Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Our Cape York Trip – Part 1

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on September 29, 2011

Bob's Lookout

Battlecamp Rd to Lakefield NP

Hi Everyone,

Woo hoo! All packed up finally and we are ready to go. Left the van and topped up with fuel at Mt Carbine and we’re off and racing about 1000am. We stopped at Bob’s lookout about 30kms out-of-town for a view of the surrounds-lots of graffiti and burnt out bins unfortunately. A few more kms down the road we realized we have left the spare towels and Joel’s laptop behind in the van- ah well no turning back now! We pushed on to the Palmer River Roadhouse and stopped to check it out. It’s a nice R/H with grassed area to camp out the back. After a loo break, chokky fix and a sticker for the car we left the friendly staff and headed onto Laura. The roads are all bitumen till Lakeland then gravel with intermittent bits of bitumen till Laura. We stopped at a park opposite the Quinkan Hotel, snagged a shady spot and had some lunch. Back on the Peninsular Development Road (PDR) =gravel, we turned onto Battlecamp Rd, turned L at the Old Laura Homestead and we’re on our

Kalpower - croc warning

Kalpower camp

Kalpower crossing

way through the Lakefield National Park. The road is less corrugated and seems much better than the PDR! We get to the Lakefield Self-registration station only to find one site left. We sign in and go and check it out at Kalpower Crossing. Lucky last site and it’s a huge one although it is right next to the toilets. It’s a hybrid/pit toilet and lucky for us it’s not too smelly either! We set up the tent and our new tarp and poles for shade and rain! Joel went back and pd the camping fees while we set up camp.  Joel made a chilli con carne while Wade and I explored the river and watched out for crocs. There are warning signs along the water’s edge to watch out for crocs and not to swim or fish ear the edge of

Pandanus Park

the river/creeks. We met a few of the neighbors who were on their way back from the Top and got some great info for good places to stay, things to see, what the OTL track was like, etc. Dinner was very yummy as were the toasted marshmallows over the fire for dessert! The boys washed up then an early night.

Jack's Lakes

Next day we took a drive north-easterly across the Kalpower Crossing. It is a concrete-bottomed crossing with a barricade that is put down in the wet season to stop people trying to cross. The Kalpower Homestead/Station is now back with the Traditional Owners but you can still access Jack’s Lake and Jack River National Park. We came across a restricted access sign, called UHF#1 for access, then stopped at Pandanus Park where a guy met up with us. PP is a Vietnam Vets Retreat. There is a consecrated/blessed memorial, inclusive of flagpole and plaques and every Aug 18th, there is a gathering in memorial of the battle of Lon Tan. We had a great chat to ?John who told us a bit about the history of the place and also explained why there were so many dead barra in

Dead Barra everywhere

the rivers. There were heaps of dead ones (huge ones) back at Kalpower as well. Apparently they died from a disease called white spot, which is caused by an extreme change in the water temperature. We thanked him for permission to pass thru and visited Jack’s Lakes. They were very

Hann Crossing

swampy with lots of lilies and we couldn’t find the campground described in Ron Moon’s book on the Cape. It looked like croc heaven!!! We tracked back to Pandanus Park and lunched along the elevated creek edge. On our way back to camp we saw the biggest fresh water croc we’ve ever seen on the banks of a billabong, just south of the Kalpower Homestead, easily 3m.  We collected some firewood and the boys were very handy with the axe and saw again. We had a ripper fire, thanks to more sawing from the kids and Joel and a fabulous camp roast of beef and veggies. Wade had even cleaned out the fireplace with the shovel to make room for our fire-great teamwork, hope it lasts!!  Another night of toasted marshmallows and star gazing, what a great night!

Road to Port Stewart

After packing up we decided not to go to Cape Melville but to instead keep heading further north. We drove through the rest of Lakefield National Park, up thru Hanns Crossing and we made it to the Musgrave R/H where we found a shady tree near the grave stones and made some lunch. We

Camp at Port Stewart

checked out the RH, grabbed a commemorative stubby holder then back onto the PDR towards Coen. We took a R turn before Coen and headed along a newly graded gravel road, which was heaven after the corrugated PDR, and made for Port Stewart. We found a campsite in a sandy camping area down near the mangroves and bush.  Nearby campers explained that an Aboriginal bloke owns the land or caretakes it and sometimes he comes around to collect fees and we should camp where we like. We never saw him at all. We drove around Port Stewart for a look-see but the area is very today and full of mangroves on the northern side and if you don’t have a boat then you can’t get to the water to fish. When the tide is in, the creek is high and the view is great but then you

