Monday 19 August 2013

Atherton Tablelands and Surrounds.

The Tablelands are really a beautiful place. We drove there from Cooktown. The scenery is beautiful, as you see all of the hills and the the shadows cast on them. There is much to do and explore in this area.

Crystal caves Atherton,

For the first few days of our time at the Atherton Tablelands it was wet most of the time. This deterred us from exploring the outdoors, however we had seen this place advertised called “The Crystal Caves” in Atherton. Sounded interesting so thought we may as well go and check it out. The place had started in the 80s. Basically from a man named Rene and his precious stone collection. The caves are not real caves but man built caves with tunnels right under the streets of Atherton, with each room displaying a different array of beautiful crystals and gems. They really are spectacular. In many areas the geodes have been sliced and polished then put on display. It is interesting to see the different patterns inside of just the one geode. Some of the Gems were more beautiful under UV light. Torches were to be turned off so the real beauty could be seen. In one room were two very special features. A water feature made with 4 tonnes of Rose Quartz, commonly known as the stone of love, and a GIANT amethyst geode known as 'The Empress of Uruguay”; 3.5 Meters high, and 2.7 tonnes. I can't really describe it awesomeness, and how spectacular these two features are except by using a word I learnt from two German's we were travelling with for a week whilst up at the Cape. The word is WUNDERBAR! It means wonderful, but it is said with such emphasis that what you are describing sounds more exciting than the English translation.

Mt Hypipamee National Park, The Crater and Dinner Falls,

A few days later in the sunshine we found ourselves having such an eventful day. So many spur of the moment things. We set off with our intentions to go to the Innot Hot Springs, a place I had seen on the map. We were not long out of Atherton when we see a sign for Mount Hypipamee National Park, The Crater and Dinner Falls. Again, this was just a discovery for us as we'd not planned it. We took the turn to the car park, then walked to Dinner Falls. It was a nice waterfall but nothing on what was to come. We continued our walk to “The Crater”. As mentioned no research was done so we didn't know what we were expecting. I was thinking a large meteor. We got to the sign to read about how it had formed from a giant gas explosion. We continued around the corner and we were awe struck! According to the sign it is 50m above ground, then continues another 30m under water and that is just the vertical part! The shaft then turns at 80m. So far on our travels, I would say this is the thing I have been most amazed by. I would love to see a documentry of a robot explorer on this site. Whatever is down there would be pretty unique.

Windy Hill Wind Farm

Back on the road we start seeing the giant windmills for the wind farms, using wind as a renewable energy source. There are 20 turbines, and can generate energy for 3500 homes. In low- medium wind the blades do 6rpm, up to 36 rpm. In high winds they automatically shut down as to prevent damage to them. They certainly don't lie about the name of the place. It is very windy. Being very high altitude it was also cold wind.

Ravenshoe (The highest town in Australia).

I'm not joking that this is on the signs for the town. There is a pub that even says “ Welcome to Queensland's Highest Pub” - Hotel Tully Falls. Jokes aside, we enjoyed Ravenshoe, although I leant later that I pronounced it incorrectly as Raven-shoe instead of Ravens-hoe. We were arrived just as the markets were packing away, but in time to buy some really yummy honey in a milk carton! On our way to the information centre to find out how to get to the hot springs we saw some high school students waving signs for a car wash. Seeing as we'd just come back from the Cape, Rocky was pretty filthy, so we thought why not, saves us doing it. Cameron and I had forgotten what a clean car looked like! It was so shiny! Hats off to the year 11s, Thanks heaps!

Millstream Falls

Millstream Falls were on the way to the springs. They are the widest single drop falls in Australia. Since it was the dry season, they were not as spectacular as they are in the summer wet season, but still nice. There was also a walking track where an old Army camp had been situated in WWII. The most interesting things was that the Army only cleared out the unexploded bombs from the area in 1990. Nealy 50 years after the War!

Innot Hot Springs.

After wanting to come here since I saw it labelled on the map a few weeks prior, I almost didn't come here. The man at the information centre at Ravenshoe tried to talk us out of it saying it wasn't spectacular. Cameron had to talk me back into it, and I'm glad we went. The stream was really hot. In one part there was steam evaporating off it. It averages 78 degrees Centigrade. The water is hot as there is a fault line where it soaks down to the magma level, then pushed back up to the surface because of the heat and expansion. We stayed at the Innot Hot Springs Leisure and Health Park, where they use the water in their public pools of varying temperatures. The hottest one it is recommended not to stay in there over 10 minutes. Cameron and I couldn't even make 5 before we had to switch to a more bearable temperature. There was a really cold one right next to it and it was interesting going between the both. When going from cold to hot felt like defrosting, with a  mild tingling feeling like pins and needles on the body.

