It had rained continually over the past couple of days and it was still raining when we packed up to leave Siesia and head for the Jardine Ferry.
Our plan was to make our way back down the Cape and visit the places we’d missed on the way up, with our first port of call, Mutee Head, a rocky headland and beach on the western side of the Northern Peninsula Area.
Originally constructed by the Americans during WWII, the road in was quite rough and definitely 4WD territory, but once we had tackled the deep ruts, rocks and sandy track we came to a lovely shady camp area right on the beach… with one downside!
Campers had left campsites littered with rubbish, public bins were overflowing and there was not one spot clean enough for us to pitch our rooftop tent for the night. The majority of people who come to these free camps are responsible and take out everything they bring in, but some people just want to come and camp in a nice pristine place, but they don’t have the decency to leave it as it was when they first got there… and these people are just plain disgusting!
Aside from this, it really was a beautiful spot and there was a lot of history here. Near the beach and the headland was a small 4WD track up the hill to some WWII relics, and further on, the mouth of the Jardine River. This area served as a radar and gun placement during the WWII with the only remains being that of an old jetty, an old radar dish and a single gun placement lying in the surrounding scrub.
This was also where the Torres Strait Islanders first settled when they arrived on mainland Australia, and the lonely graves of the original people who came to Mutee Head from the Saibai Island, and a monument, sat on the hill overlooking the bay.
It had finally stopped raining and the sun shone from behind the clouds when we arrived to join the long queue of 4WDs and campers waiting to cross the Jardine… it was obviously peak hour, as there were vehicles lined-up for as far as the eye could see, all waiting patiently for their respective places on the ferry.
This ferry is pretty much the only way you can cross the murky croc infested Jardine, unless of course you have a death wish and want to cross via the Old Telegraph Track. With a very soft, sandy bottom, not to mention the hungry crocs it can be very dangerous and from all accounts many a vehicle have gone in and not come out… so this alternative is not really recommended!
Sitting in line, 1 hour turned into 2 hours then 3! Meanwhile our surroundings were a buzz of activity with the whining of chainsaws and the sound of axes as campers cut wood in the surrounding scrub for their next campsite. People set up chairs and made themselves comfortable with a book and a cuppa, groups huddled together to swap stories as children played on the side of the road… it was such a relaxed atmosphere and really lovely to see that everyone was happy to take Cape time in their stride!
Finally exiting the ferry and back on the Peninsula Development Road, we made our way south (along a road that was now a slippery mass of red mud from the recent rain), to the turnoff to the Old Telegraph Track (OTT).
We had seen and heard of caravans badly scarred while travelling up the Cape and just down the road after leaving the ferry we saw first hand evidence of a vehicle and camper that didn’t quite make it.
These unsealed roads are as rough as they get, more so in the wet, and we couldn’t help but envisage the rough roads these vehicles, towing caravans, had already travelled… leaving us to wonder why people would even contemplate bringing their very expensive caravans up here. Most travellers we had met had either left their caravans at Cooktown or Laura and opted for the safer option of a roof top tent or a tent… but sadly some owners believed their ‘off-road’ caravan would come out unscathed after taking a pounding on these very rough, corrugated roads of Cape York.
Before attempting this journey we had kitted ourselves out with all the gear from ARB Launceston and we knew our Hilux was up to the challenge.. we were well equipped to get ourselves out of any sticky situations should the need arise; a strong bull bar, Old Man Emu Suspension, winch, compressor, snorkel, UHF radio, a good set of all terrains and a recovery kit for the rugged tracks. We even had a dual battery and long-range fuel tank fitted just for that added peace of mind, and of course our canopy was fitted with an internal frame to cater for the weight of our ARB rooftop tent, which sat on the Rhino roof racks alongside our ARB swag and awning, our bikes and shovel! The three’ P’s for off-road tracks: Preparation, Preparation and Preparation!!
Around 100 kilometres down the road and eager to taste real adventure again, we left the Peninsula Development Road along with its corrugations, mud and high-speed vehicles and headed in on the northern end of the southern section of the Old Telegraph Track (OTT).
