Lakefield – Palmer River Roadhouse – Port Douglas

After leaving Bramwell Station, we headed into the Lakefield National Park where we planned to camp for the night. We had passed through some of it on the way up but had no idea how stunning it was deeper in. Passing through after some time we were struck by the most amazing scenery, totally unique to any forest I’ve seen before in Australia. At one point, we came to a huge area of open plains that felt like we were somewhere in Africa. Huge termite nests and never-ending fields of dry low lying grasses for as far as the eye could see. We eventually found our camp site, which you had to book before hand as it was in a National Park. Yep. You had to actually book it before hand using a computer at a ranger station. It’s a fairly new Queensland thing apparently to help manage numbers at camp sites or something like that. Anyway, a unit annoying and it means you have to plan out where you are going to stay, you can’t just rock up somewhere. We knew that our particular camp site was next to a large river (safe distance) and in the morning we were told that a 5 metre local crocodile had been seen lurking around recently. The ranger had put up the “recent spotting in this area” sign to go with the normal warning sign. We drove the cars over the river crossing and saw some interesting bird life hanging around. On the way out of Lakefield, we checked out some of the stunning lakes including white lilly lake and red lilly lake – cleverly named for the colour of lilly that blooms in each. An enormous amount of stunning bird life could be seen at each of these locations, including literally thousands of black cockatoos that filled the sky as we drove down one of the powdery off-white dirt roads.

We headed out of the park and made our way to the Palmer River Roadhouse where we camped for the night. We were actually excited to get some ‘fancy’ food and bits and pieces that we had been missing and felt that we were well and truly heading south and back into civilisation! We had met a lovely retired couple on the Old Telegraph Track and they camped next to us for the night, among several chats they recommended that if we were going back Port Douglas way that we had to do a Daintree River Tour and recommended a particular company. We were all keen as we wanted to see some more crocs in the wild and a boat seemed the most likely way. Driving back south toward Port Douglas and the Daintree was quite exciting. You could feel the landscape changing rapidly once again from dry bush land to rich tropical rainforest. We made our way to the Daintree River Cruises for an hour and a half tour. Our guide was a complete legend who was not only very knowledgable but told us all sorts of stories and fascinating tales from his 13 years working on the river. The Daintree River has such a rich history and the 140+ km of river system holds hundreds of adult crocodiles, the biggest of which was documented by a research team in 1990 at over 6 metres in length. As it was very deep into the river system and the team had to fly in by helicopter to record it, noone knows if it is still alive. I’d like to think that this prehistoric giant is still lurking out there somewhere. Into the tour we began to spot baby crocodiles along the riverbanks as our guide introduced the local crocodiles we were trying to find which all had names. Lizzie, another adult female who’s name I forget, Scooter – a juvenile male and Scarface, the dominant male of the area and just over 4 metres long. We spotted them all at their various river bank basking spots. Scarface, who had some vicious run-ins with the previous dominant male of the region and fought to the death was named because of the large scarring either side of his face. When we came close to him, that hair tingling feeling swept over your skin just looking at the size of him as the boat took us within just a few metres of him on the bank. We also saw all sorts of assorted bird species and other various animals along the river banks. Getting up close to the crocodiles and all the stories that came with it was a massive highlight of the trip. Poor little Kat didn’t get what all the fuss was about as no matter how hard we pointed out the crocs, she couldn’t see anything. Unless a croc is snapping away at lunch, a kid just sees them as a big log lying on the ground!

After the river cruise we all went and had a hand at some hardcore Barramundi fishing. OK, yeah it was at a Barra farm. What of it? It was a bit of fun and good to throw some lures out and have a go. We all had bites and hookups but Rita was the only one to truly land a beauty into the net. Still holding out hope for true fish action later on. The couples split off for a few days and enjoyed a bit of R&R in beautiful Port Douglas. Wow, real beds with clean sheets! I took Kerstin out for some birthday pampering and we ate at an incredible Italian restaurant called Buccini. We sat around the pool reading, walked to the beach and lookout, all around the shops and main street and markets at the Marina. Before long the 2 days had disappeared in a flash and we all headed off south again.

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