The Bloomfield Track …

We left Sauce Worcester at the Daintree Village jetty with smiles on our faces and retraced our tyre prints to the Daintree Ferry. The next leg of our journey would be on the notorious Bloomfield Track.

Bloomfield Track

The ferry is a cable barge affair that takes a maximum of 27 vehicles, the wait generally takes longer than the crossing especially in the high tourist season. A two way crossing currently costs $25 for a car.

It wasn’t particularly busy when we reached the pay box. The not at all unattractive and possibly a little bored lady on duty gave us a cold reading.

“G’day”, said  the ticket psychic casting her eye over the Prado and camper trailer armour-plated with mud from the Paluma range.


“You’ll be wanting a one way ticket … ?”

“Yes please …” and I was about to ask how the track was holding up,

“Yeah, no” she said, “You guys’ll have no trouble”.

Across the ferry you run straight into the perfect collision of rainforest with commercial reality, a tropical paradise subdivided into 5 acre blocks … but you can buy great ice-cream. Drive carefully Cassowaries have little road sense. All of this is soon behind you. From Cape Tribulation on it’s the real deal.

The Bloomfield Track was bulldozed through the rainforest in 1984 against fierce opposition from the conservation lobby. The state government were on a mission to develop the local economy. As is typical of the way we do things here in Oz the federal government followed up by nominating the area for world heritage listing. This was achieved against fierce opposition from the state government, logging is now forbidden.

Now, on a good day, you can drive your 4WD from Daintree to Cooktown in a leisurely few hours. Your alternative is the far longer inland route via Mt. Molloy and Lakeland on the sealed Mulligan Highway. On a bad day you can get stuck, check road conditions at the link in the paragraph above before setting out.

The first tourist to get into a scrape at Cape Tribulation was Jimmy Cook on June 10th 1770. The nearby Endeavour Reef is named after his ship, the Cape is named to reflect his appreciation of the pristine wilderness.

A Google search for the track will leave the uninitiated totally confused. Should you drive it or not. Take courage, my friend, do it. What could possibly go wrong?

It crosses the Donovan and Cowie ranges and is steep in places. Most of the significant river crossings now have bridges but your tyres will get wet, they will cope. If the track is open and your vehicle is 4WD you’ll wonder what the fuss was about and if you get stuck stay with the vehicle there’ll be someone along soon. Tell them that I said they would help you.

Quite where we would stay at the other end of the track had not been determined in advance. But we had a strategy. Our first stop would be the Lion’s Den, we didn’t take the dog.

Lions Den

No Dogs

As a student the biologist you see walking a reasonably straight line out of the hotel took a vacation job at a tourist lodge a little north of here on Cape York. When it finished the young man was introduced to some folks in Cooktown with similar interests in the natural world. The introduction was nice and formal … “Tell them Joe sent you”. So he did, it was the start of a chain of similar introductions. Ultimately he found himself being delivered by the mail lady to a farm at Shipton’s Flat. No one knew he was coming or who he was. Brothers Lewis and Charlie made him welcome, gave him a place to stay and fed him. They took time out from the daily grind to show him around and when the mail lady came the following week he bade farewell.

The farm is off grid, the exact address forgotten, the phone number lost. Only one thing to do, head for the pub. The barmaids were extremely good looking and were dressed very appropriately for the tropics. The guy on the stool next to us had the remarkable knack of ordering a drink that had to be retrieved from beneath the bar immediately in front of us and was from the property right next to Lewis and Charlie. Such blessings, beer, cleavage, information.

When we got to the farm we were made welcome. Mark reminded them of the circumstances of his previous visit but they had made a much greater impression on him than he had on them. They did remember the mail lady who it seems had moved to the remote south some years before, the remote south being anywhere further than Cairns. We were invited into the house for tea and biscuits. It was a typical Queenslander house, raised on stilts to catch the breeze. It was built of rainforest timber that would now cost a king’s ransom. No internet, no air conditioning, in fact no electricity, they used bottled gas to cook and run the refrigerator. On the wall was a beautiful photograph of a stream running through a rainforest. Mark had taken the photo on the Bloomfield Track and sent it to them to thank them for their hospitality.



Daintree River …

One of my favorite memories from previous trips to the wet tropics is birding with Chris Dahlberg. On seeing some interesting bird he would say “Come with me …”, and of course we would, we were after all confined to a small boat. Chris has moved on to another phase of his life but one can still take an early morning cruise on the Daintree River with Sauce Worcester at the helm.

It is essential to book in advance, cruises leave from the jetty right in the Daintree village. In theory cruises last for two hours but Mr Worcester is very generous with his time. He takes you up stream and down and pokes around in the little creeks. Some much sought-after birds like Little Kingfisher, Black Bittern and Great-billed Heron are quite often seen on the cruise and Sauce is pretty good at getting you in the right place for a photo. You will finish the trip with a good list.

Here is a Black Butcherbird, not radiantly attractive to look at and of less than endearing manners, it is an aggressive nest predator, but it does have a lovely voice.

Black Butcherbird

The Azure Kingfisher, on the other hand has better manners and is delightful to look at. Its voice is a rather depressing and monotonous kek …

Azure Kingfisher

And this guy is rarely heard and something of a struggle to see …

 Papuan Frogmouth

It’s in there somewhere. It is a Papuan Frogmouth, they feed at night. Unlike owls their feet are weak, they capture prey ranging from large insects to small mammals by seizing them in their beaks. During the day they do a very good impersonation of a branch. This one is sitting on a nest, a flimsy construction of sticks. It’s the male that sits during the day, the sexes alternate at night.

One often sees some very impressive crocodiles on the cruise but November is not a good time for them. It is mating season, none are sitting out lazing the day away, the large males are patrolling their territories and everything else is hiding from them.