Undara Volcanic National Park Lava Tubes

The last place we visited in the Tablelands/ Savanah Way (the following day), was the Undara Volcanic National Park, Lava Tubes. This is something that Cameron had wanted to do. The National Park “is home to one of the Earth's longest lava flows from a single volcano in modern geological time.” (quote from the pamphlet). According to our guide there have been over 69 tunnels discovered. As the lava flowed slowly, it allowed for the outside of it to cool and harden, but the inner parts were still hot enough to flow slowly, causing the tubes. If it had gone faster or slower they would not have been able to form as well as they did.

Even though we've been to the area twice, there are still so many beautiful places we are yet to explore. The tablelands is definitely an area I would love to visit again one day.

 - Jeni

Thursday 15 August 2013

Cape York Adventure Part 9: Backtracking

The final part of the Cape York Saga!

Going right up to the top of Cape York really is amazing, however everything that goes up, must come back down (Unless of course you tried to shoot down the Gunshot!).

Just as it was a long journey up, it is just as long back down. By the time you have made it up however, you may have heard some interesting tales about locations you didn't know about or blatinly bypassed, this is a great opportunity to scope these places. We were on a bit of a time limit, so had to skip Captain Billy's Landing, Chilli Beach and the Iron Ranges National Park. We did however hear plenty about the famous Archer Burgers sold at Archer River Roadhouse and they were definitely worth popping in for.

Weipa is still there at that halfway point if you desperately need something or if the car is playing up just a tiny bit too much. If you have more dollars than sense and have gotten all you need out of your 4WD, you could give one of the harder parts of the Old Telegraph Line a rougher shot or just enjoy the corrugations back to society!
It doesn't matter how you get back home, knowing you made the journey is incredibly fulfilling and you'll have some memories and stories to last a lifetime.

Hope you enjoyed reading about Cape York and learnt a bit about northern QLD here with the Trooprock Aussies!

 - Cameron

Cape York Adventure Part 8: Somerset and Punsand Bay

Just south of the tip there is a couple of main beach locations. Somerset Beach on the east and Punsand Bay on the west. At Somerset you have the opportunity to free camp, but over at Punsand you can have a shower!
We went over to Somerset Beach first, there's an authentic 44 gallon drum dunny by the carpark. There's also a small graveyard where the true son of the north, Gordon Vidgen lies. Somerset Beach is a slightly muddy beach but not too bad for taking a stroll down. Further north you can inspect some cave paintings at low tide, or move down the south side through the mangroves to check out part of the old homestead'a windmill.
Around the corner from the beach is the Somerset Homestead with some old cannons and memorial.

We didn't intend on heading over to Punsand Bay, however after being tipped off there was a pool and bar, we began to see the light. Late we bumped into H and C our German buddies again and decided to head up to Punsand with them.
Once we got there, we set ourselves up, downed some grub and stripped off for a dip in the pool! The weather was sweltering and the sun was burning hot! As we approached the pool we noticed it was inhabbited by a bunch of mothers with their kids and the pool was only about waiste height! Oh well, beggers can't be choosers!
After a quick dip we went over to the "Corrugation Bar" which had the second half of a Knights game playing and cold Tooheys New on tap, needless to say we spent the night here sharing stories with H and C, helping each other understand languages a little better and ate a few bowls of pomus!

- Cameron

Next Backtracking

Friday 9 August 2013

Cape York Adventure Part 7: The old resort at the top


Located about 100m from the Tip's car park was an old, run down, neglected resort. Cameron and I decided it would make for a nice morning to explore these ruins that we had seen the day before as we drove past. As we explored the area of what would have once been so beautiful, we had many a theory as to why it had gotten the way it had. One idea was that one year there may have been a cyclone that destroyed everything. Another idea was that the owners got sick of repairing it at the beginning of the dry season/ end of the wet season. We eventually heard it had once been owned by ANSET, but had been given back to the traditional owners. Unfortunately the resort became the way it did because of the lack of training given to the new owners on how to run a business. They had plenty of workers, but they would only show up for work once or twice a week, yet still expect to be paid their money and in full amount. The resort went bankrupt...

Sad story aside it was an interesting place to explore. The cabins each once had a bedroom, en-suite and small veranda. Even though it was not safe, we took the risk to enter these old buildings. The steps on most of them no longer existed, and if the beams were there, it may have only been every second step. There were holes in the floors, and they had been mostly stripped of power points, lights, fans, taps. Even the toilet bowls had been taken from some!

