From Cooktown we drove back to Lakeland and then a further fourteen kilometres to James Earl Lookout where we were to meet our friends who would travel with us to the tip of Cape York. The lookout parking area was relatively small and not really suitable for an overnight stay. When we arrived there were two other caravans already there and we had to park on the through road. After a while one of the vans departed and we moved into their parking spot. About twenty minutes after we arrived our friends arrived; we had morning tea together and then decided to drive on to Laura.
Returning to Lakeland I topped up with fuel at the local BP and then drove on a bitumen surfaced road to Laura. From Laura north the road is predominantly gravel so we stopped on the northern side of the village and reduced the pressure in the tyres on both the vehicles and the caravans to better cope with the loose surface – reducing the pressure also improves the ride on rough sections of the road.
We had decided to drive to a free camping area about thirty kilometres north of Laura. According to the Camps 6 Book, this spot had showers and toilets and fireplaces. When we eventually arrived the access off the road was narrow and took us along a short track to an area where a vehicle could turn around. There was no showers or toilets (not that we needed them as the caravans are self-contained) and the only fireplace was a ring of rocks in which some previous camper had lit a fire. We decided to stay for the night as the site was off the road and the road in the immediate vicinity was bitumen surfaced as it was on the approaches to a bridge over the Kennedy River.
Later in the afternoon a vehicle drove in looking for the toilets only to be disappointed. He was intending to drive to the Cape and had expected bitumen at least as far as Weipa (he obviously did not look at any maps or he would have seen it was gravel most of the way). Anyhow he turned around and was to return to Laura then back to his home (wherever that was). Later that afternoon a camper trailer came in to the camping area and joined us for the evening. Just on dusk a vehicle towing a large boat turned into the area but seeing the camper trailer and the caravans though better of the action and backed out to go elsewhere.
Next morning we were on the road by 8:00am and heading north towards the Hann River Roadhouse. We stopped at Musgrave Roadhouse for morning tea and since we had been having difficulties speaking to each other over the CB Radio, I fitted and extension to my aerial to provide a greater range of reception. Just north of Musgrave Roadhouse half the extension fell of the aerial (I obviously hadn’t tightened it up enough) and we stopped to recover it; however, although I walked about three hundred metres back along the road I was unable to locate the missing piece. Back at the vehicle I fitted the original piece to ensure I had reception and moved on.
By and large the road has not been too bad. There are a number of sections of bitumen surfaced road so as to provide an opportunity for safe passing. There is also a lot of road maintenance going on – water, grade and roll, which improves rideability markedly; there are also some absolutely shocking corrugations in some areas and many very steep dips where if you don’t slow down your vehicle pays the penalty. Consistently there is dust, dust, dust; from the vehicles in front of you and the vehicles approaching you. This dust is very fine and invades all available spaces and covers everything with a fine film which builds up over time. We have decided to ignore the dust as much as we can as there is little we can do to prevent it or keep it out of the vehicle.
Monday evening we had a quite pleasant camp site at the Archer River Roadhouse – we had green grass and pleasant company. Showers and toilets were available for patrons and meals and drinks could also be purchased (although one has to order meals in advance). We enjoyed a meal of spaghetti Bolognese prepared by Denise and shared between the two families.
Up and on the road early next morning heading for Weipa the road was very rough immediately north of Archer River with very deep corrugations. We stopped at the turnoff to Batavia Downs for morning tea as there is a section of bitumen in this spot and we were able to get off the road without suffering other travellers dust. Around 11:30 we rolled in to Weipa in search of the Caravan Park and took a very circuitous route to reach our destination; we were looking for Kerr Point Drive and found it just as we entered the town – little did we know that the Caravan Park was on the other end of the road, so we took the scenic route to the park.
Weipa Caravan Park and Camping Ground is in a nice spot and is very popular with travellers – not surprising as it is the only caravan park in town. It really is more of a camping ground than Caravan Park and the bulk of the patrons are in camper trailers of one variety or another. There are quite a few caravans and a smattering of tents and the place seems to be full each night. Sites are generally difficult to manoeuvre into for a larger van but seem ideal for camper trailers. There are also lots of boats being towed and a number available for hire by those who wish to fish. Although we had booked well ahead there was a muck up with our bookings and we were shuffled about eventually being located on two separate sites not too far apart. Finally set up we had lunch and went for a short drive looking at the town.
There is not a lot to see in Weipa for tourists – the wharves, boat ramps, inlet and one lot of shops including a Woolworth’s supermarket. Fuel is reasonably priced and we paid only $1.65 per litre for diesel which compares very favourably with the Archer River Roadhouse where the price was $2.25 per lire. The residential component of the town is quite extensive and fairly modern with quite a few sporting facilities available for residents.
After assisting Bevan with some repairs to the caravan and a modification to his auxiliary fuel tank, on Wednesday afternoon Bevan and I went to Evans Landing to throw in a line. I was lucky enough to catch two small Queen Fish (the first fish I have ever caught in my life and being too skinny they went back to the water) but Bevan was not so lucky. We were obviously not using the right bait (apparently the fish were after prawns on Wednesday) as a few later arrivals were hauling in quite large giant trevally with annoying frequency. Our fishing expedition terminated when a large ship returned to berth at the wharf from which we were fishing. Home to a feed prepared by our lovely ladies then retired to our separate vans.
Thursday Margaret washed clothes and I washed some of the dust and dirt off the car. We are camped near a large mango tree (and there are lots in the camping area) and suffer nightly visits by flying foxes who feed from the flowers on the trees and drop rubble all over the camp on the vehicle and caravan, they also leave their pooh on lots of things. After all the cleaning we have packed items for the next phase of our trip to the Tip; the caravans will remain at the Caravan Park until we return in six or seven days’ time.
It is seriously warm here in Weipa with tops in the low thirties and eighteen to twenty degrees Celsius overnight. Similar weather will prevail as we move north and some very light rain is predicted further north. Nothing too much to worry about though.
Tomorrow morning we depart for Bramwell Junction with Seisa the destination for the next day.