Burton's Perth to Cape York Caloundra to Daintree Day 33-39 2-8 May 2011

Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 16:32

Mike & Amanda

Looking across the pristine yellow sands, unmarred by any footprints, the Coral Sea looks angry, a deep frothy green, whitecaps pushed by the warm tropical breeze. We've been camped at Site 11 on Noah's Beach in the Daintree Rainforest for a couple of days now. It is stunning and quite alien to us West Aussies. The Oddy is backed into one of only 15 small bays carved out of the jungle-like forest. The site is almost in perpetual twilight from the thick canopy, never still, strange noises and screeches piercing the stillness. Amanda and Kate saw a small black slithery snake on the way to the very modern drop toilets. Large lace monitors are common, darting swiftly away in the thick undergrowth. Yesterday we saw a number of the orange footed scrubfowls around the camp. Something liked Jack's camp chair and nibbled though his cup holder to get at whatever tasty delight Jack had stashed there - it was probably the huge native white tailed rat that lurks about at night.

The beach is a delight. There is wide ribbon of yellow sand that stretches for a kilometre and is backed by steep forest covered mountains, reminding us of Kauai in Hawaii where we were married. There are fresh water seeps here and there and large creeks at either end, known crocodile habitats. Last night we walked barefooted down to the beach as the sun was setting and built a small fire in the sand. We drank some wine, enjoying this idyllic unspoilt place, the scented wood and warm, sensuous breeze relaxing travel weary bones. The kids are enjoying being in one spot for a couple of days with nothing to actually do. They spend hours on their own at one of the safe freshwater seeps making mine shafts, castles and sending wooden boats sailing down. We all carefully 'swim', more like bathe in the deliciously warm water, mindful of stingers. A local assured us that they are a possibility, but unlikely now.

The drive here wasn't pleasant. We drove up the Bruce Highway all the way through Gladstone, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns. Highway is probably a misnomer, it seemed to be a rough two lane road with very heavy traffic. All of it was littered with endless roadworks. It was not uncommon to see an electronic billboard with "Expect delays, roadworks next 82 kilometres"! I've seen better traffic management, it all culminating in very long and frustrating hold ups. Especially as most of the works were fronted by large stern faced lollipop women in fluoro vests or uncaring traffic lights mechanically changing to red regardless of the traffic flow. Some people got out of their cars, engaging in conversation with their neighbours, others stretching, anything to take the mind off these annoying delays.

The first night's stop after Caloundra wasn't planned, although we had hoped to make it as far as Rockhampton. This wasn't to be due to the roadworks so we kept an eye out for roadside stops of which there seemed to be no real shortage. Mostly, it would seem the Queenslander's are far better at creating attractive road side stops, tucked away off the road compared to the West Australain habit of providing a dull 50 metre ribbon of roadside bitumen plus complimentary rubbish bin. The first couple we tried were mediocre or jammed with grey nomads so we kept going until just before sunset, when we came across Calliope Crossing. This stop was behind some sort of historic village and sat on huge lush grassed areas alongside the river and dotted with large tall trees. Clean toilets supplied with paper were an added bonus. There were plenty of vans and even an AORC Oddy, the owner from Serpentine in WA! We set up beside some trees, chatted with the sandgropers and had a reasonable night's sleep. No distracting insect invasions, no ants, and only a couple of bothersome mossies which predictably honed in on Amanda.....

Our timing here wasn't good with the Monday being Labour Day in Queensland and there was much evidence of people heading off for the long weekend. This will narrow our camping choices and make travel more difficult.

The second night we indulged in a roadside caravan park not too far from the ocean at Prosperpine. Quite a nice park, the tropical feeling creeping in, especially as the kids spotted their first cane toads, horrible things. I've told them many times how indestructible these loathsome eating machines are and was as surprised as them when Kate bullseyed one with a large honky nut, killing it instantly! The warm breezes, more insects, palm trees, coconuts, all hinted at the approaching tropical north Queensland.

