Having survived the Daintree River crossing, and arriving in Daintree Village looking like a drowned rat, I was in serious need of a hot shower and some chill time. My plan was to have a couple of rest days in Mossman, but I certainly wasn't too upset to bring them forward and spend them in Daintree village. Such a gorgeous place, and everyone was so friendly and helpful.
I enjoyed lazing about whilst all my gear dried out, as well as pigging out on pub meals... especially pigging out on pub meals! I also went on a couple of river cruises, which was a great way to get up close and personal with the Daintree. The tour guide, Lex, was very knowledgeable, pointing out flora and fauna along the way.
As lovely as Daintree Village was, after three days my gear was dry and it was time to go. I set out for Mossman with a stop-over at Wonga Beach. It was a great walk out of the Daintree.
Just past the turnoff to Cape Tribulation, a car pulled up along side me. It was the young chap I met on the Crebb Track. I'd planned on stopping at his place after staying at Roaring Meg Falls, but missed the turn off and was probably a good 5 kilometres south before I realised. It was great catching up with Lynosh, I'll remember his name this time, but I'm tipping I've made a hash of the spelling.
The rest of the walk to Wonga Beach was uneventful and I pulled into Wonga Beach camp just on lunch time. This was great, as it enabled me to set up my bivvy with a mozzie net, and then hit the beach for the rest of the day.
It was great lazing around the beach, charging up my devices on my little solar panel. There was also great phone reception, which turned out well, as I was able to join the live Facebook feed of my 30 year school reunion - class of '87, Doncaster Secondary College. I was a little dissappointed I couldn't make it in person, but was thrilled to feel a small part of it with my virtual attendance, well until I drifted off to sleep. I blame fatigue, nothing to do with age. 30 years since leaving school, oh the trouble I used to get into....
I hope you like these shots of Wonga Beach as much as I loved seeing them first hand.
From Wonga Beach it was a gentle 20 kilometres to Mossman following main roads. Walking along the black top is generally easier, except when having to constantly step off into the long grass to avoid cars and trucks in some sections.
I arrived in Mossman a little after 1:30pm and the first thing I did was to stop in at the local Mossman Hotel to knock the froth off a few cheeky ones. It was great having a good old yack to some of the locals, who were all very interested to hear what I was up to. They started off by hanging it on me about my "ski poles", but I just rolled with it. "Yeah, I am heading south, but don't expect to hit snow for a while. Like most of the gear I'm lugging around, it needs to serve multiple purposes: these double up as my tent poles, pit bull wackers, and, more recently, they came in handy for croc defence crossing the Daintree." This was the ice breaker, with a young girl who was in the pub with her dad chiming in, "I bet they'd make great fishing spears too." I replied, "I like that, I bet that'd work a treat! I was going to pack fishing line and a hook, but in the end I didn't". "You didn't pack fishing gear? You crazy bastard!", another local offered. I sat there chin wagging for a while, and got some good local advice from the bar tender about the next stage of the trek. "So you'd be heading up the Bump Track then, look out for the cassowaries, a good disembowelling is sure to wreck your day." "Thanks for the heads up," I replied, "I think we've found another use for my poles...cassowary kebab sticks."
After three schooners in fairly quick succession I was starting to feel a bit of a buzz. "Time to go", I said "this Trail won't walk itself." I confirmed the directions to the show grounds and off I went.
I slept well that night, on top of my bivvy and under my mozzie net, under the pavilion at the sports oval. Did I tell you the mozzies are ferocious up this way?
I packed up early, keen to hit the road. The plan for today was to reach the camp by the Mowbray River, about 22 kilometres away,
About half way to Mossman I developed a pain above my ankle on my left leg. It felt like something was stuck in the top of my boot and pressing uncomfortably against me. I had a few rests and pressed on. I didn't give it a second thought until it flared up again at about the 5 kilometre mark on the way to Mowbray River. I stopped and gave it a good rub with my magic magnesium oil. Unlike other times with muscle cramps and soreness, it eased it but didn't cure it; I pressed on.
The going was slow as the weird above ankle soreness was playing on my mind. Around lunch time I passed the turnoff to Port Douglas and decided to rest up a bit. I pulled off the highway, perching at some table and chairs outside of the IGA supermarket there.
