Mudbricks and Mud Crabs

Deep ford crossing

15-May 2008 to 16-May 2008:About another 15 minutes into the hike, I noticed that Julie paused when we got to a stream crossing. When I caught up to her, I could see why she hesitated. The stream crossing looked awfully deep and running pretty fast. But the park did put chains to hold onto for balance. I was pretty sure I could make it across without getting my feet wet with my gore-tex boots. But Julie's low-top day-hike shoes might get some water in it...

We awoke at 6am to a sunrise where its rays broke through a scattering of patchy clouds. It wasn't easy leaving the Airlie Beach especially after a relaxing day yesterday at the Whitsunday Islands.

It was too bad I lost some $70USD sunglasses somewhere on Whitsunday Island because from here on out, I had to be squinting until we buy a new pair (not a pleasing thought especially given the weak dollar).

We left Airlie Beach at 7:10am and we embarked on yet another long drive.

Eventually, after over 4 hours of driving and listening to Triple J (especially Science with Dr. Karl), our GPS software came alive and informed us to turn left. It turned out that we made a left for the signposted Jourama Falls. It also looked like this part of Queensland had seen some rains recently given the wet ground and some of the squalls we passed through along the way.

The first water crossingAnyways, we got through the park gates and before long, we entered a pretty deep-looking concrete ford. It looked rather scary, but they did open the gates so it must've been passable. So with hesitation, I proceeded slowly hoping water wouldn't creep through the doors and leak inside. I also didn't want the car to stall or short in that ford either!

Well the ford wasn't all that bad (as scary as it was), but I was a little nervous that threatening heavy rains might raise the water levels and strand us while we're on the other side. Not exactly optimal conditions to enjoy a hike.

The long water crossingA few minutes later, we reached another, seemingly longer concrete ford. This too looked scary (perhaps even more so than the first one). But that didn't deter me.

By 11:40am, we were finally at the Jourama Falls car park. There were already a few cars parked here so this must've been a pretty popular attraction even given the somewhat high water conditions.

On the Jourama Falls trackWorried about mosquitoes and humidity and knowing that our hike was about an hour each way, it took us about 15 minutes to get ready.

But before long, we got right to walking. About another 15 minutes into the hike, I noticed that Julie paused when we got to a stream crossing. When I caught up to her, I could see why she hesitated.

Julie pondering whether to do the stream crossingThe stream crossing looked awfully deep and running pretty fast. But the park did put chains to hold onto for balance. I was pretty sure I could make it across without getting my feet wet with my gore-tex boots. But Julie's low-top day-hike shoes might get some water in it.

Now crossing the scary streamAfter gingerly making our way across this stream crossing, it looked like there were more water crossings (it was all part of the same stream). Some parts looked rather difficult to stay dry and balanced at the same time. The rocks were slippery, but they did place upside down white barrels filled in with dirt in strategic spots to act as steps.

Still more stream to goEventually at the end of this hairy stream crossing, we had to boulder scramble over wet boulders before we finally got to the other side of the width of the stream path.

Walking on slippery rocks near the edge of the streamAt that point, there was a fork in the trail. The left path went towards some pools. Obviously with the water levels looking like they're a bit high, I doubted anyone would be swimming here, but we checked it out anyways just to see what was there.

Near the so-called swimming rock poolsIt turned out that there really wasn't a whole lot to see except the top of what looked like Jourama Falls way in the distance. We didn't feel like doing any scrambling so we took our photos and didn't bother proceeding further to see where the actual pools would be (assuming we didn't find it where we were at; it looked unswimmable).

So we headed back to the ford then proceeded to go uphill. The uphill lasted for a while and it drenched us in sweat. We heard some voices down below and we caught glimpses of some youngsters swimming. I guess that confirmed we didn't arrive at the swimming pool after all. Besides, these youngsters were swimming in relatively high water conditions.

Approaching the viewing platformEventually, we reached the viewing platform. At that point, Jourama Falls was before us. It was actually a series of several disjoint tiers. We could capture at most 5 tiers in my wide angle camera, but there was at least another tier further below. It was quite impressive, but it was one of those things where I'm sure photos don't do it justice.

