Legends from our own lunchtimes

Friday, December 31, 2021

Helter Shelter

This is an image of a shelter shed in a park not far from where we live.  It's a composition from thirty-one different viewpoints and a version of it enjoyed some success in my camera club's end of year competition "in the style of Catalan artist, Pep Ventosa".

I like to think it serves to illustrate the way social media affects our view on life.  

Even things which are very clear and obvious can be obscured and appear to be something they are not if enough slightly different points of view are overlaid over the one true image. 

If one is not careful, one can find oneself spinning off in an entirely different direction to that intended, on a path filled with blurred half-truths and mis-direction.

May your 2022 be filled with focus and entirely devoid of social media "research"!


Thursday, December 30, 2021

Lockdown (and out.)

 It was a bit of an anticlimax after all that, to be returning into a lockdown zone.  Those last few hundred kilometres were quite bizarre in the absence of any traffic, with those escapees long gone to places further north.

Quite coincidentally this story ends on the eve of a new year as we learn to deal with our first real wave of Covid, "living with" it as we are often reminded.

In the intervening period, we haven't completed the van, we have enjoyed a few short times away which were enjoyable but quite  unremarkable.   We lost a mother of course, and somehow remained stupidly busy working on other projects.

This journey will continue, that road south is open now and in a few weeks we might even be able to return should we dare leave our state.  Whether the next leg is to be reported as it unfolds or as a retrospective as has been this case, we won't know until it begins, but you will know as soon as we do.

Stay tuned, as they say, for the next exciting episode, or if you wish, for a few that will be quite dull as we clear our decks and minds for the road ahead.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

One last beachside lunch

 We were with Chris and Phil under a clear blue sky, the biggest worry we had was to decide what kind of fish we'd have with our chips for lunch, when the call came, and with it the photographs of highways filled with "escaping" vehicles.

Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast had a small Covid outbreak, and had been placed into Lockdown.

One would think, in that situation, where the risk of catching a sometimes fatal disease was high, that the majority of people would knuckle down, lock themselves in, and minimise their risk.   To their credit that's what the majority of people did.

However, a small minority, enough to fill two lanes of highway heading out of town, apparently decided that they would be better off living out of the lockdown zone, and if they had been exposed to the virus they were more than happy to assist in its distribution into the wider community by going on holiday.

At that point, unvaccinated and feeling quite vulnerable, it was not difficult to decide that we'd be safer in our own home in a community with minimal transmission than taking our chances with these ill-intentioned refugees.

The only decision we could take was to curtail the rest of our planned journey, and return to base.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

One last roadside coffee

There's nothing that makes ordinary coffee taste better than boiling the water on a fire made of actual wood scavenged from the great outdoors.   It may or may not be a psychological phenomena, like wood fired pizza, and since there doesn't seem to be any peer reviewed scientific research into this, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Sadly it's not terribly polite to fire up the bonfire (or even the Kelly Kettle) in the middle of a park downtown, even if it's a very small town like Miriam Vale, but the Butane stove does a job that's almost comparable.  

There are rumblings of an outbreak "down south" so we boiled the water a bit longer than usual "just in case" and started to consider staying somewhere until the dust settled.


Monday, December 27, 2021

Our plan begins to unravel.

We hadn't planned this to be the last night either.

The PLAN, was to drop in on Chris and Phil in Bargara for a few days, spend a few nights in a bedroom that didn't have sliding door that went "grrrrrrrrthunk" every time one of us got up in the middle of the night, before resuming our beach crawl south.

If we tried hard enough those last few hundred kilometres might even take a month.

We were having a lovely time it must be said, making our plans (there's that word again) to drop in at home for a bit, finish the finer detailing on the van, and then, at our earliest opportunity complete the second half of this particular adventure.  We had decided that we'd just keep going (more or less) until we reached the psouthern-most part of Tasmania. 

There were stumbling blocks of course, the fact that we'd have to cross three states all of which had closed borders was one of them and that once we had left our own we would not be able to return under any circumstance was another.  

It would only be a matter of days before we would be reminded of our biggest mistake:

We hadn't travelled for so long, we had forgotten our cardinal rule.



Sunday, December 26, 2021

One last beachside campsite

At the time we couldn't have known that the little caravan park at Armstrong Beach was to be our last beachside campsite for this trip.   

We would not have done anything differently had we known, but I've managed now to fill two paragraphs without the need to describe in detail the "nothing" we did all afternoon while the water lapped metres from our repose.

We found it quite by accident which is absolutely the best way of finding things of course, and it was chock-a-block full, not a space left sorry, booked out for months in advance.  At a time when every caravan that ever there was was running round in circles looking for somewhere to stay this story had repeated itself all the way down the coast since Cooktown.

Fortunately we had become very adept at looking quite sad and disappointed, and equally fortunately each time we have met kind and amenable proprietors who after taking a look at our "tiny" van, always seem to find a spot "if it's just for one night and we don't need power".

We have discovered that between sites 24 and 25 in every caravan park, not shown on the site map, but there none the less, is "site 24A".  Sometimes a nice person has to move his car to reveal it, because it's exactly the size of a parked car as luck would have it, but it's been there all the time and we are always delighted when it appears as indeed we were this night.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

We interrupt this story to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Nothing says “it’s Christmas” in Australia more than a ceramic gingerbread star with frosting doing an impersonation of melting snow and a plum pudding hanging in the middle of it,

… so Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 24, 2021

The virus is back

In travel-time we were at the end of July 2020.  

That was a time when the further north one travelled in the state of Queensland, the less real any threat of virus seemed.  In fact, the less real the virus seemed.

We cannot begin to explain to our friends in other places just how free of the virus we were.  If you think of the number zero, you are getting very close to the amount of infection in our state, and exactly the amount of concern that many people had for its spread.   As soon as a case bobbed up, the community would be sent into a sharp lockdown, and it would be contained.   In retrospect perhaps by a combination of good management and sheer luck it was an astonishingly successful tactic.

