About George & Shelly .... Off The Track

Married couple who love 4WDing, camping and travelling around this great country of ours. Join us on our journeys around Australia.

Tackling the Tele – Elim Beach

Not far past the Aboriginal community of Hope Vale you reach the beautiful Elim Beach and Coloured Sands.

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Hope Vale is a relatively large Aboriginal community which was originally built in the late 1940s as a Mission run by the Lutheran Church.  The church brought Aboriginal people from all over Australia, so today there is a mixture of languages and culture in the community, although Guugu Yimithirr is the language most spoken after English.

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We had never been to Elim Beach before … we had intended on going years ago but didn’t quite make it there.  While planning for this latest Cape York trip I read about this place called Eddie’s Camp, the reviews were great and all of the photographs I’d seen were amazing so I reworked our itinerary to enable our stay at this great place.  I must say that the guys from Eddie’s Camp were very helpful in our planning phase by giving information on travel times, road conditions and suggested routes.

Eddie’s Camp is owned and run by Thiithaarr-warra elder, Eddie Deemal and his son Ivan.

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This is a great little camping ground situated at the stunning Elim Beach.  If you are looking for 5 star camping, this is not your place.  It’s very basic, the owners are very casual and relaxed, there are no powered sites and only cold water showers.

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Little tree frog living in the toilets!

You know what though … THIS IS CAMPING and it suited us perfectly, we absolutely loved our stay at this beautiful rustic little campground.

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After a quick stop in Hope Vale to visit the grocery store we all headed down to Elim Beach, checked in and set up camp.  There is no pre-booking here and no allocated campsites, you simply set up wherever you like.  After setting up we went for a walk along the beach and George and Stewy took the drone for a flight, while some of the others took off in search of the coloured sands.

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Later that night we all sat around the campfire, chatted, toasted marshmallows and cooked some damper.

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We were also joined by the friendly local dogs for much of the night….

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This gorgeous little guy was so friendly and we (well Shelly!) wanted to take him home with us ….. not sure how Gelly & Charli would have felt if we rocked up back at home with a dingo!  Apparently this little guy just wandered into the campground one day and hasn’t left, he’s made friends with the resident dogs and was having a great play with some other campers dogs aswell.

It’s amazing that essentially a wild animal can be so friendly and playful.  When we went to pack up in the morning he’d made himself at home on our mat as you’ll see in the pictures, he wouldn’t get off to let us pack up, i think it was all a bit of a game for him!

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Tackling the Tele – Isabella Falls

Not long before the turnoff to Hope Vale you reach Isabella Falls.  These falls aren’t anything spectacular, but after a long, hot and dusty day of driving, it was a welcome relief to be able to stop here and cool off a little.

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Apparently this is a safe swimming hole, meaning no crocodiles, but the water down the creek was quite murky and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are in fact living down there!  Oh well, we had a quick cool off and none of us got eaten!

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This freshwater creek actually runs across the road and then drops down into the waterfall.  There is parking available and it’s only a very short walk down a bush track to the falls.

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Tackling the Tele – Lakefield National Park & Old Laura Homestead

Day 12 saw us leave Musgrave Roadhouse for the drive to Elim Beach.  This was a relatively long drive and there was plenty to stop and look at throughout the drive.  The days drive took us through the Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park, via Lakefield, New Laura, Old Laura and the Battle Camp Road.

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Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park, or simply Lakefield National Park as most people know it,  is another example of the vast and varying landscape of this region of Australia.  During the wet season, this relatively flat area is closed as the various rivers merge and flood the area.

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As the dry season approaches, the water dries up and leaves many lagoons and waterholes, which create perfect little pockets for the abundance of wildlife that makes its home in this area.  Many of the lagoons are filled with beautiful water lilies, as well as many species of birds and of course Mr Crocodile and his many mates!

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The one thing you will notice as you drive through Lakefield is the huge termite mounds, they are everywhere.  At times there are so many of them and they are all perfectly positioned to look like little tombstones.  It looks like you are driving past a giant graveyard!

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Battle Camp Road gets its name from a 1870’s skirmish between an estimated 500 Aboriginal warriors and a well armed force of 130 miners and police who had camped the night on their way to the Palmer River Goldfields.  The Aborigines received a big lesson in the superiority of repeating rifles, over their stone age armoury.  After their loss on that night, the Aboriginies never again attempted a massed frontal assault as a means of ridding themselves of the invaders, instead opting for guerrilla tactics.

