Gypsy and the Trumpet, which actually don’t have all that much to do with each other, apart from happening on the same day…
We made a short stop at Nhill where Peter couldn’t resist the rotunda in the middle of the main street.
Gypsy is such a sweet dog, and is loving her travelling life.
Gypsy takes a rest after her busy day exploring.
Following are just some photos I took in a few different free camps that I thought I would share. When you think of free camping, you tend to think of dusty roadside stops, but if you choose carefully, there are some wonderful places you are able to camp absolutely free of charge.
Free camping spot off the Carpentaria Highway in the Northern Territory.
The beautiful sunset colours were also free of charge.
As was the trumpet serenade.
I don’t know if you have heard of Geocaching?
Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt that’s happening right now, all around the world. Apparently there are 2,468,534 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide. We have found one cache….accidentally. It was tucked away in a hole in a rock beyond the edge of the camp area.
Following are a few photos of some of the birds we spotted fluttering around our camp.
This morning we walked through Mirima National Park (Hidden Valley) in Kununurra.
Peter took along his trumpet and we enjoyed the sound of his horn echoing through and around the natural amphitheatres we discovered during our hike.
The rocks were coloured a rich deep red, and the rocky path led enticingly up through the gorge.
Some of the grasses that appear to grow directly from the rocks are very delicate.
The vertical rock walls look almost as though they are constructed from hand hewn blocks.
The spinifex that looks so soft and fluffy is actually sharp and spiky on bare legs.
The sound of the trumpet echoing through the rocks was enjoyed by many other visitors to the park.
We thought a four hour walk around the gorge and pound was energetic. These people had hiked over several days all the way through the ranges from Ellery Creek Big Hole to Ormiston Gorge. And they were still smiling!
The pound track was quite a climb, but very beautiful.
We climbed to the lookout at the top of this hill, which gave a magnificent of the pound below with the creek running through it.
The view from the bottom of the pound…
This dingo was hiding in the rocks beyond Ormiston creek that runs through the pound.
The sandy ‘beach’ on the creek. The dingo was in the rocks you can see on the left hand side.
The track certainly had it’s ups and downs.
Peter liked the sound of the trumpet echoing around the gorge.
This spinifex pigeon was pecking around at the side of the track.
If you look closely there are all sorts of bugs and insects camouflaged amongst the rocks and plants.
Since I am struggling to find suitable internet access on the road this year, I will post photos with just a few words to let you know what we are up to.
North of Port Augusta
As soon as you get north of Port Augusta, Sth Australia, the scenery changes to a flat, treeless plain. This a a virtually dry salt lake set in the dry landscape.
Ranges View rest area
This was the view from our first free camp on this trip. Why pay to stay in a crowded caravan park when you can wake up to a stunning view like this? Ranges View rest area is situated at Kootaberra Station, not too far north of Port Augusta.
Next stop Coober Pedy.
Coober Pedy is unlike any other place I have visited. Many of the homes and businesses are dug into the ground, with multi chimneys sticking up out of the mounds to provide ventilation.
This is typical of the old vehicles used in the Opal mines that surround Coober Pedy. The drum at the top drops the tailings from the diggings into the distinctive mullock heaps.
Coober Pedy cemetery, Boot Hill
In my opinion, no trip to Coober Pedy can be considered complete without a trip out about 30km north of town, to watch the sun set over the Breakaways. It is one of the most amazing places I have been.
Different view of the Breakaways
Sunset trumpet serenade.
The hills light up as the sun sinks slowly in the West.
One of the goals of our trip this year was to visit the northernmost point of mainland Australia. We started this part of our adventure in Cooktown where we left our caravan behind and headed off with a tent and some basic camping gear. The roads from Cooktown, travelling north up Cape York, are generally unmade roads with some short sections of bitumen along the way. The quality of the dirt roads varied from excellent (driving at up to 90km/hr) to appalling (travelling at less than 20km/hr) and included water crossings, some of which were very deep and a little concerning because the water went over the bonnet of our 4WD.
Cooktown’s main claim to fame is that Captain Cook brought the Endeavour up the river here (now named Endeavour River) to make repairs after the ship ran aground on a reef off the coast in 1770. There is a statue of Captain Cook on the foreshore to commemorate this time in Australia’s history.
We took Battle Camp Road from Cooktown to Laura. I loved this old rusting sign where we came out of the bush after our week at Billy Boil, to turn onto Battle Camp Rd.
This is one of our first river crossings, a nice easy one to get us used to the idea of driving through water. Some of the later ones we really had to think twice before proceeding, they can look very deep and murky and you have no idea what is lurking under the surface. (Think potholes, big rocks or even worse, crocs…)
Old Laura Station is the historic remains of one of the first cattle stations in the area. The old buildings remain, along with a rusted out relic of a truck from a bygone era.
Our first camp was at Hann River Roadhouse which doesn’t have all that much to recommend it, apart from a friendly emu and this heifer who was very interested in our camp and sneaked back at 2am to raid our rubbish bag.
