Was the Cape trip worth it?

I have been asked a few times now, if I thought the trip up to the tip of Cape York was worth it?
In a nutshell the answer is YES! It is an unforgettable adventure and the sense of accomplishment is great. It is a beautiful part of the country but it is hard going. However if you ask me would I do it again the answer is no at least not for a long while. We've been there - done that. There's lots more of Australia to see.

In our own recent trip, we joined up with a 4WD club from home, that was making the trip to the tip just one part of their 6-8 week long trip and thus were unable to dedicate more time to just the Cape itself.

Malanda Falls, Yungaburra & Mareeba

The Atherton Tablelands 

Since we needed to hang around within cooee of Cairns until we met up with some family later in Cairns, we decided to spend the time up in the tablelands.  Even though we had spent some time here before we went up to the cape, there was still many things to do and see around here. Lakes, waterfalls, markets, history, arts & crafts including public murals. The Atherton Tablelands has it all and is absolutely delightful.
Yungaburra Markets

Ravenshoe on the southern end of the beautiful Atherton Tablelands

After picking up the Robbiebago, we were to have a few days on our own before meeting up with the 4WD club again at Dave & Tracy’s place just outside Ravenshoe. We used this time to rest and then to clean up the car and repack everything more suitable for us being in a caravan again.

 Camped at Dave & Tracy's

Dave & Tracy live on a large 4 or 5 acre block of land and there was plenty of parking for all 8 vehicles and their trailers or tents. It was great to meet up with these people who were now firm friends rather than the strangers most of them were just 3 short weeks before. Travelling and camping together creates its own special bond.

Back to the Robbiebago - Mt Carbine & Rocky Creek

We were breaking away from the main 4WD group today anyway and since John needed to head into Coen for more substantial repairs on his trailer we decided to follow Chrissy and John and make sure that they didn't have any more dramas on the way.

A truck stirring up just a little dust
We left Moreton around 9.15 for a slow trip to Coen arriving around 12.30. John was able to secure the services, he required and so after a quick mini lunch in Coen, we decided to push ourselves to get to Mt Carbine today instead of tomorrow as originally planned. It meant a long day in the car but the rewards of sleeping in the caravan would be worth it all.

It was some 250km to Laura where we had the rest of our lunch? at 4pm. Across the road there is a delightful mini antique car, an Austin that is fully road worthy.

Morton Telegraph Station

As mentioned in the last blog entry, John, Ian & Wes got a good head start to get along the track. We slept in, if you can call it that as we left at 9.15. After nearly 2 weeks of packing and unpacking we find we are a tad faster, but we still need to allow an hour to have brekkie and pack up.  We caught up to them at Bramwell Junction, where they reported that everything was still holding together.
Ferns in the understory near Bramwell Juntion

Closeup of the same ferns
We then continued collectively to head on to Morton Telegrapgh Station for tonight's camp arriving around 2pm. It is a nice big relatively flat area adjacent to a crocodile infested river. (I haven't seen a croc anywhere this trip yet!) 

The very Tip of Australian mainland

On Sunday 15 July, 2012, we reach the ultimate goal of this trip, which is the Tip. The tip of Cape York is traditionally known as Pajinka.

We took yet another narrow & rough track suitable for 4WD only,  travelling over a couple of creeks. The drive is through some beautiful rainforest with lots of dappled shade and some flowers. Once we joined up with the main road, if you can call it that, we met lots of traffic going to the same place. We were fortunate to find parking for all our vehicles.

A good rambling but steep climb leads you up and over some small hills and eventually after some 800 or so metres you can see the famous sign that said you have arrived!  We all took lots of pictures both as a group and individual  couples. This is the pinnacle of Australia.

At the Tip of Australia
We returned to the carpark and walked on past to the now abandoned Pajinka Resort just 400 metres from the very tip. It was privately built and then apparently handed over to the Aboriginals, the Injinoo people who are the traditional owners of the land, who apparently did not approve of the resort and let it go to ruins. It seems such a waste to our ‘white man’s sensibilities’. There seems to be a lot of myths and half truths of what happened, A fire guttered the generator plant, the resort created a lot of environmental fall out, the Aboriginals hated it and destroyed it, etc, etc etc.

One of the beautiful flowers at the top

Interesting colours of a oyster fungi growing on a tree trunk
Next stop was Somerset beach for lunch. A lovely picnic and camping area on a beach setting.  We went to see the ruins of the Somerset homestead, one of the Jardine family's homesteads. There’s nothing much is left of it, but it's worth looking at for insight into the European history of the region and the impact of the Jardine  Family on the peninsula. 

Bob sitting astride a cannon at Somerset Homestead

Typical jungle abounds both side - note the smooth track - that didn't last long!
Some mangrove roots
Just down the road is Fly Beach, which is where you will find an extraordinary amount of rubbish washed up from the sea.  Thongs, shampoo bottles, you name it anything plastic. I hear even tv’s and such are found occasionally washed down from Indonesia. Shari said it’s nickname is Thong beach and it is easy to see why. Young Ryan was delighted to find and show us handfuls of these tiny little crabs. Hey curl up into little balls of no more than 1cm diameter.

