Another Day Another downpour

Continuing Mondays adventures.
When last we met I was back in Cooktown waiting. I didn’t tell you about the run back though, because I was a bit too busy to finish the post.
Mt Louis creek, which is probably not its name, but it runs through Mt Louis station (as in cattle station not a train stop), so I’ll call it that, goes up and down at a phenomenal rate during rain events. I was witness to it twice today. The first time was this morning. At around 7am it was around 40 centimetres over the dip, 15 metres wide and rising fast. That was when I was caught between two creeks this morning. By 8:30ish, it had dropped back to about 10 centimetres at its deepest. This afternoon around three, it was 30 metres wide and over my knees, about 60cm. The water fairly rips through the causeway too. Within 30 minutes it had dropped by 20 centimetres. Of course, in my ‘get the job done’ state of mind, I forgot to take photos. But I did get these of the Bloomfield River and the crossing.

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Anyway, back to this morning.
I crossed Mt Louis creek and headed back towards Cooktown. There was water running through nearly every crossing on the way to Rossville. Water was rushing off the mountains, across the road and down into Gap Creek. It was pretty impressive in places 🙂
When I got into Rossville itself, one of the causeways was running too hard high to take the minibus across, so I started to wait it out, after about 20 minutes it dawned on me that the road that runs past the school manages to avoid any gullies and meets the road past the creek. Silly me. I headed back to the turn off half a km back and went around. It’s actually the old ‘main’ road. I think they diverted it to avoid the school being right next to a relatively busy road.
When I got to Wallaby Creek, there were great swales of branches and vegetation either side of the bridge. There had been more than a metre of water over the bridge at some point last night.
Mungumby Creek, near the Lions Den Hotel didn’t look like it had flooded over, but the dirt road beyond was a shocker. It’s clay capped and is in places not unlike a skating rink for the unwary. The only thing that stops people sliding every where or off the road, are the multitude washouts, pot holes and deep currogations. It really is impressive how it has deteriorated over the past few months. It was once, for about two weeks, the best section of the dirt. Now it’s arguably the worst. Oh, I did stop in at ‘The Den’ to phone the office, and give the pub people an update on the road. I heard there that the Little Annan had been over, but was now down. So the Cairns bus would get through.
On the Mulligan Highway into Cooktown, signs of big overnight rains were everywhere. Every creek was swollen. The ‘Big Annan’ was flowing fast. It’s about 100 metres wide but catches a lot of water. Even Keatings Lagoon further up the road was flowing.
As I came over the hill into town, it was bucketing down. Later on, the weather obs showed 24mm in under an hour, added to 112mm or more overnight. No doubt the range area copped a lot more.
So, I got back to Cooktown, then I had to go to Hopevale, 47km to the Northwest. That’s where that downpour that Cookie received was heading.
Just after you hit the 100kmh sign on McIvor road (the Hopevale road), about half a km and near a bend, is a causeway. The rain had eased, and I was up to about 95 when I saw it. I did a doubletake as I hit the brakes, trying to slow up on the wet road without locking up. At the last bit of that half second I took my foot off the brake and hit the 25 metre wide, 15 centimetre deep water runoff (it looked a lot deeper at the time). The minibus pulled up pretty quick with the help of the water, and surprisingly is heavy enough in the front end that it doesn’t aquaplane at 60kmh 😉 . I got across there OK and continued on. All the creeks out this way were running bankers as well. The Endeavour North branch was ripping. As with the road to Wujal Wujal (so nice you say it twice), the dirt sections of the Hopevale road are also a mess of ruts, washouts and potholes. But the most impressive sight was Isabella Creek. The water was barely under the bridge and was an absolute maelstrom of reddish brown water and logs & branches. On the upstream side of the little bridge, one of those mad stationary reverse waves that you see in wild rapids had formed. As I crossed, that backwash from this ‘wave’ was washing up over the edge of the timber edges. I couldn’t stop as we were on a tight schedule, so sorry, no pics. Suffice to say that my five passengers were collectively, nervous and blown away by the spectacle when we came back over. Oh, and the causeway I hit earlier? Barely a trickle running over it.
Back in Cooktown & it was once again off to Wujal Wujal (so nice you say it twice) to pick up some people for the afternoon flight to Cairns. I had spoken to Rosie at the Middle shop on the phone earlier, as she’d asked if I could call the shop to update her about Mt Louis ck, because her kids go to Rossville school and their lift has to cross it. She told me that the weather had cleared a bit and a lot of traffic was coming through from Wujal Wujal (so nice you say it twice). So when I left Cookie, I didn’t bother to check again. That can be a bad move in these parts. When the weather is unsettled up here, we can go from a dry road to a flash flood in half an hour. The high (600 to 1100m) steep sided, rainforest covered mountains catch a hell of a lot of water and it roars off them, only slowed by the tangle of roots and boulders, and fringe undergrowth.
Well it seems that it really poured down at some point. There was water running across every causeway and dip, every washout, and every bloody rut. The minibus was excellent through everything up and down the range. Most of the floodways are between 3 and 5 metres across, and because of their shape, allow the water to run through easily. The deepest was about 10cm. I wouldn’t attempt it in absolute worst conditions though. At the bottom of the pass, Mt Louis creek was as I described earlier. Too deep and fast. I waited for it to drop, knowing that the deadline for check-in at the airport was 5:15pm at the very latest. Five is the usual strict deadline, but I’d planned on ringing the baggage weights through to save some time. While I was waiting, I closely examined the path of the air intake for this minibus. Indeed, the air filter unit is mounted very low. It is behind the driver side wheel well. It is shielded by the gaurd,mudflap, a second dedicated guard, and is well tucked away. The base of the filter case has a rubber drain valve that you pinch to open to drain any water accumulated in base of the filter. Besides that non-return type valve, the unit is sealed with the usual O-ring ang wingnut setup. The inlet and outlet flow paths are at the top, the air intake is a part of the body panel and is about 1.2 metres above ground level. I wouldn’t recommend crossing anything like that 😉
When the creek dropped to about 20 centimetres deep at the fastest part of the crossing, I headed across. I had 20 metres of protected, still water in the little cutting on the causeway approach, then about 10 of fairly fast water.
Now, in other circumstances I would have just sat it out until it dropped another 5 centimetres. But about 5 minutes beforehand, I had come across four of my bama brother friends in their little white Hyundai/proton/kia thing. They were heading into town from Wujal Wujal (so nice y…uuuurrrrgggh “stop with the say it twice shit! They know already!”), so I figured my near 2 tonne of minibus would be OK. I just wanted to err on the side of caution, rather than have a rather embarrassing, if not potentially fatal float down the creek. The minibus went through without a problem at all. I just went through steady. Not too slow, but not fast enough to create too big a lump of water in front of the van. I’m sure I heard it say “Let’s do that again!” as I was drying out the brakes on the tarred section past Mt Louis station.
It was much drier at Wujal Wujal relatively speaking. It’s bloody wet everywhere, but they had a little reprieve this arvo. It just drizzled a bit. My passengers were a no show though. Considering that I only had five minutes to spare before it would have been pointless trying to make it to Cooktown airport, it was a blessing in disguise. The coordinator said she’d rebook them for tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday). Before I left, I checked and found out that my 5:30am passenger for tomorrow was already in Cairns. That suited me fine. I’ll actually get some time to unwind a bit, which is exactly what I’m doing. Once again I’m sitting at the top of the pass, near the Cedar Bay National Park sign. I got here before dark and it was pretty cool. I was in the clouds literally 🙂
It rained pretty heavy for an hour so, but the cloud cover makes for a fine drizzle all the time. It is nice and quiet here again. Well, besides the breezes and the sound of water rushing somewhere.
I was going to drive into Cooktown but I just couldn’t be bothered. I still can’t get back to the fruit garden and home, & even though a nice motel bed & TV is a nice luxury at times, I just don’t feel like doing that. I really like the solitude of this spot in the mountains. I’ve only had three vehicles go past since dark.
The rain is predicted to increase tomorrow, so it may be a fun day. I’ll stay here tonight and when it’s light enough to get some more photos. The rain just started again, so I’ll use the excuse to myself that it is too dangerous to travel ;).
Some more photos:

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Part of the road heading towards the pass. Like cobblestones. Really big, uneven, lumpy cobblestones.

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More of the same.

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One of the potholed sections of the road.

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Looking down part of the bitumen section of the pass. The water running down on the right of the picture was a torrent eight hours earlier.

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Some of the miniature waterfalls on the way up the pass. The water that comes off the mountains up here is crystal clear and tastes like rain. I fill a water bottle whenever I have a spare one.

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Looking East, back down the pass from my parking spot at the top. See, I am in the clouds 🙂

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A tree fern looking a little wind-blown. They’re everywhere around here. Like weeds, only far prettier. This is across the road from my parking spot.

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