmania and comparable to those in Coffin Bay SA, Get Shucked sells pre-shucked boogers of sea-salty delight that slide down your gob with lubricated ease. Give them a bit of punch with a sprinkle of Tobasco sauce.

 

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The outlet has a great sitting area and they’re licensed so you can enjoy a glass of Seven Sheds beer while you slurp down some oysters.

 

Bruny Island Cheese Co.

This artisan cheese producer is owned by Nick Haddow, who has been making cheeses around the world for over 10 years. He’s recognised as the finest artisan cheese producer in Australia and is also currently the only cheese maker in Australia that is allowed to use raw milk to make cheese. However, laws have changed recently so there may be more raw cheeses in the future.

 

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Our tasting session included four cheeses.

  • The Tom – a hard rind cheese that has a complicated and mature taste with a curious dimension of flavour.
  • The Saint – a soft white mould cheese that had a lovely delicate flavour of mould with plenty of buttery cheesiness.
  • The 1792 – a soft washed rind cheese with some pungency but a lovely soft cheese with plenty of salty goodness.
  • The o.d.o – a marinated cheese that is only one day old and is a combination of a feta and a mozzarella. It has a strong lactic acid flavour but would be awesome on some bread with a bit of smoked salmon.

 

Outside, there’s a fantastic deck space and picnic benches scattered in the surrounding gardens, perfect for stopping for a coffee, cider or cheese platter.

 

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Adventure Bay

 

Before stopping at Hotel Bruny for a beer, we detoured to Adventure Bay to see what was the big deal. Adventure Bay is on the eastern side of the Neck and was named after the ship of English navigator Tobias Furneaux’s in 1773.

 

While it’s mainly a holiday destination with heaps of options for accommodation, we did stop at one of the beautiful beaches and marvelled at the dark coloured sand.

 

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Hotel Bruny

Australia’s southernmost pub is located across the road from Sunset Bay. Needless to say, the view from out the front is fantastic, the distant mountains reflecting on the water. It’s a small pub with a standard pub menu that is reasonably priced for the location (a chicken parma is $26).

 

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We stopped in for a drink – Juz enjoyed a yeasty and crisp Cascade Draught while Dave opted for a dark Cascade Stout.

 

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Cloudy Bay

Located at the southern end of Bruny Island, Cloudy Bay is a great place for a quiet getaway. There’s a 5km long sheltered beach that offers great surfing, and you can drive along the sand to get to the Cloudy Bay campsite on the eastern end.

 

This is where we camped the night and enjoyed the company of the friendly wallabies.

 

 

 

Cape Bruny

The lighthouse atop Cape Bruny is quite significant. It is the second oldest lighthouse in Australia – first lit in March 1838 and decommissioned on 6 August 1996. It was replaced by a nearby solar powered light.

 

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Grandvewe Cheesery and Hartshorn Distillery

No, Grandvewe is not located on Bruny Island, but both are attractions of the Huon Trail, and it’s only 10 minutes south of the Kettering Ferry terminal.

 

Grandvewe is Tassie’s only sheep milk cheesery and is the only place on earth where you’ll find Sheep Whey Vodka and Vanilla Whey liqueur. You’ll notice a lot of sheepy things, like wool in the garden beds and some cute sheep grazing in the paddock near the car park.

 

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Make sure you taste all the cheeses because they’re fantastic. We particularly liked the smooth and yeasty Brebichon and the Sapphire Blue, a mild blue cheese similar to Rochefort, so we bought a piece of each.

 

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There were wines and spirits available for tasting as well. The Sheep Whey Vodka had an interesting apple and pear flavour. We enquired how they make alcohol from a by-product that is predominantly protein. It seems that finding the right yeast was an important factor, and of the residual lactose in the whey, the glucose that is separated from the galactose is what is turned into alcohol.

 

We also tried the Vanilla Whey Liqueur, which was deliciously sweet, smooth and tasted like custard, as well as their lychee-driven Chardonnay and dry but fruity Pinot Noir.

 

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Flavour Trail : Between Devonport and Launceston

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The drive from Devonport to Launceston is a tasty trip – make sure you stop at every location to get a true feel of the local produce of the region. Each place is worth a visit, and there is something that caters for everyone.

 

House of Anvers

This was our first stop out of Devonport and we were thoroughly impressed. The House of Anvers Chocolate Factory was established in 1931 and resides within a Californian bungalow on 1.1 hectares of gardens. The site offers chocolate tasting, viewing of factory operations, a museum about the origins of chocolate, and a delightful cafe.

 

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We went straight to the tasting station and tried the hazelnut truffle, rum and raisin truffle and cappuccino fudge. But the real treat was walking away with a block of Fortunato No. 4 chocolate – the rarest chocolate in the world.

 

Thought to be extinct since 1916, the Pure Nacional cacao plant was rediscovered in Peru in 2008 and is ultimate single origin source of chocolate. Believed to be the mother of cacao, the cacao pods contain white beans that are shipped to Switzerland to be transformed into couverture chocolate. House of Anvers is the only place in Australia that has the right to sell it.

 

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Cherry Shed

The Cherry Shed sells all things cherry – liqueur and port, ice cream, jams, chutney, cake, gifts and chocolate. There is also a huge tree made of cherry pips inside the cafe. Tastings are available and there are plenty of cherry themed things everywhere – including Cherry Ripe!

 

If you’re not going to stop for the cherry delights inside, at least stop for the Big Cherries outside. They’re so big, you can go inside.

 

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Seven Sheds Brewery

Seven Sheds Brewery has been open since 2008 and is located in Railton – the Topiary Capital of Australia.

