A Travellerspoint blog

September 2017

Cape York part 4

Mutee Head, Alau Beach and Thursday Island


Our next destination at the Cape was Mutee Head south west of Bamaga. On our way we detoured out towards the airport to look at the wreckage of a DC3 aircraft which crashed into trees killing all six crew aboard while attempting to land at the Jackey Jackey Airport during World War 2. There is also the wreckage of two other planes in the area which can be hard to find as there are no signs to tell you which tracks to take. The Hema 4wd app on the ipad came in very handy to locate the wrecks. Mutee head is 5km north of the Jardine River mouth and has a great free camping area beside the beach. There are trees for shade and the area is protected from the prevailing south easterly winds. There are no facilities here but there are rubbish bins so you need to be self sufficient.

During World War 2 Mutee Head was used as a military base for the landing of military supplies. There are ruins of the old jetty just near the campground and an old radar tower on the top of the hill. The road in was in very good condition and we set up camp beside the beach with views of the beautiful sandy beach around to a rocky headland to the south. We spent two days here exploring the area and fishing near the old jetty without any luck. On our second day we drove out to the Jardine River mouth along a sandy 7km track which passes some camp sites beside the river before ending at the ocean beach at the mouth. The turnaround area at the end of the track is very soft deep sand and uphill, which makes it very easy to get bogged, which we did for the first time on the trip. We got out by lowering the tyres from 25psi to 16psi and slowly crawled up the hill and turned around to follow the track back out after first stopping to look at the beach. The Jardine River is very wide and shallow near the mouth with lots of sandbars where we expected to see crocs, but not this time. Mutee Head was a great place to camp away from the crowd and we enjoyed the sound of the ocean at night and the camp oven casserole cooked on the fire. For the first time since Margaret River we experienced some light rain at night which didn’t even wet the ground but was nice to listen to as it hit the canvas.

From Mutee Head we travelled back to Alau Beach at Umagico where we had spent a night previously on our way to Punsand Bay. There were a few more campers here this time as it was school holidays but it wasn’t busy and we set up right beside the beach under some nice shady trees. Most of the time we sat at camp watching the local fishermen come and go in their tinnies, the wild horses moving through the campground eating the grass, giving some love to the stray dogs that live in the campground and watching the gorgeous sunsets over the ocean of an evening. On our second day here we took a trip on the ferry from Seisia to Thursday Island which included a bus tour of the island. The tour took us to Green Fort, a military placement high on a hill looking out over the shipping route through the area. The fort had three cannons all pointing in different directions and the underground bunkers were now home to a museum with lots of interesting items and photos. A drive past some of the islands sights and a short stop at the cemetery concluded the tour. We then had about 3 hours to do our own thing so we walked around the main town area and had lunch at the Torres Hotel, the most northerly pub in Australia, which had a large meal of fish, chips and salad for $10 on Fridays. The trip back on the ferry was quite rough as the wind was howling. We were a little disappointed with the tour as we were expecting more of a pacific island type of setting with clear water and coral reefs and a more traditional type of lifestyle and not just another small westernised town.


Posted by OzJourney 23:35 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cape York Part 3

The Tip

overcast 32 °C

Alau Beach was just a one night stopover as we had booked into Punsand Bay Caravan park for four nights to make sure we got a site as it was school holidays. Alau Beach was a very quiet magic campground on a gorgeous white sand beach. We chose an unpowered site just above the beach with million dollar views at $24 a night, it was good value and after checking out Loyalty Beach and Seisia this was by far the best campground. After our time at the tip we have decided to come back here for a few days.

The road between Bamaga and the Croc Tent was the worst road we have driven on in the Cape with horrible corrugations, but from the Croc Tent to Punsand Bay the road was fairly good. The Punsand Bay camp ground is very nice with shaded sites amongst the trees beside the lovely sandy beach. We scored a beachfront site with great views of the beach and an open area for our solar panels. The campground has a small pool, bar, restaurant and a helicopter flight service. The cloudy weather persisted the whole time we were there and the wind was very strong, but the campsite had a lot of protection with the wind blowing along the beach and not onshore.

On our first night we had wood fired pizza at the bar which was delicious, followed by a night of watching Geelong thrash Sydney in the AFL semi final. Go Cats. On the second day we drove out on a narrow sandy track to Cable Beach which was around a rocky point to the west where a small creek entered the ocean beside the mangroves. Along a different track we drove out to Roonga Point which was around on a west facing beach looking out to some islands, Possession, Roko and High. One of which had a small fire burning amongst the trees. There were some locals fishing here but not catching anything. I gave it a miss as the tide was very low.

