Cape York 2002
David, Melissa, Dana and Ryan Christensen and Ronlea Douglas (David's mum) - 92 3.0 NH Pajero GLS
Paul, Mitzi, David, Jamie and Brent Staib - 98 2.8 GU Patrol ST
Dave, Katrina, Kelly and Hannah Crook - 99 4.2 GU Patrol DX
Day 1 - Friday the 7th of June
Odometer reading: 264832
We started the day reasonably early due to the excitement that was ahead of us. We finished packing the car, doing last minute shopping and trying to think of things that we had missed. After deciding that we had everything, we left Narangba at 12:28pm. It was a drizzly and overcast day for pretty much the whole day and we wondered how long this would follow us through our four week adventure.
The kids traveled well and had a late sleep. We arrived at the 'Greenacres Motel Van Park' in Benaraby (24km from Gladstone) at 6:44pm and bought dinner from the Caltex. Dinner consisted of pies, sausage rolls, kabana and soft drink of which we devoured quickly but were not proud of. We hit the sack fairly early ready for an early start the next morning.
Distance traveled: 509 km
Day 2 - Saturday the 8th of June
Odometer reading: 265341
We awoke at 4.30am with the intention of getting to Cairns that day. After showers, the car was packed and we started on our way again at 4:58am. The day was looking very much like the previous day with overcast skies and drizzle. We had breakfast and refueled at Rockhampton (106.91 L - 80.3 c/L - 616.6 km) and then stopped at a Driver Reviver at Waverly Creek to let the kids have a run around and to stretch our legs.
We left shortly after with Melissa driving to Bowen where we stopped at 12:30pm for lunch. We bought bread and made sandwiches for lunch at a small fruit shop. After everyone was fed, we headed off again and drove through patchy rain until we arrived in Ayr to refuel (106.99 L - 78.9 c/L - 612.3 km). We had a quick toilet stop and then continued through patchy rain on to Cairns. We arrived in Cairns at 7pm and met up with Ronlea at 'Inn Cairns'. We unpacked the car and moved into our room which Ronlea had booked for us earlier. It was great to get to your destination and not have to look for accommodation. We all headed downstairs to a cafe for a light dinner and then back to the hotel where we stayed up for a while to talk with Ronlea before going to bed.
Distance traveled: 1149 km
Day 3 - Sunday the 9th of June
Odometer reading: 266490
Everyone had a sleep in before heading off for breakfast which was had in the Mall. We checked out of 'Inn Cairns' and headed off towards Ellis Beach to meet up with our travelling companions - the Staibs and the Crooks. We stopped off at Bunnings on the way to buy new pipe for our water tank as we had a plastic taste to the water. We arrived at Ellis Beach Park at 10am and found a camp spot next to our friends. They had gone out for the day to do the Skyrail and tour Kuranda. We set up camp, tidied the inside of the car and reorganised everything to give us less weight on the roof rack. David replaced the pipe on the water tank and re-filled it with the water to check for leaks and drinkability.
We relaxed for the afternoon by swimming in the pool, playing on the beach and eating ice creams at the Bar & Grill / Convenience Store which was across the road from the camping ground. The Staibs and the Crooks arrived back at the campground at 6pm where it was discovered that Dave and Katrina Crook had filled up with dodgy fuel (kerosene contamination) in Townsville. They spent much of the evening on the phone trying to sort out who would be responsible for dumping the fuel and checking the car out. We Had a few drinks with our travelling companions before having an early dinner and retiring for the night. Dana had a restless night (so we all did)! as she was overtired and the crashing waves were quite noisy.
Distance traveled: 32 km
Day 4 - Monday the 10th of June
Odometer reading: 266522
After waking up and doing the morning chores, we waited around camp to see if Dave Crook could get someone to sort out his diesel problem. Whilst he was organising to get a mechanic to pull the tank out and drain it, David dropped Mitzi and her boys off at the Wildlife Park for the morning. On the way back, we filled up with fuel at Clifton Beach (72.95 L - 82.9 c/L - 457.3 km) before heading off to tackle the CREB track. Our family were in the Pajero with Ronlea keeping Paul company in his Patrol.
We arrived in Daintree at around 11:00am and just when we were about to ask some locals where the start of the CREB track was, we spotted Ron Moon near the shops. Ron was travelling with wife Viv and some long time friends (also Ron and Viv). We had our Cape York guide autographed and chatted for a bit about the CREB track. Ron took particular interest in Pauls GU and even came over to look at Davids Pajero. He was quite impressed at both vehicles. Ron was towing a camper so opted not to do the CREB due to rain and the track being greasy, but his friends tagged along with us to record track notes.
The CREB track proved to be relatively easy considering we were all expecting a difficult track. Thescenery was very beautiful and streams crystal clear with very few travellers being encountered. We were lucky enough to see a few Ulysses Butterflies towards the end of the trip which was a highlight for our kids and Ronlea.
We turned off the CREB track and started to head out to the Roaring Meg waterfalls. After about 15 minutes, we came across aHilux that had rolled onto its side after trying to negotiate a fairly simple looking washout. The driver was a local and had no recovery gear on him at all! It took about 1 1/2 hours for Paul and David to recover him with damage being restricted to a small dent to the right guard and large dent to the drivers pride. We continued on to the falls and it wasn't long before we arrived at the parking area. We secured the vehicles and after a short walk, we made it to the falls to be met with an impressive sight. Although the falls were not 'roaring' as they do in the wet season, the trip out was still worthwhile. We took many photos before heading back to the cars.
By this stage it was getting rather late so we drove back to the main track and then headed past Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Community to the Bloomfield River crossing. From here, the track was very windy and rough in sections with huge potholes that seemed to come out of nowhere. David did an impression of the 'Crocodile Hunter' when he came accross a 2 metre python on the road. He picked it up and then tried to put it through the window of the car. It was promptly released before heading on our way again. We bought hot chips from the 'Cow Bay' pub for dinner (enough for a football team) and crossed the Daintree River on the ferry. Although dark by this stage, we were amazed at how big the river was. We finally arrived back at camp at around 8.30pm after a very big day, however the kids were fantastic and we had a great time.
Back at Ellis Beach we discovered that Dave and Katrina had been unable to have their car repaired. A diesel mechanic was to look at it on Tuesday. After discussions, it was decided that we would head off the next day and they would meet us in Cooktown.
Distance travelled: 298 km
Day 5 - Tuesday the 11th of June
Odometer reading: 266820
The kids awoke early after having a restless night again so we all got up to have breakfast and do some last minute washing and organising before packing up camp. The Staibs and ourselves left Ellis Beach at 9.15am and headed towards Cairns with the Crooks staying behind to get the vehicle repaired. The boys headed off to a camping store to get a gas extension pole for Paul while the girls and kids topped up the food supplies at Smithfield Woolworths.
We refueled the cars (67.98 L - 82.9 c/L - 318.6 km) and left Smithfield at 11.50am to begin our trek to the tip. Again we headed up to Daintree and crossed the river on the ferry before making our way through Cape Tribulation to the Bloomfield River. We stopped at a nice area on the bank of the river for lunch and a bit of a stretch. The kids had fun catching frogs and making leaf boats in a shallow stream just off the river with the adults close by keeping an eye for crocs.