 

 

We tasted five beers during our visit. Juz liked the Paradise Pale but her favourite was the Razzamatazz (5.2%), a light, tart and dry beer flavoured with local raspberries and blackberries.

 

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Dave’s faves were the Black Inca (5.8%) – infused with Peruvian Fortunato chocolate, toasted quinoa and oats – and the Kentish Ale (5.2%), a flavoursome, full bodied ale with a great balance of hops and malted barley.

 

Seven Sheds also grow their own hops – Fuggle, Goldings and others – and you can see the hops garden from the bar.

 

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Ashgrove Cheese

A must for any cheese lover – there’s a fabulous selection of plain and flavoured cheeses like cheddar and feta, even lavender cheese! They also sell a bunch of local produce like jams and chocolates, and there is a great display of colourful cows outside.

 

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Christmas Hill Raspberry Farm & Van Deimans Land Ice Creamery

A nice place to stop for some chocolate covered raspberries and interesting ice cream flavours.

 

Liffey Falls

About 30 minutes south of Deloraine, with a few kilometres of gravel road, Liffey Falls is definitely worth the detour.

 

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Stretch your legs on the 20 minute walk to the falls. There are a few stops along the way where the water cascades down shelves of rock, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a lizard or snake.

 

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If you still have energy, there’s a really short walk just behind the toilet to the Big Tree.  As the name suggests, it’s pretty big.

 

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Bracknell River Reserve

A great place to stop for the night, the Bracknell River Reserve on the western banks of the Liffey River offers free camping, toilets and a BBQ area.

 

If you enjoy fishing, drop a line in the river and you might just pull out a trout.

 

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2015 Troopcarriers of Australia Winter Ramble

Cape York

 

We’re so proud that we decided to buy a Toyota Troopcarrier for our trip around Australia.  It’s taken us to some really amazing places around the country and it still amazes us with some of the things it’s capable of.  Anybody who’s ever owned a Troopy will understand this appreciation.  This Troopy love.

 

The Troopcarriers of Australia (ToA) facebook page is full of Troopy legends – some have just bought their first Troopy while others have been driving them for over 30 years.  Some are fully qualified diesel mechanics and others can barely use a spanner.

 

Each year, the administrators of the page organise a social get-together in winter, and 2015 Winter Ramble was held at Coorongooba within the Capertee Valley in Wollemi National Park, NSW.  Covering around 487,500 hectares, Wollemi National Park is the second largest conservation area in NSW and is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.  Within the park is the largest remaining wilderness area in NSW and includes rugged terrain, rainforests, swamps and amazing cliffs.

 

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When we arrived at the campsite, there were Troopcarriers everywhere – it was overwhelming!  The weekend attracted over 150 people in over 70 Troopies.  The campsite was surrounded by huge sandstone escarpments.  We reckon the cliffs are better than the Blue Mountains.  As the site was so large, people with kids, party animals, and everyone in between could be accommodated comfortably.

 

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After finding a nice spot to set up, we started walking around the area to meet people and check out all the Troopies.  Quite a few people knew us because of Our Naked Australia or from the ToA facebook page.  It was great to meet so many people who were friends we’d never met.

 

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The event was really well organised, with raffles, event stickers and a huge campfire for everyone.  We all got to vote for the award winning Troopies in various categories like: favourite, best modification, furthest travelled, and more.  As the night progressed, beer cans piled higher and fires grew bigger as the smell of dinner cooking filled the air.  Great music was played all night and there were even fireworks!

 

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The morning after was a big difficult for some (Dave, haha!), but we all said goodbye to our new mates with promises made to catch up again soon.  We drove out of the valley smiling to ourselves and reflecting on how the love of the Troopcarrier had brought together so many different people.

 

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4WDing : Landcruiser Mountain Park

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Landcruiser Mountain Park is a 10,000 acre haven for off road and bush camping enthusiasts.  It’s been in business for more than 20 years and offers over 200km of tracks of varying difficultly as a 4×4 playground.  While there are three campgrounds on the property with flushing toilets and hot showers, you can camp anywhere in the park and choose the wilderness over simple luxuries.  Firewood can be collected anywhere on the property, and as you explore the park, you’ll pass grazing cattle, but keep your eyes open for wild deer and kangaroos.

 

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We rocked up at around 3pm and had a quick chat with the most unenthusiastic lady we’ve ever met.  We gave her our money, she gave us a map, and we signed in before commencing our adventure through the park.  The map of tangled lines shows three levels of tracks, with green representing the easiest tracks and red insinuating death and destruction.  We would later find out that the map was almost useless, and we got lost regularly, finding ourselves on tracks that we had no intention of attempting.

 

We headed to Trekka Terrace Campground and set up for the night, built a nice little fire to keep us warm, and were shocked when we were sprayed with bullets of possum poo and urine from the trees above.

 

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In the morning, a cool mist covered the campground and we quickly packed up to get as much driving in as possible.  It became apparent on the first track we completed that Juz needed to put a sports bra on – the road was really rough, even on the green tracks.  There were plenty of creek crossings, some deeper than others, and we even got to see the head of the Brisbane River.  Our planned itinerary was to follow a green track that looped back to our campground, but as we said earlier, the map was shit and we ended up on a few yellow tracks.

 

While Dave was having the time of his life, Juz spent her time holding herself in her seat, catching books that were bouncing around the cabin, and praying that the Troopy was going to make it through.  Eventually, Dave had to kick her out of the car during hairy sections of the track.