Yet there we were in Airlie Beach, barely 1,200 kilometres north of the border infestation with signs that people were taking it seriously.  Or were they actually taking the you-know-what out of us?

Whoever was responsible for this attack on sensibility, with equal opportunity firmly at the forefront, handily modifying the braille sign as well so that the sightless among us could join in the fun with the aid of duct tape, so that it now reads "FEMJEDEJ".

I suspect this an abbreviation for "Nothing to see here", but I could be wrong.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

And as the sun slowly sets in the East... no, wait!

 With the best of intentions we set out from Cairns to dawdle all the way home, we thought it would take weeks, but with the smell of home in our nostrils it was beginning to take some effort to moderate our daily travel needs.

We'd failed in our attempt to stay in Bingil Bay, had skipped Magnetic Island completely, and might have bypassed Bowen as well had the strength of our resolve been any less.  

As it turns out, we arrived too late to see very much, which by the time the sun went down, was exactly the amount of time we needed to see everything.   

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Another day another waterfront.

The deadline is the curse of the travelling class and some of those among us had to return to work, disappearing over the horizon, while we continued our leisurely amble down the coast.

Townsville is not very far from Cardwell, and we'd intended to spend an entire day poking around the place where I'd finished high school and shortly thereafter left my parents to raise my siblings in the sort of peace that settles on a family when one child removes itself from the mix.  Possibly because of all the places I've lived, this one holds the record for "least time spent here" I felt none of that attachment that I'd felt in places further north, and if truth be told (as it always is) in its place was a curious unfamiliarity.  

We might have spent a day on "the Island" as Magnetic is known, and a magical place it is too, but it had been a Covid hotspot just a week or two before and at that stage we were unvaccinated and quite unprepared to take unnecessary risk with that invisible enemy.   

After a bit of a walk and morning tea on the waterfront and a drive past the house we once lived so that we could relay photographs to our ancient Matriarch, it became apparent that there was simply nothing calling us to stay longer.  

So we didn't.


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Love can be a bitter disappointment and so can seafood cafes.

One of us is less, shall we say, computer literate than the other.  She wouldn't know where to look to find an online review.  The other is all bitter and cynical about them anyway, preferring the old "seat of the pants" method of discovering new and wonderful places.

One of us thinks that giant crabs on the corner of cafes is a sure sign that the place is full of charm and promise.  The other isn't sure when he sees "Barista Coffee" for $2.00, a sign below the cash register that begins "Aliens Prefer..." . When "Try our Famous Fish" takes equal billing to "Internet Travel and Freight" one should immediately consider something is awry.

Never the less, Cardwell is noted, if not "famous" for its seafood offerings, so we gave each other that "how can we go wrong" shrug and went in anyway.  It IS a pretty spot,  right on the waterfront with only four lanes of highway separating it from the beach.

This is not a food blog, neither is it a place where anyone should come to read reliable reviews of restaurants.  

Mostly we do try to take care with grammar and diction and occasionally caution those who err in the placing of apostrophes.

Therefore may we respectfully suggest having thrown caution to the wind and actually partaken of the fare in the above establishment, that the proprietors of the Cardwell Seaview Cafe might set the world right, and us at ease, by considering the replacement of the word "FAMOUS" in their billboard, with "NOTORIOUS".


Monday, December 20, 2021


If Port Douglas was as close to a bigger city than Cairns it would be an outer suburb, so it didn't take much discussion before we decided that consuming our lunch on the Cairns Esplanade under the shade of a friendly tree would be a splendid idea.

With fresh prawns, fresh bread, the temperature a very pleasant mid-winter 30° and a gentle tropical breeze wafting across the Coral Sea we felt like the luckiest people in the world.

But it was "Freedom" day.  The first of the organised protests held around the country by an ill-informed and generally archetypal unkempt bunch of inconsiderates, intent on forcing their views quite aggressively it might be said on others equally intent on trying to ignore them.

It's a curious thing, politics.   Here were people genuinely convinced that the wearing of masks and vaccination is mandatory despite the clear evidence to the contrary.   If they'd stopped shouting and looked around they would have noted that even wearing clothes was mostly optional in the spot they'd chosen to demonstrate, yet they persisted in their engagement of an ever less interested audience.

This is North Queensland, not noted for over-reaction, nor for that matter any reaction at all to stuff like this, so after twenty minutes of noisy shouting and banner waving it all just went away, not a ripple remained on the airwaves or the pool.

We had our freedom back.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Back to Civilisation

 One day, a long time ago when Lily was barely able to talk, she and I were walking with her Dad, when she suddenly pronounced:

"I've got a good idea!  Let's go and get some fresh prawns and some bread and go home and have lunch."

Eight or nine years later, none of us can see a sign advertising "fresh seafood" without having that very same idea.   

Port Douglas is on the verge of proper civilisation, one of those cross-over places where those with more disposable money than others go to experience the edge of the wilderness and the same sorts of boutiques, galleries, coffee shops and bakeries they have in their trendy suburbs at home, while wearing floral shirts and bare feet and dreaming of moving there permanently.

That of course made it the perfect place to buy some fresh prawns and some funky bread for a "Lily Lunch" a bit further down the road.

Oh, and the coffee was superb and our introduction to "Cronuts" - (yes folks, deep fried croissants are an actual thing) was sublime.   


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Never smile at a crocodile.

I've talked about them often enough over the last few weeks, and for those who think that nothing happened unless there is a photograph, this old girl is not in a zoo, she's sunbaking no more than ten metres from us and not at all oblivious to our presence.  

In the past fortnight, we've seen others from a distance, spotted down creeks and estuaries, and one paddling happily past us on a river, but we wisely waited until we reached the Daintree to get a bit more up close and personal, with the benefit of local knowledge and a nice secure boat.

