Monday, 15 December 2008

the road less travelled

this is at the end of the cooktown-cairns coastal road in cairns international airport, and i had to stop and smell the roses.
but before this vest reminds of the bright red colors of our own inabel back home-

the mountains too have a story to tell.
so on to the coastal road where stories of grief abound from those fools who dared venture where angels fear to tread.
since am no angel myself- and none the wiser too...

The 240km bloomfield track road trip from cooktown to cairns goes through some of the most beautiful coastal regions in oz. it actually only becomes coastal south of wujal-wujal.Before that it’s all rough mountain gravel tracks commencing at helensvale just past the turnoff south of the black mountain national park.
Pressed for time we didn’t have time to check out the famed lion’s den in helensvale. But then one should always keep something for next time. The rainforest commences soon after this well known pub (come to think of it, it wasn’t open yet that’s why we didn’t stop - oh those sleepy headed publicans).

and the road - there's been a million stories told about the road that one more won't matter. kerouac wrote about it, countless songs were written about it (a new road song that i know is called 'this old road' by kristofferson - check out his last album of the same name. an aussie road song with a good tune is called 'this road' by j blundell).
but hey what do you do when you come to a fork in the road?

one more close up view of the black mountain on the return trip from cooktown to cairns, where i decided to take the road less travelled by - and see if it can make me different. sorry mr frost, must be the hot weather.

There is a stark difference right here to the northern side of the range. The wet tropics is evident in the trees and the hills and mountains especially. I was blinking and nearly missed the village of Rossville nestled at the base of mt walker. The mountains here are perpetually covered by mist and clouds, as steep as the cordilleras and very thick in tropical vegetation. Through some narrow passes often on one side of a creek, the road cuts through cedar bay national park out to the village of ayton. The drive is quite quiet with nary a soul in sight. There is hardly any traffic either and just the odd old homestead. We drove past a couple of cleared grasslands near the low plains which had some cattle grazing on the lush green grass. But this sight is uncommon as a beach in the cordillera.
this is the bloomfield river, could be a sedate version of the chico, but during the rainy season could be as wild. note the cribbed retaining walls designed to counter erosion.
We paused for a few seconds gazing no more than a kilometer across to the familiar looking far bank and then I realized we did a 20km loop just to get to our side of the river. (imagine driving from bontoc to gonogon, crossing a ford, and then driving all the way back on the other side of the chico river, to get to samoki!)

Past ayton the road now follows one side of the bloomfield river. This is in fact the northern access point to the cape tribulation - daintree national parks.
The ford at wujal wujal can only be crossed at low tide and we were fortunate to cross there at the opportune time. Here the real fun begins. Steep gradients and narrow winding one way dirt tracks is what’s in store. Many an inexperienced and first-time driver to this neck of the woods would have happily turned back 40km or so to the inland highway. But am one stubborn been-there-done-that-and-seen-that sort of guy, so I drove on, though with a bit of trepidation. After a few creek crossings and a wrong turn, some roadworks, some equine traffic, and a few up-and-down hills, the road descended to a side of a river.
equines rule the world in wujal wujal. many of these horses and those handsome ponies are unbranded - meaning they're wild. free to roam where the tamaraws roam, 'cept there's no tamaraw here. although the filipino baker i met in cooktown said tama daw ako.
on second thoughts mebbe the baker's assistant said tamad daw ako....

cape tribulation. where the rainforest literally meets the sea. look closer at the photo, that's my hire hilux in the bush parked on the side of the cook highway - inches from the beach.
i was standing on a rock and my good man friday said to get off as there might be a croc lurking behind me.
This type of coastline where reef and mangrove meet the rainforest is very unique - found nowhere else in oz, and very rare around the world.
We drive another 20 km or so of seemingly impassable passes (definitely impassable to 2wd) through thick rainforests and dusty tracks (this road is normally closed during very wet conditions). We have entered cape tribulation national park and suddenly realized we were driving along the coast road. Glimpses of the azure coral sea out to the deep blue pacific ocean cays beyond come in and out of little slits in the thick rainforest. Trees dominate here in the rainforests. They form dense canopies with their trunks thickly slung with vines. They all form part of a rich and most diverse ecosystem.
Donovan point is maybe where the coastal road becomes coastal, although the coast looks very much like the chico river does from way up in the mountain pass just below mt data. Nearly vertical steep drops on both sides of the road, are camouflaged by the thick stands of tall trees without which one with vertigo would simply collapse. The next moment spectacular breathtaking views fill one with wonder and amazement, the next with horror at the steep drops around the tight bends. This visual and literal roller-coaster of a ride fills one with sometimes conflicting emotions. One moment you gaze in awesome wonder, the next in becalmed self-control.
So on to cape tribulation we come and more of dense rainforests, crystal clear creeks (but always with signs cautioning against crocodiles), and unspoiled coastlines with narrow strips of white sandy and palm-lined beaches. We start meeting other cars and not soon after hit the bitumen again – cape tribulation road, back in civilization. My emotions are still mixed – a part of me disappointed to leave the wild, but another part is relieved that we got past the ranges, and should now travel easy on our wheels the rest of the way.

(wheels? dunno what this is. maybe one or two halves guarding a turd - a third. but not the third rock son.)
We stopped a couple of times on the remainder of the trip to cairns. We saw some tourists and quite a few resorts and accommodation establishments, camp sites – facilities that offer amenities to visitors between cape tribulation and the daintree river.

rex's lookout. either the estuarine crocs or the dangerous jellyfish are out in force in four-mile beach.

The daintree national park sector of the wet tropics of queensland is one of the largest wilderness areas in Australia. This is partly why this area of far north queensland is a popular tourist destination.
We get on the ferry at daintree river (southern access to the daintree cape tribulation rainforest), drive past port douglas - stepping off point for the great barrier reef (the 2300km marine wonderland along the coast of north queensland) and get on the captain cook highway to cairns.
So on this trip I have seen two of 14 australian sites in the world heritage list – the wet tropics and the great barrier reef. Which one do I like more? I have always leant more to the wet than the great he he.
that 240km trip took 5 hours but in the wet season can take up to 5 days or even 5 weeks. geez that would be a stinker...

now where is that vest i wanted to try on...

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