Cooktown and the Daintree

We think it's quite humorous that we set up at a road stop called Chooks 10kms south of Cooktown for four nights. We haven't had any power since Mount Isa and prior to that it was with our friends in Berry Springs, NT. We don't use much power and if there's free camping to be had, we're having it. Chooks has pretty much nothing to offer us except its proximity to Cooktown and the peace and quiet away from the caravan parks. It does however, have TV reception for the upcoming weekend of football!! The Adelaide Crows are playing the Sydney Swans and we (Crows) need to win this game to stay in the finals race. As you all know by now though, it was not to be. Still, we had a great time sitting with a few beers watching the game while the kids played in our home made sand pit with beach sand we have borrowed from Finch Bay. Each day while we were at Chooks we would just get up, lock up the van, put the tow ball lock on and head either into town or out on an adventure. A couple of times we worried about leaving our van so exposed but we have insurance. One day we left the van in quite a mess and I joked to myself that maybe if burglars came they would open up the van door and say "Nah these guys have already been robbed".

Over the next five days we had plenty planned. On a drive into Hope Vale we stop at the Endeavour Falls for a look. You can't swim because there have been lots of recent crocodile sightings. Further along we stop at Isabella falls, where swimming is ok. The water was cold and the sand grainy, but the shallow sloping banks are easy access for Olive to splash around in. Elim Beach was beautiful with green, blue, pink and yellow rainbow sands lining the shore. Sadly this is the furthest North we go up into the cape but we've always maintained, we will be forever grateful for the things we can do and we won't dwell on what we can't. The botanical gardens in Cooktown are a great visit and the kids bounced around under the sprinklers and found a little fairy garden. There's an easy walk through to Cherry Tree Bay and Finch Bay from the gardens and it is an introduction into the rainforest. We treat ourselves to lunch at the pub, have a cheap family day out with a visit the local swimming pools. Grassy Hill overlooks Cooktown town with a 360° view over the Coral Sea and where the Endeavour River touches the ocean. A day was spent at Quarantine Bay followed by pizzas at the RSL club. On Saturday morning the markets in town were a great spot to stock up on fresh fruit and veg and let the kids have a play at the park. There is a great musical ship, lots of historical information and the Captain James Cook statue where we all had a laugh at River.

 "This is Captain James Cook" Reece starts to explain to River along with a simplified version of how Australia was discovered by Europeans.

 "James HOOK?" River questions.

"No James COOK, like cooking in the kitchen" I add

"James HOOK.... from Peter Pan?" excited and shocked he continues "It's the hook, hook, hook hook" reciting the song from the Peter Pan movie. Oh well.

We hit the coast and set up camp at Archer Point. To anyone heading this way we highly recommend this amazing free camping spot. We pull our camper van right up in between the palm trees that line the beach. White glistening sand and beautiful blue shallow waters are right at our door step and we don't hesitate to jump right on in. By 4pm the tide is out leaving only puddles over squishy sand perfect for the kids to collect star fish, little hermit crabs and snails. Olives took her poor old dolly for a swim and sadly she can no longer make noises. I think Dolly's batteries have gone to heaven and she needs a good wash! Olive and Dolly sat completely amused digging in the sand for hours. I spoke to a local aboriginal lady who was collecting these little light weight nuts called sea heart beans. She explained that she decorates the beans and threads them to make door curtains which she sells at the Cooktown Markets. So we spend a half an hour helping her collect them like a little treasure hunt and that's exactly what this part of the world is. One big treasure hunt with natural beauties all around you and so much to discover. Archer Point is by my far my absolute do not miss free camp especially is you have young kids.  

Rossville is a funny little interesting place where people have microwaves for letter boxes. This is wet tropics world heritage area and the roads twist and bend in and around tall rainforest with overhanging canopy hiding the sky from sight. Then suddenly everything opens up and green fields and cows are everywhere only to dip back down into the valley again for more rainforest. Eventually after this really interesting drive we arrive at the enormous and mighty Bloomfield Falls. A big 'no no' for swimming, but a spectacular not to be missed sight. The Little Annan River on the other hand is a great spot for a swim when we head back north again. With a combination of little shallow sand based paddling pools on one side and flowing mini rapids on the other. Reece and River figured out a game where they would hold on with both arms to an over handing tree branch right above the beginning of a small water fall that narrows and creates a forceful flow. Then they let go and the water launches them out down the stream. Watching Rivers little head popping in and out of the water being washed away. Well... Let's just say I can't look. But loved the sound of his laughter and then he says
"Let's do it again Daddy, let's do it again".

