Cape York trip: July 11 to August 21.

Moya and Ray Vanags Pajero
Keith and Lorraine Billingham Discovery tdi300 + trailer
Peter and Margaret Mercer Defender
Mike and Gloria Osborne Discovery tdi200
Colin and Linda Roach Range Rover (Izuzu diesel)
Ray and Helen Walker Discovery tdi300 + trailer

Tuesday 11: The temperature was reported as -2° C on the radio as we set out. Filled the car with fuel in Braddon and promptly had the first fright when it refused to change down into second gear. So Gloria was about to discover double declutching! Good run to Moree which we reached in the early evening. It was a cold night to remind us of home.

Wednesday 12: There had been noticeable progress on the Gold Coast highway since our Fraser Island trip. Nan and Miles' new home at Nerang was found without too much difficulty. They seem to have done well. We enjoyed a relaxed BBQ on their covered rear porch with views across to the Gold Coast.

Thursday 13: Most serious activity undertaken was finding new sneakers for Gloria. Excellent dinner at the Garlic Clove which fully lived up to its reputation. Even better, it is easy walking distance from the new house.

Friday 14: We had planned to finish provisioning at Southport,including getting fuel at Woolworths. We bought cryovaced meat from a butcher we have used before, but thereby hangs a tale. Gloria decided that a garlic crusher with nipples would make an excellent present for the proposed solstice dinner.

Saturday 15: Part of the promised program was fishing in North Queensland. As this was mostly a mystery to me, Miles was retained as fishing consultant in order that I had a minimum of suitable equipment. In addition we bought a red broom for sweeping down the tent undersheet. It would prove to have advantages as an offensive weapon as well.In the evening we had dinner with Nan and Miles plus Bryan and Carleen King (Bryan was our best man many years ago). He organised the dinner at Rossi’s Restaurant at Benowa. It proved very successful except that Mine Host chose the menu and expected us to have the most enormous appetites. He clearly valued Bryan’s patronage because the bill was in no way proportional.


Mine Host Rossi

Sunday 16: We made an early start, planning a McDonald's breakfast to save time. The new highway complicated this plan because it requires leaving the freeway. We were nearly at Toowoomba before we found one accessible! Lunch at Miles and first battle with the wind before turning north. Turned off to Isla Gorge in mid afternoon. We had ideas of spending a couple of nights here but revised this as the easy views can be reached quickly and more ambitious activities have a significantly increased degree of difficulty. The area is very dry and dusty so water would be a problem on any extended tramp. It is high enough to be cold, but the camp site is comfortable enough and the facilities new. We had to start by replacing a cracked rod in one of the tent poles. The only other occupants were a retired chemistry teacher and wife setting out on the tour. He had a portable fire made from a small oil drum with some strategically placed holes punched to create a draught. It worked very well.

Isla gorge views

Monday 17: The next stop was the Blackdown tableland which is high land to the east of the better known Carnarvon gorge. This was reached through Banana, Moura, and the Fitzroy development road where we were stuck behind our first road train on an unmade road. The turn off is a few kilometres past Dingo on the Capricorn highway. The road is in good shape until it begins to climb when it becomes extremely corrugated. Almost immediately the engine began to miss and we soon ground to a halt. After stopping and turning the air cleaner – well this had been the problem last time we thought – the car started again and we made the rest of the trip without incident. The pleasant campground was fairly empty and we had no trouble finding a good site. It was when we started preparing dinner that the local hazard appeared. We were besieged by currawongs who even invaded the food box in the back of the car when we turned away for an instant. It was not the intended use of the red broom, but it proved its worth as deterrent/offensive weapon. The rest of the Cape York group encountered similar problems at Carnarvon gorge. We found ourselves rugging up against the serious cold, just about exhausting our clothing resources against this unexpected situation.

