Cape York – The Tip – Far North Queensland.

Today we would have to cross some heavily corrugated roads in addition to a couple of river crossings as we attempt to follow the telegraph track which is for serious 4×4 enthusiasts who are also set up properly, travel in groups with heaps of support.  Our wee group have no such luxuries but we decided we would have a go.  After trying to follow the track we came across a massive dip in the road, which if we dropped down in to there would then be a narrow and wet climb back out of we decided to get back and travel up via the PDR.  On the way we took a left and headed along a narrow badly corrugated road to the famous “Gunshot”.  This is a near vertical drop in to a waterway then if you survive that you then have to get yourself out of very steep and rocky.

As we arrived there was a queue to get in of about five cars.  It turned out they had abandoned them to watch a crazy Israeli guy attempt “Gunshot” and got hung up by by his his back wheels.  He was then winched down in to the water then attempted to power out the other side and blew a tyre on one of his back wheels.  Once again he was winched out only to have to fix his troopy (Toyota Lancruiser) which was lucky not to have rolled.

Having hung about waiting to see if any others would attempt it we then drove back out the same terrible road on to the PDR and after a bit of a drive arrived at Elliot Falls.  Having set up our sites we then discovered that the sites had to be booked we then took them down again and moved out to find a spot to camp as darkness would be falling soon.  We managed to find a spot in a pull off behind some trees and free camped there for the night.  There were a few folks checking out this spot but had to drive on with darkness rapidly setting in.

In the morning early we headed back to the falls where we were gobsmacked by the sheer peaceful beauty of the place.  Since we had been on the road for some time it was good to both cool off and wash some dirt out of our hair.

Having dried off and feeling refreshed it was back on the road to contend with the next  round of corrugations and dust.  After about 60Km we arrived at the famous Jardine River ferry crossing and went in to the office to pay the $100 dollar return ticket.  We were quite surprised that there was no queue as we had seen a few photos online showing long lines waiting to cross.  The ferry is operated by an aboriginal corporation and only takes 2 vehicles at one time.  Unless you are towing a caravan and or trailer/boat etc then it’s one at a time.  Both the Prado and Land cruiser got on in a single trip which the ferry operates using a pulley system and lasts no more than a couple of minutes end to end.  The crossing marks a significant point in our trip to the tip and means we are really getting in to some of the remotest places on the planet.

A relatively short time later we arrived at the town of Bamaga where we stocked up on a small amount of essentials then headed to the Crock Tent which is a Cape York icon selling the usual shirts and souvenirs.  It was then time to head for the overnight stop at The Alua Beach camp site outside the town of Umagico.  It’s not the best camp with dogs, including the owners roaming around complimented by constant barking.  It seems everyone in this town has at least three dogs.  We also had a horse come in to camp.  This is not an unusual occurance as there are wild horses wandering everywhere.  This time the owners two dogs ran like a pair of savages toward the poor horse who to give him his due, didn’t move an inch instead ignored the pair of them until one got really in its face and he stomped towards it which made the dog think twice.  People were getting a bit concerned and told the owner, who is also the caretaker of the park.  who said “ that horse is always knocking the bins over and deserved it”.  Meanwhile the dogs had forced the poor horse on to the beach which might give the crocodiles a good feed but at the least the bins would be tidy.

Later we walked on to the beach with a cold one to enjoy the sunset only for the cloud to roll over and block the sun.  Oh well at least on this trip we will be guaranteed more.  It was then off to bed for a good nights sleep with a choir of howls and barking.

Next morning would be a milestone as today we head for the northern most tip of Australia.

The forecast is not the greatest with high costal winds and choppy seas.   On the way we drop once more in to the Croc Shop and grab a few little bit’s.  We also get another free map of the tip area with easy to follow directions.  In reality all you have to do is follow the next 4×4 that passes and you will be sure to get there.

Overall it takes us just under an hour as the road is really narrow with heaps of turns and blind spots.  It’s also has as the usual dirt and corrugations.

