This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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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


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1998 Travels August 21

FRIDAY 21 AUGUST     CHILI BEACH

After breakfast, we drove around to Portland Roads. It is a quaint little freehold, feral, settlement. There seems to be a number of visiting fishing people there. We presume that yacht travellers call in too.

The handful of permanent residents appear to be hiding from the world, and/or “finding” themselves? I don’t think it gets much more isolated than this.

The origin of the name of this place is unclear, but may have originated with Captain Cook. He named nearby Cape Weymouth after the place in England; there, Portland Roads are a safe anchorage nearby. As Cook was nearly wrecked again near here, the name of Portland Roads is a feasible one.

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Portland Roads

Nearby Restoration Island was named by Captain Bligh, after the Mutiny on the Bounty, in 1789, when he landed here in his small boat and found the water and plant foods of the island restorative of the group’s health and spirits.

A jetty was built at Portland Roads in the 1930’s when the Batavia gold fields, back by the Wenlock, were found. During WW2 there was an American air base at Iron Range; a radar station was set up on the hill above Portland Roads, and a bigger jetty was built to land people and supplies for the airfield.

So, this little remote place has an interesting history, of which there are relics scattered about in the rain forest.

We spent a couple of hours talking to a local resident, who saw us wandering about exploring and invited us up to his house, perched on the slope above the bay, for a coffee. He seemed keen to talk. His place was comfortable enough. He’d been there for several years and the place was now for sale. Maybe he saw us as prospective buyers?

He reckoned he’d “worked it all out”, and is now ready to leave. We didn’t get enlightened on what it was that he’d worked out, though. He said that he’d spent ten months on Restoration Island, caretaking it for developers who’d bought it.

He says he is on good terms with the aboriginals from Lockhart River, about 40kms south of here. We came to suspect that he drinks and smokes gunja with them! He talked of being close friends with an old aboriginal lady from the area, who became very ill and was taken to hospital in Cairns. He believes that, on the night she died he was visited by her spirit, in the form of a kangaroo that came into the house and left blood tracks across the floor. She had told him she would come back as a ‘roo.

He has bad tropical leg ulcers and generally poor health – too much drink? His wife did live here with him, but left, and is now living with a painter at Dorrigo – not quite such an alternative lifestyle as this one!

The man was interesting, and a character, but I felt that he’d lost touch with reality some time ago – as well as with personal hygiene! He was probably constantly stoned. We were pretty sure there were some interesting plantations in the bush around here……. I think he enjoyed talking to us, anyway; there are not too many new faces in this place which is cut off in the Wet, and too far off the main track for most tourists.

He told us that a fortnightly barge from Cairns brings the supplies for the Roads and for the Lockhart River community. I guess the mail plane run up the Cape lands at the latter, too.

After this encounter, we went back to Chili Beach.

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Low tide at Chili Beach and Restoration Island

It rained at times during the afternoon, but we managed to get in a pleasant walk on the beach.

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The outlook from our Chili Beach camp

Carloads of aboriginal men and youths drive through the camp area. They don’t need to, because there is a track by the beach, but they go out of their way to drive through the camp area, and quite fast at that. They seem to have a camp of their own further up the beach, but I suspect there is also a political point being made by this assertiveness, which may be meant to intimidate.

We saw some palm cockatoos in the trees by our camp – wonderful.

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Palm Cockatoo

There are a number of bush turkeys scratching around the camp area and rustling in the bush. I call them “Cape chookies”. We have realized that the chookies in these parts have a purple coloured neck collar, as opposed to the yellow one of those further south. These Cape ones seem much more handsome specimens.

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Scrub Turkey – or “Cape Chooky”

The flora and fauna of the Iron Range area resembles that of PNG, rather than of the rest of Australia, so it is quite a unique place.

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Rainbow Bee Eaters

Tea was fried rice.

During the darkest part of the night, we were woken from a sound sleep by a loud explosion. Got a huge fright. I wondered if one of us had been shot – it sounded like that. I remembered the aboriginal groups driving close by our camp, after dark, and thought of the “whitey hunts” D had told us about! The imagination runs riot at times like these, in such a place…. I was even reluctant to turn on a torch to investigate, in case it made us a target. Then, as I groped around in the dark, felt something wet. A small bottle of tonic water that I’d brought into the tent, to drink in the night, because I was feeling a bit off colour, had exploded, not far from my head. There were several big pieces of glass scattered about. It was lucky we hadn’t been injured, but it did make two small cuts in the side of the tent. Guess the bottle had gotten really shook up on the Cape roads. After cleaning up the glass – very carefully, so we did not hole the lilo – and mopping up the puddles, we did get back to sleep.