When everyone was fed it was back on the track again and on towards our next stop at the Lions Den Hotel. We followed the Bloomfield River for a while before heading North. The going was very rough in places with bad corrugations that shook everything. We came across several road crews doing track maintenance along the way. We stopped at the Lions Den Hotel with the intention of having a cold beer but we soon found that our water tank had ruptured due to the corrugations. David promptly emptied the contents and checked where the damage was. Paul also found out that he had broken both lower shock mounts on the camper. Feeling a bit dismayed that we had encountered problems early in the trip, we headed off towardsBlack Mountain for a look and to take photos.
Although overcast, Black Mountain rose ominously from the the horizon like a black Ayers Rock. We stopped for a quick
look before continuing on towards the Annan River where it was decided to make camp for the night. A nice campsite was found
on a river bend after a bit of a recce which also proved a perfect spot to view a great sunset. We had a quick look for croc
slides before settling down for the night. After dinner the boys drove into Cooktown to phone Dave and see how he went for
the day. Fortunately no major damage had been done and with all repairs complete, they would leave early in the morning and
meet us in Cooktown later that day.
Distance travelled: 247 km
Day 6 - Wednesday the 12th of June
Odometer reading: 267067
We awoke to a beautiful clear day and after all the morning chores were done, headed into Cooktown at 8.20am. David and Paul dropped the families off to do a bit of sightseeing before they went looking for a welder to help mend the breakages. The 'girls' and kids wandered around Cooktown for the morning, meeting up with Dave, Katrina, Hannah and Kelly mid morning. Some friendly locals who saw how impatient the kids were getting, told us of some friendly mullet that you could feed down by the river. They then started telling us of some large crocs that have been sited so the mothers promptly bundled the kids up and headed back to the coffeee shop. We visited theJames Cook museum which was worthwhile but spent nearly the whole time trying to keep the kids from playing with everything.
We met up with Ron and Viv again who told us they were heading up to Cape Flattery. As it turned out their itinerary was similar to ours so our paths would probably cross again. After repairs were complete, lunch of fried food and icecreams were devoured as this was to be the last taste of civilisation for a few days. The cars were refueled (49.94 L - 95.9 c/L - 232.7 km) and the group formed together for the first time for the the trip. We were then on our way again by 12.50pm.
The track that we were travelling on was interesting at times with large washouts and bulldust holes at regular intervals. A couple of hours after leaving Cooktown, our airconditioning compressor started to smoke from under the bonnet. Closer inspection revealed a stuffed bearing. This was the start of our very dusty trip. We arrived at the Starcke River (near Munburra Resource Reserve) at 4.30pm where we promptly made camp and headed off to do a little exploring.
The Starcke River is a salt water river that had not been tidal for a while. There were large shallow ponds that although appeared stagnent, supported a suprising amount of fish life. David, using Ronleas cast net, caught a 2 foot Tarpon and a few small poddy mullet in one of the ponds. The Tarpon appeared to have been mauled by a small croc so everyone was put on alert. The evening was spent socialising around the campfire. The kids who were exhausted from the days events, fell asleep early with the adults not far behind.
Distance travelled: 134 km
Day 7 - Thursday the 13th of June
Odometer reading: 267201
We arose early and leisurely packed up camp after breakfast. Mitzi headed down to the ponds to try her luck with a rod. It wasn't long before you could hear screams from down the river so thinking that Mitzi had seen a croc, we looked down to where she was fishing only to see her running up to the campsite with a medium sized Barra in hand. This was when the fish tallying began with the "girls" giving it to the boys (they seemingly forgot that David caught the first fish in the cast net).
With everyone raring to go, we broke camp at 9.10am to start ourlong but scenic drive up to Bathurst Bay. The going was very slow and rough with the bulldust getting thicker and more frequent (not what you want when you have no airconditioning). The GPS showed that our progress was averaging only 21 km/hr but with moderate temperatures and our 'babysitter' in the back with the kids, the trip was enjoyable.
Our convoy passed Wakooka Outstation and then proceeded North on the last 45km to our intended campsite. This section of road was worse than the track from Cooktown to Wakooka as it sees much more traffic. We arrived on the beach at around 4pm where we proceeded to drive along the beach in search of a suitable camp. We spotted a few other travellers already set up but wefound a lovely area West of the main track near a small creek. Camp was made before settling down to chat over drinks. The 'boys' baited some crab pots and headed down to the creek to see if dinner could be caught. By this stage it was late afternoon so it was with caution that we walked into the mangroves to set the pots.
That night around the campfire Mitzi cooked up her Barra which turned out to be delicious. It was decided that we would stay an extra day to unwind after a couple of long days in the car (and early mornings for the Crooks). The kids toasted marshmallows after dinner while the 'big kids' enjoyed a couple of drinks and a few laughs.
Distance travelled: 124 km
Day 8 - Friday the 14th of June
Odometer reading: 267325
After a very restless night we arose early at 6.30am. The night was extremely windy, but unfortunately not windy enough to keep the sand flies away and most of us discovered we were covered in bites. We also lay awake wondering what made the loud splash in the river just after we went to bed! The pots were retrieved from the river but unfortunately no mudcrabs were caught, so David and Paul went trudging through a mangrove creek in search of crabs or bait (but hopefully not crocs). One mud crab was caught but was thrown back as it was undersize, however some mullet was caught which could be used as bait later on.
Most of the day was spent relaxing around camp, drinking, eating and chatting. The kids collected shells along the beach and David and Mitzi took them for a splash in the shallow water. They were told of a large croc that had been seen in the area the day before so did not venture in too far! Theocean was beautiful and calm and it was very easy to forget what lurked beneath it. In Ron Moon's 'Cape York Adventure Guide' he had written about a freshwater creek nearby so the Staibs and the Christensens went for a drive in search of it. It wasn't long before we found the beautiful creek and quickly set up our Hot Water Shower system so we could all enjoy long hot showers. With an endless supply of water we were kicking ourselves that we didn't find the creek earlier on - we could have stayed all day.
Reluctanctly, we returned to camp and prepared dinner. Afterwards, Ronlea, Mitzi and Katrina headed down to the beach to do some night fishing. Mitzi (again proving her fishing prowess) caught a reef shark which David cut into steaks. Not long after, the girls made their way back to camp cautious of the crocs which may have been watching them. We sat around the campfire until about 8.30pm when we could stand the sand flies no more and retreated to bed. Dana had a very restless night scratching her bites so none of us got much sleep!
Distance travelled: 9 km
Day 9 - Saturday the 15th of June
Odometer reading: 267334
Arose to an overcast morning and after a quick breakfast we packed up and left Bathurst Bay at 8.41am. We spotted quite alot of wildlife on our drive, including a few wallabies and a feral pig. We stopped early in our trip to fill up the water tanks on the camper trailers with fresh water. We had been surprised at how dry the country had been so far so it was best to fill up with fresh water at every opportunity.
We were on the road again at 9.43am and not long after we caught up with Ron and Viv moon and crew along the track on their way to Bathurst Bay. They had about 6 weeks to tour the area so were taking things fairly easy. We chatted briefly about our trip so far and then continued on our way. We arrived at the Wakooka turnoff and proceededWest towards Lakefield and Musgrave. We stopped at a small billabong 30km from Wakooka for morning tea where there was a grave of a young boy who had drowned early last century.