Instead of doing the norm and heading north along the Southern Bypass of the Old Telegraph Track (OTT) from Bramwell Junction we were heading in the opposite direction trying to play catch up on a few crossings we had missed on the journey up.
We had already completed part of the Northern Bypass on our way up, with our first attempt being Scrubby Creek Crossing between Fruit Bat and Eliot Falls then further on at Sam Crossing… and what was left of that track could wait for another day as we really didn’t want to risk those water crossing where a number of 4WDs had already been for a big swim!
Overall there are 14 river crossings on the whole of the OTT and only 1 has a bridge crossing (and apparently a very rickety one at that), all the rest have to be crossed by driving through the water and along the river bed at designated crossing points. The OTT track follows the old overland telegraph line which was once the only means of communication on the Cape as well as the only land route… that was until Telecom replaced the old telegraph network and built the bypass road to service the line.
About 10 kilometres down the road from where the Northern Bypass track of the OTT started we turned off onto the top end of the Southern Bypass and headed for Sailor Creek. Our first stop was the picturesque Sheldon Lagoon, with its tall naked trees
protruding from the depths of the lake and I should imagine a great place for crocs to call home… but amazingly all we saw were lots of turtles, oblivious to our intrusion! Sailor Creek was easily a blink and a miss creek but there was a linesman hut still standing and the old bush dunny.
Next was Cockatoo Creek a wide, a strongly flowing stream with a rocky bottom, and I must say a little bit tricky to cross, requiring careful negotiation to avoid the often deep potholes, which would not be kind to the underside of Harry Hilux… but with some assistance from like-minded 4WDers we were soon across and setting up camp on the southern bank. A common diversion for many people along this drive is helping out fellow travellers who get stuck and offering advice on best tracks to travel… alas, the next notorious crossing on our adventure, aka… the Gunshot Crossing!
Next day we headed on bright and early passing the grave of W. J. Brown a linesman who died on this track in 1945 and further afield we came to the famous Gunshot Crossing, a crossing that is not for the faint hearted and apparently very difficult, having claimed many a 4WD in the past… and after some sound advice from those we camped with, we had already decided on which track we would take!
All the crossings we had tackled presented their own unique challenges and thankfully for us on this one, there was another ‘Chicken Track’… and although a much, much longer route it was an easy choice to take this track that was just a little bit easier than the real deal. I won’t stress the word ‘easier’ though, as it was still a little scary in places with steep, muddy descents and just a little slippery on the exit, but overall it was a lot less steep and nowhere near as deep… and Harry Hilux managed it nicely!
When we arrived at the southern end of Gunshot we couldn’t help but poke our noses in to see what all the fuss was about, and there to greet us, were a few parked 4WDs and a large crowd of spectators who had made the trip in from the PDR! People love to come to watch the vehicles tackle this notorious crossing and check out the memorabilia discarded on the banks… and it was a good place to stop for a cuppa while we checked out the track and watched a few go through.
All of the entrances into the water were a real challenge with eroded and very steep banks. There must have been 5 or 6 different ways to get down and none of them looked particularly appealing! One would have been like driving your car off a cliff into mud and another was so narrow and on the edge of the cliff, and just too steep for comfort!
Next was a long winding and rough track to Bertie Creek. This track was so narrow in parts it was only a single car width some of the way, and so narrow in places that we had to pull our wing mirrors in at times. It is not really advised to travel the way we were heading on the track as there are few passing opportunities. We met lots of people coming the other way as the majority of 4WDers travel south to north then to the ‘Tip’ and return the Peninsula Development Road… but no, not us!
Bertie Creek crossing was a little tricky as the river bed was stone with a few big potholes, deep enough to swallow a tyre but there were enough people at this creek to help point us in the right direction and we were soon on our way to the Dulhunty River. This track really was like a busy highway with plenty of people to help out along the way if the inevitable should happen and we got stuck!
Delhunty River was a beautiful spot with clear, flowing water, a rocky base and a cascade downstream of the crossing for a little play in the water before heading on.
Dulhunty River came and went and the next was a mud puddle called North Alice Creek.