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Old Laura Homestead Laura Station was established in the 1870’s to provide beef for the Palmer River Goldfield.  In 1879 a lease was issued to Fergus O’Beirne, who by the time of his death, had built a herd of 8000 cattle.  The oldest part of the homestead dates back to 1892.  It was abandoned in the mid 1960’s and was rebuilt in 1986 after being severely vandalised.

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Tackling the Tele – Musgrave Roadhouse

Musgrave was first built as an overland telegraph station in 1887 and was named after Sir Anthony Musgrave who was Governor of Queensland from 1883-1888.  Musgrave was one of six telegraph stations built to pick up and repeat signals down the wire between Cape York and Cooktown.  Today, this is the only telegraph station on the peninsula that still remains.

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Musgrave Roadhouse is located about half way between Cairns and the tip, so it’s a convenient stop over point.  There is a large camping area of unpowered sites, cabins, amenities block and café and bar.

There is also an old school coin operated public pay phone.  This was entertaining watching as Tas made her first phone call back home on a payphone!  Funny to think that not that long ago these phones were our only point of contact when we were kids, yet a 13 year old had no idea what it was or how to use it as she’s grown up in the age of technology and mobile phones!  Did that make us feel old ….. yeah it did!

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Never one to pass up the chance to play with animals, Shelly couldn’t wait to pat the horses!

We all enjoyed a break from camp cooking and had a meal and a few drinks in the café.

The billabong just behind the camping area is home to quite a few freshwater crocodiles, you can’t see them in this photo, but there were a few in the water and one sunning itself on the bank.

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How sad that a sign like this is even needed ….. what the f**k is wrong with people

 



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Tackling the Tele – Chili Beach

The beautiful Chili Beach is located within the Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park.  Kutini means cassowary and Payamu means rainbow serpent.

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This park is home to the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Australia and is also home to an abundance of wildlife.  There are birds living here that are only found in this area and New Guinea.

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Chili Beach would have to be one of our favourite campsites in the cape, it’s just a beautiful area that is nestled in between the reef and the rainforest.  Camping does need to be pre-booked as it’s in the national park and you are allocated your own campsite.  It does get quite windy so you are best to try to get one of the campsites away from the beach, or at least sheltered.

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We arrived at camp and met up with Jim & Jacky and Graham & Nolene who had already arrived, set up and were in relax mode!  We all set up camp and then took our camp chairs out onto the beach and spent the afternoon sitting out there with a few drinks in hand.  George took the drone for a flight and the kids had fun exploring the beach.

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It’s such a beautiful area, but like many places up there, its torture looking at the beautiful blue water and knowing you cannot swim due to the stingers, crocodiles and sharks.

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After a great night at Chili Beach, there was nothing better than to wake up to another amazing sunrise to start the day.

 


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Tackling the Tele – Frenchmans Track

After leaving Captain Billy Landing we were on our way to one of our favourite campsites in the whole of the Cape region – Chili Beach.  First up it was a stop at the Bramwell Junction roadhouse for a few of the vehicles to top up fuel (and our tummies!)

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There are two ways you can reach Chili Beach, down the main road or via the more exciting 4WD track, the Frenchmans Track – I’m sure you can guess which way we chose to go!  Two of our vehicles took the main road to Chili Beach, but 4 of us wanted a little more fun.

Not long after starting out on the track we hear over the CB “ah, hang on guys I think we’ve got a flat” …. not too bad, 10 days into the trip and the first flat tyre on any of the vehicles.  After a short stop on the track while Stewy did a tyre change we were all on our way again.

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This can be a difficult track and it’s recommended for experienced drivers with high clearance 4WD’s, but it’s definitely a lot of fun.  It’s not so much the track itself that is difficult, it’s the river crossings.  Generally it’s well into the dry season before tackling this track is even possible, due to the depth of the river crossings.

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This track crosses the Wenlock River and the Pascoe River.  The entry/exit banks can be a little challenging and many say that the Pascoe River crossing is the hardest of all on the Cape as it’s very deep and the current is quite strong.  The depth of the Pascoe can easily be 700mm or so.

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If you are interested in reading a little of the history of the Frenchmans Track click here and you will be taken to the Cape York Australia Trip Planner page.  For anyone planning a visit to Cape York, this page is a great source of information, written and constantly update by a Cape York local.