Tuesday 18: There was plenty of evidence of a hard frost overnight. After braving the currawongs again at breakfast we set out for the rainbow falls walk. Now the sun was warming the forest and showing the escarpment at its best. This walk is particularly recommended with the creek developing a series of rockholes before plunging into a spectacular canyon. The path has been carefully stepped down and is relatively easy if steep. There was not a great deal of water coming over the falls, but after circling round to compare different vantage spots the reason for the name becomes obvious – there is a rainbow where the fall plunges over the lowest rock ledges. In the late afternoon we completed a nature trail walk on the top of the tableland. This was well done, filling in some of the history. The area had been a grazing property but could not be used continuously because of chemical deficiencies. More currawongs for dinner were followed by another cold night. The radphone pulled in VKS737 OK but a power problem with the sel call mike started to show itself.

Rainbow gorge, Blackdown tableland

Rainbow falls

Wednesday 19: We were not too sad to leave the currawongs and the cold behind, and definitely keen for some warmer weather so we decided to head for Cape Hillsborough via Dingo, Nebo, and skirting Mackay. We have camped at this lovely spot several times before. Gloria used her new mobile phone to check campsite availability. Not everything was as before – a little stall that used to sell fruit and vegetables on the road in clearly had not been operational for some time. Mind you, we didn’t have a sugar mill blowing foam all over the car this time either. Gloria didn’t remember that there was a restaurant at the resort but was happy enough to eat fish and chips and help drink a bottle of wine there for dinner.

Thursday 20: This is a pretty good place to do nothing. This translates into walking on the beach in the sun, admiring a carpet python sunning itself, climbing up onto the cape to get longer views, and admitting we may as well have fish and chips and a bottle of wine in the restaurant again. Not able to get much evidence of life out of the radphone in this area.

Cape Hillsborough

View from Cape Hillsborough

Friday 21: Heading north again! The route along the Bruce highway brought us to Ayr by lunchtime. We skirted Townsville by early afternoon and made Jourama Falls in good time to set up camp. The facilities have been substantially expanded since the last time we were here, including the development of a new camp site (a good one). The radphone was happier here, and I was able to talk to the 4wd network in Adelaide on 8 megs with reasonable reception in the evening. At no stage throughout the trip would the Alice Springs base be workable. I got limited joy out of Telstra in the afternoon on 13 megs, but the signal faded with the sun and I continued to have trouble with the lower frequencies. More serious, there were clearly power problems with the sel call mike.

Jourama falls


Crossing Jourama creek

Saturday 22: We started the day by climbing up to the view points beside Jourama falls which are rather spectacular and set in rugged country. We made Ingham for lunch, acquired another teddy bear, and checked we could change our bookings at Mission Beach as we were running a day early. We wanted to make sure we would have a room overlooking the beach. Just north of Cardwel we found a nice pawpaw at a roadside stall – one of the few pieces of luck in the tropical fruit hunt. We checked into the Castaway in mid afternoon – in time both to have a swim and to catch up on AFL progress. While the Hawks weren’t being broadcast at least the scores were sounding good. Fish and chips yet again for dinner, this time at Millers at Wongaling Beach. They claim the fish is "blue salmon", but this draws a blank with everyone else asked. Still it makes great (maybe the best) fish and chips.

Sunday 23: Honestly we did very little. At the little local craft gallery at Mission Beach Gloria discovered that a friend of the Werthers, Diana Conti, previously recommended to her, would be in charge on Monday. The Café that used to be in The Wiltshire’s house had moved into Mission Beach, but that didn’t stop it being a good place for lunch. There didn’t seem much wrong with yesterdays recipe with a Brisbane Lion’s match on the tv, and dinner at the Castaway. I used the phone to contact the Cairns base of the 4wd network to see if there was anyone in Cairns who could look at the radphone.

Balcony view at the Castaway

Monday 24: Gloria was very pleased to meet Diana who commutes to Mission Beach by "tinny" from one of the smaller islands south of Dunk where she and her partner are the sole inhabitants. Climbed one of the foothills of Mount Clump for exercise. Booked a time for the radphone to be inspected in Cairns. Dinner was at the Friends Café in Mission Beach. It was very crowded, we were warned service would be slow (but it proved excellent), and the braised lamb shank was memorable. We were entrusted with a message to be carried to the owner of the Lions Den pub on the road to Cooktown.