 

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The real shockers were the steep inclines – even the green ones.  We found ourselves on the yellow ‘Troopie Trail’, which was completely manageable until we came to a crossroads.  We could either head north up green incline or continue east on a yellow incline.  Both inclines looked precariously steep and much to Juz’s alarm, Dave chose the yellow slope and told her to get out of the car.  The Troopy, as always, was surprisingly skilled at manoeuvring over the uneven tracks.  Even at a 45 degree side tilt, the Troopy stood its ground and made it up the hill.

 

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Further along, we saw an assembly of utes and 4WDs and stopped to see what the fuss was.  They were at the top of the Camp Road track, which begins with a red-coloured slope into the valley.  While it wasn’t incredibly steep, it was seriously bumpy.  There was no way we were going to drive the Troopy down that mess.

 

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By lunchtime, Juz was an emotional wreck, frazzled from being thrown around by the rough track.  Dave soothed her nerves with a few beers and by the time we got back to Cowan Falls Campground to eat, she was like a limp doll in the passenger seat.  After some revitalising food, we went for a walk to the nearby waterfall.

 

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We followed the trail of discarded undies amongst the rocks to the falls, and met a nice couple from Brisbane, and their two bichon poodles – aka Bichpoos or Poochons.

 

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People definitely don’t visit Landcruiser Mountain Park for the customer service – on our way out we stopped in at the office to sign out and the sombre lady behind the desk didn’t even ask if we enjoyed ourselves.  Landcruiser Mountain Park is great for people who love 4WDing and challenging themselves and their vehicles on rough terrain of various difficulty.  It does seem to attract a certain demographic though – pot bellied blokes clad in flannelette, with a beer permanently in one hand and the steering wheel of their souped-up ute in the other.  We reckon that with a few minor additions and a bit of enthusiasm, they could easily widen their demographic.  But it is what it is and what it is is a 4WD playground with heaps of potential.

 

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Camping & 4WDing : Blackdown Tableland

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We were supposed to go to Carnarvon National Park to camp and explore the gorge but when the time came to book our campsite, we found that the park was booked out… for whole month!  We had to change our plans and chose to go to Blackdown Tableland instead.  We’re glad that we did because it was quiet and we practically had the place to ourselves.

 

The Blackdown Tableland is south east of Blackwater and covers approximately 47,950 hectares.  The elevation is nearly a kilometre above sea level, which makes the towering escarpment cooler and moister than the surrounding plains.  It’s a steep climb to the top that rewards you with great views of the surrounding areas, and smoke from a bushfire in a nearby valley wafted through the trees.

 

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We set up camp, cooked dinner, and once the sun had gone down we started to feel the cold.  They weren’t kidding about that cooler climate.  In the morning, we set off just after sunrise to explore the various walking and 4WD tracks.

 

Mook Mook Lookout is a short 1.2km one way track to a lookout.  The path passes massive sandstone formations, one that we named Mummy Rock because it looked like the head of a bandaged mummy.  There was a trickling creek, and a nearby waterfall to explore, and once we got to the lookout, we saw the source of the surrounding smoke.

 

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The next track was Goon Goon Dina, a 2.5km loop that weaved through the trees and told the story of the traditional owners of the land.  Stepping stones lead us over creeks, there was a rock art gallery, and charcoaled tree trunks hinted of a recent fire.

 

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These two tracks were near the campground so once they were completed, we packed up and headed south to Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.  There is a 2km track that leads to the water fall, with a pool of clear water at the bottom, ferns growing from the rocks and colourful stripes on the overhead cliff.  It was a really beautiful spot.

 

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From here, we took the 4WD track back to the entrance of the park.  It started off relatively smooth, with the occasional fallen tree that caused the need for an alternative route, but there are some steep rocky sections that definitely need 4WD and full attention.

 

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Camping : Lake Elphinstone

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We didn’t know what to expect.  We’d heard about the place, but there was no raving – as far as we knew it was simply a campground by a lake but we were pleasantly surprised to find much more.

 

After we had chosen our spot by the lake, a bird flew overhead and deposited its digested lunch on Dave’s shoulder.  As Juz laughed and took pictures before cleaning Dave up, she explained that getting pooped on by a bird was lucky but Dave was in doubt.  Over the course of the evening, Dave’s extra luck would not only present itself, but ensure that our time at Lake Elphinstone would be memorable for many years to come.

 

Lake Elphinstone is a free camping area about 90km west of Mackay that offers fishing, boating and bird watching.  Campfires are allowed (which is awesome), and there are also toilet blocks with cold (refreshing) showers.  Once the sun goes down, you don’t have to worry about being overrun by midges or mosquitoes, and you don’t even have to worry about crocodiles in the water.  If you’re with Telstra, you might even get a dot of reception.

 

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Our evening started with an improvised visit from some guy who worked at the mines in the area.  The first thing he said was, “do you need some eggs?”  Despite being wary of this bearded fellow wearing a wife-beater, we accepted the fresh, farm laid ‘bum nuts’ and after a quick chat, he decide to stick around.

 

From his ute, he whipped out an eski full of cold beers and as kookaburras laughed in the distance, we started telling stories – from our travels, from his travels – he was a really interesting guy.  All the while, three cute ducks were circling us, and we fantasised about Crispy Skin Duck and Peking Duck Pancakes as dinner time approached.  Eventually, our new friend said farewell and headed off.

 

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The yellow moon began to rise over the lake as swans drifted along the rippled surface.  Juz started on dinner (chicken and bacon stew) while Dave received a call from his phone carrier, offering him a better deal on his plan (how lucky is that!).  As we ate, we continued to watch the Swan Lake ballet before tucking ourselves in for the night.

 

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Before light, we were up and ready for sunrise.  The lake turned gold and the swans returned for a final dance across the lake.  What beautiful place.

