Let the crocodile eat the bride first. A remote honeymoon tale.

I’m not sure what Kevin and I were thinking when planning our honeymoon 29 years ago. It was a bizarre destination but we were so excited, so eager and so bloody naive.

Other newly-weds honeymooned at 5 star resorts in tropical island paradises sipping cocktails and taking romantic strolls along palm fringed beaches.

Not us. Its bull dust all the way.

Not a palm tree in sight. I get to pose against a magnetic termite mound on my honeymoon.

We spent our honeymoon in our 4WD travelling to the Kimberley’s up the top of Western Australia. From Alice Springs. Across deserts. In October.

Yes, we were ignorant Central Australian dwellers who had no concept of “the build up to the wet” in Northern Australia. The time of year when ‘mango madness‘ sets in and everyone goes ‘troppo’.

For the clarity of any foreigners reading this post, both terms are Aussie Slang for “the irrational behaviour of a person suffering from the effects of living in tropical heat”.

It was hot up North. It was so bloody hot. We slept in a double swag on the roof rack of our Mitsubishi Triton 4WD. Romantic in a distinctly Aussie kind of way I guess. It was so hot that we would spray each other with a squirty bottle at night and hope for a stray breeze.

Purely luxury accommodations. That’s me up there in the master bedroom. (Sorry about photo quality- 29 year old photos)

Our wedding gift from our work colleagues was a 12V three way travelling fridge, which was perfect and so generous. Except, we couldn’t get it to work on gas. So there we were at night, lying on top of our swag, getting bitten by mosquitoes, squirting each other with water and we didn’t even have a cold drink because the fridge didn’t work. “I’d kill you right now for a cold drink of water” we would say to each other. At least we were both in sync.

I do love that our honeymoon was an adventure though. As a result of our naivety we had a couple of bonuses. Firstly, there was hardly another soul travelling the infamous Gibb River Road in October. We had most places to ourselves because no one else was crazy enough. Secondly, because it was so hot we swam in every glorious, picturesque waterhole in the Kimberley. That was wonderful.

That brings me to Fitzroy Crossing, just after we had crossed the Tanami Desert and visited Wolf Creek Crater. (You know – Wolf Creek, a bloke called Mick Taylor lives there and savagely murders tourists) Fortunately that classic movie came out a few years after our honeymoon.

Fitzroy Crossing is a Kimberley town with character. We booked ourselves on a boat cruise of Geikie Gorge, which was carved by the mighty Fitzroy River. Its a spectacular gorge with towering white and grey walls. The cruise was great but it was just so HOT. The cruise operator told us where we could go for a refreshing swim in the river.

Irresistible. In we plunge, just Kevin and I. We splashed around a bit then were just floating serenely a few metres apart, enjoying the coolness.

Suddenly, right in front of Kevin, two eyes pop up out of water. Two armoured, evil, yellow reptilian eyes that look him straight in the face.

“CROCODILE” he yells, in a highly agitated voice, scaring the crap out of me as I was blissfully unaware. There’s a huge flurry of splashing as he literally runs on water to get back to the bank.

And leaves his new bride in the river to get eaten by a crocodile………

He’s very sheepish when we tell this story now. His excuse is “well, I didn’t really know you very well back then”

What we didn’t know back then was that there are two kinds of crocodile in the North. Very bad ones and not so bad ones. Saltwater crocodiles are real bad and you never, ever want to be in the water with one. They will make a meal out of you before you can blink. Fortunately, Geikie Gorge has the other variety. Freshwater crocodiles are quite harmless unless provoked. He was just popping his head out of the water out of curiosity.

However, my loving new husband didn’t know that. I did make it back to the bank safely under my own steam, just a few seconds after him. It seems that I too can run on water……..

Believe it or not, 29 years later, we are still together. We have a good laugh about that incident. Apparently he has finally gotten to know me by now and finds me quite valuable. We are still in sync. We tried a resort style holiday once and it just wasn’t our thing. Together our hearts still long for dusty roads and remote waterholes. Although we no longer sleep in a dusty swag on the roof rack. Our “Royal Swag” on the roof these days has fly screens, a sink and a really cold fridge. There will always be another adventure just around the corner and that is what my travel blog is all about. Read on……..

This is me showering ‘honeymoon style’ I coloured this photo in with texta years ago to make it appropriate and ‘g’ rated.

A honeymoon with character that’s for sure in our Triton with swag on roof
Giekie Gorge 29 years ago. The colours in the photo are dreadful now but it is the genuine article.
1989 So blissfully naive but the taste for adventurous Aussie road trips was there right from the start

Diamantina National Park Outback Queensland

Follow the footsteps of the Diamantina Drover in our Trayon…

TURN UP THE VOLUME

Diamantina National Park was a bucket list item for me because of John Williamson’s song “Diamantina Drover”. It was a magnificent adventure and surpassed expectation. You can read about that trip by clicking here https://letusbefree.blog/2017/09/13/diamantina-national-park-is-it-worth-it-the-flies-sure-as-heck-think-so/

Or if you don’t feel like reading just watch this lovely video I created with our photo’s and of course the soulful voice of John Williamson.

Enjoy, and if you have a 4WD I hope I inspire you to visit.

Heading for Diamantina National Park. There is nothing but there is everything.

Woodleigh Station – Camping Around Cairns – North Queensland

Green grass, gum trees, a safe river to swim and a campfire. What more do you need?

Camping, sometimes, is purely about escaping the rat race and having a couple of days of peace and quiet. Its good for the soul. Far away from the drone of highways, the view of concrete slabbed buildings, ticky tacky houses, retail madness and work. Some of the cattle stations in the North Queensland region have capitalised on this market and given us some wonderful camping options. A taste of country life.

