So what is all about? Well... hopefully, by the time we are done, it will be a comprehensive journal about a family of 5 who have travelled around Australia to see the sights and also do some volunteer work around the country! In Mid 2010 we started thinking about what it would take to fulfil a life-long dream... We wanted to bundle up our 3 kids, pack-up the house, jump in the car and hit the road - probably for about 12 months. It sounds so simple ... At the start of January 2013, after almost 15 months on the road; we finally completed Our Big Aussie Road Trip. We hope that you enjoyed following our adventures, trials and tribulations as much as we enjoyed having them!

16 September, 2012

Cape York Peninsula

We were up quite early on Monday the 27th August so that we could pack everything for our Cape York camping trip into the car and get the van ready for storage.  There’s a local bloke (with a property) who stores caravans so we packed the van and then dropped it off at his place at about 10am.  We stopped by the butcher and the post office for a few last minute jobs and then drove out of Cooktown bound for Lakefield National park.
A pretty typical view when driving on Cape York
Our first stop was Endeavour Falls (not far out of Cooktown) to see a small waterfall (which would rage during the wet season).  After a few small river crossings, we stopped for lunch at the Old Laura homestead and then drove to Kalpowar which was our campsite for the night.
The Homestead at Old Laura

Once we’d setup our tents, we sat down and relaxed for a bit and then played some board games.  Mike took the fishing rod and went down to the river and had a fish (well away from the waters edge, because a large saltwater crocodile has been seen in this waterway recently).  He caught a small fish, which he threw back, but that was about it.  That night we were all in our beds in the tent by about 8:30pm - camping is great for early nights!

We all woke up before 6am after our first night in the tent, so we got up and had brekkie pretty early.  We packed the tents away and Josh and Natalie did some school work for a little while.  When we had fully packed the car, we went down to the river for a short walk and we found some fossils in the rocks along the river.  We were back on the road by about 9:30am.  We passed a pretty lagoon called white lily lagoon and stopped for a photo.  At Musgrave we had a look at the Old Telegraph station building and an old telegraph pole.
Mike and the kids in front of a telegraph line at Musgrave
A bit further North we stopped at Coen for lunch and we bought an ice cream as a treat.  We had a browse around the Cape York Historical house at Coen.  We were originally thinking of camping the night somewhere around Coen, but there was still lots of daylight left, so we drove up to Merluna Station.  When we got to Merluna, we setup the tent and then Mike and the kids had a swim in the pool – which was a bonus as we didn’t think we’d be swimming that day.  After showers, we had a BBQ dinner and went to bed under a starry night at a very quiet and beautiful campsite.

Swimming at Merluna Station
On Wednesday morning  (after we’d packed up the tent at Merluna Station) we did some schoolwork and then got back on the road and headed for Weipa.  The Cape York Road is a pretty good dirt road -  we reckon it’s about the same as the Gibb river road and the Great Central Roads which are the other long dirt roads that we have been on in the last few months.  However the dust is a major hazard when driving these long dirt roads.  Whenever a large truck or road train goes by, it totally removes all visibility which can be pretty dangerous unless you're stopped when it goes by.
This is what it looks like to drive through the dust left behind by a road train!

Anyway, we made our way up to Weipa and checked into the caravan park for the night.  We went for a drive around town and had a look at the cultural centre and Evans Landing.  We’d been warned about some big crocs which are resident in the area, so we were very cautious around any water but we didn’t see any crocs while we were there.  After some food shopping to restock, we had a swim in the caravan park’s pool.  Weipa is a big mining town and is home to the largest Bauxite mine in the Southern Hemisphere (Bauxite produces aluminium after it’s all been processed).
Looking out into the Gulf of Carpentaria at Weipa

We left Weipa on Thursday 30th August and went through the Batavia Downs shortcut road to get back to the main road North.  We had pre-booked one night at Twin Falls (along the old telegraph track) and we decided that we would extend our stay at twin falls by a night, so we stopped at the Moreton Telegraph station and organised for 2 nights at twin falls.  We kept driving north and got to Bramwell Junction (where the old Telegraph road starts) and had some lunch.
The start of the Old Telegraph track at Bramwell Junction