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Some of the exploded tonic water bottle

This was our second night at Chili Beach, but we had not gotten around to going back to the Ranger Station to pay for it. We are usually very conscientious about such things, but it is a fair distance to drive, over a fairly poor road.


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1998 Travels August 20

THURSDAY 20 AUGUST   MORETON TO CHILI BEACH   229kms

After breakfast, I phoned T at Wonga Beach to let them know we would be back there sometime next week, and would want to move onto a site. All ok with them. I guess the height of their busy season is over, now.

Once across the Wenlock, we were back on the roller-coaster-like ups and downs, and the corrugations and dust patch sections. Once we passed Batavia Downs and the turnoff for the short cut to Weipa, we were on new ground for us, until we reached the corner with the main Weipa road.

We decided that, since we were up here, we might as well go to Chili Beach, after all. But we had heard, several times, that the Pascoe River crossing, on the Frenchman’s Track, was high and fast flowing, and a generally nasty crossing, so we took the longer way round, via the southern route in there. Came south past the road to Weipa, and then took a little short cut route across to the Portland Roads road.

The track was variable. It wound about a lot. There were a lot of creek crossings, but all quite easy, though it took a bit of effort to work out the route through the Pascoe River.

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The Wenlock River crossing on the Iron Range road

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The Pascoe River crossing – bit hard to tell where we are supposed to drive!

We travelled through beautiful rainforest in the Iron Range National Park. The trip in, from the Peninsula Development Road, to the Ranger Station, just north of Lockhart River settlement, took us nearly 4 hours. We booked in at the Ranger Station, to stay at Chili Beach, and paid $7 for a night.

The track from there to Chili Beach was pretty poor. Narrow, winding, rough.

There were a surprising number of people camped at Chili Beach. We had to cruise around a bit to find a spot to camp. We found a site just behind the beach and the coconut palms. It was a bit exposed, and very windy, but I think everywhere there has some wind.

We put up the small tent and John put up an ingenious shadecloth shelter for us, which provided a degree of protection from the wind. We got water from the well there – it was not for human consumption and was very muddy, but would do for washing up. There are pit toilets.

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Our Chili Beach camp and windbreak

There were lots of rainbow bee eaters around – more than we’ve seen in one place before.

We walked on the wide, sandy beach for a while and found it very attractive. Restoration Island is quite close, and there are other islands dotted around. The tide comes in quickly, here.

A group from the Suzuki Club of SA is camped near us; we chatted to a couple of the members for a while.

Tea was eggs, bacon, fries. I was not all that hungry. Have been feeling rather off colour again, for the past couple of days. My suspect tooth has been aching off and on, since we were at Seisia, and I have been taking Panadol fairly regularly, for that. A bad tooth and these corrugated roads are not a match made in heaven!

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From Moreton Telegraph Station to Chili Beach


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1998 Travels August 19

WEDNESDAY 19 AUGUST   SEISIA TO MORETON TELEGRAPH STATION   341kms

We had a light breakfast – basically just a cup of coffee and some crispbread from the lunch supply in the picnic basket carried on Truck back seat. I was not going to unpack any of the back of Truck to get at anything more substantial.

While we had that, out on the deck/walkway outside our room, got chatting to a rather attractive looking woman, from Thursday Island, who was also staying here. She was over from the Island, doing a TAFE course – she did not say whether it was here at Seisia, or in Bamaga. She did not seem to have had a great life, but it may have been a rather typical one. Was very young teens when she started having children. I got the impression she was now a single mum. But at least she had the drive to improve her life – and was doing something about it.

John topped up the fuel tank with a jerry can.

We were away by 9am.

Stopped briefly in Bamaga to buy bread.

The road from Bamaga to the ferry is quite rough. It appears that the local method of road working is just to grade out the bumps and push the material to the road sides. The result is that, in places, the road is cut down quite deeply. Because there are no run off channels at the sides, the road becomes a creek when it rains, thus creating gullies in the road. In other places, the surface deteriorates suddenly into big patches of bulldust. Our little adventure to Ussher Point has caused us to drive this lousy section of road three times in three days!