Woodleigh Station is just perfect for this and easily accessible from Cairns. A two hour drive up via the Atherton Tablelands and then a turn to the left 20km past Ravenshoe on a dirt track signposted Woodleigh Station.

We had some rain and the track in was a little bit muddy but well maintained

So what do I love about camping at Woodleigh Station? I like camping on grass. I like big shady gum trees. I like being next to a river you can look at, swim in and canoe. I like the sounds of native birds – magpies, lorikeets, kookaburras, butcher birds and galahs. I like being able to have a lazy campfire all day long. I like stunning sunsets and starry night skies. I like the absolute serenity. I like the cows and horse that wander nearby to chew the juicy green grass. I’m suddenly a country girl again. I love that.

Kind of amusing – more cows than people. That’s country hospitality.
A picture of serenity. nothing to do but gaze into a campfire.

The weather was warm and a little bit sultry in late March so a swim in the river was very refreshing. The water was a shade of caramel, which was unusual. Usually it is lovely and clear but a storm across The Tablelands the previous night washed away a lot of rich volcanic soil. It was still nice.

The colour of the water is due to flooding on the Tablelands. Still a nice swim.

The clouds look a little ominous at times and we did get a little bit of rain during our weekend here but it just added to our experience. The lovely smell of summer rain and the array of colours it created in the sky at sunset were spectacular. This is mother nature doing her thing beautifully. Our campfire didn’t go out despite the rain, so it wasn’t a wash out.

Sunsets are always a highlight.
Those ominous clouds did give us some rain but that’s why the grass is so green.
Amazing colours in the sky late afternoon after a small rain storm

So, our Woodleigh Station experience was pretty much perfect and a great camping destination getaway close to Cairns. As always, just avoid long weekends as then there will be more people than cows. And that would be a shame.

A Crocodile yarn. Should you be concerned about getting eaten by one in Northern Australia?

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“A dark moonless night followed and being absolutely bushed from a long day on the road we fall asleep lulled by the sound of bush crickets and silence.

Until……..

Splash, splash, splash, splash in the water. Really loud.”

The tales of Crocodile attacks in Australia are just spine chilling. A crocodile is a predator and a man-eater and when travelling in Northern Australia you should always BE CROC AWARE.  Not afraid, just aware. Especially in regions that Saltwater Crocodiles inhabit.

A large crocodile, up to 6 metres long, can make himself invisible in knee deep muddy water and remain under for an hour without even a ripple to indicate his presence. He is the ultimate master of stillness – until the right moment. The ultimate ambush reptile. He explodes from the water with ferocity and aggression and if need be he can jump to take prey two metres above the surface. He is quick and deadly and the prey in his enormous jaws will be subjected to the ‘crocodile roll’ which is almost certain to be fatal.

Australian author, Hugh Edwards book, “Crocodile Attack in Australia” contains stories of attacks in Australia that are both fascinating and absolutely horrifying. They all happened in the blink of an eye and not surprisingly a lot of those fatally attacked were locals who should have known better. Locals have a habit of getting blase. The ‘she’ll be right attitude’ just doesn’t cut the mustard in Northern Australia waterways though.

I write this blog to re-count a tale of our own, just as warning.  We laugh about it now as we re-tell this yarn but after reading Hugh Edwards book it sits a little uncomfortably with me, although it gets bigger and better with every telling.

In 2005, Kevin and I, with our three young boys did the monumental road trip along the Savannah Way, from Cairns, QLD to Broome, WA. It was and still is the ultimate Australian adventure drive. Remote, a lot of kilometres on dirt roads and the scenery right through Queensland, The Top End of The Territory and The Kimberley’s in Western Australia is simply stunning. Blue skies, ancient landscape, stunning waterfalls, gorges and waterholes, red dusty roads and big remote distances.

Our philosophy for this trip was “keep it simple”. No fancy caravan or camper trailer for our party of five.  Just our 4WD Landcruiser stacked with boxes, an Engel fridge and five swags rolled up on the roof rack. What a sight we were at camp. Five swags in a line between two trees, a rope extending between the trees and 5 bright orange and blue mosquito nets tucked around each swag. We sure attracted attention and created a few laughs.

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The photo quality is bad but you get the idea. The simple, dag family…….

We tend to free camp a lot when we travel and like to be away from civilisation.  Between Burketown in The Gulf Country to Borroloolla in the Northern Territory we travelled the very remote and rough Carpentaria Highway. Why its called a highway is beyond me. At times its nothing more than a two wheel track with a many river crossings. The 500 odd kilometres takes over 15 hours.

carpentaria highway
The Carpentaria HIGHWAY. Definitely unique to Australia. Slow going but a great 4WD drive.

We decide to stop overnight half way across and we always like to camp by a watercourse if its safe. There’s just something really nice about camping by a creek or river with a campfire and maybe a refreshing swim when its hot.

So late afternoon, after many dusty slow hours of punishing dirt, we come to the Robinson River Aboriginal community.  As we cross the causeway over the river, despite a crocodile warning sign,  there are a couple of adults with young Aboriginal children frolicking and splashing in the water.

Kevin winds down the window and asks if there is anywhere we can camp for the night.  They are very friendly and give us directions to follow a track to the right. “Don’t go left – big crocs that way”.

So, we find a lovely camp along a shallow tributary. Crystal clear shallow water and we all have a paddle to wash off the dust and travelling grime.2004 Kimberley photos 033

We prepare camp in the usual way by lining up all our swags in a row on the shallow bank of the creek, only a couple of metres from the water with Kevin at one end and me at the other. The three boys in their mini swags in the middle. The mighty sacrifices parents make for their off spring. Get eaten first.

