Trip to the Tip (no, not the rubbish dump)

The Tip

Well I guess any blog about Cape York would not be complete without a story about our trip to the Northernmost Point of the Australian Continent.

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We set out from Loyalty beach and took the back road (dirt tracks) up through small creek crossings and the beautiful Lockerbie Scrub to the Croc Tent. The Croc Tent is a unique souvenir shop situated at the junction of the Punsand Bay and Cape York roads. It sells absolutely everything you could possibly want as a souvenir of your trip to the top. We stopped in to pick up some t-shirts, stubby coolers and other assorted paraphernalia to prove we had been there.

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Now Linda, who is a shopaholic, had a field day in there, we had been without any shops or stores for about a week now, so she was intent on getting her fix! When we had finally managed to drag her away we continued on the Pajinka road on the way to the Tip. Pajinka, is the Aboriginal name for the land at The Tip, the lands traditional owners are the people of Injinoo.

On the road in we saw the ruins of the old Pajinka Wilderness Lodge. This was originally opened as a five star resort for pilots in 1986 (called the Cape York wilderness Lodge) and had several owners throughout the years. It was sold to the Injinoo Aboriginal Cooperation in 1992 and renamed the Pajinka Wilderness Lodge. It closed in 2002 never to be opened again and now is a curiosity of derelict infrastructure in the middle of nowhere, rapidly being overtaken by tropical rainforest.

We arrived at the car park for the short walk to the tip. It was then that we found out we had a short walk over the headland to get to the tip itself. Now it is worth mentioning that we got there quite early. We did not really want to spend time queuing to get our photo taken so we thought we would try and beat the hoards and coach loads by arriving early.

As we started the small climb over the headland. The view from the peak was amazing, looking out over the pristine waters of the Arafura sea to the York and Eborac Islands.

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At the top of the climb, before you start the descent to the tip, there is a monument that makes you realise just how far away you are from the rest of Australia.

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On this disc are the distances for places around the world and it makes you stop and think that at this moment you are closer to Papa New Guinea (Daru, 190km and Port Moresby, 320km) than Cairns (770km) or Brisbane (2120km). Just wow!

It was about this time that we realised one member of our party (Linda) was carrying her very large handbag with her. Hmm, bit of a strange item to lug all the way to the tip (unless of course it is filled with beer). This was the stage that we found out something very unique about Linda. We always knew she liked to wear branded clothes and put great store in the finer things in life (well why wouldn’t you). We were unsure however when she would be wearing her diamonds and pearls on a trip to the Cape. You see the reason she had brought her handbag with her on the trek was because it contained (yes you have guessed it) her jewelry. Instead of leaving these items at home in her safe in her alarmed house she had felt safer bringing her expensive jewelry with her! Unfortunately for Linda we did have a good giggle about this for the next two weeks (and longer).

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Once down the other side we did the obligatory photos and beer at the tip. We were very lucky to have the area to ourselves for quite a while so many happy snaps were taken whilst sipping beer and marveling at the sights.

If you like what you have read check out some of my other stories of our Pozzie adventures

Cape York – Sights, Fish and Fun

Jump, Snatch, Blow and Winch

Henrietta Creek Camping Adventure

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On the Hunt for Sooty Grunter

Bivouac Junction Holiday Camp is just outside of Charters Towers in North Queensland. The Drabbles and ourselves decided we needed to go for a weekend of camping and fishing so we packed up the tent, camper trailer and fishing rods and off we went.

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It was very dry and dusty when we arrived, but we were assured there was water in the river and creek systems around the area, so we were happy enough.  Once our camp was set up, we got the fire going and started our own dinner prep. After dinner, with a few beers round the camp fire we planned the following day’s exploration and fishing.

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We were after some sooty grunter in the surrounding creeks and rivers and Drabs was the authority on where, how and with what to catch them. So, we woke early in the morning, and after a bit of brekky we found out that Di did not sleep very well last night. It seemed that the peacocks and snoring generally kept her awake. Well we could not do anything about the peacocks but we move dour tent away from their camper trailer to try and eliminate the snoring noises (just anote to say it was not me snoring by the way).

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Once we had cleaned up our camp and loaded our respective vehicles with fishing paraphenalia and lunch, we set off to find some not so dry creek beds down which we could drive in search of the elusive sooty.

Now there is always a lot of banter between Drabs and Mike, Patrol vs Prado, whose 4wd is better, who knows more about off road driving, who is the true blue “Aussiest”! This makes for some light entertainment for Di and I listening to them and their growing list of over exaggerated claims. Mike and I were relatively new to the whole 4×4 driving thing and I always deferred to Drabs on the fishing front (after all he has been doing it most of his life and I have only been fishing for about 10 years).

