The weather wasn’t too bad, a morning drizzle with a promise to clear up, so we decided to leave Westy in the camp and drive south to Bloomfield Waterfall and then to Cape Tribulation along the Bloomfield Track through the Daintree.
We had to head SW first as far as the intriguing Black Mountain then swing south, pass through the Cedar Bay National Park and some tiny little townships (eg Ayton named for Cook’s birthplace, and Wujal Wujal “so nice you want to say it twice”) mostly on aboriginal land….
….. and so almost to Bloomfield.
We turned off at the Black Cockatoo art gallery and cafe to fortify us for what we knew would be a bumpy track ahead. So far it had all been narrow surfaced road.
The Black Cockatoo is basically a private residence set in bushland just off the road, and featured some good bird artwork with strong environmental messages against pesticides, plastics etc and some delicate (watercolour?) paintings of fish and birds. The main doors were a feast of leadlight. With help of some reference books and the friendly owner Dave was able identify some of the birds he has photographed in the last month, particularly the sooty reef heron at Camooweal Lagoon.
The owner also told us the best place to see crocodiles in the Bloomfield River … and we did catch a big one sun baking on our return trip. There were wonderful views of the wide meandering river from that point.
On to Bloomfield, the waterfall to be visited on our return trip. The tar soon gave way to very bumpy hardened dirt, with occasional stretches of ribbed concrete where the going was extremely steep and twisty.
Numerous small water crossings did not give any trouble but then we came to a the much wider, swiftly flowing Emmagen Creek which turned out to be no trouble, less than a foot deep in fact. While we were hesitating a cortege of very dusty outback campers arrived and simply ploughed through.
The Daintree was the scene of much environmentalist activity in the eighties. The then Premier of Qld Joh Bjelke Petersen was all for reducing huge swathes to woodchip, but the Prime Minister Bob Hawke pushed through a proposal for World Heritage Status. Protests against a road through the pristine rainforest were long and personal but eventually the protesters lost. But it is still just a track really. Beautiful ferns, lianas and huge trees crowd the roadsides, there is an occasional fallen log or overhead obstruction, and at times we were driving through a tunnel of green. Dave called it “an interesting drive”, he’d love to do it when wet but not with Grandy’s townie tyres!
Cape Tribulation, named by Captain Cook with some feeling as it was near there that the “Endeavour” struck a reef, was a disappointment really, overrun by tourists including coaches from Cairns, and as far as we could see there was just a beach with no indication which headland was THE one. However, we do intend to revisit from the Cairns direction later; our focus was to have lunch then head back before any more rain came!
What Captain Cook probably saw (minus the intrusive tourists)
As it turned out, no rain, but something else. More than halfway back, up a rise and round a corner, we came upon a group of three camper-vans all looking with interest at our underside, then signalling us to stop. They said they could hear a curious flap-flap-flap but we couldn’t through all the jolting and jerking. By great good fortune there was plenty of room beside the track and even a convenient dip into which Dave could squirm while he removed the damaged protective cover over our gearbox! (Just to reassure, the latter is fine.) One of the campers was very kind in lending not only a tarp to lie on but a full set of wrenches. Normally and particularly in NZ we never travel without a full toolbox but with our current setup the only tools we have are kept in Westy, and we seldom travel without it in tow. Dave reckons he can bash the cover back in to shape and reattach.
We made another stop at the Black Cockatoo and this time were rewarded with seeing the two tame wallabies, reared since babies, which are quite free to roam but persist in following the owner round, even hopping up the steps or ramp to the house.
Back to Bloomfield township and a small detour to see the Falls.
Then back on the narrow tarmac to Cooktown, and a quick view to Quarantine Beach nearby. It was by then late afternoon and low tide with interesting patterns in the sand. The crabs however did not seem bothered by any demarkation.
I felt exhausted that evening from all the shaking; after a shower an early bed beckoned. Grandy would have to wait another day for a wash.
Next day it was back to Mareeba for two nights and lunch at the Coffee/Chocolate house then down the ‘hill’ to Cairns.