We continued around the and we were led to an open area that was covered in what looked like tin roof. Upon closer inspection we figured out it was covering what once was a swimming pool. Full of water, probably never emptied, and topped up in the wet season through the gaps. You can definitely see that the Aboriginal council who own this place don't care for safety. In any other area like this in the world, the whole resort, let alone the pool would be fully secure so that no one could get in then sue when they injure themselves. I'm not complaining, it made for an interesting adventure!

We continued on towards the building behind the pool, a bar at some stage. I looked up and saw the biggest green tree frog I'd ever seen. It was bigger than some cane toads I've seen along the way. I bet it has eggs and tadpoles in the pool too. Fully protected from predators, birds, or anything that would threaten to eat the growing frogs. We also came to where the laundry, kitchen, and cool rooms were. The labels were linen was stored was still there, however the shelves have seen better days! We then came across an old caravan and some storage sheds, and eventually the staff living quarters.

Continuing our walk around the Eastern side of the tip the views were just as spectacular as the Tip itself and the western side. The wind was very strong and we were holding onto our hats with all our might. It was also hard to walk. At one point Cameron had to grab my hand to help pull me. As we headed back to Rocky we found one final set of ruins. Maybe a boat shed for the resort, as there was a boat motor, and also a fish cleaning table, the place they may have done fishing charters from.

- Jeni

Next Somerset and Punsand Bay

Cape York Adventure Part 6: Making it to the top!

The final leg of the trip see's you heading north out of Bamaga towards Cape York! The Tip!
This track throws you back into the dirt and corrugations, but at this point it's hard to care, you're almost there! Not too far up and you reach "The Croc Tent", a tent setup with merchandise and paraphernalia for the whole family. The bloke running the show is also full of ideas and gives out maps, so definantly worth the stop in! I couldn't resist and purchased myself a singlet saying Cape York!

Once you leave the croc tent it's only 17 k's drive to the tip or "Pajinka" as the indingenous call it. As you get further the road becomes a single lane rain forest drive, just watch out for the giant 4WD tour buses that cruise through and enjoy the scenery! Towards the end of the forest their is a single river crossing, good thing that most vehicles that get this far have no need to worry about a bit of water under the bonnet!

On the edge of the forest is an old abondoned resort and then you reach a car park on the beach. Jump out and a 10 minute walk will see you arrive at the very top, the most northern point of the Australian mainland and a top spot for taking photo's with the sign!
If you have got some wacky photos at the tip why not share your tip photos by clicking here!
 Some folk, myself included try their hand at a bit of fishing of the tip, but I think it's more of a "I did that" thing rather than a way to catch a feed.

The breeze is pretty intense as you sit relaxing on the rocks where The Gulf of Carpentaria, The Coral Sea and Torres Straight meet. It is an amazing feeling knowing you finally reach the top!
If the tide is low (or if you are feeling adventurous!) you can climb around the west side of the tip. Here you'll stumble across lots of little crabs and mudskippers plus some interesting rock formations. There is also some mangroves, didn't see no crocs there, but probably best to keep clear!

We bumped into our German buddies, H and C again, and decided we'd build a beach fire and camp the night.
Was amazing sitting on the beach as the sun went down and the fire went up!

- Cameron

Next The old resort at the top

Cape York Adventure Part 5: Bamaga, Seisia, New Mapoon, Injinoo and Umagico

Seisia from the Jetty
After the intense trip across the Jardine River and a little more unsealed road and you will come upon 5 small communities which make up the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA), they are Bamaga, Seisha, New Mapoon, Injinoo and Umagico.
Mutee Head
Between all these places you'll have most things you will need, small grocery store, post office, mechanic and wreckers. It's quite an interesting part of the world, the land had been handed back to the indigeneous owners and there is an interesting culture which feels half western, half traditional.
Horses can be found grazing in random places and plenty of dogs hang around the communities. On the west side of the NPA area are some very gorgeous beaches. Seisia jetty is a beautiful spot looking out to Red Island and the urge to just jump in the water can be pretty intense! Alau Beach and Loyalty Beach are a couple of nice campground beaches all the camping parks up here seem to cost $12 per person. However, if you're keen a really nice free camping beach can be found further down the south west at Mutee Head.

No bites, for me or the crocs!
New Mapoon has a fishing store which gives excellent service, grabbed myself a couple of lures and tried my hand fishing at Mutee Head and south of there at the Pump Station. I didn't catch anything, could be due to the wet season being a soft one, or due to me being a terrible fisherman!

