1, Monday 19'th August 2002.
Hinchinbrook is a national park
and requires camping permits, there are limits to how long you
can say in each place and you file a walk plan. If you fail to
arrive or notify the rangers of delays there will be a search and
rescue initiated. The Thorsbourne trail can be walked in either
direction, we did north to south. At the northern end you take
the cat which services the resort and at the other end you are
ferried to Lucinda by what is little more than a “tinny”
with a roof. We planned to do it in 5 sections (4 camps) and have
one rest day – it didn't turn out that way though. The
arrival is novel because the drainage channels flowing through
the mangroves come withing a hundred meters or so of the ocean at
Ramsay bay. See
last year's page of photos. You can see a channel in the far
left of this photo. The cat goes as far as it can and then the
last bit is by dingy. Then a 5 minute walk to the beach. We had
light drizzle for most of the day. The walk to our first camp and
Nina bay was broken by a walk to Nina peak which is well worth it
but this was also our first of many doses of serious rain.
This (below) was one of the first stops –
Blacksand bay (or is it beach). Unfortunately my track map was
pretty much destroyed by the wet so I can't check it for details.
Anyway this was a difficult shot because we arrived with a group
of botanists who milled about pointing chatting and getting in
the way. I think the quota for the trail is 40 and 23 other
people arrived with us but thankfully pulled ahead after the
At Nina bay we camped on the beach, we were ok there but I
really should have looked at tide chart. This was the first use
of the little hiking tent I bought. It is not great in wet
weather – it didn't leak but it is hard to get into without
letting water (and sand) in. Because of the native rats you hang
your food on rat lines or use rat-boxes if available. Rat lines
are just ropes strung through plastic bottle to keep the rats
from reaching the tucker. I brought some stainless steel wire for
the purpose but didn't need it. I bought a pump-up shellite stove
which worked just fine. We had light rain all night and in the
morning some of our fellow campers turned back. They were elderly
and had individual light tents (they didn't want to share a
better tent) which turned out the leak.
Day 2 -Tuesday.
I didn't take many photos on day
two because of the rain. I would have liked to take some at
boulder bay and other places - maybe next time.
We had a few minutes of sun at little Ramsay bay.
Here you can see the rainwater running into the ocean. You have
to learn where to step while crossing or it is very soft. We had
a dip in the lagoon just upstream. Now what did they say about
crocodiles again – did they say we could or couldn't swim
here – better make it short and keep a lookout. The weird
thing was the water was cold on top and warm at the bottom –
obviously it must have been fresh on top and salty below.
I was told this is a great place to camp but it rained and we
kept going to Banksia bay. We didn't camp on the beach this time
which was just as well because the tide was quite high.
There are no photos of day 3 (to Zoe bay)
because it poured all day. Our $3 raincoats were reaching their
limits and my sleeping bag got soaked inside the pack. We should
have put everything in garbage bags but I didn't know packs leak
so badly. I was already carrying a fairly heavy pack and the
water soaked stuff added even more. But the real problem was the
boots. Had I realized earlier what the problem was I would have
been much better off but I didn't. The problem was the boots had
a cardboard like inner-sole – in the wet they moved,
crumpled up and sat as a lump under my heels. My heels were so
badly bruised they didn't really recover till the week after the
walk. The rain was not the only reason our boot were soaked.
There are a number of creeks to cross and the water was deeper
that usual and sometimes had quite a current. I was quite aware
of the value of the gear in my pack and falling into the drink
would have been an expensive exercise. Next time I will
definitely be making the valuables dunk proof.
around Zoe is amazing. I came back the next day to take these
This was a hard day for me, I was lagging behind
mainly because of the feet also fatigue and sore shoulders.
Natasha had gone ahead and claimed a camp site with a table –
a luxury. We still had to walk further to get water but this was
without a pack or boots. We got back just after dark. We strung
up a “space blanket” above the table to give us a
tiny rain shelter and made pancakes – both sweet and
savory. The interesting touch was we only had chilli-oil to cook
them in and it tasted great. Being wet and hungry may have had
something to do with it. One of our “mistakes” was we
thought we had over catered and we ate too much early on because
I didn't want to carry it. This made things tight later when we
had an unexpected delay. Zoe bay has a huge sand-fly population -
which is why we wanted B5. Go out at night with unprotected skin
and it feels like instant sunburn. Women generally seem to react
worse than men to insect and tick bites.
4 - Thursday.
The weather cleared and we put the wet stuff out
to dry. The camping area slowly became deserted as everyone else
continued to walk. This was our planned rest day. I tried to use
my Image-tank and it kept on crashing. I presume it got wet, I
opened it up and it seemed fairly dry. I short circuited the
battery at one point and damaged the battery's electronics. After
a few hours drying and using a camera battery for power I got it
to work again – but I didn't trust it. (It did work - the
images were ok).
We didn't swim in the sea because we had
been advised not to, a large croc is sometimes seen in the area.
Just before reaching Zoe on the walk in we went through an
amazing forest. Some of the bark was bright red in the wet and
others looked like they had been painted with lichens. At one
point there was mangrove on one side of the track and orchids on
the other. It had been pouring at the time and time was running
out so photos were out of the question. So we went back, it was a
little later than I would have liked and the light was dim. We
spent an hour or two there and went back to camp. We were
planning the leave in the morning so this would have be our last
look at middle and northern ends of the bay. Natasha continued on
towards Zoe falls to get water and have a wash. This is were the
“accident” happened. You don't wash in the waterways
because you don't want soap in there. Natasha collected water and
was having a wash away for the creek and squatted down. She is
used to having eye protection in the form of glasses. She didn't
protect herself from the spiky grass tree (Xanthorrhoea) leaf
which poked her in the eye. This was not good. I found her a
short time after the damage was done and we returned to the camp.
