We left Bitter Springs reasonably early but weren’t in any hurry due to the short drive we have today travelling to Katherine in the Northern Territory.
In no time we reach our destination, the Manbulloo Homestead.
This is a working cattle station just 12km south of the main town. It’s more of a bush setting with plenty of shade which we need as the temperatures have been around 40 degrees and are forecasted to stay for sometime. We booked a powered site to run our aircon or Max (our Border Collie) will have a heart attack.
The place backs on to the Katherine river but as usual you can’t swim in it due to crocodiles.
We will be here for 7 nights which is a welcome change. It also allows us the luxury of rearranging the gear we carry. We also made the decision to sell our rooftop tent as we doubt we will use it due to having Max with us.
We placed an ad in Facebook Marketplace and within the hour a lady from Brisbane said her hubby who works in Katherine would come and have a look. Later we received multiple requests and offers from people but Mark was first in and would get first dibs on it. He turned up on time and we opened the tent up showed it off and he bought it on the spot.
With Mark having no roof rack yet we offered to drop it off at his place. He then made us a very generous offer that when we drop it off he would supply a couple of beers and we could have a swim in his pool !!
We duly arrived dropped the tent off then had a glorious dip in the pool which was very much welcomed in the heat. We then had some drinks and a great laugh before we returned to the van where we left Max enjoying the aircon which we left running.
As we will be crossing another border in to WA we have to be in the NT for 16 days before we are allowed in. Meantime we have to go online and apply for a permit and detail all of our travel within the NT.
We completed this pretty easily and within minutes got our acceptance and border passes. This was great news as the only part of this journey we have booked is at Olive Tree Farm in Margaret River, WA. We will be there for one month in mid December, our first Xmas on the road.
It will be a wee bit boring staying in Katherine as we have been here before and done all the place has to look at and experience. We can’t complain as every day on the road is Saturday and we have lot’s of reading to do.
I also spent some time underneath the car with a hammer and screwdriver knocking out huge rocks of dust that had got collected up in Cape York. I will then take it to the car wash for a high pressure clean. I reckon we will be removing this dust until we hit a hard rain we have to drive through. As it is we haven’t seen rain for months.
At the time of writing we have three more nights here then we will take a couple of long drives with one stopover to ensure we make our WA border crossing date. This will be our fourth border through COVID restrictions in 6 months.
Arriving at the Endeavour River Escape we are immediately impressed as we drive up the 3K long dirt driveway to the homestead. The property sits overlooking a river which meanders through the massive acreage. We had a chat with the owner, then we follow his you bloke on a huge quad who directs us to the spot we will occupy. We are again delighted as the spot is massive and we have it all to ourselves including the bus. Unfortunately, although the river is close by we will not be swimming due to it being home to croc’s.
Having set up we took a drive in Cooktown where it seemed pretty quiet but then we remembered it was Sunday. We managed to scope out somewhere to eat for dinner later which was the bowls club in the Main Street. Then went down to the wharf where we saw an old guy fishing with a bare line and hook. Every time he dropped that line, 10 seconds later he pulled up a fish.
On our way back to the van we stopped in at the souvenir shop where we purchased a mascot for the trip in the shape of a crocodile who will travel on the dash to the cape and the rest of Australia we get to.
It would not be us if we didn’t find the local pub for a cold one. Cooktown would be no different. We found the Top End Pub where we could also take Max in to and enjoyed a nice freezing cold beer.
Back at the van we met a dude who walked in to our camp section then asked if it would be ok to use his metal detector. We asked him he had found any gold where he replied, yes, about 55 dollars. We were thinking of actual gold and not gold coins. He then wished us “safe travels” then left.
Later we returned to the bowling club for some food and drinks. This place must have the youngest crew in Australia working the bar. The poor bloke behind the bar didn’t look old enough to drink never mind serve alcohol. It took him 15 minutes to pour 3 beers while blaming it on the keg, gas and even air in the pipes. We grabbed a table then the menu where since we had 30 minutes before meals could be ordered gave us plenty of time to study it and the specials board.
All that studying resulted in 2 parmies and two steaks washed down with a bottle of red. And a scoop of ice cream was scoffed by myself and Richo which the kids didn’t finish. It was then back to camp and lights out.