Tuesday 25: A poor power connection to the sel call mike proved at least part of the radphone problem. We decided we would stay at Pinnacle Village just south of the Daintree for a couple of nights before heading up to Cooktown to meet the Cape York party. Thirteen years ago we had been able to find super tropical fruit (custard apples, lemon meringue and chocolate pudding fruit, rose pawpaws)in Mosman. The shop no longer exists! Pinnacle Village had been sparsely populated with lots of grass and splendid trees. The trees are still there but many more people know about it! Still we had a pleasant camp site.

Wednesday 26: We started out trying to find a coffee plantation visited years ago. We believed we found the site but were confronted by an aggressive "keep out" notice. Turns out the old mine host died some years ago. We were told there were fallout problems from the fires in Indonesia which affected both his lungs and his coffee trees. A son is redeveloping the plantation but wants some time to get things in order. However, we were told a well known firm had not removed a guide reference with the result that a succession of trippers had to be turned away. Daintree Village is still not much to write home about, and we noticed prices rising as we moved north of Cairns. In the evening the camp ground lost power for quite some time.

Thursday 27: Turned on the cb as we finished packing just in time to hear the rest of the Cape York party report passing the Pinnacle Village turnoff. We joined them for morning tea at the Daintree ferry before setting off for Cape Kimberly where my nephew Ant’ is supposed to be. It proved an idyllic spot but there was no sign of Ant’ or much of anyone else for that matter. Promised ourselves to add it to the list of places worth a longer visit. Made our way up to Cape Tribulation by lunch time. Interesting to see backpackers in droves – too much like Fraser Island last year for comfort. The dirt basically starts on the Bloomfield road after Cape Tribulation, but the drive is easy enough. Stopped at the Lion’s Den to deliver the note from mine hostess at Friends (only the front bar area of the Lions Den is scruffy – presumably to maintain its reputation) and rolled into Cooktown in mid afternoon. The instructions were to find places for the group at the Tropical Breezes caravan park and this we duly did. We were just putting up our tent as the rest arrived. Noted that the power steering breather was venting rather a lot of fluid. Cooktown was proving windy with sporadic severe gusts (called bullets by the locals). These proved strong enough to take down Ron and Moya’s tent and had our poles bending alarmingly. Tropical gales seemed a more appropriate description.

Friday 28: The day was spent exploring Cooktown and shopping for supplies for the planned solstice dinner. There is an interesting museum in the old convent, a botanical gardens dating from the Palmer river rush days which is being restored rather well, and a very new art gallery waiting to be opened. This has been built to house important plant paintings by a local artist. There had been no let up in the wind and cooking dinner was again a struggle. Apparently this wind plagues the northern end of the east coast, and there were no dissenters to the decision to drop Chilli Beach from the itinerary.

Starting out


Heading back


Saturday 29: We were away fairly quickly and heading north to the Lakefield National Park. The road deteriorated rapidly and the corrugations became more frequent and deeper. We made our first morning tea stop without incident, but soon after that the Disco’s fuel problems reappeared with the difference that this time they did not respond to the usual pushing and probing. After struggling on in the vain hope of somehow getting close to Laura we gave up with the park boundary in sight. About 1.00 pm I used the radphone to call the NRMA on the highest frequency (16 megs). We got immediate response and after a debate because the operator was not supposed to connect to 1800 and 1300 numbers we were able to pass our message and the RACQ contacted. The party gave us a lot of support despite our suggestions that we would be all right, and the Hawks were doing well enough in the AFL to keep us cheerful. We also promised to pass on a message from a party stranded with a broken trailer spring just up the road. We called again sometime after 3.00 to check progress (this time on 13 megs) and again got immediate response. Just as they suggested that the road service would arrive sometime after 4.00pm an ancient yellow and white RACQ truck pulled in behind. The value of the radphone made quite an impression on the party, saving a minimum of half a day. The decision was quickly made to return the Disco to Cooktown on the back of the truck, and we agreed to relay progress to the Laura pub at 10.00 pm. The return journey could have been much worse as the truck grunted and bumped over the corrugations as the RACQ man proved a fascinating character and mine of information both on the local region and much else besides. The NRMA put us up at the River of Gold motel after a minor mixup. They found a very good evening meal for us well after their kitchen had closed and we didn’t prolong going to bed. The conversation with the Laura pub suggested that a very good time was being had by all (that is the censored version!).

