July/ August 2011

  • Cover Page
  • Map of Trip-2006.
  • Map of Trip-2008.
  • Map of Trip-2009.
  • Map of Trip-2010.
  • Map of Trip-2011.

  • Well, well, well. What a slack fellow I have been. So much has happened, so much to tell.

    Only a few weeks after the furniture arrived in Nhulunbuy and it was all unpacked it was time for me to head off again, back to Bundaberg to get the car and camper ready for the trip up to Cape York. Just before I left I thought it was about time I started to look for some work, as it was getting onto 11 months since I last did anything. Hospital work, no way. There were still a few more options yet to explore. I was offered two jobs before waltzing into an Aboriginal Health organisation to see if they had anything on offer. A meeting was arranged and we had a nice chat about life in general but mostly about Tasmania. Finally it was time to talk business. I explained I was only looking for part-time work, no weekends, no public holidays and that I wanted all the school holidays off. Well, it would seem that I was in the right place at the right time. They were looking for a male to work in the town clinic, and it would appear that I fitted the bill. They offered me full time work, Monday to Friday with all the school holidays off. A nice big flash office and only a 10 minute bike ride from home. It was such a good offer I had to say yes. Next problem was that I could not start until after the July holidays as the trip to the Cape was locked in. They were more than happy with that and the deal was done. More about work later.

    So I flew to Bundaberg and again stayed with the Joiners for a few nights while I got everything ready. The car had spent a few weeks at the mechanics as it needed a few things attended to. The exhaust gasket had blown (which was the funny noise they attempted to find while in Tasmania), the intercooler had a hole in it (got a replacement) and the alternator chucked in the towel. I also wanted to get rid of the auto locking hubs (they too had been making a few funny sounds) and replaced them with good old manual hubs. Throw in a service, an auto service and there goes $3,000.00. Considering what that poor car is expected to do, I am happy to part with the money as a tow job out of Cape York would cost far more than that.

    The car was sitting in the shed  ready and willing to hit the Gulf. I was all packed up and ready to go within a few days and headed north, to meet the family in Cairns. First day I made it to Mackay and stayed with the Pierpoints and it was great to catch up again. Next day up to Townsville to again stay with Greg and Jos. We stayed with both these guys only at the end of last year when we were making our way back south from W.A. Next day off to Cairns. I stayed with Derryn and Carla and kids who we met in Perth in 2006. For those regular readers you may remember the van that had been painted up with 'Austin Powers' all over it. The last time we had seen them was in Adelaide when we stayed with Wayne and Tracey late in 2006. We have kept in touch and it was awesome to see them again. Next morning the family arrived and we hastily packed the camper trailer (in between rain showers) before heading off. 

    First stop was a whole 15 kms up the road to Palm Cove to spend a few nights in the little council park there with the Priestleys. They were spending a couple of weeks there and as always it was great to see them again. Michelle and Chris sat around drinking while Ross and I talked crap (and sat around drinking!!). The weather was even more crap than our crap and it rained on and off the entire time.
    While there we had a ton of food shopping to attend to as well as a bit of reorganising before heading bush. Seriously, the way Chris was going on you would think we were heading to the black hole for 20 years. Finally she who must be obeyed was happy with the supply issue and it was time to make a move. The weather had turned very crappy and the final trailer packing was done in the rain. Great start. Time to move on and hit the wild Cape and the tip of Australia. This was very exciting for us as it is the fifth and final extremity for us to visit.

    Daintree Ferry Crossing
    We had initially planned to do the trip with the Joiners but they had to pull the pin. At that stage we thought doing the Old Telegraph track on our own may be out of the question and also because the 'Top End' was just getting over the biggest wet in many, many years. Unfortunately we had almost resigned ourselves to the fact that that was the way it was going to be.

    We headed for Cape Tribulation, crossed the Daintree River (on the cable ferry) and found a campground for the night. Then disaster struck, worse than anything you could imagine. Chris discovered that Alex had taken the bag of camera chargers out of the car and left them in the Priestleys caravan. Oh my god, the end of the world is nye.

    A few phone calls to Ross and they were located. The next morning Ross drove up to the ferry and I met him there for the big hand over. Possibly one of the biggest disasters in modern time averted. (Back at Cape Trib.....) we were camped in a small muddy site and it absolutely poured all night and again while we were packing up. In all our years of travel that was the first wet pack up in the camper trailer, and boy it was wet!!! We were soaked, the canvas was soaked and most of our gear was also soaked. Some nice people in a van next to us sat and watched while they sipped on their cups of tea, quietly thinking I am sure, thank god, we bought a caravan. It was miserable, believe me. The weather forecast for the next few days was not a lot better - just great.