With a torch and my reading glasses I could plainly see to
scratches on her cornea – not good. At this point
evacuation was a definite option – if we could get word
out. We were alone. She put antiseptic cream on the eye, sedated
herself (to reduce eye movement), immobilized the eye as much as
possible and went the bed. It was dark now and I tried to ring
out. I got a patchy signal on my CDMA mobile but not good enough
to talk. I tried different places along to beach with no
improvement. I thought I'd managed to send a couple of SMS
messages but they failed to arrive.
Our plan was now to take a second rest day to let
the eye heal. In the morning a tour boat arrived and we passed a
message to the ferry that we would be a day late. We also got
some eye pads and advice that the phone might work at the far end
of the beach. I went there and called Chris (who was originally
going to be my walking partner but had to drop out). She also
passed a message on the ferry.
We had a fairly lazy day with a
short walk to the falls for a swim. We had a couple of lace
monitors hanging about the camp. They were hard to approach and
this one is 2.5 meters up a tree. It took great interest in an
empty 2 minute noodle packet which had fallen on the ground and I
had to retrieve it from the bushes. We met some yachties there
who were kind enough to donate a bag of paste to our now
inadequate food supply. I also tried to improvise new inner soles
for my boots using a washed up rubber thong – it didn't
Just before dark we went back to the “telephone”
spot. Tried to make a call but the battery went flat. We saw this
twilight (looking east the sun set behind us) and halfway back to
camp the full moon rose over the bay.
6 – Saturday. We headed off to the last camp on this trip –
Mulligan's falls. This photo is from the top of the falls and the
northern end of Zoe bay is in the distance. Not surprisingly the
falls are visible from the end of Zoe Bay and the combination of
palm-trees rain forest, mangroves and mountains is surreal. A few
dinosaurs wandering around would not look out of place. The pool
at the base of the falls is a popular swimming spot complete with
a tarzan style rope swing and spotted grunters (fish) milling
little further on we met Stephane, one of the many Germans who
visit the island. Stephane had a problem – he had brought
too much chocolate along and would we be kind enough to lighten
his load by eating some. Being the helpful souls we are, we
obliged. We were a little under-rationed at that point and a few
extra kilo-joules in the belly was a good thing. Of course my
feet still hurt and having removed the inner sole I was walking
on hard plastic all the way. I can't say I'm fond of carrying a
pack – the discomfort does distract me from what is
otherwise a brilliant walk.
This is the creek upstream from Mulligan's falls, there are
many creek crossings where you basically rock hop across. The
camping ground is fairly small which is probably why you are only
permitted to camp one night. It was damp and the only place we
could sit comfortably was on one of the rat (proof) boxes. During
the night there were crashing noises around the campsite and next
day some tracks were found which are thought to be cassuary
Day 7 – Sunday.
The last walk to George
point is quite easy – not because it is short but because
much of it is along the beach and with the tide we had we could
walk on firm sand. We had a look at the falls first and headed
off. It may be and easy walk but it was still and unknown to us
and we had a hard deadline. We certainly didn't want to missed
the boat. Our supplies were gone and we're not allowed to eat the
This is a little downstream from the falls. The main falls
were partially lit by sunlight and unsuitable for photography
when I was there.
first part of the walk has many creek crossing like this. The
terrain is fairly flat and forested. An easy walk except for my
usual complaints. As you can see drinking water is plentiful but
I missed the last chance to fill up and we skipped lunch at the
point because we only had dried mashed-potato (deb) left and no
water the spare to make it. The only other food stuff we had left
was an avocado which failed to ripen.
we reached the beach the boots came off never to be worn again. I
put them in the first bin I found back on the mainland.
hoping this creek was fresh water but it wasn't. Later Chris told
me she had seen Croc tracks here. I don't like crocs! The
crocodiles are protected and haven't been hunted for decades. The
younger ones haven't learned to fear humans, I didn't see any and
it's the ones you don't see that concern me most.
the way along, the beach was full of patterns of sands balls left
by foraging crabs – kilometers of them. The glitter is
mica. A fine layer of mica covers the sand and the crabs dig it
away to reveal the darker sand below.
We arrived at the point
with an hour to spare and a group of twelve or so sat around the
picnic table and waited. I coveted the food the others had but in
a few hours we were back to the real world of shops and hot
showers and such. Sunday night was BBQ chicken wing night at the
kookaburra lodge were we stayed. We'd been there the previous
Sunday as well so this was our second BBQCWN. The shuttle bus
delivered us in time to hit the shops for salad - as our offering
to the buffet. Stephane was staying there as well and we had a
pleasant time listening to the longer term visitors saying thing
like – “we've got to be home by February” (ie
in 6 months) and “you've got to drive around Australia
anti-clock wise” (because of the prevailing winds,
particularly when towing a caravan). I managed to download all my
images onto the notebook and later had a slide-show for us,
Stephane and someone else I don't remember now. The next stop was
Undara to see the lava-tubes (again).