This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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1998 Travels August 28

FRIDAY 28 AUGUST     WONGA BEACH

John went off early and phoned the local dentist, at his home. His wife, quite rightly, wouldn’t allow him to be spoken to, but made a 10am appointment. When John came back and told me of this, I managed to convince him to cancel it – the local guy made it clear back in June that he can do no more, and the pain does seem to be easing a little. I know John was only trying to help, but there is no instant fix in this case. I continued taking the Panadeine Forte. Think the penicillin might be working by now – it usually takes a day or two to kick in, and that has helped by reducing the infection that must be in there.

I felt pretty weak and washed out and spent most of the day sleeping/resting.

John washed Truck inside and out, which took hours!

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Thoroughly cleaning Truck involves much unpacking – and then putting it all back again!

We went for a small walk on the beach, where a kind person took a photo of us sitting on that same log that Pat sat on in the TV documentary series “Grey Nomads”. That program was a real inspiration for us, last year.

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We are grey nomads on the Grey Nomad log

John took the TV aerial apart, trimmed the wires and rebuilt it – the result is an excellent picture, the likes of which we had never had here – we were both amazed.

The moment of reckoning came……after the beach photo, John shaved off his beard! A pity, as I think it makes him look much more the picture of a true grey nomad. But he finds it uncomfortable.

I made steak and kidney with suet dumplings for tea. John wanted something more substantial than the easy camp meals we have been having for weeks.


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1998 Travels August 27

THURSDAY 27 AUGUST     WONGA BEACH

I did more washing – loads of our clothes.

The tooth started aching in the morning and didn’t stop, despite Panadol. I started on the penicillin I’d carted up the Cape and back, in case.

We did a 5km bike ride to the BP servo, to post letters in the post box there.

The tooth was REALLY bad by afternoon! It is like it has just been waiting until we got back to civilization. I phoned the Cairns dentist to try to advance my appointment, but he is heading off to Brisbane later today. He arranged for me to pick up strong painkillers, from the Mossman chemist, so we drove there and bought those. Cost $23. Got some groceries too, while there.

Got fuel at Wonga servo – 70cpl.

Panadeine Forte had no effect on the tooth, but later I took Endone. That slightly dulled the pain, but sent me floating off into dream land!

John’s tea was eggs and ham. I had no appetite.

I had a very restless night, with hallucinations and counting down till it was time for the next dose, to ease the pain for a while. I had to get up to pee a lot – must have been dehydrated by morning. It certainly is strong medication.


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1998 Travels August 26

WEDNESDAY 26 AUGUST     WONGA BEACH

It is sooo good to sleep on the van bed again, after so long on the lilo. Bliss.

I phoned the Cairns dentist and made an appointment – for a week away. The toothache has been a bother for much of the Cape trip, despite painkillers and toothache remedy. Corrugated roads and toothache are not a good combination! Still – it lasted the distance as only an ache that came and went, so could have been worse.

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On the beach at Wonga – looking south

I did washing – 2 loads, that included sheets and towels from the trip. Our sheets are the old fashioned flat ones, carried for use with the lilo, as the fitted sheet sets we use in the van don’t suit. The doona cover needed a wash too.

Did a bit more packing, and relaxed.

Sorted the mail that had come here in our absence – mostly ordinary stuff, but there were letters from V and a former colleague – nice to receive.

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On the beach at Wonga – looking north towards the mouth of the Daintree River

I made roti breads for lunch, and corn and crab cakes for an early tea, as John booked us in to Mossman for bowls tonight. He must get straight back into it – having been deprived of a bowls fix since Weipa.

We left a bit early for Mossman, so I could get a few groceries on the way and got to bowls at 6pm, in light rain. About 7.30pm, they decided not to start the bowls at all, due to the continuing rain. In the meantime, they’d all had a lovely social time, drinking. Waste of time and effort as far as I was concerned – I was not very happy about it.

We were told that Dengue Fever is still a major concern in this region. There have been over a thousand cases this year. Nearby Port Douglas has had a high number of cases.


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1998 Travels August 25

TUESDAY 25 AUGUST   COOKTOWN TO WONGA BEACH   161kms

We had an excellent pack up – considering we were in the big tent, and nothing was done for it yesterday.

It was a straightforward drive down the Bloomfield Track, which seems quite familiar now. The surface was a bit sloppy in places, due to local rain over the past couple of days, but nothing that worried us. It was back over the Daintree on the ferry for $7 and back to Wonga Beach.

John’s leg was sore after this drive – he thinks lots of downhill work, using brake and clutch, affects it.

It was very nice to be reunited with the van again. It is nearly nine weeks since we left for parts north. It is cleaner than I expected it to be, and there were no bugs inside. I am SO glad we came back for those eggs though!

