The sign says it all. “The Bloomfield track is for experienced 4WD drivers only”. OK then off we go. Ladies and Gentle-drivers, start your engines, and strap yourself in!
We’ve spent a few days drilling Bloomfield arrivals to Cape Trib camping and waited out the rains, just to make sure conditions are perfect for us, and our trusty Landcruiser. Crossing our fingers (and hanging on to the ‘Oh Jesus” bar on the experience front!)
The famous Bloomfield Track will take us from Cape York to Cooktown.
It’s a lovely tropical journey over river crossings, past giant stranger figs, looking out over coastal views and on through to the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal and past small villages like Ayton.
I make a mental note to check out the facts of Lieutenant Bloomfield of the HM 48th regiment whom the Bloomfield River was named after. Guess he didn’t make it to the actual track meandering past the river, but pretty sure he’d be chuffed to have this lovely patch of water bearing his name.
The Bloomfield track was a controversial development back in the 1980’s when it was created to link Cape Tribulation to Cooktown though the Daintree Rainforest which as at that time not accessible.
While conservationists mourned the potential damage, many Australians are now also able to gain a glimpse into a beautiful part of Australia while hopefully respecting the opportunity. We only passed 15 or so 4WD and a few lost Britz Australia vans on the day, as well as a road crew and all seemed to be behaving themselves.
Along the track the small townships of Hellensvale and Rosville hark back to a tin mining and pioneer farming past, as well as aboriginal communities.
The Bloomfield Track calls for Two Kids and a Camper to stay the course.
My job on this journey is to get out and photograph every river crossing, keeping my eye peeled for estuarine crocs.
The Squids job is to shout woo-hoo every time we make it to the top of a rugged, steep climb, then down again to the other side.
The Skipper does an excellent job staying focussed, and I do an excellent job not being eaten.
At Wujal Wujal we take the road to the Wujal Wujal (Bloomfield) Falls to check out the lovely waterfall view, and a bit of local one up-manship between a khaki-wearing tour guide on the shores of the river, and a local bloke swimming in the falls spray.
This is Croc Country and there’s a big fella just up the river, ready to nab these Gucci wearing tourists – the silly buggers
he tells us and his posse of foreign guests, gesturing to the swimmers to get out of the water. He’s clearly demonstrating his knowledge of the land to them before he pours them an ‘Authentic billy-tea” back at his 4WD. As he departs, the “Gucci Wearing swimmer” floats over to us and invites us in for a paddle.
“No bloody idea what he’s talking about,” he tells us “I’ve been swimming here for years and crocs cant get up-stream into the Falls – silly bugger.”
Regardless of which silly bugger is correct, we play it safe and take only snaps instead of a dip!
It’s onwards to the Lions Den Hotel.
Built in 1875 on the banks of the Annan River, the Lions Den Hotel is Cape York’s most iconic pub, and it’s a great place to stop and pat ourselves on the back for completing the Bloomfield track.
It’s also bustling with tourists who alight from their air-conditioned coaches which have brought them off the Mulligan Highway about 5km away! Really they should drink at a separate bar to us hardened Bloomfielders!!
We pat the lion’s head at the entrance, knock the top off a celebratory beer, scoff lunch under a century old mango tree, and explore the Lions Den.
Inside Lions den are walls bearing guests signatures, bottled snakes, old beer bottles, historic flotsam and jetsam and quirky paraphernalia left by all sorts of silly buggers as they wander through. The signatures that adorn the walls of the Lions Den stem from an early tradition when miners began leaving their pay packets at the public house, writing up how much they had spent, or still had, up on the wall.
Tourists, now add their own signatures, making it hard to find the original records. Our Squids were keen to add their mark, as their grandparents had before them a few years earlier when visiting, but now that graffiti-priviledge is only granted to guests who camp in the grounds of the Lions Den.
We spent the rest of the Lions Den look-see trying the find Nana and Gramps signatures amongst signed bras, business cards, beer coolers and along the walls.
The track that keep on giving …
Just out of Lions Den as we head towards Cooktown we come across the shadows of the Black Mountain.
We’ve never seen anything like it. Black Mountain National Park is home to a most bizarre tower of large black rocks, said to spontaneously combust when rain hits their hot surface on occasion. It’s also from the Gretatious Period 100 million years ago, which might explain its eerie presence. There’s no rock ka-booming today though so we move on towards Cooktown.
No more encounters of silly buggers to report today!