Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Destination Unknown

Destination Unknown

The idea was not to get hung up about goals and just see where each day would find us, whether driving, walking or paddling. We figured if we set no rules about our destination we would have the right mindset to make every day a real part of the journey.

Four days later as we walked along the rippled grey sands of Zoë Bay watching a procession of clouds climb the jungle slopes of Mount Bowen we were content to be on the paddling stage of our 2012 winter escape.

In the sand we saw another set of footprints on an otherwise pristine beach and then a single wavy line traced in the sand on either side of the one word inscription: “journey”. There were peaks and troughs, hearts and crosses all tied into the trace; it wound around the carapace and skull of a turtle that had remained unmoved since the creature’s demise; and then the eloquent graphic wound off into the dense regrowth. By tomorrow morning the thin line in the sand would be washed away and we would be tracing our own meandering course to Sunset Beach via Nina Bay.

When we launched out of Lucinda our only plan was to paddle north visiting some favourite locations from previous trips and also to check out some places that we had sailed straight past on earlier longer and faster trips.

From our first camp at Hinchinbrook, we walked through the rainforest to Zoë Falls and watched the Jungle Perch hunting in the plunge pool;

 and some very big snails chomping away on the forest floor. 

At Sunset Beach, under the forest canopy, we splashed around in a fresh water pool along with hatchlings of at least a dozen different species of fish including Mangrove Jack and baby Barramundi. Above us, a massive tree orchid in full bloom.  

Our camp had a wicker chair amongst the flotsam and Sharon quickly took up residence and assumed a regal air.

Goold Island offered an easy portage on a rising tide and a forest campsite close to the water. After dark a shallow drafted power boat headed up into the shallows with a large spotlight. It was hard not to think about the fact that they were looking for crocs in the mangroves adjacent to our camp, but we didn't let the possibility of being eaten by a large lizard spoil a cool starlit night.

A number of times we have paddled straight past Coombe Island trying to make extra ground en route to Cooktown and it always looked so inviting. This time, without a destination to drive us, the short day from Goold was just fine and left the afternoon for swimming and exploring among the very photogenic granite boulders that face southwest and reflect the setting sun.

Paddling to Stephens Island the clouds massed over the hinterland and the breeze lifted in strength for the first time, giving us a good push as we negotiated the obstacle course of jagged rocks and coral at the seaward end of King Reef.

Long before we saw it we heard the low pitched, gut rattling call of a humpback whale seemingly singing to us for the last couple of miles as we paddled over foul ground; the huge creature just effortlessly gliding through the hazards that seemed so close beneath our hulls.

We didn't really discuss staying another night at Stephens Island, we were just busy beach-combing and enjoying the view as it appeared and disappeared through low cloud and then it was lunchtime, so there was no decision to make. Rainforest bird-calls provided our sound scape.

To the southwest Clump Point provides a launch site for charter boats and itinerant yachts so it was no surprise when day trippers and crew from “Big Mama” sailed out of the gathering mist to shelter in the lee of our retreat. After exchanging notes on sources of freshwater, recent whale sightings, sharks, crocs and the prevailing weather, we left our day trippers to their own explorations; there was plenty of paradise to go around.

Later in the afternoon as the charter weighed anchor the Skipper came ashore with fresh mackerel fillets, kebabs and a delicious selection of freshly cut salads for our dinner. We had eaten all our good food and were steeling ourselves for our first unadorned dehydrated meal when this feast arrived ready to go; a fitting last dinner on the islands and a truly generous gesture by the skipper.

As we pushed off Stephens Island into the sea fog with a steady breeze and metre of running sea, all I could see was Sharon’s boat and the waves rolling in and out of our narrow field of view. Our vivid sails were the only relief in a monochromatic seascape.

The next day as we stood in the rain at Flying Fish Point looking out into the same heavy grey overcast we started talking about Carnarvon Gorge and weighed up the benefits of another three days of paddling in the rain and fog, against a bushwalking detour to Carnarvon Gorge on our return leg……

Deep, cool, damp canyons : Carnarvon Gorge National Park

Camping under ancient Macrozamias : Carnarvon Gorge National Park

Taking a helicopter ride: Carnarvon Gorge National Park

"Three Sisters": Carnarvon Gorge

1 comment:

Deb and Brian said...

Hinhinbrook and Coombe Island still remain our most enjoyable paddling experience, Great story and pics.

Brian & Deb