Our third day was our time to drive up through the beautiful rainforest to the very tip of Australia. From the car park it is an 800 metre climb up over the high rocky point and down to the most northerly point on the Australian mainland. If the tide is low enough you can walk around the beach and avoid the climb, but the tide was too high for that this day. We got a reasonably early start to avoid the crowds at the photo spot which worked as when arrived there was no one else on the point. After a few photos a group of people arrived and offered to take a photo of us both which worked out well. The views from up on the rocky point of the offshore islands and mainland were stunning. As we got back to the car park the crowds drove in and it would have been a long wait for some of those people for their photo opportunity. After 8 months of travel we had finally made it to the tip of Australia and it felt very satisfying as we departed to explore more of the area.

From the tip we drove out to Somerset, an area of great historical significance, with European history dating back to the 1860’s. Here we found a monument and cannons and down at the bush camping area at the beach were the graves of the Jardine family and some pearl divers. Next it was on to the five beaches drive which is a 4WD track which takes you along the east coast where you drive on five different beaches. At each headland you head inland off the beach and around to the next beach. At the start of the drive you can take a short detour to Fly Point where we watched turtles swimming against a very strong current coming around the point against the wind, causing standing waves. The five beaches drive was really interesting and we enjoyed it immensely, something not to miss while visiting the tip of Cape York.

Our last day at Punsand Bay was a lazy day spent fishing, reading, swimming in the pool and walking along the beach. Punsand Bay was a great place to stay only spoiled a little by school holiday crowds and a couple of inconsiderate campers, one lot involving a domestic dispute with a drunk husband, luckily it didn’t escalate any further, but the guy has serious issues.


Posted by OzJourney 05:49 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cape York Part 2


overcast 32 °C

From Weipa we took a shortcut across through Batavia Downs Station to join the Telegraph Road where we headed north to Bramwell Station, arriving around midday Bramwell Station was our overnight stop before hitting the overland Telegraph Track (OTT) first thing in the morning. The station was very quiet with only a handful of campers staying the night. There is a buffet dinner available at the restaurant/bar for $35 which we passed on but did come up for happy hour at 5.30pm and later on to hear a live music performance from the Bagman who was great.

With a lot of excitement and a little nervous energy it was time to leave Bramwell and begin the OTT, something I had wanted to do for years. The narrow unmaintained track soon led us to our first creek crossing, and one of the more difficult ones, Palm Creek. This late in the dry season there was no water left in the crossing but there was a steep drop down into the creek bed followed by a steep climb out with a jump up three quarters of the way up the slope. A Toyota Hilux ute in front of us had a go at it first and only got as far as the jump up and got stuck, having to be winched up by another car at the top. The ute wasn’t towing anything but failed due to the lack of flex in the leaf spring rear suspension causing the left front wheel to lift therefore losing traction. Having witnessed this failed attempt I felt confident we could make it up ok towing the camper, and with the front locker engaged we cruised up the steep exit quite easily. One down lots more to come.

The OTT in between creek crossings is an easy drive with a few washouts, tight corners and obstacles. Ducie Creek, South Alice Creek, North Alice Creek, Dulhunty River and Bertie Creek were all relatively easy crossings which just required walking them first to make sure you avoided deep holes or rocks. The famous Gunshot Creek was next and we had already decided we were not taking either of the two vertical entries into the creek, as it was pretty obvious the outcome would not be good. Instead we took the right hand entry which involved a short steep entry into a muddy hole about 700mm deep with a turn to the far right to avoid a large tree overhanging the crossing just waiting to take out anything on the roof rack. A right angle turn to the right and then up the exit ramp and we were through with no trouble at all.

We waited around at Gunshot hoping to see someone who didn’t value their car attempt the vertical drop, but with no takers we moved on crossing Cockatoo Creek and Sailor Creek with no problems. This completed the southern section of the OTT. Next was a swim at the beautiful Fruit Bat Falls with only one other couple there to share the great swimming spot with.

Eliot Falls was our camp site for tonight but first we had to cross Scrubby Creek which doesn’t even appear on the Hema Map but is a serious challenge to anyone who wants to camp at Eliot Falls. This is a long deep muddy crossing with a clay bottom and was over 1 metre deep when we crossed. After walking the crossing and watching another Nissan Patrol with a very high lift go through towing a camper trailer and almost coming unstuck as the back end started to float and lose traction, it was with great trepidation that I took the wheel and drove down the steep entry into the murky waters. The water was over the bonnet and the bow wave was happening as we plowed through until three quarte4rs of the way across the rear started to float losing some traction, but only temporarily until traction was regained and I could stop holding my breath and let the nerves calm down.

