Forty Mile Scrub National Park

Saturday morning two weeks ago I drove across the ridge to Herberton. There’s a “historic village”, which is some kind of living museum. It was closed anyway, but would have been pretty expensive. So I took a walk through the old tin mining area. There’re several small shafts remaining, including the gully shaft, which was the first tin mine of the area and that’s actually the reason why Cairns eventually developed into the tourist centre of FNQ, and not Port Douglas or Cooktown…just because the railway, which was the main supply line back in the days, was built from Cairns eventually to Ravenshoe. Some of the tin mines operated until the 1950’s, but nowadays the shafts are all flooded with rain water. The forest in the area already starts to change. It’s evident that this area is much drier throughout the year. The trees stand further aparat and it’s no longer rainforest. I continued my drive further to the south across the highest street of Queensland and eventually stopped at the former highest railway station in Queensland in Tumoulin. Nowadays the track is covered with hip high grass, and the last ordinary train operated on the line in 1989…not too long ago. But without financial support from the state also the volunteer steam locomotive ceased operation. In Ravenshoe is the end of railway line and an old steam locomotive is on display in a shed. I would be surprised if that gets reactivated in the future. I guess that part of history is gone. The Millstream Falls NP just outside of Ravenshoe, used to be the widest single drop waterfall in Australia. Well each waterfall needs to have an own type of superlative, but it’s a nice area around the Millstream river. I went to Woodleigh Station. They’ve nice camping area along the Millstream river, but only one bloke camped there. There was nobody around the station, so I just parked my car and took a walk along the Millstream River until the Wild River from Herberton joined, and forms the long Herbert river, which eventually discharges into the Coral Sea near Ingham. I briefly stopped at the Innot hot springs, but that’s just another tourist trap, but luckily it was off season and hence its still closed. They want to have 10$ entrance fee, just to lay on the bank of a murky creek, with the hot springs on the other side of the creek. So I continued to to Mount Garent, which is an old mining town, and had a walk to the creek where some boys enjoyed a refreshing splash in the afternoon near the remains of the former railway bridge of the branch line from Lappa, before I went to the local pub for a coke. Shortly before sunset I briefly stopped at the Forty Mile Scrub NP and had a short walk through the dry rainforest, which was impacted by some bush fire last year. After leaving Mount Garent I was back in the savannah outback. The towns are now pretty far away from each other. I stayed at the junction of Kennedy Highway and Gulf development road, with an altitude of about 800 m directly on top of the Great Dividing range, the night went pretty chilly, but with the advantage that not much flies and no mosquitoes were around.

That’s reason, here in the bush, why Cairns developed into the tourist centre of FNQ today
It took 3 months to transport this battery with bullocks from Port Douglas, as there wasn’t any railway available in the very beginning
There’s a small museum in the old railway station in Herberton…
…with a railway map, which probably shows the furthest extend of the railway tracks in QLD, including 3 connections to NSW (now only one is remaining), and plans to get a connection to the NT via Duchess
I took the highest road in Queensland, but actually it didn’t feel so…
…and passed the former highest railway station of Queensland shortly afterwards.
Big Millstream River in Savannah country
With the coflow of Millstream River and Wild River from Herberton the Herbert river is formed
The pub in Mount Garnet was still open at Saturday afternoon

Atherton

Friday two weeks ago early in the morning, just a few minutes before dawn, I started to hike up Walsh’s pyramid. It was an easy walk, you can’t miss the track. For the 900 m altitude difference I needed 1:40 hours to get up and 1:15 hours down with a 40 min break, while I was enjoying the view on top. After I returned to my car I had my second breakfast and started heading west into the mountains in the late morning. Directly after reaching the mountain ridge I turned into the Danbulla road which leads around lake Tinaroo. This is an artifical lake, which was created in 1958 by damming the Barron river…yes, it’s the same river as in Kuranda with the Barron falls. My first stop was at Cathedral fig tree. That’s a big example of a tree, which consists only of vines. The original host tree is long gone and completely decomposed, and what’s left is now only the fig tree, which probably emerged long time ago just from one leaf. I continued the road and had a short walk around Mobo Creek Crater in essence it’s not a real crater, it’s just the end of some old lava flow, which forced to suddenly change the flowing direction of the creek and eventually formed a large recirculation area, which looks nowadays like a crater. Finally I stopped at the dam, which is the starting point of a large irrigation scheme across the Atherton tablelands. The irrigation system even extends to Walsh creek across the Great dividing range, Walsh creek eventually flows into the Mitchell River and finally discharges into the Gulf of Carpentaria, whereas the Barron river discharges in Cairns into the Pacific ocean.