Sunday 30: There isn’t much you can do in Cooktown on a Sunday without transport. This would have been provided by the NRMA, but no source was available. But the AFL match involving the Brisbane Lions was broadcast. We had dinner at the bowling club.

Monday 31: The RACQ mechanics started on the car pretty well straight away doing all the more obvious things without finding much evidence of a problem. The lift pump we had ordered proved to be for a TDI300 so that check could not be made, but the car seemed to be running ok. The only clue came when the mechanic brushed the fuel lead at the water sump and noticed it was rather loose. He removed a piece and made a temporary fitting and the car seemed to be running well enough to risk taking it to the dealer in Cairns in order to get the whole fuel line redone. The dealer had to get the lift pump from Townsville so the car couln’t be done until Wednesday. We set out for Cairns by the main road immediately after lunch, stopped for a cup of excellent locally grown coffee at Lakeland where the road to the Cape starts, and reached Mount Carbine in late afternoon. We enjoyed a good campsite.

Tuesday 1: We decided to go to Cairns via Port Douglas. We had time to spend several hours exploring as morning showers cleared to a fine day. However, we didn’t find much to enthuse over. We stopped on the way into Cairns to have a look at the new James Cook University campus, and after some debate and a little searching decided to stay at the Best Western on the front and reserved places for dinner in the evening. We then went to the Land Rover service to check all was in order for tomorrow (it was). The dinner venue proved to be Charlies Seafood Buffet, rather a famous "all you can eat" event. It proved very enjoyable, but Gloria felt she had to do justice to the oysters. She certainly did that, but she then spent rather a disturbed night.

Wednesday 2: At least Gloria’s indisposition earned us a reprieve on checkout time. I got the car in early to Land Rover with a promise that they would get straight onto it, back to the hotel for a solitary breakfast, then a shopping expedition for a suitable bag to tie on the roof rack. G. felt somewhat better by late morning so we decided to check out. Walking back to the centre we passed the RC Cathedral which had some interesting stained (painted) glass. G. even managed some lunch, and the car was ready shortly after. They had found that one of four clips holding a fuel filter in the outlet of the fuel tank had broken off and was sitting in the bottom of the filter. On sufficiently rough roads this could block the outlet. It should have blocked the fuel line and caused the car to stop. Any action – inspecting sumps, filters , or air cleaner – should have allowed it to drop down. This is what happened before the lead on the water sump outlet became loose, but then air could be sucked into the fuel line and problems became really serious. We packed up and headed north again, this time through Mareeba and Mount Molloy. We reached Mount Carbine in good time to set up camp.

Thursday 3: We turned onto the Peninsula development road at Lakeland after pausing for coffee and refueling at Lakeland. The RACQ man had warned us about sharp dips in the road and we kept a sharp lookout. The road was very dusty and we were awfully grateful when a road train pulled aside to let us pass. We made the Musgrave roadhouse by midday and found it being readied in order that a variety club bash could spend the night. A returning group decided to spend the night to watch proceedings, but warned there was a lot of traffic ahead. We started meeting this about an hour later. Much of it interesting, not all looked suitable for the conditions, and a significant percentage seemed to be in need of roadside assistance. The cb was distinctly useful in keeping tags on the oncoming traffic. We made the Archer river by late afternoon, found the campground at the roadhouse packed to capacity (Gloria suggested it could have been related to a handover of property to local aborigines that occurred that day). We decided to camp on the very sandy river bank, letting down tyre pressure to make sure there were no problems. The site would have been ideal if only the area hadn’t been decorated with pieces of toilet paper. The shock cord in one of the tent poles broke and had to replaced. A girl working with Queensland University came in to camp by us (she said we looked like safe company), and we invited her to dinner. She was somewhat indisposed, attributing this to drinking water the previous evening.