While we were having lunch, an old bloke came and told us that we should drive a couple of kilometres up the Old road to look at the first crossing called Palm Creek (in fact he was trying to talk us into doing the whole track – something that we’d decided not to do because we weren’t in convoy and didn’t think we really had the skills that we might need.).  Nonetheless, we finished lunch and then drove up the old telegraph track for 4 Km to see the crossing; and we were very glad we did.  When we got there, someone was trying to get his vehicle up the crossing (and he was going from the North to the South which is the most difficult way to do the old track).  So we stood with about 12 other onlookers and watched them winch the car up the bank.  It was pretty amazing to see.  The crossing was huge and had ‘damage’ written all over it, so this cemented our decision not to do the old track!
Someone winching their car up Palm Creek crossing

We drove back out to the bypass road and headed North.  Once we re-joined the Old telegraph track, we weren’t far from the turnoff to Fruit Bat Falls and Twin Falls.  We had to drive about 12Km up the old Telegraph track to get to our campsite and we had been told there was a water crossing to do in order to get there.  As we drove onto the old Telegraph track (which is a bumpy, rocky, corrugated and unpredictable 4WD Track), we wondered if the crossing we were about to do was anything like the Palm Creek crossing we had just seen - and whether we would actually be able to come back south out of it to get off the track!   When we reached the crossing, it was pretty deep, but we’d been given a tip that the bottom was solid (not sand) so we ploughed through it in low range and were happy to be on the other side!
The crossing to get to Twin Falls was quite deep!

We arrived at our campsite and setup for the night.  Once we’d setup, we went down to the falls and had a beautiful swim in the water at the falls.
Ready for a much awaited swim at Twin Falls
Enjoying a dip at Twin Falls
Elliot Falls

The kids watching their leaves race down the rapids over Elliot Falls

While we were swimming, another couple (Julie and Geoff) came down with their 2 kids and had a swim too.  The 5 kids hit it off immediately and were playing happily together until it was time to go back for dinner.  We had a great chat with Geoff and Julie – they are very like-minded people who are travelling the country too. It’s great to catchup with families who are doing the same thing as us.
We were staying at the Twin Falls Campsite for 2 nights, but we couldn’t book the same site for 2 nights (as it gets fully booked each night).  So in the morning of Friday 31st, we did a bit of schoolwork and then had to move sites.  This worked really well, because our new site was just through the bush from our old site, so we walked our gear through to it.  It also meant that we were a bit closer to Geoff and Julie’s site – which the kids (and Mike and Liz) were very excited about.  Geoff and Julie had met another couple (also with 2 kids) a few weeks earlier, and as the day was pretty hot and humid, all of us (6 adults and 7 kids) went down to the waterfall for a swim which was really nice.  After we’d had enough swimming, we had lunch and then we all sat down for a chat and a cup of tea with Geoff, Julie, Justin and Jose.  It was a nice afternoon.  When Justin and Jose had gone back to their campsite (a few Km’s down the road), we decided to go back for another swim before dinner.  Mike and Geoff had a swim at ‘The Saucepan’ which was a beautiful, deep gorge with small cliffs on either side of the river, while the kids, Liz and Julie swam back at Twin falls.  It was a great spot to camp and we really enjoyed our 2 days at twin falls.

We left the twin falls campsite on Saturday morning, and we had decided to go to Fruit Bat Falls on the way to our next campsite.  Josh and Natalie were a bit sad to be leaving their new friends, but it turned out that they were going to Fruit Bat Falls that morning too!  So when we were ready, we went in Convoy, back across the deep water crossing and down to Fruit Bat Falls.  Along the way to the falls, we came across an RACQ truck which had a broken camper trailer on the back.  One of the ‘off road’ camper trailer wheels had simply sheered off on the corrugations.
This Off-road camper didn't quite make it all the way along the old telegraph track!

The Old Telegraph track can certainly take its toll on those who choose to do the adventure and we came across numerous rolled trailers or broken cars (and plenty of number plates nailed to trees as a memorial from cars who had come unstuck on the road).  There are also plenty of stories of people who had been swamped doing the water crossings, etc.  It’s a pretty severe track.

