After 8 weeks on the road living out of our Hilux and sleeping in the rooftop tent, it didn’t take us long to work out the most beautiful things in life are not ‘things’… they are people and places, memories and photos!
Our life has become such a carefree and layback lifestyle with a new adventure everyday. We have met lots of new people and formed lifetime friendships, our rooftop tent has become our home away from home and best of all… I am travelling with my very best friend!
Our journey now continues on from Mossman Gorge. The scenery we had followed along the highway from Cairns a few days earlier had been spectacular… beautiful ocean, lined with white sandy beaches on one side, rainforest in its deep green glory on the other and sugar cane plantations sprinkled in between.
Officially, the highway we had just travelled from Cairns to Mossman is called the Captain Cook Highway but the 140 kilometre strip of bitumen, between Cairns and Cape Tribulation (including the Captain Cook Highway), is also known as the Great Barrier Reef Drive and winds along a road between two world heritage icons, the Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, with the bitumen road officially ending at Cape Tribulation, otherwise known as Cape Trib by locals.
The stunning tropical North Queensland coast was beautiful and although it seemed we just couldn’t get enough of it, it was time to reluctantly move on again!
It was a glorious drive when we left Mossman Gorge. The sun was beaming brightly as we sang to the ‘Beach Boys’ and listened to Len Beadell’s outback stories on CD.
We had planned to take the famous 4WD CREB Track from Daintree Village, which would provide the first real test for Harry Hilux.
The Creb Track starts just north of Daintree Village connecting to the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal and is 71 kilometres of apparently challenging trails, incredible scenic views and pristine clean swimming creeks and runs parallel to the Bloomfield Track… and we were really looking forward to this adventure!
We had really no idea where the CREB track started when we left the village, but after asking some offroad motorbike guys running a tour we soon found the notorious CREB with a ‘CLOSED’ sign attached and another group of offroad motorbikers who had just come through… none the worse for wear I might add! After rain this track becomes very slippery and quite dangerous in parts and according to these guys it could be closed for anything up to 10 days.
We were disappointed to say the least, but we had a good enough reason for another adventure, another time… so with a change of plans, we were now on our way back to the ferry terminal near the Daintree River where we would cross to the Daintree National Park and head to Cape Tribulation. This was the only way we could get to Cape Trib coming this way and our plan from there was to head to Cooktown via the Bloomfield Track. We had been to Cooktown before and it had always been high on our list of places to visit again… we just thought we were going to get there a different way!
After purchasing our ticket which cost $15 one way, we loaded Harry Hilux onto the old ferry, which was pulled across the river on a cable… a very expensive and very short trip which took all of about 5 minutes.
The next 40 kilometre stretch of road from the Daintree Ferry to Cape Tribulation would take us through dense rainforest, across several coastal creeks and past some spectacular tropical beaches.
Once on the other side, we drove up the narrow winding road and not 5 minutes later we were taking in the fabulous views from the top of the Alexandra Range, which looked out over the coast towards Snapper island and the Daintree river mouth and all the way back to Port Douglas.
Continuing on, the road wound its way past overhanging forest canopies, which concealed some of the most beautiful beaches… it was like driving through a magical door that opened into a magnificent world of rainforest and beaches.
The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest tropical rainforest on earth and is believed to date back 150-200 million years, making it considerably older than the Amazon which is thought to be around 7 million years old. One of the factors which helped to increase scientists’ awareness of the age of the rainforest was the discovery of Ribbonwood or Idiot Fruit, a plant which is over 110 million years old. This primitive plant is known as a ‘green dinosaur’ as it is a remnant of the forests of the supercontinent Gondwanaland.
It was an amazing place and as well as the flora, there was also an abundance of wildlife; reptiles, birds, bats, butterflies, many species of possum, tree kangaroos and of course the allusive Cassowary. We were still to spot a Cassowary and were led to believe there were quite a lot around when we came across signs all along the road that warned us to be cautious of crossing Cassowaries… but all we came across were some very big spiders known as the Golden Orb Weavers, which apparently are one of the largest spiders found in Australia. They are supposedly totally harmless to humans but they were pretty scary looking and not something we wanted to get up close and personal with!