Archer river camp

Archer river

Friday 4:We made an early start after reflating the tyres, turned onto the telegraph line, and made the Wenlock river for morning coffee. This gave us an opportunity to watch some others crossing. The crossing was fairly deep, coming well up the doors but not really flooding over the bonnet. The corrugations started in earnest after we turned onto the first bypass road and the brakes became distinctly spongy in sympathy. There was some respite on the sandier parts of the road but conditions were mostly unpleasant at best. We stopped for a windy lunch in the heath country which took over from dry savannah at a spot where Kennedy and Jacky Jacky parted company with the rest of his party in an effort to make Cape York. At least the wild flowers here were spectacular. Then more corrugations and still more corrugations until we reached the Jardine ferry. We had planned to get fuel here but the pumps were inoperable due to a power outage. The roads were better after the Ferry and we refueled in Bamaga. About the time we sorted out the Pajinka turnoff we became very conscious of a new rattle. It did not take much inspection to locate this to a loose plate in the right rear wheel. As the car seemed mobile, and repairs were the last thing we needed just then, we pushed on. We found the resort and located where the rest of the party were camped - they were otherwise missing. We went to the resort proper where they were more interested in registering us to join the others for dinner that evening than sorting out camp details, but after a drink we returned to set up camp as the others trooped in after a day trip to Thursday Island and a detour to watch the sunset ffrom the tip of the Cape. They had arrived the previous day after an enjoyable trip up the interesting parts of the telegraph line complete with stories of Gunshot crossings, winchings, and sundry other adventures. We were too tired and much too shaken to take it all in. They were pleased to see us, but were rather surprised. Gloria was introduced to the green tree frogs in the ladies facilities.

Saturday 5: This was planned as a rest day and most everyone needed it. The problem with the disco turned out to be the right rear brake backing plate which had sheared off its supports. This needed to have the wheel removed to free it from the diff housing. That doesn’t explain why I let the jack down before replacing the wheel, or why I started the car to charge the batteries before shifting it out of first gear low. It proceeded to take off despite the handbrake being on and stopping it was helped by a strategically placed tree. The camp was being disturbed by a smell wafting over every now and then. This turned out to be a decaying snake on a branch of a nearby tree. It had been discovered by an army of green tree ants so its removal had to be done with care. Our main action in the afternoon was a trip to the Cape – a short walk from the resort to Frangipani beach, followed by a climb over a rocky headland. Gloria was persuaded to take a video for an aboriginal couple from Mount Tom Price in Western Australia travelling with a friend. Gloria had met the wife before – she had been very apprehensive of the green tree frogs. They reciprocated by taking a photo for us. Gloria decided she did not like the smell of some cryovaced chicken nor the look of the remaining meat and jettisoned it. Peter amd Margaret had missed the solstice dinner also, so we swopped presents. Gloria’s explanation of the nipples on the garlic crusher caused a great deal of hilarity. I received a tent peg puller. It was to prove extremely effective. I think we had one of our deepest ever sleeps that night.

The proof

Help with the evidence


Sunday 6: Ray had organised a boat to take us (Ray, Keith, Peter, and I) for four hours of fishing, all tackle provided. Netting bait under the Seisa jetty took only a few minutes and we were heading down the coast for the Jardine river. Some casting practice (some of us needed much more) and we proceeded further up the river and were trying for fish under the mangroves. There was plenty of evidence of their presence – more in bites than in catches – but we did put some away for eating, and release others. Barramundi did announce their presence but catching them was more of a problem, and the only one landed was undersize although Keith had a very good one on for a long time before it broke free. Eventually our pilot tired of freeing tangled lines from mangroves, and we headed into more open waters to try some trawling. It took just a while for the fish to bite but then we were hauling in a good supply of Queen fish and varieties of Trevally. We headed home in the early afternoon. Ray volunteered to do the necessary cleaning, and to cook a big Queen fish and a Giant Trevally that evening. These fed us all well. But a lot of fish went into the Walker’s freezer.