We are lucky and seemed to have timed it right with not many cars coming in the opposite direction.  Arriving at the car park we see several faces we have seen all the way up and probably will see all the way down.  We chat to a few folks we have enjoyed drinks with who point us in the correct direction which is up over quite a steep path.  If the tide is out and you are brave sometimes you can walk round but with a high tide, a lot of crocodiles waiting that is not possible today.  Instead we set off on our assent over the rocks in to the wind then across and look down to get our first view of the “Northernmost Tip of Australia”.

As you would expect this being Australia where everything is plotting your demise it is rough.  The wind is blowing hard and the ocean is joining the assault.  We are lucky once again arriving where there is no one here waiting to take the obligatory photo with the iconic sign which must be had as no pic? Then it never happened.

Waisting no time we walk down turn around grab hold of the sign and try to smile as the wind and spray attempt to ruin the shot.   We succeed in getting both front and rear shots then retreat to the rocks to hide.  We return the favour and snap lots of pics of our bus mates before once again we retreat to crack open a beer and it’s cheers all round on a monumental achievement for all.

We returned back to town where we went to a new camp site at Loyalty Beach which was similar to the previous one but with slightly better facilities.

Here we had a couple of drinks then an early night and left the next morning.

Today we have a treat as we moved again.  This time to Punsand Bay Park which is more like a resort.  It has a bar, restaurant and a pool.

We will be based here for the next few days.  During the first day we pretty much just relax whilst planning our next move.  We do however have a go at fishing off the beach but had to remember not to get to close to the water due to our friends the crocodiles.  As usual we managed to catch nothing and were mugged for our bait.

Later in the restaurant we ordered a $30 dollar wood fired pizza.  That sounds expensive but it had a heap of seafood it was both crispy and delicious.

Next day we had a further treat in the way of breakfast.  It was nice but I could’ve eaten three of them.  Kaz reported that she was happy with her offering of eggs Benedict.

In the evening we returned to the restaurant and again enjoyed a delicious pizza this time chicken based with spicy sauce and a crispy base, yum.

We then split the bar as some people wanted to watch NRL and some AFL so one tv showed and one showed the other.  Once again our team Geelong were slaughtered by. Melbourne.  Then it was off to bed for another great sleep in the roof top tent.

During last night the wind and rain picked up so that by morning everything was wet as we packed up ready to make the move South back towards civilisation.

We left in good time at around 8:30am with the intention of visiting Fruit Bat Falls.

As we arrived at Bramwell Station we sadly realised we must have missed the turn and so just carried on to arrive at the Archer River Roadhouse where camped at the exact spot we camped on the way north.  We quickly set up our rooftop tent.  I went out on a hunt for firewood and next to where we parked some idiot had not put out their fire fully so we dug our fire pit out then used most of the previous fire to start ours.  We then ate our dinner round the fire.

Next to us was a solo female camper who had been playing a ukulele and singing.  Kaz went over and invited her her to sit round the fire and have a chat which she did.

Her name was Rain, originally from Canada but has called Australia home for a number of years.  As darkness fell and the skies lit up with stars we sat round the fire which was just fantastic.  Later as our wood stocks dwindled we poured water on the fire then filled in the pit.  We said our good night’s and headed for bed amazingly it was only 8:30 but we had a long day and would still sleep.

Endeavour River Escape, Cooktown – Cape York

Arriving at the Endeavour River Escape we are immediately impressed as we drive up the 3K long dirt driveway to the homestead.  The property sits overlooking a river which meanders through the massive acreage.  We had a chat with the owner, then we follow his you bloke on a huge quad who directs us to the spot we will occupy.  We are again delighted as the spot is massive and we have it all to ourselves including the bus.  Unfortunately, although the river is close by we will not be swimming due to it being home to croc’s.

Having set up we took a drive in Cooktown where it seemed pretty quiet but then we remembered it was Sunday.  We managed to scope out somewhere to eat for dinner later which was the bowls club in the Main Street.  Then went down to the wharf where we saw an old guy fishing with a bare line and hook.  Every time he dropped that line, 10 seconds later he pulled up a fish.  