    On our way out we visited the Cape Trib information centre as we wanted to travel the Bloomfield track, but thought due to the rain it may be closed. Luckily it was open, but they made us swear on the bible that we had a 4 wheel drive, that we would travel in low range and not go over 10 kms/ hr. It's a very dangerous road she told us 20 times, and make sure you are not towing anything.
    Then you will have to contend with the Bloomfield River crossing. Not many make it across alive. Oh my god. She had us nervous wrecks. Should we, shouldn't we???????

    The Bloomfild Track The Bloomfild Track The Bloomfild Track The Bloomfild Track
                                                  The Bloomfield Track

    As I have said so many times before, don't listen to what other people say, it's like chinese whispers, the story just gets bigger and bigger. We hit the track and it was beautiful, even in the drizzling rain. The views from the lookouts, not so great but we could live with that. It is a beautiful road that could be transversed in a Datsun 120Y. As for the extremely steep low range hills, they must have washed away with all the rain. It is an easy trip that any caravan could handle. In saying that there were a number of water crossings, some wide but not very deep. The mighty Bloomfield River was a concrete causeway that was about 2'' deep. Very scary stuff, believe me.

    Wujai Wujai Falls Wujai Wujai Falls Wujai Wujai Falls Wujai Wujai Falls
                                                    Wujai Wujai Falls

    Just over the causeway you head (R) to Cooktown. If you head (L) about 1 km down the road is the Bloomfield Falls (or Wujai Wujai Falls). Due to the recent heavy rain the falls were almost the best we have ever seen. The amount of water was hard to imagine. See there are some benefits to traveling in the rain.

    Next night we pulled into the Lion's Den Hotel. This is one of those iconic must stay at places. The campground is excellent as are the amenities. It is on the banks of the Little Annan River. By now the weather was on the improve and a chance to dry a few things out. We had dinner up at the hotel, great meal and a great atmosphere. The pub is very similar to the Daley Waters Pub, with all sorts of things covering the walls. There were a couple of rough looking bushies there who appeared not to have 5 cents between them. They had consumed  a few and were rather vocal, but funny. They decided they would have an arm wrestle contest betting $200, with the winnings going to the RFDS.

    The Lions Den Hotel The Lions Den Hotel The Lions Den Hotel The Lions Den Hotel
                                                    The Lion's Den Hotel

    They moved people off the tables and it started. Groaning, sweat and a few colourful words and we had a winner. The crowd cheered with the loser handing over the loot to the barman. He may have been a little intoxicated but he still remembered to ask for a tax receipt. He is most likely loaded. The great part about it all was the winner also put in 200 bucks. The Great Aussie spirit is alive and well.

    Next stop Cooktown. Cooktown has always had me intrigued. Not sure why but it was a place I really wanted to see, and I was actually offered a job there at the end of 2010, but I had to decline as we decided to do Tasmania instead. There are many caravan parks to choose from, all bloody expensive. Not sure why as they are nothing flash. Must be the short tourist season, make the cash while you can. Cooktown is really nice, just as I had imagined it. Situated on the ocean and the Endeavour River, it has lovely parks and walkways with palm trees by the dozen providing shade for those that wanted to sit and take in the ambience of the area. It has a very small shopping area with an IGA and small shops scattered along the main road with the river as a backdrop.

     Cooktown Cooktown Cooktown Cooktown
                                             Cooktown - a really lovely spot.

    The Captain Cook Museum The Captain Cook Museum The Captain Cook Museum The Captain Cook Museum
                                              The Captain Cook Museum

    We decided to buy a new tarp to cover the camper should it rain, knowing full well if we bought one, the rain would stop, which it did. We had a couple of nights in Cooktown and visited everything there was to see, including the Captain Cook Museum. Cooktown is still remote, but now has an all weather bitumen road into Cairns, only a few hours away. That's remote with facilities nice and close. I could definitely see Chris and I spending a few months there at some stage in the future.

    Austin Chummy- Laura
    We got away and started to make our way up the Peninsula Development Road North. If heading this way we would suggest buying the Ron and Viv Moon, Cape York book. It is a great resource and tells you pretty much everything you need to know and see. The Development Road goes pretty much straight up the guts, is around 700 kms long and generally well maintained, give or take a few million corrugations. There are side roads shooting off in all directions to any number of beaches and sights. You would need 3 months to see them all, and as we only had 1 month, we had to pick and choose.