Ducie Creek was next, a wide, muddy crossing with an eroded entry. There were no steep banks like the last crossing and we soon realised the creek got deeper and deeper the further we walked in… but we soon discovered it was much shallower and easier to cross, closer to the edges.
It was great fun tackling these water crossings in Harry and although a bit challenging, especially for the driver at times, the water level was relatively low as we were at the end of the ‘dry season’. Most were only about knee-deep and we always walked through each crossing to check it out before driving it… the main hazards were the tricky entries and exit points, and the rock holes and washouts in the creek beds. The creek conditions change as the seasons change, and the entrances and exits may vary from year to year, depending on the amount of traffic they get… considering this, we were pretty lucky most of them weren’t as bad as we expected, but that could easily change over the next couple of weeks with more school holiday traffic still to come through!
We then came to our very last crossing on the OTT, Palm Creek. We had already been to visit this crossing on our way up, and saw first hand it could be a challenge even for experienced 4WDers, which we definitely weren’t by a long shot!
It was very steep to get in and very muddy and slippery on the other side to get out… and as further evidence it wasn’t the easiest crossing, a pile of vehicle parts including side steps and plastic bumper components lay discarded nearby!
Apparently two vehicles had been swallowed up and winched out the day before and we later learned that one person had lost their brand new car to this crossing (stupidly uninsured)… and it spent the rest of its journey on the back of a tow truck – a write off!
We arrived just as a group of 4WDs pushed through heading north… then it was our turn. One guy, thought we were crazy heading in the wrong direction and told us not to despair if we got stuck as the trees were conveniently located at this crossing for the use of a winch if required. That gave us a lot of confidence I must admit, but we hadn’t used our winch to date and we had no plans of using it on our last crossing; so with careful manoeuvring, we negotiated the tight eroded gully, drove through the small stream then up the other heavily rutted side easily… well not so easy, but we got there!
We had learned from experience that negotiating some of these crossings required driving a particular line so as not to get stuck and of course it was alway better to walk through the crossings a few times beforehand!
Nevertheless, we made the 80 kilometres through and by the end of the day we had set up our rooftop tent at Bramwell Junction… and with a cold beer in hand we just sat for a while reflecting on what we had done, and seen so far, and what an amazing adventure we had to date.
Steep river banks, big holes and rutted track grooves led the way on our journey along the OTT, but the real attractions for us were the river crossings! We did however, make a mental note that a GoPro and a small chainsaw would definitely be on the top of our list for our next trip!
Next day, back on the PDR, we continued to push down, detouring slightly to the west, and the mining town of Weipa. We drove along the Batavia Downs Road, passing nobody but the local wildlife and checked into Weipa’s only camp ground, which even at noon was pretty full and we just managed to get a lovely grassed site at the back of the shopping complex.
Weipa is the largest town on the peninsula, and sits on the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is the service centre for the largest bauxite mine in Australia and odds are, if you live in Weipa you are either a mine worker, a fisherman or on your way up to Cape York in a 4WD… and you cannot pretend the mine isn’t there as you drive in! As we entered the town we were stopped at a hauling road at the only traffic lights north of Cairns to let a monster machine cross and then we passed the export wharf with large ore ships being loaded.
It was a busy town with the big Rio Tinto Bauxite mine running 24/7 and at night, from the caravan park, we could hear the drone of the machines working at the mine even though it was many kilometres away.
The company burn the scrub and excavate the land and replant all areas after they have finished mining but what damage they do to the flora, fauna and sea life was not discussed and best left for locals to discuss among themselves… but one got the distinct feeling the subject was taboo.
When we first drove in, we drove along the main drive right past the caravan park and around the lakes to Evans Point, an excellent place to watch water birds, have a cuppa and watch several giant black-necked Jabiru storks – Australia’s largest stork with a wing span of up to more than two metres!
Australia’s longest single lane bridge which at 1.2 kilometres long made for a good photo opportunity too,and we pulled over at the crossing where all the mining dump trucks travel on their own highway to take some shots of gigantic mining trucks passing through. The sheer size of the tyres on these mining trucks rolling past was terrifying!
