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Cooktown

Beyond the Bloomfield Track

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Beyond the Bloomfield Track

It's a day's drive from Cooktown to the 537,000Ha Lakefield National Park, finally setting up camp at Horshoe Lagoon, a serene patch of water covered in white lillies and a favourite haunt of brolgas, parrots and assorted waterbirds.

At the end of the day we meet a group of twitchers camped across the way, having also arrived from Cooktown. "You've come from the south," they ask, eyebrows raised, "from the Daintree, then Cooktown?" We both nod. "You saw the accident on the Bloomfield?" Ah, no. We know nothing of any 'accident'.

Our neighbours are visibly shaken and tell us a vehicle travelling south towing a large trailor-van lost control on a downhill section of the Cowie Range. "You must have seen it!" The driver was badly injured, they tell us, the van and vehicle wrecked, with stunned onlookers sitting around while awaiting an ambulance.

We look at each other but say nothing. As it happens, we did pass an ambulance travelling south that morning... but with no siren and no apparent urgency.

We spend a restless night, our sleep disrupted by wild pigs that grunt and slosh in the shallows just metres from our parked truck... us bothered by thoughts of the Bloomfield Track - with its river crossings and one particularly steep section through the Cowie Range - and us travelling that same treacherous section of the Bloomfield Track uphill, needing low 4WD and 1st gear, maybe minutes before the accident.

The next day we briefly pick up some phone coverage while travelling, a Google search confirming the injured driver was killed on impact.

Postcript - 30 June 2017 - At Laura, Queensland, for the Cape York Aboriginal Dance Festival, a Daintree Parks Ranger tells us there have been 3- Daintree road fatalities in the last 2-months.

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Local info rules, OK?

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Local info rules, OK?

From the Daintree and Cape Tribulation we drive up the iconic Bloomfield Track to Cooktown, to then head directly north and the isolated Cape Melville on our roundabout route to Cape York - until today that is. But as always, we've wondered about the condition of the roads, and it's not until Cooktown where we finally get the low-down... the good oil... the truth about the actual situation on the ground up there at Melville.

Jane works at the Tourist Information Centre and cafe, just by the Botanical Gardens, and is eager to help with a wealth of advice after having been in The Gulf regional health field for many years.

She scratches her head, tilting her head to one side. Jane seems to recall a possible problem with our plan. "Well it's like this", Jane says. "You just can't beat local info... and I do remember... something." She screws up her eyes in deep thought, deferring to a tall visitor in khaki sitting on the veranda.

"Yeah", the man says, tweaking the wide, warped brim of a lopsided Akubra that's seen more than its share of Gulf weather, "it's been pretty damn wet up there for this time of year, even Park rangers haven't been in yet." He shakes his hatted head. "In fact there's someone stuck out there right now." He nods knowingly, seems to be talking more to himself now. "Had to get a chopper to lift those blokes out. Mmmm... up here for a boys' weekend." His smile is a thin smile. "A pretty expensive exercise that, 'specially since they should never have been up there in the first place."

We thank him and Jane for the info, and order Jane's zucchini chocolate cake and 2-flat whites, our maps, booklets and pamphlets in piles on the table.

It's true we have our GPS, hard-copy maps, phones, internet and  iPad. But we definitely get the picture. Up here, we are learning that things can get sticky at the drop of a grotty Gulf hat... and it's local knowledge that wins every time.

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