If you wish to see crocs without either of those two things it would be advisable to have your affairs well and truly in order before you leave home.

This is THEIR territory,  they are in abundance and on this little jaunt we were fortunate enough to see a large male swimming in from the sea in search of love no doubt, confident enough to pass a metre or so from our boat.   

Of course the Daintree rainforest is full of other wonders and sights, and there's an icecream shop that makes its product from all sorts of exotic nuts and berries, but they can wait for another time.  It was the crocs we had come to meet.

Friday, December 17, 2021

A few days in Cooktown

While the rest of our party were off not finding any fish or crabs that wanted to be caught, we slipped into Cooktown for a few days for a bit of a clean up, and to revisit some of the bits we really enjoyed when we were last here.

It's actually not a terribly large place, but there's a bit of interesting history.  The bloke who the Poms told us discovered Australia, named the River after his ship, and someone subsequently named the Town after him. There aren't too many relics of the history of English voyaging that predates the anchor of the Endeavour that Jimmy Cook kindly donated to the Museum 250 years ago.  

A splendid little museum it is too, and deals with the actual history of the region in a very even handed manner quite dissimilar to that which bounced off the pages of our Social Studies books almost three quarters of a century ago.

Curiously, our Lily hadn't really heard of Lt Cook (who it seems made it to Commander but never actually was a Captain), but she did enjoy being informed of his adventures, just as she did our afternoon roaming the gorgeous botanical gardens with her iPad and plant identifying app.   

What would Cook's botanist, Sir Joseph Banks have thought of an eleven year old discovering the plants he had found, no doubt with the same enthusiasm and curiosity?


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Leaving the dirt behind.

 We are always sad to leave the dirt after a few weeks of adventure.  

There's something too easy about turning up the music and barrelling down a highway with cruise control on.  It's not that it's not pleasurable, but it's almost as if one doesn't earn one's rewards.

Leaving the dirt was also a sign we were leaving the Cape.  

There were other signs too.  

The ant hills started to get smaller.  Then the dirt changed colour to a lesser red until it finally settled into a sandy ochre.  

We started to see cars that weren't trucks.   

Small passenger cars that didn't scream "I'm tough!" began to appear, in small numbers at first, then we saw motorhomes and caravans that weren't covered in red.

Finally our phones beeped in unison.  We had mobile service again.  We were back.

Actually we were still a few thousand kilometres from being "back", but not without some sadness, we'd left the Cape. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The long and winding road...

There's no way of escaping it, the road south is the same as the one north, we are just heading in the other direction.   The corrugations are no fewer, but there is one tiny improvement in the quality of our journey - the wind is predominantly from the east, so the dust blowing across the road clears from our field of view just a few seconds earlier  than it did on the way up.   It's not much, but it's welcome.

We left the others this morning just before a bit of Matt's suspension fell apart.  Luckily being a Toyota, to cut a long adventure short,  he was able to find a similar part in a wreck not far from where the incident occurred, (the last of those particular parts not scavenged as it turns out, such is the apparent demand)  and they were back on the road in almost no time.   

Strangely we haven't seen any Transporter Van bodies by the wayside, so perhaps we should have been quite thankful that we haven't needed parts (or don't own a Toyota).

We'll rejoin them in Cooktown in a day or two, while they head off into the wilds in search of fish, crabs and sunburn.

In the meantime, the road is not the longest in one stretch, nor the dustiest we've been on, so we'll enjoy it for what it is.

The curious among you, who may wish to see a longer, dustier trail we travelled long ago should CLICK HERE for a photo of the Plenty Highway. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021


 It's a matter of statistical fact that this year has been the biggest ever in terms of tourism for the Cape.  This  has been due almost entirely to the fact that not only has Australia been closed, preventing overseas travel in any direction, but our state borders have also been closed sporadically effectively preventing escape.

At the time we were in the far North, in quick succession Queensland, Northern Territory and Victoria effectively invoked hard borders, prohibiting entry from any other state so we all find ourselves driving in very, very large circles while keeping the nasty virus entirely somewhere else.  Large numbers of Victorians, and to a lesser extent New South Welshmen, traditionally used to travelling north to avoid their rather harsher winter, found themselves effectively stranded although we haven't met one who is in a rush to get home.

The result of all that is that even the more remote campsites need to be shared with others.   This is not a terrible thing, but it's a long way from the isolated wilderness many expect.  

Mostly the neighbours seem quite nice.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Even in the north the sun sets in the west.

It's hard to believe, but it's taken three weeks to talk about three weeks of doodling round on forest tracks and failing to catch fish, get sunburnt or eaten by anything other than the odd green ant, (which is not the most pleasant of biting things to deal with, but mostly we live to tell the tale).

Sadly, some of our company have jobs to return to, those that don't wouldn't mind getting back to finish the van and get going with new projects (or in Larry's case - to replace the parts that had vibrated into smaller parts on his near new truck).

We promised that we'd take it easy on the way back, and some of the places we've reported on the last few days did actually occur on the first few days of our return trip, but for now, we are heading south once again, heading for the bitumen.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Another Day, Another Beach

The East Coast of the Cape has a thousand kilometres or so of ocean frontage.   

It's a bit hard to get to in spots, which makes it all the nicer when you do, but even then there's no escaping the wind, the sharks, the crocodiles and of course the entirely deadly sea stingers.

You can try your hand at fishing if you keep half an eye out for the crocs, but no self-respecting fish is going to venture close enough to a sandy beach to allow itself to be caught while there are all those wonderful reefs just out there in that blue stuff.

All is not lost.  

They make mighty fine places to sit and have a sausage and contemplate the world, and the rainforest tracks in to them are often quite spectacular.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Another day another waterfall.

