Archive | August, 2014
21 August 2014

Turning back

We’ve hit the heights now its time to turn around. I don’t read what I write so I’m not sure where I got to with the narrative past.

We left Cooktown on Tuesday, I think the 12th, and headed for Mareeba. Had a blowout on the trailer turning into Lakeland. Don’t know why.

Apart from carrying a little lizard in the aircon duct the rest of the trip was uneventful.

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Jude took the photos, a little nervous I think. It was never gunna eat much. He got cold so had to come out. I’m not sure which passenger jumped highest.

On to Mareeba. Plan was to do some work for Civic Guides but this didn’t work out so we drove out to Chillagoe. Chillagoe sort of completed the dots on the map, our coverage of FNQ (or at least the accessible bits).

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Chillagoe is all about smelters, caves and Fords. The smelters, dating back to the late 1800’s represent one mans dream to focus mine production on one local processing facility. The mines were spread over a huge area and the intent was to rail the diggings to the Chillagoe smelters then the processed ore on to port in Cairns. The project didn’t turn a profit and after vast investment (for the time) it was taken over by the state and ultimately closed down. Most of the gear was transported elsewhere back in the 1920’s.

The caves, of which there are many can be self explored or 3 of the better ones by tour (paid). We took one of the better ones with a guide and about 30 other people. Beautiful, spectacular all of that.

The Tom Prior collection of Fords has something of a reputation…..

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although I find it hard to comprehend how it was acquired and why here. That’s Tom himself – I couldn’t understand a word he said.

Back in Mareeba we had a balloon encounter. We were parked up in the Rodeo Grounds, along with hundreds of others including as it turned out several others we had met on the trip to the Tip. Strange noises over the truck in the morning and lo and behold 4 buckets of Asians descended upon us…

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Each bucket must have had 20 people in it.

Rodeo Ground has apparently held up to 800 vans, motorhomes campers etc but right now only a couple of hundred..

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power, water, some amenities just $17.00 per night makes it very popular with us nomads.

Back to Cairns to finally catch up with Graham & Pauline Hepburn then on to Ayr which is where I’m writing this. Not much else to tell really. Was going to do some work here but ran into some complications so moving on. At least casks are  back to reasonable prices and so is fuel at only $1.66/litre.

Still showing 22litres/100km on the truck despite some hilly territory. Just ticked over 10000km on the Hovel and nearly 7000 in Suzi. 4 1/2 months gone. Wow!

 

12 August 2014

Tip Top Two

Crossed the Jardine but the road didn’t get any better.

Not far to Siesia. Our map shows that the ferry service to Thursday Island operates out of both Punsand Bay and Seisia so a phone call to Punsand Bay Camping Ground because that’s where Alan & Barb are booked in seems like a good idea for this nights accommodation. Well says the man, your map is out of date – the ferry does not operate from here any more. So, Seisia would seem to be he best place to work from. In we go to the Seisia Camping Ground. For the privilege of putting up our own tent we gave them $48.00 per night but we did get a hut with a kitchen bench and sink and space to place our table and chairs under cover and dogs and horses to share it with. But, we did also get Joy and Tony as neighbours and that was real good cos they were a font of information. We put up the tent again and we didn’t argue once. And, despite the constant winds, horse intrusions and dogs over the next few days it stayed up. Whats more, we had a great view…

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Theres a lot of military history to this area including the airport which was originally put in by the yanks in the second WW but it was missed by a few planes the remains of which are scattered still throughout the bush…

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Both are marked on the maps but on the ground directional signage is pretty scarce – very hard to find. Quite chilling once found though.

Booked the boat to Thursday and Horne Islands at a concessional rate of just $202.00 each. The boat departs from just around the corner at 8.00am (shudder). Whoops, no seasick pills for Jude, O Oh. Nowhere to purchase either. This is going to be fun. Well, four boat trips later and stormy seas on return we have one new brave sea traveller. We can go anywhere now, even take a sea cruise!

Thursday Island is the local administrative centre for the Torres Strait Islands and is surprisingly well settled. It also has a fortress dating back to the 1880’s set up like most of the others of the period around Australia to combat a Russian invasion. It has 3 6″ guns all of which are the originals. It has a battery which now houses a museum and its fascinating….

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A few nice buildings….

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and a drive past the cemetery complete the sites of Thursday Island. On to Horne island. Lunch at the Horne Island Resort (which is corrugated iron mostly) and museum. Mostly photographic and word history of the region it covers the pearl diving period and the local WW II experience. Then on the bus for a tour of the WW II sites of interest….

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Not every day you pass a truck at sea. Plane wrecks, gun emplacements, control bunkers, slit trenches in concrete, all remnants of WW II. Thousands of troops on the islands, no action. Japs dropped some bombs though.

The ferry to TI from Seisia takes 1 1/2 hours, the ferry from TI to Horne just 20 minutes but all in all we spent nearly 4 hours on the water. The trip back was rough but Jude handled it well.

Next day, finally, to the TIP. This was to be the whole ‘raison d’etre’ – this is what we came for. On the way we stop at the Croc Tent…

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and Punsand Bay. Decided to take the short cut from Punsand Bay to the Tip. Ha! Shorter but how slow…..

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and we also had a water crossing deep enough to splash over the bonnet. But, a 2CV also made it as did his support crew in a Mercedes motor home. Sort of dulled the challenge.

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The walk up the rocks to the Tip was still a challenge for those of us not as fit  others and the wind threatened to carry us over to TI but we did it.

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but even here you get graffiti. Bit sad really.