A dark moonless night followed and being absolutely bushed from a long day on the road we fall asleep lulled by the sound of bush crickets and silence.

Until……..

Splash, splash, splash, splash in the water. Really loud.

We all wake up instantly. What the heck was that? Kevin has the torch by his head and shines it quickly over the creek.  We see nothing. “I think its just the fish arking up” says Kevin. Back to sleep again. Well a tentative sleep with me. I’m thinking about being stalked by yowies or bush pigs or Mick from Wolf Creek. Finally I doze off.

Then a while later a furious SPLASH, SPLASH,  SPLASH, SPLASH……….

On goes the torch again frantically searching in the pitch black for the culprit.

We see nothing in the placid , calm, peaceful creek.

This happened all night long.  It set us on edge although the boys zonked out.

In the morning its all cheery sunshine again as we pack up and we just brush off the weird goings on of the night before as a glitch.

As luck would have it, as we went to hit the road, Kevin discovered we had one dead flat tyre.  A bit of messing around for us and a couple of the boys were getting antsy, so we gave them a two way UHF radio and said go and explore up the creek a little bit while we change it.

Next thing Kevin gets a call on the radio. “Hey Dad, are there crocodiles in this creek?”

“No, Why?”

“Because there is one in front of us”

“Come back RIGHT NOW!”

YIKES. We slept on the bank in swags, exposed, in crocodile country.  The splashing during the night was possibly the crocodile going up and down the creek.

Kevin went to meet the boys and when they showed him the spot, the crocodile was gone, so we don’t know if it was the saltwater or freshwater variety. But as close as we are to the Gulf of Carpentaria it was highly likely a saltie. Way too close for comfort but I didn’t give it too much thought.

However, when we got to Broome, we bought the book. Hugh Edwards “Crocodile Attack in Australia”. Oh dear, that opened my eyes a whole lot more.croc attack book

Were we croc aware? Well yes, in a way. We live in Cairns. We asked the locals first and got the all clear.  However there are rules to camping in Northern Australia in crocodile country. They are as follows…..

croc sign

  • Observe the warning signs as they are there for a reason (yes, they were on the causeway)
  • Seek local or expert advise before swimming, camping, fishing or boating ( well, we did do that)
  • There is a potential danger anywhere saltwater crocodiles occur.  If there is any doubt do not swim, canoe or use small boats. (Fail, we all had a paddle in the knee deep water)
  • Be aware. Keep your eyes open for large crocodiles and keep small children and pets away from the waters edge (gulp!)
  • Do not paddle, camp, clean fish or prepare food at the waters edge. (gulp again!)
  • Do not return daily or regularly to the same spot. Crocodiles are smart and they will be watching for a pattern.
  • Do not lean over the waters edge or stand on logs overhanging the water (remember they can jump)

And be aware that Saltwater crocodiles don’t only live in salt water. They can live hundreds of miles from the coast in freshwater lagoons and waterways and especially in freshwater swamps.

So there you have it. That was the night we were stalked and almost eaten by a reptilian monster. (Told you its gets bigger with every telling). But we all lived by the skin of our teeth to ride camels along Cable Beach in Broome.2004 Kimberley photos 132

Anyhow the moral of the story is ‘be croc aware’ in Northern Australia. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they can’t see you and even innocent mistakes can land you in a whole lot of strife.  Don’t be too worried or afraid though. Its perfectly safe to travel and enjoy the North of our wonderful country as long as you observe the rules.

We have travelled and swum in exquisite waterholes all over Northern Australia but only where we know its safe to swim. Its actually rare to sight a crocodile and when you do its exciting (from a safe distance high up the bank of course.)

2004 Kimberley photos 007
Our boys high on the bank watching a monster Saltie. It was enormous. Very exciting to see.

We learnt a lesson on that trip.  Now we don’t sleep in swags on the banks of waterways in the North.  Just in case………..

2004 Kimberley photos 098
Joel sitting in the playground in Broome, reading the Crocodile Attack book. Yes, its that good

This stunning place is Sir John Gorge in the Kimberley. Yes we had a gorgeous swim here. No croc signs and perfectly safe. There are so many wonderful places like this along the Savannah Way. No need to risk it anywhere there are crocodile warning signs.

Aussies behaving badly: Our adventure at Douglas Hot Springs

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Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs Park is a National Park located approximately 130 km from Katherine and 200 km from Darwin. Like everything in the Northern Territory, its a little bit remote, a little bit off the main highway. You kind of have to make the effort to go there especially. The outstanding feature of the park is the hot thermal springs in the Douglas River. The river is cold but bubbles of heat rise from the shallow, sandy bottom creating pools of lovely, delicious warm water. On a cool Territory morning this is just the ticket.

Picture a gentle creek meandering through the Aussie bush. Birds chirruping and darting over the natural watercourse.  Clear blue skies and sunshine. And you can wallow and enjoy it lying in a bubbling hot patch of the creek. Magnificent.

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Bubbles of delicious hot water from the shallow, sandy bottom

So we decide to go. I had read on the internet a couple of weeks earlier that the park was still closed as it was early in the dry season (early June). We decide to check it out anyway just in case. There was no closed sign at the turn off so we keep going. A bit down the road we come to the next turn off. The sign was a bit ambiguous. Closed or open we weren’t 100% sure but we thought as we come this far we might as well have a look. We come to the gate. It was also a bit ambiguous – partially open, partially closed but it was unlocked. No further encouragement needed for us Aussies behaving badly. We keep going although we figured it was still closed. No harm in having a look.

 

douglas hot springs 2
What do you reckon? Open or closed? I say with a cheeky grin

At the end of the dirt track we come to a huge campground delightfully crowd free. There’s only a couple of European backpackers camped in a tent. Hooray, we think – that’s a good sign. It must be open.

