We left Lakefield National Park early in the morning and made our way to Laura, a town about 80km away (2 hours driving on dirt tracks). Ben had initially planned for us to spend two nights at Laura, but due to poor reviews on Wikicamps (an app you can get where people review caravan parks and free camp sites updated daily – Bianca’s camping bible) I pulled the plug on Laura and added an extra night to our stay in Cooktown, and an extra night to our stay at Noah Beach, in the Daintree.
The only thing I really wanted to do in Laura was visit Split Rock, to view the 15000 year old indigenous rock art and we figured out we could do that enroute to Cooktown. The rock art at Split Rock does not disappoint. It is stunningly preserved and tells a story of a time long ago. The caves are a short walk from the carpark, a mere 300m to be exact, but those 300m are up a steep climb which, with 4 hungry children in tow can feel like your attempting to reach the base camp of Mt Everest. You need to put $5 per person into an honesty box so make sure you take cash with you if you plan to visit some day. Photos are not allowed to be taken in the cave galleries so unfortunately I can’t add any to my blog. I did try to seek permission to take some but couldn’t get a hold of anyone. There are pictures of the rock art in books and on google search so if you are interested in seeing them look it up!
We arrived at Cooktown early afternoon and the kids were delighted to find that Mummy had booked for us to stay in a Big 4. Hooray!! Call me what you like but I LOVE Big 4’s. Big 4’s are a 4 star camping chain that are located in every touristy location Australia has to offer. You can rely on them to always have clean and modern amenities, camp sites that pack you in like sardines in a tin, a total lack of campfire pits, forced powered sites (the last two we’ve stayed in do not have an unpowered section meaning you have to pay for power that you do not wish to use) and they charge like wounded bulls. Some of them like to charge a standard nightly fee for two adults of $59 then $15 extra PER CHILD!!!! That mean’s that we are paying $120 a night to use a tiny patch of grass!!!!! Ridiculous! But I love them nonetheless due to reason 1, clean and modern amenities. The kids love them because sometimes they have a pool or water park, jumping pillow and playgrounds.
You know how people love McDonalds because of it’s uniformity? It tastes exactly the same at every restaurant you go to and even though it’s not great, definitely not nutritious or good value for money, it’s a safe choice because you know exactly what you are going to get. There is no risk involved. That’s how I feel about Big 4’s. Quite often I can get a bit anxious about going to new campgrounds. I think I’m traumatised from a time we stayed at a dirty free campsite out the back of a pub at Winton. The bathroom there reminded me of that scene from Trainspotting where the bloke starts hallucinating in an abhorrently dirty bathroom (seriously it’s the stuff nightmares are made of). I started sweating and hallucinating on entering this bathroom at Winton and slowly backed out, trying in vain to exit without touching a single solitary thing, even the door which I quite skilfully opened with my foot. With Big 4’s I know what I’m going to get and sometimes there is comfort in familiarity, especially for anxious people with toilet phobias.
In fact, if you enjoy reading this blog then you really have Big 4 to thank for it as my main aim for doing it was not just to keep family and friends up to date on our travels, but to develop a cult following that would allow me to tell Big 4’s that I was a successful travel blogger and then proceed to negotiate with them on how many extra children I had to pay for. I haven’t quite figured out how many followers makes someone a ‘successful travel blogger’, but I’m assuming it is more than what I currently have – which is still an amount in the single digits.
Driving in to Cooktown Big 4 kids and myself were cheering. Bathrooms were impeccable (I’m choosing to overlook the fact that they are unisex bathrooms on account of the cleanliness. I don’t like unisex toilets. I’ve even tried to make my own ensuite at home ‘ladies only’ but bloody Rohan keeps overlooking the rule. Ben happily goes elsewhere… mostly) the only thing that marred my immense joy was the knowledge that Ben feels about as comfortable and happy in a Big 4 as I did in the dirty toilet block in Winton. I’m sure if we weren’t spending an exorbitant price per night, he might be slightly more comfortable.
The campsite we were put on is ridiculously small. You can barely fit the camper trailer AND the car on it and your neighbours are about 2 metres away. Ever the ‘glass is half full’ type person I happily used this opportunity to make new friends with our neighbours (so they don’t complain about the noise that radiates from our campsite) and don’t mind at all being in a cosy little space. I should add as well that the Big 4 in Cooktown was not as expensive as some of the others. It was only $49 a night for 2 adults and $5 a night per extra kid. With my Big 4 membership I got 10% off leaving our bill at just over $60 a night. Not too shabby I reckon but a huge jump from the $25 a night we pay for national park camping.