Aboriginal people have inhabited the Weipa area for tens of thousands of years. The area was one of the first coastlines in Australia to be seen by Europeans when the Dutch explorer, Willem Jansz, passed by this coast in 1606 with his ship Duyfken.
In the late 1800s, when Europeans started to settle in the area due to pearling, bechede-mer (sea cucumber) fishing, pastoralism and missionaries arrived and the first Aboriginal mission was Mapoon. Weipa and Aurukun soon followed.
At the turn of the century, bauxite was discovered but there was no interest in the deposit until 1955 when the geologist Harry Evans found that it was worth mining.
Comalco mining company (now Rio Tinto) built Weipa for its mining crews and the port opened in 1962. The town has since been growing and the bauxite mine is now the largest one in the world… but despite the fact it really is an industrial mining town, Weipa’s red soils and blue waters still manage to make this little town beautiful in its own special way!
We had come this far and we couldn’t leave Weipa without doing a few side trips to Mapoon and Napranum Aboriginal Community and Shire.
Mapoon is an Aboriginal community, 91 kilometres north of Weipa and it was here at Mapoon where the first contact between Aboriginals and Europeans happened, more than 150 years before Cook was around, and it is also the site where the infamous forcible removal of Mapoon people, 50 years later happened.
There are only a few streets at Mapoon, Main Street with a general store, council and cultural centre then there was Back Street, Janie Street and a short drive along a rough track to Turtle Creek and further on Cullen Point where there were a few campsites and a long beach, probably only suitable for those with a passion for fishing.
In the middle, right at the beachfront on the end of the main street, was a sign where the Old Mapoon Community used to be!
Where the memorial is now, was the old Mapoon Mission Station and what little was left of the mission house, the church, a school, boys’ and girls’ dormitories, a dispensary and a hospital, a store, a butchery, gardens and wells.
Back in Weipa we stocked up on groceries and as it was late in the day, booked into the caravan park for another night.
Just south of Weipa, as we headed out the next day, we passed Napranum another Aboriginal community. This community is so close to Weipa it is also known as Weipa South. Napranum Land is where all the rules apply and if you plan on travelling there be aware that all alcohol is banned!
Red dust was thrown up by road trains as we made tracks back to the Peninsula Road. The dirt roads out this way are generally in good condition ranging from corrugated to freshly graded as they are used by trucks supplying the mine and the locals between Cairns and Weipa. Occasionally the dirt was interspersed with sections of bitumen to facilitate passing as passing lanes up here are almost non-existent with the dust, corrugations and tight corners with banks of white loose sand.
It was a slow trip back to the main road for us with one road train after another and so much dust! At times we were down to a crawl… and of course as soon as one road train radios you to pass through the thick dust clouds, another is on top of you and there always seemed to be another road train a little bit further ahead, and then another and another.
The more sensible option for us was to pull over and have a cuppa and pray we had met all the road trains we were going to meet for the day then finally we were back on the Peninsula Development Road with our sights firmly set on finding a free camp for the night.
Archer Roadhouse was our first stop to top up our tank, then about 25 kilometres north of Coen we came to the Coen Quarantine Station and Information Centre again. On our way up we didn’t need to stop but as we drove down we had to pull over to be checked for any plant or animal material, particularly mangoes and bananas.
Down the road we pulled in under the bridge at Coen Bend on the Coen River, about five kilometres north of the town. This lovely spot had shallow pools of water, some grassy sites, and other sandy sites for the choosing… albeit close to the road and hence subject to the noise of the road trains. Several other campers thought it a nice spot too, as most of the spots further along the river had been taken. Most campers were either on their way down from the ‘Tip’ or going up… and of course we had good company for the evening meeting up with Kaz and Graham again who we first met at the free camp at Gordanvale just south of Cairns.
Heading on the next day we stopped briefly at Musgrave Roadhouse to top up with diesel again, before heading to the ranger station in Lakefield National Park. The old saying ‘better safe than sorry’ gains new meaning in the Cape, especially when there’s hundreds of kilometres between one bowser and the next and even though we had a long-range tank we decided we would top up whenever we could on the outback tracks!