“So it is open?” we ask them before we set up.

“Yar, yar we ave been svimink and there vas 4 other campers last night,” they reply cheerfully.

Douglas hot springs 3
Just us and the German backpackers in the huge campground.

So we set up camp in the lovely sunshine. Then the magic moment. We have a wallow in the bubbling hot water ALL BY OURSELVES. It was awesome.  Last time we were here many years ago the water was crammed with char broiled, wrinkly bodies all clamouring for a spot. No serenity in that. To have it all to ourselves was an amazing experience. So relaxing.  For me anyway. Kevin was a bit on edge and only had a short dip then watched me blissing out.

The water is below knee deep so nice to wallow in.

Back in the campground I chat to the Germans again about how lovely it is in the thermal pool. I mentioned that we thought it might be have still been closed because of crocodiles.  There’s a lot of them in the Top End and the Douglas River does have them in the wet season.

You know what he said? Very complacently at that.

Yar, there is a croc trap in the creek just over that way a bit

WHAT!!!

But no, he wasn’t kidding. I grab Kevin and we wander along the creek a bit for a look. Sure enough there was a big croc trap waiting in anticipation for its reptilian guest of honour.

Douglas hot springs 6
Croc Trap cunningly disguised as a croc trap

Bloody hell!

Aussie’s behaving very badly indeed.

We packed up and got the heck outta there real quick. We don’t have ignorance is bliss as an excuse like the European backpackers.

So we drive out again and this time we headed right at the turn off, the opposite direction to how we came in. Sure enough behind us was a big sign. PARK CLOSED. We couldn’t see it from the other way.

Well, that’s our excuse….. There were many other signals that we deliberately chose to ignore. Because on this occasion we were bad Aussies. Don’t be bad like us. Be good Aussies.

So, Douglas Hot Springs? Highly recommended. Its a wonderful place. Only when its open though and that will be highly obvious. Do go – you’ll love it.

Will you get to have it all to yourselves like we did?  Highly unlikely. In fact the chances are virtually zero.

So I intend to take the positive from the experience and remember how blissful it was when I was ignorant and wallowed in Douglas Hot Springs all by myself.

And I humbly promise to only visit parks that are open in the future. You European backpackers should do that too……

 

Check out another blog post where we saw them flirting with danger. We had learnt our lesson by then….( THE GIBB RIVER ROAD: Why the Kimberley’s should be on every bucket list. ) Stay well clear of those handbags with teeth…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why we love to visit Chillagoe in Far North Queensland and why you should too.

Chillagoe is one of my happy places. Its a tiny little town on the edge of the Outback. Blink and you’ll miss it. Its special though and always recharges our batteries. Its a little off the beaten track but definitely worth visiting on any holiday to Far North Queensland.

The reasons why we find it special are as follows

THE NATIVE BIRDS – the silence in Chillagoe is only broken by the symphony of native birds. Some melodic, some loud and raucous but all together music to my ears. No airport or highway noise continually droning in the background – just birds. The joyous sounds of Galahs, Red-tail Black Cocky’s, Budgies, Apostle Birds, Butcher Birds and our favourite the Magpie.

THE WEATHER – Blue skies and sunshine, sunshine, sunshine. Hot in summer so perfect for swimming, mild in winter and perfect for exploring. Dry weather always means great campfire wood.  We love having a campfire in Chillagoe.

THE CREEK – Such a gorgeous, idyllic, refreshing, wonderful place to swim. Chillagoe Creek is just on the edge of town and walking distance from the campground. Most outback creeks are murky from silt but this creek is special. The region is rich in limestone and the lime in the water disperses the sediment quickly. Most of the creek is quite shallow but there is a couple of deeper holes with water cascading over rocks. Its beautiful and shady fringed with trees and ferns.

Who says you can’t be a mermaid in the Outback?

THE CAVES- The main attraction that draws tourists to Chillagoe are the caves in the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park. The spectacular karst landscape hides a mysterious underground world. The Savannah landscape here is dotted with limestone outcrops that were the living Coral reefs in a shallow sea 400 million years ago. Inside these outcrops are a myriad of cave systems. Ranger Guided Tours are available to explore a few of them. You can also do some self exploration. We go to the Archways and I love the absolute silence and the coolness in these underground worlds.  We feel like we are in a scene of “Picnic at Hanging Rock” when we explore. It would be so easy to get lost and it feels mysterious and a bit eerie.

THE FREE FISH SKIN CLEAN THERAPY – If you sit really still below the weir in the creek, the tiny fish , start darting in and nipping at your skin.  Its such a weird but quite delightful sensation. Totally free and with a view like this absolutely a priceless experience.

THE CAMPING IN TOWN THAT FEELS LIKE WE ARE OUT BUSH – We always stay at the Eco Lodge Campground in Chillagoe itself.  Its a huge campground with room to spread out and feels just like a bush setting. The bonus being that campfires are allowed. Very affordable at $10 per person unpowered and the birds here are just amazing. The sounds in the morning are just wonderful. So its like camping out bush but with the bonus of hot showers, a small restaurant and walking distance to the pub for a quiet ale or dinner.

Our camp site in town. Who could ask for more?

THE STARS AT NIGHT in Chillagoe are exquisite and mind blowing.  Clear, dark skies are amazing. The Eco Lodge Campground has an Observatory with a powerful telescope and night sky tours. The opportunity to look at far distant galaxies and the rings of Saturn through the high power telescope is not to be missed. The tours operate on moonless nights during the tourist season.

