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...
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.