 

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Towns in the Isaac Region

Nebo

This is a small town with a heritage listed pub, the Nebo Hotel.  You can tell the place has some history because of its character – decking everywhere, including the ladies restroom, and the men’s room even has some funny tiles on the wall.

 

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Moranbah

After the glorious sunrise at Lake Elphinstone, we took the dirt road through the mining area to Moranbah, one of Queensland’s youngest towns.  It caters to the people who work in the surrounding coal mines, and occasionally we were directed off the road so a wide load of massive machinery could come through.

 

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The big red bucket at the entrance to town is a good photo opportunity.

 

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Clermont

This small town was the first inland settlement in tropical Queensland and is garnished with beautiful art deco buildings and a rich history of gold.

 

During our time here, we visited the Apex Park and Hoods Lagoon.  The lagoon used to supply the town with water, and the original owner of the land where the Apex Park is located donated the land to the Apex Club after he died.  He was a hero of the town because during the devastating 1916 floods that claimed many lives, he rescued and sheltered up to 13 people.  At the entrance to Clermont is a piano in the tree, a reminder of how high the floodwaters got.

 

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Camping : Cathu State Forest

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Cathu State Forest is between Proserpine and Mackay and offers great camping amongst the eucalypts.  As you drive in to the campgrounds, you’ll see pine plantations with some cleared sections, as well as great views of the Clarke Range.  Once you’re within the camping area, the surrounds take on a more natural appeal with dense wet forest, a seasonal creek and various wildlife.

 

We saw a bull and a few wallabies grazing on the side of the track, as well as a black-headed python that had just had a big meal.  It was so fat, it couldn’t move, and by the shape of the lump in its body, we reckon it was a wallaby.

 

Cathu State Forest 2015-05-02 008w

 

Jaxut Campground

This camping spot seems to be popular with the locals, as there were quite a few people there.  We did manage to find a nice quiet spot with an established fire place, surrounded by the fresh smells of the trees and earth.

 

Campground bookings can be made by calling 13 QGOV and it’s only $5.75 for two people for the night.  There are no facilities or bins so make sure you take your rubbish home with you.

 

Cathu State Forest 2015-05-03 016w

 

 

Camp cooking by the Murray @ Loveday 4x4 Adventure Park

Travel Tucker : 9 Great Camping Staples

While it’s alright to have a packet of chips and a few biscuits here and there, if you’re going on a road trip or a camping holiday, you can’t rely on junk food to keep you going. Here is a list of food staples that are cheap, healthy and easy to prepare.

 

Tinned tuna and chicken

Get your daily dose of protein from a can!  Tinned fish and meat has a long shelf life and taste great on crackers, in sandwiches and salads, and even in soups and stews.  If you’re game, try SPAM – it’s really not that bad.  We have experimented with a few recipes – Turkey Burgers, Bacon Carbonarra

 

SPAM Bacon Carbonara

 

Eggs

Eggs are little portioned nuggets of nutrients that are cheap, delicious, versatile and easy to prepare. Scramble eggs for breakfast, fry them on a BBQ for sandwiches and burgers or hard boil for snacks.

 

Breakfast in Port Campbell - featuring Dave's egg boat.

 

Peanut Butter

A great energy and nutrient dense food that is rich in monounsaturated fat, which is good for your heart, and the B vitamins help your body release energy.  It can be added to curries, spread on your flatbread with some cheese or banana, or spooned straight from the jar into the mouth for a quick and easy snack.

 

Cookie Dough - peanut butter

 

Oats

One of the most popular breakfast options for a reason – oats taste great, are easy to prepare and support a healthy heart.  Simply cook them in a billy with water or milk, or prepare Overnight Oats.

 

Yes, oats contain gluten, which may not be great for people with celiac disease, but they can be replaced by other grains like rice, quinoa or buckwheat.

 

Rice

A great source of gluten-free energy, rice is easy to prepare, goes with most things and can be stored for up to 3 days.  While white rice is quicker to cook, brown rice is the healthier option because it hasn’t been stripped of its vitamins and minerals.

 

Once the rice is cooked, you can mix it with anything you want: tuna and soy sauce, diced vegetables and chicken pieces, yoghurt and fruit, or olives, parsley and a lemon vinaigrette dressing. Or you can make some yummy rice pudding

 

Rice Fruit Slice

 

Carrots

Packed with antioxidants and fibre, carrots are a great choice for any camper.  They last for a while in the car fridge and can be added to soups and stews, grated in sandwiches and salads, or eaten on their own as a quick snack.  Increase their crispness by putting a paper towel in the bag to absorb moisture.

 

Flatbread

Instead of lugging around a loaf of spongy bread that takes up heaps of space and is easily squished, get flatbread.  It takes up minimal space and comes in a zip-lock pouch for freshness.  For the carb-conscious, try nori sheets or cabbage leaves.

 

Cloncurry

 

Apples & Oranges

Fruit is a great option for a mid morning or afternoon snack.  Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit come in a wrapper (peel) and contain vitamin C, while apples and pears will contribute to your fibre intake.  Plus, fruit tastes awesome and can be added to desserts and salads to spice things up.

 

Herbs & Spices

Add flavour to your meals with herbs and spices.  Dried herbs like thyme and rosemary are just as good as the fresh stuff and can be sprinkled on chicken or lamb chops.  Cinnamon is great with oats while cumin and paprika will add character to any meat dish, like Meat Biscuits!  If you’re not confident with mixing spices, then get pre-made blends like bush spices, Italian herbs or Moroccan seasoning.

 

Meat biscuits in a laco with sweet potato

 

So that’s our list of camping staples.  We always try to mix things up when it comes to food – sometimes we’ll get bananas instead of apples, but we find they get bruised really easily in the back of the troopy. Other times, we’ll swap rice for beans or lentils, but Dave’s not a huge fan of legumes.  What are your camping staples? Do you have any favourites to add to the list?