You really do have to want to do this. Its not an easy experience. But we’re now two of those who have – it feels great and its another one off the bucket list.

Thursday morning marked the turnaround. Hereafter we’re heading home. Filled up at the Thursday 15c off service station for only $2.23 per litre. Everything comes into Seisia/Bamaga by barge twice a week…

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and gets carted up the beach. No wonder its expensive – they have to be careful of crocs. Hah! Crocodile warning signs everywhere and still not a croc to be seen. And that one back up there at the Croc Shop is stuffed.

Its now nearly 4 months since we left on this journey and the adventure continues. Tonight we made Bramwell Station for a night of FNQ outback entertainment and bush tucker. We wimped out, largely because of the wind and opted for a ‘donga’ at Bramwell but boy did we have a good sleep on beds and it was only $100.00. Now we could have had a donga with ensuite but at $270.00 thought the walk to the dunny would be better for us.

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On to Laura for the next overnight but a couple of breakdowns slowed us as we assisted so it was late and still windy by the time we got in. Bugger it – no tent again tonight.  A beaut new motel, an ensuite and great beds, it was almost worth any money. After 8 nights of sleeping on 2” foam on the ground these beds were nothing short of blissful.

Back to Cooktown and  finally our own beautiful bed. One night in the caravan park, one night in the free camp and on we go to Mareeba

 

 

10 August 2014

Tip Top

We did it. We made the most northern part of the Australian mainland. Late, rattled, poorer and convinced camping is not our style but we did it nonetheless. Was it worth it? Of course. How many people can say they’ve been to the Tip.

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(poor Suzi)

8 days waiting for the new glass for the Suzi window, $360.00 plus 8 more nights in a caravan park @ $40.00 per night (outrageous for what we got), $129.00 to cross the Jardine River (28 seconds each way), $48.00 per night in the Seisia Camping Park ( 3 nights), $404.00 for a boat trip to Thursday  and Horn Islands (concession rate), $25.00 for a 2 litre cask of wine and $2.47 per litre for fuel sure made the trip memorable.

But, it was more than that. Its an experience, its an achievement and its another tick off the bucket list. It is also quite a surprise. The roads are crap – about 1050k from Cooktown (via Weipa) of which perhaps 300 are bitumen, the rest dirt, corrugated, dippy, wafty, generally bad. But, we were told by some old timers, the roads are the best they’ve ever been. I’d like to say that it was ‘Heaven on a stick’ once there but it isn’t. Injinoo, Bamaga, Seisia are Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander communities with all that that conveys. The wind blew, it rained, we had horses tramping through the camp grounds and raiding our camp kitchen, dogs everywhere (including sleeping beside the tent). Camping was truly an experience.

On the way after passing through Musgrave Telegraph Station (1886)

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our first night out was spent at Charlies Mine Camp out of Coen. $10.00 per head for the privilege of putting up our tent for the first time. Others looked on and laughed a lot but we managed, and it stayed up. Pity abut our self inflating mattresses. Ground gets bloody hard with only 2 inches of separation – and no power so no CPAP so sleep was a bit elusive for both of us. But Charlie was entertaining and we met and enjoyed the company of Keith and Jill and Joe and Heather all of whom were headed in the same direction.

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Charlie started up his gold stamper – one single poppet head driven by an electric motor through 3 Toyota Hi-lux gear boxes (the cars from which they came are buried on the site) – quite an engineering feat all in all.

On to Weipa. It is a mining town with a population of about 3300, 1500 of whom work for the mine. Bauxite (aluminium) for which they get presently about $50.00 a ton to be processed everywhere else but in Australia. Bauxite is just below the surface – they lift the topsoil take the next couple of metres and eventually replace the topsoil. It’s all simple open cut, literally just scratching below the surface….

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The only traffic lights in Weipa control the ‘haul road’ over which the main road passes on the way into town. The tour bus (twice daily 40 people, $40.00 per head – nice business), ‘company’ car park, haul road, mine face, loading at mine face (220 tonnes), back down haul road to crusher hopper, across to train loading hopper, train with about 40 trucks each carrying 100 tonnes and off to port for loading on ships.

A couple of nights in Weipa and we’re no better campers, power enabled a better nights sleep but it’s a long walk to the loo in the middle of the night. The mine tour was an education, very interesting. But, it begs the question – why can’t we “value add” in this country?

Out of Weipa via Batavia Downs Station road to link up with the lower part of the Telegraph Track and on via Bramwell Station, Bramwell Junction for a $15.00 hamburger and $2.05 fuel and a look at the start of the real Old Telegraph Track…..

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and after watching a couple of others test the crossing we decided that we still had a long way to go and couldn’t risk the possible damage.

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Even the “smooth” parts of the track had the tow bar dragging over the ruts. So, back to the Development Road and its dreadful corrugations. On we juddered to the Jardine River, just in time to miss the last ferry by 7 minutes ie 5.07 pm. So, camp up at Jardine River camp ground. Found Alan and Barbara from Wonthaggi who know Frank and Jenny Deane – small world yet again. Ferry only operates 8.00am – 5.00pm – you’d think at $129.00 a trip they’d like to keep it going 24 hours but they are indigenous. The traffic up and down is amazing – its continuous.

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Thats Fruit Bat Falls where we stopped along the way to investigate the prospect of overnighting but “no camping” was the order of the day. Note the price of fuel at Jardine River and that’s the river that costs $129.00 to cross.

Next day on to Seisia but there’s more to tell than I can fit into this post and keep it readable, so tune in to the next Tip Top instalment.