I got to chatting to the lady that was running a little coffee stall, and, as is that a case with most people I've met so far, they're intested to know where I've come from and where I'm going; this nice lady was no exception. "I started out in Cooktown and I'm walking to Healesville" I said. She gave me a funny look, so I then elaborated "It's in the Yarra Valley, just outside of Melbourne". "I know Healesville, I've lived there my whole life" she said. We chatted all things Healesville and the story about her escape to the warmer climes of Port Douglas about 12 years ago. I countered that as much as I like the warmer weather up this way I like the variation we get down south, the snow, being able to put a fire on and drink red wine by it. Nah, that didn't wash with this Healesvillian escapee. She asked me if I was heading into Port Douglas and was flabbergasted to hear that I was pressing on past. "What? You are going so close, and not going to have even a quick visit - it's a gorgeous place."
I would like to have visited Port Douglas but there will be lots of Port Douglas' along the way I guess. By that I mean great places that I simply walk on by.
I had a good lunch break but unfortunately the ankle niggle was still with me; oh well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger I thought (not all that convincingly). Just before I pulled off, though, I saw this sign and it tickled my fancy. Most drivers are really good, but there are a few knobs that, despite a dead straight road with no other traffic, like to see how close they can get without actually hitting me. Maybe they know this sign and think "get on a bike, idiot."
It was around 1:30pm when I came across the Big4 Glengarry holiday park. My plans were to stay by the River about a kilometre further on, but the allure of a hot shower and swim was too strong. I also remember the lady in the coffee stall outside the IGA saying "oh there are big crocs in the Mowbray, too" when exchanging croc stories. That settled it - plans are made to change I thought, as I walked up towards reception. I slept very well - fuck you crocodiles!
I set off at daybreak knowing the day's 25 kilometres to Mount Molloy included some big climbs up the Bump Track. Good plan, until I missed the turnoff and added an extra 6 or 7 kilometres to the day's tally by the time I circled back. Just a warm up I told myself before getting on track again.
I loved the Bump Track - very steep climbs but the views from certain vantage points, scenery along the way, and sense of history, were truly magnificent. What's even better was the ankle niggles of the past two days didn't return after yesterday's swim, and I was seriously working it with both Voltarin and magnesium rub.
I hope I've done some of the views justice with these shots.
I arrived at Mount Molloy, promptly checked in to the local pub for a couple of nights, and said "Beer me up, Scotty". Plans are made to change, I figured I'd earnt a break, and I knew I'd be sore as yesterday was probably the biggest day on the Trail so far. Funny how things work out. I had a call this morning from Leslie, a BNT board member, who let me know there was a BNT shindig happening in Mareeba tomorrow and wanting to know, seeing as I was in the neighbourhood, whether I wanted to come along. My new motto... plans are made to be broken... "Sure, will you be picking me up and dropping me back to Mount Molloy? I'm in, sounds great!!" I exclaim.
"Another night please, Scott," I say to the publican "And can I have some coins and washing powder?" I ask, handing over a fiver.
I had planned day four to be a fairly relaxed 10km stroll to a creek just shy of the start of Crebb track. Well, when I got there the view from the bridge was lovely.
Only trouble was when I found the "good camp sites about 50m upstream" l discovered that when that advice was given it had been obviously a lot drier. It was now like a swamp. No bother I thought, l'll just stroll the 2.5 kms to Wujal Wujal, the Aboriginal community; surely there would be some sort of accommodation for me there? No dice. I met some lovely helpful and curious people there, though, all very keen to hear what I was up to. I got chatting to a lovely lady named Rachel who proceeded to caution me when I mentioned that I was going to head up along the Crebb track to find a spot to pull up for the night there. "Really? You better be careful then, there are a lot of dangerous wild animals up there on the Crebb track," Rachel said. "There are wolves, and wild pigs, and even mountain lions that got released in the area during World War Two," she continued. Holy shit, I thought to myself. "Ok, sounds scary," I replied. "Yeah, there are snakes and dingos too, and I even heard there is a creature like that one in the Predator movie," she cautioned. I think Rachel was having a lend of me. She had me going though, right up to the "Predator" bit. I said my farewells to Rachel, thinking she was pulling my leg, but too scared of being disrespectful to call her on it. I think her friend, Alan, sensed my trepidation and told me after Rachel had departed, that his brother had a place up on the Crebb track, and wouldn't mind if I called in on him to stay. I thanked Alan and commenced my stroll back to the start of the Crebb track, except the stroll was now becoming a trudge.
After scouting around a gravel reserve opposite the entrance to Crebb track and finding no suitable digs , I decided to bite the bullet and find a spot along the track. So the climbing began.