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Tackling the Tele – Captain Billy Landing

Our last visit to Captain Billy Landing was by far our worst night of camping we have ever had, there were thunderstorms, torrential rain, cyclonic winds and the road into the campground had more corrugations than the rest of the cape put together, it really was horrible!  The view once you were there was nice, but even that didn’t make up for it and we vowed never to return again ….. yet 5 years later we found ourselves back in this exact same spot!

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To our surprise, this time the road in was amazing and the wind (which this area is renowned for) wasn’t even that bad, we actually really enjoyed our stay this time.

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We arrived relatively early in the day and it was quite hot at camp, so a few of us found some shallow little pools on the water’s edge to sit in and cool off …. always with a watchful eye out for crocodiles which are plentiful in this area!

Some of the boys and the kids went for an explore down the beach and saw a huge crocodile slide going into one of the creeks, it’s scary thinking of what may be watching you!

And speaking of things watching you, we had a large snake near the toilet block and another smaller one in the shelter watching us cook dinner.  Of course Shelly had to climb up to check him out and take photos!  He looked very similar to our little pet snake Sam.

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Dinner Time!

Captain Billy Landing gets its name from a nearby creek, which itself was named in 1880 after an aboriginal man who called himself Captain Billy.

This area itself was an experimental cattle export site.  As you drive in there is an area of grassland which is the site of an old cattle paddock, where cattle were rested prior to being shipped off to market.  You can still see the concrete ramp near the shelter which was installed to allow the loading of the cattle onto barges for transport to market at Bamaga & Weipa.

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We had the whole campsite to ourselves

A few of us rose early and braved the wind to watch and photograph the sunrise which was beautiful.  No better way to start your day than with a view like this.

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Tackling the Tele – Loyalty Beach

Our last night at Loyalty Beach was spent with a group dinner at the bar/restaurant.  Every Sunday they have Fish ‘n Chip night and this was the perfect way to end our stay at this great caravan park.

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Beers and laughs and yet another amazing sunset as we sat eating fish and chips served old school style, wrapped in paper …. this was definitely a great night and the perfect way to celebrate our journey to the tip (not that the trip was over, but we were now ready to start the journey back south).

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We had three days of stunning sunsets while staying at Loyalty Beach and took lots of photos, here’s just a few of them!

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Tackling the Tele – The 5 Beaches Loop

After leaving the tip we drove a short distance to Somerset, another area of historical significance.  Unfortunately there is little left here to share the importance of the area, but with a little research you can find out what really made Somerset so important.

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In the mid 1800’s, with significant increases in shipping through the Torres Strait, it was decided to establish a settlement at the top of Australia.  In July 1864 John Jardine, a magistrate from Rockhampton, arrived to oversee the establishment of this new settlement, which was completed 18 months later.  This new settlement was named Somerset.

The Jardine family homestead was located nearby on top of a hill overlooking Somerset.  To this day you can still see the Jardine cannons on the site which mark the entrance to where the homestead once stood.

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After later resigning from the role, John’s eldest son, Frank Jardine, took over and served several terms before resigning in 1873.

Frank passed away in 1919 and his Samoan princess wife, Sana, died four years later.  Other family members remained in the homestead until they were evacuated during WWII, never to return.  Unfortunately the homestead was ultimately burned down by vandals in the 1960’s.  It’s sad that this part of history was destroyed.

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Both Frank and Sana were buried above the high tide mark on the beach at Somerset.  It’s a little hard to find the graveyard as it’s not really marked, but a short walk from the beach and you will see this small area of graves.  As well as Frank and Sana there are other family members and other early pioneers of the area buried here.  Unfortunately this small grave yard is not well kept and it’s sad that such important people in the history of the cape region are not given a little more respect in death.

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We are not sure where John Jardine was buried, but his wife, Elizabeth Jardine’s grave is in the Cooktown Cemetary (pic below from one of our previous visits).

Next we were off to start the 5 Beaches Loop.  This takes you on a track which winds along a series of relatively isolated beaches, each separated by headlands.  This is one drive well worth doing as you’ll be rewarded with some spectacular views.

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We drove down onto the first beach and decided to stop for lunch, another amazing spot.  We had the whole beach to ourselves and even managed to fit in a little photo shoot before two of our vehicles headed off back into town.

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This isn’t a difficult drive, but it’s a pretty one and gives you another insight into the different terrain and landscape the cape has to offer.