Tide out at Port Stewart

worry about crocs so close to the water’s edge because you can see them on low tide so you know that they are out there! Back to camp for a yummy dinner of crumbed steak and veggies, then watched a movie on my iPad before bed. We decided to just do one night here as there wasn’t much

Old track to Coen

to see or do for us.  We packed up in a little bit of rain (bugger) and about 15kms short of the PDR we took a R and headed down a section of the OTL, which is the old track back into Coen. OMG! This track is not used much and had heaps of washouts but was fantastic 4WDriving! 15kms took us about 2hrs to complete as the road was so rough in patches. We saw some wild pigs and lots of brolgas as well. We did have to back-tracked once or twice to find tracks around the washouts but it was worth it! We made it to Coen and had some lunch undercover across the road from the sExchange Hotel! There is phone service here so we check our emails and Facebook. It’s not a very big town but the general store/servo has a good variety of foodstuffs and meat, milk, etc. We were pretty good for food but it was good to know in case we need stuff on the way back down. We kept on and made the Archer River

Track is in here somewhere

RoadHouse. We paid for 2 nights camping as one night has knobs on it for setting up and packing everything down! We camped down at the bottom end of the paddock, unpowered sites but we can have a fire! Yeah! We had a quick spaghetti bol for tea then sat around the fire with some new neighbors from SA and NSW. They were all headed to the Cape as well and 2 of the blokes had car extensions like ours, so there was lots to talk about. Eldon and Ann, Ron and Vicki, Dean and Leanne and Shane and Lyn-it was an absolute pleasure to meet you and we’ll be sure to drop by when we pass thru SA.  We farewelled our new friends and spent the day swimming in the river. The kids got a bit burnt as they were panning for gold in the river as they thought the river sand was full of quartz, so there

sExchange Hotel

might be gold in them thar hills! No luck with the gold but it kept them busy for most of the day:) A quiet day of swimming and reading and I made some breads in the camp oven on the coals. Yummo! The clothes lines are actually a couple of old telegraph poles, complete with crossbars and insulators.  Our neighbors tonight are some people we met just before we left Cairns we had gone out for

Archer River RH camp

dinner with my friend Rina and Dave and these were their friends who were also at dinner- small world! Joel and Wade went to the loos about 9:30pm, Joel waited at the gate, not 50m from the loos and when Wade got to Joel he realized he’d left his head lamp in the loos. He raced back to find a group of aboriginal guys (early 20’s) with one pocketing it. He was quite scared when he came back and told Joel, who went and asked them if they had seen it- to which they replied “Nah mate!” They were looking for some booze but the BA was closed. Not much else to do but Wade was so upset. He said he was too scared to say anything to the one who had taken his light-poor kid! We heard them

Cooling off in Archer River

speed off, music blaring about 15mins later and reassured Wade that he’d done the right thing and we’d get him another headlamp and none of it was his fault. We have since heard storied of noisy parties and domestics at the actual river sand camping, NOT at the RoadHouse. My advice would be to stay at the RoadHouse, which is brilliant by the way, and pay a few dollars.

Gold prospecting

When we were packing up Dan’s valve broke on the single air mattress, so lucky we have a spare, although it is a queen. We were back on the PDR for only 36kms before we turned off R and headed out east towards Chili Beach and Lockhart River. We stopped at a spot a few kms in and collected a heap of firewood- once again J and D with the axe and saw! We crossed the Wenlock and Pascoe Rivers which were low, sandy and no problems. Both were quite pretty too. We signed in and paid camping fees at the self-registration station and it looked like some big gathering or school carnival was on, with all the colorful shade gazebos. We found out later it was in fact the handing over of the

Pascoe River Crossing

free-hold titles back to several Aboriginal Clans. The running of the Iron Range National Park will remain with the QPWS in consultation with the Traditional Owners. Apparently it has been a 2 day process/celebration and we stumbled upon the middle of it! We backtracked to the Y junction and headed to Cook’s hut to camp as we’ve been told it’s very windy at Chili Beach Campground. Got to

Iron Range NP Lookout

Cook’s Hut with pit toilets and literally in the middle of rainforest! It was just beautiful! There was only one other tent and no other traffic so we decided to eat lunch first then set up so we don’t chew each others heads off as tempers tend to flare a bit when the natives are hungry:)!  We met our neighbor, Yuri while his wife and young son were sleeping. He was working with the Lockhart River Community to find ways of incorporating tourism projects like fishing charters of then area, or Indigeneous Arts’n’Crafts to allow more access to the area for us, non-indigenous people to still be able to access this area. He told us about some places we could fish and some interesting things to

Coconut de-husking

Quintell Beach and rocks

see. We headed out to Quintell Beach, through the Lockhart River Community and even though it was a very overcast day it was still an interesting spot. The kids found a couple of coconuts still in their


husks so we put them in the car for later. We stopped at the Lockhart Airfield or rather Gordon Airfield and read about the WW2 use of it as an American Base.