Next day we got busy sorting out the cars for the trip to Cape York as we would now be using roof top tents and the van and bus would be in storage for a few weeks. The dogs would be going in to kennels as there are to many croc’s around to take them with us. Our metal detector friend then walked past and wished us “safe travels” again.
Having checked and double checked everything it was time to have some dinner before a couple drinks then an early bed.
The day had arrived where we hit the road on our Cap York adventure. We hooked up the van and bus then moved them in to storage. Next we headed to the kennels to drop of the dogs. We did this quickly before Max had time to realise what was happening. Then it was time to start with a 350Km drive to Cohen where we free camped just outside of town down a 4×4 track next to the river. There was one other person there but he left and we had the place to ourselves for a while before two caravans came in and stayed the night. This was the second spot. The first was down off the road then over a river in to a camp which had loads of people around. We decided to give this one a miss. Having had a long day we called it a night early and climbed up the ladder in to the roof tent for a well earned sleep.
In the morning it was off in to Coen where we filled up with diesel dumped our rubbish then waited for the local hotel to open so wee could buy some beers. We weren’t the only ones and when at last it opened at 10am we bought a box of beers which cost $90.00 for Great Northerns cans.
It was then back on the road in to the dust and corrugations heading only 60Km to the Archer River Roadhouse. Since we dropped the tyre pressures the corrugations didn’t seem so bad and with a decent east west wind the dust cleared a bit faster as we followed Richo who was about half a kilometre in front. In no time we reached the roadhouse which we went past turned right before the bridge and down then over the river on to a cracking spot with easy access to both the river for swimming and the roadhouse should we need anything.
Tonight we would light a fire so we all went, collected some wood and had a good supply for later. We headed for the roadhouse for a look. It was really basic but we are miles from anywhere. A bottle of soft drink was $6.60 but the cost is definitely in the shipping. We bought a bottle of ginger ale as these places need supported by buying something whilst there and also we are alcoholics.
In the evening and with darkness descending, the fire set and a meal on the go we were treated to a fly over by a large group of bats heading out. This looked great until quite a few of them landed on trees close to our set up. This means in the morning we would be guaranteed bat shit on the car.
The fire was lit and with a reasonable wind blowing it got fanned in to an inferno pretty quickly. We then added a packed of Rainbow Flames which burn turning the flames as you would guess in to all sorts of colours. Had there been less wind they might have been more of them but the breeze kept the colour show short. We sat in the heat of the evening gazing between stars and flames while listening to the river flow, amazing. It was then up the ladder to enjoy another solid night sleep.
After a couple of days at this fantastic spot where we picked up so much information about the Cape and met some really nice people it was time to leave. We made a quick stop at the roadhouse to bin our rubbish. Whilst there we were told of several vehicles that had broken and were waiting for days to be recovered to Cairns costing one couple who had a bus complete with trailer would cost them in excess of $20,000 dollars. There was also a couple in a motor home where they couldn’t select any gears. That would cost them in excess of $5,000 to be recovered.
Leaving the roadhouse we started out on a short stretch of tarmac which didn’t last long before it changed to gravel, red dust and corrugations. Our destination was the The Bramwell Tourist Park which would have music, a buffet and a happy hour.
We booked in for two nights and set up our rooftop tent and went for stroll around the place which sits on 300,000 acres. There are hot showers and toilets but not much else but that’s as usual on these types of stations.
We managed to get the last half of happy hour, then the start of the music but left shortly after without eating. Instead returned to camp to have an early night.
Saturday arrived sunny and warm today will be close to 30 degrees as usual which will provide us with heaps of lovely solar power. Since the second solar panel was added we have been consistently high in our solar charge.
Today we sat down again with our bus mates and have now formulated a plan for the next few days at least.
We spend some time down at the little stream which seems to have been taken over by weekender people who have placed their chairs in the stream and don’t look too welcoming. We take the hint and remain upstream where we spot a snake having a swim.
Later in the day it’s all about footy with two games being played. Between those two we stuff our faces on some beautiful chicken and then began the task of getting ready to move on Sunday then it’s bedtime.
Having packed up most things last night we have the easy task of getting all the little stuff packed then say our goodbyes to our bus mates who we will meet up with in Cooktown. Today is also their seventh year anniversary. We will definitely celebrate this milestone tonight.
We drive up to the farmhouse to pay for our second night where the owner asks us if we will return here after the Cape, we say for sure he then says well have a free night and see you on your return!! You just gotta love country people.