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Pretty typical section of the Northern Bypass Road

Crossed on the ferry. The price we paid on the way up includes the return fare as well, so we did not have to fork out any more cash.

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The Jardine River from the ferry – looking towards the section where some people try to drive across!

The Northern Bypass Road was very much worse than when we came up, with erosion gullies, bulldust and corrugations.

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We stayed on it to the OTL track junction, then turned left and took the track to Fruit Bat Falls. We planned to have lunch there – and a swim (finally!). I’d hoped for a couple of days camping at Elliot Falls, but John was not keen on tackling the track there again, with the couple of nasty creek crossings. So it was going to be a swim here, then continue on to Captain Billy Landing to camp.

There was a convoy of nine vehicles at Fruit Bat Falls, and we heard some of the people saying that they were going to head off after their swims, to camp at Captain Billy Landing. So we left quickly, so as to be ahead of them, rather than eating the dust from that many. Also wanted to be sure of getting a camp spot, as we did not know how many rigs could fit there.

We decided not to do the big extra track to Heathlands Ranger Station for a camp permit, so just continued on to Captain Billy for lunch. The road from the Bypass Road into there was really good.

It is a very pretty place, but it was really windy.

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At Captain Billy Landing

A couple had parked their camper van inside the campers’ shelter shed that was there – very selfish of them.

The convoy arrived as we were eating our lunch while walking on the beach.

The camping area was quite large, so there would have been ample room for us and the convoy, but of course we did not know that in advance. Not having a camping permit, and because of the wind, we decided to push on south. I think we have just about had enough of the Cape, since Ussher Point, and are starting to think about having a little more comfort. We are just about “Cape-d out”

We did enjoy the beach explore at Captain Billy. There was a sensational view to the north, of the long sandy beach and headland after headland, receding into the distance. Some adventurous (foolhardy?) souls used to drive from Ussher Point to here, sometimes on the actual beaches, sometimes on the ground behind the cliffs, but that has been banned now, after too many rescues were needed and some vehicles lost altogether.

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At Captain Billy Landing – view south

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At Captain Billy Landing – view north

To the south, around the first point, was a rocky cliff face with a number of caves, containing bats. It was definitely an interesting place.

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Cliffs with bat caves at Captain Billy Landing

We tracked back to the Southern Bypass Road. This was in really good condition, now, so we made good time going south. The section between the OTL Track junction and Moreton must have been graded since we came this way before. John actually got Truck into fifth gear, for the first time, we think, since leaving Cooktown!

We camped, again, at Moreton Telegraph Station, just north of the Wenlock River – $10.

We had a very pleasant night’s camp there – put up the little tent. We were near a couple who had camped in Bay 9 with us at Punsand. They had broken something on their vehicle and had needed to get parts flown in from Cairns on the mail plane. It cost them $15 for freight, which we thought was pretty reasonable.

The hot shower here was the best I’ve had since we were here last – and that’s a while ago!

I think our gear is getting “Cape-d out” too. The kero lamp has gone back to not working properly. The gas stove has one blocked burner, so only one to cook with! I guess the sand and dust are taking their toll.

From the phone box at the entrance, phoned K to get him to send mail on to Wonga Beach PO. He already had!

Tea was fettucine with a creamy kumara sauce – the creamy part was tinned evaporated milk. John was not enthusiastic about this meal. Kumara is not one of his favourite vegetables, but it does have the benefit of keeping quite well in these conditions.

We slept well – it was needed.

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Bamaga to Moreton Telegraph Station, via Captain Billy Landing


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1998 Travels August 18

TUESDAY 18 AUGUST      USSHER POINT TO SEISIA      108kms

We did not sleep well. One reason may have been residual tension from the day. But there was pretty constant “critter” noise around outside. Neither of us was game to go out and see what animal/s were causing it! We did know we were too far from the sea, and up too high on the cliff top, for it to be the croc, but in the dark of the night the mind can come up with some similarly nasty possibilities! At one stage, I even wondered whether we should migrate the lilo to the roof rack and try to sleep up there!

