On Saturday morning we left Weipa with the caravans in tow heading south. We had decided to aim for a camp spot south of the Musgrave River Roadhouse and this would give us a drive of about 350 kilometres for the day; which may not seem a lot but is hard work on gravel roads towing a heavy caravan.
From Weipa the road crosses the Rio Tinto Alcan mining lease so the surface was quite good for the first forty or so kilometres (although very dusty) as the mining company maintains this section of road. It is quite apparent where the mining company responsibility ends and the State Government responsibility begins as the degree of roughness and corrugation increase significantly. It seemed that the road surface had deteriorated markedly in the two weeks since we travelled up to Weipa and the level of traffic on the road must have increased sharply.
We stopped for morning tea at the turnoff to Cape York then plodded on to reach Coen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coen,_Queensland) about twelve thirty. I had intended to top up with diesel at Coen but when we pulled up in front of the pumps we found a sign indicating the business was closed for lunch and would not reopen until 1:00pm – fine we needed to eat our lunch anyway. We left the caravan parked outside the pumps (the price was $1.95 per litre) and went to the Historic Cape York Heritage House (http://www.tourismcapeyork.com/explore/cape-york/coen/) to eat our sandwiches at a picnic table in the front yard of the facility. Half way through lunch I decided I would not worry about the fuel (if the business was not open during business hours I was not going to hang around for it to be convenient to serve its customers) and moved the caravan to the front of the Historic House while we finished eating and had a look at the exhibits in and around the house.
After lunch and a look at the Historic House we departed heading for Musgrave Roadhouse (http://www.musgraveroadhouse.com.au/) some 100+ kilometres down the track (when we left the fuel place was still not open despite a number of vehicles waiting for service). We found the road between Coen and Musgrave Roadhouse to be the roughest section we had experienced during the whole trip and we were crawling along at 40 kilometres per hour on many sections. It was with some relief that we finally arrived at Musgrave Roadhouse and I moved to the bowsers to purchase fuel. I was pleasantly surprised to find that diesel here was only $1.83 per litre so I took the opportunity to fill up rather than top up as I had intended at Coen.
Once we had purchased the fuel we drove another 30 kilometres to our camp for the night – Morehead River Rest Area. Camps 6 listed this spot as having toilets, showers and other conveniences which did not exist and we drove in to a dusty spot beside a waterhole in the river where the cattle obviously gathered. While we were setting up Bevan discovered that the rear window of the canopy on his truck had been broken in the short journey from Musgrave Roadhouse. I had a blue tarpaulin in one of the boxes in the back of the truck so Bevan fitted this to the canopy to protect the items in the back of the truck. We shared a meal and had a reasonably early night.
Sunday morning bright and early we headed off on the last 100 kilometres of dirt road of our trip to the Tip of the Cape. In all we travelled over 1700 kilometres on the drive up to the top of Cape York and back again and were thoroughly over dust and corrugations by the time we reached Laura and bitumen roads once again. We stopped for morning tea at Laura and to allow the tyres to cool down before we inflated them to normal pressures for bitumen road travel. Our lunch stop was at Mt Carbine where we were joined by three other caravans and had a yarn to the owners of two of these vans. Onward to Mareeba where we arrived mid-afternoon and set up for our planned three day stay.
Monday was spent cleaning – inside and outside the van and washing the car. Tuesday morning a hot air balloon landed on the Rodeo Grounds – apparently this was the first balloon to land locally since the last time we stayed here some three weeks ago. After the excitement, Margaret and I took a drive into town to the local Laundromat to wash clothes. That done we returned to the park to hang these clothes to dry and then topped up our water tanks from the drums we have been carrying since we left home.
After all the chores we all piled in to the Nissan to do the tourist thing and we headed for Jaques Coffee Plantation (http://www.jaquescoffee.com.au/) where we imbibed in what Margaret and I thought was delicious coffee and tasty scones. Next stop was deBrueys Boutique Wines (http://www.debrueys.com.au/) where we tasted some liqueurs and fruit wines. I purchased a couple of bottles.
From deBrueys we drove to the Coffee Works (https://coffeeworks.com.au/) back in Mareeba; we thought the place was a little too touristy and commercialised and found their prices to be quite high. Bevan and Denise had visited the outlet about ten years ago and had a totally different experience. Our last stop for the morning was the Golden Drop (http://www.goldendrop.com.au/) where we tasted a variety of mango wines and citrus cellos. Again I purchased a few bottles.
Back at the van we had lunch and then packed up in readiness for our departure tomorrow morning heading south towards Charters Towers.