 

 

Cooktown

Town Profile : Cooktown

Cooktown

 

We were expecting to linger around Cooktown for two nights before heading to Cairns for work, but just as we were making plans, a fantastic opportunity presented itself.  The owner of a local farm needed some help for the week, and it was just the kind of experience we were looking for.  Now that we were locked in to stay in Cooktown for a week, we had a little more time to get to know the town and the locals.

 

Fast Facts

  • Cooktown is the northernmost town on the east coast of Australia
  • It sits at the mouth of the Endeavour River, named by Captain James Cook after his ship
  • There are two seasons – the wet during December to April, and the dry from May to November.
  • The region is very rich in biodiversity because it covers three major ecozones, and therefore is a place of interest for botanists.

 

History

The traditional owners call the region Gan gaar, which means place of the rock crystals because of all the quartz crystals.

 

In 1770, Captain James Cook arrived and moored the Endeavour at the mouth of the Endeavour River for shelter and repairs after running aground on the Great Barrier Reef.  As the repairs were underway, botanist Joseph Banks and naturalist Daniel Solander explored the area and collected over 200 species of plants for documentation, and they also learnt words from the local people, like ganguru (kangaroo).  There was an artist on board, Sydney Parkinson, who was the first British person to draw Aboriginal people from direct observation.

 

Cooktown

 

In 1872, gold was discovered on the Palmer River southwest of Cooktown and the site was populated by many diggers from all over the world.  Cooktown was selected as the port through which the gold was exported and supplies were imported.  Two years later, Cooktown’s population grew to approximately 4,000 people and it was established as a town.

 

These days, Cooktown’s population is less than 2,000.  It has reached the status of a tourist destination because of its relaxed atmosphere and proximity to Cape York, the Great Barrier Reef, Lakefield National Park and the rainforest.

 

Cooktown

 

Points of Interest

The James Cook Museum

Whether you’re interested in the landing of James Cook in 1770 or not, a stroll through this fantastic museum is a must.  See the original anchor of the Endeavour, learn about Cooktown’s Chinese history and local aboriginal culture, and discover the original use of the museum building.  Fascinating stuff…

 

Cooktown

 

Nature’s Powerhouse & Botanic Gardens

Essentially, Nature’s Powerhouse is Cooktown’s Visitor Information Centre.  Get a map, stroll through the neighbouring Botanic Gardens or have a toasted sanga and a coffee on the deck.

 

The gallery and museum are also worth checking out if you’re interested in flora and fauna.  The Charles Tanner Gallery is a great exhibit of local animals such as snakes, bats, lizards and butterflies.  The displays were both interesting and educational.  The Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery pays tribute to an artist and botanist.  While we were there, they were showing the ‘Botanical Endeavour’ – Sir Joseph Banks’ Florilegium Exhibition from 1770.

 

 

Grassy Hill

OMG – one of the best lookouts we have come across on our journey.  Stunning views of the surrounding mountains, the Endeavour River and Cooktown.  Amazing.

 

Finch Bay

Follow Finch Bay Road all the way to the end, past the Botanic Gardens, and you’ll arrive at Finch Bay.  It’s is a great little beach with an estuary.  We saw a big crab in the shallows and wished that we’d had a net with us to scoop him up!

 

Copy of Cooktown 2014-09-28 083 Cooktown 2014-09-28 080water

 

Black Mountain

About 25km south of Cooktown is Black Mountain National Park.  It is a massive pile of granite rocks that has developed over the last 260 million years.  Due to an unusual joining patter in the granite, fracturing and exposure to water has caused erosion and weathering of the boulders, but while the surface is just a mess of boulders, the solid granite core is underneath.  There are three animals that are completely unique to the park – the Black Mountain boulderfrog, skink and gecko – making Black Mountain one of the most restricted habitats in Australia.

 

The early settlers and local indigenous folks both have stories and rumours about quite a few people (often criminals) venturing into the caves among the giant black boulders and getting lost.  Whilst the people have never been seen again, the locals reckon you sometimes still hear them…

 

Cooktown

 

Food & Drink

Cooktown Hotel

This was the first pub we visited, and for a Saturday afternoon, it was fairly busy.  Then we remembered – AFL Grand Final weekend.  We sat outside in the beer garden and had a lovely lunch of pizza and parma before getting on with the rest of the day.

 

Cooktown 2014-09-27 048

 

Cooktown Café

More like cranky-pants café!  The owner of the store had a serious attitude problem, but the coffee was good, which is why people keep coming back.  We found out later that the owner had had a tiff with his partner the night before and was therefore in a particularly cranky-pants mood that day.

 

The Italian (aka De Wogs)

Opposite the road from the Top Pub is a popular Cooktown institution that dishes out mountains of risotto and pasta, tasty pizzas made with fresh ingredients, as well as Chinese food at a dearer than average price.  While Juz’s soggy but yummy parma lacked ham and chips, Dave’s capricciosa pizza was perfection, but to be perfectly honest, neither seemed to justify the price.

 

Cooktown

 

The Lions Den Hotel

About 30km south of Cooktown is an old pub called the Lions Den.  It’s named after a mine in the area, which got its name when a stowaway named Daniel was working at the mines and while standing at the entrance of one of the tunnels, the mine’s owner said, “Daniel in the Lions Den”.

 

The pub has plenty of character, with scribbles, business cards and stickers all over the walls, as well as old hats, thongs, license plates and stubbie holders.