A detour to Cow Bay was worth the trip just for a walk along the secluded beach but signs warning of crocodiles and seasonal marine stingers turned us off wanting to take a dip.
Thornton Beach, Noah Beach and Coconut Beach are all worth a wander too and there is the Daintree Discovery Centre, an interpretive centre where you can go on a guided tour following elevated boardwalks through the rainforest. It is the most touristy thing that you can do in this area and when you google ‘Daintree rainforest’ it is pretty much the first thing that comes up… that is apart from the boat ride to the Great Barrier Reef.
Unlike Port Douglas and Cairns where there are heaps of different tour companies that go out to the reef, there is only ONE here, and because of its location it is only a 30 minute boat ride… from Cairns it is about 2 hours.
We chose to conquer the nature walks on our own and the area had lots of different walks that we could do. Most of them were boardwalks that took us through forest and mangroves. For easy forest walks Marrdja, Kulki or Dubuji Boardwalks were lovely walks and for those looking for something a little more challenging there is the hiking track to Mt Sorrow, which is 800 metres above sea level.
As the road wound its way to Cape Trib there was also the ‘Jungle Bugs and Butterflies Insect Museum’ and of course we couldn’t miss the ‘Daintree Icecream Company‘, which we knew from our last trip was a great place to stop and enjoy the tasty treat as well as take in the beautiful surroundings. The ice creams here were delicious and made from locally grown exotic fruits and todays cone was 2 scoops of jackfruit, passion fruit, wattleseed and lemon, lime and myrtleberry… yummo!!
About mid way along the road we pulled into our camp for the night at Lync Haven Rainforest Resort and we should have known based on the number of cars and 4WD buses parked in the car park and campers in the campground that we were in for a special treat.
Located on approximately 20 acres of rainforest, this place was definitely something else; a motel, cabins, campground, cafe/restaurant and wildlife rescue and the owners were even involved in the rehabilitation program for pure dingoes and were the proud custodians of two small cubs! As well there were kangaroos, a number of native birds, snakes, reptiles and a resident salt water croc, which was fed every morning by the owner. Doris, who was first called Boris in mistaken identity was originally owned by a pet store and after outgrowing her pen was relocated here to a life of luxury.
There was a lovely rainforest walk and birds galore… and all on offer in just one place thanks to the lovely owners Jodie and her husband, Scott.
This lovely couple took pride in all that they did and were quick to offer suggestions on things to see and do while in the rainforest. Consequently our one night stand soon turned into two as there was so much to see and do on this drive… so next time you are up this way, stop in and say hello, enjoy the scenery and wildlife and sit awhile, it is so friendly and welcoming.
It was a small camping ground surrounded by rainforest and although very damp it had very clean amenities and a great camp kitchen where we met some lovely campers. Welcome to our blog Sue and Steve. The dampness and humidity here increased dramatically when it rained, which happened on both nights we were there, so consequently it took some time for us to dry out our rooftop tent before we left!
Leaving a couple of days later and not far from the campground we spotted a sign for the Daintree Tea Company. On the side of the road and surrounded by fields of tea was a shelter with some old farm equipment that was once used for harvesting tea. Here was a box full of tea (leaves and bags) and an honesty container to put our money in. We just loved this honesty system up this way… and yes, we did pick some tea up!
Further along we sighted our first Cassowary after peering for them everywhere…. well it was the back end of a Cassowary anyway, which actually didn’t register as a sighting as far as I was concerned!
Sue and Steve, the people we had camped with back at the resort had amazing photos of a brightly coloured one they spotted crossing the road, but not us, the only Cassowary that we saw moved quietly through the forest and was quite difficult to see as its black body was so well camouflaged it appeared like a shadow… and it was certainly not a photo opportunity!
Arriving at Cape Trib we found a sign to the famous beach and turned into the car park. At the end of a short tree-lined path we found two bottles of vinegar, a sign warning not to swim because of crocodiles and marine stingers… and the most beautiful beach!
It was the absolute idyllic beach, the sea was crystal clear and we could see the rocks sitting in the sand beneath the surface and it was so torturous knowing we couldn’t swim in this refreshing water because crocs may be lurking.