Honestly, for us bush romantics, Chillagoe ticks all the boxes for all the right reasons. It does get very hot in the summer wet season though, so if you have an aversion to high temperatures, come in the dry. Also avoid public holiday long weekends when it gets crazy busy with locals escaping the city.

I guess what I’m saying in this blog is that you don’t have to drive thousands of kilometres into the vast Outback regions of West Queensland, the Northern Territory or West Australia to get away from it all. Its not about the distance travelled but about the state of mind that changes as the landscape changes from coastal fringe Rain-forest to the dry Savannah. Three hours to achieve that is just brilliant. We love Chillagoe.

Karma Waters Station on the Mitchell River – Camping around Cairns – North Queensland

Complete solitude and relaxation by a remote Gulf Savannah River. An all day lazy campfire, the sound of running water and sunny blue skies. That’s camping at Karma Waters.

We have two reasons for coming out here. Firstly, to recharge our depleted mental batteries in a way that only being by a campfire next to an outback river will do and secondly, to test out our new Trayon on a Trailer configuration a little bit off the beaten track. How adventurous can we really go now?

It’s a lovely drive from tropical rainforest into the drier Gulf Savannah. Two hundred kilometres northwest of Cairns, Karma Waters Station is just over a three hour drive. We travel for 2 hours on sealed road up the Kuranda Range to Mareeba, Mt Molloy and Mt Carbine before turning off 10 minutes past Mt Carbine onto the dirt station track sign posted to Karma Waters and Hurricane Station.

The next fifty kilometre stretch of dirt takes just over an hour. On the left, 10 minutes after turning off the bitumen, is the short track to Cooktown Crossing. We take a quick detour to check it out.

This causeway on the Mitchell River is a free camping spot and is popular (because it’s free) but doesn’t have many ideal sites. It’s much better at Karma Waters despite the $25 per night camping fee. The drive from here follows the Mitchell River and is slow going with dips, creek crossings and cattle to avoid but lovely with nice views in the distance.

Karma Waters Station is private property and they have nine camping locations on the banks of the Mitchell River. The beauty of camping here is that you have absolute privacy and solitude. The spots are a considerable distance apart. After checking in at the station homestead we head for camp site number two, through our own private gate, go over a sandy, somewhat dicey, 4WD only crossing into a lovely canopy of shady paperbark trees right along side the river.

This little bit of sand would be not a problem with just the car but add a trailer and its a whole new ball game. Going in was fine but getting out again a little bit more challenging.

There is the option here of canoeing down the river, swimming, fishing and catching a few cherubin (yabbies) in opera house nets. Or you can just be lazy and sit on the banks with a good book and enjoy the views. We choose option two as the river still has the after wet season flow and is flowing very wide and strongly. Too strong for our inflatable kayak. We did have a refreshing dip or two though.

Just sit and read a book while enjoying the view and the sound of running water.

So we learn some things about travelling with our new trailer while at Karma Waters. On the open road it tracked behind us beautifully with only a slight difference to fuel consumption. On a dirt road it’s great and it handles the bumps and dips really well but there are limitations we need to be aware of now. We realise that we are now the length of a bus and need a very wide turning circle. We realise that this will create situations where we will need to unhitch the trailer and manually push it around because there is no other way to avoid low overhanging branches. We realise that two thick sandy bumps close together with jagged rocks to the side can be a bit perilous with a trailer. Being bogged and wedged between them in a V shape is not much fun and serious off road stuff should be avoided. There is no way we’d take it through the Simpson Desert. We learnt that we are virtually a mini caravan now. Gotta love those adventurous learning curves.

Ummmmm. No room to go forward, no room to go backward, too many low branches. Lets just unhitch and turn the trailer around manually.

However, we were still able to access a remote site that would be completely inaccessible to a caravan. We were able to unhitch easily and be independent of our living quarters. We were able to stop on the way and collect heaps of firewood and just chuck it in the back of the ute and we had storage space in abundance. Empty cupboards in the Trayon is unheard of. Amazing.

Nothing beats an all day campfire with all that firewood

Karma Waters is a nice weekend escape destination from Cairns, especially if you want to a break from the coastal humidity and need a dose of outback scenery. You do need to book ahead though, especially on long weekends. Some rules apply as well – there are no facilities so they request you bring a chemical toilet, no weapons or hunting dogs allowed, no motorbikes and quads. This is all good as it makes for a much more pleasant camping experience for all.

Did I mention the flies got a little annoying.

Some enjoy the views from a chair, others from a tree. Each to their own.

A shady home amongst the paperbarks

Love an early morning campfire with campfire vegemite toast. Yum.

Another great cattle station camping option in North Queensland is Woodleigh Station. A bit more easily accessible and very lovely. Click on this link to see Woodleigh Station – Camping Around Cairns – North Queensland

If you have a taste for remote station camping, check out my post on Lorella Springs. Now this place is truly amazing Lorella Springs Station – Savannah Way, Northern Territory

The Waterfall Loop from Cairns Nth Qld

Michelle’s guide to Waterfall sightseeing in Paradise

Cairns and water go together. Like strawberries and cream. Add the mountain backdrop and it’s a recipe for a green paradise. As local residents we tend to get a bit blasé towards our own natural scenery. On occasion though we do take off the blinkers and really appreciate this place we are lucky enough to call home. You just cannot possibly ignore the beauty of nature when viewing falling water up here in the North. So over two days at Easter time we do the Waterfall loop.

We have had an incredible amount of rain in the last week of March. I love our wet season rain. Its not a gentle pitter, patter of raindrops. Our rain is torrential and really loud. It’s like the pendulous storm clouds just dump the whole lot all at once. Like those wet playgrounds with the bucket of water that drops it’s load when it reaches tipping point. Tropical rain is truly a wonder of nature in itself. It takes the edge off the steamy humidity and creates a vibrant green visual feast. ‘Rain’ forest is called that for a reason I guess.

