MONDAY 3 AUGUST VRILYA POINT TO SEISIA 130kms
Our packing up was done reasonably efficiently, considering the deep sand all round us.
Retraced our previous route, back to the Bypass Road. I am quite amused by the way these tracks take little deviations to their otherwise straight lines, because a tree has fallen at some stage, or someone has made a bog hole – just barge around same, through the bush!
The bridge at Crystal Creek was no easier this way. I got out first and walked across, to try to guide John with the wheel placement. Despite this, he ran the rear back wheel up on top of the raised log that marks the side of the structure – and I held my breath, hoping Truck would come down again on the right side of it. Which it did. Then he needed two attempts to get round the corner at the far end, due to the big hole there. It was all very tense.
We had a smoko there, to relax a bit. Then, onwards, turning left at the Bypass road, and on to the ferry over the Jardine River. The Bypass Road was corrugated. There were some sandy areas and dust drifts and exposed bars of rock. It needed a very careful watch of the track, as we drove.
There was a time when travellers had to ford the Jardine, which is about 140metres wide, in the Dry season, by vehicle, just like for the other stream crossings further south. This river was a major obstacle, impassable for much of the year. Even when low enough to drive through, it has the problems of a soft and sandy bottom, and a very soft sandbar that moves around, towards the middle. Walking it to check is a risky undertaking because of the large crocs in the river, there. About five years ago, someone was taken by a croc, here.
There was a bridge put over the river, near the ford, during WW2, when there was much defence activity around the Top – with over 10,000 troops up there when invasion was feared. This bridge got washed away by floods.
But these days there is a barge/ferry, like on the Daintree. This has operated for a bit over a decade, now. Travellers are asked to use the ferry – but some still attempt to drive through. It is operated by the local people – encouraged by the Federal Government – and is thus a source of local employment and income. However, they are not the most reliable of operators, and some days no-one turns up to work the ferry, or they are very late. Apart from inconvenience to travellers, this has been causing big problems to the tour operators, who have schedules that may include meeting the Thursday Island ferry, or a plane. There was talk by the Qld Govt of putting in non-indigenous ferry operators, but it is said that Canberra threatened to reduce funding if this was done.
We struck a good day. Paid our $80 at the little office shack by the ferry. Cash only taken – and no receipt issued. One wonders how much is pocketed by the operators. This fee also “entitles” us to actually BE north of the Jardine, and also (a bit late) to camp at Vrilya Point. With no receipt, can’t prove we have paid – but then again, we are unlikely to have gotten here without doing so. We were then loaded and taken across – it took all of about 2 minutes!
There is a fairly new set of Mobil fuel pumps near the ferry office. These no longer operate, though, so no fuel to be had there. It was a short lived venture of aboriginal enterprise. We were told later that there were two reasons it shut down: failure to pay Mobil for fuel deliveries, and because the fuel point became a gathering point for petrol sniffers. We had worked on the assumption that there would be no fuel between Weipa and Bamaga, anyway, and have our two jerry cans.
We stopped by the Jardine, ate our lunch of stale pitas, and watched the ferry bring over another couple, with a Subaru. They had to video each step and thus were slow driving the car off, holding up a party of aboriginals who were heading south.
About 5kms from the ferry, we turned right, down the side track that is the OTL Track north of the Jardine, because we wanted to have a look at the old crossing point. We agreed there was no way we would ever have risked Truck in that! There has to be a line between adventurous and foolhardy.
Then backtracked and headed north towards Bamaga. The road was corrugated – still! In parts, it is cut quite deeply below the original surface. It rather looks as though whoever grades the road does not do it properly. There are no run off gutters made to the sides. This way, in the Wet season, the road must become one long watercourse!
Not far from Bamaga, we stopped to look at the wreckage of a DC3, that did not quite make it to the airstrip – then called Higginsfield. It was en route to Port Moresby, left Brisbane on 4th May, 1945 and crashed in the early hours of the 5th, hitting trees on approach in poor light, and burning, killing all six people on board.
On to Bamaga, the only real township north of Weipa and its administrative centre.
We checked out the bread shop but there were only white loaves, and went to the supermarket/store and bought some soy milk. I was rather surprised to find this there. We were also able to buy a cask of wine – cost $20! Ouch.
Then drove on to Seisia, a further 6kms on – a bitumen road!! Bamaga is not by the sea, but Seisia is. Both Bamaga and Seisia are Islander settlements – administered from Thursday Island. Seisia is where the barge landing is – and so where goods destined for Bamaga are unloaded – hence the sealed road.
We booked into the Seisia camping ground, for $17 a night, with the 7th night free. We were to pick our own spot. Found that the sheltered and shaded part of the camp ground was quite crowded, especially the parts closest to the sea and the amenities block, so we went down to the other end, where it was more sandy and exposed, but where we were able to set up by a roofed shelter structure and plug into power from that. Have to put the Truck into low range to get through the sand to the shelter and our camp.
We put the big tent up just behind the narrow beach. We have the most fabulous view from the front of the tent – across the sea to a myriad of islands, and along the beach with distant peaks in the background. It is breathtakingly beautiful. To our left, the barge landing is not far; the weekly barge was unloading there as we set up camp. John started saying there was a big boat in his campground! The cost of our superb view is that the amenities are a long walk away, at the busy end of the camp ground.
Tea was fettucine with tomato sauce.
After tea, we sat at the front of the tent and watched the moonlight reflecting on the water – beautiful. This place is so lovely.