Yellow route: Northern tip to Boulia - 3010 km
White route: Total so far - 34'690 km
From the northernmost point of the Australian continent it was a long drive back on the Peninsula Developmental Road to get onto bitumen roads and back to more densely populated areas. A good 480km back to Coen, which acts as the gateway to the northern Cape York Peninsula, another 400km to Cooktown and back to sealed roads. It took us 3 days of solid driving but time flew as we were listening (wherever corrugation did allow it) to another excellent audio book: Kings in Grass Castles, a classic by Mary Durack. This gave us more insight into the history of settlement of this vast country by some very enthusiastic, dedicated and fearless white men. Again we were able to find nice and quiet camping spots on the way. After crossing the Great Dividing Range in a spectacular drive through Lakefield national park we headed for the pleasant Elim Beach (20km north of Cooktown) where we gave Kasbah and ourselves a rest and stayed for two nights. Not doing much but enjoying the scenery with the coloured sands being particularly attractive.
Very smooth gravel road through rainforest in the very north of Cape York Peninsula
Fantastic camping at Elim Beach
Elim Beach and the coloured sands in the background
On a Sunday morning we got into sleepy Cooktown for an excellent coffee and magnificent views from the Grassy Hill lookout.
A monument to the Goldrush in the Cooktown area
View from Grassy Hill lookout in Cooktown
There are two good options to enter the northern Daintree area. The renowned Bloomfield track with extremely steep climbs and the notorious CREB track which had recently been reopened. The latter being definitely much more demanding. But having „failed“ on the Old Coach Road lately (see last blog) we were not yet ready for a new adventure. The challenge of Bloomfield didn’t make much impression neither on us nor on our truck, but the scenery of the rainforest was very much to our taste. This wonderful jungle tumbling right onto white-sand beaches continued after the overnight stay at Noah’s Beach. Next we spent half a day in the outstanding Daintree Discovery Centre, where we got to explore the rainforest at different vertical levels. Walking with an audio guide along different tracks from the very ground to the canopy of the trees. Only the icing on the cake, seeing a Cassowary in nature, was missing. A car ferry brought us across the Daintree River and back into agricultural land. The pricing of these kind of ferries across Australia is quite interesting: the eleven ferries which cross the Murray River in South Australia are all free of charge, crossing the Daintree River costs $13 (single-fair) and crossing the Jardine River up at Cape York is worth $98 (return). In terms of transport distance, there is not much difference!
Lush rainforest in the Daintree
Crabs' work – the animals too shy to be photographed
Lookout in the Daintree
Thornton Beach, near Cape Tribulation
Green Tree Phyton
Boardwalk in the Daintree discovery centre
We chose Mareeba in the Tablelands to be our service town before the next stint into the Outback. Probably not the smartest of decisions as they didn’t have neither a car wash nor a laundry with good front loaders and to top it off: we inadvertently selected a campground with no showers. We worked around all this and still had a pleasant stay and a most interesting guided tour through the Jaques coffee farm.
Strolling through the Herberton Historic Village kept us busy for another half day. The exhibits (old houses either moved from other places in Australia or rebuilt) were carefully chosen, authentically furnished and splendidly equipped. The exclusive presentation of the machinery at a print-shop replica by an expert who has worked as a printer for his whole life, left a big impression on us and made us aware of the huge impact of the automated type-setting process on both literature and education.
Neat little shop in the Herberton Historic village
Print shop and David working now as tourist guide
Tedious type setting before automation
A leap in productivity in type setting: Intertype machine with 4000 moving parts
Printed on a manual printing press
In this shed there were beautifully maintained vintage cars
After another long driving day we enjoyed the lookout and gorge walk in the Porcupine national park as well as the overnighter at Pyramid campground.
Curious Rufous Betong visiting us at night (the animal is actually 50 cm tall)
Pyramid Gorge, Porcupine national park
The landscape got drier and drier as we drove south west. Our current goal is to be in Bedourie by Friday 11th for the last weekend of the Simpson Desert Carnival ("Birdsville races") with a rodeo, horse races and the Ute & Travellers Muster. There were many options to get there and regardless of how small these Outback towns are, they have a colourful flyer or magazine, advertising the „must-dos“ in their town. The lovely lady at the visitor centre in Hughenden made the choice for us. We went for Muttaburra, Aramac, Barcaldine, Longreach, Winton, Middleton and Boulia and didn’t regret it. Great scenery, a lot of remoteness and heaps of dead kangaroos along the roads. Also some very interesting history about the pioneering shearers strike in 1891 which indirectly led to the formation of the labour party and lots of friendly people in charming little towns. All the while we listened to the "soundtrack" of this important part of history: Evan McHugh’s latest audio book, The Shearers.
It's "shockingly dry" in the Outback, as the lady at the tourist information in Hughenden put it
Good example of a small Outback town – Aramac
Famous tree of knowledge in Barcaldine. Place where the meetings of the striking shearers took place
We mostly camped at rivers (both wet ones and dry ones) and some sunsets were spectacular
One of the several hotels in Winton
Statue of the legendary Banjo Paterson, composer of the song Walzing Matilda. Unfortunately the museum burnt down in June this year....
A big contrast to the monotony of some Outback roads was the stretch between Winton and Boulia. A magnificent scenery with colourful hills in dry flats — and suddenly the Cawnpore Lookout presented a jaw-dropping view of a series of rocky hills. Also not to be missed was a drink at the legendary Middleton Hotel bar, the only remaining building of the once-important Cobb&Co. mail service route between Boulia and Winton.
We haven’t decided yet how much more Outback there will be on our travel as it is bone dry. You’ll read in the next blog how we will spend the last weeks of our Grand Tour around Australia!
Magnificent view from the Cawnpore Lookout