It wasn't long before we were on the road again with the road improving considerably shortly after. We passed Kalpowar and arrived at Lakefield National Park where we turned North and drove on. The track now was smooth and straight passing through vast grassy plains and creeks with thick vegetation. We made Hann Crossing which looked like a great place to camp but Mitzi quickly informed us that there was a person taken by a croc a couple of years back. At 3pm wepulled into Musgrave and refuelled the cars (95.20 L - $1.03 /L - 487km). It was discovered (much to David's delight) that the water tank had split again and leaked through the floorpan of the car. With no chance of repairing it at this stage of our trip we drained the remaining water out and sought comfort in the form of icecreams and softdrinks from the general store.
Our convoy headed off shortly after along the Peninsular Developmental Road which was abundant with dips and bulldust. We passed through Coen and pulled into Archer River Roadhouse at 6pm. As we began to set up camp it was discovered that our back door handle had broken. With the back of the car full of gear we squeezed Dana in and fortunately she was able to open it from the inside. The girls managed to get some washing done before we all enjoyed nice hot showers and soothed Dana's sandfly bites with 'Stop Itch' courtesy of Mitzi. We were concerned her bites would get infected as she couldn't stop scratching them.
After a long day of driving we opted not to cook and enjoyed Archer River burgers for dinner. After viewing photo albums and reading up on the history of the Archer River Roadhouse, we returned to camp where David made minor repairs on the back door and we hung out our washing over a fence (there were no dryers) before we all retired early.
Distance travelled: 395 km
Day 10 - Sunday the 16th of June
Odometer reading: 267729
Our destination today was Chili Beach so, as it had rained in the early hours of the morning, we packed up camp and damp clothes and left Archer River at 8.30am. Our group made good time along the Developmental road before turning East and continuing on to Chili Beach. We crossed the Wenlock and Pacoe Rivers which were both beautiful and clear but one could see that the Cape had had very little rainfall during the wet season as the water was only 40cm or so deep. Our group experienced numerouscreek crossings with some having quite bad washouts to make the obstacles 'interesting'. A couple of crossings had cement bags in the bottom that had since curred which had fallen from a truck whilst trying to cross. We made it to the rangers station and registered our campsites for our stay before making our way on to Chili Beach.
We pulled in to our destination at around 1:30pm and were instantly struck by thetropical beauty of the area. The beaches were long and white with hundreds of coconut palms as far as the eye could see. We found a beautiful sheltered campsite (Paul had warned us of the strong winds that lashed this part of the coast) and quickly set up camp before setting off to explore the area. Dana found a large Nautilus shell and other small beautiful shells along the beach while Ryan took a liking to the flotsam that littered the high tide mark. Everyone pitched in to gather oysters from the granite rocks that were abound on the shore. David cracked open a few coconuts before heading off with Ronlea to 'bravely' go snorkeling in search of painted crayfish. Everyone else watched on cautiously looking for any crocs. Unfortunately there were no crays to be found.
Back at camp we enjoyed Oysters Kilpatrick and drinks as part of our 'happy hour. After dinner we had hot showers courtesy of a water pump nearby and our Glind shower. We once again chatted and had a few drinks around the campfire before retiring and enjoying a better night of sleep with a light shower through the night.
Distance travelled: 162 km
Day 11 - Monday the 17th of June
Odometer reading: 267891
The kids slept in so we all enjoyed a late start and awoke to abeautiful sunrise. After taking plenty of photos and video footage we cooked up a BBQ plate brekky and reluctantly packed up camp, leaving at 10am. There was a change of drivers today as Melissa took the drivers seat for her first real experience in 4wding after a bit of a ribbing from David. Mitzi jumped in as navigator whilst David joined Paul in the Patrol.
Our first destination of the day was to be Lockhart Aboriginal Community to refuel and replenish our food supplies. The local store was well stocked and sold a wide variety of goods but was very expensive. Fuel had to be bought in advance before filling up (72.58 L - $1.30 /L - 368.1 km). If you over or under estimated the amount of fuel used it was back to the checkout to pay the difference or get a refund. The price was the most expensive on the Cape by far ($1.10 for Diesel - $1.30 for ULP)
After completing our shopping we headed of to Quintell Beach which is only a short drive from the shop. Here the barge drops supplies off to the community but the beach is quite beautiful with large granite rocks dotting the coast. We stopped briefly before beginning our drive to Moreton Telegraph Station.
Our group travelled back along the Portland Roads Track through Iron Range NP, crossing crystal clear creeks and beautiful rainforest. We turned onto Frenchmans Track which was corrugated for most of the way and consisted of long sections of soft sand. It wasn't long before we came to thePascoe River again - albeit a little more challenging than the previous days crossing. The steep descent into the Pascoe River was rutted and had to be approached cautiously before crossing the river itself. The water was deep enough to cover the wheels but was down on previous years due to the lack of rainfall. Melissa did a great job of crossing the river which was the first for her. Once we were all through and up over the steep climb on the other side we stopped to eat lunch and take photographs of this majestic river.
It wasn't long before we were back on the road and heading through small bushfires that were dotted along the track. We stopped to collect firewood before arriving at the picturesque Wenlock River. After much debate (with the girls winning), it was decided to head to Moreton Telegraph Station to camp overnight. The crossing of the Wenlock was easy with everyone having no troubles.
It was a relief to get away from all the corrugations of the Frenchmans Track and onto the Overland Telegraph Line. Dana and Ryan had been very restless in the back of the car and everyone was getting quite agitated. We crossed the bridge over the Wenlock River and after having no luck finding enough room for 3 campsites on the river opted to stay at the camping grounds. It was 5:30pm when we pulled into Moreton where we payed our camping fees and set up camp. Melissa had trouble starting the Pajero and after a bit of a look, it was discovered that the starter motor solenoid was beginning to fail.
Camp was made and dinner prepared. Mitzi didn't waste any time in heading down to the Wenlock with rod in hand to show the locals and tourists how to catch a barramundi. The fishing tally was not looking good for the boys! After dinner we enjoyed long hot showers and then sat by the campfire to talk about the days events. Melissa was still on a high after a challenging day of driving and was very appreciative of Mitzi's patience and guidance as instructor.
Distance travelled: 152 km
Day 12 - Tuesday the 18th of June
Odometer reading: 268043
Before leaving Moreton Telegraph Station we talked with a family who were involved in an accident a couple of days before. While trying to swerve and avoid a head-on collision, they clipped the other vehicles camper. The damage was quite extensive with the Toyota 60 series suffering damage to the front of the vehicle including the radiator, battery, airfilter and some of the engine components. The camper that they were towing was also affected with its ALKO axle breaking.
Our group left at 9:30am and made Palm creek an hour later. The entry into the creek was sloppy and due to the number of vehicles getting stuck, had a lot of logs and branches in the bottom. Hoping not to stake a tyre, Dave was the first vehicle to drive through but because of the added weight of the camper needed to winch himself out on the steep exit.We got through with no problems as did Paul. As this was the first winching for the trip, Dave coped a bit of a ribbing for the rest of the day. We continued on along the rutted Overland Telegraph Line looking for the telegraph poles that provided communications in this area back in the early 1900's. Unfortunately due to 'souvenir collectors' there was very little left with most being knocked over so that the ceramic insulators could be removed.
We arrived at Gunshot just on lunch and got out to have a look at this famous crossing. We were the first to try the crossing with our Pajero and although David was a little nervous, made it with no problems.Paul was next and complete with camper made it look easy. Due to the width of the Patrol, Paul made the crossing a tad wider by taking some of the crossing with him on his scrub bars. Dave opted to take the easy route as his camper was hired and didn't want to damage it. On the other side of the crossing, Paul unhooked the camper and proceeded to try and drive up Gunshot without success. He did however drive up one of the older crossings which was a feat unto itself. The kids enjoyed swimming in the creek and after lunch and the obligatory signing of the 'Hut', we were back on the road again.
