On this trip we have slept in many interesting places: a police station, fire station, several petrol stations, a couple of marinas, beaches, boat ramps and several places that turned out to be “lover’s lanes”. Now we have a new one to add to the list a Drive-in cinema. South of the town of Mareeba, the drive-in cinema lets campers or anyone stay for the night after the movie. As the lady on the gate said “We have people coming from many miles around, it is safer they sleep over rather than drive back late.” We were all really excited about the idea, Steve and I had seen drive-ins in old American movies but had never been to one. It was a good deal too AUS$14 (US$11) for an adult, a great deal for 2 movies and camping. We pulled in early to make sure we could get a spot at the back, I can imagine how popular we would be parking at the front. The owners were a super friendly and also gave us a tour of the projection room with the old projectors beside the new digital one. We weren’t the only family, one family already had the kids in their pyjamas and had brought a tent along to roll the kids into. Neither films were suitable for the kids but they were happy watching their own movie on a computer with headphones in the back of the truck. After we had finished our excellent burgers Steve and I settled down in our camping chairs in front of the truck, it was too nice a night to sit in the cab. Unfortunately, we both thought both movies: The Revenant and Dead Pool were terrible but I got to watch for shooting stars in the scary bits. However, the whole experience was excellent sitting out under the stars in the middle of the Aussie bush watching a movie. At midnight we just rolled into the back and jumped into bed, there was one other camper that night.
A week earlier we had headed north out of Cairns after the girls had done an Easter egg hunt around the truck – the clock was ticking as the rising sun was starting to melt their eggs. The road north was absolutely stunning with beautiful sandy beaches and mangroves on one side of the road and rainforest on the other. The rainforest was interspersed with sugarcane and banana plantations until we crossed the ferry over the Daintree River from there it was just thick jungle. The Daintree Rainforest is one Australia’s oldest rainforests, and to experience it we decided to spend a couple of nights at Cape Kimberly. Set back from the sandy beach, the camping ground had a space cleared in the forest. At night we were serenaded by a chorus of frogs and insects.
The 4WD gravel Bloomfield Track snakes northwards through some pristine areas of the Daintree. There were quite a few shallow creek crossings, thankfully the water was clear as I wasn’t going to get out and check the depth before we drove through – this is croc country! The rainforest was absolutely beautiful, really thick and lush. There was also several steep climbs with some tight hairpin bends. As the track is single lane we were hoping not to meet anyone coming the other way. Thankfully they had put concrete down for the really steep spots and we saw hardly anyone. They often close the track during the wet season as it becomes impassible due to the creeks and slippery slopes. We found a road crew on one of the steepest sections regrading the dirt. Bloomfield falls, just outside the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal, was in full flow as the wet season has only just finished.
Back on the tar we took a detour south of Cooktown to the coast at Archer Point. The area consisted of a long sandy beach, mangroves, rocky headland with several other rocky beaches and a little lighthouse. We had been warned that it could be very windy and we might want to tuck ourselves away amongst the palm trees behind the beach. When we got there the wind was up and it was such bliss, after several weeks of sweating in the heat and humidity. We parked up on the headland, angling the truck to get the maximum airflow through it. As it was Steve’s birthday it meant we were all able to relax and enjoy it much more, including his cake. That night we all slept better, as the breeze blew away any mosquitos or sand flies too. Alisha counted 48 bites on her legs and the cool air reduced the nighttime itching. Schooling has been a challenge over the last few weeks with the hot temperatures, so we’ve been starting as early as 7am. At Archers Point we were able to do some exploring first thing before the sun got too hot, knowing that the wind would keep the truck cool during the day. It was quiet too, with just a couple of other campers miles away and a couple of Aboriginal families fishing. Unfortunately cooling off by swimming isn’t possible in the area due to the saltwater crocodiles that are found in both the creeks and the sea; and irikanju and box jelly fish – we understand it could be a very painful way to die. Even going for a relaxing stroll looking for shells on the beach isn’t without its perils, the mollusc found in the cone shell shoots out barbs filled with lethal poison if disturbed. Poor girls, they may never go back in the sea when we get back to a safe area as they’ve taken all our warnings to heart. After another blissfully cool, star filled night we headed into Cooktown.
Captain James Cook’s ship The Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in June 1770 as he was exploring the coast. The ship limped into the mouth of what is now the Endeavour River estuary, where the ship’s company spent 48 days making it seaworthy again and exploring the area. Captain Cook was born in what is now Middlesbrough, where Steve is from, so he was keen to find out more. The excellent Cooktown Museum, housed in a former convent, had the Endeavour’s anchor and a cannon. It didn’t have much else about Cook but lots of other interesting displays about how the town grew up due to a gold rush, the huge Chinese population it once had and the local Indigenous Australian clans. We found a statue of Cook on the foreshore and climbed the hill that Cook used to survey the surroundings seas, trying to find a safe route through the reef.
We were planning on staying in Cooktown but as it was hot could not resist the temptation of returning to the beautiful breezy spot by the coast. From there we headed to Mareeba where we used the air conditioned library for school. After a look around the museum it was time for a night at the drive in.