Monday, 5 January 2015

Cape York Peninsula Part 3 - Fruit Bat Falls, Elliiot Twin Falls, Captain Billy's Landing & Weipa

After spending 8 days @ Loyalty Beach & visiting the region in the very tip of the Cape, we again returned south. We already had our return ticket to get across the Jardine River Ferry that was purchased 8 days previously.

Our next part of the Cape adventure was to visit Elliot / Twin Falls for 2 nights then Captain Billy's Landing for 2 nights, all 4 nights in our tent that we brought along for this part of the trip.
These are the highlights of the Northern Bypass Road which is a more comfortable road than the OTT.
We could have taken our caravan into the former, but the latter was apparently not suitable for caravans. Friends had taken their caravan into Elliot /Twin falls 12 months earlier, but they took over 1 hr to travel the 8 kms along the OTT to get to the Falls. They also spent more time changing a tyre, so we decided that we'd live in a tent for a few days whilst visiting the falls.

We had previously arranged with one of the ranger to leave our van at the Ranger Station, some 12 kms off the southern Bypass Rd towards the Overland Telegraph Track. The road in was a little sandy at times, but an easy drive for us.

The Ranger Station is in the Heathlands Resource Reserve (joins the Jardine River NP)
The Heathlands is part of the larger Jardine River NP with a combined area of 384,000 ha.
The Jardine River, the largest perennial stream of Qld, runs through the NP.
The Heathlands mostly looked like this photo below, apart from the green grass as this pic that is near the ranger station.

This combined Reserve & NP is mostly true wilderness country with sandstone country at the head of the Jardine River, sandy heathland vegetation through much of the lowland areas & some rainforest sections.
There's also sclerophyll forest, shrubland, heathland or bog vegetation & swamp forests.
Driving through each section of some of the above was glorious.
I'm sure the heathland shrubs would be very pretty during the spring.

We had to drive back north from where we had come an hour prior some 77kms to Fruit Bat Falls.
Fruit Bat falls is just off the Northern Bypass Road & an easy drive in to them.

We spent a short while here admiring the falls & vegetation around us.
We opted out of a swim as we wanted to get to our camp spot up the road @ Eliot / Twin Falls camp ground.

The green vegetation & fernery next to the creek had some hidden treasures like this pitcher plant.

The GPS says it all.....OTT for 8 kms to Eliot / Twin Falls.

Fortunately we had no major creeks to drive across apart form this one called Scrubby Creek.
We had prior knowledge that the centre was deeper & to stay to the right when crossing it where it was much more shallow. Regardless the water height, we engaged 4WD anyway to get us across.
I think the water came up to the side step.

Some drivers take the roads too this trailer came a cropper.
The corrugations here were a little bone shaking.

The OTT isn't maintained at all.
We encountered a few sections like this one during the 8 kms drive into Eliot / Twin Falls.

We had to pre book prior to coming into this camp ground & all NP's in Qld (booking can be made on line or by phone when you get internet / phone service or back at the ranger station where there's a touch screen computer.) (don't plan on going into the ranger station on w/e's though as the front gate is locked ! )

Once we set up our camp, we had some exploring to do :-)
This section of Eliot Creek is rocky that has been carved by the flooding waters over millions of years. Hence the many falls along this part.
Our camp ground is on the other side of the vegetated section to the middle right.

Sadly the twin of Twin falls was obscured by a fallen tree further back upstream.
But the pool of water here was just beautiful & cool to spend many hrs getting a body massage or just relaxing. Twin falls is in Canal creek that flows into Eliot Creek.

Eliot Falls is along Eliot Creek. If you pick the right spot, there were a couple of plunge pools along here. further upstream of the falls is just ankle to  knee deep.

I have no idea where the name comes from, but this is the Saucepan section up stream of Eliot Falls.

Once again, amongst the vegetation along the banks were dozens of Pitcher Plants.

 Just a couple of kms from the NP campground, is a free camp right next to Canal Creek crossing.
Many folk who travel the OTT stay here.
The old shed (refurbished) is what's left of an old settlement during Frank Jardine's days when he owned most of the land to the north for his cattle grazing.

 After 2 idealic days / nights we had the Scrubby Creek to cross again

During our 60 km drive south back along the Southern Bypass Road we encountered 3 trail bikers stirring up some dust. Some people must have a high tolerance to dust & butt soreness after a days ride.