The serious business


The clean out

Monday 7: There was no formal program for our last day at the top and we took it pretty easy. Except for Peter that is – he wanted to explore the top of the telegraph track but promised not to try the old ford on the Jardine. Gloria and I just topped up supplies in Bamaga (prices for fresh vegetables were rather steep - $4 for a cucumber for example) and had lunch on the front at Seisa. We hoped to see the barge from Cairns but it had been and gone. Gloria had acquired a string of bells at Mission beach together with instructions to ring these at the Cape. This was done at sunset, helped by some champagne and congenial company. Helen cooked a corned silverside for a communal dinner, It worked out very well.

Congenial company

The bell ringing ceremony

Tuesday 8: Next morning Colin had flat batteries and had to be jump started. The Bamaga bakery was visited by some for last minute supplies, and the power was back on the pumps at the Jardine ferry to enable us to top up. We appreciated the old telegraph line after the bypass tracks, and not only for the extra interest of the creek crossings. We were not missing the corrugations! We caught up with Peter and Margaret at Elliott falls. It was hard to move on after a leisurely lunch and soak in the rock pools. The group detoured to the Gunshot crossings to show us the spectacular entries used by Ray and Peter on the way up and made a Dulhunty river camp as evening approached. Growing by the river was an interesting pitcher plant with pitchers at least three inches long.

Telegraph line creek crossing

Rock pools at Elliott falls

Wednesday 9: There were several more creek crossings with the main interest being in Palm creek. The discos with trailers had to be snatched through the exit. We made the Wenlock river for lunch. Peter explored the crossings one time to many and had to be recovered himself. The rest of us were more conservative. We said goodbye to Colin who decided to take the Range Rover into Cairns to get some attention to the front end suspension. Soon after the crossing Ray and Moya had trouble with the right rear torsion bar slipping out of its mounting – a fault that had occurred on the other side on the way up and had been fixed in Coen. An attempt was made to tighten this, and soon after we took the Batavia Downs turn off to Weipa. This had only a few rough patches and one decent creek crossing which was causing a vehicle coming the other way problems. The torsion bar popped several times, and it was evident that it would have to wait until Weipa for a fix. The road improved once we reached the turn to the development road and we ran into Weipa in mid afternoon accompanied by some advice from locals on the cb. There is an excellent caravan park here, maybe even better than the photos. It sits between the shopping centre and the beach with lots of shade and green grass. It has excellent facilities.

Palm creek southern exit


One crossing too many

Thursday 10:It was possible to get Monday’s Australian, but no later edition. I had been puzzled by some fluid coming from a diflock part, and when we passed an ARB sign I decided to check up. The part proved to be a pressure release. A phone call to Cairns suggested that it should be looked at when convenient, but that the differential breather and differential oil should be checked as soon as possible. This the RACQ station agreed to do while we waited. They claimed the breather was clear, but that there was some water contamination in the oil which had been replaced. They claimed this had been picked up in time and that the oil was just starting to turn milky. The rear dif breather is barely above wheel height and we need to do something about that. Probably it was not too well equipped for the Wenlock. The corresponding breather in Peter’s Defender proved to be little better situated. While it was good to have this sorted out, I missed out on a second fishing opportunity. Ray had been successful from a local jetty.

Camp at Hahn river

Along the Maytown road

Friday 11: After a late night for most people the day had a leisurely start for all but Ray and Moya who had their torsion bar mounting bracket problem corrected. We had to farewell Ray and Helen who elected to stay longer in Paradise, and this made it necessary to cut Helen’s birthday cake as well. Lunch was at the Archer river where Keith had to change a tyre on the trailer. Moya managed to talk two sprouting coconuts through the Coen quarantine station. The Musgrave river roadhouse was reached about 5 pm. The plan to head through to the Mitchell river National Park and down the west side of the Cape had to be shelved because of difficulties obtaining fuel in the aboriginal communities on the weekend. We pushed on a bit further on the development road and a good camp was established at the Hahn river roadhouse as evening closed in. Ray cooked his Weipa catch for communal fish and chips.

