We arrived at Horn Island with beautiful warm, sunny weather and were greeted by our two tour guides, Darryl and Laurence. They introduced themselves, took our luggage and directed us to a bus that would take us on a tour of the island.
Our lady bus driver (I can’t remember her name) took us on a tour of Horn Island, showing us all the points of historical interest and telling stories of the war. Horn Island was used as a base for both the Australians and the American during WWll. Approximately 650 people now live on Horn Island with work in mainly the pearling and fishing industries.
After the bus tour we headed to the Wharf and caught the ferry to TI (Thursday Island) and we were met by Liberty who was the husband of our lady bus driver (annoyingly I still can’t remember her name!) Liberty was of Chinese Malaysian background and boy, could he talk but was very interesting to listen to. He took us around the much smaller TI and told us some of it’s history and also of all the government workers who now live here. Because of all the government workers, housing is very expensive with not so palatial properties commanding rent of $1000+ a week. There is a population of around 3500 people calling TI home.
We ate lunch at The Grand Hotel and had the pick of the menu and all the food was good.
After lunch, we again met at the Wharf and this time a bigger boat to take us to the mainland. The journey was about an hour and ten minutes and Chris and I stayed outside at the back of the boat knowing our history of seasickness. The crossing was good and the boat was reasonably full. The passengers included a team of lady rugby league players and their friends and families who we had already seen playing their game as we drove around the island.
Now we are on the mainland at Seisia and Darryl and Laurence are there to meet us and allocate us to our vehicles, 2 long wheelbase Landcruisers. We were in the blue one along with Bill, Nix, Ross, Sue and our driver, Darryl. In the white cruiser was Charles, Federica, Denise, Katrina, Kath, Jan and their driver, Laurence. 7 people to a vehicle, it’s going to be cozy!
Next stop is Loyalty Bay and our home for two nights. Our accommodation is basic, consisting of a donga (a simple hut with a bed, bedside drawers, fridge and aircon) and the ablution blocks around the corner. We were right on the beach and the setting was beautiful. The food was good and the staff friendly, helpful and efficient so we had nothing to complain about.
The next day we were up and out early so we could get to walk to the tip before all the other hundreds of people descended on the place. Chris chose to walk up and over the hill and I wadded through the outgoing tide. We reach the tip and this is what this trip is all about. That one photo that says “We are here”
We were right to start early as so many people arrived after us. We watched the water swirling as the Coral Sea on the east and the Arafura Sea in the Western Pacific Ocean met each other.
Now with what we thought would be the highlight of the trip behind us we start our journey down. After the tip we drive around to Fly Point, Newcastle Bay, Somerset Bay, Lake Wicheura, the Crock Tent for souvenirs, Bamiga and Seisia.
Leaving Loyalty Beach the next morning, we make our first river crossing, getting up early for breakfast and then to the Jardene river for the first ferry crossing at 8.00. Early morning gets to be a theme with Darryl as our tour guide. He doesn’t like to waste time and is determined to make this as interesting and fulfilling a trip as possible for us.
After the Jardene crossing we travel 50kms south to Fruit Bat Falls, and again because of our early start, we have the place to ourselves. Chris and I along with some of the group have a swim in the beautiful waterhole below the falls and are amazed that it’s not the freezing cold that we expected. Because the river above is reasonably shallow the sun heats the water to a most acceptable temperature.
After our swim and just as the other people start arriving we head back to the trucks for morning tea. We then head out to the Edmund Kennedy monument. Edmund Kennedy was an explorer and the assistant surveyor of NSW. We heard the story of the eight men who walked to meet a supply ship. In terrible conditions, one man shot himself and Kennedy himself was killed by aborigines. Only two men survived, one being Jackey Jackey, an aboriginal tracker. The others were never found, nor were all the maps and papers that Jackey Jackey had buried along with Kennedy’s body for safe keeping. He didn’t mark the spot and the bush all looked the same. Gone but not forgotten.
Driving through Bramwell Station we then had lunch at the old Moreton Telegraph Station where we checked out the small museum and then enjoyed our picnic lunch under one of the very large mango trees.
After we left Moreton Station we cut across the Batavia Downs and onto the PDR (Peninsula Development Road) to Weipa in the gulf of Carpentaria.
With all the corrugation and potholes on the road we are glad we decided to do this trip and leave the responsibility and damage of vehicles to someone else. We saw lots of broken down vehicles along the way and our driver Darryl explained how much the breakdown trucks charge for each call out. $3000 with payment up front. We saw a breakdown guy who was driving his double decker, B Double breakdown truck up from Weipa and he was on his way to pick up four vehicles. Not bad money for a days work. Some vehicles are obviously not meant to do the trip but you just can’t tell some people. We even saw a small hired purple and green “Juicy” car that is not even meant to be driven on any dirt roads. He’s going to be in a world of trouble.
Weipa is the largest town in the Cape York Peninsula with a population of around 3000. It’s known for its Bauxite mining and shipments of live cattle. Here we checked into our motel and this had the luxury that was missing in our dongas. That evening we enjoyed an eco sunset cruise on Albatross Bay (part of the Emberly river) before heading back to the Albatross Hotel for dinner.
The next morning we head back to the Albatross Hotel for a continental breakfast. Then back to the motel for a quick checkout and we’re on the road again to check out Red Beach, so named for all the red bauxite in the area.
We saw the largest aboriginal midden that I have ever seen and lots of mud mussel shells. Darryl found me a large black mud mussel shell that was still joining together but sadly with all the rough roads we have been on, it’s split apart. When I get a chance I will clean it, fix it together and put it somewhere safe.
Back into Weipa, we head to the bakery to order lunch and wander around the shops. Both Woollies and the newsagents were well stocked and the prices in Woolworths were quite competitive, we thought. Because of the remoteness up here we expected prices to be much much higher.
We enjoyed our lunch that day outside the aboriginal cultural centre in a beautiful setting before looking around the centre itself.
That afternoon we left Weipa behind and head east towards Lockhart, travelling through the Sir William Thomas Range and crossing the Pascoe river. We then entered the Iron Range National Park and saw Mount Tozer as we drove through.
We headed to our next stop for the night which was a beautiful property called “The Greenhoose” just outside the settlement of Lockhart. A tranquil rainforest setting, with friendly people and lovely food. I decided to do some washing here and made up a load with Denise and Katrina. When I used the dryer I didn’t see the setting was on low so one hour later our clothes were not much dryer than when they went in. Our balconies looked like a Chinese laundry the next day as we went out. Luckily we we here for two nights so the clothes had time to dry.
From the Greenhoose we went out to Chilli Beach where I was told I could possibly find some big shells. I like to collect a shell from every beach I walk on so I was on a mission to find one. Darryl again came good with a large Nautilus shell that he found while wandering the beach, digging it out of the sand for me. This beautiful shell made my day and is a highlight of my trip. It will always be a reminder of Chilli Beach in particular. Thanks Darryl!
On the way back from Chilli Beach we stopped at a private home that our tour guides know and picked up some frozen cooked prawns which we had as entree before dinner that night.