Although the area had had little rainfall during the wet, the major creeks were all flowing and proved challenging at times. Cockatoo Creek was one with its slippery banks and deep water. Everyone made it through with no problems and continued on toFruit Bat Falls for a swim. Paul stayed with the vehicles while the rest of the group strolled down along the boardwalk. The sight that lay before us was spectacular to say the least. Everyone stripped down and swam in the cool refreshing water. Photos and video were taken before heading off again to our overnight stop of Twin Falls. A light rain followed us into the campsite just on 3pm and after a recce found a 'small' area that would fit our party - just.
After setting up camp in the drizzling rain, we all walked down toTwin Falls for a swim. The kids who love water had a ball! Ryan lost his inhibitions and couldn't stop kicking and splashing back and forth between David, Melissa and Ronlea. Although not as spectacular as Fruit Bat, Twin Falls were beautiful nonetheless. There was hundreds of pitcher plants right on the edge of the water with some nearly a foot long. Back at camp dinner was cooked and eaten then it was to the campfire to talk about the days events over drinks. We would have to say that the days trip was one of the best on our holiday. A great day. Not too long in the car and some nice long breaks.
Distance travelled: 130 km
Day 13 - Wednesday the 19th of June
Odometer reading: 268173
We woke to overcast skies that morning so packed up camp and headed down to Twin Falls for a 'refreshing' early morning dip. It appeared everyone else had the same idea as well as the pools were teaming with people. It was back in the cars at 9am and onto our next destination. Heading back onto the OTL, we watched asPaul dropped a wheel into a huge hole while crossing Canal Creek. The crossing was deceptive due to the green of the water and sandstone bottom. Unable to drive out due to a problem with his airlockers, Paul was forced to winch out. This gave everyone the opportunity to take plenty of photo's and video footage and again brought on a bit of a ribbing as the only vehicle not to need winching so far was our Pajero.
After everyone was through (no-one else had any trouble) we pressed on to Cannibal Creek. The water here was very deep, submerging the Pajero's bonnet during the crossing but making it to the otherside without incident. Cypress Creek was next with it's well knownlog bridge crossing. The entry to Cypress had been changed from the 90 degree entry to a nice down ramp approach. This made it very easy for the vehicles towing trailers as there was no need to unhook them to manoeuvre them across as was the case in the past. The rest of the OTL was sandy track up to the old ford crossing of the Jardine River where we turned off 6km short of the river and headed toward the ferry crossing. We left the Staibs and the Crooks who were continuing on to Vrilya Point as Paul had no real interest in paying the exorbitant ferry fee to go to the tip again.
After saying goodbyes, we left the group at the turnoff and we made our way along the very corrugated road to the ferry. The crossing fee was payed ($88.00 for a 100m trip) and icecreams bought before driving onto theferry to cross the river. Shortly after we were on our way again heading through Bamaga and into Seisia. We arrived at our destination at 1pm and promptly set up camp in the local campgounds. Our spot overlooked the waters and islands of the Torres Straight and was very tranquil.
As we had some time up our sleeve due to our early arrival, we washed clothes and cleaned up before heading to the shops to replenish our supplies. The kids went for a walk along the beach with David later that afternoon and enjoyed playing in the sand after a few long days on the road. Afterwards, we made our way to the kiosk to book our Thursday Island tour for the next day. Cost for the trip was $95 per adult and $47.50 for Dana but this included a guided bus tour around the island. The price was of no concern to us as the main purpose of the trip was to visit David's fathers grave who died here back in 1985.
Whilewitnessing a magnificent sunset, we ate dinner and sat around our small campfire chatting about what we had experienced thus far and what we had before us. It wasn't long before the kids had fallen asleep so we retired early to bed.
Distance travelled: 111 km
Day 14 - Thursday the 20th of June
Odometer reading: 268284
Thursday morning saw everyone rise at 6.30am to an overcast sky. After lovely hot showers and breakfast we made our way to the wharf to catch the ferry to Thursday Island. We departed Seisia at 8am and navigated our way past many small islands that make up the Torres Straight. At 9am the ferry arrived at Thursday Island after a fairly rough trip with everyone feeling a bit queasy. Our tour group boarded a bus which took us all around the very small island stopping at historic places of interest including themuseum and cemetary. We had a quick look for David's fathers grave but the bus wasn't able to stop long enough for us to search. We had no information as to where he was buried so the tour guide suggested we go to the Council office to ask if they might have a plot of the cemetary. Unfortunately, they didn't have one so it was back to the cemetary for a more extensive search.
Shortly after leaving the council office, a TI councillor named Don picked us up on the way to the cemetary. He had recalled the name and the accident after we had left and offered to drive us to where he thought Tage was buried. Don revealed that he had actually buried him as he was the undertaker at the time of Tage's death. After a short search, we found Tage's grave which was overgrown and in need of some TLC. After cleaning up, the kids picked some flowers and placed them on the grave. It was so good to see him once again.
With goodbyes said and photos taken, we headed back into town to look at some shops and get a bite to eat. Lunch was had at a gorgeous Cafe that was painted brightly and decorated with Palm Trees and cartoon characters. The kids played with the toys while Ronlea and Melissa enjoyed chocolate cheesecake! The time quickly passed and we left Thursday Island at 2.30pm and arrived in Seisia at 3.30pm. It was decided to have a lazy tea so we bought fish and chips for dinner and chatted with our camping 'neighbours' over a few drinks.
Distance travelled: 12 km
Day 15 - Friday the 21st of June
Odometer reading: 268296
After a nice sleep in and hot showers, we re-booked the campsite for another night to allow us to explore the Tip. Whilst at the office we met up with Paul and Mitzi who had travelled to Seisia for the day to get some washing done. Dave and Katrina were on their way to the Tip already so we departed Seisia at 9.30am and started on our way. Our first stop was some derelict beach shacks that were once part of a coconut plantation many years ago. Now used by fishermen, they had a beautiful view of the bay with the beach all to themselves.
Heading North again, we arrived at Punsand Bay where we bought ice-creams. It seemed every time we stopped it was for ice-creams. After the kids were cleaned up (should have bought vanilla instead of rainbow) we made our way to one of the Old Telegraph relay stations for a look. The years of storms and cyclones had taken their toll on the old site with only a few columns and corrugated iron still remaining. On the road again and it wasn't long before we arrived at Pajinka at 12.20pm (Odometer reading: 268349). Packing a light lunch and some 'Bubbly' for the tip, the kids led the way through the rainforest and over the granite boulders to the Tip. Theviews on the way were spectacular.
It wasn't long before that familar pole which marks the Northern most tip of Australia came into view. We popped our bottle of Passion Pop and munched on chips to celebrate the occasion before taking photos and video asproof of our journey. With still so much to do, we made our way back to the car park. We had heard that the Pajinka Wilderness Lodge had been abandoned so Ronlea and David decided to have a look to see if this was the case. It was a shame to see something that was so well kept be taken over by the bush. When it was abandoned, everyone must have left in a hurry as there were things such as videos, personal belongings, clothing, cutlery and crockery strewn throughout the huts.
