Cobbold Gorge

Our itinerary for this trip was built with some inspiration from a tourist website that offered self drive itineraries for North Queensland. Cobbold Gorge was suggested as a side trip from Georgetown when driving west from Cairns to Normanton. Access is by guided tour only and in October tours depart at 8:00 am so we needed to drive in today from Undara and stay overnight for a tour tomorrow morning.

We were up and about early enough to be showered and ready for the Undara Bush breakfast at 7:00 am. That was in a bush setting a hundred metres or so beyond reception. There was juice, cereal, tea and coffee, toast (if you made yourself it over the open fire) and trimmings, and a selection of hot food – sausage, bacon, fried egg, and baked beans. We ate more breakfast than we normally do but were done and back at the van around 7:30 am.

By 8:00 am we were driving out of the campsite and soon turning off on a side road to Kalkani Crater. Majella was driving and did not much enjoy the 6 km or so of corrugated gravel road. At the crater we walked the 600 m up a graded track around the side and reached the rim where we went a little way around for a better view. The wind was gusting strongly and the rim walk did not seem likely to present better views, except of the country on the other side of the crater. We opted to walk back down and drive on.

We stopped about 40 km on at Mount Surprise to fill up with diesel and then drove on another 10 km or so before turning south toward Einasleigh. The obvious route to Cobbold Gorge was via Georgetown but, rather than drive that section of road twice, I had discovered that there was an alternative route via Einasleigh, an old mining town with a river gorge attraction. I had not picked up the name of the gorge so when we saw the sign to Copperfield Gorge at the turn I thought at first it might be another gorge. That was the gorge at Einasleigh.

I had been watching the road to Einasleigh on the road conditions website for the past few weeks. Until a few days ago it had been showing as closed except to 4WD and high clearance vehicles due to boggy conditions. Whatever had been wet must have dried out because we saw a few puddles of water in just one or two creeks along the 40 km or so to Einasleigh. The road was dry and dusty and mostly corrugated so that the van shook and we felt we were getting a vibrating massage. We saw occasional mobs of cattle along the way and some sections where the ant mounds were plentiful enough to make the area look like a cemetery, especially where the mounds were whitish in colour.

We arrived at Einasleigh about 10:30 am. The pub advertised coffee but the machine was broken. We passed on instant coffee, which we could do for ourselves in the van, and settled for ginger beers. After drinking those in the shade we drove the short distance up the street to the Copperfield Gorge and spent a little time wandering on the rocks above the gorge which had a pool of water but no running stream at this time of year.

Majella had already driven two sections of corrugated gravel so I drove on from Einasleigh toward Forsayth, expecting the 70 km or so to be gravel. We were surprised to find that the first half was sealed, much of it reasonably recently and in good condition. The second half was gravel and badly corrugated in places.

We paused at Forsayth near the railway station where the Savannahlander from Cairns terminates. I bought some fresh bread at the shop across the street and we had ham and tomato sandwiches with coffee for lunch. It was hot in the stationary van so we sat at a covered picnic table where there was a hint of breeze.

The 46 km of road from Forsayth to Cobbold Gorge Village was gravel beyond the first couple of kilometres. It twisted and turned with numerous, often steep floodways, and in some places what seemed the deepest corrugations we had encountered. We were relieved to arrive almost intact at the village though it was not until an hour or so later that Majella noticed one of our drawers had shaken loose a screw that held its front and body together. Lacking a screwdriver I used a knife to repair it once I found the screw in the next drawer down.

In the meantime, I had checked us in. We parked the van in our site, closed the curtains, powered up the air conditioner, changed and headed for the infinity pool. The water was cool and we alternated between sun and shade for a while as we cooled down and watched the kangaroos by the nearby dam. One that had been taking a drink got into the water further than it needed for drinking but then we saw it appeared to be eating plant matter floating on the surface of the dam.

We went back to the van. Majella did some laundry and then we relaxed until the sun got lower and the temperature cooled a little from the 35ºC it had been when we arrived.

At 5:00 pm we gathered up our strength and went for a walk. We chose the shortest of the available marked walks, 2.5 km return to a lookout. The track  followed a dry creek bed downstream and ended when it intersected the road from the resort to the gorge. There was not much to be seen at the ‘lookout’. We returned along the same track which was more scenic and shaded than the road which may have been a little shorter. The walk took us about 40 minutes.

Back at the resort we headed for the bar. Majella selected a Pink Sunset cocktail but I stuck with a simple beer. By the time Majella had finished her drink she was craving nuts so I was sent back to the bar to procure nuts with another beer that she helped me drink. 

A bit after 6:30 pm we wandered across to verandah in front of reception where the Telstra signal is strongest to catch up with the world. Then it was back to the van to prepare and eat dinner of tacos to finish what we had started a couple of nights ago. Tomorrow will require an early start for our 8:00 am tour of the gorge.