Bamaga is your main location for shopping, however prices are about double what you'd pay at your average convenience store so it could be smart to keep enjoying that noodle and rice you stock up on beforehand. Alternitively just near the shops is a bakery with some reasonably priced and pretty good meat pies "Gotta have a pie up the top!".

 Beaufort bomber Wreck
Head over east and you'll see where all those shiny 2WD cars come from, the Injinoo Airport. Detour off the main track north just before the airport and go down a small 4WD track to find a crashed Beaufort Bomber from WW2. The track leading to the Beaufort Bomber is a dry rainforest dirt track, with heaps of rusted out 44 gallon drums by the road, best stick to the dirt track for your tyres sake! The Bristol Beaufort Bomber Mark VIII was an Australian made twin engine torpedo bomber, it could travel at 431k's per hour and could carry 2000 pounds of bombs. Pretty intense what we had back in WW2. Although this plane came down and smashed to pieces.
DC3 Wreck
Back on the main road and a little further west just at the dirt road turnoff to head back to the Jardine River you can find the DC3 wreck. Not as much of a drive as the Beaufort, the DC3 is just off the main road. Back in 1945 it was enroute to New Guinea when it came down and all the crew died, another lovely war time story.
If you want to see more photos of the wrecks click here!

- Cameron

Next Making it to the top!

Thursday 8 August 2013

Cape York Adventure Part 4: The Jardine River

After battling your way to the almost top of Australia you will come to the Jardine River. It's not that big, but there's only one way to cross it and that is by paying the NPA a small fee of $129. So much for that budget right! Well the crossing permit does entitle you to camp for free north of the river and some spots south.
There is also a camp site at the river, which after that long trip to get here, the allure of a hot shower is pretty intense!

The river is a nice place to spend the night. We bumped into some people we had seen down the track and also made some new friends in a couple of German's, H and C, who we ended up bumping into and camping with for the next 4 days!
Jeni cooked up some potato skins and snags on the fire which was great and I practiced playing the ukulele, which was not so great.
Some people try their hand fishing in the Jardine river, however if all the stories about crocs are true, there is probably no fish left in there!

Next morning we prepared ourselves for our massive voyage across the Jardine, which lasted about a minute, maybe 45 seconds.

- Cameron

Next Bamaga, Seisia, New Mapoon, Injinoo and Umagico

Cape York Adventure Part 3: The Old Telegraph Line and the Bypass to the Jardine River

Once you've left Weipa and continue up the guts of the Peninsula you will encounter Moreton Telegraph Station, it's not too far from Weipa, but we went to Mapoon first and thought it would be a good place to crash.
Good ameneties and it's at about this point you'll constantly bump into the same people every few days unless you are hiding somewhere way off the track!
Not much further north and you will run into Bramwell Junction, this is where you need to make sure your fuel and supplies are in check and decide whether you are going to tackle the Old Telegraph Line or take the Bypass. We went with a bit of each!
One of the other cool things about Bramwell Junction is the termite mounds across the road. You constantly see the termite mounds everywhere up the cape, however this little spot is really cool as everything else is cleared away and just the mounds remain. They seem much taller when there's no trees around and you are right up beside them!
 After topping up the diesel we took our first quick trip into the Old Telegraph Line, it's a pretty rough road, we went up to the first major river crossing before deciding it be best to continue on the bypass.
The Bypass road up to the Jardine River is quite long with no service stations or real stops, so it's nice to jump back onto the Old Telegraph Line from time to time.

The next major part of the Old Telegraph Line we saw during our travels was The Gunshot, it's a bit of a detour to get there from the bypass road, but well worth checking it out. We saw a couple of people go through the easy route but didn't see anyone take one of the killer "Gunshot" drops either way!
The Gunshot crossing is also littered with memoriabelia of parts that didn't make it and a few signs from different groups that have come through.
When we were there the river wasn't flowing much, but the tracks where very rough.

On the north side of the Old Telegraph Line is probably the most beautiful location in the Cape york Peninsula, Fruit Bat Falls.

A beautiful little water hole which you can swim and drink from, crystal clear waters and beautiful surroundings, supported by the fact Crocs can't jump up waterfalls makes this a great little spot to cool off. Despite us arriving at the end of July, the weather was sensational, you really need to remind yourself it's the middle of winter during the northern dry season!

The final leg of the bypass road to the Jardine was probably the roughest for us, very intense corrugations in some parts, however the scenery is constantly changing from rain forest to dry valleys which makes it well worth it!

- Cameron

Next The Jardine River