You shall pass - Old Grafton Road, NSW
I read with interest the article Not Conquer the Divide in the May issue of The Wanderer. We began touring in 1965 with a Kombi van, and had always been peeved by signs that read four-wheel-drive only, hence the eventual move to 4X4. In 2014, we bought a 4X4 motorhome, an Explorer based on a Mitsubishi Triton.
We had come across the Top End from WA via Jim Jim and Twin Falls and up to Cooktown through the Daintree and the Bloomfield Track. We decided to do a waterfall crawl down the east coast so we got ourselves into the Great Divide at the earliest opportunity.
We travelled largely on unsealed roads and forestry tracks including some fire breaks, coming out of the bush only to replenish our fuel; food for us and diesel for the vehicle.
We spent 11 days in the Atherton Tablelands, where there are dozens of beautiful waterfalls. These range from the ‘almost perfect’ Milla Milla Falls to the tiny cascades on local creeks. We were lucky that we had two days of heavy rain which made the falls all the more interesting. It also made the tracks interesting and the edges soft.
We ventured onto a narrow track to Tully Gorge where about half way down we met a large motorised crane heading out. There was some interesting shuffling of vehicles owing to the long drop on our side and the high bank on the other. Eventually we found a place to squeeze past. The crane had just placed a new bridge over one of the creeks. At the end of the road we found that the Tully Fall no longer existed. However, thankfully, the view was worth the trip.
While looking for one fall that proved to be unreachable, as it was on private property, we were told of another that was worth a visit. We gave it a go only to fi nd it was at a holiday park where there was an entrance fee. Ever resourceful, we found a walking track on the other side of the river and had a look for free. One waterfall we just ‘had’ to visit was Murray Falls on the Murray River, north Queensland.
Next came Wallaman Fall. At 300m it’s the highest in Australia – a spectacular sight, and there’d been just enough rain to liven it up. We continued on and spent the night in a quiet spot returning to the fall the next morning for another look and to take more photos.
Best Of All Lookout - Springbrook Mtn NP, Qld
There were three road maintenance men setting up their signs ready for the day’s work and we asked them about bush roads in the area. After a quick look at our vehicle they gave us the benefi t of their intimate local knowledge. Invaluable.
We then headed for Fox Crater, which the sign said was 27km up the road. After a couple of hours we thought we must have missed a turn so stopped at a farmhouse to enquire only to be told that we still had about 20km to go and that the sign was wrong. That information proved to be correct and we made it to the base of the cinder cone surrounding the crater. A steep climb up, and then a slide back down.
We decided to take a shortcut back to civilisation as we were getting short of fuel. The shortcut turned out to be a long cut via Hidden Valley and we discovered just how far our Explorer would go after the low fuel light came on.
Gostwyck Chapel, NSW
As always, some of the best places we go, we get there by accident. And this was no exception. We had a trip down a winding road through Paluma Range National Park with interesting road signage and another waterfall.
I can hear some readers asking “why didn’t they use their GPS?” Well, the answer is we prefer not to. We have one and it is useful when in the bush as it tells us the direction, name of roads (if any) and we can see nearby rivers and water, etc. on the screen.
When we were working and we had to get to the destination and back within a time limit it would have been useful. But now, we only have loose time constraints and the journey is much more important than the destination so we prefer to wing it. We meet interesting people when we ask for directions and often when we approach a remote farmhouse we find they have a mobile home, caravan, camper-trailer or something to do what we are doing when they too retire. This often leads to conversation and some priceless local knowledge. All way too precious to miss by using a get-you-there-and-back GPS.