We had planned on taking the track from Musgrave to Karumba from here. A track that would take us through a couple of stations and across the Mitchell River, but because our bikes were out of action and needed to be repaired we decided to take the Battlecamp Road then head to the Atherton Tablelands via Cooktown and the Daintree.
Lakefield National Park is the largest national park on the peninsula, and the second largest after the Simpson Desert in Queensland. It is all open woodlands and grasslands, wetlands, rivers, and mangrove mudflats on some very flat land in the Laura Basin, a low area that breaks up the Great Dividing Range.
We had travelled through this national park on our way up and this time we were heading to the central section where there were camping spots along the Normanby and the North Kennedy River with Kalpowar Crossing the most popular followed closely by Hann River.
Unlike many other places in the eastern Cape York, the vegetation in this national park is not rainforest, it is eucalypt woodland and it floods regularly during the Wet Season. There are quite a few large rivers in this area and as we travelled along, if there wasn’t water surrounding us, the ground was covered with termite mounds.
We passed by the lagoon, old buildings, cattle yards and 100-year-old mango trees that marked the site of Old Breeza Homestead then pulled into the ranger station just short of Kalpowar Crossing.
As camping fees are no longer paid at the self registration stations in Queensland it meant we would have to master the touch pad to book our campsite. Most people pre book sites weeks, sometimes months in advance, but not us, we just rocked up as usual with the hope of finding a camp site, forgetting it was school holidays! Consequently Kalpowar was booked out and the only spot available was at Mick Fienn Waterholes.
Kalpowar Crossing camping area is on the very steep 5 metre high, western bank of the Normanby River adjacent to an 8 kilometre stretch of permanent fresh waterholes, and is the only point where vehicles can cross the Normanby River to access the Cape Melville National Park… so again we couldn’t come this far without checking out and crossing the ‘crossing’… or taking a hike along a track, which took us to the river and back through long grasses and a vine forest and open woodland. Large crocodiles are frequently seen here and we didn’t need to walk to far to see the park’s most famous wildlife… crocodiles.
Along the main Lakefield road which goes between the two rivers, we came to the White Lily Lagoon and Red Lily Lagoon, and as their name suggests, the waterholes were still canvassed with beautiful white lilies and the towering lotus lilies in Red Lily Lagoon were quite an amazing sight.
A further 9 kilometres from the Lakefield Road turn-off we came to Mick Fienn Waterholes tucked away in a remote spot where we had a camp spot all to ourselves. This was a beauty tucked away in a remote area that was a lot less crowded than Kalpowar Crossing and could only be reached by 4WD with the access road crossing the Kennedy River. It was also next to deep, permanent waterholes on the banks of the Normanby River where large crocodiles had frequently been seen and we were hoping the banks were just a little too steep for the crocs to attempt a midnight visit to us… thank heavens for the rooftop tent!
Our designated campsite for the night was number 5 and quite a distance away from any other campers. There were only 5 campsites in this area with our’s being big enough for around 5-6 vehicles and possibly their campers too!
Just two of us on such a huge campsite in the middle of nowhere… and there wasn’t even a loo! We were pretty self-sufficient though and the shovel strapped to the top of Harry came in very handy as did my portable throne set up in the bush, with a lovely view over the billabongs!
During the day we had seen cattle, wild pigs, lots of small wallabies, cane toads, frogs, a large sand goanna, brown snakes crossing the road, a tree snake, a turtle that ventured into our camp site, an eagle snatch a small creature from behind a grass tuft and a salt water crocodile on the banks of the river where people were fishing for barramundi…. and a big sign ‘Warning – RECENT crocodile sighting here’ and that night we drifted off to sleep to all sorts of noises in the night and lots of splashes… and we were too afraid to pop outside our rooftop tent even for a wee, as that evening we had spotted a bright pair of green croc eyes just downstream – so there were definitely large beasties around.