Jourama FallsAs we were enjoying the falls, we did notice quite a few tiny gnats, but we weren't sure if there were mosquitoes in there or not. We did have DEET on so we don't know if any of these little gnats or midges bite.

After going back through the deep stream crossings uneventfully (albeit with plenty of mental stress), we returned to the car park at 1pm. The air conditioning of the car was a welcome relief from the mugginess.

At 1:35pm, we made a stop at the Ingham Info Centre. I wasn't sure if Wallaman Falls was hard to get to or not, but I was more interested in whether we would be able to do Blencoe Falls - the waterfall that was on the show Survivor. I had read in my research that it required a 4wd vehicle, which was bad news for our Toyota Corolla hire car. In any case, I learned that Wallaman Falls was easy to get to, but I didn't get the inside scoop on Blencoe Falls.

Looking towards Hinchinbrook IslandAt 2:40pm, we arrived at Cardwell, which was one of the towns close to Hinchinbrook Island just offshore to the east. That island was famous for the multi-day Thorsborne Trail, but we weren't going to do it.

We had trouble finding the Mudbrick Manor, which was where we were supposed to stay for the next two nights. So we arrived at the Rainforest & Reef Centre in the middle of Cardwell. That was where we got verbal instructions from the kind people working at the information kiosk there. That was also where I learned that Blencoe Falls was not reachable from Cardwell via Kennedy thanks to Cyclone Larry two years ago. They were saying I could forget about doing it in our 2wd and that I needed local knowledge and a 4wd anyways. At this point, I really wished there was something like a 4wd "Survivor Tour" for the falls, but there wasn't.

Ten minutes later, we headed back south outside the town of Cardwell until we found the obscure turnoff going inland. From there, we finally found the Mudbrick Manor, but there was no one there! I hoped we weren't locked out of our room for the night!

The Mudbrick Manor near CardwellSo Julie pulled out her cell phone (good thing about having GSM), and made a rather expensive call. Eventually, she reached the manager and she said she'd come by soon. In the mean time, she encouraged us to walk into the property and pick a room.

At 3:40pm, the co-owner Beth finally showed up. From that point on, we were able to get checked in and settled. We weren't able to try their dinner on this night (they needed advance notice), which we had read was really good. So we asked for dinner with them tomorrow, and in the mean time, we went back into Cardwell looking for dinner.

Whilst in town, we noticed that mud crabs seemed to be the local dish that was the "must have" for the area. But then we had to overcome the sticker shock of the equivalent of around $80 USD for a crab! We eventually settled on an Aussie-Indian place that had mud crabs at a more reasonable price while accompanying it with Indian curry and rice.

We took the food to go and ate at the Mudbrick Manor's dining room. The food was a bit messy and perhaps a bit too much food. We were way stuffed at the end of the meal.

Anyhow, we called it a day and slept well in our charming and roomy accommodation.

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We were spending another night at Mudbrick Manor so we weren't in any hurry to eat our complementary breakfast.

We left the accommodation at 7:45am and headed south back towards Ingham. The goal for this morning was to see Wallaman Falls, which is believed to be the country's tallest single-drop waterfall.

It took about a half-hour to return to Ingham, but then we had to take a little detour in town as there was some construction going on before eventually rejoining the road going west towards Wallaman Falls and Girringun National Park.

The drive at this point passed through lots of sugar cane fields (which reminded me a lot of Hawaii for some reason). There was one stretch of trees that seemed out of place because they looked like pine trees, which was strange since we're in a sub-tropical area and pine trees (if that's what they were) grow in colder high-altitude climates.

Eventually, the road became unsealed and narrower as it started ascending some hills underneath some tree canopies. There were signs warning us about cassowaries, but we weren't quite sure what exactly they were. Were they birds? Some kind of marsupial? In any case, I didn't want to hit any animals and cause damage to the hire car (even though we took out the Collision Damage Waiver this time around).

Wallaman FallsAt 9:15am, we reached the car park for Wallaman Falls. There were already a handful of cars here.