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Following the Drabbles we pulled off the highway onto a dry creek bed and promptly came to a halt. Drabs had got his Patrol stuck in the soft sand and we hadn’t even gone 200 yards! Well we laughed and laughed, cracking some jokes about Patrol’s vs Prado’s (like you do), as he pulled his Maxtraxs out and let his tyres down. We also reduced our tyre pressure and set off down the creek bed in search of the elusive sooty.

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We fished a few of the deeper areas of the creek and Drabs caught a couple of good sooty (I got nothing, but it was not for lack of trying). The area had narrow bands of water running over rocks with low hanging trees and good shaded areas where the sooty hang out. Perfect fishing country. After a big wet out here the creeks and rivers are in full flood, water rushing over the rocks, uprooting trees and flooding up to the banks. Unfortunatley the area had been in drought for quite a while and the creek beds were mainly sand with the creek running shallow and narrow in many places.

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Now Drabs is a diehard fisherman and he decided the other bank was the place to be so off he went, walking and swimming across the creek with rod held high out of the water. This was bit too hardcore for me, even though we were in fresh water I was still concerned about crocodiles and other nasties lurking unseen. He got to the other side with only a few little mishaps such as falling down a couple of big holes and almost losing his hat in the water, but his rod was kept dry and above his head at all times (told you he was diehard).

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As we sat on the bank relaxing and keeping an eye on him over the other side (to make sure he did not disappear down a hole or become croc bait) we heard a big whoop and he was on. He got a couple of nice sooty for his troubles. I looked on, enviously, but still not game enough to venture over. I was a bit chicken I suppose but even though I love fishing there are just some lengths I would not go to get the elusive sooty.

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After a spot of lunch, we ventured further down the creek bed and reached an area where we needed to cross the creek. Like a true blue Aussie Drabs took one for the team and went first. It took him a few attempts to get across, going backward and forward, trying not to get bogged in the middle. It was not deep but the sand was very soft (apparently, although the Prado made it in one go!). Maybe the Patrol did not like getting its feet wet!

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So off we set again and to find another likely fishing spot. As we were driving I looked out of my window to see the Patrol struggling to get up a very, very, very, small bump of sand. I pointed this out to Mike and we had a bit of a giggle. Reaching for the radio I asked if the Patrol would like a little push from our Prado to assist with the massive obstacle it was facing. For some reason Drabs did not find that too funny, although I am sure I could hear Di laughing in the background! After a few attempts the Patrol managed to climb Everest and we got back on the route down to the creek.

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Drabs caught several sooty grunters that day and I even bagged myself a little on. Unfortunately, I cannot find the picture of it, but I did catch one (honestly!). But truth be told it was a lovely couple of days spent in good company and exploring different scenery and having a few laughs along the way.

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Check out Bivouac Junction Holiday Camp and the surrounding creeks for your own sooty adventure.

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Crab Claw Island, NT

Before I start this blog, I would just like to point out 4 things that we learnt during this trip away:

  • A dome tent was not made for marriage tranquillity (or for us either!).
  • Listening to families getting together around a campfire, playing instruments and singing is much better than sitting on your electronic device all through the evening.
  • Just because the sign says “10mins to McDonalds” does not mean you have to beat that time.
  • Wow the tides are huge up in the top end and you run out of water really quick.

All will be revealed, but for now let me set the scene:

Crab Claw Island is in the beautiful Bynoe Harbour, Northern Territory, just 130km’s by road from Darwin. This was where we decided to go for our first major camping holiday, towing the boat. Now the road into the resort can be a bit rough and lumpy for the 36km’s from the Cox Peninsula road especially after a heavy wet season. We did not have a 4wd at the time, so my poor old Rav4 had to tow the boat in through dirt and rough terrain. So, we took it slowly over some of the bigger cracks and divots, so as not to hurt or upset her (she is a little high maintenance, but don’t tell her I said so!) but made it in without any trouble whatsoever.

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We pulled up at our camp spot and busily set about getting our tent up and getting our camp organised. We had bought one of those cheap dome tents from BCF and we both thought “how hard can this be?” well as it turns our quite hard actually. After struggling for a while with a few choice words between us we eventually got the tent up and forgave each other for all the bad things we said while doing so!

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Lesson number 1 – go out and buy a 30 sec OzTent when we get home. Most certainly a marriage saver.