Here, in order of appearance are the legendary Fruit Bat, Elliot, and Twin Falls which, in the wet season become enormous torrents of white water which are entirely inaccessible    For reasons which are not clear, they are three of the very rare swimming holes on the entire Cape where one can enter the water without fear of crocodile attack.

I know it's not cool to make broad assumptions about things based on outward appearance, but do all waterfalls look the same to you?  

I have to say they all feel the same to me, which is to say; unpleasantly cool.  I am not a subscriber to the "it's all right once you are in" school of thought, particularly if it's already "all right", right there on the bank without having to go through all that "getting in".  Then there's the return to the car, dripping wet trudge along red dirt pathways kicking up minute quantities of apparently magnetic dust, which cakes on one's lower extremities to such an extent that by the time the carpark is in sight, legs are looking as though they've spent half an hour in a Tandoori Oven.

"all right" indeed!

Besides, someone has to look after the towels and take the photos.


Friday, December 10, 2021

It's all good fun till someone loses an eye.

Perhaps the most notorious obstacle on the Old Telegraph Track is a river crossing at Gunshot Creek.   Even if you choose not to take the thirty kilometre bypass which is more than fine for people travelling in say a VW van, it is not compulsory to choose the most worn and treacherous crossing, yet so many do.

It's not that hard, dropping a vehicle down an almost vertical cutting that is just wide enough to allow it to fit, into a couple of feet of water.   The hard bit seems to be understanding that a) there WILL be damage, and b) the car WILL get stuck.  Why oh why do so many launch themselves over the edge, and then try to remember where they've left their recovery strap?

Did anyone say "I'll keep an eye out for crocs?"

The very last crossing on the track is known as Nolan's.  Only the bravest and best prepared and luckiest and maybe most ignorant (because what you don't know, can't hurt you) make it this far, and then they must face the greatest dilemma of the trip: Do they wind down their windows accepting that they are going to ship a few Sydney Harbours of water, but giving them an exit if something goes wrong, OR  do they wind them up to keep things nice and dry, not thinking about the consequences of stalling mid stream, electric windows failing, and having no option but to drown the entire cabin and all their treasures including no doubt a lifetime's collection of Abba cassettes with it.

Several people a day do live to regret not leaving their windows down.

Down at Palm Creek, the very first crossing on the track, everything fresh and clean and ready for what might lie ahead, although that bumper bar strapped to the trailer is a sign that perhaps not everything survived the corrugations on the way up.

 I have to admit, I've spent quite a bit of time on waterways just like this one, but for reasons that may be entirely perverse, I've never thought of doing that in anything other than a boat. 


Thursday, December 09, 2021

We'd come all that way.


We'd come all that way without any damage to our van, or to Larry's ute, or for that matter to Matt's if you don't count the alternator dying the minute we arrived at Seisia, but it's a Toyota and a certain amount of unreliability is both expected and acceptable.  Remember: "You can get parts for Toyota's anywhere." 

The nice man from the RACQ did indeed carry a stock of spares - "I get them in lot's of twenty" he explained, implying that this wasn't the first Toyota alternator (or starter motor) that he'd replaced, but once again I digress.

We'd come all this way, seen the legends in their MadMax trucks with dented bits and parts missing and the looks of triumph on their collective countenances, and wondered what we'd been missing.  It would be a shame, we thought, not to see what the fuss was about.

It wasn't hard to find the old Telegraph track either, the signs were all around us, but not the kind that bolt to the end of posts.  Instead of arrows or breadcrumbs or a neatly coloured roll of string marking the way, there was a trail of car bits that was really quite easy to follow.  There were no warnings either as we neared the more technically difficult sections of the track, but the density of broken, bent and discarded parts increased to give a pretty clear idea that madness was not far away.

Like many others whom we deemed "sensible" we found a vantage point and settled in to watch other people having their own version of fun.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

The old stomping grounds.
Thursday Island

More than sixty years have passed between the making of these photos.  Not much has changed, my box Brownie has become more sophisticated, although the camera I am holding was a prop.  We couldn't recreate the original shot exactly because apart from the absence of everyone else in the original photo; #safetyrules, which didn't exist at the time my younger self spent exploring what at the time we thought were the endless tunnels in the fort, but which over the years seem to have shrunk considerably in both extent and scariness.

Perhaps some of the terror they conveyed back then was to do with what would happen if our parents discovered we had been there.  Since my father worked in the weather station on the site, and we lived just a few hundred metres down the hill, the odds of discovery were not slim, but just occasionally the temptation proved to be too great.

I saw my first graffiti down there, a wondrous work of non-art, the coolest word I'd ever seen scrawled in charcoal in a dark tunnel littered with broken beer bottles.  It was quite possibly a political statement, the depths of which I have still not quite unravelled to this day, or it may be simply that the author was as enamoured with the word as I.   

It said simply "SPUTNIK"

I asked my father what it meant, and had enough time to become fascinated by man's faltering journeys into space before it dawned on us both that perhaps I'd just made an admission of my trespassing on forbidden ground.    

I have forgotten the details of the admonition that followed, but it is suffice to say that until this day I had not again ventured down those steps, nor, despite my admiration for some that do, have I ever drawn on a wall.


Tuesday, December 07, 2021

It's the strangest thing.


I've already mentioned that I'd never harboured a burning desire to return to T.I., although as the years have passed, my curiosity about the place where I had learned to read and write andyy where my grandfather was laid to rest was becoming less dormant.

Here I was, with just half a day up my sleeve, trying to re-live as much as I could, of a time when even little kids were pretty much free-range, and a place which apart from snakes, crocodiles, sharks, and open vents to underground tunnels, offered few dangers.  

Curiously from the moment I set foot ashore it was as though I'd never left.  We walked straight to the little lane that Lily's great grandfather had hewn from the side of the hill to give her grandfather and his siblings a safe shortcut down to town and school.  

