MONDAY 17 AUGUST PUNSAND TO USSHER POINT 131kms
I got up early, went for a little last walk on the beach, and took yet more photos of the rather magic sunrise.
We did a quite routine pack up. Know where things go best in Truck, now, for this camping lark.
I was looking forward to going back to the Eliot Falls campground, to spend a couple of nights there, with lots of swimming. It would be bliss in this heat and humidity and after a couple of weeks of gazing out at the unswimmable sea. But John was determined to go to Ussher Point, “first”. This is what comes of trying to get him involved in planning what we will do: he has a quick look at a map and almost does a dart-board pick! Sometimes we win. Sometimes it is very forgettable. Funny that the latter tend to be the ones that stick in the mind…….
We fuelled up in Seisia, including all three jerry cans. 93cpl. Bought mantles for the lamp. In Bamaga bought groceries, since I have no idea how long we will be in the Ussher Point wilderness. Phoned K and left a message re our intentions.
John phoned the Ranger at Heathlands to check that it was alright to go to Ussher Point, and to get directions. Then we headed south on the main track towards the Jardine ferry.
It was not easy to find the turnoff to Ussher Point, despite the instructions from the Ranger. No signposts, of course. It is about 7kms north of the Jardine River, roughly 30kms south of Bamaga. We turned east onto what was obviously a much less travelled track.
The track was narrow, rough, badly gullied in places. There was one section where John had to straddle Truck wheels over a channel in the track that was over a metre deep. Very hard.
We were in and out of patches of rainforest, and those were pleasant sections.
In one such patch, we saw some Palm Cockatoos. They are HUGE, and quite fierce looking, with big, spiky crests. This was one good outcome of this day, as these birds only occur in the northern parts of the Cape, and we really wanted to spot them whilst up here.
It took us four hours to get from the very corrugated main road, to Ussher Point, some 65kms. That’s a measure of the nature of the track. Average speed about 16kmh!
About half a kilometre from the sea, we saw a possible camp area on top of a rise. It was a clearing in low scrub, hence there was some shelter from wind, but it was just bare hard ground and not at all attractive looking.
We continued on, and looked down at the beach from where the track ended. There was a small creek, dammed back by the sand. There were some croc tracks going out of the creek pool and stopping at the high water mark. We assumed this meant that the croc was not at home. The creek water looked brackish – would be alright to wash with – but definitely not in!
We took a little track to the north, from the headland. Encountered another vehicle coming our way, just after we turned onto it. This was the only vehicle we had seen since leaving the main road. This is a lonely place. They warned us that there was a tricky erosion gully further along the cliff top track. John wanted to continue on this way, though, in the hope of finding a better place to camp, although the other couple told us they’d be staying in the little clearing we’d seen.
We came to a place where the slightly sandy track, through the low, stunted, coastal scrub, went up a slight rise, through a gully. Beside the track, against the bank, was a narrow, deep channel. Suddenly, Truck just slewed sideways into it – and we were stuck. Fast. Rear end into the bank.
We worked out later – much later – that the other couple must have been returning too fast along the track, came over the crest into the gully, possibly even gotten airborne, and slid down the gully, carried by their momentum. Thus they created the slide patch that caught and slid our Truck.
It took us the best part of three hours to get out. 4WD was no use, as the diagonally opposing wheels were not actually in contact with the ground! Much digging was involved. I moved what rocks I could find, that were able to be carried, and put them in the ditch. We tried burying the spare wheel in a hole I dug, and using that as an anchor to winch off – there was only low scrub around us. We thus discovered the Murphy’s Law of bush driving – when you need a tree, there will not be one, anywhere! The wheel refused to stay buried. So much for that theory. It bent our star picket in half, too.
At that point, I wanted to walk back the few kms to the camp clearing and get help from the other couple, but John refused to countenance that. Wisely, as it turned out.
So we continued to dig and move earth, until eventually John winched and drove Truck clear using a low shrubby bush further up the track, for some extra help. I think the bush probably gave its life for the cause!
It was right on dark by the time we moved Truck out. Much relief. I’d had visions of not being able to get out, and we were a long way from any help.
Of course, we then had to continue up the hill, turn around, and come back down the same way, through the gully – very carefully and with big sighs of relief when we got past the bog – which we had considerably altered with our excavations.
Back at the little clearing, there was no sign of the other people, so it was a good thing I hadn’t walked there for their help.
We set up the little tent. We were both exhausted, and it was late, so tea was French toast.
At least, John’s leg stood up well to much punishing digging, winch fixing, clambering in and out of Truck – a bit of a challenge in itself, with the back door jammed against the bank.
It was a tense day. Some days, one just shouldn’t get out of bed!