We spent two nights camped at Eliot Falls in the National Park campground which has large well spaced sites with drop toilets and bore water taps. This was a great place to camp with a short walk to Twin Falls, Eliot Falls and The Saucepan, all beautiful spots to swim in the crystal clear water. To stay here you must pre-book online which is a crazy system that doesn’t work. When we booked a few days previous there were only 3 sites not booked to choose from out of 31. During our stay most of the sites were vacant as most people book without realising they have to cross Scrubby Creek, and when they get to the crossing they aren’t game or equipped to go through. The rangers are as frustrated with the system as the campers who pay their money and get nothing.

After hearing the story of the couple who drowned their car in Nolan’s Brook we decided to bypass it, but come back from the north to have a look at it and watch others attempt it. So after leaving Eliot Falls we crossed Canal Creek and Sam Creek on the OTT before taking the bypass road back to the Bamaga Road and then coming back to Nolan’s Brook from the north. The water level was a lot lower than we expected and the crossing looked like it wasn’t too difficult with a choice of three different entries, the middle one the deepest and longest and the left hand one short with a steep entry and a metre deep for only about 5 metres. We waited around for an hour or so until a couple of cars came along to give it a go. The first one took the middle entry and made it through with just a few moments where they lost traction and floated. On seeing this the second vehicle, a Troopy, decided to take the left hand entry which didn’t end well. He got down the steep entry then into the metre deep hole only to dig the bullbar into the hump and stop dead, all the while filling the cabin with water. They had connected a snatch strap to the front of the Troopy just in case but when they got stuck the other vehicle wasn’t ready in position and by the time they pulled him out there was two feet of water in the cabin. Maybe after all it was wise not to have attempted Nolan’s Brook as we had no-one to pull us out if things went wrong.

After the morning entertainment we got to the ferry across the Jardine River just after 12 noon forgetting that it stops for lunch from 12 to 1pm, so we made some lunch and waited for it to re-open and part with $130 for a 2 minute crossing. We dropped the camper off at Alau Beach Caravan park, our destination for the night and went into Bamaga for fuel and food supplies before settling down for the night. The OTT was a lot of fun and we were glad we made the effort to drive this legendary track.


Posted by OzJourney 19:34 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cape York Part 1

The Road To Adventure

overcast 34 °C

Lakeland was our destination today with a stop in Mareeba to stock up on food and fuel before the Cape York adventure really begins. The Lakeland Caravan Park was fairly basic but well priced at $20 unpowered which was all we needed for an overnight stop. We met some fellow travellers here who were returning from the cape with the sad story that one of the couples had drowned their car in Nolan’s Brook on the Telegraph Track which had to be shipped home by barge at a cost of $2200. Nolan’s Brook is notorious for claiming vehicles as it is a deep crossing with a soft sandy bottom.

Next morning we stopped at the Split Rock Aboriginal Rock Art Site just before Laura and walked up to an escarpment which contained a large amount of interesting art spread over a few sites. Just beware of wasps near the end of the sites as I was attacked by a swarm of them and bitten on the neck, hands and arms numerous times while fleeing, the bites swelled up and itched for days after
Once reaching Laura the Peninsula development Road (PDR) road surface changes to dirt with some sections of bitumen until you get to Musgrave Station. This section of road was corrugated and had lots of bulldust holes to avoid, however there were warning signs before the holes. The PDR from Musgrave to Coen was excellent with lots of bitumen sections and a lot of roadwork going on where they are sealing more of the dirt. The dirt sections were well formed and smooth, obviously recently graded, making for an easy drive to Coen where we camped for the night at The Bend which is 3km north of Coen. The price of diesel in Coen was $1.70.

Our camp site by the river at Coen was down on the riverbed beside the gently flowing river which was lovely to listen to in bed at night and upon waking in the morning. There was lots of bird life here, fish in the crystal clear water of the river, and cows which came down for a drink in the late afternoon. We could have stayed here for a few days but we had to move on as we had a booking at the Eliot Falls campground in a few days time and still had Weipa to check out first.

The roads from Coen to Weipa were again very good with lots of bitumen, only one section on the Weipa road was bad with corrugations which they were building a bypass road around to soon replace that bad section. We arrived in Weipa around lunch time and checked in to the only caravan park for 3 nights. The park was quite nice with large shady trees, good amenities, a pool, and the location beside the beach was great for watching the beautiful sunsets over the water here. The large park was about half full with lots of boats present and very few caravans.