    We passed through a tiny little place called Laura and stopped to check out this little old Austin Chummy that actually made it all the way to the tip back in 1928. Just imagine what the roads would have been like back then. All of a sudden you don't feel so tough doing the trip in your big flashy four wheel drive. This thing was so small, I reckon the kids and I could have picked it up and walked off with it. We then set up camp for the night in one of the many Roadhouses along the way. These are cheap (usually $20-00 a night per family), have toilets and if you are lucky a shower, maybe warm, maybe not.

    Hann River camp ground Hann River camp ground Hann River camp ground
                             Hann River Roadhouse campground with Mr Emu

    This one, Hann River Roadhouse was huge, plenty of room to spread out complete with a resident and very friendly emu. He was a funny chap and seemed to take a liking to us, as you would!!

    The weather was definitely on the improve as we packed up and continued north. Next stop was Coen for a quick look around and an ice-cream. Not much here except for the rather well known Exchange Hotel that had a name change when someone climbed up on the roof and added an "S" making it the Sexchange Hotel. It was a bit too early to start drinking so we continued on our way, stopping at the Archer River Roadhouse for an 'Archer Burger'. Very nice and worth a try but still not in the same league as a Kimberley Beef Burger from Drysdale Station on the way to Kalumburu.
    Sexchange Hotel

    Our first off-shoot was Chillie Beach. It took a number of hours (approx 200 kms) to get there once we had left the Development Road. In hindsight we should have camped somewhere else for the night as it was getting late when we arrived and the campground was small and packed.

    We broke our first rule of camping - be off the road and set up by 3-00pm or you end up camping somewhere less than desirable. We found a few square feet almost in the pit toilet and set up camp. It turned out to be a great little camp spot, while others closer to the beach were hammered by really strong winds during the night. On the way into Chillie Beach the car developed a horrible grinding, crunching not good kind of sound. Great, now what, especially after spending all that money on it. I climbed under and couldn't see a thing. No leaks, nothing broken. I had thought the turbo had chucked in the towel. As I was pulling myself  out from under the car I pulled myself out using the exhaust. It made the same sound. What I discovered was enough to bring a tear to my eye, a tear of joy. All it was, was a broken exhaust bracket that was rubbing together causing that horrid sound. By this time a few old blokes were hanging around. I mentioned I needed some fencing wire and off they scurried, coming back with a couple of coat hangers. Perfect. Ten minutes later and it was fixed, temporarily at least. When we get to Weipa I will get it fixed properly. The weather at Chillie was horrible. Windy, windy, windy. We soon discovered that the eastern side of the Cape is windy 364 days of the year, and yes we missed the one nice day that was a few months ago. People who were camped closer to the beach actually packed up in the middle of the night and moved on. We were very well protected but old Chillie Beach did not look like the postcards, not that day at least. The other thing that disappointed us was the amount of rubbish on the beach. I have never seen so much and it seriously detracted from what would be a very pretty area. The rubbish was thick, gas bottles, tyres, batteries, rope and anything else you could imagine. As we were to discover most beaches in the Cape are rubbish collectors, floating in from heaven knows where. Such a shame.

     Chillie Beach Chillie Beach Chillie Beach Chillie Beach
                        Chillie Beach. Shame about the wind and the rubbish.

    Hunting and gathering Hunting and gathering Hunting and gathering Hunting and gathering Thong anyone???
                                   Chillie Beach - hunting and gathering

    The kids kept themselves busy collecting and opening coconuts. Harry used a tent peg while Alex beat them to death with a tomahawk. Lucky he didn't chop his foot off. We had a drive around to check out a small fishing village close by called Portlands Road, visited Lockhart River Community (that was just like every other community we have lived in), walked the beach and enjoyed the downtime. There were a lot of families doing the trip so we were hopeful of meeting up with some along the track. As everyone is either heading north or south, as long as they are going in the same direction as you are, you are bound to bump into them again. On our last morning there, we were packing up when we heard a car speeding out of the campground, followed by a big crash. Ha, ha, I thought. You have hit a tree. I ran down the track to find nothing except a tool box laying on the ground, tools spread everywhere. He must have left them on the back of the car and taken off, going so fast he didn't hear them hit the deck. Thank you dickhead. Next time slow down. There were some nice tools amongst them, including a Leatherman Supertool which is now mine.

    Weipa Weipa Weipa Weipa
              Weipa. The campground, footy night and the magnificent sunsets.