 

Cooktown

 

Information & Accommodation

Nature’s Powerhouse is on Finch Bay Road and is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm.  Contact them for information about Cooktown by emailing info@naturespowerhouse.com.au

 

Pam’s Place YHA – on the corner of Boundary and Charlotte Street.  To make a reservation, call 4069 5166 or email cooktown@yha.com.au http://www.yha.com.au/Hostels/QLD/Cairns-and-Far-North-Queensland/Cooktown/

 

Archer Point

About 15km south of Cooktown is the turnoff for Archer Point.  Continue along the dirt road until you get to the end. It’s a great place to camp provided you don’t set up right on a headland.  The wind is strong and constant, but the views at sunset are breathtaking.

 

Cooktown

 

Cape York

Experience : Cape York – Part 2

For Experience : Cape York – Part 1 – click here!

 

Bamaga Tavern

 

Day 5

Bamaga

We completed the rest of the 5 Beaches Track and made our way back to Bamaga.  When we took the Troopy out of 4WD, Dave noticed that one of the front spring mounts had snapped. Afraid that the other mount would snap too, we crawled to Bamaga and went straight to the wreckers.  A new mount was an easy $10 and Dave installed it in about 30 minutes.  We then met an inquisitive local named Mark, who worked in one of the aboriginal communities and was interested in hearing about Our Naked Australia.

 

Cape York 2014-09-22 013

 

It was about lunchtime so we lingered around the Bamaga Tavern for a drink and a meal at the northernmost pub in Australia.

 

Seisia

To be honest, there isn’t much to see other than the wharf and jetty.  Fishermen of various ages were trying their luck with the massive schools of fish hanging about below the surface of the water.  One man was even spear fishing.

 

Cape York

 

DC3 Plane Crash Site

On the 5th of May 1945, a DC-3 VH-CXD aircraft that was operated by the RAAF, was flying from Brisbane to Port Moresby to deliver meat to troops.  It needed to refuel in Bamaga but due to foggy conditions, it clipped some trees and crashed about 3km short of its target.  All on board perished.

 

Cape York

 

If you have a chance to swing past and see this crash site, then definitely do.

 

Muttee Head

This was a great place to camp.  It’s right next to the beach, the camping permit is included with the ferry pass, and the sweet scent of fig trees perfumed the breeze.  It looked like someone thought it was a great place to live because there was a campsite with a makeshift sink and little garden.  Perhaps a recent bushfire had chased the beachside hermit away.

 

Cape York

 

Day 6

In the morning, we headed straight to the Jardine Ferry, but the ferryman hadn’t turned up yet.  It was still early so we hung around for 45 minutes with a bunch of other people waiting for the ferry to open.  The guy eventually turned up at 8:15am and got to work straight away.

 

Old Telegraph Track

Today we would complete the northern portion of the OTT, but because the road was closed from the Jardine River, we had to travel a few clicks before finding the side track in.  We checked out Eliot Falls, Twin Falls and Fruit Bat Falls, did a nerve-wrecking water crossing, and headed back to the southern portion of the OTT.  The Jardine Ferry ticket included camping at Bertie Creek so that’s where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

 

 

Day 7

After a quick wash in Bertie Creek, we decided to continue down the OTT instead of taking the Gunshot Bypass back to the main road. We usually avoid back tracking but we liked the OTT so much the first time, we were happy to do it again.

 

After a brief stop at Bramwell Junction Roadhouse to pump up the tyres and stock up on some more water, we went to Moreton Telegraph Station to book our campsite for that night in Iron Range National Park.  The lady at the station was really helpful and told us that Telstra customers can get a few bars of reception at Chilli Beach – if we wanted, we could book our site once we checked out the campgrounds.

 

Frenchmans Track

We took Frenchmans Track into Iron Range National Park, and found the track to be thoroughly unpleasant.  It alternated between unavoidable corrugations, soft sand and the occasional creek crossings.

 

 

There are two rivers that intersect with Frenchmans – Wenlock Crossing is fairly easy to navigate through but watch out for Pascoe Crossing.  It’s steep and rocky and you’ll definitely need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to get through.  Unfortunately, the Troopy got hung up on a rock and while trying to get free, the brake booster blew.  Highly inconvenient – Dave had only one shot at guiding the Troopy down the steep rocky path into the river and he did a bloody good job.

 

The great views that followed the Pascoe Crossing were besmirched by the brake booster busting.  And to make matters worse, our water goon bag had bounced around in the back and tore on a bracket holding the curtains in place.  We dealt with the goon, ate a banana to cheer us up, and made an effort to appreciate our surroundings before continuing on.

 

Cape York 2014-09-24 095

 

Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park

Once off the Frenchmans Track, we followed the tarmac road through the ranges to suddenly be surrounded by rainforest.  We even saw a cassowary hurry off into the bushes!  The road alternated between paved and gravel road, and the rain made it easy for Dave to see pot holes.  The smell of the forest was wonderful, and we were amazed at how thick the foliage was.

 

There are two camping areas in Iron Range.  The rainforest campsites are nice and shaded right amongst the rainforest, but Cooks Hut is the only site that forbids generators.  It’s a large communal clearing with picnic benches and toilets.  Chilli Beach is the other camping area.  While reception is available on the beach, you can actually pick up a signal from the highroad on the way in.  This is where we made our first Queensland campsite booking.  The guy on the other end was really friendly, but we still have to wonder whether this micromanagement of parkland campsites is really the way to go.

 

Cape York 2014-09-25 055water

 

Chilli Beach

The sun had set by the time we got to our designated camping spot.  Dave was so frazzled from the day that when he opened the back of the Troopy to find that the goon water had leaked all over the bed, he refused to have anything to do with it and sat down to relax.