And what a climb the first one was, the one they call The Jump. The view from the crest was pretty spectacular. It was now 4:30pm, and my "easy day" had turned into a 25km day, according to my iPhone. Like me, it is prone to "lavishly rounding up", but even if I agressively adjust for this, and say it was a 20km day, it is still twice what I'd planned, and with a late long steep climb added. I decided finding a spot to pull up stumps was now urgent, and a spot around the corner in a clearing under the power lines appeared. Given the lateness of the day I figured my most basic camping configuration would do.
I didn't sleep very well as I let my imagination run wild - thanks Rachel :) I was alert to every noise and I even took my knife out of my backpack waist pocket and had it close at hand in case the Predator creature tried to take me during the night. On the plus side, lying there on my back, listening to every noise, I enjoyed the most spectacular view of the night sky - I think I might have even seen a shooting star before drifting off to sleep, either that or it was the Predator creature's spaceship coming in to land.
I broke camp just before dawn the following morning as I was keen to get going and reach Keating Creek early, the designated BNT campsite. I was greeted by a nice sunrise and some amazing scenery as I set off.
Along the way a local young bloke pulled up on his dirt bike for a chat. He told me he had met up with a fellow BNT trekker a while ago named Glenn who stayed with him for the night. I got a few pointers about the area, as well as an offer to stay at his place. I listened intently to the directions thinking I could work it in with my plans. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name, and it was an unusual name too. I recall him telling me that his father is Hungarian and that his mother agreed to the name during her 2 days of labour. I mentioned I was heading for Keating Creek to camp. He indicated that was about 8 kilometres and that I've got time so would be better off pushing for the Roaring Meg Falls, a sacred Aboriginal site, and a much better option. I remember there was a mention of the Roaring Meg Falls in the Trail guidebook as worthwhile and a recommended side trip. Sold! Roaring Meg Falls it is then; I bid my farewell and off I set with renewed vigour.
Along the way I was able to mark a few creatures off Rachel's list; one big bull; two black snakes; three wild pigs; but no partridge in a pear tree.
I got to the turn off to Roaring Meg Falls where a large sign indicated it was left in 1 kilometre. I reckon the people who commissioned that sign are the complete opposite to me and like to lavishly round down - it was certainly a very long kilometre, rivalled only by the welcome sign to Rossville.
It was about 4ish when I got to the camp spot by Roaring Meg Creek, complete with picnic tables and a composting toilet,
I set my camp up in my best configuration yet. My tarp to give me maximum height, with the mozzie net hung underneath wrapped around my bivvy used as a ground sheet for my sleeping mat and bag. Clearly I slept too well, as during the night something had gnawed a hole through my pack to get to my food. Fortunately, they only got into one breakfast ration and I was able to patch the hole with my sleeping mat patch kit. I have no idea what it was and heard nothing...
No point crying over spilt milk powder, I had the day to check this place out. Out of respect to the Kuku Yalanji Elders and traditional owners of Buru, I followed their instructions, including not taking photos of the Falls themselves, I did take a few photos of the beach area upstream of the Falls. I spent an hour there chilling out - absolutely beautiful!
Instead of staying another night here I decided I'd set off on the Trail for a few hours.
A few more creek crossings, notable only in that I have to stop, check for crocs, take off my boots and put on my crocs ( the irony hasn't escaped me in the naming of these fit-for-purpose footwear), a few more very steep climbs and some great scenery.
I found a little clearing under the power lines just up from one of the creek crossings. It was ideal and had been used recently by 4WD'ers judging by all the flattened grass and large dead campfire. I slept well in the basic bivvy configuration, staring up at the beautiful night sky.
Another early start the next morning because if I really cracked on there was a chance I could make Daintree.
Some massive climbs in this stretch and I was guzzling water, fortunately there were plenty of places to top up along the way. On top of the first big climb of the day it was nice to get phone reception and call Beth to catch up on what's been going on back home. As I'd finished my call and put my pack back on I heard the roar of a 4WD climbing the steep last section to the peak. I think I must have spent a good 30 minutes chatting to Eugene (and his son) from Mackay, before deciding I needed to press on. I can't believe I didn't put my pack down - I must be getting used to it.
Coming down from the Crebb track was every bit as steep as it was climbing up and when I was very near the bottom I could see a sand bank of the Daintree through the trees. I had to do a bit of a double take as it registered that the log I saw may well have been a croc. Sure enough, when I took a few steps back to get that same view, the "log" moved and slid into the water. Holly fuck!!! I'm a good 2 to 3 hundred metres away: that thing must be huge! For the first time on the trail I was really hoping the next waypoint was a lot further away than it was indicated to be.