Had to put the tow and hitch apparatus back onto Truck before we could shift the van, and take things that might move around out of the van first – especially the bikes.

We moved the van onto T’s “best” site, with a slab and beach frontage – the beach is ten steps away, through some palms. The way we parked on site, meant we looked from the awning area outside, towards the sea. Lovely!

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Our new site at Wonga – the beach is just the other side of the palms.

We are paying $13 a night, with every 7th night free. T only charged us $70 for the van storage – really cheap and so good of him to mind it.

It was a big job to transfer our gear and repack it in the van and Truck. We were exhausted by the end of the day, and hadn’t finished it all.

Tea was bacon, eggs and fries.

Thus ends the Cape trip – our first great achievement in retirement. Two months and not one flat tyre! Truck speedo now reads 44,687kms. So we did 4,711kms on the Cape trip.

Overall, there was much that was a great adventure, and so different from anything we’ve done before. But we encountered so much that was second-rate, dirty, broken down, neglected. The rubbish in so many places, from both travellers and locals, was impossible to ignore. So many long lengths of roadsides strewn with beer bottles is an unpleasant memory; so too the packs of neglected, ugly dogs in the settlements. I guess the Cape is a place of great contrasts.


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1998 Travels August 24

MONDAY 24 AUGUST     COOKTOWN

I did some washing, as there had not been any done since we were at Punsand.

Put six rolls of film in for processing. Did some shopping: souvenir polo shirts, some groceries, wine, new thongs for me, some magazines from the newsagent. I have a new appreciation of shops!

We booked an afternoon cruise on the Endeavour River. It was a rather grey afternoon, with some stormy looking clouds coming in, later on. But still hot, of course.

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Cooktown seen from the Endeavour River estuary

The boat trip lasted two hours; the commentary was interesting and informative. The guide pointed out the location where Joseph Banks camped for several weeks, while the Endeavour was being repaired, and gathered plant material – some of which, of course, was incorporated into his Floralegium.

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Some interesting craft on the Endeavour River estuary

We motored past some posts that were the remains of a bridge for the former Cooktown to Laura railway line. This closed in the 1960’s. We went quite a way up the river, after it had changed from being an estuary to the river, with dense bush along both sides. Then we turned and went back the way we’d come.

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Remains of Laura railway bridge over the Endeavour River

The views of Cooktown and surrounds, from the bay, were excellent. The clouds made it all quite dramatic. This was a good value excursion, at $20 a head.

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Mt Cook

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Floating restaurant at Cooktown

Once back on solid land, I went and collected my photos and was very pleased with same. They cost me $101.

John topped up the fuel tank with the last of the spare jerry cans we’d taken up the Cape.

Tea was salmon patties.

Light rain set in after tea.

I went to the phone box to call K and let him know we were back in civilization – at least as defined by sealed roads, proper power and shops. I was nearly tripped up by some curlews lurking in the shadows – so much for “shy”!

All is well at home.

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An overall map of where we went on Cape York


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1998 Travels August 23

SUNDAY 23 AUGUST   HANN RIVER R/H TO COOKTOWN   232kms

We continued south, crossing the Hann and Kennedy Rivers, upstream from where we knew them in Lakefield.

Laura is a small settlement, but being a Sunday there was no point in lingering here. I’d thought to try to get some information on the Quinkan rock art sites to the south, and pay the fee to see same, but of course the Ranger was not open.

We came to the turnoff to the carpark for the rock art sites, and thought we’d try to see something of them. Left Truck in the car park and walked up to the Split Rock Gallery site.

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The walking got a bit steep in parts!

There are many sites through this area of rocky country, but only a couple are accessible. There were lots of different painted figures and shapes, under rock overhangs. Quinkans were spirit figures and this style of art is named for these, but I don’t think there were any of them in what we saw. There was one figure that was probably a flying fox, but looked like a creature from space. There is a better and bigger gallery of paintings a bit further away from the Split Rock ones, but we did not go on to those.

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Layers of paintings

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Flying fox?

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Is the figure on the right a white man?

We did climb up to Turtle Rock and looked at the really extensive views over the surrounding rather rugged and dramatic country. It was a strenuous little walk in the heat.

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View south from Turtle Rock – rugged country and a sealed road again!

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The rough stone country that contains the Quinkan art sites

Continued on to Lakeland and decided to treat ourselves to a counter lunch at the Hotel – hamburgers and a beer, which cost us $18. It was very pleasant, sitting outside on a shady veranda, eating a meal someone else had cooked. We are adapting back to civilization quickly!

Drove on to Cooktown. We prefer to go back to Wonga via the Bloomfield Track, rather than the drier and dustier inland route – had enough of that sort of country now. I want to take enough time in Cooktown to get all my Cape photos developed and printed by the excellent man there.