We found our house too.  That wasn't difficult, as it was exactly where we left it, although there's a car there now and a solar hot water unit, but the tank stand I jumped off the time my parachute failed to open was still there, as rigid as the emotional scars which have stayed ever since.

As we explored all those familiar places, the others were clearly getting as big a kick out of my memories as I was out of remembering them, but I still couldn't get a handle on why I actually felt the way I did, or even what that feeling was.

I had given it no thought until now; for my parents leaving here was "going home", to a place I had never known, in those formative years perhaps that same journey for me was "leaving home".  

Since that time I have attended five schools, lived in more than a dozen suburbs in eight towns and a couple of States, and have never felt a connection with any of those places.  Perhaps it's just until now that I haven't thought about it.

For me, "home" will always be somewhere in a warm climate near a bright blue sea filled with deadly things intent on taking one to a better place and where the sun's cancerous gifts are brought through a sodden atmosphere filled with tropical fungus.  

I can't help it, What’s not to love about this place?


Monday, December 06, 2021

My Island Home

 From the moment she asked us if we'd like to come on their family adventure to the Cape (we ARE family after all), Abbie was determined to get to Thursday Island, doubtless to find out a bit about her old man's roots.  While I was curious to see what it looks like now and always happy to go along with any plan someone else makes, I can't say it was on the top of my must do list.

Never-the-less it was with growing excitement and enthusiasm I boarded the ferry from Seisia that morning, with the other of us, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in tow.

From the instant I set foot on the jetty, turned in the direction of our old house on the hill, some sleeping emotion wakened inside me and caused a monster lump to appear in my throat.  

That was nothing if not disconcerting.

There's a myth on the island, that anyone who eats the fruit of the Wongai tree (a kind of plum native to the Torres Strait) will one day return.  Well over half a century ago, like any kid tempted by low hanging fruit, I admit I may have consumed one or two from that old tree on the beach over the years.  I can't say I am at all superstitious though, and had given no more than passing thought to that legend in the intervening period until that very moment as I stood on the jetty, completely bewildered by whatever emotion was sweeping through my being.

Welcome home...

Island boy!


Sunday, December 05, 2021

Battle Stains


Every Four Wheel Drive vehicle has either rock slider bars fitted just below the doors, or long running-board style steps, which look as though they are there to assist entry and exit, and if the enterer or exiter are contortionists with double jointed knees and ankles and pivots in their shins, they probably do.  For normal human beings they are almost without purpose.

They do enable simpler access to the typically overloaded roofrack where all the stuff that wouldn't fit in the already overloaded vehicle and overloaded trailer can be put, but their other purpose seems to be to collect dirt and to stamp it on the back of the legs of every person who alights from said vehicle.

In red dirt country, and this IS red dirt country, that stamp looks like a giant nicotine stain on the back of every leg.

They laugh at us as we wipe our door sills clean at the end of every day but our legs are thus far devoid of that tell tale stain which, as if driving a white van wasn't enough, sets us even further apart.

I suppose in a way, it's a much more authentic souvenir that one of those very expensive cheap tee shirts. 


Saturday, December 04, 2021

The slightest tinge of regret.

Wending our way back to our camp after our visit to the "Tip", we wondered briefly how we felt about not taking our van that final forty kilometres. 

It wasn't that we were overly concerned for its well being, but it just made a bit of sense to take one fewer car and who wouldn't relish the chance of day-tripping in a back seat shared with an eleven year old granddaughter.  

For about thirty seconds we thought that it would be a shame to have come this close and not actually take the van to the very end of the journey, but then we realised the van didn't care.  

We were starting to think like those "conquistadors" and that would never do.

It was far more important and far more satisfying and so much more fun to share the experience with our Lily, and as it turned out, the van didn't seem to mind having the day off one little bit.

So we put a cross in the box on behalf of the van, and no further questions will be entered into.

⌧ "Been to the Tip of Cape York".   (almost) 


Friday, December 03, 2021

There's a sign!


For those wondering how they'll know when they get to the very Tip, don't worry, there's a sign.  

Surprisingly it doesn't say "Road Ends", it just tells you where you are standing or if you think about it, where you are not.

It's a little bit deceptive because if you are indeed standing reading it, then clearly you are not standing at the Northernmost point, because that's that little bit on the other side of it.  

That of course is where we stood in every combination of personkind imaginable - all of us, just the boys, grandparents and grandchild, just the girls, grandchild alone, grandfather alone, and so on until there had this been happening a decade ago there would have been a very real risk of running out of film.

Curiously, for those who were paying attention back in September  while all around us were ticking that particular box off their bucket lists, as a person who spent some formative years a little further north than even this, I really felt as though I was among a bunch of southerners.  

Our journey north was not yet complete.


Thursday, December 02, 2021

Pilgrim's Progress.


You think you've made it through all those obstacles.  You've driven for days on the roughest roads some people have ever seen, and the car is covered in red dirt and you are almost as red.

You've found the last carpark near the already busy access track.   You're finding the going a bit challenging over rocky hill and down rocky dale in the heat and the humidity but you know you've only got a kilometre or so to go. You can soldier on.   

"It's just over that hill" you think, almost there, and you notice way up in the distance some of the other pilgrims falling by the wayside.   The are either standing still as though they've been turned into a pillar of salt or sitting as though resting on whatever horizontal surface they can find, all of them heads bowed apparently in prayer.

It's very odd.

As you get closer to them the phone in your pocket dings that little ding that lets you know that you have a message and you too fall under the siren's spell.

By some quirk of geography there's a tiny area at the very tip of mainland Australia which receives full 4G signal from both major service providers overflowing from towers on the islands beyond, yet remaining in shadow everywhere else on the mainland.  Suddenly the quest is forgotten and we all stop to check a fortnight's worth of messages, update our playlists, send selfies to Insta, and of course make that call to anyone we can think of:

"Hey Mum, Guess where I am?"