The start of the trail to the baseWe caught a look at the big waterfalls from the lookouts near the car park. With the day shaping up to be sunny, I had a feeling there would be rainbows, but I wasn't sure when. One thing for certain was that the rainbows haven't showed up yet. So we started to walk to the base of the falls vowing to come back to the overlooks here later in the day.

Panorama before the descent to the base of the fallsSo we proceeded to make the walk down to the base. We paused at a panoramic overlook before the trail descended.

Descending into the rainforestAt that point, it started going into the canopy of rainforest. We saw several interpretive signs along this stretch. One of them talked about that dreaded stinging tree. So to the best of our ability, we tried not to brush any exposed skin with the leaves of trees straddling the trail or even overgrowing towards it.

Lots of green this deep down in the gorgeAnother interpretive sign talked about those pine-tree-looking trees. They were actually some other kind of tree and they weren't pine trees. Even the sign said many people mistake them for pine trees (as we had).

Rainbow at the base of Wallaman FallsThe descent to the bottom of the falls seemed like it took forever. But eventually, we got to the lightly misty base. And it was down there that we finally got to see rainbows off to the side of the waterfall.

Had to be careful not to touch stinging tree leavesAfter getting our fill of the falls, we had to make the long climb back out. Learning from our experience at Catarata Gocta in Peru, we knew that the key to long uphill stretches like this was to pace yourself and take slow, but rhythmic steps. So we employed this strategy, but it was still hot, long, and tiring.

Back at Wallaman Falls but now it has a rainbowIn any case, we were back at the car park a little before noon. And we arrived just in time to see rainbows arcing before its base.

At 12:10pm, we returned to the car and headed back to Ingham where we decided to do a little bit of grocery shopping to restock on our fruits, water, and snacks.

At 1:40pm, we left Ingham and headed north back to the Mudbrick Manor to drop off our groceries. 35 minutes later, we did that and then we left for Murray Falls further north of us at 2:35pm. We managed to get a lunch to go that consisted of a Barra Burger. It was quite a while since the last time we had ourselves barramundi. In fact, I remembered having barra when we were in the Northern Territory back in June 2006.

Our first look at Murray FallsAt 3:10pm, we followed the signs and eventually got to the car park for Murray Falls. With the late afternoon sun, we got some pretty decent light on the short but well-flowing falls as it was tumbling some 20m over rounded rocks. It kind of reminded me of a smaller version of Peppermint Creek Falls in the Sequoia National Forest.

Murray Falls viewing platformIt was a good thing it was a short 300m walk to get to the falls because we didn't feel like doing the longer walk to the top of the falls. While checking out the falls, we also noticed a lone turtle sitting on a rock near one of the neighboring plunge pools. I think this was the first time we had ever seen a turtle in Oz.

Turtle at Murray FallsAt 3:55pm, we were back in the car. By 4:30pm, we were back at the Mudbrick Manor.

At this point, Julie and I debated whether or not to squeeze in a short trip to yet another waterfall, which the inn owners Beth and Ed said was Attie Creek Falls.

With there still being some daylight left, we decided to go for it. So we took off at 5:15pm. We were going off some chicken scratch directions given to us by the Rainforest & Reef Centre in town yesterday. So based on these directions, we went behind town and got to the Attie Creek Picnic Area at 5:30pm.

Attie Creek FallsThe sun was already in the midst of setting so we didn't have much time to spare. In no time, we walked (and ran) quickly as the trail kept climbing. Eventually we got to the 15m or so falls about 15 minutes later.

Looking downstream in the twilight from the base of the fallsThe falls was rather thin and I could see it dry up in a few more weeks. There were also more tiers to this waterfall, but those lower tiers were hard to see. Nonetheless, at least the main falls was flowing so we took photos with the help of the tripod given the low light.

At 5:55pm, we returned to the car. By now, it was pretty dark.

By 6:10pm, we were back at Mudbrick Manor. We wasted no time showering to wash off DEET and other accumulated filth from our long day of waterfalling.

All in all, it seemed like today was the first real successful day of waterfalling in a while. So it was fitting that we would celebrate our accomplishment today with a delicious prepared dinner courtesy of Beth and Ed at the Mudbrick Manor.

Have a waterfall travel story you'd like to share?

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