We got away early from Coen, as we’d planned to pick up some breakfast at the Archer River Roadhouse. Very tasty bacon and egg sandwiches were enjoyed by all. The coffee may have been instant, but it was strong and sweet, and just what we grown-ups needed!
Rio Tinto has an interest in the Peninsular Development Road (PDR) because of their various mining activities. They have an information point at Archer River, and while Kirstine was organising food, Paul was chatting to the Rio Tinto staff member about the PDR. They hand out information, sunscreen and pens, and are very much across all the road changes in the area. He told Paul that we were well prepared for the trip – 4WD, HF & UHF radios, driving lights, additional fuel & water .. if you are travelling to the Cape, stop in and chat to them!
The corrugations in between sealed sections upgraded from teeth rattling to bone jarring. There are unmarked dips which had the potential to launch vehicles into the air if approached too quickly. Some sections of the road had no shoulders, but a drop off of nearly 3 metres. The towering termite mounds were completely fascinating, but not to be too distracted by!
Road signs advise you to drive to the road conditions, but are this advice is sadly ignored by many. Unless vehicles on the side of the road gave us a thumbs up as we approached, we stopped to see if they needed assistance. It’s a courtesy that could make the difference between allowing someone to continue on their trip of a lifetime, and being stuck waiting for help.
Many vehicles returning from the Cape seemed to be running on adrenaline, and travelling too fast for the quality of the road. Some refused to slow as they passed cars travelling in the opposite directions, and in one stunning display of stupidity, one 4WD came around a corner sideways on the wrong side of the road, and had the gall to blame us in a UHF tirade for being on the his side of the road ….
The last 15-20 km in the lead up to the Jardine River were the most vicious corrugations we’ve ever experienced. Everyone was trying to find forgiving tracks on the side of the road, to avoid the deep ruts in the road that seemed determined to break either vehicle or trailer, or the inhabitants of these!
We pulled up at the Jardine River servo, and surveyed the landscape. Kirstine went to pay for the ferry, and listened to other travellers complain about the cost of this form of transportation. It’s not cheap, but we had budgeted for the crossing, and there are no other options to reach the other side. Feel like swimming the gauntlet of prehistoric reptilians in this infested body of water?? No? We didn’t either! Fuel was over $2/L, so we were glad we had our own jerrys. As we lined up to wait for our turn to cross, we were amused to observe a young dingo at the side of the road, thoroughly engrossed in the to-ings and fro-ings of the vehicular traffic on the ferry. It was truly adorable, and it was incredibly tempting to go and interact with it!
The ferry trip itself is very short, and we had our eyes peeled for any signs of crocodiles. It’s funny really, everytime we cross a body of water known to have crocs, we expect to see them lined up for a photo opportunity just for us!
There is something special about crossing the Jardine River. Almost like making it across a border to the “real Cape”. Our rejoicing was perhaps a little premature as we encountered even more corrugations enroute to Bamaga.
We have rarely been so fatigued as when we arrived at Cape York Camping at Punsand Bay after seven hours on the road. The simply gorgeous Sally welcomed us, and did everything to make our settling in as painless as possible. We’re sure she could see how exhausted we were, so simple instructions were definitely appreciated. These wonderful people had donated a night in a two bedroom cabin for our first night, but first gave us the opportunity to go and set up the camper at the site they had set aside for us. Amazingly, even though they normally allocate up to four vehicles at this large site with a shelter and sink, it was only for our use.
We positioned the Cub, and did a basic set up, including checking the fridge. Not charging when we plugged into power, Paul found that our battery charger in the camper had a fractured circuit board, no doubt due to the corrugations on our inbound journey. We were too tired and cranky to start worrying about that at that point in time, and grabbed the essentials for our cabin stay.
We bought wood fired pizzas that Cape York Camping is renowned for (and rightly so!!), showered ourselves and the children, and fell asleep in clean sheets, exhausted.
We made it!