The following day heading south we passed the New Laura ranger base as we headed to the historical site of Old Laura Homestead. This was quite an amazing old home complete with all the out buildings, a well and the rusty remains of a vehicle from the last century. The main building was first built in the 1800s as a homestead for a cattle station and was abandoned in 1966 and turned into ruins, but has since been rebuilt by volunteers. Miners once used the track leading to the homestead as the main access to the goldfields.
Leaving Old Laura Homestead we headed off along Battlecamp Road. This track was only 103 kilometres with three river crossings so we didn’t expect it to take us very long.
Not far from the Old Laura Homestead we came to our first crossing, Laura River. It had a sandy bottom and was not a problem to cross but during the wet and early dry season it is one of the two rivers, along with the Normanby that closes Battlecamp Road.
Just before exiting Lakefield National Park we passed the turnoff to Leichardt, Welcome Waterholes then Horseshoe Lagoon and lastly Lake Emma. Further on outside the national park we came to Battlecamp Station and not long after that we drove through Normanby Station, then came to the Normanby River. This causeway was not a problem to cross either but during the wet and early dry it can become impassable.
The name ‘Battlecamp Road’ comes from the Palmer River gold rush days when this route was used by the miners to get from the port in Cooktown to the Palmer River Goldfields. On many of those trips, attacks happened, but the one that named the road happened in late 1873 when a group of about 130 Europeans, Chinese miners and prospectors were attacked by around 500 Aboriginal people. A bloody battle followed with many lives lost, but most of the victims were Aboriginals who hadn’t expected the men they attacked to carry rifles.
Continuing on east the track soon started to climb over the mountain range then further on we came to Isabella Falls and a nice camping spot where we pulled in just before another creek crossing that crossed over the top of the falls… where just below the falls we had our own swimming hole for a short time before other 4WDs arrived.
Moving on, it wasn’t far along the road that we came to a T-junction, one way to Cooktown and the other to Hope Vale… and like a magnet, our journey pulled us north to the little Aboriginal community called Hope Vale and then on to Elim Beach Campground, just a little off the beaten track!
We had actually never heard of Elim Beach until our last visit to Cooktown when a camper described it as ‘one of Australia’s best bush-beach camping spots’. That was a few years ago, but I can report that little seems to have changed since then.
Set in a picturesque valley in beautiful rural setting, 46 kilometres north-west of Cooktown, Hope Vale Aboriginal Community is gateway to one of the most spectacular sand dune environments on Cape York. This is the traditional country of the Guugu Yimithirr, a tribal nation which stretched from the Annan River in the south, to Princess Charlotte Bay in the north.
The township was built in 1949 but the original community dates back to 1886, when the Lutheran Church first established a mission at Elim, Cape Bedford, to protect the Guugu Yimithirr from the devastating effects of the Palmer River Gold Rush.
Today the community has a population of around 1,500 people, with its own school, hospital, church, supermarket and service station and is also home to many talented artists and musicians hence the very colourful police station we couldn’t help but notice as we passed through… and a word of warning, please do not carry alcohol in your vehicle, as restrictions apply here too.
We were told we would need to stop at the service station and purchase an Aboriginal permit before heading on to Elim Beach but now permits are included in camping fees at Eilm Beach Campground, our main challenge was finding the Elim Beach Road, but eventually we followed our nose through the town and it was the only road heading due east; then a 30 kilometre drive along a gravel road wound through rugged escarpments and heath lands and it was relatively easy-going with only a few small creek crossings.
As we neared the coast the track turned to sand and a vast landscape of white silica sand hills stretched for kilometres up and down the coast beside us. There were the odd lush green palms and bushes growing on the dunes and not a house or a person in sight and the first indication we had arrived at our destination was a few run down beach houses and a hand painted sign with one arrow pointing in the direction of the Coloured Sands 4WD track and the other to the Elim Campground.
Taking the right fork, just in front of the beach, we drove about another 200 metres following a narrow, sandy track where we found an amazing campground called ‘Eddies Camp’. This campground belongs to Thiithaarr-warra Elder, Eddie Deemalan, an aboriginal elder who at 94, was a very interesting character. The campground is right on the water’s edge with fabulous views to Cape Bedford, providing the perfect base to explore the area. Just past Elim Beach other sandy and boggy 4WD tracks led to Cape Bedford and South Cape Bedford, appparently an area mostly frequented by dedicated fisherman.