Half way on the mountain shortly after sunrise…
…with a view back to Cairns in a distance.
View from the top to the other nearby mountains with the waterfalls still flowing during the rainy season
From the top it looks like a railway model, when this cargo train rides north towards Cairns
This massive cathedral fig tree is one plant
Murky Mobo creek after the so called crater
Atherton tablelands are irrigated…
…with the help of lake Tinaroo
The railway from Atherton to Herberton is no longer actively operated by the volunteers, and now disconnected from the main railway line, as the section from Mareeba to Atherton was just recently converted into a bicycle lane.
My GPX track

Walsh’s pyramid

Thursday two weeks ago I picked up my vehicle from the renting company spaceships. I had opted for a relocation deal, so I got 7 days for free, so in essence the rental fee was only 288$ for 16 days. But the return has to be made at the 16th day in the afternoon, not 16 days after begin of the rent, which means you’ve the vehicle only for 15 nights. Additionally, they wanted to have a deposit of 5,000$ for the insurance, which was too high for the limit on my credit card as single transation. So, I only left with the option of paying 20$ per day, which ended up to 320$, and was more expensive than the rent itself, with an additional deposit of 1,500$. I know I’ve a bit more insurance, but actually I still have to pay up to 1,500$ until the insurance comes into effect (and some things like flat tyre and windscreen are not covered by the insurance at all). So, in the end, if something would had happen, I would’ve needed to pay it all at my own. And on top of that, they insisted that I return the car in clean condition from the outside, and vacuum it from the inside…I mean WTF. Why should I do your job? But they tell you that at the very end of the process, after all is signed and you paid for everything. That’s spaceships…you think you save money, but in the end they charge you just another fee on top of that! So I started my road trip with Elena…the name of the car (each car is individually named). It was raining the whole day. The downpour was caused by a small cyclone somewhere offshore the East coast. I went to the botanical garden, and had a walk around, because it wasn’t cold at all. The temperature was just fine. I walked through some kind of planted rainforest…on a boardwalk, not to be compared to the Daintree jungle in Cape Tribulation. Then I passed the freshwater lake and the saltwater lake, but apart from two blokes, who were fishing (next to the fishing is forbidden sign…yeah, very smart) there was nothing special about that place. So I got my belongings from the hostel afterwards, did some shopping for the next roughly two weeks and drove out of the city in the afternoon taking some small backroads just before Gordonvale, where I followed the Bruce highway for a few kilometres into the town. The council campsite is in theory free, but in practice it was still closed, due to the potential flooding of the nearby river. Hence, I camped just on the other side of the highway at the base of Walsh’s pyramid.

Now you know why it’s called rainforest…in the botanical garden.
The freshwater lake with a Chinese friendship pagoda
Just at the border of the city, in between sugar cane fields and a sugar cane rail, you could already see Walsh’s pyramid

Back to Cairns

Sunday morning three weeks ago Jeff dropped me off at the botanical garden. From there I started my short morning walk. After a few minutes I reached Finch bay, but due to the high tide, there was not much left from the beach. Hence, I continued on, and did some moves onto a boulder on the middle of the way to Cherry Tree bay, from where I had a nice view to Mount Cook. Cherry Tree Bay was even worse and completely flooded. This was my last beach at the East Coast. Due to the salties occupying this area, swimming is not advised at all. But locals sometimes still get into the water for some refreshment. The I hiked up to Grassy Hill, and walked through several spider webs along the way. Luckily the large spiders with the large webs are easily to detect, but the smaller ones, ending up directly in your face. From Grassy Hill you’ve a 360° view from the ocean, via Mount Cook to the hinterland and back. From here Captain Cook looked for a route to get through the reef and shallow sandbanks 250 years ago. Once I returned to the town I had a refreshing beer in the pub before I got a lift by some friends of Christina & Jeff, as the courtesy bus was not operating yet.

