Chilli Beach is a remote stretch of the Cape’s eastern coastline about 30 km north of the Aboriginal community at Lockhart River. The road out to Chilli Beach from the turnoff is a bit of a slog. 135 km of mostly gravel, there is about 25 km or so of bitumen along the way and a few patches of bull dust. Corrugations here and there . Plenty of road work is going on to improve the experience or take away from the experience depending upon your point of view. Some low bridges across the creeks to compliment a few shallow gravel crossings. Chilli would be inaccessible in the wet. The distance from Moreton Telegraph Station, then into and out of Chilli plus the distance south to the next fuel at Archer River places a little stress on our range. So, we made a trip into the Aboriginal community at Lockhart River to fill up and get a few food supplies.
We are camping at the National Park area just back from the beach. There are 25 sites and you need to pre-book them. No ‘walk in camping’ here. So you have to be pretty sure of your timing, as usual we were spot on and took up site 25. Just perfect. There were only 3 other parties in camp. So it was rather quiet after dark! Just the wild pigs rooting around in the scrub, crocodiles grunting as they slowly consumed their prey and dingos baying at the moon. Hard to sleep! Just kidding! It was very quiet! Despite the mini gale blowing from the southeast, the south east trade winds at their best. But we were in behind some vegetation and well protected.
Chilli is also positioned within sight of the inner reef shipping channel and we saw a number of ships making their way down the coast. It was this channel that Cook took after he left Cooktown and enabled him to round Cape York. William Bligh some years later also took this channel north to Java after being set adrift following the mutiny on the Bounty. Restoration Island on which he landed and named is just off Chilli Beach, and can be clearly seen despite the weather conditions. Bligh named it ‘Restoration’ not because of Bligh’s crew being ‘restored’ by a diet of oysters, but because it was the anniversary of the restoration of the Stuarts on the English throne.
We had two nights here, no power or water laid on so we relied on the solar and our water tanks. No worries. The weather was not great, apart from the wind there was thick cloud cover and plenty of sea mist. It was not the clear blue sky, crystal clear water, white sandy beach and arching coconut palms of the promotional material! But, it was still remote and the prevailing weather showcased a Chilli beach that may be more the norm than the unusual. The northern end of Chilli is also positioned such that it is in the way of a never ending stream of junk material floating in from south east Asia, plastic bottles and caps of all descriptions, ropes, netting, rubber thongs and toys, plastics. Teams do periodic clean ups and average 5 tonne of material a year from the beach.
We had some snags over the fire one night and were entertained by a couple of scrub turkeys. They are different to the ones you see in Brisbane; they have a purple gobbler (is that right, the loose skin around the neck?) rather than the yellow one we are familiar with. On the morning we left Chilli the weather gods came good and we had a couple of hours of early morning sunshine and blue skies. The beach looked like that promotional material!
Some minor drama on the road out with a tree trunk across the road, held us up for a short time. Fortunately, some fellow nomads came the other way and assisted Allthego in clearing the road of the obstruction! Homealone took pictures and a video for laughs. That is a good place to leave the story as we now head back and resume the route south to Archer River and Coen.