We left Pajinka at 2.30pm and made our way to Somerset to see the old homestead of the Jardines. When we arrived, the council had cut down all the mango trees to stop fruit fly infestation so the area resembled a garden tip. Melissa stayed in the car as Ryan was asleep whilst Ronlea, David and Dana looked at what wasleft of the station. There wasn't much to look at which was a little disappointing so we drove down to search for the Jardine brothers gravesites. It was lucky that there were some friendly locals there to point us in the right direction as there were no signs to show the way. We found the graves which were in remarkably good condition. Whilst chatting to the locals, we found out that the Aborigines didn't care much for the Somerset homestead as it harboured many bad memories from years ago and that was one of the reasons for its poor state.
With not much of the day left, we headed back to camp stopping briefly at the 'Croc Shop' for souvenirs and Bamaga for fuel (115.26 L - $1.05 /L - 477.1 km). We arrived at Seisia Camping Grounds at 6pm where our camping neighbours advised us that there was a traditional dance and dinner at Bamaga High School and that we were invited to attend. After showers and the short drive to Bamaga, we were soon seated in the assembly area of the High School. Dinner consisted of traditional foods such as turtle, dugong and pigs blood with many types of vegetables. We sampled everything on offer but it wasn't too our liking. The celebrations were for NAIDOC week with the dancing being very entertaining, however we had to leave at 9pm as the kids were very tired after such a long day.
Distance travelled: 130 km
Day 16 - Saturday the 22nd of June
Odometer reading: 268426
Today we were heading to Sadd Point as part of David's little expedition to fishing heaven. We packed up camp, dried and folded washing and left Seisia at 10.15am then drove to Bamaga to replenish our food supply. We decided that before we left, we would check out the Wartime crash sites near the airport. Discarded 44-gallon drums of old war time fuel dumps littered the short track to the first of the planes, a Kittyhawk, of which there was very little left. Further along we came across the remains of aBeaufort Bomber which was more complete. Its amazing that these aircraft crashed being so close to the runway. Heading south again we stopped in at the wreck of a DC3 which was in need of de-vegetation. Sometimes the maps to these sites can be a bit wrong so it pays to keep an eye out.
We were on our way again at 11.30am and it wasn't long before we had turned onto the Ussher Point track. The track was very narrow with large washouts and fallen trees blocking the road. It was obvious that it had not been used in a long time. The going was very slow but we found the Sadd Point turnoff at 3pm and proceeded North. This track was only just visible through the long grass and had many new trees growing in the middle of the track. Although it was only 10 km to Sadd Point, we could only manage jogging pace due to the amount ofvegetation we had to push through. The number of Golden Orb spiders that we picked up along the way was amazing with one grabbing our UHF antenna that had an abdomen the size of a duck egg!
We were nearly half way there when we were startled by a loud explosion from the rear. Upon inspection, it was found that the back right tyre had been staked. It was promptly changed before heading off again, with great caution however, as that was our only spare. We finally reached the tiny campspot amongst the rainforest at 5pm relieved that we had made it but still aware that we had to drive back. It was not quite what David had expected! Camp was made then we all walked down to beach so Ronlea and David could try the fishing. They had a few strikes but were unable to land any. It was very windy with patchy rain so we headed back to camp to cook dinner. An early night was had after a 'big' day (we were worried about the huge spiders and the fact that we were 4 hours from anywhere with no spare tyre!!).
Distance travelled: 120 km
Day 17 - Sunday the 23rd of June
Odometer reading: 268546
Due to a restless nights sleep, everyone was up early as they were worried about getting back to join the rest of our group. David and the kids walked down to the river to see whether fishing would be possible, however the tide was wrong and there were rain squalls coming through. Back at camp it was decided to head back after breakfast so we packed up and left at 8.45am. On the way back to the main road, David stopped to have a look at an old shack and a small freshwater lake (this must have been the one David saw in the video). It was quite old and we have no idea why it was there. There were no signs of any plantations and it was a few kilometres from the beach so the only reason we could come up with was to be well away from civilisation.
Moving on again, we arrived at the turnoff at 10.30am and drove out toUssher Point to have a look for camping opportunities for future trips. It was a very pretty area but not that good for camping as there was no protection from the strong Easterlies that frequent the coast. We walked along the beach which was scattered with all manner of rubbish that had been washed in on the strong tides. There were many Nautilise shells, bouys and bottles so the kids had a ball collecting anything they could carry. Returning to the car we had lunch and were on our way again by 11.30am.
It was with great relief that we finally arrived back on the Old Telegraph Road (thank goodness!) at 2.30pm without any further dramas. Ronlea and Melissa took great satisfaction in ribbing David on his expedition into the wild that was the cause for some tense moments.
Summary of 'Dave's Sadd Little Adventure'
On the way back to the ferry, we decided to stop and check out the
After crossing the Jardine River on the ferry, we stopped to refuel (60.7 L - $1.05 /L - 248.5 km) and buy ice creams at the convenience store before proceeding on to Vrilya Point. The drive there was over very rough corrugations until the turnoff to Vrilya which had been graded all the way to the log bridge crossing. At 4.25pm we pulled into the campsite where the rest of our group were relaxing. They had selected a beautiful spot on the beach under a group of Casuarinas which overlooked the Gulf. The kids were very excited to all meet up again so we started to set up camp while they played amongst the rocks. Shortly after erecting the tent, we discovered two huge centipedes (about 9" long) which had hitched a ride in our air mattress bag. This freaked Melissa out as she started to dread at what else we had picked up along the way.
That afternoon, we watched agorgeous sunset over the Gulf which was one of the best for the trip. Relaxing around the campfire, we had a few drinks and chatted to the others about our little adventure right into the wee hours of the morning (we were so glad to be back in civilisation again).
Distance travelled: 163 km
Day 18 - Monday the 24th of June
Odometer reading: 268709
It was a late start that morning with Melissa and Mitzi suffering some form of food poisoning (Hic!). After brekky the boys went in search of oysters on the other side of the point as the only ones we could find around camp were tiny milky oysters. A couple of hours later they were back with a 20 litre bucket full of Black Lipped oysters, most thesize of a can of Pepsi. David and Ronlea hooked in and ate their fill (the only two who could stomach them!) and kept the rest for oysters kilpatrick later on.
The men relaxed around the campsite for most of the day talking about what we were going to do for the rest of the trip while Dana and Ronlea walked up the beach and collected shells with Katrina and the kids. We tried to repair our air mattress which had a severe leak on the side as a result of what we think were the centipedes doing the wild thing in our mattress bag.
Later that afternoon our group travelled to a beautiful freshwater stream for a swim and to fill up water containers. There were a few other travellers there swimming in the cool and clear water so we jumped in as well. The kids loved playing in the shallow water (as do all kids) with everyone enjoying themselves thoroughly. After our swim, we kept driving along the track to another campsite on the beach. This was full of other travellers who we think were there for a lengthy stay. The area was nicer than our camp but we had ours pretty much to ourselves.
Another fantastic sunset entertained us before we had an early dinner and sat around the campfire for coffee. Shortly after everyone was in bed with ours going flat again that night. The centipedes must have had fun!
Distance travelled: 12 km
Day 19 - Tuesday the 25th of June
Odometer reading: 268721
Awoke to a gorgeous morning and had pancakes for breakfast (life doesn't get much better than that!). Camp was leisurely packed before sitting down to open the remaining oysters and put them in the fridge to eat later on. We left Vrilya at 10.10am and made our way back to the Developmental road. Whilst crossing Canal Creek, we bellied out on a rutted clay track and needed a tow out. Being towed or winched on this trip meant for some ribbing from the rest of the group and a tally being kept. With everyone through, we arrived at Twin Falls at 11.30am and headed straight for the water for a quick swim. With our party refreshed, lunch was eaten and then it was on the road again at 12pm.