Wednesday, December 01, 2021


We're sitting happily in our camp at the very top end, a crocodile-safe distance from the water, as insurance apparently lest a hungry monster arrive beside our van in the depth of the night armed with a tin opener.

Surely there'd be tastier morsels in tents I argue, and easier to get to as well, but the other of us has deaf ears when it comes to nocturnal safety and we have to be content with our twenty metre walk to the sand.  

The legion of "superheroes" wearing $80.00 sunshirts proclaiming them to have "crossed the Jardine" (it's a ferry), or "made it to the Tip" are a little puzzling to us.   Recently our National Broadcaster referred to the journey we had just completed in quite concerning terms:

"The "trip to the tip" is the ultimate pilgrimage for conquistador four-wheel drivers, "

It's a dirt ROAD for crying out loud, and I'll bet not one of them were without air-conditioning, or a frig full of cold beverages, a sound system (because you don't have radios anymore) with their playlists happily on shuffle, and often towing vans filled with all the luxuries of home, perhaps exactly like the conquistadors of old.

To be fair, we are at least five hundred kilometres from accessible telephone or internet services so the playlists can't be updated, which adds measurably to the challenge.

There are others too, who think the logical and sensible "bypass" route is for "chickens".  They, for some reason set out on the most difficult of tracks, in some sort of competition with their mates to see who can unleash the greatest damage on their machines, the furthest distance from home carrying broken parts as some sort of manly souvenir of their feat.

The view is the same for all of us, whether conquistador or tourist, and either way it's worth the trip.


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The top but not the tip.


Day two on the development road was almost the same as day one with a few of important differences:

It only took two days to tell the tale, not the four that the first day had.

It was longer, rougher, wetter and when it became clear that we had a chance of making it to the Jardine River ferry before closing time, helped in no small way by the recently graded final thirty kilometres we actually felt a little tingle of excitement.

Not that it mattered, we could easily have camped overnight by the river ("by" being a figure of speech in this part of the world where crocodiles tend to consider chubby campers as entree) but as it turns out not for the first time we found ourselves setting up camp close to dusk.

Except this time we were THERE, and intent on staying put for quite some time.  

Technically we were less than forty kilometres from the very tip, which is close enough for now.   We will go there tomorrow probably, because we must, but we are even closer across that straight of blue water to the place I went to school.

We are here, the rattling has stopped, and suddenly, strangely, to one of us at lest it feels very much like home.


Monday, November 29, 2021

The rattle to the top.


Sometime between yesterday afternoon and this morning, we'd had a pleasant night camping in Coen, which isn't quite in the middle of nowhere.   

We know it's not quite in the middle, because we'd managed around 350 kilometres yesterday, and yes it did seem as long as the four days it took to talk about it, and with only 450 kilometres of the same to go until we reached the top, we figured if we left early and had a bit of luck, we might make it almost all of the way today.

The plan had always been to travel as quickly as the conditions allowed (meaning that we wouldn't make any unnecessary stops to see the sights) until we reached our destination.  We could meander home at our leisure in a week or three with some knowledge of what to expect.   

There are no shortage of sometimes cryptic reminders en-route of exactly what "as quickly as conditions allow" means and after just one long day on the development road, we were happy to continue abiding by our definition rather than those whose journeys may have had an earlier conclusion than they had planned.

Matt on the other hand, remembering that I'd suggested that before he did any other preparation for the trip he should bolt on his number plate, borrowed a couple of cable ties, lest the single screw left securing his dangling rear plate should vibrate the rest of the way out, and his plate be doomed to live the rest of its life nailed to a tree.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Flying High.

 Every now and then for a bit of light relief, the corrugations would stop and we'd negotiate a dip, which one would have thought might have been made quite obvious to oncoming traffic by the rather large signs at the approaches.  

If for some reason one missed the sign, then perhaps the water running across the road would provide another significant clue that a change in conditions was imminent, yet the departure from every crossing seemed to be littered with broken lights and springs and bits of caravan that could not stand the force of being thrust into the ground at a speeds which, had the vehicle concerned had wings, may have facilitated lift-off.  

Actually at one of these crossings a large four wheel drive wagon, towing a large camper trailer fired out of the dip heading in our direction with all six wheels off the ground.

It's a bit hard to tell whether the photo is a little fuzzy because the insides of the camera were still shaking even though we'd left the corrugations behind a few minutes earlier, or whether it was our co-pilot's excitement at the anticipation of what might be coming over that crest.   However, if one stands back and squints a bit, two distinct tracks become obvious:

1) The sensible person's approach - very slowly head to the right hand side of the road, and tip-toe through the crossing, accelerating evenly to the top of the cutting. The damp track and no road damage is clearly visible as the wet vehicles gently trundle back onto the correct (left hand) side of the road.

2) The jet pilot's route - smash through at 100 klicks, bounce off the ruts in the bottom throwing stones up onto the road and digging the crossing deeper, launching into the air (note the dry patch for about six metres directly opposite)  and landing about a car length up the hill in a wet boggy mess, or perhaps that's just to soften the landing for the next bloke.

One has to wonder.


Saturday, November 27, 2021

How much more to go dad?

If the sign at the old Moreton Telegraph Station could be believed, we had fewer than ten million corrugations to go.

If that was an accurate count, then we could be encouraged that one way or another the banging would stop sometime tomorrow, but what if it wasn't?  What if it was understating the count just so we wouldn't be discouraged?

Corrugations, dust and shallow dips notwithstanding, the road thus far had been exactly as we had expected, it's a dirt road. For all our bravado though, this might be a good time to remind our friends overseas who might be thinking of seeing a bit of Australia not to do this kind of trip without talking to us first!  