Much of the drive into Captain Billy Landing was through rainforest & more heathland. We crossed quite a few minor creeks with shallow water.

Coming out into the open from the rainforest was this spectacular sight.
I think the only thing that would have prevented us from taking our caravan into this spot was some low hanging vines.......& the 150 m slightly steep road down to the bottom :-)  (a day visitor was bringing his van back the next day)

We were the 1st to get there this day, so we had the pick of where to set up camp.....right next to the picnic shed seeing as it was rather hot & take advantage of the shade in the heat of the day.
Being in a NP this camp ground also had to be pre booked as well.
Both this camp ground & Eliot / Twin falls had no showers & only a drop toilet.
There were no water taps here.
We had to bring in our own water to last the 2 days.......we made our 25 L of water last for cooking, drinking & a sponge bath at the end of the day with a little to spare :-)

This concrete ramp was built for the shipping of cattle to north of the Jardine R / Bamaga & Weipa.

Captain Billy's Landing gets its name from a near by creek. Captain Billy was an aboriginal who in 1880 wanted to trade turtles & fish for stores of flour etc from a geologist Jack & his expedition party, which was declined. In the darkness of night Billy attacked Jack & his expedition party, with no loss of life. The name subsequently remained.

As the tide goes out we explored around this rocky point. We were amazed to find caves containing micro bats.

Looking back to the camp ground.

Sea life exposed by the receding tide.

It was full moon on our 2nd night there........

1 hr after leaving Captain Billy Landing we were back to the Heathlands Ranger Station to pick up our van. It just another hrs drive south to Bramwell Junction. There's a roadhouse here where basic food supplies & fuel can be purchased. Diesel fuel was $2.10 / L.
Bramwell Junction is also where the Telegraph Track leaves the easier Peninsula Development Rd. Telegraph Track is a 4WD only, un maintained track with several difficult creeks to be crossed.

The tree outside the Bramwell Junction RH & camp ground is adorned with numerous number plates of vehicles that have come a cropper on the track.
The burgers @ the RH were delicious.

We had a short drive to the turn off to our next destination.
This station is owned by Australia Zoo's Irwin family. This is a private access only property & I had to get written permission to visit the property for bird watching purposes near the Wenlock River.

Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve a  1,350 sq km pastoral property was once an outpost of the Jardine family of properties.  We had to wash the vehicle down 8 kms in from the road to rid the vehicle of potential weed seeds. It was then another 50 km drive on a track to where we could camp.

The entrance to our camp spot belies hidden curves that would end up being impassable for our long vehicle & caravan. We walked the 300m track looking for sticks etc, but we didn't envisage that the curves of the track would be a huge problem getting around.

With just 100m into the track we struck trouble.....BIG trouble....we couldn't go forward any further as a tree was in the way to take a corner wide to get  around another tree off side...that would wipe out the side of the van.........we had no where to go but backwards......
yep backwards for 100m of track curves......what took 5 mins forward took 1.5 hrs backwards :-(

With 2 hand held walkie talkies we moved back & forth until we were finally out after 1.5 hrs.........with just a scrape on the drivers side bull bar.......we had no scratches on the car or caravan.......phew......there was BIG lesson learned that day.

We spent the night next to the Station managers house.....they were away for the w/e. so we had no one else within cooee bar the birds chirping.
This is the beautiful croc infested Wenlock river the next day.

The property has been saved from potential Bauxite mining & now protects some beautiful diverse plants & wildlife.

Plenty of Zamia palms & other beautiful plant life could be seen on the 50 km drive in.
We spent 2 hot but peaceful days there.

Following the 1 hr drive back out of the above property, we had just 27 kms to our next destination.
We had a short visit into Moreton Telegraph Station on our way north a few wks earlier to check out the place.
There is an idealic large open camp ground with all facilities except 240 V power here for $20 / night.
 We stayed 2 nights here as I had heard there was an amazing amount of bird life here & down by the Wenlock River  the side & back of the camp ground.
I had amazing views of many rainforest birds near the river.

The original Moreton Telegraph Station opened in 1887, was once an important link in the OTL from Laura to the top of the Cape. The original main building was demolished in 1960, but was replaced with 2 high-block houses. The caretakers here stay all year 'round - even through the wet season, recording flood levels & keeping an eye on property etc.