I soon arrived at the fjord of the Daintree River ( I believe named Baird's Crossing), at this point all thoughts of making the last 10kms to Daintree disappeared. I was gob-smacked at how wide the crossing was. And it certainly wasn't the shallow pebbly bottomed crossing I was hoping for after seeing that monster on a sandbank about 200m upstream.
I headed back up the track away from the river, through a gate and back into a cattle paddock to what I judged to be a safe distance from the river. I set up camp with a basic bivvy configuration with the mozzie net for maximum visibility.
Just before sunset, the cattle decided to take a real interest in me, with the herd about 20m away, all gawking at me. I was starting to feel nervous as I didn't fancy being trampled in the middle of the night. A black cow then seperate from the herd and bold as brass, came right up to me, as I was sitting up on my bivvy under the mozzie net. I climbed out, a movement that spooked the herd, but not this black one. It was only when I took a step toward her with my hand out, getting within a metre , that she shied away, but still staying very close. It was then that I noticed a dingo running along the track, not looking where it was going but at me and the black cow as it ran past. "What are you looking at?" I called out to it. I climbed back under the mozzie net and up came the black cow again. As friendly as she seemed, I was wishing she would bugger off with the rest of the herd. The black cow stayed grazing close by, the rest of the herd still gawking, until I got my wish, and just as the sun was setting, they did all bugger off.
I drifted off after staring up at the sky, the mass of stars coming in and out of view with clouds rolling in.
I awoke to the sound of a lot of snuffling near by. I had never heard the sound before but it was unmistakably the sound of wild pigs. More perplexing was the sound of the strange gait of footsteps coming closer. I shone my torch in the direction of the sound. "Oh Fuck!" I cried out as I scrambled out of the bivvy, knocking down the trekking poles holding up the mozzie net. I could feel every hair on my body standing up and was seriously shit-scared. I was shining my bright LED light around wildly to know where the danger was; nothing within the lights perimeter. My mind was furiously processing the images I had seen when I first switched on my light. Definitely pigs scarpering away, but also a long squat creature that seemed to belong to that strange gaited footsteps I heard (that my mind reconciled as a croc in that split second between me turning the light on and then scrambling out of the bivvy).
After manically scanning the perimeter around me for 20 minutes, doubt around what I saw creapt in.
"Can't have been a croc, I'm a good distance from the river"... "That's not how crocs hunt, they're ambush predators, preferring to burst out from the shadows in deep water to unsuspecting prey crossing or at the waters edge"... "Surely a croc wouldn't have scarpered off that quickly with the pigs" With those thoughts of doubt, I reset the trekking poles and mozzie net, resolving not to sleep. It started spitting, and I could still hear wild pigs off on the distance, so I frantically put on my boots, shoved the mozzie net in my pack, folded my bivvy and sleeping mat, and marched off to find higher ground. I found a spot up an embankment next to a tree and barbed wire fence. I had no sooner climbed in when the heavens opened up. Clearly this is the spot I should have come to first but not much sleep for the rest of the night.
The whole night, amongst the downpours, I was just waiting for dawn so I could pack up and find a sane way to get across the river.
It was still raining on and off at dawn, so I waited for a break and packed up all my wet gear. I headed along the ridge following the fence, as I recalled seeing a farm house there the day before. After trudging through the wet grass, I discovered it was just a falling down old shed. I wound up walking around the paddock and checking the river at various points to see if there were any better crossing options. I could see another farmhouse across the river, a newish looking place with a satellite dish on the roof; it even had a small jetty in the river with a tinny with an outboard tied to it. I sat there screaming out for a bit. When that didn't work I climbed to the highest point to see if I could get phone reception. I spent three hours trudging across paddocks in the rain hoping to find an alternative. I then headed back to the Crebb track crossing studying it intensely and also hoping I would see a vehicle. The rain started again and I thought "Fuck it, I've got life insurance, Beth and the kids will be right" as I swapped my boots for my crocs (although I don't know why I bothered, as the boots were sodden already). Loaded up with my pack on, knife between my teeth, and trekking poles for balance (and as spears should I see a croc come at me), I waded across the river. I'm guessing it was about 40 to 50 metres across, and waist deep.
Clearly I made it, but it's not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon, and definitely not one I'd recommend.
I walked the 10 kilometres into Daintree, mostly in the rain, and all I could think about, aside from it's good to be alive, was how much I was looking forward to a hot shower and drying out.