Lineup of our vehicles on Fly Beach

On the way back to camp we stopped at the fabled ‘Croc Tent’.  This is a shop that is literally in a road side tent that is apparently open seven months of the year selling souvenirs. They even try to ensure that as much as possible their souvenirs are made in Australia. 

Tonight we all chipped in and we had a great pot luck type of feast including a fabulous baked dinner and a variety of other yummy goodness including a giant damper of course.

The top of Cape York specifically Punsand Bay

Since we separated from the main group, due to not pre-booking, we were to meet up with the rest early the next morning. Yet there was some sort of misunderstanding of just where we were meeting and so we ended up being at the Ferry a good half and hour or more earlier than the main team. Still we are all back together again and the Ferry ride is pretty uneventful. Once again we lead but there is more confusion as our GPS had us going all over the place. Ian had to take over. We ended up going past Bamaga right up to the wharf for morning tea and a short walk and photo opportunity, but a light drizzle put a damper on outdoor activities (pun intended!). Some needed to get fuel and/or groceries and so we arranged to meet up about an hour later to give people time to get their stuff. Bob and I took ourselves off to find the Tourist Information Centre, which we couldn’t find and so we ended up at the bakery enjoying a cuppa and some pastry items. Fresh bread was not too bad at $4.50, but there was a shortage due to the flour not arriving as the barge had broken down somewhere and was several days late. Such is life in a remote location.

  A colourful sunset at Punsand Bay
Soon we move on to our campgrounds at Punsand Bay (Camps 6: 935) way out from Bamaga, I think it was something like 20km out and very slow to get to it being so rough. The camp ground is very rudimentary at best and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, however the beach is fantastic.   

There is only one toilet/shower block close to us with 4 unisex toilets, one is for staff only, one is out of order and thus leaving just 2 toilets for maybe 70 - 100 people and they frequently run out of toilet paper on top of everything else. There are just 4 unisex showers in the block, with one being reserved for staff use only. There is a family size above ground pool and a bar is nearby on site which also serves food.

Two of the lovely brown & yellow butterflies seen regularly at Punsand Bay

 I was fascinated by the lovely brown and yellow butterflies seen frequently around the campsite. We also we fortunate to see a Papuan Frog Mouth whilst there.
Papuan Frog Mouth just above our tent

Continuing on the Old Telegraph Line, including Fruit Bat Falls & the Jardine River campsite

An 8am start had us on the OTL doing another 5 or 6 river crossings which continue to be interesting to say the least.  

Fruit Bat Falls
Our first stop was Fruit Bat Falls, which is a magnificent sight to behold and so tempting to go for a swim in that lovely clear free flowing river on such a deliciously hot day, that most of us succumbed, some of us jumped in clothes and an all. I think we all felt so much more refreshed after a good soak or even a water massage directly under the falls themselves. 

Sitting under the Fruit Bat Falls

Soon we must get back on the road and it is not long before we started getting into  some tough spots again. We all managed to get the vehicles and camper trailers through the extreme parts, sometimes with some assistance of a snatch rope. Mistake Creek was a reasonably clear stream with a firm base but with a very rough exit.  In Canal Creek we had to drive along the creek  a bit then navigate a difficult exit. Cannibal Creek had steep, eroded banks with sandy banks . Terry was talking everyone through step by step.  Cyprus Creek is partly covered by a log bridge. It was time to stop for lunch before we continued on.
Bob on the log bridge on Cyprus Creek
 Nolan’s Creek was the last one and a very, very deep creek with a deceptively soft sandy bottom!! The guys went in to check and then it was on with the water bras to protect the radiators, air down in tyres and seal up any gaps that may let in water in the camper.Bob managed to make it through to everyone’s surprise without the need of a snatch rope but the bonnet took a bit of a dunking here and smoke poured out the exhaust on his exit. He stopped up top, leaving the motor running to investigate. Apparently the dust bowl under the air filter must have fallen off somewhere on the rough tracks earlier and this left a relatively large hole some 3 x 2 inch for the water to get into the air filter and into the motor. We were lucky he got through the creek without stalling or else much more serious damage could have easily occurred to the motor itself.   At least we didn’t join the reputedly over 40 4WDs this season that Nolan’s had laid claim to already.  
Bob's initial bow wave in Nolan's Creek
Bob driving through Nolan Creek
Most of the others got through without too much drama, but Wes got about half way across the water and lost traction in the treacherously soft sand and got stuck in the middle with his camper trailer floating at a 45 degree angle to his car.  Terry had to snatch Wes out. Unfortunately a lot of water got inside the car but thankfully no real damage was sustained by Wes. John also met with a watery fate however he popped a tyre as he was snatched out. It took days for the cars to dry out and the contents within.

Wes in trouble on Nolan's Creek
We soon left Nolan’s after John’s tyre was changed, arriving at the Jardine River campsite.  Our camp tonight was on the banks of the river in nice natural bushland. This is in a national park and once again, Rob & I as well as Dave and Glen did not have bookings. The stupid sign gives you a number to call but there is no reception out there and they take far too long to take a booking back in Brisbane that we weren’t going to even try to use the stat phone we had with us. So we separated from the rest of the team and camped separately on a lovely riverside spot we found. John even had a shot at trying to catch a fish (or a croc!)
Dave fishing at Jardine River - maybe for a croc?