03.05.2013 34 °C
After Archer’s Point we were relieved to reach Cooktown and civilisation again. It was high time for a shower and some fresh food.
Cooktown was lovely with a friendly community welcoming of tourists. In fact Tourism is now the main industry around here and the whole country North of Cooktown is now opening up for Tourism with camping sites and reasonable 4WD tracks everywhere. We spent some time in the Cooktown Museum ( http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/qld/james-cook-museum ) which was really interesting, the best bit for me was the day by day transcriptions from James Cook and Joseph Bank’s diaries whilst they were stranded here.
We paid a visit to Grassy Hill above Cooktown where Cook would hike to find a good view of reefs out to see and plan the escape. There is a lighthouse there now and spectacular views over Cooktown and surrounding area. We looked out, as Cook would have, at the never ending reefs and sandbars stretching out to the horizon on the sea and wondered how the hell he got out, we couldn’t see a passage through at all!
We stayed in Cooktown overnight at a really nice little campsite ( http://www.cooktowncaravanpark.com/ ). John the owner was friendly and chatty, giving us lots of stories and pointing out good places to visit in the area. If you meet him ask him to tell you about some of the local Crocodile stories…. Jesus! Or not depending on your disposition…
We still had a couple of nights before we needed to head back down to Cairns for Tony’s flight so we took John’s suggestion at the Cooktown caravan park and headed north to find Elim beach and Eddi’s campsite. There is a sealed road heading North about 40km from Cooktown to Hope Vale Aboriginal community and then a 20km 4WD track from there to Elim beach which is about 50km up the coast from Cooktown and below Cape Flattery.
We passed through Hope Vale, an impressively modern small town which had its own police station. You have to love the use of colours in the Aboriginal towns, we particularly liked how the police station was painted.
Eddie’s Campsite at Elim Beach
The road turned to track but it was relatively easy going with a few small creek crossings. As we neared the coast the track turned to sand and a vast landscape of sand dunes opened up which stretch for many miles up and down the coast here. There are lush green palms and bushes growing all over the dunes and it feels remote with no houses or people to be seen.
This part of the shore is famous for coloured sands which can be seen during low tide, unfortunately we missed this as we arrived during high tide but I’m told it’s quite spectacular. We carried on and the track got rougher and then came to its end at Eddi’s Campsite. The campsite was a house up on stilts and some outlying tin shack toilet and shower blocks… yes shower blocks! I was astonished to find showers this remote.
The whole area is on sand with plenty of camping spots and some running along a small white sand beach overhung by tall white bark gum trees – the scene looked amazing and was the most perfect tropical beach setting we’d seen so far. The place was quiet with only a few 4wd campers taking the prime spots down by the beach.
We looked for Eddi and found him sitting on his veranda , an elderly Aboriginal man by himself. He welcomed us and invited us both to sit down beside him. We chatted for what must have been 45 minutes and Eddi told us how he built this place up over the last 10 years with help from his Son. He wanted to make it clear to us that he never had any support from the government, like so many others in the area. I must admit we did notice the money being spent by the government on housing and amenities, especially in the little townships we passed through on the road up here from Cooktown. After a while we asked him if he gets troubled by any crocodiles, he said there has been a large crocodile hanging around recently and it was joined by a second larger one a few weeks back. They sun themselves on the sand bars just off the beach during low tide and Eddi was concerned so he called the Rangers up and a bunch of them came to check it out. He said they did nothing but camped and got drunk on his lovely beach then left so Eddi took matters into his own hands… I’m not going to publish this story here but let’s just say we both felt safer camping on his lovely beach knowing that Eddi was back there with his 303 rifle…
We spent two nights at Eddi’s campsite on this magical beach, the best spot we’d camped at during the whole trip. Alas didn’t see any crocs which I’m not sure is good or bad… I did wake up a couple of times in my tent at night with loud growling noises right outside and feared I was going to be dragged out of my tent into the sea by some salt-water monster (my tent was only about 7 metres from the sea on high tide) but it turned out to be Dingos and Cows and probably the odd Possum… phew.
Time to pack up and head south to Cairns for Tony’s flight. After retracing our route to Cooktown we took the most direct and easy route using the inland sealed road down to Port Douglas and then onto Cairns. It was a full days driving of around 400km (280 miles) and we arrived in Cairns just as the sun dropped. I’d scouted out some campsites in Cairns, I wanted to be close as possible to the centre for easy access to the airport for Tony and I was planning to spend a week here recovering and preparing for next leg of the adventure, which would be alone.
Tony was sad to be leaving, I was sad to see him go, we both had such an amazing experience and didn’t really want it to end. The 4 star Cairns Caravan Holiday park ( https://www.cairnsholidaypark.com.au/ )I’d found which was walking distance to the centre was just the ticket with hot showers, laundry and a nice pool to bath in. Tony got scrubbed up and ready to return to civilisation again. I took him to the airport and said farewell, it was a 3 hour zip down to Sydney where he would spend the night in the Airport before boarding his long haul back to London the next day. A word of caution if you plan to spend the night at Kingston Smith airport in Sydney as they don’t cater very well for overnight sleepers. I found this excellent blog post giving info and tips to travellers through Sydney if you ever find yourself having to spend the night there ( http://www.sleepinginairports.net/oceania/sydney.htm#.UYSUfFLgf4E ).