As waterfalls were a bit thin on the ground we came down from the hills to Sarina with the idea of travelling the old Crystal Highway to Rockhampton. We last travelled that way in our Kombi in 1966 when it was just one lane of broken bitumen with wide stony verges. Many of the culverts were only one lane wide, which meant you kept your eyes open when you moved over for oncoming vehicles. It was called the Crystal Highway because of the glass from the hundreds, if not thousands, of broken windscreens that littered the road. The toughened glass shattered into small pieces that glinted in the sun, hence the crystal. Its official name these days is the Marlborough Sarina Road. The road has fallen on hard times and the abandoned road houses and motels looked as if the operators had just walked out and left them.
Winching self-recovery, Mile Road - Morton NP, NSW
While heading for Mapleton and the Falls NP we spotted a road sign for Kureelpa Falls. At the end of the road a sign pointed out the track. As we headed off to walk to the falls we were joined by a dog which guided us there and back (see letters, The Wanderer, Nov 2015). We’d left a note for the owners and that night they rang. They had no idea their dog was acting as guide while they were away.
We had a relative to look up in Brisbane, which gave us a couple of days break before heading back into the hills.
When we did we headed south for O’Reilly’s via Tamborine Mountain. Here Margaret took a five-hour walk round a waterfall circuit while I spent the time inspecting the plane wreck and photographing a snake which was warming its self in the sun. There was also a small matter of a missing wedding ring that spouse had mislaid. I did find it, just in time for her return.
Three days followed spent in and around Lamington NP, Natural Bridge and Binna Burra then on to Springbrook and The Best of All Lookout with its spectacular views into the Mountains of NSW.
Next stop was Queen Mary Falls, then the many cascades of Toonumbar NP.
Kanangra Walls - Kanangra Boyd NP, NSW
Heading further south we passed through a ‘town’ called Wilson’s Downfall; a paddock full of old tractors was the most notable feature. We spent the night on the bank of the beautiful Clarence River.
We went into Glen Innes for fuel for us and the Explorer then headed down the Mann River Road, which was the old coach road to Grafton.
We turned off onto the Tommy’s Rock Lookout Track. It tested our 4WD capability but we made it right to the lookout – what a fabulous view of the mountains and valleys of the Mann River Reserve. We passed through the road tunnel after walking it first to check for camber changes that could tip us sideways into the tunnel wall.
We turned off the Mann River Road at the old gold mining town of Dalmorton and headed for the Guy Fawkes NP. We spent two days roaming round the NP looking for falls. A couple of rangers told us the road we sought was closed and locked as a bridge was down. They also told us of a way round that was open as they would be in there working – some more of that wonderful local knowledge.
We came across a large lizard which promptly climbed a tree to hide from me. As I walked round the tree it moved round to keep the tree between us. It didn’t worry about Margaret, just me. Margaret said that was understandable. I wonder what she meant?
We emerged from the NP at Hernani then on to the aptly named Waterfall Way. In this area is the Wollomombi Fall; at 220m it’s the second highest in Australia. Our progress took in Dorrigo, New England, Oxley Wild Rivers and Werrikimbe national parks, then through Ellenborough and Ellenborough Falls, the third highest at 160m.
Wallaman Falls - Girringun NP, Qld
From Gloucester we headed into the Barrington Tops NP. According to our map we were at between 600 and 800 metres in elevation, it was going to be a cold night. We contemplated running our heater all night but decided to toughen up a bit to prepare us for Kosciuszko in a few days time.
The next morning we discovered it was 1°C inside. Water in the kettle was frozen, ditto the drink bottle. Our diesel heater refused to fire up – it had never failed before. We tried several times; read the handbook; still did no good. By this time we had the kettle boiled and breakfast inside us.
Margaret headed off on the one-hour walk to a waterfall while I did the housework. As always when doing this Margaret carried a hand-held UHF radio. We kept in touch every 15 or 20 minutes, which gave us both some peace of mind.
About 10 o’clock I tried the heater again and it fired up okay. We put it down to tropical diesel in the separate heater tank. At the earliest opportunity we filled it up with local diesel and had no more trouble.