Once we were all set up and I had sorted out the fishing and boat gear for the morning, we started to cook dinner and settle down for the evening. Next door to us was a couple of families that were obviously camping as a group with lots of children.  Now I will be the first to admit that kids are not really my thing, they do seem to make a lot of noise when they are running around having fun (how dare they!), so camping next door to a large group was a bit disconcerting for us. As we had finished dinner and just settling down to enjoy a nice glass of wine before bed one of the children got out a guitar and started playing. The rest of the kids (and some of the adults) started to sing along and we found ourselves listening in and enjoying the ambience of the evening whilst being sung too (albeit unintentionally).

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Lesson number 2 – there are still families out there that can enjoy time together without electronic devices and facegram or instatwitter!

The morning arrived very early with the birds tweeting and the sounds of the camp stirring. We did not get much sleep that night, not due to unruly children, but due to the humidity and lack of air in our tent. But like the brave intrepid explorers we are we got the boat down to the water and set off for a day’s fishing. Bynoe harbour is a glorious place with umpteen creeks and estuary’s that hold an abundance of marine life. Or so we are told! We were still relatively new to this fishing thing and did not really catch much that day but did get to explore and see some beautiful landscapes and ocean vistas. By the middle of the afternoon we were both very hot (and tired) so we decided to pull the boat up on the sand and take a quick drive back to the nearest Bunnings to buy ourselves a fan, so we could get a good night’s sleep.

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We put the anchor up on the beach checking the rise and fall of the tide, so we would be able to retrieve the boat when we got back (being just over a 2½ hour round trip). Other boats were pulled up on the sand, so we thought, this should be no problem, give it enough anchor rope so it does not get marooned as the tide moves, she’ll be right!

Happy that the boat was going to be ok, off we set to get ourselves a bit of old fashioned air-conditioning. The drive out was much easier not towing the boat and we soon got on the Stuart highway heading towards Palmerston and the promise of a cooler night’s sleep. We were feeling quite happy as we drove up the Stuart highway, that was when we saw the sign “10 mins to McDonalds”. Now I know this was childish, but mike and I just looked at each other, obviously having the same thought “nah we can beat that time” and he put his foot down just a little bit more. That was when we came around the corner and lo and behold a speed trap was on the side of the road. Serves us right, yes, we really should not have been speeding, there is no excuse. As the police officer heads on over to us we just look at each other and shake our heads, we were old enough to know better. Now what do you say to the police officer when he asks, “what was your reason for speeding sir?” We calmly accepted the fine and drove off sedately to finish our mission.

Lesson number 3 – The sign is not a challenge it is for information only and speeding is not clever.

So, we picked up our fan and drove back to camp (under the speed limit I may add). We got back and went to find the boat. Yay it was still anchored, it had not drifted off with the big tides. The only problem was it was not in the water as such. The tide had come and gone and left us with a 5-meter tinny sat on the sand not too far from the water. So near and yet so far when you must push, and skull drag it back into the water. We gave up and went to get some dinner while we waited for the tide to come back in a bit. Eventually we did get it in the water and then back to the boat ramp without too much drama. It could have been worse, thank goodness the anchor held!

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Lesson number 4 – Always be aware of the tides (unfortunately this is a lesson we have not learnt too well but those stories are for another blog!)

So, we eventually got a good night’s sleep (due to our old fashioned aircon) and enjoyed our long weekend, fishing and exploring the beautiful area of Bynoe Harbour without any further hiccups or issues. All in all, a good weekend with some lessons learnt and even some fish in the boat.

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From the Banks of the Jardine

The Jardine river in the far north of Queensland is a huge body of water that starts in the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and meets the sea near Mutee Heads.

It is the largest perennial river in Queensland. For those of you who are a bit shy to look that up, it means it has continuous flow in parts of its river bed all year round. The catchment takes up the whole of the Jardine River National Park, about 3,282 square kilometres of mostly uninhabited country. So, needless to say, this river is huge!

It is also beautiful, remote, pristine and peaceful and has become my favourite place in Cape York.

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We had travelled to the Cape with two other couples and spent some time up at Loyalty Beach near Bamaga. We then decided, on our way down, we would camp at the mouth of the Jardine to spend a few days off the grid, fishing and relaxing. Off we set, in convoy, heading towards Mutee Heads and then down the dirt tracks to some camping areas on the banks of the Jardine. Now one set of friends were towing a camper trailer (you may be familiar with them from my other blogs, yes it was the Drabbles). That camper trailer had issues! One set of bearings was almost shot, and the brakes were welded on. So, we took the Prado off down the tracks to ensure that the slopes and conditions were ok for the Drabbles to follow.

