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Hinchinbrook Island - 2002.
Wishing I was there.

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A year has passed, it has been a busy year, no trips away – it would be nice though. Mars is rising over Zoe bay as I type this - that would be a sight to see. Last year this time we were on our walk. This was the one and only time I've been back-packing, I hope it isn't the last. We made a few mistakes in preparation and had one accident.
My biggest mistake was buying cheap boots (above) – even sand shoes would have been better. I didn't want to break in new hard boots on the trip so I bought some dirt cheap flimsy things. They would have been ok in the dry - but it wasn't. Natasha's pack was not very good and I made the mistake of assuming the packs were water-proof. We also left one packet of flat bread in the car. We wanted to take vitamin B but couldn't get any at Cardwell before the departure. The other thing we couldn't buy was a small shovel. We bought some ham in a suitable tin instead and made a point of eating that early on – the tin was fine to dig with.

Camera stuff.
Being a keen photographer with a digital camera, I budgeted 4 Kilos for camera gear. I designed and built a solar charger for the Lithium Ion batteries my powershot G2 uses. A 5W flexible solar panel provided the juice for it. I also bought a 20 Gig portable hard drive to save the images (an image-tank) – I could charge that too. I also borrowed a couple of 512M flash cards and I already had a 1 Gig micro drive. I also bought a lighter tripod. I took 600 photos and fluked a few.

Day 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 first day.

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.

Day 3- Wednesday.
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.
The forest around Zoe is amazing. I came back the next day to take these photos.
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.

Day 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.

Day 5 -Friday.
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 really work.

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.

Day 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 around.

A 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 tracks.

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 wildlife.

This is a little downstream from the falls. The main falls were partially lit by sunlight and unsuitable for photography when I was there.

The 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.

When 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.
I was 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.

All 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).

Ciao Eddie.M.

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