After breakfast, we went and gathered some firewood and took it back to the clearing. Then we drove back to the bog area to retrieve a chain John realized we’d left behind. I insisted that John turn Truck around well before we got to the gully, even though it meant some backing to and fro in the scrub at the side of the track. We then walked to get the chain! I took photos in the daylight of the bog site, it having been too dark when we got ourselves unstuck last night.

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Where we had been stuck – pretty churned up now. The low shrub just around the corner helped us out, eventually.

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This is how the track looked as we approached the place, yesterday. Problem area upper centre. Just doesn’t look that hard!

After lunch back at camp, we went for a walk on the beach. Made sure that we crossed the creek outlet at a point where it was shallow and quite a distance from the deeper, croccy part! There did not seem to be any new croc tracks.

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The beach and cliffs at Ussher Point

We meandered along, for quite a distance, looking at the low cliffs and rock outcrops. Then I saw an animal, in the distance, coming down a scrubby slope and commented to John that there was a cow coming. But it was a HUGE pig that emerged onto the beach and wandered along it, stopping to dig holes in the sand. We were between the water and it – a very scary situation. I really did wish that we had a gun, as I tried to remember if I’d read anything about the likelihood of a feral pig that size attacking people.

After a surprisingly short discussion, we both agreed we did not want to spend another night in the little tent, with those sorts of creatures around. Especially given last night’s noises!

So, it was a fast walk back to camp, keeping a wary eye on pig whilst we were on the beach part.

We were packed up in under an hour and back onto the track by 4pm.

Our only choice, apart from another night camped in the bush, was to go back to Seisia, as it was dark by the time we reached the main road. Got to Seisia at 7.45pm, so we had really pushed it along.

After these harrowing two days, and given that it was now raining heavily, we could not face setting up a tent again, in the Seisia sand patch, for just one night. So we asked at the campground what the price was for one of their “motel rooms”. She said $38, which we thought was reasonable, so we took it. Then, it turned out that she meant EACH – so the room cost us $76 for the night. For that money, we got a small cubicle-like room, one of several in a donga structure. It just held two single beds, a small bar fridge, and two small sets of drawers. The air conditioning worked – very noisily – all night, and there was no way of turning it off or disconnecting it. There was an electric kettle so we could make tea or coffee – but the kettle cord was not long enough to reach from any solid surface to the only power point, so one stood and held up the kettle until it boiled. The amenities block was a good fifty metres away – no, our room was not en-suite!

John rushed off and bought fish and chips from the kiosk, just before they closed.

Overall, Ussher Point was not a very interesting or scenic place, and certainly not worth the effort involved in getting there.

It was not a great night’s sleep – but at least we did not have to worry about pigs!

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Route from Punsand to Ussher Point. We returned to Bamaga, then Seisia.


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1998 Travels August 17

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.

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The track to Ussher Point. John peering up at Palm Cockatoos

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!

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The creek and beach at Ussher Point

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Croc tracks emerging from the creek, just to the left of the pointed part, and going to the sea.

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.

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Truck stuck!

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.

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Rear buried in bank, wheel in gully, left front wheel off the ground! The headland and the sea at rear.

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!


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1998 Travels August 16

SUNDAY 16 AUGUST       PUNSAND BAY

There was some rain in the early hours and through the morning. That only made it more humid. The sea looks so attractive – but such unattractive things live in it, as deterrents.

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Another early morning at Punsand

We relaxed some more.

Have been discussing where we go next. John is determined to go to a place he found in my guide book that is really off the beaten track. After the Vrilya experience, I am not so keen, but suspect he will get his way.

Drove up to the office to get the other gas bottle refilled – $25.

Saw travellers there with a Trakmaster van similar to ours. It is very rare to see a caravan of any sort up in these parts. Chatted with them for a while. They bought their van the same time we did – had met them in the factory last November. The van travelled up here fine, but some of the plastic cupboard door catches had broken. Still, the fact that the van did this trip and this is the only issue, reassures us about the solidity of ours – these roads are killers! They came across the Frenchmans Track from Chilli Beach, with it – said the Pascoe River crossing was very hard. They also travelled the lower part of the OTL Track, but pulled off north of Eliot Falls, as we did. But I think they are crazy to bring their van up here, at all. Maybe they do not have the long term vision of van use that we do – want ours to really last!

Tea was a stir fry. Had to break out the tofu – much to John’s disgust. Tofu, vegie and ginger stir fry. I thought it was alright. John didn’t comment!