We do have "a bit" of experience in these conditions, and despite its appearance (and perhaps the impression we might have accidentally conveyed),  our vehicle is well prepared, properly equipped with recovery gear, and we have a number of contingencies in place should something untoward eventuate.

Note also that we are travelling in company with TWO fully equiped 4x4 vehicles.

They are no doubt taking great comfort in the knowledge that we are there pull them out of a pickle should they need it.


Friday, November 26, 2021

Are we there yet? (Hum a song and you'll make a sound like a Kazoo. OK don't!)

 It's not as if we weren't expecting it when the corrugations did come, and the reduced dust was welcome for a little while at least.  

As anyone who has travelled over a speed bump will know, there's nothing to be feared if you slow to match the designed speed of the bump.  Corrugations work exactly the same way, so if you close your eyes and imagine speed bumps at say one or even half metre centres for five hundred kilometres, you'll get some idea of how much fun it is to drive on roads like this.

Of course it's not as simple as that.  Front wheel and back wheel are rarely synchronised, and it's not long before the gold fillings in your back teeth start to rattle. At that point you start to hunt around for a more comfortable speed, but there isn't one.

Oh sure you can settle down for a few hundred metres or even more at that "sweet spot" where you seem to be gliding over the tops of the bumps, but it's never long enough before a corner or a pothole or a dip or even a caravan coming the other way on the limit of control, contrive to change the frequency of the bumps and once was comfortable becomes bone and suspension shattering if one is not constantly vigilant.

After an hour or two on the corrugations I was glad I'd bolted on the number plates and used locktite on the nuts after fixing them first with double sided tape.

We were half way through day one, the cabinets hadn't fallen apart, there weren't too many new rattles appearing and we only had a few hundred or so kilometres to go till we could call it a day.  

What was not to like about that, apart from the reports of the road deteriorating the further North we go?


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Are we there yet? ~ (Shut-up and keep your eyes out for roadside markers!)


After all that angst (and coffee) it was actually nice to get off the bitumen, lower the tyre pressures accordingly and lope along as quickly as prudence and visibility allowed, on what was really for a time at least, quite a nice road for a relaxing drive in the country.

We were not in any particular danger, and we like to keep it that way, so we followed the others sometimes as much as a kilometre behind, staying at the very tail of their dust.

Sadly, quite a few of our fellow travellers (perhaps we should call them adventurers) did not share our caution, and more than once we found ourselves driving in the table drain simply to avoid the optimists coming at speed in the opposite direction, blasting through the invisibility like some sort of space ship re-entering the atmosphere.  

The fact that most will survive the return journey is a testament to modern engineering, the after market suspension setups they all seem to have and pure luck,  rather than to any skill of the driver, but survive they mostly do, and invariably they post to social media about how tough was the drive and how bravely they went where only 100,000 men had gone before... this year.

They never mention in these grand tales, the discomfort they cause to others, the stupid risks they take and the detritus they throw at oncoming traffic in their rush.

So I just did.


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Are we there yet? (Just be patient till we finish our coffee!)

There are a few things that don't ring true with this photograph which is used to describe our outbound journey, and that may be be because the terror had built to such a crescendo that we couldn't stop shaking long enough to take a photo.  On the other hand the shaking might have been because we were still laughing about the coffee we had enjoyed at the last stop before we ran out of bitumen.

It's easy enough to tell when the dirt is about to begin (and you'll have to squint a bit and pretend you are coming the other way) because the road is discoloured for miles (Kilometres) from thousands of vehicles depositing red dust on it.  It's an all pervading dust that anyone who has not experienced it will not understand, but that red in the road is a tattoo, it won't wash off, it won't wear off, it's just there for ever more.

Back to the photo - this was taken on our return journey a few moments after leaving the dirt for the last time.  The cracks in the windshield are real and were gained about ten minutes after leaving the bitumen for the first time, along with a brick-sized dent in our bonnet courtesy of a most uncourteous and uncaring monster four wheel drive on its return journey apparently desperate to leave the "rough stuff" behind.

Ahh, but that coffee.

The Laura Roadhouse is not really a roadhouse but if you sell fuel and food in this part of the world you can call your establishment anything you wish and no one will argue.   It is conveniently located so that travellers leaving Cooktown at a civilised hour arrive at Coffee O'Clock.

The menu lists coffee at $4.50, about right for the full Barista experience,  so without hesitation we waved farewell to another $9.00 and ordered two.   In return we were handed two polystyrene cups, or bamboo paper ones, or whatever they are made of these days, and were happily told we could help ourselves out the back with a cheery but ominous: "the jug's just boiled".

There, on a rickety table with a plastic table cloth which looked to have seen time in a construction lunch room, stood an unlidded jam jar containing sugar, an open carton of milk, a jug of (pre-boiled) water, and a large open tin of International Roast Caterer's Blend instant coffee.

It'd been a while, but a search of our memory banks reminded us how to assemble the ingredients and we settled in to enjoy the second best cup of coffee we'd had that day.

Welcome to the Cape.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Playing with the Big Boys?

 In Cairns we had been warned by well meaning folk who were on their return journey, but it was in Cooktown surrounded by the scarred and wounded that we had the first portent of things to come.

We had so many returning "heroes" shell shocked and looking at us in complete horror, even pleading with us not to go, ("not in that!") that for a very brief period of time we felt just the teensiest bit nervous about what the next day might bring.   One well-meaning soul even warned us that he'd travelled all over Australia, and that was the roughest road he'd ever encountered.

On the other hand, one or two albeit still travelling in monster four wheel drives, had assured us that our contention that it was "just another dirt road" was correct, albeit one which does feature corrugations of an ever increasing size and regularity for a very long way.  

No amount of reassuring the others that perhaps we'd seen the likes of this before, could convince them that we were anything but some sort of giant accident looking for somewhere to happen.

I have no idea why we stood out, our shiny little white van in a sea of monster trucks, many of which looked as though the terrain had attempted to swallow them whole, but I suspect that some were already placing their wagers on the probability of our return.  