Some very basic supplies & souvenirs can be bought at the office & shop under 1 of the buildings. The undercover eating area where you can enjoy a snack meal also has a pizza oven.....meals can be purchased with bookings. They are also a base for making online NP camp bookings.
NO fuel is sold there. The paint are flood markers.

1 of the original telegraph poles from 1887.

Walking around the large camp ground I came across this little old building :-)

Further @ the back is onsite safari tent &  accommodation for the tour buses & other travellers who don't want to bring their own when travelling the Cape.

We were here in mid June & the camp ground is still relatively deserted @ lunch time when we arrived. By late afternoon we were joined by another 4 campers for the night.
That's our camp site for the 2 nights stay.

The drums in the foreground were the mode a ferrying vehicles across the nearby Wenlock River.
It was decommissioned in 2001.

The much awaited bridge was built across the Wenlock river in 2001. The river is still impassable during 2 -3 wks of the wet season.
Tonnes of soil & sand have to be shifted away from the bridge each season.
Normally the water is only 0.6m under the bridge by June, but the water rises to as much as 14 - 15 m deep through there. The marker on the tree is 1 flood peak height.

22kms south of Moreton Telegraph Station we took the turn off towards Wepia through Batavia Downs, a large cattle station.

This section of the road was 40kms before joning up with teh Peninsula Development Rd that goes from Weipa down to Laura. We still had another 72 kms before arriving at Weipa.

I was rather surprised to see bales of fodder ready for shipping south on 1 of the properties.

Weipa is relatively a new town, established in 1962 when Bauxite mining was in it's infancy.
10 kms south of the township we were confronted with traffic lights in the middle of nowhere.
This is a haulage route from 1 of the several operating mines in the large district.

The haulage roads would have to be > 30 m across.

We took an escorted mine tour......the only way to see the mine in operation.. This one was approx 20 kms north of Weipa.

 After lots of WH& S procedures that driver had to report in with we were inside the mine site. Many of these large tyres costing up to $10,000 each lined the road.....many of these tyres were not badly worn, but "blew out" due to high temperatures from the weight of the loads. You can see a "blow out" on the tyre 2nd from right.

Mining Bauxite is relatively simple - no gigantic open cuts like in iron ore or coal mining.
Once the tree vegetation is removed, the 1 m  of topsoil is removed for use in rehabilitating previously mined areas.  Then there's just a 2 - 4 metre layer of bauxite ore.
We had to stay on the bus, but had ample time to take loads of photos of an excavator placing the bauxite onto the haul truck. The excavator uses GPS to read out how deep the bauxite is.

Each haul truck can take up to 190 tonnes & travels at a speed of approx 12 kms / hr

Another area of thick layer bauxite.

The haul truck was massive & the photo doesn't do the size justice.

A few kms away from the mine site is where the trucks let the belly of their load go into train carriages that's moved along like a conveyor belt. There are a couple of mines working at once, so the trucks were coming in every minute or so.

In Weipa, we saw mine operations (presumably from another mine ) that had the bauxite going on conveyor belts across the road to the ship.

Looking across from the boat harbour to a bauxite ship.
The Bauxite then travels to Gladstone where it is smelted down to Aluminium.
 Some more facts & figures of Bauxite mining.....there's no FIFO miners, all 700 men & women live in / around Weipa.
The mining leases cover 2,500 sq km & the annual production is 16 million tonnes.
Weipa has the world's largest bauxite deposit.

Once the topsoil is returned to the completed mine site, the area is re planted with the same type of trees that were removed. Local aboriginal guidance is an important part of this procedure.

Exploring more bays on the edge of town. Fishing is one of the most favourite past times for the locals with many fishing operators in town.
Every June Weipa holds a fishing classic.....famous for locals & visitors who come here to partake in fishing for grand prize money.

The sunsets at the back of Weipa's 1 & only camp ground were amazing. We stayed 4 nights to explore the area & do some bird watching as well :-)
Night 1 sunset.

Night 4 sunset. We had fish n chips down by the beach to watch the sun going down. Stunning & another western sunset looking over the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Weipa has a decent sized supermarket where we stocked up on supplies for the next week of our tour south.

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