I'm staying in one of the lodges at the Daintree Riverview Lodges and Van Park for a few days whilst my gear dries out - an awesome place!!! My boots will take the longest but it's important I get them dry before setting out again. I went on a river cruise this morning, and the guide, Lex, a really interesting character and top bloke, told me that the croc I saw was most likely a croc they've named "Doyle": a big 5-metre croc, whose range includes in and around the Crebb track crossing. Lex had a photo of him in his photo album he keeps on the boat to share with his tour guests. He kindly let me take a photo.
I'll round out this long blog with a few shots I took along this morning's river cruise, but first, let's recount Rachel's list: one bull, two black snakes, six or seven wild pigs, one dingo, and a fucking big predator. Who is having a lend of me now? Sorry Rachel.
I'm getting on track again Saturday morning as my boots will be dry by then...
Setting off, squeaky clean, freshly shaven and a tidy haircut.
Getting from Healesville to Cooktown was certainly a lot faster than the return trip will be. A bit over an hour to the airport, a four-hour direct flight to Cairns and then a 45-minute flight to Cooktown vs 300 or so days according to my plan.
After touching down in Cooktown the first order of business was to pick up some butane/propane canisters from the camping store, and then find somewhere to stay for a couple of nights. With those things achieved, I strolled along Cooktown's main street to find the BNT starting point.
Whilst I was at it, I thought I'd soak up some of the Cooktown charm.
I was keen on seeing a bit more of Cooktown before setting off on the BNT, so the next morning I hiked the Scenic Rim Trail. A brisk 10 kms or so to blow the dust off my hiking feet and take in some amazing views.
I set out on my first day on the Trail at 5:15am. Sunrise was 6:30am, so I left town under the cloak of darkness. It was relatively cool, with a nice southerly breeze which made for a pleasant start. I was lucky enough that it stayed this way for most of the day - except that " nice southerly breeze" turned into a bastard head-wind, with my pack acting as a sail.
It was on one of my hourly rest stops that a slither of reception allowed a text from my wife to come through. It said "Enjoy your first day!! Remember, it's just a walk in the park."
I'd just passed this sign and took a photo to include it in a witty reply text to Beth, "Annan River National Park in fact", but no reception. I walked on but the opportunity for my witty repartee was missed.
Day one was a big 32.7 kms walking through a number of National Parks and taking in some great scenery.
I arrived at my designated camp spot around 2:30 pm and must say I was pretty stiff and sore! The Lions Den Hotel was certainly a welcome sight and good to get out of the drizzle that had set in for the last 40 minutes. I arranged to stay in a "donga" and ordered an iced water with a beer chaser - lovely!
A donga? Well, it's a little portable set up with about 5 rooms, and pretty basic - not what first popped into my head when I asked what accommodation was available.
Day two was a 15-km hike through the rainforest to a beautiful creek junction to camp, about 5 km from the tiny town of Rossville. A cute enough town, with no shops to speak of. The most memorable things for me was the massively long entrance, from the welcome sign to the "town" - about 3kms, and being attacked by four pit bull terriers. I'm glad for my trekking poles otherwise I think the dogs would have been well fed that night.
I arrived at camp early allowing me to set up and relax. I chilled out reading a book, had 2-minute noodles for dinner and massaged achy muscles with magic magnesium rub. I didn't sleep that well because of howling wind and rain, and I was worried about a croc sneaking up on me in the middle of the night. I'm sure I'll get used to it.
Day three was a late start as it was still raining. I was waiting for it to stop to pack up but when it didn't I had to bite the bullet. Arrrrghh wet gear - that'll make the pack that bit heavier.
The plan for today was a 16 km hike to Ayton. I was a bit stiff and sore to start off but soon got into a good rhythm. It was a little after lunch when I arrived at the Ayton sports oval. Great camp spot with toilets, shower and shelter.
I hung my wet gear out to dry - however, with humidity around 90% that didn't happen. Maybe next camp spot with a little bit of sun I might have more luck.
I slept so much better last night - I didn't need to worry about the rain, crocs and I wasn't as sore. I must be getting a little fitter - that'll help for the days and months ahead.
Day four (today), I decided to vary from my plan and take things easier with only a short 10(ish)-km jaunt, just shy of the Crebb Track in Bloomfield to a little creek.
I am so loving my adventure so far, as tiring and as sore as I get, I know I'm getting fitter and it is strangely exhilarating just pounding the dirt and taking in some amazing scenery. Everyone I bump into has been super friendly. I better hit the road again and get to my next camp spot, but couldn't pass the opportunity to enjoy the rarity of reception.
At 47 years young, Chris Anthony, who is married with 3 wonderful kids, tried his hand at being an adventurer for the 12 months tackling the BNT.