After doing more research about getting to Maytown in the Palmer River Goldfields Reserve the indications were that the way through Palmerville Station was closed due to road damage by the wet season. So we hitched up and made for the alternative route via Whites Creek Road. The turn off is 68km north of Mount Carbine Roadhouse on the Peninsula Developmental Road. But first we bought some munchies at Dimbulah Bakery and then made for the Walsh River where we camped last year. This spot needs 4×4 to access, and lies on a back-road between Dimbulah and Atherton. This is in the heart of mango plantations. Only after we had set up camp did we hear the repetitive bird gun going off in the distance and it did not let up for all the time we spent there. We gathered some firewood and had a roaring fire that night.
Approaching Mareeba we were surprised to see around one hundred camps at the Mareeba Rodeo Grounds and learnt afterwards that they had come for Christmas in July. Another visit to the local bakery and a gas bottle exchange saw us on the road north again. We took a side track to the Mareeba Wetlands and only when we were close did we see a sign stating No Dogs allowed. Bugger that we thought, and kept going. Jeddah sat quietly in the wagon while we went and had a look around. We actually found a good book there being Plants of Cape York and bought it. We also saw the small breeding colony of Gouldian Finches the Wetlands were engaged with. Every year they release around 25 pairs in to the wild. Next stop was Mount Molloy rest Area for smoko. This place was crowded too with overnighters running their generators to keep their satellite TV’s going. Further along the road we climbed a steep road over a pass to get back over the Great Dividing Ranges.
We turned west at Whites Creek Road which was unmarked and proceeded along a wide graded road which wound its way in and out of the hills. The ups and downs were extremely steep and I had to resort to using Low Range gearing to get up and down the hills. At the bottom of each dip there was either ponded water or a creek running and so the going was slow.
Whites Creek Road
There was plenty of bulldust too. The scenery was spectacular and the 68 kilometres to the Palmer River took us exactly three hours to negotiate. Then we had to cross the flowing river but after walking through to gauge the depth, we made it across without trouble. We set up camp along the river bank in a pleasant spot acquiring our space at just the right time though only two other camps came in after us. There is enough space along the kilometre stretch of area to space camps so that one is not intruding upon others and vice versa. Our little van had had no ingress of dust or water for the journey, which was very pleasing.
We shared our camp with a variety of birdlife, scrub cattle and wild horses. They all seemed unafraid of humans and invaded our camp on a regular basis. Jeddah got into the run of seeing the cattle off and she had them bluffed. The horses gave us a wide birth. Mornings were busy on the river fringes with Honeyeaters, Rainbow Birds, Rainbow Lorikeets, Bower Birds, Crows, Hawks, Brolgas and even a Jabiru keeping the pace going. Within 50 metres of our camp was a lovely deeper section of the now shallow-flowing Palmer River, where we could immerse ourselves for a refreshing dip. There was plenty of dead wood around so we kept our fire going of an evening and cooked over it most nights. We discovered the activities of a Greater Bowerbird who was building his nest less than five metres from our caravan. He seemed unperturbed by our presence and even less impressed with the blue clothes-peg we left for his nest.
The now ghost town of Maytown, where businesses and a community flourished during the late 1800’s and up to 1945 lies 10km north of the Palmer River. Once again, the road in, is rough in places. We spent a morning looking at where the community thrived and at some of the old derelict mines in the area. It is a fascinating place and although all of the buildings, except one Replica Miners Hut, are gone from history, the paving stones still lie there to denote their tale of existence. It must have been a hard life for some as the gravestones give up dates of a number of persons departing this life before the age of 50. The Chinese Cemetery had no headstones and only an inscription written in Chinese letters over the walkway through the gate. We also had a good look at some of the abandoned mines and wondered at the sheer size of some of the mining equipment and just how they could have been transported to this remote locality. Here we were, driving in 4×4 mode, along these bush tracks. Back in the early days they only had drays, pulled by horses or oxen.
The main thoroughfare of Maytown with its gutter stones
With the price of Gold being what it is today new mining ventures backed by big mining capital have sprung up again the Maytown area. It seems that they will continue to be looking for the shiny stuff.
After five nights out there it was time to move on and we made for Cooktown on the north east coast. The outward journey only took 2 hours with 23 major hills to crawl over.