    The trip back to the Development Rd took nearly 3 hours and then it was into Weipa. We had tried to book but they do not take bookings so it was first in, best dressed. It is a very large park, absolutely on the water. It is nicely maintained and it was busy, really busy. It is actually a campground, not a caravan park but they do have powered sites. After paying you drive around until you find an empty site. That is only half the battle. Then you have to see if there is power nearby and if there is a spare outlet. There were cords running in all directions, over roads and up trees. I seriously think they need a better system. We scored a nice site next to a couple Kev and Lorraine in a big Kedron. They were a great couple and we became pretty friendly with them. As luck would have it our chances of getting to do the Old Telegraph Line (OTL) were about to improve, dramatically.

    There were two families with kids traveling together camped behind us. They were from Sydney and were absolutely doing the OTL, despite all the doom and gloom stories. They had planned this trip for many months and nothing was going to stop them. Over the next few days we chatted and had drinks. They asked if we were planning on doing the OTL and I am not sure if it was the sad tale about our friends pulling out at the last minute or me bursting into tears, but whatever it was they asked if we would like to join them on that part of the journey. Bloody oath. So Shad and Natasha and Barry and Kerry became our newest and bestest friends. Sunset drinks on the beach became the thing to do, as did the tour of the Rio Bauxite mine.

     Weipa bauxite mine Weipa bauxite mine Weipa bauxite mine Weipa bauxite mine
                                                      Weipa Bauxite Mine

    We washed, shopped and explored the local area. It is very similar to Nhulunbuy, not just because they are both Bauxite mines. In many ways they were similar, same housing, same infrastructure and very similar terrain. If you had the time you could easily spend a week or more here, fishing and relaxing. I also booked the car into a local mechanics that looked like a front for a bikie gang. It was a pretty wild turn-out but they were nice blokes and did a good job, not only welding up the broken bracket but also adding two more very substantial brackets to brace the dump pipe and support the main exhaust. I am very sure the problem has now been fixed, and it didn't cost an arm and a leg. If you are in Weipa and need some work done see the lads at Rebel Auto Repairs.

    Bramwell Station Bramwell Station Bramwell Station Bramwell Station
                        Bramwell Station - about to set off on the big adventure

    On Friday 8th July it was time for the true purpose of the journey to commence. Stage one was for us all to meet at Bramwell Station campground before heading off bright and early the next day to tackle the OTL. We arrived there just after lunch, set up and then drove the few kms to the beginning of the OTL, to watch a few cars tackle Palm Creek before it was our turn the next morning. This was to turn out to be one of the more difficult decents and exits of the trip. When we pulled up for a look Chris went a little pale as the reality of what she may encounter over the next few days sank in. It was steep, long and very rutted. We watched a number of vehicles approach it with different lines, some coming to grief and some doing it rather easily. We spent a number of hours there watching the activity. This was like chicken rock at Uluru. If you can't do this one, time to turn around. Chris was starting to doubt my abilities, the car's abilities and her ability not to wet her pants in fear. It was then back to the campsite for dinner and an early night. I must say I did wake a few times wondering what laid ahead.

    Saturday we were up bright and early as we wanted to get on the track before anyone else. The creek exits gets more slippery as more cars get through and you don't really want to be held up too much. We all refueled and then hit the OTL. How exciting. Palm Creek was not too bad. We picked a good line and got down with ease. Believe it or not the camper actually made all the decents very easy. The reason is that some are very steep. The car is unable to maintain traction and slips down, often with a big crunch at the bottom. What I did was not use the car brakes at all, low range, 1st gear and applied the trailer brakes using the electric brake controller. The reason this worked so well was because the trailer had not yet started its decent, so was still on level ground. With the trailer brakes locked up the car was pulling the trailer over the edge creating a sand or dirt mound in front of the trailer tyres acting like a chock. We had beautiful controlled decents. Then when the car got to the bottom, I let off the trailer brakes and the weight of the trailer still coming down the hill pushed the car through the often boggy bottom. It was so easy.

    Palm Creek crossing Palm Creek crossing Palm Creek crossing Palm Creek crossing Palm Creek crossing
              The beginning - Palm Creek crossing. Much steeper than it looks.

    Getting up the other side of Palm Creek was going to be a bit more challenging. Half way up and lost traction. Backed back a few metres and then straight up. The limited slip diffs on the Patrols are without a doubt the best on the market. This trip really brought home why the Patrol really is one of the most capable four wheel drives on the market.