So after a week of torrential, flooding rain we decide to enjoy our most wonderful natural splendours at their finest – the Waterfalls. We are literally surrounded by them in Cairns – all beautiful, all different, all glorious and it’s easy to do a loop and not a huge distance. It has to be the best place in Australia to do a waterfall crawl.

Barron Falls just up the Range at Kuranda is our first stop. The power of these Falls is immense when the Barron River is bulging at the seams. It’s a long drop and there is nothing delicate and dainty here. The water plummets a long distance bouncing from boulder to boulder with the sound of thunder. Its a worthwhile short stop with a lovely rainforest walk to the falls viewing platform.

Barron Falls

Between Kuranda and Mareeba off the Kennedy highway are Davies Creek Falls and Emerald Creek Falls. Both these lovely falls are unique as the Northern portion of the Tropical Tablelands are characterised by open eucalyptus woodland, with granite outcrops and clear flowing streams. The smell is gorgeous – that eucalyptus fragrance of the warm Aussie bush. Both of these Falls are similar, plummeting with a thunderous roar over a granite escarpment. From the top the views of the Tablelands are magnificent. Below each fall is a fast flowing stream being channeled through granite boulders in continual cascades. You can find a quiet calm pool for a refreshing swim. I did just that at Emerald Creek and it was delicious.

Davies Creek Falls

Emerald Creek Falls

A refreshing swim in Emerald Creek

Coffee time. The Northern Tablelands are famous for coffee plantations and most offer tours and serve scrumptious barista made coffee. We stop at one of our favourites, Jacques Coffee. A delicious treat.

Jaques Coffee Plantation Cafe

We then turn South at Mareeba toward the rolling green hills and rainforests of the Southern Tablelands. The quaint, idyllic village of Yungaburra is our destination for the night and we arrive with time to wander around on foot and try to spot a platypus in the creek. A misty rain makes our motel room a cosy haven.

In the morning it’s only a short drive on to Malanda Falls. There is a bit of perfect symmetry in the low natural cascade. The water has a brown tinge due to recent flooding. Usually folks swim in the clear pool beneath the falls but today it’s closed. The current is too strong.

Malanda Falls closed over Easter for swimming

We continue driving south in misty rain through rolling green hills of the Southern Tablelands, very reminiscent of being in Victoria, except the weather is warm. We head to my favourite of the three sets of falls on the Millaa Millaa waterfall circuit. Millaa Millaa Falls. This is misty waterfall perfection. Perfectly manicured by Mother Nature. The exquisite tropical tree ferns frame a photo beautifully.

The perfect Millaa Millaa Falls

Zillie Falls, a further 8km on, took me by surprise. These are usually a bit ordinary after the exquisite perfection of Millaa Millaa Falls but with the wet season flow they were powerful, intense and even pretty as the water plummeted over the abyss pummelling the rocks below. The walking track down to the bottom is a bit hazardous though in the wet. Tree roots, mud, slippery rocks and a steep descent through tangled rainforest.

Zillie Falls flowing strongly

Elinjaa Falls, 2km on is very pretty cascade. Like a lacy curtain. There’s no better place to find yourself, than standing by a waterfall listening to its music and this one had a lovely melody.

Elinjaa Falls

From Millaa Millaa we head down the Palmerston highway toward Innisfail back on the coast. We stop at Henrietta Creek to walk the 4.4km rainforest walk leading to Silver Falls and Nandroya Falls. This is our first time here and it was truly incredible. The trail to the falls took us deep into the beautiful tropical rainforest. A long walk but nothing strenuous and the reward was the gob smacking view of Nandroya Falls. Silver Falls were just stunning. Delicate and very pretty but Nandroya Falls were in a league of their own. An absolutely amazing spectacle. The sheer power, the noise, the mist. It was an incredible sight. Violence and beauty thrown together in spectacular fashion. Definitely worth the walk.

Beautiful rainforest trail to Nandroya Falls

The petite and gentle Silver Falls

The many layers of Nandroya Falls

The spectacular and powerful Nandroya Falls cascading from pristine rainforest

After a spot of lunch in Innisfail we head North toward Cairns and detour shortly after to Josephine Falls in Wooroonooran National Park. Its a 700m stroll through stunning pristine rainforest. So pretty to look at but you can sense the foreboding and danger when you reach Josephine Creek. So many have died here, lured into the water by its beauty and clarity. Its so clear, deep and inviting with natural fun filled rock slides but the churning water is powerful, turbulent and will suck you under the boulders with its fury. I don’t swim here, especially with flash flooding warning signs. Crazy, but others still do. Spectacular waterfall though.

Another lovely rainforest stroll

The clear water of Josephine Creek is inviting but deadly

Say no more

Josephine Falls

So waterfalled out, we head back home. It’s been a lovely two days and just the tip of the iceberg. It has renewed our sense of appreciation for the joys of living in this paradise we call home.

With love from Cairns

Mt Ossa – The Roof of Tasmania Via The ARM RIVER TRACK.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t know if I’ve happened to mention it before but I adore Tasmania. The natural scenery is stunning from Coastline to Alpine Plateaus, there are hiking trails, waterfalls, forests and National Parks in abundance, the distances are short and the little towns are quaint with delightful bakeries. Even the thriving metropolis of Hobart has a uniqueness.