We have a bit of a longer drive today on our way to and just north of Cooktown. Here we will stay at the Endeavour River Escape.
This morning we head out of the Big4 caravan park which has been great but we prefer to be in farms and remote stays. Today we will do just that as we head north on our way to Cooktown Far North Queensland.
First we head to a farm stay called Birds On Barron in Biboorha where we meet back up with our bus mates. We will stay here for a couple of nights as we need to make solid plans for the next few weeks. The property is huge with lots of wildlife roaming around there is also an Emu which thinks it’s a horse. It also has a stream running through it to cool off in. The farm is just 7k from Mareeba so is an easy drive should we need anything and just as well. Whilst we were walking with Max he had a run then yelped then couldn’t walk on one of his back legs. Kaz called a couple of local Vets in Mareeba and we took him in to the one with the earliest appointment. In the consultation it was suggested that we should x-ray his leg to make sure there was no break. She also said that he had inflammation in the lower part of the leg. We left him there and headed to The Coffee Works in Mareeba to treat ourselves to a great coffee with a bite to eat whilst we wait on the completion of the X-ray.
So back to the vet and $350.00 for the x-ray and a total Bill of $450.00 later he has no break instead he has severe arthritis in the knuckle joints. We have to give him oral injections now and apparently his arthritis will only worsen as he ages.
Later both groups take some time to organise the gear for Cape York as we will leave the caravan and bus then continue with both Land Cruisers. We will have quite a bit more room as Max will be going in to kennels in Cooktown till we make our way up then down. We can’t risk him being taken by a crocodile due to his love of water. The O’Neills with do the same with little Meeko their terrier.
Next morning having spent a couple of nights here it’s time to leave. We head out and on the way drop our cash for the stay in the honesty box then hit the road for the short drive via Mount Malloy to Mary Creek Camp Grounds which is another huge farm property backing on to a lovely stream again. We both arrive without drama then get set up on a level site among the trees. The place is not too busy but it is so big it would take a lot to make so. The owner meets us and we pay him the $20.00 per night due. We reckon we will stay another night as we are making good time now although Cooktown will be a bit of a longer drive.
We spend the day reading, planning and relaxing before we suffer the onslaught of corrugations whilst in the Cape. There is also a little stream which allows us to cool of as the temperature rises to around 30 degrees as the sun gets higher.
Later it’s over to the bus where Richo has a new satellite dish for the big tv and tonight is Friday night footy night as Geelong takes on Port Adelaide in the finals series. Although a good game if you are an Adelaide fan but since me and Kaz are Geelong supporters it was not great. It was as always magic to sit out in the warm night before retiring to bed after another amazing day on the road.
So up really early this morning and arrive at Bob Janes, Cairns to have the stock Land Cruiser tyres replaced by BF Goodrich KAo2 all terrains. These will be better for the rough roads as we drive in to Cape York. With this done it was then off to Pacific Toyota for the service to be done. I managed to drop it off early and get a courtesy drive back to the park where Kaz and Max were waiting on me having stalked me online as I travelled.
After a quick bite to eat we walked over to the pool and got straight in. The outside temperature is around 30 degrees so perfect for a dip. There are also two slides which we had a go at before getting in to the hot spa for some rejuvenating.
In what seemed a very short time I was picked up by Toyota where I returned to collect and pay for the service. Good thing is the car was given a clean Bill of health including brakes which have had a hard time with the van attached.
Having again returned to the camp we headed for the bar where every day there is a happy hour between 4pm and 5pm. There are also a wide range of bar snacks including small plates to graze on. We enjoyed a couple of drinks then headed back to the van to eat. I should say the site we are on is about 30 steps from the bar.
We then sat outside to tune in to the latest Survivor Australia episode before enjoying a rare early night.
After a long night where Max was up and down drinking water due to it being warm then understandably needing to go out, it was good to see morning arrive.
Today we don’t mess about enjoy some breakfast with sourdough rolls from the local baker. Washed down with tea and coffee. It was then off to to the pool for a nice swim, slide and spa before we headed in to Cairns.
Due to tomorrow being one of the last days we will be in a place this size with all the amenities you would expect we thought it wise to get in to the big supermarkets to stock up on supplies of mostly pasta’s, rice and an assortment of tins. We also grabbed 3 x 10 litres of water for the trip which we will add to the 15 litre container we already have.