On our way back to the van we stopped in at the souvenir shop where we purchased a mascot for the trip in the shape of a crocodile who will travel on the dash to the cape and the rest of Australia we get to.

It would not be us if we didn’t find the local pub for a cold one.  Cooktown would be no different.  We found the Top End Pub where we could also take Max in to and enjoyed a nice freezing cold beer.

Back at the van we met a dude who walked in to our camp section then asked if it would be ok to use his metal detector.  We asked him he had found any gold where he replied, yes, about 55 dollars.  We were thinking of actual gold and not gold coins.  He then wished us “safe travels” then left.

Later we returned to the bowling club for some food and drinks.  This place must have the youngest crew in Australia working the bar.  The poor bloke behind the bar didn’t look old enough to drink never mind serve alcohol.  It took him 15 minutes to pour 3 beers while blaming it on the keg, gas and even air in the pipes.  We grabbed a table then the menu where since we had 30 minutes before meals could be ordered gave us plenty of time to study it and the specials board.

All that studying resulted in 2 parmies and two steaks washed down with a bottle of red.  And a scoop of ice cream was scoffed by myself and Richo which the kids didn’t finish.  It was then back to camp and lights out.

Next day we got busy sorting out the cars for the trip to Cape York as we would now be using roof top tents and the van and bus would be in storage for a few weeks.  The dogs would be going in to kennels as there are to many croc’s around to take them with us.  Our metal detector friend then walked past and wished us “safe travels” again.  

Having checked and double checked everything it was time to have some dinner before a couple drinks then an early bed.

The day had arrived where we hit the road on our Cap York adventure.  We hooked up the van and bus then moved them in to storage.  Next we headed to the kennels to drop of the dogs.  We did this quickly before Max had time to realise what was happening.  Then it was time to start with a 350Km drive to Cohen where we free camped just outside of town down a 4×4 track next to the river.  There was one other person there but he left and we had the place to ourselves for a while before two caravans came in and stayed the night.  This was the second spot.  The first was down off the road then over a river in to a camp which had loads of people around.  We decided to give this one a miss.  Having had a long day we called it a night early and climbed up the ladder in to the roof tent for a well earned sleep.

In the morning it was off in to Coen where we filled up with diesel dumped our rubbish then waited for the local hotel to open so wee could buy some beers.  We weren’t the only ones and when at last it opened at 10am we bought a box of beers which cost $90.00 for Great Northerns cans.

It was then back on the road in to the dust and corrugations heading only 60Km to the Archer River Roadhouse.  Since we dropped the tyre pressures the corrugations didn’t seem so bad and with a decent east west wind the dust cleared a bit faster as we followed Richo who was about half a kilometre in front.  In no time we reached the roadhouse which we went past turned right before the bridge and down then over the river on to a cracking spot with easy access to both the river for swimming and the roadhouse should we need anything.

Tonight we would light a fire so we all went, collected some wood and had a good supply for later.  We headed for the roadhouse for a look.  It was really basic but we are miles from anywhere.  A bottle of soft drink was $6.60 but the cost is definitely in the shipping.  We bought a bottle of ginger ale as these places need supported by buying something whilst there and also we are alcoholics.

In the evening and with darkness descending, the fire set and a meal on the go we were treated to a fly over by a large group of bats heading out.  This looked great until quite a few of them landed on trees close to our set up.  This means in the morning we would be guaranteed bat shit on the car.

The fire was lit and with a reasonable wind blowing it got fanned in to an inferno pretty quickly.  We then added a packed of Rainbow Flames which burn turning the flames as you would guess in to all sorts of colours.  Had there been less wind they might have been more of them but the breeze kept the colour show short.  We sat in the heat of the evening gazing between stars and flames while listening to the river flow, amazing.  It was then up the ladder to enjoy another solid night sleep.

