Monday, September 17, 2012

The Beginning of Cape York - Cooktown to Weipa

Oh hello - remember me? I used to blog here and update you on our travels...but then we decided to actually do some serious traveling and have been missing in action for the past month! Sorry about that. The Cape York adventure was amazing, spectacular in parts, divine in others, so diverse, so not what I was expecting, so worthy of more than one blog post. 

We left Cooktown after visiting the James Cook Museum for the morning, they have on display The Endeavours original anchor and parts of Cook's diary, very interesting and important part of Australian history. We headed to Hopevale next, a small Aboriginal community to the north - we planned to stay at Elim Beach for the night and had rung the Aboriginal bloke, Eddie, that runs the campground there. We arrived and Eddie was sitting on his front verandah with another young couple (our age!), Nathan and Kate, about to go fishing. We didn't need to be asked twice. Matt wasn't so lucky in the fishing stakes that night on the beach but Nathan caught a salmon. Elim was pure paradise, one night soon turned into two...then three...then four nights later we were still there, lazing in the sun by the waters edge, cooking our fish on the fire on the beach and exploring the nearby dunes and coloured sands. Bliss. It was one of our top camp sites on the entire cape.

The stunning coloured sands of Elim Beach
The beautiful and serene Elim Beach
Elim Beach camp
Elim Beach and walking the dunes to overlook Cape Bedford

We pushed on though and entered Lakefield National Park, passing Isabella Falls, Lake Emma and the Old Laura Homestead which was quite interesting, on our way to a little campsite by a waterhole, no doubt full of crocs. A lot of places we camped up north I was definitely glad we sleep up off the ground on top of Carrie!

The Old Laura Homestead 
Camp by waterhole in Lakefield National Park
After a chat to the ranger at Lakefield Ranger Station we decided to head in to Bathurst Head - almost to Cape Melville. The track we were told could be difficult at times but we found it to be not too bad, lots of crossing mud flats and open plains full of termite mounds. We eventually wound our way to a freshwater spring on a hill above Bathurst Head where we topped up our water tanks - it was quite cute set amongst the bush with the old bathtub.

Creek crossing through Kalpowar Aboriginal lands, drive from Lakefield to Bathurst Head
Driving in to Bathurst Head across plains dotted with termite mounds
Freshwater spring near Bathurst Head
Crossing mud plains to Bathurst Head
After a bit of a 4WD track up a steep section of hill we reached a look-out and beaches below. And fisherman! My god, something must be biting at Bathurst Head because one little beach must have had ten tinnies in it. We opted for the less populated, but more exposed, beach, covered in crushed shell and looking out over Princess Charlotte Bay.

Camp on beach at Bathurst Head
Shell on the beach at Bathurst Head beach
After adding up our average fuel consumption and estimating how many more kilometres to get into and out of Cape Melville we came to the (rough) conclusion we would have 4 litres of fuel we turned back towards Lakefield to continue exploring there. Perhaps next time for Cape Melville. 

We camped on the Normanby River on Aboriginal land just near Kalpowar Station. I'm sure there were crocs in the river but Matt still went down and got the buckets of water for a much awaited shower whilst I wondered how I was going to dong the croc on the head - shovel or axe? A beautiful campsite, very quiet and the next morning we woke to Matt's birthday! The old boy's getting on. I cooked him breakfast, presented him with a charades of birthday presents - I couldn't buy him anything and hide it in the camper, he knows where everything is! I had intended to get him a pair of binoculars though, something missing from our hiking/camping repertoire. I made a not so beautiful looking camp-style chocolate ripple cake as a birthday cake. Very complicated method of choc-ripple biscuits lathered in cream, chucked in a container and sat in the fridge all day. 

That day we traveled through the rest of Lakefield National Park, visiting old outstations from the days when cattle were run through the area (and basically still are, bit hard to get rid of the mickey's in the scrub of 300,000 hectares). At Low Lake Matt got the fright of his life whilst reading a sign near the waters edge, a huge splash and something BIG sunk into the water - we never saw it before or after the splash. Scary stuff. Never smile at a crocodile! Even if it is your birthday. For his birthday we camped on the Stewart River, just south of Coen - beautiful site on clear river, big fire and enormous steaks with diane sauce washed down with the choc-ripple cake. Stuffed to the brim, but that is what birthday's are for I believe.

Matt's very beautiful (and very delicious) chocolate ripple birthday cake
Low Lake at Lakefield National Park
Goanna - Lakefield National Park
Peninsula Development Road - Coen to Weipa
We took an old 4WD track from the Stewart River campsite to Coen where we visited the Heritage House before continuing up the PDR (Peninsula Development Road), eventually getting to Weipa late in the day. The next morning we took a very interesting bus tour around the town, which is entirely owned by Rio Tinto. We also got to have a look around the bauxite mine, simple stuff really, dig down a meter, scrap off the orange pebbly stuff and ship it to Gladstone! In Weipa we also ran into Nathan and Kate who we had met at Elim Beach the week before. That Saturday night was the Weipa Rodeo - perfectly timed! All four of us walked down to the rodeo and enjoyed some beers in the hot evening, watching some cowboys ride some cheeky bulls.

After stocking up at the supermarket we headed up the coast a bit from Weipa to Mapoon, then into the Pennefather River - all on Aboriginal land and have to cross some fairly soft and deep sand in the dunes (on the way out we actually found a much easier and less sandy option!)

Drive in to Pennefather River and a signpost on drive from Lakefield to Musgrave
Driving into Pennefather River mouth through the dunes

The navigator/photographer/dj
Matt being the hunter gatherer at Pennefather River
Once we got to Pennefather River though it was a quiet and beautiful camping spot right on the mouth of the river with a few lagoons and sandbars before open ocean. Matt immediately through a line in and promptly caught two Queenfish...which he had no idea what they were so threw them straight back! It was at Pennefather River that we met Russell and Lindy, a couple who camped next to us and invited us over for a delicious fish curry dinner with the Golden Trevally's Russell had been catching. A great night with 'the neighbours'. 

We spent two nights at Pennefather we liked it so much, lazing about in the hammock, Matt reading, me crocheting. Matt caught another Queenfish so we filleted it and ate that too - I could get used to this fishing business!

The view from our camp at the mouth of the Pennefather River - that's Matt out there fishing. Three big saltwater crocs and sharks in that lagoon.
The fisherman at work and with his queen fish. It was delicious.
Matt doing what we do best on our never-ending honeymoon - hammock time!
Sunset over the mouth of the Pennefather River
The drive out of Pennefather River - a swamp with beautiful white barked gums
We waved good-bye to Russell and Lindy and headed back to Weipa, then back out onto the PDR via Batavia Downs. Heading further north we camped at the Moreton Telegraph Station, ready and raring to hit the infamous Overland Telegraph Line track (aka 4WDer's holy grail) at Bramwell Junction...


  1. Beautiful photos Emma, good to hear from you!

  2. Wow you have been busy travelling. I love the photos and can't wait to hear about more of your adventures. The hammock looks like a great place and Matt certainly had a novel birthday. It seems like you are both having a very relaxed time seeing Aus.

  3. Emma your photo's are beautiful! There is so much of this amazing land to see!

  4. gosh the colours in your photos are breathtaking, and never having been further north than daintree am finding the trip fascinating! looks like you are having a great time, and certainly you would NOT travel up there in any other time but the dry!