    We then crossed South and North Alice Creeks and Dulcie Creek which were nothing, and then the Dulhunty River. This looked really difficult but after we walked it and had a plan it was a piece of cake. The kids had a ball here playing in the white clay walls of the river, followed by a swim at the crossing.

    . Dulcie Creek Dulcie Creek Dulcie Creek Dulcie Creek
                                               Dulcie Creek -a shocking exit.

    There are crocs a-plenty up this way but pick a good spot and it is as safe as houses. Clear rock pools with limited or no entry and exits are the way to go. We then crossed Bertie Creek before the most feared of them all, Gunshot.

    Dulhunty River Dulhunty River Dulhunty River Dulhunty River
                      Dulhunty River - great place to wash off the dust.

    We had heard horror stories about this for weeks. You will never get through, it will be the end of you, blah, blah, blah. Again the entry was steep but the trailer held us back. Then  you dropped into a muddy river bed that had a solid bottom. That bit was easy. If you just had a car not towing anything, this would be a cinch.
    The road to Gunshot
    The problem for us was it was a (L) hand bend with a huge tree on the bend. As you went around, the trailer cut in and hit the tree. There were by now about 8 cars and campers in front of us, all trying to get through. If we just stood and watched we would still be there so we got in and got dirty, helping them through one by one. We came up with a tonne of different ideas to keep the trailers off the tree. Wallaby jacks, winches and just plain pushing. In the end we laid a large long log along the edge of the bank so when the trailer tried to mount the bank and hit the tree, the log directed the trailer away from the bank, just enough to get around.

    There was some very good problem solving and great team work. No one took over, it was just one big team of strangers with a common goal working together. Finally it was our turn and we all did it with ease. It was good to be through, with no damage. That 3 hours seemed like 3 minutes. That was a heap of fun. We camped for the night at Gunshot, tired and dirty but excited about what lay ahead. The next day it was back on the Development Road (the OTL is in two halves and you have to do a short stint back on the main drag to get on the second half).

    Making it through Gunshot Making it through Gunshot Making it through Gunshot Making it through Gunshot
    Golden Guitar Tamworth Tamworth Tamworth Tamworth
                         Tackling the feared Gunshot - mud, mud and more mud.

    Elliott Falls Elliott Falls Elliott Falls Elliott Falls
    Elliott Falls Elliott Falls Elliott Falls Elliott Falls
                         The Beautiful Elliott Falls and us clowning around.

    Twin Falls Twin Falls Twin Falls Twin Falls
                      Twin Falls. This is the place to float around and relax.

    Twin Falls camp ground Twin Falls camp ground Twin Falls camp ground Twin Falls camp ground
         Elliott/Twin Falls campground. The kids danced while we enjoyed the fire.

    The junction
    Next stop for two nights was at Elliott Falls Campground. Elliott Falls and Twin Falls are an absolute must do. Sensational. We arrived before most of the people had left getting in around 10-00am. We had a choice of a number of good spots but if you got there after midday you would be struggling. At least two nights or longer is needed here. Both the swimming holes, Twin Falls and Elliott Falls are only a 10 minute walk from the camp ground and only a minute or two apart. Elliott Falls is great for jumping off while Twin Falls is great for laying around and soaking and after a few days in the dust a soak is great. It was a lazy few days with our only outing to Fruit Bat Falls. Again worth a visit.
    The campground here is also worth a mention. Well laid out, private, good toilets and taps scattered around with plenty of water for showering and washing up.

    Canal Creek Canal Creek Canal Creek Canal Creek
                                            Canal Creek - a slippery sucker

    Next day up bright and early again and hit part 2 of the OTL. First crossing only a few kms from our campground was Canal Creek, which is also a nice spot to camp. We arrived behind a group of about six cars all with campers with the average age of the occupants being about 83 years. The bloke who thought he was in charge was a complete tosser so we worked out how we could get in front of them. There were two ways out of here. The easy and the hard. They took the easy while we took the hard, which was much more fun but they still managed, with all their stuffing around, to get in front of us. Luckily they all pulled over a few kms down the track for a cuppa tea, a pee and to take their medications. Next was Sams Creek then Mistake Creek. This again had a steep entry but a walk in the park for the Patrol and the very skilled operator!!

    The next spot I was really looking forward to seeing. The famous log bridge across Cypress Creek. Whenever there are photos or footage of the OTL, the log bridge is in it. The Gall Bros spent hours stuck on it during their Kedron adventure up the OTL. I was so excited, and then so disappointed. It looks nothing like any photo I had seen. It had been almost completely filled with sand, didn't look at all scary nor was it very challenging. Don't you just hate the big build up, then the letdown.