After a couple of days at this fantastic spot where we picked up so much information about the Cape and met some really nice people it was time to leave.  We made a quick stop at the roadhouse to bin our rubbish.  Whilst there we were told of several vehicles that had broken and were waiting for days to be recovered to Cairns costing one couple who had a bus complete with trailer would cost them in excess of $20,000 dollars.  There was also a couple in a motor home where they couldn’t select any gears.  That would cost them in excess of $5,000 to be recovered.

Leaving the roadhouse we started out on a short stretch of tarmac which didn’t last long before it changed to gravel, red dust and corrugations.  Our destination was the The Bramwell Tourist Park which would have music, a buffet and a happy hour.

We booked in for two nights and set up our rooftop tent and went for stroll around the place which sits on 300,000 acres.  There are hot showers and toilets but not much else but that’s as usual on these types of stations.

We managed to get the last half of happy hour, then the start of the music but left shortly after without eating. Instead returned to camp to have an early night.

Mount Carbine to Cooktown

Saturday arrived sunny and warm today will be close to 30 degrees as usual which will provide us with heaps of lovely solar power.  Since the second solar panel was added we have been consistently high in our solar charge.

Today we sat down again with our bus mates and have now formulated a plan for the next few days at least.

We spend some time down at the little stream which seems to have been taken over by weekender people who have placed their chairs in the stream and don’t look too welcoming.  We take the hint and remain upstream where we spot a snake having a swim. 

Later in the day it’s all about footy with two games being played.  Between those two we stuff our faces on some beautiful chicken and then began the task of getting ready to move on Sunday then it’s bedtime.

Having packed up most things last night we have the easy task of getting all the little stuff packed then say our goodbyes to our bus mates who we will meet up with in Cooktown.  Today is also their seventh year anniversary.  We will definitely celebrate this milestone tonight.

We drive up to the farmhouse to pay for our second night where the owner asks us if we will return here after the Cape, we say for sure he then says well have a free night and see you on your return!!  You just gotta love country people.

We have a bit of a longer drive today on our way to and just north of Cooktown.  Here we will stay at the Endeavour River Escape.

Cairns Then On To Biboohra, Queensland

So up really early this morning and arrive at Bob Janes, Cairns to have the stock Land Cruiser tyres replaced by BF Goodrich KAo2 all terrains.  These will be better for the rough roads as we drive in to Cape York.  With this done it was then off to Pacific Toyota for the service to be done.  I managed to drop it off early and get a courtesy drive back to the park where Kaz and Max were waiting on me having stalked me online as I travelled.  

After a quick bite to eat we walked over to the pool and got straight in.  The outside temperature is around 30 degrees so perfect for a dip.  There are also two slides which we had a go at before getting in to the hot spa for some rejuvenating.

In what seemed a very short time I was picked up by Toyota where I returned to collect and pay for the service.  Good thing is the car was given a clean Bill of health including brakes which have had a hard time with the van attached.  

Having again returned to the camp we headed for the bar where every day there is a happy hour between 4pm and 5pm.  There are also a wide range of bar snacks including small plates to graze on.  We enjoyed a couple of drinks then headed back to the van to eat.  I should say the site we are on is about 30 steps from the bar.

We then sat outside to tune in to the latest Survivor Australia episode before enjoying a rare early night.

After a long night where Max was up and down drinking water due to it being warm then understandably needing to go out, it was good to see morning arrive.

Today we don’t mess about enjoy some breakfast with sourdough rolls from the local baker.  Washed down with tea and coffee.  It was then off to to the pool for a nice swim, slide and spa before we headed in to Cairns.  

Due to tomorrow being one of the last days we will be in a place this size with all the amenities you would expect we thought it wise to get in to the big supermarkets to stock up on supplies of mostly pasta’s, rice and an assortment of tins.  We also grabbed 3 x 10 litres of water for the trip which we will add to the 15 litre container we already have.

Tomorrow we will hook up leave camp to go back up and over Kuranda, in and through Mareeba to meet back up with our bus mates at Biboohra.  We will then work out a semi concrete plan together as we motor on with our journey to the top of Cape York.