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.
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.
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.
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.
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.