 

Juz sorted out the wet sheets and cooked a quick dinner of chicken and broccoli on rice cakes.  We both felt a lot better after a meal so we went to the adjacent campsite and met our neighbours.  Palm Cove locals, Symon & Robyne were holidaying with their kids and while we were on our way south, they were heading to the Tip.  We shared tips, exchanged details, and agreed that it would be good to meet up for a drink once we got to Palm Cove.

 

Cape York

 

Day 8

Juz crawled out of the Troopy in time to catch the sunrise on Chilli Beach.  After 4 days of overcast skies, the sun was finally out.  Eventually Dave woke up too and we went for a walk along the beach, picking up shells, spotting beached jellyfish and terrorising coconuts that were still hanging from the tree.   We also did the short forest walk behind the campgrounds and spotted lizards and butterflies amongst the undergrowth.

 

Cape York

 

Portland Roads

A short drive from Chilli Beach is Portland Roads, a cute little seaside spot with a few holiday houses and the Out of the Blue Café.  If you’re in the vicinity, stop by and get some seafood and chips – amazing!  We were also lucky enough to walk away with a big soursop fruit from the garden, compliments of the chef.

 

Cape York

 

Lockart River

If you need fuel, go to the local aboriginal community of Lockhart River.  It’s only $1.89 for diesel but remember – no photos while in the community. There isn’t much to photograph there anyway.

 

On the way out of Iron Range, we noticed rising smoke in the distance.  A bushfire was slowly burning through the dry scrub, and Juz told Dave to drive faster because the heat was too intense.

 

Cape York

 

Archer River Roadhouse

This was the last stop before the Quarantine checkpoint so we ate the entire soursop fruit for an afternoon snack.  Turns out, the quarantine checkpoint was closed anyway, but no matter – the fruit was delicious.  It was green and prickly on the outside with white flesh full of big black seeds like watermelon but five times bigger.  The flesh is stringy like pineapple or mango, and the flavour is slightly tart/sour.

 

Back in Coen

We got back to Coen just before dinnertime and had two long-awaited drinks at the SExchange.  We spend the night at the Bend again, and it was wonderful to have a wash in the fresh, croc-free water.

 

Day 9

We had another morning wash in the river before heading out to Lakefield National Park.  It was going to be a short day of driving because of the shot brake booster and poor quality fuel, so after swinging past Lotusbird Lodge, gazing at the flowers at Red Lily Lagoon and spying a kookaburra at White Lily Lagoon, we got to Kalpowar Crossing and relaxed.

 

 

Because of the croc-infested river, we had a cold shower in the toilet block and spent the rest of the afternoon reading.  Once the sun went down, we noticed that the ground was moving and found tiny little frogs everywhere… as well as big ugly cane toads.

 

Day 10

Because we didn’t have a boat for fishing on the river, there was nothing else to do at Kalpowar so we set off early for Cooktown.  This would be the final destination of our Cape York adventure, and what was supposed to be a two day stop ended up stretching to 10 days because of an unexpected Helpx invitation.

 

Overall, we enjoyed our time at Cape York.  The two biggest highlights were definitely being at the northern most point of mainland Australia and four-wheel driving along the Old Telegraph Track.

 

Cooktown 2014-09-27 0082

 

 

Cape York

Experience : Cape York – Part 1

Cape York

 

Cape York was not what we expected.  We thought it would be lush and tropical with thick rainforest everywhere, but it wasn’t like that at all.  The roads were dry and dusty, and there was a lot of mining activity around Weipa because of the bauxite mine.  Also, an unusual blanket of cloud was cast over the sky for a number of days, which was both welcomed because of the coolness of the days but cursed because sometimes you just want sunshine.

 

The landscape of the Cape is very diverse and includes areas of bush scrub and heath lands, pockets of rainforest and coastal scrub with coconut trees and mangroves.  All the rivers rise from the Great Dividing Range, which extends all the way to the Tip.  The road conditions are also variable, with corrugated dirt roads broken up by sections of sealed road, as well as sandy or eroded 4WD tracks.

 

The main attractions of Cape York are the Tip and the Overland Telegraph Track.  Many 4WD enthusiasts flock to the Cape for some serious off-road action, while a picture at the northernmost point of Australia is worth framing.  There is also plenty of fishing to be done, as well as camping and bird watching.

 

Before you head to the Cape, check out information on camping permits, alcohol restrictions and quarantine zones.

 

DAY 1

We woke up at Rifle Creek Rest Area just south of Mount Molloy and got going fairly early.  The plan was to get all the way to Coen before dinner and we had about 450km to travel.

 

As we passed through Mount Carbine, we saw the open mine to the right, and stopped at Bob’s Lookout as we travelled along the windy road past Mount Desailly and Mount Elephant.  We had a quick lunch at Musgrave Roadhouse before finishing the last stretch to Coen.

 

Cape York

 

Coen

A very small town with all the basics – the SExchange Hotel, a post office combined with a grocery store, a takeaway joint and a mechanic, as well as a health centre and other government buildings.  It was established as a fort on the river in 1873 due to a gold rush in the area.  We went straight to the SExchange for a beer and were a little surprised that we were the only ‘white fellas’ in the place, other than the tiny Asian bar wench.  It’s to be expected, considering that 80% of Coen’s population are indigenous.

 

That night, we camped at the Bend a few clicks out of town.  It’s a beautiful spot right on the Coen River, with clear water for bathing and plenty of birdlife to gawk at in the morning.

 

 

Day 2

Today was Dave’s Birthday and his present was a tilt level orb for the Troopy – it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time with all the 4WDing that was ahead of us.

