Cape York 2018 – Part 1

Cape York Trip 2018: Our Great Es-cape (25th July – 14th August)

Part 1 – Cairns to Frenchman’s Track

Our Club trip began in Cairns where our group all met up. After 12 months of planning and researching, excitement was building as the morning of our departure arrived.

Day 1 – The Creb Track
We left cairns early and had a brief stop at the very picturesque Mossman Gorge. It was a nice walk through the cool canopy of the rain forested gorge. The enormous boulders in the river bed were quite a sight. We continued through the quaint little Daintree Village and arrived at our first river crossing, The Daintree. The river was flowing well but not too high and we crossed it with ease. We were now about to begin our first Iconic track, The Creb which was open whoohoo..This area gets a lot of rainfall and the Creb can close at any time, so it pays to check before heading out, as rainfall plays a huge part in the accessibility of the track. Crocodiles are found in these waters too, so swimming or standing too close to the river is not wise.

The Creb track is 64ks long with varying degrees of difficulty, steepness and greasiness as it winds up over an ancient rainforest range. The track does command respect. It took us 3 hours to complete without any hold ups and the track was predominately dry. Depending on conditions it could take much longer. It is a slow track and is quite technical in places. It is also a whole lot of fun, but you definitely have to have your wits about you. The Creb comes out near the top end of the Bloomfield track and then it is not far to the Iconic Lion’s Den Hotel, which was our first overnight camp. This is a great place to camp after tackling the Creb. There is a great camp ground at the pub with shady and grassy camping areas, $15.00 Per night for unpowered, there are showers and toilet facilities and meals are available at the hotel. We did have a meal at the hotel, relaxed and reflecting over our first day

Day 2 & 3
We were packed up early and ready to head off by 7.30am. Unfortunately, our vehicle refused to start. Initially we thought it was as simple as a flat battery, and after changing batteries over and using another of our convoys vehicles to try and jump start, it was clear we had a bit more serious problem. At that point Warren was almost certain that the starter motor was the problem and we would need to be towed to a mechanics place. We contacted our RACV who in turn contacted RACQ in Cooktown and luckily, we were only about half an hour from Cooktown and within n a hour we had a tow truck out to tow us back into town to the designated RACQ yard. We were very impressed with the service and quickness to get to us, it could have been hours.

The relay switch was taken out and it was determined that the starter motor was beyond repair. The yard arranged for a new starter motor to be flown in from Townsville, which would arrive the next afternoon. The mechanics yard was very helpful and allowed warren to stay and remove the old starter (not an easy job) and be there the next day to put the new one in. RACV were amazing and covered our accommodation for the two nights and covered the cost of the tow. We booked into the Cooktown Holiday park. A beautiful park nestled in 8 acres of tropical trees, shady sites and a pool. We had a cabin which was nice. On Friday while we waited for the part to arrive we spent the morning wandering through the quaint and pretty township of Cooktown, home to approximately 2,000 locals. We wandered the foreshore area with stunning views over the surrounding rainforest and endeavour river mouth. Cooktown is the east coast of Australia’s northernmost town and is situated on the mouth of the Endeavour River on the Cape York Peninsula. This tiny town shot into history when Captain James Cook beached the Endeavour on its shores in 1770 for repairs – hence the name. It’s a wonderful place to visit as it truly is the last town before you hit the wilderness of the Cape York Peninsula. The new starter motor arrived on time and Warren spent Thursday afternoon putting our 4by back together.

Day 4. Lakefield National Park
We set off from Cooktown and headed into the Lakefield National park. Here we visited the old Laura Homestead which is well worth the visited. We continued through the park stopping at some pretty lilyponds, both white and red. The road through although dusty is in good condition. We stopped at Musgrave Station for fuel and then headed out to the east coast to Port Stewart. There is a huge camping area here with undercover area and toilets. You do need to contact the Lama Lama ranger to camp here. Unfortunately, the coast is not visible as it is hidden by huge mangroves, but it was pleasant, and quiet.

Day 5
Today we left the coast and after a stop at Archer river roadhouse we continued along the PDR(Peninsula Development Road) to Weipa. The PDR is dusty and corrugated, very corrugated in places so it is important to let tyre pressures down and have headlights on. The dust is so thick it is almost impossible to see oncoming traffic or the vehicles in front. We were booked into the caravan park at Weipa. A nice park situated on the edge of Albatross bay. Our camp sites were right at the edge giving us nice views and a breeze out over the water. After a much-needed refreshing swim we relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon/evening. The sunset was spectacular as well. Crocs do frequent the beach here, but we didn’t see any.

Day 6. Chilli Beach
We left Weipa and as we were heading out on the PDR we sustained a large stone to our windscreen causing it to crack. The Windscreen soon resembled a road map, but it stayed intact for the entire trip. We headed back down the PDR, turning onto Batavia Downs Road and across to the Bamaga road. We followed this south for a short distance before turning off to head east out to Chilli beach. Chilli beach has a reputation for being very windy and it was. It is a good idea to get a camp site away from the beach in behind the palm trees. This camping area like all QLD parks camping areas, is permitted and must be booked either on line or through the QLD parks website Chilli beach is pristine with coconut palms lining the edge of the beach. (rainforest meets the coast). If the timing is right coconuts can be found and they are delicious. The drive out is easy, winding through tropical rainforest and heath. Apart from the wind it is a beautiful place to camp and well worth the effort to get out there and the sunrise is pretty amazing as well.

Day 7. Frenchman’s Track
Today we tackled the 2nd of the iconic cape tracks. We left Chilli beach and turned off this road onto Frenchman’s track. Frenchman’s track although not a law as such, it’s advisable to tackle this track from East to West. The river crossings are easier to navigate from this direction and passing opportunities are few. A track not for the novice, it is challenging in places and slow. There are two major river crossings on Frenchman’s, the Pascoe and the Wenlock. The track is full of deep bull dust, ruts, wash outs and steep sections. It is an awesome track, so much fun, but needs care. The track took us 4 hours, without mishap, and our convoy was small. It could potentially take a lot longer. The Pascoe needs care in crossing, The entry in is steep and rocky, and care must be taken when attempting this crossing. The crossing can be very deep, we crossed with water only up to the wheel arch. The exit is also rutted and rocky but manageable. Lot of fun. The Wenlock was when we crossed, but this could change with weather conditions.

We arrived at Bramwell Station for our planned camp here. Great camping, with full facilities. $20.00 per person. Bramwell have music every night with a full dinner which needs to be pre-booked. It is $35.00 per head for the smorgasbord dinner and it’s delicious. The camping area is huge with plenty of shady sites and grass. We spent a very pleasant and relaxing evening here.

Shez Tedford