Once we finally got down to Fruit Bat Falls, we were met with and amazingly clear waterhole with a beautiful waterfall cascading into it.

Fruit Bat Falls, Cape York Peninsula
Sam, Tamieka, Natalie, Josh and Kian at Fruit Bat Falls
We all went for a swim and the water was very nice.  We spent a couple of hours swimming and playing at the waterfall before a quick morning tea back at the cars.  We said goodbye to The McKie’s (Julie and Geoff) and headed our separate ways (but we organised to meet up at our next campsite (Punsand Bay) when they drove up north to ‘the tip’.  After we’d left the falls, we drove to the Jardine River Ferry and paid our fee to get across the mighty Jardine – the largest perennial river in Australia.  

Once we were across the Jardine, we didn’t have long to go before we got to Bamaga where we stopped at the supermarket to buy a few meals and some fresh produce.  After Bamaga, we drove to our campsite at Punsand Bay, but along the way, we stopped at the ‘croc tent’ a famous souvenir tent and had a browse around.  Once we were all setup at Punsand Bay we had a walk along the beach and had a look at the pool.

Sunday the 2nd of September was our day to drive to the tip of Australia!  After breakfast, we jumped into the car and drove out of the campground.  Immediately outside the campground, there was a "Short Cut" to the tip (which was a rough 4WD track) but we decided to have a quick look up this track to try and find some ruins of the old Post office.  We didn’t end up finding the post office ruins, but we did stay on the 4WD Track which seemed to get worse and worse.  Soon we were doing some pretty rocky and bumpy sections of track not to mention sections of deep sand!  We caught up to a 4WD Tour and tuned into their UHF Channel to hear all the tips about what was coming up ahead.  It was a bit of an adventure, but we made it through the track and back onto the main road behind the tour group.  We drove a few more Kilometres to the car park at the top and then walked about 15 minutes to the very Northernmost point of Australia.  It was really windy and quite overcast at the top, but we spent quite a lot of time up there just sitting and watching the turbulent ocean, watching the kids climb up and down the rocks and calling our dads (because it was Fathers day).
We Made It!!
Josh, Natalie and Sam sitting on one of the many 'markers' at the top of Cape York Peninsula

After we’d walked back to the car, we got some lunch ready and had lunch on the Northernmost beach.  It was great to finally make the goal of our trip up Cape York!!  So far we have been to Wilsons Promontry (the Southern point), Denham (the Westernmost town) and the tip of Cape York (the Northernmost point), so it’s just Byron Bay to go and we’ve done the North, East, South and West points of the country.  When we'd finished at the top, we drove back to the campground and had a quiet afternoon until Geoff, Julie and their 2 kids arrived at Punsand Bay – this was a much awaited arrival because the kids had been asking us all day when their new friends were arriving.  We spent the afternoon catching up with them and the kids played on the beach and around the campsites.  We had a nice dinner together with the McKie’s that night.
One of the locals at Punsand Bay - a White-lipped green tree frog

Kian and Josh with their home made spears at Punsand Bay

Monday 3rd – After a brief play with Kian and Tamieka (who then went off to the tip of Australia with their parents) Josh and Natalie did some schoolwork for the morning.  After lunch we decided to go for a swim in the pool at the caravan park (because you can’t swim in the ocean due to the crocodiles and sharks) and just as we were getting ready, the McKie’s came back from their look at the top, so we all went to the pool and had a nice refreshing swim.  Later that afternoon, we decided to go for a drive to Somerset Beach on the Eastern side of the Peninsula.  We found a beautiful beach which reminded us of a tropical island with Coconut trees and turquoise water.  After the beach, we decided to have a little look at the track down to fly point.  Once we’d dropped down a steep, rocky embankment, the track got very sandy and we got a bit bogged in high range 4WD, so we dropped down to low range and decided that we’d backtrack to get off the sand.    We drove back up the steep and rocky track and drove back to our tent.  Sam was very tired and slept most of the way to Somerset and back.  That evening, most of the families that Geoff and Julie had met along the way North up the Peninsula were staying at Punsand Bay, so we all got together for dinner around a campfire.  There were 8 adults and 9 kids.  We all had a great night chatting while the kids played.
We left Punsand Bay on Tuesday the 4th September and headed a few Kilometres down the peninsula to Loyalty Beach, so we packed up our campsite and said goodbye to The McKie’s for a short while (as we’d planned to meet them at Loyalty beach the next day).

