Tag: Australia

Back On The Road

empress springs descending ladder

Apart from the occasional short trip out of Perth, recently we’ve had a serious shortage of camping missions and outback exploring. The blame lies solely with our participation in the rat race. Fortunately this situation has been corrected and we’re back on the road for some proper long term travel around oz.

This time round we’ve made some improvements to our setup. I’m not going to list them all here, but the main change is to our solar panel arrangement, making it lighter, simpler, more aerodynamic and easier to deploy. Oh and our two person team has expanded to three.

hilux with new solar panels

Our hilux  keeping beer cold with the new solar panel setup.

new team

The new three person team.

We’re a bit behind on the blog and have already made it to Broome. This post covers from Perth to the WA border via Great Central Road.

Our route has taken us to Kalgoorlie, Menzies, the Lake Ballard sculptures, Kookynie, Leonora, Laverton and onto the corrugations of the Great Central Road. On the way we found some bush banana. Tastes like peas.

bush banana prep bush banana

We detoured off Great Central Road, heading north on David Carnegie Road to visit Empress Spring. This spring saved the lives of David Carnegie and his party whilst exploring the Gibson and Great Sandy deserts a few years ago. They were out of water and nearly dead, so captured an aborigine, fed him salted beef and held him hostage until he led them to a water supply.

empress spring descending ladder empress spring

After a night at Empress Spring the plan was to continue north on David Carnegie Road and then traverse the Gunbarrel Highway across to Warburton where we’d rejoin the Great Central Road. We made it easily to Empress Spring and then a further 100km north but our efforts were thwarted by some deep washouts on the track. With only modest ground clearance, the washouts were pushing the limits on our vehicle’s capability. Falling into a big rut could have us stranded since we were travelling alone with no other vehicles to assist in recovery. I believed that with some minor reshaping of the track with a shovel there was a better than 50% chance of making it through, and if not we had plenty of food, water and beer on board. Sharni on the other hand chickened out and ordered an immediate u-turn.

david carnegie road ruts

Although it doesn’t look it on the photo, these ruts were probably half a meter deep.

So it was back south down the slow, rutted and spinifex laden track where we again picked up the Great Central Road from where we left it a few days before.

david carnegie road spinifex

Continuing east towards the WA border was uneventful apart from the ongoing corrugations. One of the hilux badges fell off our car and the CB radio antenna broke off (this is the second time we’ve had this happen). Here’s a few more photos of the trip up to Lasseters Cave just inside the Northern Territory Border. From here we continue to Uluru and beyond.

Banana, Queensland

banana bull

Bananas are Sharni’s favourite food. So when we discovered there was a town called Banana in Queensland we thought it prudent to visit. On the way there from Charters Towers we got ourselves a new battery at Emerald. Installed the new battery in the carpark at Super Cheap Auto and she was good to go.

What a novelty it was to visit a town named after the world’s greatest food. Actually the town isn’t named after the fruit but after a yellow bull from the region. Still the name alone was good enough for us to stay a night at the caravan park and have a beer at the pub. They only charge $12 a night without power at the caravan park. Super cheap. With a hot name like Banana, such cheap accommodation can’t last once the word gets out. Snap it up while you can.

Great Barrier Reef Diving

barracuda great barrier reef

Back to Cairns we go to spend more time in the region after we passed through on our way up the cape. Coming from Normanton we drove through the Atherton Table lands through the towns of Atherton and Mareeba and camped up on the side of the road. It’s a nice region, very picturesque, and the towns seem good too. We stopped off in Atherton to get ourselves a new fuel filter since the filter light had illuminated on the hilux a couple of days before.

We spent a day in Cairns looking at what diving tour we wanted to do and what fishing charter we wanted to do. Once sorted we set up camp at the caravan park and Joe got his tools out and went around the car tightening all the nuts and bolts since the car had been shaken to bits over the last few weeks driving to the tip and back.

Next morning it was off to the Great Barrier Reef for a diving tour. It was amazing. Joe and Sharni both loved it to the max. It’s a different world under the sea with the fields of coral and the marine life. We had awesome conditions – calm water, warm weather, sunshine, good water clarity. Sharni did three dives on two different reefs while Joe did an introductory dive where you get escorted by an instructor (Joe doesn’t have diving certification, missed out when he left South East Asia early for work) and he went snorkeling on the other reef. It was a tremendous day out, really enjoyed by all.

The Tip of Cape York, Queensland

cape york tip

We made it! The northernmost point of the Australian mainland. And we snuck in for a photo just before the hoards of elderly rocked up by the bus load. They come in every day on these big 4WD trucks converted into coaches. It’s a 15 minute walk over the rocky outcrop to the tip and it was interesting watching the elderly make their way very slowly over the uneven track to the tip and thinking about how that will be us one day.

The location around the tip is just another rocky outcrop in Cape York with a couple of islands close to shore and then views across the Torres Straight. But it was satisfying to make it all the way by ourselves and take the photo with the famous sign.

A chap told us we could drive west along the beach from the carpark at the tip to a creek for some camping and fishing. The tide was too high to drive along the beach so we explored the area looking for any other tracks that may lead up the beach. At the same time we checked out Pajinka Resort – an abandoned resort that used to operate many years ago as the most northern accommodation in Australia. Not having found any tracks to the western side of the tip, we headed back to the carpark to see if the tide had changed much. The same group of elderly were still making their way down the rocks. The tide was still high and the beach a bit muddy so we gave up on that camping spot and headed out towards another camping area called Somerset. On the way we stopped in at the Croc Tent, a tourist shop near the tip of Cape York.

Punsand Bay, Cape York Peninsular

black lip oyster punsand bay

Don’t worry about cooking dinner. Check out the huge black lip oysters we found at Punsand Bay. Finally after weeks of searching we found some decent sized black lips. These oysters are highly prized and it’s rare to find any big ones. We found 3 or 4 in an area maybe a kilometer to the west of Punsand Bay resort. Joe was extremely satisfied to land a few of these elusive treats.

Punsand Bay Resort is the northernmost accommodation in Australia. There’s camping, little bungalows / dongas, a pub (called Corrugation Bar), restaurant, shop and kiddies wading pool. It’s a nice spot and is the base that most travellers use when heading to the tip of Australia. The camping is a little expensive, charging fancy caravan park prices for a patch of dirt and some dodgy ablution blocks. Apart from that the beach is great and it’s nice to sit at the pub in the evening and relax with a drink. They have the only beer on tap in the entire Northern Peninsular Region. Of course there was XXXX Gold on tap so Joe had one of those. The food from the restaurant seemed ok and reasonably priced which is a useful break from camp food.

After two nights in Punsand it was finally time to depart for the ultimate destination of this expedition – the tip of Cape York, the northern most point of Australia.

Seisia and Bamaga, Cape York, Queensland

Bamaga Tavern Cape York

The pub at Bamaga was closed when we first cruised through so after Mutee Head we went back to Bamaga to sneak in a quick beer at the pub. Then to the supermarket to get some bananas. We also had a look at some of the wrecked aircraft in the area from WW2. Then we checked out the community of Seisia and the jetty to see where the ferry to Thursday Island departed from. Quick stop at the supermarket as we forgot to get bait from Bamaga then we were off towards Punsand Bay and the tip.

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