On our first visit to Tasmania as a couple in 2010, we flew in and completed the seven day hike of the world famous Overland Track. We did it with a tour group and it was our first taste of extended hiking. We were hooked with both hiking and Tasmania. It was just the most adventurous experience. The walk started with drizzle, turned to rain, the wind was perpetually icy cold, it sleeted on us and then finally it snowed. This was in January. We slept in tents and put on wet clothes, socks and boots every day on bitterly cold mornings. I shudder at the memory. We walked on a trail that at times became a river, slid on tree roots, sloshed in deep mud and due to persistent clouds we missed all the views.  This all, no doubt sounds quite horrendous but it was exciting, unpredictable and we felt like we had achieved something really special at the end.

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How cold was the Overland Track? Check out the look on Kevin’s face. It was COLD.

The only regret we had was that we were unable to climb Mt Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak, due to the poor weather conditions. Mt Ossa is located pretty much in the middle of the Overland Track and is a four day walk in. So we figured we had missed our opportunity as it was unlikely we would ever complete the whole Overland Track again.

Never say never though. A little bit of google research goes a long way. Mt Ossa is accessible without doing the whole Overland Track. There is a 12.2 km shortcut (on foot) that intersects with the Overland Track called the Arm River Track. It’s a bit of a local secret. and you don’t need to purchase the costly Overland Track pass to do it.

So on our third visit to Tasmania on a grand and glorious road trip we decided to ‘give it a bash’. Of course we knew how very important it was to time the adventure with the weather and some careful planning ensued. Wet boots are always inevitable but were were so hoping for Mt Ossa to be out of the clouds.

We planned to spend two nights at New Pelion Hut, the central Overland Track hikers hut, to give us a whole day to summit Mt Ossa.

We camped at Mole Creek and early morning packed up camp and turned left onto Mersey Forest Road where we then had to keep an eye out for tiny Maggs Road which was our turnoff.  We followed Maggs Road to the end and found the tiny car park which is near where the Maggs and Arm Road meet. This is the start of the Arm River Track.  There was only one other vehicle there and with us the car park was full.

Incidentally it was drizzling with rain and cold but we knew it would be. Tomorrow was the day the sun was supposed to shine. The all important day.

One minute into the hike we had to cross a small stream and Kevin sank in thick mud. Right over the boots. Great start. It was actually hilarious. Nothing like a bit of levity before a  45 minute extremely steep trail straight up into the clouds.

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Up into the clouds in the drizzly rain. Wet weather gear on and rain covers on the packs.

It levelled off somewhat after that and we crossed rivers balancing on logs which was a bit hairy and I had a big fat leach sucking on my head.

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We did a lot of this. Fortunately the bigger streams did have bridges.

We walked and walked. Had lunch beside a lake in the mist. A quick lunch because we had a few leaches. Then we walked and walked again. It was a lovely walk. At times the track became a river, we slipped on tree roots and walked in mud. But this was all starting to feel very familiar to us.

New Pelion Hut was a very welcome sight after about 5 – 6 hours. We were very weary.

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What a grand and glorious sight. New Pelion Hut in the middle of the Overland Track and it was nice to sleep indoors despite the snoring. Always bring ear plugs

Whether it was brilliant planning, a fluke or divine intervention I’m not sure but the next day was gloriously sunny. Perfect timing.  We faced another uphill slog for a couple of hours on our friend ‘The Overland Track’ before we came to the junction of The Mt Ossa Track.

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Check out that beautiful blue sky

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And there she is. Mt Ossa in sublime weather in full view. We didn’t see this our first time here as it was completely shrouded in cloud.

The walk up Mt Ossa started off easy but turned a little challenging as we got higher. All I can say is thank goodness for long legs.  Clambering over the boulder scree required them.

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This is where it started to get a little tricky with hand over hand

It got so challenging a bit further up that we were actually having second thoughts on whether to go on. This was serious climbing at great height.  Luckily we banished those traitorous thoughts and after a false summit or two finally found ourselves perched upon the roof of Tasmania. What a moment. Those sublime views were the most amazing reward for having made the effort to do this. It was really the most amazing natural high feeling (no pun intended).

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On the summit of Ossa. Woohoo

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And of course I had to have a drink of pristine water from the highest little tarn in Tasmania

So with that ticked off the bucket list we were able to enjoy the more leisurely stroll in the sunshine back to New Pelion Hut where we spent another enjoyable night chatting to those folks doing the hard yards on the Overland Track. We took great glee in revealing our sneaky little shortcut to get here.

The walk back down the Arm River Track was also in pleasant weather so we saw it in a whole different perspective the following day.  It was so very nice though to see our car waiting patiently in the car park.  We were both so tired but in a contented, satisfied kind of way.

We walked a total of 38.7 km all up and it was so worth it.

Also check out my blog post on hiking into THE WALLS OF JERUSALEM Hiking the Walls of Jerusalem NP TASMANIA An absolute must do hike in Tasmania.

Hiking the Walls of Jerusalem NP TASMANIA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Its wild and remote yet gentle and incredibly peaceful. A high exposed plateau with jagged walls of rock that shelter an alpine valley. A myriad of tarns that glisten like jewels, mounds of button grass, alpine wild flowers, king billy pines, the occasional trickle of tiny streams and then total silence. Its another world where human civilisation ceases to exist. To give us such visual beauty though, nature asks a price. It was cold. So cold. We froze at night, especially Kevin in his wafer thin sleeping bag. Our tent was wet, our sleeping mats insufficient and our bodies had so many aches and pains from hauling heavy packs up wickedly steep inclines, over long distances. However, beyond any doubt the stunning scenery more than compensated us for the discomfort. This is Tasmania in all her glory. We climbed Mt Jerusalem, The Temple and Solomons Throne and the views were sublime. It was quite surreal and I feel incredibly blessed. Sometimes the natural world just blows you away and yes, I had a tear in the eye as we departed through Herods Gate. Special moments are like that.”

