Legends from our own lunchtimes

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.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig