|Oyala Thumotang National Park - Vardons Lagoon||July 24 - 26 2019|
|Heading south we stop at one of the haulways. The lights presumably give precedence to haul trucks - a water tanker and an ore carrier this time. Probably a bit like trains, they can't stop in a hurry.|
|We retrace our path to the Peninsula Development Road.
Enjoying the bitumen, realising that the gravel sections are more corrugated than a few weeks ago.
|The road works south of Archer River Roadhouse have
progressed well. Pilot vehicles for two sections.
The little track to a bush campsite leaves the main road in the middle of the roadworks. Hard to access.
|We stopped in a gravel pit just short of Oyala Thumotang
National Park. 240km and shopping/fuel/water in Weipa have tired us. To say
nothing of the corrugations south of the roadworks.
Next to our camp is a cluster of grevilleas. On cue the blue-faced honeyeaters arrived. To remind us of birds in our garden at home. Though these are a bit noisier.
|Next morning southwards through the park we resort to driving on the side of the road, a bit more comfortable.|
|We think the McIlraith Range. Part of the Great Dividing
Range, to the east of the road.
We passed through a a lower, also north-south, range, the Geikie Range, at Archer River Roadhouse and will drive around its southern end into Oyala Thumotang National Park.
|The track into the national park leaves the penninsula
development road just north of the Coen Quarantine Station and heads
While it roughly follows ridges between catchments it takes a few short cuts. We cross many dry creeks. Its about 80km to our first campsite at Vardons Lagoon.
|The track looked like it stopped at the edge of a lagoon. A
large open area with no ground cover.
We thought perhaps just us, that we'd been spoiled, but a younger couple drove in shortly after us and had a similarly disappointed view of the camping area. The lagoon is hardly worth a mention.
Having booked we felt committed. I went for a short walk along the edge of the lagoon and spotted a darter.
|But wait. The coordinates I had from a website didn't quite
match where we were. About 200m. I'd kept a copy of the satellite image and
the coordinates were clearly on the north side of the lagoon while we were
on the south.
Beyond the "beware of crocodiles" sign the track crosses the end of the lagoon. Hasn't been used this year. The entry is a bit muddy, the crossing is solid bottom of small stones and ankle deep water.
Follow the track left for about 100m, along a second, larger, parallel, lagoon and there's the "Vardons Lagoon Camping Area" sign. The north side of the lagoon is a bit more welcoming.
|We decide to camp where we stopped. Vardons Lagoon proper is worth calling a lagoon. A couple of hundred meters long.|
|Most lagoons in the area are part of the flood channel for
the Coen River. They are long and thin. From the satellite image we know
there are two obvious, more rounded, lagoons, about 500m south east of our
We follow the river bank.
We aren't very quiet really. As we spotted the water and headed to the edge we heard rather than saw the crocodile as it entered the water. The kangaroo (we don't know one from another) hopped away. And a large flock of ducks took flight.
About 100 in the pic.
|We watched the flock of Plumed Whistling Ducks circle the
lagoon several times, a wonderful sound of moving air each fly past, until
they settled on the opposite side of the lagoon to us.
Knowing their flight path, and having so many in the flock, made taking a pic in flight a bit easier than otherwise.
We passed our "local knowledge" onto some fellow travellers (of which there are very few in the park) but when we met them later it seems the ducks must have moved on.
|The Nankeen Night Herons took longer to react. About 5
minutes after we arrived the flock
appeared from within the trees, and flew directly to higher trees.
We saw Mangrove Herons at Pennefather and initially thought we were seeing more. But no, definitely the same heron we first saw in Nepal.
|We figured about 30 eventually appeared.|
|The lagoon is indeed rounder, and wider, than other lagoons
in the area. Both are more triangular than round.
Like Vardons Lagoon, and other lagoons we visited, the north side is more accessible, with less dense vegetation, than the south.
The forest is fairly easy to walk through. We think the many tracks are made by cattle.
We think the tree with its feet wet is a fresh-water mangrove. We are unsure, but now know that such a mangrove exists.
|The two White-Headed Shelducks were shy, hidden in bushes along the bank. We caught only a brief glimpse as they walked between bushes.|
|There were two lagoons, with about 100m between them. They
are part of the flood course of the Coen River, just a different shape to
This is the second, larger, lagoon.
|With Plumed Whistling Ducks in the trees and on the bank. Not so skittish as the big flock.|
|We move our campsite booking from Vardons Lagoon to Second
Coen Campsite. A slow process by phone.
As part of the move we drive about 35km deeper into the park, into the triangle between the Archer River to the north and the Coen River.
Through open forest with occasional small patches of rainforest along water courses.
|We turn round just north of Governors Waterhole campsite.
We think the terrain will become a bit rougher as we encounter the Archer
The track is generally good, just that we have to be careful of low branches (though we suspect the tractor used to clear the track and campsites after the wet season is as tall as we are) and trees too close to the track. Lots of bends, and dry creek crossings.
|Oyala Thumotang National Park - Mango Lagoon and Chong Swamp||July 27 - 30 2019|