Just before Sailor Creek, Katrina, who was driving Dave's car, hit a washout andflipped the camper due to dust making visability poor. They were OK, albeit a little shaken and the camper was soon recovered by Paul winching the camper over via a tree. Apart from punching a leg through the top of the camper and water leaking through the bedding, there wasn't too much damage. A few minor repairs and a quick tow of the car and camper from the washout saw us on the road again. Unfortunately not long after the Gunshot crossing, Dave staked a tyre on the camper - not a good day for the Crooks. To add to their troubles, the spare was of a different size to the other 2 tyres and it was also found that the wheel bearings were nearly shot. It was obvious maintenance was not high on the list of the company that hired the camper to the Crooks.
After crossing Bertie Creek, we met up again with Ron Moon and crew who were making their way slowly up to the 'Tip'. We chatted for a while before moving on to our overnight camp at Palm Creek, arriving at 5pm. Camp was quickly set up and meals prepared whilst Paul and Dave attempted to fix the problem wheel bearings. Unfortunately, the spare sets that Paul had for his camper were of a different size to what was needed on Dave's camper so they were just repacked and put back on hoping to get a set in Weipa. While they were finishing up, Mitzi cooked up the rest of the oysters in a sort of oysters kilpatrick stirfry which went down a treat. An early dinner was had by all with everyone in bed shortly after. We had swapped our leaking air mattress with the kids (so it wouldn't go down quite so fast!) with Ronlea and Melissa on Ronlea's mattress and David on Ryan's! Talk about musical beds!
Distance travelled: 134 km
Day 20 - Wednesday the 26th of June
Odometer reading: 268855
With the new sleeping arrangements, our tent had a much better sleep so we all woke fresh and relaxed. After packing up camp, we were on our way to Weipa by 8.10am. After travelling on severely corrugated roads on the way up, we were blessed with freshly graded roads for the return trip. This must happen at the start of the school holidays in preparation for the influx of travellers at this time of year. We made great time down the Developmental Road to the turnoff to Weipa where it was back to station tracks. Shortly after the turnoff we came across a pristine 100 Series stuck fast in a muddy creek. Paul recovered the bogged Toyota which had taken the wrong path by snatching him out with his camper. The chap had a winch but found out that it was stuffed after getting stuck. He had owned it for three years and never used it once! Bugger!
A little further on and we turned onto the main road to Weipa which was exceptionally maintained allowing you to sit on 100 km/h. Making good time, we pulled into the only campground in town at 11.30am. Camp was made after which saw the men travel into town to source parts. Paul was in search of new rear shocks for the Patrol and a spare tyre for David while Dave was looking for wheel bearings for the camper. Paul found the shocks for a very good price however Dave found out that the wheel bearings he needed had to be ordered in.
The rest of the day was allocated to getting as much washing and cleaning done as possible. Being the only campground in Weipa, the place was absolutely packed with travellers making it hard to get a washing machine. However once you had one it was easy to keep as we had enough in our group to stand guard until everything was done. That afternoon we went shopping. As we had 3 adults and 2 kids in the car plus all the associated gear to travel for a month, we left a lot of the junk food and nibbles at home. This time we decided to buy what we wanted instead of needed and store it anywhere where there was a space. One thing is for sure - $280 doesn't buy all that much in Weipa.
After all the chores were done it was time for an afternoon swim in the pool which was surprisingly free from people. Ronlea met up with friends back at camp where it was decided that we would go to their place for dinner. As we were back in civilisation, we were able to restock our diminished alcohol supply so it was time to have a few drinks and a happy hour. Ray (a friend who used to live in Gove) arrived shortly after to take us to his house for dinner, on the way to which David was pulled over for a breath test. Although he was under it was close.
We had a lovely dinner and were treated to the State of Origin game that was shown live. When we arrived back at camp at 9pm, the kids were asleep. It's a wonder that they stayed asleep as there were many revelers that night who stayed up late celebrating. We stayed up for a while enjoying a few drinks with our friends before we too hit the sack.
Distance travelled: 173 km
Day 21 - Thursday the 27th of June
Odometer reading: 269028
Sleep was a little scarce that night as Ryan was sick. He did wake up fine however which was a relief. Our bed still had a hole in it despite re-patching it for a third time the day before. Today was a recovery day and to allow Dave to track down some wheel bearings from Brisbane. He pulled the bearings off to make sure he had the right numbers and rang the hire company to organise for a set to be sent up the next day. As that was all that could be done, we settled down for a relaxing day lounging around the swimming pool, shopping and trying to patch the air mattress for a fourth time (fingers crossed!). David went looking for another air mattress but at $100 a pop thought that we had better fix the existing one.
We headed out later that day to find some fresh seafood for dinner. Loaded up with hot chips, mud crabs, calamari, fish and oysters it was back to camp for an early dinner. When everyone had their fill it was off to the reception to watch outdoor movies on Cape York history and some AQIS and Customs Watch movies. Ronlea went out with Ray to look around Weipa and visit the Lions Club and it was late before she returned. After the movies we had a few drinks before retiring for the night. To our relief our mattress stayed inflated (as it should with a tube of superglue and 6" square patch with duct tape holding it together!).
Distance travelled: 7 km
Day 22 - Friday the 28th of June
Odometer reading: 269035
With the morning chores done, we were all packed up and ready to go at 9.40am. Paul had to get some welding done to one of his spare wheel carriers that had developed a crack so while waiting for Paul to finish, we refueled the car (88.12 L - 93.9 c/L - 388.0 km) and drove around Weipa looking at the bridge over the river and town centre. We met back at the campground for lunch and found Paul under the bonnet changing an alternator belt. We left Weipa at 12.15pm after saying our goodbyes to the Crook family who had to remain in Weipa for the wheel bearings to arrive.
The road out was again excellent and we were able to travel at 100 km/h all the way to the Developmental road. We stopped at theArcher River crossing for a late lunch at 2pm and to let the kids have a splash around in the water. At 2.50pm it was on the road again. The road worstened from then on with big dips and a few dead feral pigs along the road. Not far from Musgrave, a cruiser ute overtook Paul and Mitzi on an S-bend and nearly ran them off the road. Paul informed us of the idiot and it wasn't long before they were up our bums. They overtook us just before a bad dip which we couldn't see due to the dust. We nearly lost control, braking heavily to avoid damaging the car. David was not very happy!.
We caught up with the occupants of the ute at Musgrave at 4.15pm where Paul and David 'confronted' them. They were young station hands keen to get to Musgrave to buy grog before they closed however they proved to be very arrogant and a bit brainless as they "drive with bald tyres because they know how to drive and tourists with new tyres don't"! After that witty remark Paul and David knew that it was a waste of time trying to get an apology. After the heated argument, we refueled the cars (73.89 L - $1.03 /L - 381.5 km) cooled down with ice-creams and looked for a nice place to camp the night. We decided on alarge sandy area in a dry creek bed just south of the Musgrave camping grounds within walking distance to showers!.
Camp was set up and a fire started to cook dinner. Paul and David decided to have a few drinkies to relax a bit and it didn't take long before they were laughing at the days events. After dinner we all sat around the campfire till late telling yarns and planning the next days journey. The boys, with their alcohol enhanced hearing, heard a commotion up at the Musgrave homestead so the 'tipsy' boys armed with night vision goggles wandered up for a look. Apparently some 'locals' were having car problems with one group wanting to head North and the other South. There was a lot of swearing and yelling in both their native language and english so it was of no surprise to see the boys come back in hysterics!