We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived at Elim, but the badly weathered sign marking the entrance gives us fair warning and sure enough we found Eddie relaxing in his armchair on the balcony of his home opposite the campsite’s rudimentary facilities that included a camp kitchen and flushing toilets. Most things were pretty basic at Elim Beach, which Eddie built on the site of a former coconut plantation in the early 2000s. His house was built in 2001 and winds around a giant mango tree and it was well worth taking the time to chat with him about the area’s history, its Aboriginal heritage and his connections with sawmilling in Tasmania.
After paying our fee to his offsider we set off to choose a campsite then after setting up camp we set off to explore.
The main attraction to this area is the mesmerizing dune formations of the neighbouring Coloured Sands and later that day we utilised the low tide to walk 3 kilometres up the beach. Many people drive up in their 4WDs but I would image they would have to drive at the very edge of the beach unless they wanted to get bogged in the soft sand and the mud… and it would not be a good place to get bogged with an incoming tide that comes right up to the mangroves!
This was a beautiful campground and we would highly recommend stopping here either on your way up to the ‘Tip’ or on your way back… we really enjoyed our beautiful camp under paperbark gum trees, gazing across the beautiful beach and if you have the chance to chat with Eddie, do… he is a wealth of knowledge!
The Lutheran Church originally established this community in 1886 as the Cape Bedford Mission. During World War II, the military interned the German Lutheran missionaries and the population evacuated to southern communities such as Woorabinda. More than 28 deaths were recorded from disease after the evacuation. Over the next eight years, more than a quarter of the population died. In September 1949, Hope Vale was re-established as a Lutheran Mission and the first families returned in 1950. Due to a lack of reliable water supplies at Elim, the community moved to its current site about 20 kilometres inland.
Reluctantly we headed on after a couple of days at Eddie’s Camp but not before taking the left fork to check out the 4WD track to the beach, and the many beachside shacks Eddie had told us about, all in various stages of disrepair thanks to two cyclones that struck the area in 2013 and 2014. These were obviously the weekend ‘squats’ used by Hope Vale people, who are drawn to the area for its fishing and, once, its turtles… but Eddie would like to see them all bulldozed, as he believes they are responsible for the over-fishing of the area and the diminishing birdlife and wildlife!
Heading back over ground we had travelled before we made a brief stop at Cooktown for a bite to eat then it was back over the Bloomfield Track with a very brief stop at Wujal Wujal Aboriginal community, across the Bloomfield River, up and down steep hills, through creeks, some with plenty of water, some a trickle as we made our way to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree then it was on the ferry and over to Daintree Village and the caravan park for the night.
It was only a 15 minutes drive from the ferry before we arrived in Daintree Village, a charming and peaceful little village that borders the Daintree Rainforest and sits on the southern banks of the Daintree River.
It was a beautiful drive in, with the peaks of impressive rolling mountains covered in rainforest rolling onto a valley of emerald-green fields to the banks of the river. It was a lovely little village with a real village atmosphere – local shops and art galleries and a magnificent sunset!
Our journey to the Cape was coming to an end…we had been on a fantastic adventure! We loved the vast open spaces, the waterfalls and huge skies, the excitement of driving long stretches of dusty roads, rugged tracks, muddy water crossings and over rocky outcrops. There was something magical about sitting, listening to the world around us, reminiscing about the day just gone and planning for the day ahead… we had so much fun! Our vehicle was tough on the outside and comfortable on the inside and Harry Hilux brought us safely through the wilderness and back… over 1800 kilometres from Cairns!
By 2020, the road to Cape York will be bitumen. When the Queensland Government goes ahead with plans to seal the road all the way through, average suburban cars will be able to make it to the ‘Tip’ and then this journey, this 4WD adventure through this remote country, will become a thing of the past; a relic from another era.
After all those years of dreaming, we can now tick this 4WD adventure to Cape York off our bucket list, and it certainly was an amazing road trip…