I've never seen a guy playing rhythm with cow rib bones before and it was impressive when we visit The Lions Den Hotel and Katie Jay and her band are playing. This place is worth a stop because of the history surrounding the pub and there's a good swimming hole out the back too. After our time staying at Archer Point we head all the way back down the Peninsula Development Road heading south east onto the Mossman Mt Molly Road towards Mossman. It's like you are bending and zig zagging through rainforests over huge mountains with cliff edges that drop into oblivion. If you crash over the un-barricaded edges - you're dead! Ahead of you are mountains with their tips up in the clouds. This is another hold on for your life type drive and Reece points out every douche bag on the road. "Did you see that toss bag?" for example. Now River says to me "Don't be scared Mummy because Daddy is a really really really good driver. He wont crash into that knob". Great!

A visit to Mossman gorge is a must but a complete tourist trap. I can't believe you have to pay for it when I'm sure just a few years ago you could drive out and visit without cost. We pile onto the bus and do the tourist thing. The swim was freezing cold and the water was flowing much too fast for Olive. The strongest in over ten years as we were later told.  
Newall beach was worth the visit too but next stop was up up up into the rainforrest!!

Madja maku Nyajil Jalun (The rainforest meets the reef) It is tall, lush, green, thick and spectacularly captivating. This is my second visit to the Daintree as I visited years ago for my 21st birthday but it is a first for our family. The rainforest never disappoints and surprises me all over again. Trees and ferns grow up and over, all bunching on top of each other arguing to reach sunlight. Vine's hang down from overlapping branches into the middle of the road and only let little speckles of sun light through. The road twists and turns and has little dips and dry creek crossings. Along the beaches Palm trees are bending outwards making a border that divides the sand from the rainforest. You need to book in advance and online to camp anywhere past the ferry that crossing so keep that in mind if you want to go. Luckily we just go in as we only found this out the day before we wanted to go and when we tried to book it was all booked out. This is why we waited an extra day in Mossman before we left but that way we could book three full days in the Daintree. We settle into the Cape Tribulation Camping Ground on Myall beach  in a non powered  site and it was an awesome shady camp nestled in underneath the rainforest backing right onto the beach. I mean a 20 second walk to the white sand, blue skies, crystal clean shallow waters. Close by is Masons swimming hole which is part of Thompson creek and it's our first stop for a swim. If you haven't noticed a trend, our lives seem to be revolving around the next swim. The base of the river is rocky and uneven and the water is cool but refreshing in this humidity. We slide down the muddy banks and pass the kids over. There's few eels hanging around and heaps if fish.

"Fishies" Olive points and talks. Gosh we love her and her talking is surprising more and more every day. She even points at the greenish waters and looks at me questioning "crocs?". It's very cute!  In the afternoon when the rainforest had cast a nice shade onto the beach we let the kids have a swim out the back of our van on Myall beach. It's a little scary as we've been told there have been lots and lots of crocodile sightings here lately, but we can see right into the water we are only 20cms deep at most. Maybe there's some comfort in numbers too, as there are lots of opther people swimming. If someone's going to get eaten, surly it's going to be the other people swimming out much further than us. Eeeeekkkk. A 10 minute swim and we're out! Sorry Mum!

Over the next few days we try to do everything free first, which has been out motto for the trip but hasn't always worked out. We go to Marrdja boardwalk for a rainforest experience and learn about the plant life and now River always point out the basket of life. EVERYWHERE WE GO.  Its World cassowary day on Sep 24th and there's a market and educational fair we visit. We ate some cassowary poo but please check out photos before you say yuck! We tried to teach River a tad about Cassowary conservation and what it means to be on the extinction list, but he's more interested in the fully grown man wandering around in a cassowary costume - and the poo! Can you imagine if on World Cassowary Day, we drove and hit a Cassowary? That would just be our bad luck and so I have Reece on full alert. Again check our photos of Cassowaries crossing the road!!!
Another free activity is an afternoon walking up the to the Cape Tribulation look out and another sneaky swim on the beach side of a sand bar. Then a special lunch at PKs where we get a little WiFi connection and finally find out the Swans are into the grand final.

I'll just remember the Daintree Rainforest as a place where every afternoon we dragged out our two deck chairs, the beach toys bucket and spade and our little esky filled with 10 cold beers and wandered out to the beach. By 3.30 the rainforest was casting shade right over the sand and the kids could just play. Everyday there were horses being cantered down the beach and a big rope swing that River played on. Don't miss Cow Beach but then our adventures here end and it's time to head South.