Distance travelled: 386 km
Day 23 - Saturday the 29th of June
Odometer reading: 269421
The morning was fresh and cool when we woke which was different to the warm nights that we have had on the trip thus far. Packed up camp after a bacon and egg breakfast and showed the kids the cows around the homestead. Left Musgrave at 9.45am driving South along the Developmental road before turning off towards Karumba about 20 km from Musgrave. The roads from then on where all station tacks so there were plenty of gates to open and close throughout the day. The kids were thrilled at all the cattle, horses and kangaroos along the way with one station at 'New Dixie' havinghorses that the kids could pat. The tracks were good for most of the trip however there were some sections that required a more careful approach.
The landscape was very dry - evidence of a poor wet season so it was difficult to find a nice shady spot for lunch. We stopped at about 12.30pm near a huge lagoon for a bite to eat however the flies and bulldust saw us eat quickly and start on our way again. Melissa drove the rest of the day while David played in the back with the kids as he was suffering from a sore back. It was good for Melissa to gain experience on the roads as they were not that bad with only some soft sand in places. We passed many inviting lagoons teaming with birdlife (particularly Brolga's) but resisted the temptation for a swim. Some of the biggest crocodiles in Australia are pulled from lagoons just like these ones.
At 3.45pm we arrived at the Mitchell River and were amazed at how wide it was. There was only a narrow shallow crossing in the middle but with 100 metres of sand either side. In the river was aFord Courier with camper that had been stuck for a couple of hours. He had disconnected the camper to try and free himself without luck. Paul managed to winch him across the river with the camper hooked up to the Courier via a snatch strap. It always amazes us at how unprepared people are when attempting trips such as this. They were running road pressures in the tyres with an overloaded camper and vehicle and no recovery equipment. Paul was given a box of over ripe bananas and a dozen VB's for his trouble at winching them out though.
While recovering the Courier, a station hand rocked up with semi frozen beers to enjoy the show. A quick chat revealed there were crocs around and to keep an eye out. He also metioned that sections of the river were like quicksand so it payed to stay on the crossing. He left after the show was over allowing us to set up camp at 4.30pm on the sand close to the bank. We made a nice big fire and after dinner, enjoyed drinks and banana custard for dessert! Sat around the campfire to keep warm before going to bed to the sounds of animals running around in the bush just above where we were camping. This was to be our first taste of the cold weather again with a freezing night!
Distance travelled: 216 km
Day 24 - Sunday the 30th of June
Odometer reading: 269637
When everyone awoke, a fire was quickly made to warm us after a very cold night. After breakfast the boys attempted to change David's blown tyre with one that they found the day before. Unfortunately it was too old and worn to get it to sit properly in the bead. With everything packed, we crossed the river and drove up and down the river bed in search of a good spot to fill the water tank in Paul's camper. Not far from the crossingPaul suddenly sank in the sand (it was like quick sand) bogged to the axles. Luckily the mighty Pajero was there to snatch him out as there was nothing at all to winch off for 100m! With Paul recovered and tanks filled we were on our way at 10.40am.
Driving through the Gulf country was very uncomfortable in the Pajero due to no air conditioning and bulldust that just seemed to go on forever. We were happy though that we had the chance to experience this trip so it was worth it. Just before lunch we crossed the Gilbert River and spotted our first croc for the entire trip (well for us anyway). It was a freshwater crocodile about 5 feet long sunning itself near the bridge. It soon disappeared so we stopped on the southern side of the river for lunch while Ronlea and David had a quick fish. The river itself was a great spot with large shady trees and plenty of places to pull up for a rest or even camp. With the fish winning this round, we left at around 1pm.
The road had improved markedly from the station tracks that we negotiated the day before so we picked up the pace for the last couple of hours to Karumba. You still had to be very careful as we found out with a close encounter with a cow and a wallaby. Just before Karumba were vast, dry plains with many emus grazing the grasses. Although not overly hot, the winds were very dry. Our group reached Karumba at 2.15pm and made our way to the Sunset Caravan Park. The Park was near capacity so we were lucky to book two sites next to each other. Retirees from all over Australia make this their home for months on end during winter. We set up camp and with time up our sleeve drove to the Barramundi Farm for a tour. On the way we had a strange noise develop from the front axle. A quick check found nothing obvious so we continued on. At the farm we marvelled at the huge Barra that were swimming in the tanks. The highlight was when we were able to feed them which resulted in a soaking.
On the way back to camp we stopped off at a seafood shop to pick up freshly cooked prawns, mud crabs and hot chips for dinner as well as a bottle shop for some drinks. After everyone had stuffed themselves it was time to settle down to discuss the next couple of days over a Bourbon or five. While the girls tried madly to get the washing done ready for an early start the next morning, the boys decided that it would be nice to stay another day as we had a day or two to spare. That afternoon large goups of wallabies came in to graze which delighted the kids. Even into the night you could hear them just behind the tent. That night it was very cold and windy so it was off to bed at around 10pm.
Distance travelled: 279 km
Day 25 - Monday the 1st of July
Odometer reading: 269916
Another cold morning so it was very hard to get out of bed. Once we were out it was straight over for a hot shower then back for breakfast. It stayed cool until around 11am and felt like we were in Victoria. With most of the chores done the night before, we ambled around camp taking in the sun and doing very little. Melissa tried to clean the inside of car as it was caked in bulldust. with most of it removed she gave up and elected to get it detailed when we got back home. David and Paul had a look under the Pajero to try and find where the driveline noise was coming from. They discovered that the exhaust had broken several welds which allowed it to hit on the chassis so some temporary repairs were done to see us home. A test drive revealed that the noise had gone which made David happy.
The afternoon was spent lazing around the caravan park and taking a walk across to the beach. The kids were very eager to explore the water and sand in search of shells, however the familiar 'Crocodiles inhabit these waters' sign and stories of the 'Big Croc' were enough to deter us from lingering very long. On return to the caravan park, David and Paul got chatting to a couple of guys who were camped near us in Weipa. They informed us that the wrong bearings had arrived for Dave and Katrina on the Saturday which meant that they would definately not be rejoining us for the remainder of the trip. The correct bearings finally arrived on Sunday and after fitting them, they departed Weipa on Sunday night for a quick trip home.
We enjoyed an early happy hour that night which continued on until late and when we could bear the cold no more, it was off to bed.
Distance travelled: 35 km
Day 26 - Tuesday the 2nd of July
Odometer reading: 269951
Everyone was reluctant to leave the warmth of their beds this morning but we all stumbled out to have breakfast and pack up camp. We departed the caravan park at 9.45am in search of the legendary 'Big Croc' that was caught around here so our first stop was at the Karumba airport where we encountered an average looking replica. On the outskirts of Karumba, we stopped at a service station to re-inflate our tyres before departing Karumba at 10.15am. Much to our dismay we quickly discovered the noise from the axle had returned once again however not as bad or frequent as before.
