We had a lovely rest in Cairns but in some ways this was the calm before the storm. Our journey northwards would see us start the infamous corrugations of the Penninsula Development Road (PDR), complete with dust and dirt. In and around Cairns, Charlotte was very taken with the quantity of sugar cane fields and this became a little running joke with her – along the lines of “I bet you can’t guess what I’m thinking of now?” We waited for a lengthy sugar cane train to cross in front of us, saw a hopper in action, and even saw one field on fire which was a special treat. The cloud cover around the mountain ranges coming into Cairns were also quite spectacular.
Leaving Cairns we headed north towards the Daintree and our first little test run of a 4WD road, the Bloomfield Track. Some people say it’s not really a proper 4WD track because it’s quite easy and many 2WD vehicles can do it. This is probably true but it had a few nice little creek crossings and a couple of exceptionally steep ups and downs. The worst of these were concreted for easier traction but it was more than enough off-roading for me. I’d be happy with roads like that for the rest of the trip! At the end of the track was a little pub called The Lion’s Den which seemed like a great place to stop for pizza and a beer 🙂 We also drove past a mountain range called Black Mountain where all the mountains were made entirely of boulders! It was surreal and very pretty.
Video footage of the Daintree forest at the start of the Bloomfield.
We were heading for Cooktown, specifically a bush camping spot we’d found on WikiCamps called Endeavour River Escape. We got there are 4.30pm and set up for one night. It was a great spot – we rang in advance to book and the homestead owner met us at the gate and personally escorted us (on her motorbike!) to our bush camping site. There was hot showers, flushing toilets and grass under foot. Each site had a rubbish bin and fire pit. We had our first marshmallow roasting that night 😉 Tranquility. Given the fishing and walking tracks on the property, we’ll be back for sure!
After Cooktown we followed Battle Camp Road (hello corrugations!) towards the Old Laura Homestead. We stopped to make some sandwiches for lunch at the old homestead and give Charlotte a chance to stretch her legs. Then it was on to our next camping spot, the Hann River Crossing. We were expecting something a little more rainforest-like and less dust bowl but we made camp as per our plans. There are about 14 sites here and each one is some distance away from the next, except ours (site 12) which joined site 11 and was therefore a tad bigger. We ended up with some lovely neighbours, a retired couple from Broome and we chatted to them a while about the road further north.
Despite not meeting expectations, the site was picturesque in its own way and gave us a chance to refresh ourselves. We were close enough to the (freshwater) river that we got to test our Joolca river water pump. Brandon hooked it up so that we used river water for our showers and dishes which was a real treat. We are having to become very water-wise on the road and are constantly trying to find ways to reduce usage. We have run out a few times which makes me nervous (we have a 60 litre water bladder in B’s car as a back up which has come in very handy!) I stopped short of washing clothes in the river water however! But I did use our Scrubba bag for the first time and I was pleasantly surprised at how good that works. It takes a lot of effort because the bag only fits a small amount of clothes but for life on the road in between caravan park washing machines, it will do nicely.
Brandon was constantly reminding Charlotte and me to keep things closed and up off the ground. Just on dark on the first night, our neighbours in the next site came over to let us know they just saw a brown snake at their site! Yikes! My sleep that night was disturbed and I became very nervous of our movements around camp. I was kind of happy to leave after that!
After two nights beside the Hann River it was time to hit the PDR and Musgrave Station Roadhouse. This was only a short trip down the road from Hann so we had a relatively easy drive that day and managed to snag a good camp site before the hoards arrived. We had good neighbours who shared stories of their trip with us and it was nice to have a grassy campsite again. The Roadhouse slowly filled up during the course of the day and that night the bar was full of cries of delight as the final State of Origin match beamed over satellite. Despite the volume of people, the camp site was surprisingly quiet and made for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Musgrave is a typical one night stopover on the way north or south so everyone started clearing out early the next morning, including us. Our next destination was originally the Archer River Roadhouse but this wasn’t that much further down the road and our neighbours from Hann River had mentioned the Moreton Telegraph Station as a peaceful place (with grass!) so we pressed on and ended up there instead. And that is where I am writing this post from. We were originally only staying one night but we are a night ahead of schedule for our next national park booking at Elliot Falls so we have decided to stay here tonight and set off early tomorrow.
We have pretty much survived the worst of the PDR although we have to go back that way in a week or so! We had a few moments where we came close to being air-born and we hit bottom a few times but other than some bone-shakingly, boob-jiggly corrugations, we have travelled unscathed.
One thing we are having to learn as we go is how to best set up camp for one, two or three night stays. For the quick overnighters we don’t bother with the big annex but that then leaves us with no protection from sun or rain. So we have started to use the annex from Brandon’s car to stretch over our sitting area and giv us some quick and easy shelter. Those roof-rack mounted annexes are definitely something to add to your kit if you’re planning a trip like this!
So from here we hit the Old Telegraph Track (and possibly a few hairy 4WD moments) on our way to Fruit Bat Falls and Elliot Falls. After two nights there it’s on to the top! The reports on the river crossings seem to change every day so we need to just go and check something out first and maybe we go that way or maybe we don’t. While the distances between spots isn’t huge, the road conditions can mean it takes some hours to get anywhere so it’s important to be stocked with water, fuel and food in case we end up camped by the side of the road. So far, so good.
Nights on the road: 1 week, 3 days