On our second day in Weipa we drove 75km out to the Pennefather River to have a look at the beach and camping areas. The dirt road was in good condition all the way to the sandy track which takes you down to the beach. You need to let your tyres down here to get through the deep sand which leads onto the beach or along a sandy track through the dunes north to the Pennefather River. We chose the dune track which was tough going with lots of huge corrugations in the deep sand and ups and downs. Half way along the track we came across a young couple in a hired 70 series landcruiser who were stuck in the soft sand while trying to turn around. They had no traction boards and nothing to winch from so they were not going anywhere until we pulled them out with a snatch strap.

After 7km of dune driving we reached the mouth of the Pennefather River which is quite a large river entering the ocean between sand dunes which also form a bay inside the mouth where a well occupied campground resides above the lagoon. On seeing the nice location of the campground we wished we had camped here instead of Weipa as the beautiful ocean beach with white sand and crystal clear water plus the remoteness of the place makes sure this goes on our list of places to visit in the future.

We spent the day first off fishing in the river with no success as the current was very strong with the outgoing tide, then driving along the beach and setting up the awning for shade while we fished and had some quick swims. There are crocs here but the shallow water was crystal clear and you could see anything coming a long way out so it seemed pretty safe to have a quick dip to cool off. The only fish caught was a remora which put up a good fight but was released as I don’t think they are good eating fish. After fishing we drove back along the beach, which was much easier and smoother than the dune track, and explored further camp sites south of the entrance track before heading back to camp.

The next day we drove north to a creek and fished off the bank where I caught lots of bream but only one was a keeper which we had for dinner that night. After fishing we drove out to Red Beach which is a popular fishing spot, however the tide was way out so no one was fishing. Then it was along the track further to Albatross Bay which was a long wide beach that had stunning white sand with an island just offshore. The tide looked like it was out a kilometre here with huge sand flats stretching out to the horizon.

If we had our time over again we would have stayed at Pennefather River rather than Weipa even though it was nice in the caravan park. Two nights would have been enough as it is really just a mining town with not much to see in the town itself. Our next stop will be Bramwell Station which will be a one night stopover before tackling the legendary Overland Telegraph Track. Can’t wait.


Posted by OzJourney 23:33 Archived in Australia Comments (0)


Highest Town in Queensland

sunny 26 °C

Karumba to Ravenshoe was a long drive but was at least all bitumen which varied from single lane to double lane, highly unexpected considering it is a major road. We stopped for lunch by the side of the road at Mt Surprise after getting cheap fuel ($1.16) at Georgetown. Once we reached the Great Dividing Range the landscape went from dusty and brown to green lushness with tall forests and a corresponding drop in temperature. The nights in Ravenshoe, which is the highest town in Queensland, were quite cool with us needing to wear a jumper and sit around the fire at night.

Ravenshoe Railway Caravan Park is where we stayed for two nights and what a great place it was. A bush setting at the site of the old railway station where there were powered ($15) and unpowered ($10) sites with water, flushing toilets, hot showers and a camp kitchen with a fire pit which was lit each night to become a communal gathering place to swap travel stories with fellow travellers. Ravenshoe is surrounded by beautiful waterfalls, rain forest and lush green rolling hills where dairy farms predominate.

With only one full day to explore the area we first drove out through the rain forest to Tully Gorge where you look down into an impressive gorge from above. The falls only flow in the wet season as they dammed the river long ago for power generation but the view was spectacular anyway. Next we drove to Millstream Falls, Australia’s widest waterfall and also visited the smaller Little Millstream Falls.

We chose the scenic route drive out to Millaa Millaa Falls which takes you out on a winding single lane road through the hilly lush dairy country interspersed with pockets of thick rain forest. Along the way we visited Souita Falls, a short walk through the forest to a small narrow set of falls. Millaa Millaa Falls was very impressive as the high falls plunged over the rain forested escarpment into a large pool surrounded in beautiful greenery. This would have to be the most beautiful waterfall we have seen on our big lap. Zillie Falls and Ellinja Falls completed the circuit and both were worth the short walks to the bottom with plenty of water flowing.


Ravenshoe is a lovely little town and we are glad we decided to stay here. There was a lot more to see in this area which will have to wait for another time as Cape York is calling and we are excited to be heading that way.

Posted by OzJourney 22:43 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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