As we drove down from Punsand Bay, we passed the croc tent again and stopped to have a look at a very realistic crocodile (made of Fibreglass) and another browse through the souvenirs.  Sam bought a crocodile hat with the money he has been saving with his weekly pocket money.  We drove through Bamaga and Seisia to Loyalty Beach and found a campsite for our 2 night stay.  We then had a fairly quiet afternoon – we went for a brief walk after lunch, and then the kids watched a movie in the car as a bit of rest time. After dinner, we went down to Seisia Jetty and had a fish for a while.  The kids enjoyed watching the local kids jumping off the jetty into the water (and they didn’t seem too worried about any crocodiles!).  We didn't catch any fish, but it was good fun.
Mike Fishing at Seisia Jetty
Wednesday 5th September - There were lots of brumbies roaming around Seisia and on Wednesday morning, we had one come right up to us and try to get some food.  We’d been warned that they bite, so we kept our distance.
Mike trying to discourage a brumby from stealing our food

Later that morning, the McKies’ visited us at our caravan park and we all went to the Seisia Jetty to have a fish.  The girls weren’t that interested in fishing and spent a bit of time playing barbies. 
Natalie and Tamieka playing at Seisia Jetty

The boys were on the Jetty fishing and they caught lots of bait fish (Herring) which live in massive schools under the Jetty.  Mike got a few decent bites but we didn’t hook anything that day, but we all had fun.  Josh, Kian and Sam enjoyed fishing for Herring most of all because there was normally some success.  After a while fishing, we went back to Loyalty beach and had lunch.  The kids played for a few hours while we had a great chat with Geoff and Julie.
Sam, Josh and Kian playing in the 'base' that they made in the bush at Loyalty Beach

We wanted to go and see the World War 2 Plane wrecks in the area so we drove out toward the airport and found a DC3 Plane wreck and one of the WWII Plane wrecks.  The kids were constantly looking for bullet holes in the planes, but we didn’t see any.  After we’d looked around the plane wrecks we went back to the Seisia Jetty and met up with the McKie’s for a bit more fishing until it got a bit too dark.

The DC-3 Plane wreck on the Cape York Peninsula

Thursday morning meant that we were leaving the top of Cape York and heading South.  We packed up all our gear into the boot of the car (which we were getting quite good at by that stage) and drove back down the long dirt road to Fruit Bat Falls where we had a nice swim and then ate some lunch.
Eating some pear for lunch after a swim at Fruit Bat Falls

We left Fruit Bat falls and drove to Bramwell Station where we stayed for the night.  It was quite a nice station stay and there weren’t many people about.  The kids liked watching the resident steer and the local wallabies as they roamed around the campground and ate the grass.
We’d been camping in our tents for about 10 days at this stage and so we were pretty keen to drive as far south as we could, so on Friday the 7th September we left Bramwell Station and drove almost 500Kms (all on bone shaking, corrugated and rocky dirt road!) to the end of the Dirt road at Laura.  We stayed at the campground behind the Hotel in Laura which was basic, but had everything that we needed.  We had decided that because we didn’t have a time frame which we had to meet, we would take the Bloomfield track and head down to Cape Tribulation at the end of our Cape York camping trip, so we weren’t heading back to Cooktown until we’d been down to Cape Trib.
The next morning, we got all packed up and drove South from Laura.  We stopped in at “Split Rock” which has a few Aboriginal Rock Art sites.  We walked through a hot and humid morning to have a look at the galleries (which were worth a look) and then we continued to the end of the Peninsula Development road at Lakeland.  We stopped at Lakeland to get some fuel and some groceries so that we’d have enough supplies for a few more nights camping at Cape Trib.

Walking up to the Split Rock Aboriginal Art sites

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