Cooktown

Friday morning I got picked up by the 4WD bus. This bus followed the controversial Bloomfield track. It’s supposed to be a 4WD road, but apparently the road is in a very good condition. The wet season this year only had about half of the normal rainfall so far. So all the creeks are still pretty low, and the two steep sections of the road (~31% slope) were not slippery at all. Hence, without any issue we made the way to Wujal Wujal at the Bloomfield river. From there the road is sealed all the way up to Cooktown. I arrived in Cooktown at about noon and after a picnic I walked a bit through the town. I went to the newly rebuilt waterfront to have a look at the mouth of the Endeavour river, which is near the site where Captain Cook beached his ship Endeavour and repaired it for about 6 weeks, after he run it aground at one of the reefs. This was also the first site where Europeans, saw, hunt, and ate kangaroos. Afterwards I followed a bit the track of the old railway line to Laura until I reached Reconciliation rocks. That’s the site of the first reconciliation between Aboriginal and European people, after a severe dispute over some things. There’s not much left from the railway line itself. Only an old rusty carriage and railcar. Even the railway station was relocated to the main street and is nowadays a souvenir shop or something like that. As it started to rain, I had a beer in the last local pub. When I walked in, everybody was staring at me. But they all were very friendly and welcoming and wanted to know where I came from. I stayed with Christina and Jeff, and Jeff gave me a lift to their home, as this is a bit out of town. They are a very friendly couple, and have a small son Theo. Christina was pretty busy finishing her PhD, so I stayed mainly with Jeff. We had a nice conversion in the evening over some drinks, and he told me that Christina is actually the granddaughter of General Frank Howley. I’ve never heard of him before, but apparently he was the commander of the American sector in Berlin after WWII until the re-establishment of Germany in 1949. It was very interesting to listen to his career and how he ended up in this position.

One of several creek crossings along the Bloomfield road
View back to the Daintree National Park
After Wujal Wujal the road follows briefly the Bloomfield river
Suddenly there was a short thunderstorm, but it ended as fast as it begun
Near this location Cook beached his ship in June 1770 and repaired it the following weeks. After he left, he never returned to what is now known Australia.
Newly reconstructed wharf…
…with the view to the mouth of the Endeavour river
Reconciliation rocks, and the old track of the railway line to Laura
That’s all what’s remaining from the railway to Laura, a carriage and the rusty chassis of the railcar,…
…even the railway station was relocated to the main road.

Mount Pieter Botte

Thursday morning I got up early for my hike to Mount Pieter Botte. The day before I got some information I met in the Mason’s cafe. He told me, that he was in the mountain twice the last two months, and the conditions are not too bad. So I started at about 5:20 o’clock. The first 600 m altitude went all up to the popular Mount Sorrow lookout. Hence, the path was well marked and also not hard to follow. Even in the early morning the relative humidity was pretty high and I started to sweat immediately. I tried to slow down a bit, but that didn’t help a lot. After about three hours I arrived at the lookout. Much later than I expected. The sweat droplets were already dripping from my soaked shirt. I felt like in “The Tresor” back in 1999 after the Loveparade, but there you could get out into the cold night to cool down 😆. After the lookout the real adventure begun, as it’s a real bush walk. The trail is still marked, but you’ve always to check, if you still follow it. Otherwise you’re ending up in the middle of nowhere, and nobody might find you. That’s the time when you realise what it meant to be deep in the forest like Hansel and Gretel 😏, because nowadays we don’t have such kind of deep forests anymore in Germany. Additionally, there’re abundant vines along the trail, and some of them have thorns. So it takes a while, each time, until you freed yourself and can continue walking. In between there’re also some boulders, where you need to climb over and under! It made definitely fun, but I was in constant pressure due to my limited time. The soil of the jungle was in some section pretty soft, as it consisted only of decomposed leafs. I guess it’s also pretty nutritious. Never had such a feeling when walking at a soil before. In this section of the trail, there’re also bunches of leeches, and they all want you blood. I already wore long socks, but apparently they even sucked through it. And after 10 min I suddenly had 5 of them at each foot near my achilles tendon. So I got rid of them and sprayed the socks with DEET, which helped through the rest of the day. Two hours after I left the lookout I reached Roaring Meg Creek, which is is stunning river in the middle of the rainforest. I should have taken my tent with me, and pitched it up here. I was totally soaked anyway, so I wouldn’t had mattered if I carried my tent with me. I also completely scratched my waterproof day bag, which has now numerous holes…and is obviously no longer waterproof. About 500 m after crossing the creek, you get out of the forest and following a cold lava ridge. This gives you the first time a view to the mountain. Additionally, this metres were the easiest of the whole track, as there were no vines holding you back. Afterwards I stumped over and under some boulders until I reached the Col between North and South Summit. I opted for the south summit, even I knew I couldn’t do it completely to the top, as this is a trad rock climb rated 17A1 or 18, and honestly speaking I don’t know where to put any protection gear onto that compact rock. The summit scramble wasn’t easy, as I need to first get through all this thorned bushes, and need to circumvent the summit at a middle plateau until I found the climb to the high plateau. That was comparable easy. And once on the plateau, you’ve an incredible over the Daintree Nation Park. The whole jungle is below you. I enjoyed the view for a while. But first the time was passing fast, it was already 12:45 and in 6 hours it would be dark, and I was thirsty, as I left my backpack near the col. So I headed back, even as I could enjoyed that view much longer. After a short break near the Col (I hadn’t eaten anything except one apple due to the time pressure), I headed back to the Roaring Meg Creek. There I took a bath, dried my clothes in the sun, had something to eat, and refilled my water botttles. At about 15 o’clock I started to walk back to the Mount Sorrow lookout which took me about 90 min, which was already completely covered in clouds. Then I followed the easy way down, and the afternoon rain started. I was completely soaked with rain and sweat when I completed my hike after 13.5 hours at 19 o’clock in Cape Trib. I drunk more than 7 litres of water during the day and took four elektrolyte portions and two magnesium pills.