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So technically there is a 6th beach on the 5 Beaches Loop, but the entry to this one looked a little sketchy and it was hot and none of us were in the mood for recovering vehicles that day so we decided to head out and back to camp, but not before a drive past Lake Wincheura.  This lake is apparently home to many birds and salt water crocodiles, but we saw none!  It did look like the type of place you don’t want to be wandering around or camping at though!

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Tackling the Tele – Pajinka Wilderness Lodge

As you arrive at the tip you can’t help but notice the abandoned buildings that sit on the edge of the rainforest, slowly being taken over by the bush.  We had a very quick look at this on our last visit, but didn’t have any idea of the story behind it at that point.  On this latest visit, knowing a lot more about the area and this abandoned resort, we decided we wanted to explore a little further.

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This is the remains of the Pajinka Eco Lodge (later renamed Pajinka Wilderness Lodge), which was once a five-star luxury resort located right before you reach the current car park area at the base of the tip.  In its day there was a private rainforest boardwalk which guided resort guests towards the tip.

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The accommodation consisted of bungalows, each with private bathrooms, bedroom and verandahs.  The resort had direct pick ups for Thursday Island tours, offered great fishing charters and one of the more popular and promoted activities was the Indigenous cultural experience offered by a local Aboriginal man.  Looking at it today its hard to imagine, but back in the day this would have been one amazing resort located in one of the most spectacular places around.

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Now as we started investigating what had happened to this resort we actually found it hard to find too much information.  There are a few different stories floating around and it seems a little secrecy as to what the real story may be, but from what we gather the basic story goes something like this …….

The lodge was opened in 1986 by Bush Pilot Airways (later Air Queensland).  Ownership subsequently changed to Ansett Airlines and later to Qantas, before reverting back to its native title and being sold to the Injinoo Aboriginal Corporation in 1992.

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The resort remained open for a number of years, but apparently things were slowly going downhill.  Poor management was reported as one of the key reasons for failure, as well as talk of unpaid wages and clashes between Indigenous staff from different clans.   At the ultimate time of demise, it must have been the off-season and the resort was operating on a skeleton staff when a fire broke out in the generator workshop and destroyed the generator shed and numerous vehicles.  This had a significant impact on the resort and with no power and no money for repairs there was not much that could be done.  Everyone just walked away, literally just walked out and never came back.  The bar was left stocked, there was linen on the beds, drinks in the fridge, air conditioners and industrial washers and dryers ……. EVERYTHING was left behind.

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Over the years things have been stripped out and taken from the site, I’m sure by locals and travellers alike, the main infrastructure of the buildings is still there, but there is little else.   Anything of any value was obviously taken long ago.  From what we’ve read, the lodge had a sign up in 2002 saying “closed for renovations” but it never did reopen.

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What would have been a beautiful place in an equally beautiful location is now a derelict site which is being taken over by nature.  The boardwalk that once led to the tip is barely there and the wood of the structures is decaying and suffering from the elements.  The buildings are probably not overly safe to be wandering around in, but we took a look around anyway!  You had to be careful where you walked as steps were no longer there, wood was cracking under your feet and there were holes in the floors of some of the cabins (not to mention spiders and snakes and whatever other wildlife was making their home around here!).  Most of the electrical power points, lamps, fans had been removed from the cabins, but some did still have their toilets and sinks in tact.

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During our last visit there was corrugated iron covering the pool, but this time it was open ….. as hot as it was, this pool was not saying ‘come swim in me’!  We’ve heard stories that a salt water crocodile was found in the pool a few years ago, I’m sure there are plenty of things living in that pool!

Apparently there has been talk of reopening the resort over the years, but the site is too far gone now for any refurbishment.  This is a fabulous site for a resort and in theory it should be a great business opportunity for someone.  But the tourist season doesn’t run for the full year, with most of the Cape York region being cut off and inaccessible during the wet season, so this would add its own set of challenges for the resort.  Back in the day, being a luxury resort, I’m sure many guests were flown in by plane, but I can’t imagine it would be a relaxing holiday to be up there in the middle of the wet season.  The heat and humidity and rain, and of course being isolated due to flooded roads, would take a little of the appeal away.

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In some ways I think this needs to remain exactly how it is, the bushland and rainforest taking over and the remains of the resort now just another page in history.  The area has such a magical feeling about it, it is rugged yet beautiful at the same time.  To have this area taken over by a multi million dollar resort with masses of people around would really take away from the natural beauty of this area, it would take a little bit of that magic and sense of adventure away.


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