Chapter V: The Outback – First time

Hundreds of kilometers without seeing a soul. Kilometers of immensity. Kilometers and kilometers  of wilderness. The Australian Outback is a natural wonder in its own grandiosity. We were there to meet it and just to explore a very small part of it.

The Outback cover most of the Australian territory, and it is not as inhabited as the coastal regions (where the bigger cities and towns are) probably because it doesn’t rain much and the land in The Outback is not as fertile. When you are in the green paradise of Daintree and you drive inland you start noticing the differences in the environment: the fauna drastically changes from tall and think trees and forest to shorter and less abundant ones; the soil switches its colour too, from black rich-in-nutrients earth to the red soil we are used to see in magazines and books; hundreds of anthills and other kind of species of insects take over; and instead of crocodiles, snakes of various types govern this dry territory. If you’re aracnophobic like me, you still have to deal with spiders, they’re not afraid of the outback and the heat.

Timber Reserve in Far North Queensland. Photo by Veronica Lopez

Timber Reserve in Far North Queensland. Photo by Veronica Lopez

We went to The Outback in two opportunities, first with Blasco and Kat and then the two of us after our friends left for Melbourne  right after we visited Cecile and Mark in Thursday Island. The first time was in an attempt to go to Cooktown, the place were Captain – then Lieutenant – James Cook beached his ship the Endeavour for reparations after he scraped a reef in what is know today as Cape Tribulation.

First time in The Outback

Right before the first attempt we visited Mossman Gorge, a natural reserve that is carefully managed by the indigenous Kuku Yulanji people (which own the land and live in a small community there). They have done a fantastic job in preserving the natural sites and educating the visitors about the place. After exploring Mossman we drove to Cooktown. There are two ways to get there: the wild way or the highway; because we didn’t have a 4×4 then, we could’t take the unsealed road, so we took the other one, which made the trip more comfortable not necessary shorter.

Blue Triangle butterfly (Graphium sarpedon) at Mossman Gorge. Photo by Veronica Lopez

Blue Triangle butterfly (Graphium sarpedon) at Mossman Gorge. Photo by Veronica Lopez

We drove south towards Mount Molloy and then north through the Timber Reserve to Lakeland and finally Laura. We couldn’t pass one of the many creeks that intercept the highway because it was too flooded, so we didn’t get to see Cooktown. But in Laura we did see ancient Aboriginal rock art, and actually one of the most extensive in the world. The Quinkan Aboriginal rock art is just amazing; we took the self guided tour at Split Rock, where you can clearly see the colours, animals, people and the mythological beings “Quinkans”. They (the Aborigines)  were really aware of their environment and the creatures that inhabited it, as well as the direct of indirect relationship the humans had with them. When you visit these kind of sites you realise how connected (in spirituality and reality) were the Aborigines back then, and today, with their land. It is very beautiful, because it makes us think about ourselves today and how unattached we are from the land, the soil and the nature.

At Split Rock in Laura. Photo by Veronica Lopez

At Split Rock in Laura. Photo by Veronica Lopez

Timber reserve. Photo by Veronica Lopez

Timber reserve. Photo by Veronica Lopez

Split Rock's aboriginal art. Photo by Veronica Lopez

Split Rock’s aboriginal art. Photo by Veronica Lopez

A random endemic beetle. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

A random endemic beetle. Photo by Mario Sainz Martinez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were prepared for the second trip and success. This time we had a proper 4×4 car and we got up early enough as to enjoy the trip; we also had made sure that the Bloomfield Track (an unsealed road, AKA the Coast Road) was not flooded. This is the shortest way distance wise from where we were in Daintree to Cooktown, but because the road was unsealed with many creeks to pass and steep hills, so it takes as long as the one we did to Laura.

This time we have other kind of highlight such as:

  • Driving in a wild unsealed road with your friends. This brought many memories back to my head from my native Venezuela, my friends and the road trips we used to do to the beach or to the rainforest during the holidays. 
  • Eating a delicious seafood cocktail with beer at “Cape York‘s most iconic pub and campground” the Lions Den. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a nice refreshment after a long road trip.
  • Cooktown obviously. It is the northernmost town in the eastern coast of Australia, and in the 19th and early 20th century was one of the main centres of the Gold Rush era in northern Australia. It is also a service centre for many indigenous groups. It is a small town surrounded by the immensity of nature, and significant history and past.

I must confess that Cooktown wasn’t terribly exciting, but the whole road trip that we did to get there was fantastic and thrilling. On the road back home, to Daintree we found an amazing hidden spot with a waterfall and a natural pool, and definitely not so many tourist have been there. At one moment, there at the pool, I thought that there wasn’t a better way to end up our trip to Cooktown.

AUSTRALIA

Gigantic anthill at Split Rock. By Mario Sainz Martinez

A hidden pool and a wonderful refreshment some  kilometres south from Cooktown. Photo by Veronica Lopez

A hidden pool and a wonderful refreshment some kilometres south from Cooktown. Photo by Veronica Lopez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was totally wrong because about 45 minutes later, already on our way home, we stumble upon two Kangaroos in the wild. This was definitely the highlight of that trip. The first Roo (how Aussies call the Kangaroos) that we saw was jumping really fast and not very curious about us, besides the bush was really thick, so we couldn’t photograph it. Already then we were so happy to have seen one in the wild and alive (most of the Roos and Wallabies we saw had been killed while crossing the highway), until minutes later we saw another one, and this time Mario was very quick on his feet and photographed it. It also helped that the Roo was more curious (and cautions too) and that the grass was very low.

Kat told us that to see one Roo in the wild is already very rare, and that to see two in a row is a miracle, it doesn’t happen so often. Mario, Blasco and I were so extremely happy and excited to have seen two Roos jumping around and about. It was priceless. Then we discovered that during dawn and sunset the chances to see this Australian’s icons increases, because they are much more active then.

Kangaroo. By Mario Sainz Martinez

Kangaroo. By Mario Sainz Martinez

Kangaroo. By Mario Sainz Martinez

Kangaroo. By Mario Sainz Martinez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kangaroo. By Mario Sainz Martinez

Kangaroo. By Mario Sainz Martinez

I must say that it was a very long two trips; we realised then that Australia is huge, and that it takes a great amount of time to go from point A to pint B. Of course, in the city is not like that (not that I have been to Australia’s largest cities, and usually in big cities transportation is not an issue ), but in places such as Far North Queensland is that way. That first time was a great opportunity to have a glimpse of what The Outback is about. In the next post, I will write about the trip to The Outback that I did with Mario, and the many other things that we did and we saw. I never thought his was going to be such a long post, but it was necessary.

Stay tuned, and don’t miss the The Outback – Second time, which will be posted shortly.

 

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