Further up the road at Coen, we camped behind the Exchange Hotel, and this is our tent, with a huge Brahman bull checking us out. Luckily for us, a farmer we met there took charge and chased him out of the campground. That didn’t stop him coming back later in the day, and there was another confrontation, not quite so friendly that time…
Some joker has added an ‘S’ at the start of the Exchange Hotel sign, so it now reads Sexchange Hotel. Amazingly, some people didn’t even notice!
This is a great little business. There is the pub, with accommodation plus the camping area near the river at the rear. They also run a mechanical repair business (very busy because lots of people trash their cars on the rough roads up here), a general store, and fuel pumps. So pretty much anything you need in Coen, they can help.
One thing there is plenty of up in Cape York is red dust, and lots of it. There are long road trains barreling along the dusty developmental road, followed by a huge cloud of dust. This one is on a good section of the track.
This man is walking up to the top of Cape York with his donkey carrying everything they need. He let me take a photo, but refused our offer of a cool drink saying he had everything he needed.
Amazingly in the middle of all this dust and dirt, there are some stunning waterfalls, accessed via the old Telegraph Track. It is worth the ruts and water crossings when you finally arrive at these beautiful oases. The water is clear and warm and you can swim without worrying too much about crocodiles. Apparently crocs aren’t too fond of waterfalls and stay away from them, luckily for us!
- This pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant that eats insects. There were many of them growing wild along the sides of the river near the waterfalls. Amazing.
We camped at Loyalty Beach once we reached the top of Cape York. Quite a nice beach, but no swimming because of the crocs. You can see all the Torres Strait islands off in the distance.
Remains of the old jetty at Seisha. Seisha wharf is the taking off point for boat trips out to Thursday Island and Horn Island. I think Captain Cook was sick of thinking of names for the islands when he was here, because there is a Tuesday Island, Wednesday Island and of course, Thursday Island.
It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put in at least one sunset! We sat beneath this palm tree at Loyalty Beach and enjoyed a candlelight dinner while we watched the sun sink slowing in the west.
This Cape York kookaburra seems to have an evil eye but he was quite friendly.
- So friendly, in fact, that he invited himself over for a coffee…
One other interesting visitor at the campground was this Palm Cockatoo, who liked to crack the nuts growing on the tree that shaded our tent.
We finally made it right up to the tip of Australia. This was taken standing on the beach, looking north. The mangroves grow along the beach, but further on there is a rocky headland to scale before you are standing at the tip.
This was one for Peter to cross off his bucket list…playing his trumpet right up at the tip, the northernmost point of the Australian mainland.
We made it! Peter and I standing at the sign denoting the tip of Australia. It seems strange that there are island directly across the water. You imagine that you won’t see anything other than water from up here.
- It is a tradition to add a rock to the cairn on the rocky headland.
The is the cairn where I added my stone.
Soon enough it was time for us to start heading back down Cape York. This is one of the water crossings we made as we went along the Old Telegraph Track into Eliot Fall and Twin Falls. This is the one which went right up over the bonnet of the car, and we had to do it again on the way out. But it was worth it, the falls are stunning. No pictures this time, we went swimming instead!
This one is a Cape York crow, for Anoushka…He wasn’t very interested in staying still while I took his photo.
We came across this lagoon with blue water lilies growing wild, when we stopped for lunch one day.
And so, soon enough, we returned to Battle Camp Road on our way back towards Cooktown, to pick up our caravan from the farm where we had left it while we were travelling with the tent. We had a wonderful time up on the cape and were lucky not to have had any car troubles apart from a couple of chips in the windcreen. It was a time to remember.
Picture endless fine white sand stretching into the distance as far as the eye can see in either direction. Then add in so many shells studding the beach that you can’t help but crush them under-foot, no matter where you walk. Oh, and don’t forget pristine clear aqua waves lapping gently on the shore. This is Eighty Mile Beach. It is just beautiful, and almost perfect…except that no one swims here because of the sharks and sea snakes that inhabit the waters. It is a fisherman’s paradise and many of the people we met stay here for months at a time, even though it is in the middle of nowhere and reached by eight kilometres of rutted red dust track off the highway.
Endless expanse of 80 Mile Beach
Once again Peter found some like-minded musicians and they enjoyed a couple of afternoons making music together and entertaining the crowd that soon gathered.
Drum & keyboard for accompaniment this time
Shell collecting is almost a compulsory pastime at Eighty Mile Beach. No matter if you think you will just go for a little walk and look at the scenery, it is impossible to come home without some little treasures in your hand.
Shells from 80 Mile Beach.
This perentie suddenly appeared from under our car and strolled through our campsite. He took off when he saw me watching him. Later I found he had caught and (almost) eaten a snake. I didn’t wittness the fight, but apparently he had a five minute battle with the snake. No prizes for guessing who won!
Perentie eating a snake. He obviously bit off more than he could chew, he was sitting with the tail of the snake protruding from his mouth.
And at the end of the day, there is always a gorgeous sunset over the water to enjoy
Sunset over the white sands of 80 Mile Beach