Next stop Cooktown. We were excited about tackling the Bloomfield Track, a (supposedly) iconic 4×4 experience. Well, in terms of a 4×4 experience it was very disappointing especially when you see two wheel drive vehicles handling it, for the most part, with ease. That said, the steep climbs provide spectacular views back along the coast and out into the hinterland. Driving down to the Bloomfield River is also very pleasing to the eye. Then, there is the joy of driving through the rainforest in the company of cassowaries, and the general lack of other traffic, which does give you a sense of isolation.
Back onto the Bloomfield road and the compulsory stop at the iconic watering hole, The Lions Den near Rossville. Again, not the isolated establishment that it once was fun to stop and have a beer.
We decided to go free camping at Cooktown. We had heard of Archer Point, just south of the town, from other travellers. A beautiful (though croc inhabited!) beach hemmed in by forest. Apparently a big hippie commune sprung up there back in the seventies but was eventually closed down by the police and council. It was pretty and we stayed there 11 days. Looking back we are not sure why we stayed there so long, the main reason being that it was free camping.. but… the sand flies were horrendous and a couple of the family suffered bad reactions to the ‘bites’. Apparently it is not a bite, rather the flies deposit an acidic urine on the skin which burns and irritates. Whatever, it made life uncomfortable.
The other downer was the cheeky dingoes that came in broad daylight to intimidate and steal food. They even managed to lift the lid of the esky, and get the plastic lid off the container of tuna mornay they carried fifty metres away to eat! Try to shoo them away and they growled at you. All that said, the sandy beach was pleasing to the eye and good for collecting flotsam and jetsam. We also met interesting characters there as well, people who did not want to pay in order to live!
Other than hanging out the beach, we made a number of forays into Cooktown for shopping, to get ice and to see the sites and places of interest. The Lookout at sunset and the Captain Cook Museum were the highlights as well as the pervading sense that you were in a place of such historical significance.
On our way out of Cooktown we took a detour to Elim Beach near Hope Vale. A pretty place and home to traditional owner Eddie who was more than happy for visitors to call in for a cuppa at his beach shack near the campsite. We took up the offer and had a good chat to this very interesting guy about his family history and connection to the land as well as some sage advice about which vegetation to burn to smoke way the mosquitoes. The children also encountered their first green tree frog…in the toilet of all places!
Alas, beautiful though the coast is at this location crocodiles rule the waves…no swimming!