It was an easy drive to Normanton which saw us arrive just before 11am and quickly spot the'Big Croc' in the main street. Dana and Ryan were asleep in the car so Melissa remained with them whilst David, Ronlea and the Staib family checked it out. It was much more impressive and life-like than the croc in Karumba and the kids enjoyed climbing over the massive body and being photographed in its mouth. While in Normanton we refueled the cars (115.55 L - 95.2 c/L - 601.4 km) and filled up our gas bottle which had done well to last nearly 4 weeks of camping. We were also lured to the local bakery where we enjoyed fresh pies and sausage rolls for lunch. We stopped briefly on the outskirts of town to photograph the 'Big Barra', another famous icon of the region, before leaving Normanton at 11.40am.
With Cloncurry as our destination for the day, we still had a few hours of driving ahead of us and only stopped once more for a toilet break at the Burke and Wills station. We arrived in Cloncurry at 3.45pm and after checking out our camping options in town we decided to refuel (69.34 L - 88.5 c/L - 373.5 km) and find a secluded place out of town. We found a very nice spot in adry creek bed that passed through a gap in one of the ranges about 31km from Cloncurry at 4.30pm. With a red cliff as a backdrop, the site looked beautiful at sunset. Mitzi got the campfire roaring ready for another cold night and we had dinner and an early night.
Distance travelled: 475 km
Day 27 - Wednesday the 3rd of July
Odometer reading: 270426
With every new day, the mornings were getting colder and colder. Dana had a very restless sleep so David stoked the fire at 5am and again at 6.30am when we all slowly arose. It was nearly decided to turn around and head North again but we had to accept that our trip was coming to an end. We cooked pancakes for breakfast then began to pack up (slowly). We didn't want to leave the warmth of the campfire but eventually departed at 9.50am.
During our drive, we saw many emus and camels along the road which delighted the kids. It was amazing to see so much wildlife in a place of such drought. We stopped at 10.40am when we hit gravel road again so we could deflate tyres and put a rag in our backdoor to stop dust coming in. Paul discovered that one of thestub axles on the camper had broken its welds and the wheel was slowly moving outwards (Not happy!) so he did a temporary repair with wire to hopefully get us through to Bedourie. It was back on the road again at 11.25am.
Just before 1pm, we pulled into Boulia to refuel (63.53 L - $1.05 /L - 316.5 km) and grab a bite to eat. You start to get tired of chips, dim sims, kabana and coke for lunch when on the road so we promised ourselves that it was only healthy from then on. Leaving Boulia the country started changing to flat and featureless with roads that were very straight and uneventful. However it was very peaceful and would be a great trip to visit some of the rivers and lakes that were around. We arrived at Bedourie at 3.25pm for our overnight stop. Mitzi's friends Rob and Del Dare who owned the Roadhouse/Restaurant/Pub/Caravan Park/Motel/RACQ service centre put us up in a couple of their motel rooms for the night which was great - no setting up camp!
Shortly after pulling into Bedourie, David discovered a slow leak in one of our tyres, a result of the very harsh stoney road that we had travelled. Rob plugged it for us with no further problems for the rest of the trip. Paul also fixed his stub axle problem on the camper using the comprehensive workshop that Rob had. With all the work done, we all enjoyed refreshing showers and went to restaurant for a few drinks and a lovely dinner. Ronlea took the kids back to the motel for bed, while Paul, Mitzi, David and Melissa chatted and drank with Rob. We sat around the bar until around 11pm before being invited out back to an 'Empty Box' party for some live country entertainment. Rob shouted drinks for the remainder of the night and a good time was had by all! Got back to the motel room after 1am.
Distance travelled: 473 km
Day 28 - Thursday the 4th of July
Odometer reading: 270899
We woke with a few of us feeling a bit under the weather but hot showers and breakfast made things a lot more bearable. With bags packed, we gave thanks and said our goodbyes before refueling the cars (44.78 L - $1.18 /L - 187.3 km) and leaving Bedourie at 10.45am. A couple of hours later we came across a trailer which had broken its axle and suspension so we stopped for a break and to take a photo. Just before leaving, the owners arrived back with the axle, wheels and welding gear! A chat revealed that the trailer was used by University students who were on a trip through the outback. They were camped further down the road so wishing them well we were on our way again.
Thirty odd kilometres from Windorah we stopped at the 'JC Ruins' which is the remains of an old pub from back in the 18th century and its cemetary. Mitzi's great uncle was buried here aged 2 years and 4 months after he wandered off and was attacked by dingoes. Next to the cemetary there were large bottle dumps where all the bottles from the pub were thrown. Unfortunately every single one of them were smashed with those that were intact being souvenired a long time ago.
It wasn't long after that we arrived in Windorah at around 3pm. Mitzi caught up with relatives while David checked over the car. He topped up the oil (about 3 litres!) as it was very low. The car used to be very good on oil but for some reason had started using a lot during this trip. On the way to our camp spot on the Coopers Creek, we bought some bait and drinks at the local store hoping to catch a few fish that afternoon. When we arrived at the Coopers Creek, preparations were under way for a cow mustering festival that was being held there over the next couple of days. Campsites were filling up quickly so we found a lovely spot and proceeded to set up camp by 4pm.
With a steady fire going we cooked up our two roasts for a big dinner for everyone. While waiting for these, we did a bit of fishing and set the yabbie traps with the intention of catching breakfast. Alas there was nothing caught so it was back to camp for our communal dinner and an early night as it was very cold.
Distance travelled: 394 km
Day 29 - Friday the 5th of July
Odometer reading: 271293
As there was no reason to rush this morning, we didn't get out of bed until 8.30am. Not a very good nights sleep for us last night as Ryan was being a ratbag. It was an extremely cold night and we only had light sleeping bags and one horse blanket so we definately felt it. The yabbie pots were checked but we had caught nothing so we packed up camp and said our goodbyes to the Staib family. They were staying on for the big Cattle crossing and to catch up with family and friends (Mitzi grew up in Windorah).
It was back into Windorah to refuel (89.69 L - 99.0 c/L - 406.9 km) before leaving at 10.40am. We encountered a lot of road kill from Windorah to Roma which made for a smelly trip (no airconditioner). Bought pies for lunch at Quilpie at 1.15pm (what happened to healthy?) with Melissa driving the rest of the day from Charleville to Roma. We refueled at Mitchell (106.4 L - 95.0 c/L - 613.3 km) and arrived in Roma at 6pm. Ronlea booked us into the Mandalay motel while we waited for our Pizza to arrive for dinner. Thankfully we had reverse cycle airconditioners in the room so we turned up the heat and curled up in bed to watch the TV.
Distance travelled: 709 km
Day 30 - Saturday the 6th of July
Odometer reading: 272002
It was up early for long hot showers before leaving the motel at 8.40am. Breakfast was bought at McDonalds but was eaten in the car before we departed Roma at 8.55am. We stopped briefly in Oakey to pick up some Pajero bumpstops from Paul's and Mitzi's house then continued on through Toowoomba to Laidley. We refueled at Rusty's roadhouse (84.96 L - 76.5 c/L - 476.3 km) and again at Burpengary (14.68 L - 78.9 c/L - 105.1 km) before pulling into our driveway at 3pm. It was a relief to finally arrive home (with the car in one piece) but we were buzzing about our trip for days to come. We were even planning our next big trip in 2004 to the Kimberlies - but that's another adventure.
Distance travelled: 498 km
Final odometer reading: 272500
Total kilometres travelled: 7668 km - Total fuel used: 1404.25 L - Economy for trip: 18.31 L/100 km
Final thoughts - 'Let's turn around and go back again!'
Find below our Trip Diary, Trip Itinerary, Meal Planner, Pantry List in Word format for download.