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Like a true girl I got the small pack sans tent. 

These were my words straight after completing the three day overnight hike into Tasmania’s Walls of Jerusalem National Park. So what is this place and what made it stir my soul to tears and more specifically why would I include it in a blog about 4WDing in Australia?

The following excerpt is from the Parks and Wildlife website and is bound to get you a little intrigued.

“The Walls of Jerusalem are located in a remote area of the Tasmanian highlands and are part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  The area is a spectacular labyrinth of alpine lakes and tarns, dolerite peaks, ancient but fragile forests of Pencil Pines and unique alpine vegetation.

There is no road access into the park and entry is only possible by walking. There are no facilities for shortstop visitors other than toilets at Wild Dog Creek. All tracks into the area are steep and rough and are subject to extreme weather conditions that can include heavy rain, hail, snow, freezing temperatures and blazing sun. Low cloud can reduce visibility to a few metres and snow can cover the track making it difficult to follow. There are limited track markers so navigational skills are essential during poor conditions. These conditions can occur in any month of the year and the weather can change dramatically within a few short hours.

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Those cold mists roll in and out. It just adds to the mystique of The Walls

 There is one way and one way only to get to see this amazing place. On foot. With a backpack, a tent and a great pair of hiking boots. Those Coopers 4WD tyres are of absolutely no use up here.
Bushwalkers must walk into the park from the car park located off the gravel Mersey Forest Road near Lake Rowallan. The car park is reached from Deloraine by following the B12 through Mole Creek and taking Mersey Forest Road (C138 then C171) to Lake Rowallan. A gravel road approximately 4.8km past the Lake Rowallan dam wall on the left just after the Fish River leads to the car park. The only infrastructure near the carpark is a registration booth. There are no public phones or toilets. It is not advisable to leave valuables in the car. There is no public transport to this area, although some operators may offer charters.”
Our 4WD with Trayon Camper was parked in the remote car park as it was the only way we could access this National Park. Its part of what makes the Walls of Jerusalem so special. The challenging access means its way less touristy than nearby Cradle Mountain National Park. I admit we were quite concerned about leaving all our worldly possessions sitting unattended for three days after being informed on the website not to leave valuables in the car.  The nearest Camping Park is at Mole Creek.  We stayed here prior and after the walk and could have had the option of leaving our camper set up here over the duration. However we decided to take the risk and it was a good call. Our car was not interfered with at all and there were quite a few other vehicles as well to keep it company. Its popular with the local Taswegans.

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That’s our blue Nissan with the Trayon on its back.

On this Tasmanian 4WD odyssey, although our space was limited, we squeezed in backpacks, the hiking tent, sleeping bags and self inflating mats. It was always our intention to fit this hike into our itinerary, subject to February weather. As luck would have it the weather was forecast to be quite good. Not perfect but overcast is better than sleet, rain and snow. That was how we experienced the famous Overland Track on a previous visit. Now that was an adventure.

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Overland Track. Cold, wet, rain, sleet and snow for seven straight days. Vicious at the time but a great memory now that gets better with each re-telling.

I won’t deny it – the trail up to the Walls is steep. Puffing, wheezing steep for a good couple of hours until we reached Trappers Hut and then another hour beyond that. Kevin had a big pack complete with most of our gear while I managed with a day pack. Yes, that was fair and I really can’t understand why we nearly broke Kevin coming back down. Chuckle. Then finally once up on the thankfully flat plateau we pass a myriad of mesmerising tarns called Solomon’s Jewels, Wild Dog campsite and pass through Herods Gate and into the Walls of Jerusalem. We camp one night inside the Walls at Dixons Kingdom and one night at Wild Dog Campsite.

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Solomons Jewels with the Walls of Jerusalem in the background.

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Our camp at Dixons Kingdom. The ground was spongy and very wet. One of the coldest nights we have ever experienced. Kevin only had a 3/4 mat so had a wet sleeping bag to top it off. However the scenery was stunning.

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Wild Dog Campsite has platforms so you are not quite so exposed , however it is further to walk for exploring the Walls so we stayed here on our way out.  It was still incredibly cold in February.

The pictures below show our time exploring within the Walls.  There are various options and we tried to do as much as we could. The cold mist kept sweeping in and out, sometimes obscuring our views but it was such an incredible experience that we didn’t care.

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Reading THE MAP on the summit of Mt Jerusalem with a view of the whole world.

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Kevin on top of The Walls on Solomons Throne. The reward for a steep climb is always the views.

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A crystal clear Tarn with the Walls in the background. It was overcast but magnificently pristine.

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Ever tried to dry socks and boots over a camp stove while cooking dinner? Tasmania and wet feet kind of go hand in hand.

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Not stylish but definitely loving every moment. We wear gaiters in Tassie for protection from Tiger snakes and they help keep your pants a bit drier.

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The delapidated hut at Dixons Kingdom. Not usable for campers but a nice photo.

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Some of the trails are not for the faint hearted

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But you do what you gotta do to sit up here on top of the world a million lights years from civilisation and mediocrity.

So the Walls of Jerusalem were just wonderful. However, we had to get down again and Kevin felt every bit of that steep trail on his titanium knee.  He nearly didn’t make it and literally hobbled the last few steps back to our car. That car park was the most beautiful sight in the world at that point.

I must mention that on the way down we passed quite a few people going up. The weather forecast for the weekend was perfect so the locals take advantage of the opportunity. Two of these people were hippies. Bare feet and no packs. No shoes, no tent, no jacket, no food, no nothing. The mind boggles. Surprised we didn’t hear on the news about two frozen hippy corpses the next day.

So is it worth going out of your way to explore The Walls of Jerusalem? Absolutely. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.