The “spectacular” Mount Sorrow lookout
After the lookout I followed that ridge
Someone lost their soles from their high professional climbing shoes 🤣
Oh, that’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh…Yeah, that’s the way, clearly marked, so what did you think?!?
Hadn’t time to taste them 😉
Later on I had a swim in the Roaring Meg Creek
Mount Pieter Botte…finally insight, after getting over the ridge of cold lava
View from the lower platform of the southern summit
This easy climb brings you finally up to the higher platform
The peak is only reachable via this kind of chimney and then on the compact rock to the top
Finally sitting down…
…enjoying this magnificent view over the Daintree forest national Park…
…and dangle my feet on top of the tree canopy.
A nice view, but hell, still a damn long hike back to the civilisation.
GPX track

Cape Tribulation

Wednesday morning the public bus picked me up at the hotel in Port Douglas, and I continued my journey further to the North. After a short coffee break in Mossman, mainly the last large point of civilisation we continued to the ferry across the Daintree River. The Daintree river is famous for it’s salties, but during the short ferry sailing across the other side of the river, I couldn’t spot any of these predators. North of the river is the Daintree national park. It’s the oldest rainforest of the earth which still exists. It’s not as large as the amazonas. But the amazonas is about 50 Mio. years old, whereas the Daintree rainforest is 120 Mio. years old. Homo sapiens are dated back about 100,000 years, so you see it’s about three orders of magnitude older than our species. That might be impressive or not, but anyway nowadays there’s a sealed road all the way to Cape Tribulation, so that even the worst driver can make it’s way to Cape Trib and spent there money there. The only threats along the road are narrow curves and cassowary on the road. And surprisingly there was even one cassowary next to the road, looking for some food. At the moment there’s low season in Cape Trib, and almost all businesses are closed. I thought I could join some kind of tour, but the only option was a night walk through the dungle, which I did in the evening. After I pitched up my tent I had a stroll to the beach. Looks nice, but don’t touch it, except you’re interested to make a body contact with a saltie. After the beach there’s a small creek, pretty depth at it’s mouth. Again looks quite nice, but it was definitely warned of salties. On my way back I walked through some rainforest, but this section seemed to be regrown and it’s tree’s are not that old. For me everything looked green, I only spotted some coloured fruits. In Mason’s water hole I had a nice cooling and relaxing swim. This part of the creek is too far for salties, and probably to rocky to get there. In the evening I got picked to join the night walk. It was ok to walk through the dungle and try to spot some animals. But all we got was a lot of snakes, some kind of grasshopper and fluorescent fungi…well at least our guide told us so. Probably, I only saw the reflection of the moon. Some single trees were pretty old, like about 700 years, and impressive high. But due to the limitation in light, I only barley could see them entirely.

Our 4WD bus during the coffee break in Mossman
Embarking the ferry…
…and silently crossing the Daintree river
That’s probably the only street in Australia, where you get warned of cassowaries
There’s a reason, why the first foreign language at this sign is German
Lovely creek from the rainforest, but also some salties seem to think so
80% of the fruits and seeds in the rainforest can’t be directly digested by humans, but all of them by cassowary. This is why this bird is so essential for the rainforest.