As we came around a corner we encountered some very deep and soft sand and oops, just like that, were stuck. So out we get, removing the max tracks and started digging. We radioed back up to the convoy to let them know not to take the right fork and set about extracting ourselves from the very, very, very soft sand. Now it was little eerie in that we had no response on the radio, we were surrounded by bush in the middle of nowhere and we were struggling to get ourselves out of the sand. In the distance we could hear a strange noise, a mixture of whining and grinding, getting louder and louder. My imagination was running away with me and I decided that we were going to be captured and sacrificed to some remote god in a spectacular fashion. The noise grew louder and as I looked over onto the other track (the one we should have taken) I saw the culprit! Here came the BT-50 freewheeling down the slope whining and grinding its way through the right-hand track sans camper trailer, (without getting stuck), to then end up in front of us, closely followed by the Greens in their Patrol and camper trailer. When they had had finished taking the good old Michael out of us and managed to stop laughing long enough, they hooked up the snatch strap our little Prado and dragged us out of the sand. Off we went again.

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(no pictures as the camera lady was a bit stressed, hot and bothered!)

We got to the banks of the Jardine and sussed out the camping areas. Mike and I decided that we would go scouting up to the mouth to see whether there were better campsites up there. Yet another mistake, second time in the same day we got stuck in very soft sand. Again, we had to get the Patrol to come and snatch us out. How very embarrassing! So, considering our failure, we decided to camp at our first stop, we just could not take any more humiliation.

(still no pictures of this as I was getting a bit cranky! Can’t think why)

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We made it back to the camp area only to find out that Di had photographed a map telling us there were bad sand bogs where we had just been. Thanks for the heads-up Di!!!!!! (With friends like that……. Need I say more!)

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The area was beautiful, we were camped in the next area along from the other two couples. Not that we are anti-social at all but there were some snoring issues coming from the Green’s camper trailer and I do not play nicely if I don’t get enough sleep! So, we set up our tent and then helped the others set up a communal area to cook and eat in front of a beautiful campfire overlooking the Jardine.

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We shared cooking duties for the next few days and I must admit the cooking, company, wine and views were amazing.

So, we got back to camp with tall tales of the huge ones that got away, over a few beers and a fantastic beef stew and dumplings. Wow another beautiful day in the far north of Queensland.

We stayed at this camp for 5 days in total, mainly because we were waiting for the bearings to be delivered to Bamaga for the Drabbles camper trailer, but also because it was amazing. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was great, the fishing was fantastic, and the company was awesome. But, as with all good things it had to come to an end and we had to head back to civilisation! (picture sad face emoji).

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So, on the morning of the 5th day we woke up and started packing up ready for the trip back to Bamaga. That is when I heard Di yelling, “Oi come and look at this!” we dutifully headed onto the beach in front of their camp and promptly freaked out to see the croc tracks leading up from the Jardine to just below their camp. The crocodile had obviously found something nice to eat just under the sand and then promptly wandered off back to the water again. In the immortal words of Steve Irwin “Crikey he was a big un!”

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Maybe it was a good idea to boot scoot out of there! So long Jardine and thanks for all the Barra!

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That’s not a 4wd – This is a 4wd

The Prado

When we moved to Townsville, my husband bought a second-hand Prado. We needed it to tow the boat (as my little RAV was having a hard time), and we wanted something we could do more adventurous trips in.

The Prado was already set up with a long-range fuel tank, so we did not need to worry about that, but it did need some other extras. My husband went all out getting the mods done to make it capable of going off road. That included a 2-inch lift with old man emu suspension, snorkel, bull bar, winch, roof rack, side awning, drop slide fridge, road shower, a set of Drifta drawers for the back and the list went on and on. The car morphed from a comfortable dirt road only 4wd into something that could cope with a bit of rougher track and we could happily take camping on our adventures.

Our first real trip was to Fraser Island. It coped well and we did not really have any problems with it. The set up was fantastic and the convenience of having everything out of the back of the car was great. A whole new experience for us Pozzie adventurers! The Drifta drawers were amazing, I could keep all my food and cooking stuff in them and they gave easy access without having to dig through plastic storage boxes. The fridge was also amazing and was just at the right height for me with the drop slide.

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Yes we do eat a lot!

The Prado performed well on the sand, once we had mastered the tyre pressures and because it was relatively light had no problems getting places. We did have a couple of hiccups that I will elaborate on in a future blog, so you will have to wait.


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Camping Set Up

After taking the parents to Fraser (our second time) we decided we were ready for a bigger trip, so we started planning our trip to the Cape. We ensured that the Prado had its full check over and added a cargo barrier (just in case we had a mishap), breathers and a bra to cope with water crossings and the all-important UHF radio and spare before we set off. We also made sure we took a Drabble with us in case of mechanical emergencies, (see Jump, Snatch, Blow and Winch). The trip up was good. The Prado did the hard yards, rescuing the BT-50 numerous times on the Tele Track and we thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck, getting out and generally running amok. The Prado did everything we asked of it, but we wanted more.