Our third night was at a well appointed Big Four in Innisfail. Quite empty really, with most of the public holidayers heading closer to the beaches. Unfortunately it was quite noisy in the park, many people in the chalets partying until late. The owner was the first to hint at some potential bad news. He recognised that we were kitted up for the Cape and said we were one of the first passing through. He also said he thought the roads were still CLOSED! I quickly pulled out the iPad and found the Cooktown shire web site which unfortunately wasn't too clear but hinted that all was OK. The QLD Main Roads site was very clear - the Peninsular Development Road from Laura to Coen and from Coen to Weipa was closed. This was a potential disaster as we couldn't hang around waiting indefinitely. This bad news was reinforced as we passed though Cairns on the way to the Daintree and spotted groups of high clearance four wheel drives, all very tricked up, all very clean and heading south.......

Sugar cane fields, banana trees and mangos, vast fields all lining the narrow bitumen ribbon and surrounded by tall, volcano like mountains, swathed in deep green jungle vegetation. Dark ominous storm clouds quickly studded away, leaving optimistic blue skies and the ever present humidity. Most of the properties seem to consist of a Queenslander style house surrounded by acres of neat green lawn. The grasses here are abundant and seem to grow lushly..a good opening for a ride-on lawn mower salesman!

After Mossman, the road into Daintree became a motorcyclist's delight. It reminded me of my youthful misadventures on the Great Ocean Road and in Tasmania when we calculated a corner's speed by "doubling the speed limit and adding 10". There were many groups of high speed japanese bike riders, foot pegs scraping, leaning deep into the bend, maniacal grins plastered behind tinted helmet faceplates....the memories made me envious.....however now a 'respectable' four wheel driver with a trailer on the back, my time was better spent keeping to the left and trying to avoid plastering one of them on the original Toyota bull bar....The roads were narrow very twisty, snaking around the edge of the mountain,high up between the rainforest and the ocean. Tantalising glimpses of deep blue made me yearn for the beach and a swim. Vines hung down in places, the deep cool green belying the heat and the humidity. The car ferry across the Daintree River took minutes, another huge wide fast flowing body of water, a rarity for us West Australians! Tea rooms, coffee shops, a few camping grounds all nestled in the rare small pieces of real estate beside the twisty road, soon diminishing, more wilderness before the turn off to Noah's Beach.

When we arrived, we scouted the one way dirt track, spotting the discrete camping bays, tucked in amongst the heavy undergrowth. Most are designed for a car and tent, with an inviting raised platform beckoning the misguided tent enthusiast. Being over tents we searched out our site, the only one capable of taking a long camper trailer, when to our amazement we found a large white Winnebago parked in it. Parking in the road and knocking provoked no response. This forced us to do another lap and shoehorn our long rig in beside the invading Winnebago freeing up the one way track and also effectively, but unintentionally blocking them in. This was frustrating, especially after properly using the new Queensland national park booking system to ensure a spot. Walks down the beach failed to find the interlopers, so we resigned ourselves to waiting, my limited patience eroding fast. On returning to the Cruiser we encountered a family of Europeans, looking concerned at being blocked in. A brief discussion with appropriate body language convinced them to leave and find accommodation elsewhere....

We spent the next few days idly lazing, getting great suntans and trying to retrieve some fitness least by long days driving. I managed to be up at dawn each morning, jogging up and down the isolated beach, not another soul in sight. The peaceful setting, the warm scented breeze, the vermillion of the rising sun flaming across the mirrored wetness of the receding waves, the emerald greens of the rainforest alive with strange bird calls all resulted in soul settling tranquility and a still serenity seeping deep into the bones.....maybe it's true and the human race is becoming a blight, a plague on this planet, greedily seeking growth and wealth and ultimately destroying all we really need for the pursuit of happiness....Every evening was spent on the beach with the iPad, the only place where we had reception. Every night the news was the same, roads closed....that is until now, they are now all open to vehicles less than 25 tonne GVM with caution...hooray! Tomorrow we leave for Cooktown!
Mike & Amanda
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