    Log Bridge over Cypres Creek Log Bridge over Cypres Creek Log Bridge over Cypres Creek Log Bridge over Cypres Creek
                                      The Log Bridge over Cyprus Creek.

    Drum roll please. Nolan Brooke River Crossing. The most feared on the OTL. One bloke told us 40 cars had been written off this season (which has only been a few weeks), not to do it, don't even go there. As we pulled up there was a Landcruiser that had just been towed out with water running out of all the doors and the camper full of water. Food, clothes and gear all soaked. Chris went that same pale colour she went at Palm Creek. It will be OK, I said full of bravado and confidence. The crossing is not very wide and has two entries. They are close together and looked very similar. Everyone who was getting stuck was using the (R) hand entry. A few that had got through used the (L) hand entry and hugged the bank. We walked it 10 times and while deep, it was not even close to the bonnet. The problem was the soft silty bottom. Tyres down to 5 psi (true story) and the car bra on and off we went. First went Shad, no worries, Barry, too easy and then us. Are you on the edge of your seat yet?? Straight through, easy as, didn't even look like getting stuck. We all had our snatch straps on ready, someone in the water and a car on the other side for an instant pull if needed.

    Crossings Nolans Crossings Nolans Crossings Nolans Crossings Nolans
               Nolan's Crossing - this is how you do it. Didn't even look like stopping.

    How not to cross Nolans How not to cross Nolans How not to cross Nolans How not to cross Nolans
             Nolans Crossing - this is how 'not' to do it. Wet carpet for weeks.

    We camped there the night and watched a few more come across. Every time we heard a car we walked down, gave them our worldly advice and watched. One guy chose  not to listen, took the other entry and, stuck solid. In fact he was so stuck even his winch was useless. His car was full of water as was his trailer. Not happy Jan. Should listen to your elders next time. So that was pretty much it for the OTL. It was without a doubt the highlight of the Cape Trip 2011. We are so glad we did it and would love to do it again. It really is one of the great four wheel driving tracks of Australia.

    Next day we were back on the Development Road, a little sad to have the OTL behind us. We arrived at the Jardine ferry, should have fueled up as it was 20 cents a litre cheaper than on the other side, and made our way to Bamaga. Now the OTL, Elliott Falls  and many other beautiful spots are constantly talked about, but none as much as the Bamaga Bakery. We pulled up and filled up with pies, custard tarts and anything else that was bad for us. Yum, yum. We decided on Loyalty Beach Caravan Park as it was right on the beach. We ended up with a great ocean front site big enough for us all. The other caravan park that seems popular is Seisa which is a few kms out of town.We had a look at it and although the beach was much nicer, the park itself was a bit run down and grubby. We were very happy with our choice, so close to the action. We again bumped into another two families who were traveling together. Steve and Viv are from Broome and Terry and Debbie from Tweed Heads. I think we first met them in Weipa, saw them again on the OTL, Bamaga and up at the tip. They are a good bunch, good for a laugh and a beer.

    The famous Croc Tent The famous Croc Tent The famous Croc Tent The famous Croc Tent
               The famous Croc tent - this is a must visit souvenir shop.

    The excitement was building as the next morning we planned to head to the tip, the very top of Australia and the last extremity for us to visit. I went to bed that night thinking, boy I hope I don't die in my sleep tonight, that would really crap me off. Luckily I didn't and we made our way up there, first dropping in at the famous Croc tent to part with nearly $300-00 in t-shirts, stubby coolers and all sorts of other stuff I am sure we don't want. Just got caught up in the moment I guess. The walk to the tip and the sign only takes about 10 minutes. You go up a hill and from the top you can look down and see the point and the sign, that beautiful sign. I did get a little teary (yes, I am getting softer as I get older) as getting to this final extremity has seen the end of a 5 year quest to get to them all. We spent well over an hour there looking, reflecting and of course taking a thousand photos of us and the sign, in every possible pose and from every possible angle. (And yes, those hunks of land in the background are only islands!!)

    The top of Australia The top of Australia The top of Australia The top of Australia
    The top of Australia The top of Australia The top of Australia The top of Australia
                              The very top of Australia and our last extremity.

    Australia has got some real characters. When we got out to the point there was a group of golfers, out on the end of a rock with a little carpet square happily belting a bucket full of golf balls out into the ocean. They were having the time of their life and celebrating their achievement doing what they love.

