Cycling the Old Telegraph Road to Cape York
A 200,000 square km expanse at the top of
Leaving Cooktown at first light I cycled past a council worker digging a roadside hole. He shouted “You’ll be pushing it up there mate!” How right he was. Travelling the Battlecamp road I entered
Vegetation changes constantly during the 150km traverse through the park. Tall eucalypt woodland gives way to scrubby paperbark, open grassland and savannah. Galleries of vine forest line watercourses, forming dense green thickets. Tall paperbarks edge inky black waterholes covered with lotus, perfect croc lairs. Wildlife abound. Flocks of Black Cockatoo and lorikeets are common. Giant plain turkey and raptors wheel over grassland and waterbirds I saw included Ibis, egrets, Brolga, kingfisher and duck.
Careful prowling on riverbank and billabong edge will reveal freshwater and estuarine crocodiles sunbathing. Be careful! I was looking out for crocs while photographing Sweetwater Lagoon and nearly stumbled across a galloping monster. His grin was most memorable. It is worth looking for crocs as they are shy, secretive and difficult to observe in the wild. Crocodiles become more active closer to the wet season but the golden rule is this- any closer than 2 metres to the waters edge and you risk death.
Thriving on grassland, termite mounds stud vast Nifold plain. Important nutrient recyclers, termites wait out floods in their mound, living on stored plant matter. A change in burning regime has endangered the Golden-shouldered parrot, which nests in termite mounds. Only 250 pairs remain. Burning was prevalent in the history of Lakefield, as numerous Aboriginal tribes inhabited the area. Cattle station from 1879, extreme climate and distance from cattle markets made life tough and finally NP was formed in 1979. Feral cattle are common, as are pigs.