Went to the Tropical Orchid Caravan Park, this time. This is not as windy as where we were before, and is a very nice park. Powered site cost $15 a night. The owners come from the Beaconsfield/Cockatoo area, and know our area.

We put up the big tent – John has had enough of the small one and having to crawl around.

There seems to be more tourists here than before. Maybe we have just become unused to lots of people? Chatted with two men in a campervan next to us; one is an English visitor, a wine judge and expert on same. And here we are, enjoying cask special!

There are lots of curlews around. Some are hanging about close to our tent, which is rather lovely. They aren’t exactly timid, either.

Tea was macaroni cheese.

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Hann River Roadhouse to Cooktown – we have come full circle.


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1998 Travels August 22

SATURDAY 22 AUGUST   CHILI BEACH TO HANN RIVER ROADHOUSE   416kms

We decided this morning to move on. The incessant wind blowing here is uncomfortable and keeps one on edge. It really prevents much in the way of proper relaxation, and the events of last night haven’t helped us feel secure, camped here. We made an efficient pack up.

It took us four hours to get back to the main road, as we detoured to look at the rainforest, the Pascoe crossing on the Frenchmans Track, and the remains of a WW2 bridge in the National Park.

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Road through the Iron Range National Park

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The rainforest of the Iron Range National Park

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Remnants of WW2 road bridge in Iron Range National Park

At one point in our explorations, John dropped me off where I wanted to take photos, then continued on to find a place to turn around. Then a carload of aboriginals came along, and stopped. I explained to them that there was no problem and  I DID have transport. I was very pleased that John and Truck hove into view, at that point!

The Frenchmans Track Pascoe crossing looked quite daunting and was certainly not one we would have attempted.

Thus we got back to the corrugated and “dippy” main road. There are so many “DIP” signs along the way and passing travellers with imagination, time to stop, and black paint, have amused themselves by adding to the signs, in very creative ways. DIPsomaniac. DIPerdimenico. Big DIPper. DIPstick. DIPlomatic, and so on. I am not sure whether the one we photographed was poor spelling, or ultra-creativity….

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Was it intentional?

We ate lunch parked on the sandy bed of the Archer River. Could see where it floods in the Wet – there would be no getting through then. A couple of cement culverts take the Dry season flow under the road, but they would be a long way under water in a really wet spell.

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Lunch stop at the Archer River

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Archer River – dry season mode. The trees leaning downstream are an indication of the force of wet season flows

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Peninsula Development Road crossing of the Archer River

Stopped at Musgrave Roadhouse for fuel – 86cpl. (We’d topped up from a jerry can whilst at Chili Beach.) Treated ourselves to a can of Coke each at the roadhouse, and bought some port – it is a long time since we’ve had any of that! At Musgrave, was where we came in from Lakefield National Park, so the road south from here is new ground.

By the time we reached Hann River Roadhouse, we’d had enough for the day, so set up in their campground, at a cost of $10 for a powered site – very reasonable.

There was a large grassed, and fenced, area, quite a bit of shade and the shower area was immaculate. I really enjoyed that shower! The trees and regular watering ensured there was plenty of bird life around. John got up close and personal with a kookaburra that came to inspect his setting up work, though it was probably hoping we had food lying around. This is a very pleasant place for a short stay.

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John and friend at Hann River Roadhouse camp ground

Tea was fettucine with bottled pesto.

As this is our last night on the Cape proper, we reflected and commented to each other on the aboriginal issues here. We have certainly found a great deal of anti-aboriginal feeling amongst the whites who live up here, who have a strong belief that the aboriginal agenda is to get rid of all whites from the Cape. The whites feel discriminated against, in that some laws they must obey are not enforced for aborigines. There is a belief that policy and laws are made “down south” by idealists who have no idea or first hand experience of the realities up here. The remaining pastoralists are resentful over the buy back/hand back of leases, the demands for more National Parks, and what they see as neglect of those that exist, in relation to things like feral animal control.

The aborigines seem happy to take the tourist dollar wherever they can, but have a very poor concept of service, or value in return. A hearsay story doing the rounds is that a recent meeting proposed an access charge to the Cape of $1200 a person! Presumably, wiser heads will prevail over that one.

It seems that governments are beginning to “audit” local council accounts in aboriginal communities up here – due to the extent of rorts that can no longer be ignored, and the fact that over $10million is currently owed by locals to their councils. That represents a lot of money per head.  From what we have seen on the Cape, any half-way reasonable auditing should produce some pretty shocking results.

It has also become evident to us that the nation is pretty porous in the borders up this way. Locals talk of the easy movement between the Top and PNG, by small boat. The threat of insect – and people – borne disease from the north, seems real, especially those carried by mosquitoes.

It has been an interesting experience, unique, and rather depressing in some ways. I do not think we will come this way again though.

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From Chili Beach to Hann River Roadhouse