Yuri also told us where to find some of the old WW2 bunkers. Leaving the airport and heading north, find a house on a clearing on the L with tyres and other decorations on the front fence. Then

Gordon Airbase

WW2 Bunkers

the rainforest starts again on the L, go down a dip in the road and just to the left you will see a track. We parked the car on the road but you can turn down this track and park up at the water tanks (which I would recommend). There is a short walk, with bits of survey tape tied to the trees to indicate the loop track. There were heaps of bunkers in numerous states of dis-repair and some still had bunks in them. The kids found them quite interesting too! We headed back to camp where the boys spent the best part of

Rainforest Everywhere

90mins trying to de-husk the coconuts with a screw driver and a claw hammer!!! The flesh was very yummy and the dry husks were good kindling to get the next fire started too. The boys were

Fire started from coals

cleaning out the old fire and found some live coals,(luckily not with their hands), so they thought they’d try to start the fire with no matches. They did really well, using the copra (coconut husks) from earlier on to get the fire started. Not long and we had a rip-roaring fire. Well done Boys!  There are almost no big rocks in the camping area so we used some of our big logs to rest the BBQ plate on over the fire and cooked up. Feast of burgers, bacon, eggs and onions to make our yummy hamburgers with the lot! Just because we’re in the middle of nowhere doesn’t mean we don’t eat well:)  there is a fresh water creek about 200m from the camp but it has crocodile warning signs up so no swimming! Joel and Wade took a bucket on a rope to throw into the river to collect some fresh water to fill our 28L plastic container. Joel installed a Glinda hot water unit under the bonnet and tonight we’re testing it out! Basically it pumps water from a reservoir (28L container) and runs it through the air conditioner unit in the car – so we use the air-con thermostat, set it to hot and away we go! It works best if the car has been running for a bit! We decided to shower in the dark, (with minimal light:)) and had an awesome, hot, soapy

View from cafe at Portland Roads

Bit too windy for fishing

bush-shower. Ooh it feels good to be clean and warm. The shower is a resounding success, money well spent!

We had some rain overnight and it’s still quite cloudy too. Late brekky then off to explore Chili Beach and  Portland Roads. The roads are not too bad, certainly not corrugated like the main PDR! We are driving through a rainforest canopy as we drive into Chili Beach and it’s just amazing and quite pretty too! We pulled into the Chili Beach camping area and there were lots of empty sites still available.  Some of the sites are quite exposed but there are some brilliant sites, tucked away in the rainforest but still with ocean views! Sometimes it pays to check out places for ourselves and not rely too much on what other people say! We met Ranger Russell as he was trying to collect the camping fees from then locked box-in his words ” These locks are made for a 9th old girls hands!!”  He was quite a character and we had a brilliant chat with him. We asked him heaps of questions

Portland Roads Beach

Chili beach

and he answered them all, with heaps of humor too! I asked him how next year will be, as they are doing away with the self-registration, first-come-first-served-basis and replacing it with an on-line booking system.! We have changed our dates and actual places to visit numerous times, either due to weather or circumstance so having to pin down the exact dates to be somewhere to camp will be very difficult. I am so glad we have done this Cape York trip this year and not next year! He said he’s not looking forward to the first few months next year either but then the Rangers don’t make the decisions, the “suits in Brisbane” do. That figures. They have probably never camped out here and there’s no Internet or phone service so how will people be able to make or alter their booking? Something to think about.

Dan and I collected some more coconuts to eat later on. We met 2 couples camping here who told us that the Portland Roads Cafe was well worth a trip for lunch, but it closes at 2pm. So we hightailed it


Strong Man!

off to check it out!  Portland Roads has a few houses and shacks and the cafe blends in well with them. We sat out on the verandah, undercover and watched the world go by. The staff were very friendly and bought out photos for us to see some of the history of the place.  There were photos of the old jetty (which Joh Bielke  had demolished to “try to get rid of the hippies”-which didn’t work!), photos of cyclone damage and some from WW2. After pigging out on Thai Beef Salad, Fish and chips and dessert, we took a long walk out past the headlands and rocks.  It’s supposed to be good fishing but the tide was only just on its way in and there was a howling on-shore wind as well.  Looks like the fishing Gods are just not on Wade’s side! We left and headed back to look some more at Chili Beach. We drove down onto the beach itself and drove along the sand looking for Chili Creek, but all we found was heaps and heaps of rubbish. The rubbish washes in from the sea and it was flabbergasting to see just how much crap washes up onto the shore! We hadn’t let our tyres down much as the sand was quite wet and packed but when we went to turn around we found the sand way too soft. The kids and Joel let the tyres down and dug out in