Campfire discussions were had with the other two couples we made the trip with. We began discussing and weighing up the pros and cons of a new 4wd vehicle, 79 series Landcruiser or 200 series Cruiser or another type altogether. Many a robust discussion was held around the campfire fueled by XXXX Gold tinnies and our own biases. Do we get a 200 series (for comfort) and chop it, or do we get a 79 series for practicality? Do the 200 series have too many electrical gadgets to go wrong? Are the 79 series cruisers too utility like (and uncomfortable)? These were answers we needed so we decided we would do our research once back home.

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Well anyway it seems like the Prado got a whiff of us wanting to trade her in. She must have overheard our campfire talk and got a bit upset, so she thought “I will show them!” On the way to Chilli Beach her alternator packed in (I think she did it on purpose!). Well that put us in a bit of a situation. After many discussions of what to do – put the generator on the roof (yes that was a real suggestion!), use solar panels, strip the car down etc. my husband strapped the solar panels to the roof, duck taped the wires down the side of the car and onto the battery and off we set for Cooktown. Luckily it was near the end of our holiday, so we drove from Chilli Beach to Cooktown without aircon (hot and sticky), windows open, red dust covering everything and not stopping (even for a call of nature). Luckily for my husband I sang all the way so he had music!!!!!

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Definitely a technical modification

Research, Research and More Research

So back home (with the alternator fixed) it was time for some of the famous Holmes research. My husband and I did our homework, spoke to heaps of people, took a few test drives and went to see our local (friendly) engineer (Mick at AEV) about the pros and cons of modifications to both the 200 series and the 79. It was decided that the 79 series Cruisers were the better option for our requirements (and minimal mechanical knowledge), spares would also be easy to come by as they are the most used vehicle in outback Australia. We also agreed that the 200 series Cruisers were too computer reliant which would not be a good thing if we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a failure.

So, after taking the 79 series for a test drive, we agreed this was the way to go, but only if we could change the manual gearbox out for an auto (getting on in life and like the easier option). Our local dealer was a little vague about when they were getting a graphite one in stock and could not tell us until we had paid for it, so we ended up getting one from John Coles at Atherton. Service was amazing, and we got a discount! We made the trip up to Atherton and picked up our stubby little dual cab.

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What a cutie! (and the car, heehee!)

The Cruiser (aka my husband’s truck)

Now the real fun began. We wanted the chassis extended so we went back to see Mick at AEV in Townsville and had long chats with him over the best set up for the new vehicle. He did try to convince us to go to a six-wheel option (with a fully working 3rd axle) but we decided that was probably a bit overkill for us. He informed us we could get the chassis extended by 300mm and change out the manual gearbox for an auto. So, we dropped the vehicle into him and he started work on it. While in the shop we got him to put a 3-inch lift on, JMACX coil conversion (which rectified the rear tracking alignment), a brake booster, GVM upgrade and all our accessories including; snorkel (standard Toyota one is rubbish apparently), bull bar, winch, batteries, long range fuel tank, steel rims and new tyres and the list went on and on! (again!).

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JMACX Coil Conversion

Although extremely happy with the service it is slightly disconcerting to see your brand new hardly been used vehicle chopped in two before they reattach with the extension!

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Just to give a big plug here, the service and quality of work we have received from Michael and the team at Australian Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has been outstanding. Nothing has been too much bother for them and they are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and good at dealing with clueless Pozzies.

Then it was time to work out the canopy. The guys at Allytech built this for us and arranged to have the Redarc Battery Management and inverter installed. Of course, it had to have a rack for the tinnie (with and ATV winch because I am getting on a bit and like the easy life!), lithium battery, a potable water tank and the tray for when we did not want the canopy on.

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Canopy by AllyTech Townsville

Then we ordered the drawers from Drifta and when they arrived my husband and I had to install them. That was fun! Just getting the canopy off the back was an art in itself, on our sloping block we had to find genius ways of stopping it from falling over! Drawers installed, along with a 90ltr fridge slide and generator slide, we soon realised that the pull-out table was a bit too high for me to do anything on! So, I had to source some steps otherwise I would not be able to see what I was cooking.

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Hmmm cooking could be difficult

After buying solar panels, hot water system, gas bottle holder, and umpteen bits and pieces we finally had a car (took about 6 months from purchase). Must say though the husband is very happy and informs me that it will only need a few extra bits before our big Kimberley trip next year!

You know what they say; “Happy husband (and truck), happy life!”

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The Love of My Husbands Life!