The waves lapped gently along a shore of beautiful white sand and the beach curved away from us to meet with a line of palm trees that were ripe with coconuts ready to drop and behind these the rainforest clad hills dropped down to meet the beach… that was all except for a few rogue mangroves who decided they weren’t staying back with the rest and were slowly marching into the sea on their own!
Cape Tribulation Beach is the one pictured in many postcards around Cairns and the Tropical North and as mentioned earlier in the blog, this stunning beach features the only spot in Queensland where two World Heritage attractions unite, the Great Barrier Reef and World Heritage-listed rainforest.
Now the bitumen road might end at Cape Trib but another adventure was just about to begin for us as we headed along the famous Bloomfield Track.
This was our second trip over the Bloomfield Track and it was probably one of the most scenic and interesting 4WD trips we have done to date. It had everything from creek crossings, terrific views, great places to stop and explore, steep climbs up and scary descents where good working brakes were a must, winding ranges, a narrow track… and if you get the chance, make sure you do this drive, we loved it!
This track is open to 4WDs only and follows the coast between Cape Trib and Cooktown. It is generally recommended that you make the journey from Cooktown south to Cape Tribulation to take advantage of the views, but we did it the opposite way and still found we had plenty to look at.
Our first creek crossing was only a few minutes out of Cape Trib, which appeared to be a spectator crossing where some people, who had made it this far but not doing the track, parked to watch us drive through. Some even drove across and back just to say they had driven a water crossing on the track!
Our first stop after that was to check out a big fig tree then further on we came to a beautiful beach which was only a short walk along a well marked track through the bush!
Then came our second creek crossing, then the third, just a tad longer and deeper than the second, then with the Hilux locked into high 4WD we climbed up over our first steep section where we were rewarded with magnificent views.
We were lucky to pass two cars during our day on this track which was really nice as we felt like we were exploring it all by ourselves… and as the track was only short, we had plenty of time to explore!
The next spot we stopped at was truly spectacular but then I seem to say that about every place we stop lately! Again it was just a pullover beside the road with a track leading into the bush but it was worth stopping the car just to get out and have a look. This was where we could really see where the ‘rainforest meets the sea’ and was a beautiful spot at low tide with shallow pools and millions of soldier crabs and a great place for a cuppa! We could have sat for hours watching these cute little guys basically making art out of the sand but it was time to move on again.
On further investigation Wikipedia told me – ‘When the tide is out, they emerge on to the surface of the sand, and scour the sand for food, forming it into inflated pellets, which cover the sand. The crabs work radially from the entrance to their burrow, which they re-enter as the tide rises and disintegrates the pellets’… very interesting indeed!
Eventually dragging ourselves away we headed toward the Bloomfield Falls. These falls are on the outskirts of a small Aboriginal Community and after crossing via the Bobby and Jacky Ball Bloomfield River Bridge, which was completed in late 2014 (newer than last trip), we came to Wajul Wajul. This was the end of our 32 kilometre dirt road trip and after rock hopping over rocks to the impressive falls and stopping at the Aboriginal Art centre, which is definitely worth a look, we continued on following the very beautiful and scenic Bloomfield River only stopping at the boat ramp to check our a rather large croc on the far bank.
There are a few places to camp along this track; Home Rule Campground just outside of Rossville and the Lions Den Hotel at Helensvale, a very old, quirky, bush pub built in 1875 of timber and iron with lots of history and lots of character… and we just had to stop to have a beer at this true Aussie pub.
Pushing on we rejoined the Mulligan Highway at a mysterious pile of black rocks jumbled on top of one another, known as Black Mountain.
It was an eerie sight that stood in stark contrast to the bush and eucalyptus trees that surrounded it and circling overhead were five black Kites, easily identified because of their forked tails. They didn’t seem to be hunting, just using the rising air that was coming off the black rocks from the hot sun which made it an even stranger place.
This unique geological rock pile is surrounded by unexplained phenomena and intertwined with dark folklore and shunned and feared by the indigenous people!
Moving on a bit down the road we finally came to Cooktown. It was nice to be back in this lovely little town, we had really enjoyed Cooktown and our stay at the caravan park a few years back.