Worst still, we weren't in a Toyota and they thought we were mad.

"You can get Toyota parts anywhere" was their constant refrain.  Unsure of why we would need "parts", let alone "Toyota parts" we backed quietly away, retiring to our van to contemplate the horrors of the road ahead.


Monday, November 22, 2021

Tip to Tip Days 2 and 3.
Rockhampton to Cairns

The road that passes for Highway One is not horrible, but if you happen to travel on the wrong day, which at the moment seems to be any day ending with the letter "y" you may not be filled with the sort of enthusiasm that travel writers seem to have in plenty when they breathlessly recount their adventures.  

It's narrow, and under construction and crawling with caravans and transport vehicles forced to crawl behind them, at exactly insufficient distance to allow any vehicle to overtake safely.  For several hundred kilometres it was crawling with sideshow trailers and amusement rides too, all intent on ensuring our commute would be as unpleasant as possible.

We were on a mission though, and although we had set very modest daily targets, at the end of each very long day we had the feeling that every kilometre had been hard won.  

This was no endurance test, our expectation was to travel only around 500 kilometres each day, stopping for modest breaks for rest and meals en route, but the traffic disruption was so great that each evening we found ourselves setting up camp in the dark, or so close to it that it didn't matter.

Still, we were having fun and tomorrow it would be just a hop to Cooktown where our journey proper would begin.


Sunday, November 21, 2021

From the Tip to the Tip - Day One.


We'll deal with day two of our journey tomorrow, that's the one where we woke up, figuring quite wrongly that as we were in the Tropics we would be warm enough in our Sunday best thongs, still not quite sure of where things were put in our rush to get away.

Today though (remember kids this isn't ACTUALLY today, but now several months ago), we will just record that we did get away, and made our first stop the Caloundra Refuse Tip and Recycling Centre where we could make use of the weighbridge at no cost, which as it happens is exactly how much we had allowed in our budget for that item.

To our great satisfaction, fully laden with all our supplies for a month away, and us as well, we tipped the scales at 2420 kg, more than half a ton under our maximum allowable weight, and close to a thousand kilos below some of its commercial counterparts.   

Since we were heading to the very Tip of Australia and had properly commenced our journey at the Caloundra Refuse Tip, with a great deal of smug satisfaction decided we would name this journey "Our Trip from the Tip to the Tip."


Saturday, November 20, 2021

Finding some balance.

Where were we?

Ahh yes, we were about to leave for the Tip of Cape York, but that was months ago, and much has happened in the meantime.  We were on a bit of a roll retelling the story as I recall, and had almost convinced everyone that the build diary was a recollection, not a live event, when suddenly the story stopped.

Much has happened in the interim. 

Our Matriarch,  mother to a few, grandmother to many and great grandmother to almost more than we can count, pulled up stumps five years short of her century.   The lead up to this of course was a sad time, in a happy kind of way, sapping energy and the desire to communicate with any beyond a very small circle.

There were lockdowns too, with travel plans abandoned as borders remaining closed, and vaccinations had, machines built and gardens gardened.  

As we speak the van is in a tenuous state of refinishing, the proper job having been delayed somewhat by the above events, but we have two weeks until we need it once again and we haven't documented the last trip yet.   

There's always tomorrow.


Sunday, September 05, 2021

A Slight Delay.

 When we last spoke of our build, we were ALMOST ready to leave, but in the face of a fair level of fatigue and the kind of weather that's best suited for pottering around and doing  little tidying up jobs, we chose the latter.

Of course those sorts of jobs have a propensity for expanding to fill all the available time so it was not at all early the next morning when we closed the garage door with an untidy shed full of building detritus and finally hit the road.

As it turns out, in our excitement or perhaps anxiety to get on the road, we actually did't closed the garage door.  Our delightful neighbours phoned when we were not half an hour into our journey to ask if we'd left the house open on purpose. Thankfully they took care of that little oversight for us, and as a tsunami of relief rushed over us, perhaps tinged with just a little nervous anticipation, our journey had properly begun.

Naturally we hadn't departed as early as we would have liked, and traffic on the narrow black scar on our landscape which passes for a highway was heavy and slow moving, so it was well after sunset by the time we had finished setting up for the night, not ideal, but by then working in the dark had become second nature.

Our Trip from Tip to Tip had begun.


Saturday, September 04, 2021

The Cape


We'll get back to the story in a day or so, but for the benefit of our friends from other parts of the globe,  let's delve into the geography of the country in which we are currently incarcerated.

By most measures, Australia is a fairly big place, and the state of Queensland covers a fairly big chunk of it.  To put that into some sort of confusing perspective, if one was to travel norther from the southern most bit of the "North Coast" (of NSW), one would have to travel 700 kilometres or so until one reached Qld's "South Coast". 

A few hundred kilometres north, you'll find us, tucked away in beautiful downtown Dicky Beach in what is known as Queensland's South East, and we think of those in New South Wales as "Southerners".  

1200 kilometres further north you'll find yourselves in Townsville, officially in "North Queensland" unless of course you are talking to someone who lives in Cairns "Far North Queensland", who call people from Townsville "Southerners".

Sadly for them (the people of Cairns), while they may actually live in the most populous city in the region  (by far) they are actually still 1000 kilometres give or take, south of the tip of Cape York known simply as "The Cape", which is the Northern most part of the Australian Mainland and of course is far enough away for people living there to think of the people living in Cairns as "Southerners".

Not all of that road is sealed.  Some of it was once the stuff of which legends were made, although these days while it does take a certain amount of determination and a tolerance for red dust, there is not a lot to fear for those who take the time to prepare their vehicles properly, and whose dental fillings are secure.

Many of you will have seen this postcard, a copy of which we carry on our boat to put things into some sort of scale.


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