The caravan park has a real rainforest vibe to it and we are sandwiched in between two flowering paperbark trees, which give off a sweet nectar smell. The overwhelming nectar scent both entrances and repulses me, depending on my mood and whether I’m feeling earthy or city. The fruit bats that call these trees home have been driving me nuts at night time. Noisy little buggers screech all night long. On top of this a bandicoot has been making himself at home in our kitchen area, loudly going about his business with no regard to conventional sleep times, as soon as we go to bed.
Our first day in Cooktown was spent going to Hopevale and Elim beach. I will leave my review of Cooktown for the next blog, as I feel it deserves it’s very own entry.
Hopevale was a lovely, picturesque indigenous community just North of Cooktown. We needed to stop in there to ask permission to visit Elim Beach and I’m so glad we did!! Hopevale has a new cultural and arts centre with a little shop attached. We were invited in to watch some indigenous artists at work and they happily talked to the kids and patiently answered Rohan’s questions. Rohan has become enamoured with Indigenous culture and has been lapping it up big time on this trip. I think he would be suited to their traditional, nomadic lifestyle and wants to learn all he can about the culture.
Elim beach is spectacularly beautiful. I know, I know….. I need to find some new adjectives to use instead of spectacular. I promise I’ll think harder tomorrow. As we were driving in to Elim beach Jazzy commented that the surrounding hills looked like they had snow on them. This was due to the white sand. As we drove up the beach the sand dunes were a rainbow of colours, from black at the base to warm yellows, oranges and dusty reds. There was spring water spewing out from the sand everywhere, leading to an extremely unique display of flora on the beach. Trees and bushes that are not usually seen in beachy, salt water areas, were sprouting up in the sand dunes due to the abundance of spring water. The kids found a spot on the beach where water was coming out of the rocks like a mini fountain. We all had a drink from it. Ben declared it to be the best water he has ever tasted. Me, being quite the water connoisseur (I could probably do a whole blog about my skills as a water taster) found it to taste quite minerally. It was not to my liking but I definitely appreciated the fact that it was there.
Living at Elim beach is a 92 year old elder named Eddie who is the guardian and protector of land. I really wanted to have a yarn to him as apparently he likes a chat, but when we went to visit him he wasn’t there. I can imagine with it’s abundance of fresh water, fish life and flora it would have made a perfect place for indigenous Australians to live and must have a very rich history – which I would have loved to hear about. Will definitely have to return another time and make sure we are able to meet with Eddie.
We had a picnic on the beach and the kids explored the area and played happily in the sand. We went for a walk then Ben and the kids had a 500m race back up the beach to our car. If any of the kids won the race, the prize was a Mars Bar Icecream for everyone (they were in the freezer in the back of Frankie). If Ben won the race, then the kids had to wait till we were back at camp, in the vicinity of their toothbrushes, till they could have their ice-cream. Amazingly, Ben did not win!! He reckoned that he was trying his hardest, the well being of his children’s dental health at stake, but he just couldn’t beat Jazzy. Unfortunately for the kids, they didn’t beat Ben either. Ben and Jazzy finished in a dead tie. Rohan started off like a fire cracker and quickly tapped out. Isabelle isn’t really into sweet foods so she put in a half hearted effort and her running turned into skipping before the 20m mark. Kylah and Jazzy were both in the lead for 75% of the race but Ben steadily gained on them and Jazzy was the only one left with any endurance to keep up with him for the last 50m.
The kids and Ben reached a compromise and agreed that the Mars Bar Icecreams could be eaten at our next location. Halfway between then and home. As we devoured our Mars Bar Ice Creams, we all thought about my dad, who was Mars Bars number one fan.
We also visited Isabella Falls. Isabelle was over the moon to find a place that bore her name (sort of) and of course Rohan was devastated that there were no Rohan Falls. The falls were quite lovely and looked very enticing, but we did not have time for a swim. Kids happily posed for photos and I managed to get one of them all smiling!!! (this is a massive feat when you have multiple children. It’s a very rare occasion when they are all feeling cheery and happily comply when you say “say cheese!!”)
I’d better sign off now. Ben is going off to have a shower and I need to ensure he has shoes on. Ben does not believe shoes to be a necessity in public showers and will happily “forget” unless I spend a good ten minutes every night nagging him and talking about foot fungi.
Thanks for reading!! Hope you enjoy the pics to accompany this blog.
One of the flowering paperbark trees at our campsite.
The hike up to see the rock art.
Isabelle & her namesake falls. Rohan looking on in envy.
Jazzy about to drink from the spring water at Elim Beach