Tomorrow we will hook up leave camp to go back up and over Kuranda, in and through Mareeba to meet back up with our bus mates at Biboohra. We will then work out a semi concrete plan together as we motor on with our journey to the top of Cape York.
Today we took the shortish drive in to the town of Atherton. We went there just to grab some supplies and have a look around. This didn’t take too long as we found there was not much there to interest us. On the way there however we did spot a strawberry farm and as we returned made a b-line for it and we both grabbed an ice cream each which were delicious. While out and about we drove on to the little town of Yungaburra to fuel up and were really surprised by the place. It had a fantastic original hotel which looks as if it was new. It also had a bucks do going on and outside was pretty noisy as the revellers partied whilst boarding their bus to the next watering hole. The town also had a Platypus viewing bridge over the river and as usual we never seen even one of them. The town also has a board walk in to a Forrest and in there is an amazing curtain Fig tree. This thing is huge and very very old, it was well worth the walk.
Next up we went to the Innot hot springs. These are free although you could book in to a fancy spa type place if wanted. We didn’t bother and instead headed in to the free part. When they say “Hot Springs” they are not kidding. It would be quite easy to scold yourself just walking in. Luckily for us there were several people warning us of the correct way to get in to avoid the boiling parts. Having navigated to a safe spot we dropped in to the warm part to enjoy a bit of r and r as if we needed it. There was a story where a mother had walked to the springs then proceeded to drop her child in without feeling the heat first and so the poor little one had their feet scolded, yep, you can’t fix stupid.
We then visited a few of the famous waterfalls around the area. Each one outdoing the other in its own particular way. One of them we visited a guy had crashed his drone in to and it sat on a big rock with your man trying to work out a way to rescue it.
Sad to say we had to leave Bonadio Farm as we need to make tracks to get up to Cooktown and Cape York b4 school holiday madness takes over.
So Sunday morning just before ten we headed out having said “see you later” to our bus mates who will stay on for a few more days.
Saturday night we had watched an epic game of AFL Geelong v Melbourne with a last quarter collapse by Geelong Cats who had the game wrapped up or it looked that way till the last 30 seconds when they snatched a loss from the jaws of victory.
An interesting drive today as we will drive to Cairns via Kuranda, a place we visited 27 years ago whilst on holiday when we still resided in Scotland.
We did quite a bit of touring up there including the Kuranda train, the sky rail and not to forget my mental fart where I talked myself in to doing a bungee jump.
This time however we will just take the extremely winding road south in to Cairns. The driving is semi scary as we can feel the electronic brakes of the caravan pinching on and off. This of course is a good thing as we don’t want it pushing the car down or off the hill as we descend.
The road is only about 15k and we complete it effortlessly and make our way through Cairns to the Big4 Cairns Coconut resort.
We are staying here primarily to have the Land Cruiser serviced and add new all terrain BFG KAo2 tyres fitted. Driving in you can see immediately that the place is very good and looks spotlessly clean. We booked online and have a grass and slab combination in a good spot away from the screaming pillows which there are two of.
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Having spent an amazing time in Halliday Bay Resort, Queensland playing golf, swimming in the ocean, sunning ourselves, walking Max along the beach and meeting some great people who we will stay in touch with, it was time to move on. We will definitely return to this spot for an extended stay.
We hooked up and got on the highway heading north as usual on our way to the little town of Proserpine which is close to the renowned town of Airlie Beach. This drive was one of our shorter trips. We left pretty early as the free camp in Proserpine is quite a small one that can fill up by early afternoon. Arriving sharp we have no issues finding a spot in the camp helped by several people giving us the tip that they would be leaving soon, leaving us their space.
We also had our bus mates arriving soon so we asked a couple to take their time leaving to allow the BIG bus to grab the spot which worked perfectly.
We then took a drive to Airlie Beach which was nice enough but it felt a bit of a yacht club kind of town. There was however lot’s of back packer accomodation complimented by heaps of bars. The walk round the lagoon in town was ok but lot’s of “prohibited signs” no doing this or that and we had to follow dog paws painted on the ground so didn’t get to see quite a bit of it. We considered taking a trip to one of the many islands but decided against it as it would be just a bit rich for us.
After deciding we had enough it was back to Proserpine. We also managed to get our second COVID injection done here having failed in Mackay.