Port Douglas / Agincourt Ribbon Reef

Tuesday morning I got picked up at 6:40 to get a lift to the marina in Port Douglas. After leaving the northern suburbs of Cairns behind us, the road to Port Douglas follows directly the coastline along the mountains, which are steeply sloping down directly into the ocean. The beaches might look nice, but are full of jellyfish (at the moment is main season for them) and potentially salties (haven’t seen one). Port Douglas itself is just the high-price alternative to Cairns. Hence, not much to see in this town at all. But it has a very active marina and I joined a cruise to one of the outer reefs. The outer reefs are located at the continental shelf, and hence function definitely as barrier for the swells of the Pacific ocean. But all the dives and snorkeling activities are done inside the reef, so you don’t have a chance to see the big drop down. The Agincourt Ribbon Reef can be reached from Port Douglas within about 2.5 hours. During this time everybody on board get it’s briefing, either for the introductory divers, certified divers or snorklers. Hence, the crew is pretty busy, and after a while also yourself. During the day I did three dives. As it wasn’t deep dives, and the sea was pretty calm, my dive time was each time more than 45 min. I couldn’t remember that my air lasts that long before. The dives were probably the best dives I’ve done in Australia. I saw lot’s of beautiful corals and different kind of fish, from tiny to small and large. Also one (blacktip?) reef shark was laying at the sand floor. The dive guide slowly guided us through the dive sites. Hence, you’ve had enough time to watch. But as almost the whole boat was diving, there was again a lot of traffic underwater. And two girls in our group made a bit of trouble, as they always wanted to be as close as possible near the dive instructor. Therefore, after they finished their shooting with their gopro they tried to overtake all others again, and then you got once in a while a kick with a fin. On board I met Alex from Düsseldorf. She’s just doing her normal vacation along the East coast, and almost finished with that. We had a nice chat during the sailing back to Port Douglas. In the evening I met with her and her travel partner in Port Douglas for a beer and three rounds of pool.

The road is following along some nice beaches to the North…
…and also along the mountains, which are steeply sloping down directly into the ocean
We sailed further North along the shore with the view to the mountains…
…and some coral islands
Closely passing the Daintree national park…
…as also this cargo ship did.
Clear water at the Agincourt Ribbon Reef, the underwater view was pretty good at this day. The continental shelf is on the other side of the reef.

Kuranda

One week ago I took the railway to Kuranda. This section is only 36 km long but it takes two hours to complete it. So you can imagine how “fast” the train ride is, and in which condition the tracks are at all. I’m not sure if there is still cargo operations at this section. The track is heading mainly into the west, away from the coast, and up the mountains of the Great dividing range in order to overcome the drop of the Barron Falls. After the Barron falls it levels out and follows the Barron river to Kurunda. The gradient of the ascent is about 2%. Hence, there’re 2 bends with 180° radius to allow for enough length of the track. Additional 15 tunnels and numerous bridges support the track. The most famous one, and the icon of the railway line, is the Stoney Creek bridge. The Stoney Creek waterfalls is much more impressive than the later Barron Falls, where the train does a 10 min stop, as the water flow through the latter is restricted due to the water use in the hydropower station. After passing the Stoney Creek the track traverse underneath Glacier rock, before the now famous red bluff. This is a result of continues land slides during construction works. Nowadays this area of red rock is a landmark and already seen from quite a distance. Kuranda itself is now a bloody tourist town with it’s “famous” markets, where you can buy cheap China souvenirs for much money. So I did one of the self-guided walks around town, and as I had time I didn’t hurry up. I even realised that there is another hike from Kuranda down the mountain range. This track follows the railway line and is ending down the valley in one of the suburbs of Cairns. The track itself further extends to the outback town of Forsayth. Once a week a tourist train is operating along this track with a compulsory overnight stop. Unfortunately, since more than 100 years, there’s still a gap of about 150 km between Forsayth and Croyton, which is the final destination of the Gulflander who is supposed to operate from Normanton. I thought about doing this trip, but unfortunately due to recently flooding of the railway track, the Gulflander is not operating. It’s expected to commence operation in April. I wanted also to do this train ride, but I don’t want to wait an additional month in the wet tropics to do so. Hence, I finished my train ride in Kuranda last Monday and returned in the afternoon along the same track to Cairns.

One of the diesel-electric locomotives is painted with Aboriginal art work, and ready for departure
Horseshoe bend is the first 180° curve…
…afterwards the train ascents through the rain forest.
Releasing a view back to Cairns and the sea
Crossing bridges and entering tunnels is just normal on that track
Glacier Rock an the left and Red Bluff to the right, on the other side of Stoney Creek Valley
The former Stoney Creek Station had the only siding of the whole track.
The train crosses…
…directly infront of the Stoney Creek waterfall…
…the iconic Stoney Creek bridge
View while crossing the Red Bluff
The train is now already high up the Barron river
The two monoliths, a remembrance to all the cuttings along the railway track
Due to the hydropower station at the bottom of the Barron Falls, the falls itself are not carrying much water, except during a flood in the wet season, as the river is dammed a few hundred metres infront of the waterfall.
My final destination of my train travels in Queensland…
…the Kuranda railway station, which reminded me with all the flowers to the rail stations in Thailand, which were by the way also narrow gauge railway lines.
The Barron river, directly next to the Kuranda railway station, is nowadays more like a dammed lake
One of the blooming flowers I’ve seen during my hike around Kuranda.
My train ticket