The Thong Tree

front of the tyres and we were soon on our way again! Unfortunately when we checked one of the tyres, Joel noticed a tech-screw in it so looks like another job to do back at camp. The weather is still very overcast and even if it wasn’t, there’s not really anywhere to swim as it’s all croc country up here! We stopped at the legendary thong tree and took the obligatory photos.  There are some massive trees on the foreshore with the most amazingly HUGE root systems. The angle of the palms growing

Rubbish washed up on beach

Massive tree roots

along the foreshore shows that it is indeed a windy place most of the time. ranger Russell said he removes hundreds of coconut palms each year as they a multiplying so much that they are invading the natural Rain Forrest and destroying it. back at camp Joel and Daniel plugged the tyre with the tech-screw in it and change out one of the spare tyres. Wade and I played Jack and Jill and ferried water up from the creek for tonight’s showers. All the wood and kindling was still wet from all the rain but we still managed a good fire with them help of a fire-lighter or two. A yummy dinner of korma curry and rice, nice hot shower and then the kids and I are doing diary updates. It rained again overnight

Roads are mud after rain

and the kids were sleeping on the floor, in water! We found that a stick has spiked through the tarp under the tent, through the tent floor and the spare air mattress the kids are sleeping on. Ugh! Not looking good! The rain is still coming down so we decide on a change of plans. A late pack up due to the rain but we’ll head into Weipa to see if we can get a new air mattress. We saw more black, wild pigs near Brown’s Creek on our way out to the PDR today too! The road to Weipa is very corrugated but as soon as you see the Comalco signs (the mine) you could see the change in the condition of the road as it has been graded more recently and often! We drove to the 80km/h speed limit but noticed many did not! We got into Weipa about 3:30pm on a sat arvo, praying that there was a camping store AND it was still open! Bingo! Found a new single air mattress, then it was off to book into the caravan park. We got a powered site for 3 nights and were shown a nice, big, grassed site out the back of the cabins. The sites are not allocated sites as such, just look around and find a spot, near a power pole. We set up camp, had long, hot showers and washed hair then a delicious dinner of crumbed steak, mash and peas. Everyone is very tired today as we didn’t get a lot of sleep with the kids I mattress deflating during the night, so we’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep! Spent Sunday relaxing, washing clothes, swimming in the pool and reading. We charged up all the cameras, videos, iPods, Engel and anything else with a battery, while we had power! Joel cooked us up another great

Weipa haulpak crossroads

Weipa Campsite no 1

chilli con carne master chef dinner. Monday saw the kids doing diary updates and swimming while Joel and I drove around town to try to get a new UHF antenna and a new solar panel regulator too. Stopped in initially at Weipa Auto – please don’t set your time stopping in! After waiting to be served, the staff couldn’t have given a rats about helping us. “Nah don’t have it” is all we got, with no suggestions of elsewhere or alternatives, just turned and went back to his book! Mmmm! We headed off around the corner to a Communications Mob – they didn’t have the antenna we needed but did have a solar regulator and were at least helpful. Then we went to Kowari Motors-well the 2 businesses are like chalk and cheese! Very friendly and helpful staff-they could fit us in for a tyre change in about 15mins. The Townsville boss was in and asked Joel lots of questions about the conversion on the car. Half an hour later and we were all done. Joel replaced the solar regulator on the solar panel but there was still no charge to the battery.?! A car pulled up next to us, going into one of the units.  Turns out he’s had a fair bit to do with solar panels, etc so he came over to have a look and a chat. His name was John and he used to own land around Chili Beach, many moons ago. He was great to chat with and his wife, with lots of good stories about their life in Chili Beach and the Lockhart Community. After lots of trouble-shooting with the new and old regulator, they came to the conclusion that the battery is just not getting run down enough from the fridge to require topping up. So at least we know the regulator is ok so will keep an eye on the battery. Weipa has a decent-sized Woolies so we topped up on some dry supplies and packed down ready to move out tomorrow. We also stopped in at the camping store and picked up a spare double air mattress, just in case!

Till next time



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