Gloucester Tops Road, NSW
Later in the day while looking for a particular waterfall we ran into a park ranger who told us that the little cascade nearby was the waterfall in question but if we wanted to see a ‘real’ waterfall there was one further up the mountain. He gave us excellent directions, which included distances from certain road junctions. We found the track easily enough and Margaret headed off on the one-hour return journey, complete with radio of course.
Morans Falls Track - Lamington NP, Qld
The following day we ended up at Jenolan Caves where we drove through the tunnel/cave and out the other side to Kanangra Walls where we spent a quiet night with only a lone mopoke to keep us company.
We stopped in Oberon for fuel and to get the oil changed in the Explorer. Just to prove how small the world is, the bloke doing the oil change had a brother living in our home town in Tasmania.
Continuing south via the Blue Mountains we came to roost a little short of Goulburn where we found a quiet spot a few hundred metres off the road.
After having a look at Tiangara Falls we headed down the Twelve Mile Road to George Boyd Lookout and Granite Falls. There had been some rain overnight and while negotiating a soft clay section of road we bellied out and had to use our winch for the first time this trip. I had tried to drive along the top of the ridges between the ruts but slid off after a few metres. There were plenty of trees to put the anchor rope around and we were out in a few minutes.
After a quiet night in the bush we found our folding step would not live up to its name. Inspection showed that the mechanism was filled with clay which had dried out overnight and locked it solid. A little work with a screwdriver soon had it working and we were off searching for more waterfalls.
From Braidwood we turned almost due south for Cooma via Numeralla and the Tuross Falls. This road from Oranmeir to Numeralla was a real heart breaker; there were dozens of dead wombats on and near the road. It was relatively slow going, less than 20km/h, so drivers should have had plenty of time to miss them. We could only conclude that many of them may have been deliberately hit. Sad.
At Jindabyne we took the Barry Way, which roughly follows the Snowy River valley through the mountains.
We stopped at the Wallace Craigie Lookout where we spoke to a couple towing a caravan through the road contrary to prominent signs at each end of the road. We’re glad we didn’t meet them on some of the narrow, steep and winding sections.
We spent the night in the Snowy valley. After a white frost we crossed the border and passed through Suggen Buggen and began the climb out of the valley. Seldom Seen Roadhouse eluded us, maybe we blinked. Buchan was our next major stop.
Richmond Range Forest, NSW
We took the back road between Bairnsdale and Sale where we turned off for Yarram and Foster. And finally, down Wilsons Prom to Tidal River, which is the furthest point south on the mainland that you can drive.
That concluded our trip down the Great Divide. We lost count of the waterfalls we visited; many were not marked on our maps or guide books. We found some by accident, some pointed out by locals or park rangers. Every waterfall was different, we don’t have a favourite, but we’ve probably seen enough to last us a while. Until next year at least.
Spring Creek Road, Qld
The Great Dividing Range is a spectacular and interesting place to visit in part or to travel at length. Each day is different, from the stunning sunsets and sunrises to the diverse and unique flora and fauna.
When we bought the Explorer in 2014 it had 43,000km on the clock. We fitted the bullbar and winch, an on-board compressor and locking diffs front and rear. We also modified the towbar to hold an extra spare wheel, a long-handled shovel and a reversing camera. We had no mechanical problems, not even a puncture, we only got stuck once and our winch easily pulled us out with a minimum of fuss.
Since then (in 2015) we have spent a couple of months in and around Corner Country, but that’s a story for another time. This year we will be back on the ‘North Island’ exploring some more 4X4 Only roads in our 4X4 Explorer.
Natural Bridge, Qld
Tags: Great Dividing Range Mitsubishi Triton Motorhome Explorer Atherton Tablelands Milla Milla Falls Queensland Fox Crater Morton Kanangra Boyd NSW New South Wales Mapleton Marlborough Binna Burra
Written: Fri 01 Jul 2016
Printed: July, 2016
MURRAY AND MARGARET SEEN T86852