    The photos below are us at all points of this continent. Byron Bay is by far the easiest, South Point (Wilsons Promontory, Vic) was the hardest by a country mile (with the overnight hike)
    and with Steep Point (WA) and Cape York being the most remote. The most Southern Point of Australia, South East Cape in Tasmania was a breeze compared to this effort. Next year we will visit Canberra to do a drive up to Mt. Kosciuszko and do the highest point and then at some stage actually get to Lake Eyre and officially be at the lowest. Then of course there is Lambert's Centre  blah, blah, blah,  blah. When will it end? Hopefully never would be my answer.

    Steep Point- WA Cape Bryron South Point- Victoria South East Cape-Tasmania Cape York-QLD  
                                         All five extremities of Australia
    Steep Point WA, Cape Byron NSW, South Point Vic, South East Cape Tasmania, Cape York QLD

    Next day was a quiet one with a few domestic chores and a look around the town area, including a trip back to the bakery.

    Next morning bright and early it was down to the marina for a day trip over to Thursday Island and Horn Island. The weather was not perfect but it did not rain. The trip over does not take that long (approx 70 minutes) and before long we had arrived on the very pretty but small Thursday Island with a land mass of only 3.4 sq kms. It is smaller than I expected with the main part of town settled on the edge of a large protected bay. The hospital has a magnificent 250 degree ocean view. It is perched on the end of a point and looks rather mod. It would not be the place to be if a tsunami was to occur. There are a lot of Govt. offices on the island and a lot of money has been spent on infrastructure. We did a bus tour which showed us all over town including the Green Hill Fort Museum. Thursday Island played an important role in protecting our northern waters during WWII.

    Thursday Island Thursday Island Thursday Island Thursday Island
    Thursday Island Thursday Island Thursday Island Thursday Island
                                            Thursday Island and the boat trip.

      Green Hill was first manned in 1893 after 30 men took two years to excavate and build it. There are three six inch breech loading guns that were only shot once during WW1 when a ship steaming through the Torres Straight failed to identify itself. After a shot was fired over its bow it quickly identified itself as friendly. The guns had a massive firing range of 22 kms with the six inch shell weighing 45 kg. It is a great museum with plenty to see and read but as with all these cattle tours you are herded on and off with little time to actually see anything. It was then back to the marina and onto a small shuttle ferry that runs back and forth to Palm Island. We were picked up by a bus and taken to a local motel for lunch and to have a look through another museum which is part of the motel. Following lunch it was back on the bus for a tour of some WW2 plane wrecks and a history lesson about this island. Horn Island is huge compared to Thursday Island but only has a very small population. All the rubbish and sewerage from Thursday Island is transported to Horn for disposal. It does make you wonder why Thursday Island was chosen as the major centre of this region over the large Horn Island, especially as they are only about 500 metres apart.

    That's Governments for you. It was then back on the boat and back to the mainland. It certainly was a whirl wind tour (and expensive) but we certainly got to have a good look around, and am not sure what else we would have seen if we had done an overnighter there.

    Next morning we packed up and started our trip South. Unfortunately our time up in the Cape was drawing to a close. We had to be back in Cairns by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest as the car and camper had to be delivered to the transport companies, and we had only just discovered that the Friday was Cairns Show Day public holiday. Great, that meant they had to be delivered Thursday pm, giving us even less time to get organised. The plan was for the camper to get put on a truck and sent back to Bundaberg with the car going on another truck to Darwin and then containered and barged across to Nhulunbuy. All sounds simple enough.

    Golden Guitar Tamworth Tamworth Tamworth
                      The wooden bridge on the way to Vrilya Point and us bogged.

    Golden Guitar Tamworth Tamworth Tamworth
                            Vrilya Point is really beautiful and worthy of a few nights

    We planned to go to Vrilya Point for a night on the trip south as it is a pretty spot. It is only 29 kms off the main drag and other than one log bridge that was narrow and a bit rickety, it was an easy run. It is very pretty in fact with many kms of beach along which you can camp. (Ed - it was quite ironic that we managed to tackle the OTL without a hitch, only to get bogged at a beach down the track - Barry was most amused!! As we were only there for one night we chose to camp at the end of the road before you get on the beach, the only reason being that if you camp along the beach you have to wait for low tide to get out again and we had a few kms to tackle the next day so wanted an early getaway. We set up under a few shady trees and then set off along the beach to see the old ship wreck (not much left now). We also bumped into Terry and Deb and Steve and Viv who were camped miles down the beach. They had a nice spot so we spent an hour or so chatting to them before heading back to camp for dinner and an early night. Was not looking forward to the long dusty drive ahead of us back to Cairns.