 

We continued on the Peninsula Developmental Road for another 25km and arrived at the quarantine check point, where we learnt that we can bring fruit into the Cape but can’t take any fruit that we’ve picked off trees out of the Cape.  Many pest insects have blown over from PNG and infected fruit trees such as mangos, bananas and any other tropical fruits.

 

Weipa

The road to Weipa was shithouse – full of corrugation, bouncy bumps and bull dust with only a few sections that are paved.

 

 

Weipa is an odd town, with a landscape ruined by the local mining industry.  It’s not organised like other towns – there is no main street with all the shops that you need, everything is spread out, which is a little inconvenient.  There’s a Woolies supermarket for stocking up on groceries, Telstra reception (but no Optus), cheap fuel ($1.63 for diesel), and camping permits can be booked at the caravan park.

 

Our first stop was the Albatross Hotel for a drink, and we were inundated with friendly locals who, after about 20 minutes, revealed their motivations for chatting to us – they wanted a lift to Mapoon, about 90km to the north.  We then moved to the Weipa Bowls Club for Dave’s birthday lunch.

 

Weipa

 

Once we had done everything we needed to do, we did some sight-seeing near Evan’s Landing and continued our journey to the Tip.  On the way, we crossed the Wenlock River and noticed a sign in the tree…

 

Cape York

 

Moreton Telegraph Station

With no free camps in the area, we pulled in at Moreton Station.  It cost $10 each to camp and we had the luxury of a hot shower and flushing toilets but the annoyance of generators running until about 10pm.  Camping permits can also be booked at reception.

 

Day 3

In the morning, we were woken up by the hideous squawk of birds that sounded like the freakish score from Psycho.  We packed up, showered again and hit the road.

 

Bramwell Junction Roadhouse

This is a great place to stop before embarking on the Old Telegraph Track.  Get information about the condition of the track, top up your fuel tank or tuck into some food.  There are also toilets and a tap with drinkable water, if required.

 

Cape York

 

Old Telegraph Track

The OTT is remnants of the original telegraph track from the 1880s that connected Cairns with Thursday Island.  The last Morse code message was sent in 1962 and then systems upgraded to microwave repeater towers.  The Cape York Developmental Road replaced the track in the 1970s but it’s still used today by 4WD enthusiasts.

 

We loved the Old Telegraph Track – check out our post here.

 

Cape York

 

Jardine Ferry

The price for the ferry might be extortion, but it’s the only way to get to the Tip by road.  Not too many years ago, you could follow the OTT all the way to up to the Jardine River east of where the ferry runs.  The crossing point has now been conveniently dredged and is unpassable, thereby forcing everyone to use the ferry.   The $129 fare is supposed to maintain the ferry and other stuff, but we didn’t see how that could be true considering the state of the place.  The ferry is owned by the Northern Peninsula Area council, who hiked up the price in 2013 because they were financially screwed.  Until they build a bridge, tourists heading to the top are going to have to pay the piper.

 

Croc Tent

We cruised through the aboriginal communities and headed straight for the Tip, but we did stop at the Croc Tent, and we recommend that you do too.  It was by far the most informative place we stopped at since we left Mareeba.  The guy gave us a free map of the Tip, and made a few recommendations on where to camp.

 

Cape York

 

The Tip

We made it to the Tip car park just before sunset and because the tide was down, we walked along the beach to the rocky headland to find the infamous sign.  The Tip of Australia is located 10° south of the equator and is only 180km from PNG.  After Dave made a phone call to a mate, we headed back to the Troopy for some dinner.

 

Cape York

 

In the meantime, a guy we met on the OTT, Tony, rocked up with his friend Tim.  After a quick chat in the dimming light, we went to check out a nearby abandoned resort for a potential place to camp.  We found an overgrown driveway, slowly inched the Troopy in but found the whole place way too creepy, so we slowly inched the Troopy back down the driveway and CLUNK!  We couldn’t figure out what we had hit so we turned the Troopy around and went back to the beach.

 

Tony and Tim were just about to set up on the beach when we returned.  We let them know that the resort was not an option, and the beach was too risky because of the tides, so we ended up setting up camp in the car park.  This is when the CLUNK revealed its point of impact – the Troopy’s bumper, which bent upwards to jam the back door – where we sleep, where our food is, where Dave’s tools are to fix the bumper.  We spent the rest of the evening laughing at how funny it all was, while Tony and Tim helped out with tools and beer.

 

Cape York

 

Day 4

We had a slow start in the morning because the bumper and rear lights needed to be put back on, and we didn’t leave the car park until about 10am.  We explored the abandoned resort and it was much less scary than it was the night before.  We then went to check out a camping spot near Somerset that was recommended by the guy at the croc tent.

 

Somerset

Despite being a dull, cloudy day, the beach at Somerset was beautiful but there was still a lot of junk everywhere.  There was even some sort of junk shrine, decorated with thongs, bottles, buoys and hats.  The hellish toilets show no sign of benefitting from the Jardine Ferry fare and the campground was scattered with collapsed humpies.

 

Cape York

 

5 Beaches Track

Following the coast in a south easterly direction from Somerset, the 5 Beaches 4WD track crosses rocky headlands and sandy beaches, and is a relatively easy track with some great views.  There is plenty of colourful washed-up rubbish and coral on the beaches if you’re into fossicking for crap that may have potentially floated over from PNG.  We spotted bush tucker on the side of the track too, and would have tried to get some if the bushes weren’t infested with green ants.

 

 

Once we got to the 4th beach, we found a track leading to a clearing of oak trees that was reasonably sheltered from the wind.  We set up camp and tried a new SPAM recipe – Spam Bacon Carbonara – which ended up being quite good.  Check out the recipe here.