Later that night we headed in to the prince of Wales Hotel which we read about online. Lot’s of folks had recommended this place as the place in town for food.
We got in early having booked a table so as not to miss out. The menu had all our personal favourites. We started with oysters which were huge, fresh and just a treat. These were followed up by duck pancakes then it was time for the mains. I had to have the beef Wellington, Kaz ordered the rack of lamb. Richo the mixed grill and Rachael the rib eye steak. If you are ever in this town then I would recommend you get in to this place.
We had intended to stay for a couple of nights here but decided we would move. Early next morning we hooked up heading for the town of Bowen where we stayed in a cheap place just outside of town. This was free camping so using our own onboard water and solar power. There was not much to the place although it did have a small camp kitchen a swimming pool but both were pretty old we didn’t use either.We took a drive in to town then toured a few of the many beaches around all had warnings against swimming due to crocodiles and singers. The towns claim to fame is the very long boardwalk and local hotel both which featured in the movie Australia. We also visited the local fish shop where grabbed some beautiful prawns.
Having purchased a second solar panel for the caravan from Jayco, our bus mates offered to fit it for us which is amazing. Richo got on to the job and expertly installed the new panel linking them together and we now have 9 Amps pumping in. We also have our solar blanket which we can add but don’t see us needing it much.
We had a couple of incidents in camp. Ones was a couple of the local kids in 4×4 utes driving along the bush tracks around. What they didn’t know was that these tracks are owned by the guy who owns the park. So as they tried to leave the owner stopped them providing them with an education in driving then demonstrated how they would be dealt with if they return.
The second was incident was a little less funny as the couple who were camping close to us had a couple kids one seemed to be sick with lots of coughing and crying. This continued in to and carried on in to the night. Sadly in the early morning with the poor kid still hysterically crying the parents were busy having a full on domestic argument until the mother got in their car and drove off. As we left we could only hope they got it together for the poor kids.
A bit of a bonus was that we were up early and having filled our water tanks we hit the road with a three hour drive through Townsville to Balgal Beach and the Mystic Sands Golf and Country Club. Having called we were told that they don’t take bookings as they have so much room.
After a three and a half hour drive we arrived to find the place pretty tight with minimal spaces available. To give them their due some people were parking in a very selfish way taking up more room then needed and not thinking of anyone else.
After our bus mates arrived we spent a stupid amount of time trying to make the place suit us but in the end we decided to admit defeat and motor on to Forrest Beach RV site another 50k north where it seems we arrived at a good time with several good areas to set up.
There’s not much here site wise but it’s a great base to tour around. It also has an amazing wild beach across the way which ensures we fall asleep to the sound of the ocean.
Having moved on from Yeppoon where we stayed longer than expected we arrived at the tiny town of Flaggy Rock where we will stay at the community centre park. The drive took us longer than expected, something we try to avoid but gets us further north. The place itself doesn’t have much but is really spacious with an excellent cafe close by. The caretaker is a real friendly man and provides us a huge area to park which was very welcomed after our long day.
With COVID now in Queensland and lockdowns happening we stay here for only two days. This has the bonus of getting away from the COVID in the south east whilst also moving us north.
Having left sharp on the second day our next stop is the beautiful Halliday Bay Resort. Again a bit of a drive for us as on the way we drop in to the city of Mackay to stock up on supplies, having first tried in the tiny town of Sarina without success.
When we do arrive we are not disappointed as the park although smallish includes a bar/restaurant, ocean frontage complete with stinger nets and amazingly a golf course. Included in our stay is a round of golf everyday day we are here.
We waste no time in getting set up then make a dash over to the beach where the water temperature is perfect and there are no huge rough currents to fight off, not to mention sharks and of course crocodiles.
We had intended to stay here for a couple of days but increased it immediately to seven nights at $20 a night which is a bargain although we are free camping. So using our own power and water. This being Wednesday we have booked a table for the restaurant on Friday night, that will be a small treat as we haven’t been doing much of that due to us being FTT’s.
After the seven nights we will move north as usual, this time to the fantastic Airlie Beach area which promises to be another amazing stop to explore.
A few pic’s of another beautiful beach drive at Byfield National Parks, Sandy Point. Dropped tyre pressures to about 20 psi. With new powerful spotlights fitted. We need to get moving further north to make Cape York before heading south again then west. Follow us at our Facebook Group – our wee journey, just send a request to join as the group is private.