    Next morning off at a reasonable time and made it as far as Archer River roadhouse around 3pm. Set up camp and then down to the Archer River for a swim and a soak. It is a really nice camp ground and an even nicer spot for a cool-off after being on a long dusty road for 7 hours. If we hoped to make it to Cairns the next day, a total of 620 kms (approx half on dirt) we had to put in a big effort which we did. The trip was uneventful and rather boring but it had to be done. We arrived in Cairns just on dark, sore backsides and tired. Back to Derryn and Carla's, backed the trailer down the driveway, unpacked a few essentials and enjoyed a few beers and a great meal before hitting the sack in a real bed. In the next couple of days we had a tight time line as we needed to get the car and camper on trucks, and Friday was a public holiday so we only had two days to get the trailer unpacked and the car emptied (the transport company insisted it was totally empty, like not a thing in it). We had to decide what to take up with us to Nhulunbuy and what to send back in the camper. Luckily the camper could be as full as we wanted. It was costing $660-00 for us to get the camper transported from Cairns to Bundaberg which saved me a three day drive and extra airfares back up. This was a great decision as we were all able to fly home together, and to be honest, I had had enough of driving for a while. Then we had to wash and vacuum the car (another requirement of the transport company) and at 3-00pm on Wednesday while washing the car I discovered the tailgate door window was smashed and being held together by the window tinting. I really wanted to get it fixed prior to coming up here but was running out of time. I made a number of calls but no one had one in stock and it was too late to get one up overnight. After a few more calls I found a place who could get one out of Perth at short notice. Cost $1,000-00 for a bit of glass 500mm x 500mm. Luckily my insurance company covers all glass, not just windscreens. When I got there the next morning they had actually found a second-hand one for $600-00 fitted. Then I had to get to a tyre shop to get some new tyres fitted before the car got on the truck. Talk about hectic.

    Chris had lots of last minute shopping to do, which wasn't helped by the public holiday, then packing, packing and more packing. QANTAS has this new rule about baggage. You can only have one piece of luggage each to the weight of 23 kg. Then each person can buy at $20-00 each (online) two more pieces at 23 kg each. So we had our one bag each, two extra pieces of luggage each, a bck each, a guitar, Chris's handbag and a laptop. That is nineteen pieces of luggage for the four of us. We had the Evakool esky, furniture removal boxes and bags piled to the roof. It was insane.  A month earlier that excess luggage (weighing 184 kg+) would have cost us $1840-00 ($10-00 per kilo).  Instead it cost $160-00. Go figure. When do things ever improve that much? It is crazy. Thank you QANTAS. It seems to be about the only thing you have done right lately.

    By Thursday the camper was gone as was the car. We then went and hired a brand new Commodore station wagon so we had wheels for the next few days.

    A  great time in Cairns A  great time in Cairns A  great time in Cairns A  great time in Cairns
                                        A day out in Cairns with Derryn, Carla and the kids

    Friday morning Derryn organised an outing for us all. A push bike ride into the city, down to the marina to have breakfast at a lovely restaurant. This was followed by a ride home that was  all uphill. I thought the ride in was easy. Now I knew why. We then got in the car and went for a drive to a lookout that gives a great overview of Cairns and up to a large lake for a look around. Saturday afternoon, the commodore was fully loaded and we were off to the airport. We had to do two trips to get all the gear there, then three trolleys to get it all into the terminal. What a sight we must have been. All the boxes were a bit overweight but they let us through. Finally, we could rest. The flight home was uneventful and then all our boxes started coming around on the carousel. We were grabbing them and piling them up. It was quite a sight in Nhulunbuy and certainly had people talking. We then tried to get on the shuttle bus into town and the cranky bus driver was giving us grief about the amount of gear we had. He was trying to charge us extra, but was distracted by an altercation with a woman and her not being allowed on the bus. It certainly got very heated, so while he was yelling, Alex and I were frantically putting boxes in the trailer. He was so hot under the collar he completely forgot about all our stuff. Finally back home.

    It was a sensational trip, more than we expected, but it was good to be back. Nhulunbuy is still new and exciting and we were all pleased to be back. Nhulunbuy and our little house feels like home, and we haven't had the feeling for many years.

    An almost intact telegraph pole A great looking plant With it's flapper open What a great photo The rose between the thorns
    1) One of the few standing telegraph poles on the OTL. 2+3) Chris called these the 'Penis Plants'. 4) Harry just being cute. 5) The rose (Patrol) between the two thorns (Hilux's)