Cooktown has a fascinating history to explore. It was here that Captain Cook’s damaged ship the ‘Endeavour’ limped into harbour and he and his crew spent seven weeks repairing it. Joseph Banks, the botanist, collected and preserved over 200 new species of plants while they were here and met and spoke with the local people, recording about 50 Guugi Yimithirr words, including the name of the jumping animal they called gangurru, which Banks transcribed as “Kangaru”. The first recorded sighting of kangaroos by Europeans was on Grassy Hill and artist Sydney Parkinson was the first British artist to draw Aboriginal people from direct observation.
Visiting the James Cook Museum is a must when you visit Cooktown, you even get to see the real anchor James Cook dropped off the Endeavour in 1770… you can spend hours browsing the history!
A stroll, or in our case a ride along the self-guided heritage walk took us down the main street of this little historic town and along the shores of the Endeavour River where fishermen, keen to catch barramundi, fished off the jetty and a group of old guys met each day to gather around the ‘Knowledge Tree’!
We followed the old railway line out of town to the old cemetry, the final resting place for people of many nationalities, religions and cultures that lived in this remote pioneering town and of course we couldn’t leave Cooktown without our mandatory ride up the very steep hill to Grassy Hill Lookout. Here we had amazing views of the Endeavour River, the Coral Sea and Cooktown and it is definitely a sight you cannot afford to miss… just make sure you have your camera ready because the views really are spectacular here!
We stayed at the Cooktown Caravan Park again and even though it had just been taken over by new owners, they were just as nice as the previous ones and no matter how full they were, they were still able to find somewhere to fit us in.
It was a very friendly park and although it didn’t have a camp kitchen it did have very clean amenities and laundry, which gave us the opportunity to catch up on some washing and cleaning chores.
Happy Hour was a fun addition to our stay at this park last visit, when each night everyone would come together over a few drinks and nibbles to share something interesting they had seen or visited throughout that day… and of course, us being the new kids on the block, everyone was quick to advise where and what we should visit.
On the first day we were sent off to climb Mount Cook, which was a strenuous trek bush bashing and avoiding brown snakes all the way (I believe the track has been upgraded since then)! On the second day we were told we could swim at a local beach, Finch Bay, which was a 2 kilometre ride on our bikes from downtown Cooktown. Well, we weren’t too keen on a swim because of the crocs but apparently it is Cooktown’s swimming beach and we did have a good story to take back to happy hour when we found a pair of croc sandles abandoned by the garbage bin… and we were able to share we had spotted 2 crocs at Finch Bay, much to everyone’s horror! We felt so welcome at this park and met some lovely people; welcome to our blog Sandii and Neil and thanks for the feed of barramundi!
One of my favorite parts about travelling is the ability to meet such a diverse range of people and here at Cooktown we met some lovely people and met up again with some we had already met on the road previously. It was lovely to meet up and have a drink with Sue and Steve again and Kaz and Graham and welcome to our blog Louise and Jeremy from New Zealand, Mark and Isobel from Canada, Wally and Margaret from Tasmania and Liz and Stuart.
On the road it is so easy to make new friends, so easy that sometimes you feel like you have friend overload… you have so many names, telephone numbers and addresses with promises to catch up! But what you also find is there is very little pretense on the road. No one has their guard up, not like they do back home where people just seem to put up barriers and saying hello or engaging strangers in conversation is usually met with a look away to avoid eye contact or a look that says ‘Why is this person talking to me?’.
Most people on the road are so friendly, they take you as you are in that moment with a simple hello and before you know it, you are travelling with people who will probably become lifetime friends.
Over the next part of our journey we would continue north with Louise and Jeremy, the New Zealand couple we met at Cooktown Caravan Park.
North of Cooktown is the area known as the Cape York Peninsula and at the very top is the ‘The Tip’ – the northernmost point of the Australian mainland and this, along with the ‘Old Telegraph Track’ are on the top of our very special ‘bucket-list’ places to explore!
So stay tuned for the next episode, we are heading to…
‘AUSTRALIA’S MOST NORTHERN TIP’!