In the early afternoon Jeff gave me a lift back to the town with all my luggage, so I could catch the bus. The road up to Cape York was still closed due to flooding, and also the main road from Coen to Weipa closed shortly after, as the Archer River was flooding. Glencore operates the large bauxite mining in Weipa from where the bauxite is either shipped on a barge to Gladstone via Cape York and through the Great Barrier reef or nowadays even directly to some Asian countries. The hinterland of the southern end of the Cape York peninsula is quite mountainous. Due to recent rain falls, some of the creeks were full of murky water, whereas others were super dry. North of Cape Tribulation and especially in Cooktown I haven’t seen any backpacker. Some might end up in The Lions Den roadhouse which is about one hour south of Cooktown. Once I returned to Cairns, the tourist capital of Far North Queensland I was suddenly surrounded by all these backpackers in their early 20’s. What a cultural shock to the original blokes I met in the morning in the Top Pub in Cooktown.

Lookout from the boulder to Mount Cook via Finch Bay
Cherry Tree Bay was my last beach along the East Coast
This is a large golden leg spider (something like that I was told two days earlier)…large web but not venomous
View from grassy hill to the mountains of the hinterland
The railway station building of the line to Laura was relocated to the main street in the 1960’s opposite to the Top Pub
We’re heading south, along all sealed roads, so the ongoing flooding several hundred kilometres north don’t bother us
The Black Mountain a few minutes drive south of Cooktown
Crossing the Palmer River over a high bridge is no problem, even when there’s some water flowing
Crossed a mountain ridge behind Lakeland when it started to rain
The bus driver made sure, he’s back in Cairns on time…and beside a young German couple, and another girl from Lakeland the bus was empty
In Mareeba we shortly followed the railway line from Cairns to (now) Forsayth via the touristic section to Kuranda
Christina, Theo, Jeff and I
My morning walk around Grassy Hill

Crocodile Bend

Saturday morning three weeks ago I helped Jeff with some gardening work. He cut a tree and I carried the branches and trunk to a fire place on his large property. Even as we started early I was again absolutely sweated after a while due to the high humidity in the 80’s. But we wanted to be finished before noon, as only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun 😉. Jeff told me it is not yet too bad, if it the temperature rises above 40 degrees, the probability to get a heat stroke is high, as the body has no longer a possibility to cool down. He already had some in the summer. In a break he told me a bit about the history of the area, as Cooktown mainly grew during the gold rush along the Palmer river. But as white people and Chinese men tried to get into the land of indigenous people, the Aborigines tried to defend themselves. But they only had simple spears, and probably a boomerang, not much against a rifle which was shot from a horse. So what they did was to eat their victims, and put their skulls onto a pole. This wasn’t because they were cannibals, but rather to scare off others to further penetrate their area. Something like, the only thing what was left in psychological warfare. In the end, that made things just worse. The white men came with more rifles, and got rid of the indigenous people with a genocide in order to progress with their gold rush…which was over just in two years or so. In the early afternoon Christina gave me a lift to the nearby Crocodile Bend of the Annan river. Typically saltwater crocodiles relaxing at this bend, but it was high tide and pretty hot. So these predators are pretty smart and just stayed in the cooling water the whole time. I went back in the evening for sunset. It’s a nice calm place out there. I enjoyed the sunset, but unfortunately couldn’t see any saltie.

The bend of the Annan river is a popular spot for salties…
…or just a nice place to enjoy the sunset.