Saturday 12: Plan B was a trip to the Palmer goldfields. Local advice suggested an approach from the Palmer river roadhouse – well they actually advised against an approach through Laura on the grounds that it would be rough and slow. It was probably no worse than the alternative that had the advantage of permitting a another stop for the local coffee at Lakeland where we caught up with Tony McGregor and family on their round Australia trip. By all accounts it was proving eventful. We soon found the alternative road to Maytown was a slow and rough 50 kilometres, but the scenery proved some of the best of the trip. It was mid afternoon before we made a rocky crossing of the Palmer river below Maytown. There is not much left to see even though sporadic mining activity continued well into this century. The bank of the Palmer made a superb camp site. It was probably the site of a shooting murder, the subject of a current trial, a couple of years ago. Radphone reception on the lower frequencies was adequate really for the first time since heading up the Cape. We logged into VKS737 and, in the evening, we were able to get football details from David in Melbourne. Pretty sure he had little idea where we were.

Crossing the Palmer river



Morning on the Palmer

Sunday 13: There were lots of fish in the Palmer. Just rinsing hands in the water was sufficient to bring them in shoals. The largest had distinctive patterns of spots on their sides and were almost certainly archer fish which are capable of catching insects by squirting water at them. It was two hours via Palmerville back to more respectable roads, but a very spectacular two hours made interesting at times by the search for a navigable route. It was almost lunchtime when we reached the Burke development road. There were still nearly 500 kilometres to go to Karumba. At least the road was well up to the standard we had been enjoying but it meant a lot of dusty driving. We had one surprise when we caught up with Ray and Helen having lunch by the side of the road having cut across from Laura. It was well after dark when we arrived and Peter and I elected to stay in a motel situated right by the water. Meals were off officially but they did manage to find us something. The beer did taste good.

Rough country along the way



View from motel room Karumba

Monday 14 – Wednesday 16: Time constraints, with implications for a lot of driving, were beginning to weigh on the group, especially if a trip to Lawn Hill was to be fitted in. We had the advantage of having been there, and, with Gloria worrying about her sister’s health, we decided to head home via Brisbane. We had lunch at Croydon and found a good campsite at Mt. Surprise. This part of the drive proved interesting evidence of the effort the old mining towns in the area are putting into encouraging tourism – would you believe a tourist train from Cairns to the gem fields around Forsayth. Next day we headed down through Greenvale (neat little town based on nickel mining but the rail track is removed), lunch at Charters Towers, to reach Emerald by early evening. Emerald is showing all the signs of a boom town but we didn’t actually find out why. We had passed through thirteen years ago but would not have recognised it this time. The rest of the route was fairly familiar with most of it having been travelled three years ago. We made Roma for lunch, Toowoomba by late afternoon, and Nerang by early evening. Driving anywhere was not going to be high on the agenda for the next few days.

Thursday 17 – Saturday 19: The main item on the program was a birthday party for Gloria. It worked out rather well with Bryan and Carleen coming over, and a splendid spread. It would have been better still if the Hawks had beaten the Kangaroos as they should. Nan was very tired as a result of her efforts

Sunday 20 – Monday 21: The first mistake was to assume that there would be a McDonald’s open for breakfast in Tweed Heads. The second was to take the coast road through Pottsville to avoid the hills south of Murwillumbah. But we were still in time for breakfast at Ballina. We had lunch in Coffs Harbour and passed Port Macquarie too early to stop. Instead we elected to push on to Foster. The place was quite deserted, but we did manage to get some good fish and chips. After breakfast at McDonalds next morning we followed the route through the Myall Lakes back to the highway. Traffic on the Sydney ring road was not too bad, and we eventually ran into Canberra in the early afternoon.