Sunday, July 31, 2011

A DC3 that came down in WWII

On the way to The Tip

A very windy day off Somerset Beach

The kids petting the bandicoot

Us at the Tip!

Panorama of Loyalty Beach

Loyalty Beach

From the moment we started planning this trip it seems everyone we spoke to had their own views on where to stay at the Tip. Supporters were split between Punsand Bay and Loyalty Beach. We always leant towards Loyalty Beach and so decided to run with that.

Emotions were mixed as made this last part of the journey north. It felt kind of like the beginning of the end. Although there was still lots of adventuring ahead of us, heading south would ultimately mean heading home. No time to dwell now though – there was the tip to conquer!

Loyalty Beach was a great choice. There were kids everywhere, particularly from 3 families that we kept encountering since Cairns. The beach at low tide left plenty of room for nightly soccer games and general fun, followed by spotto when darkness arrived. The closeness of Bamaga and Seisia for our shopping needs was also a plus. I really liked Bamaga. The Thursday islander presence was really strong here, and the place had a beautiful tropically friendly feel to it. The sausage rolls at the bakery were delicious too!

The boys were entertained each night by visiting bandicoots that were so tame they could sit next to them and pet them. Very cool. They also saw owls up in the trees, and after an unsuccessful late night croc hunt we found an echidna out looking for a place to sleep. It found a nice spot to dig right under Shad’s rear car tyre. Cam was wrapped.

One morning I woke to Steve swearing and cursing after a really lousey sleep. He said he kept rolling off the side of the bed in the camper, which considering he sleeps on the side that has a 4 foot drop isn’t conducive to deep sleep. The whole camper seemed to be askew and after Cam killed the cane toad that was hiding under our camper floor, we found that the inside tyre had gone flat. Bugger! An hour later, Steve had the tyre changed and the nail puncture in the old one plugged and ready to go.

The Croc Tent is a must stop while up there. Armed with souvenirs and t-shirts sprouting how we “drove the Telegraph Track” etc, we were given maps of the local attractions to visit. First though, was the Tip. The drive was through more beautiful rainforest which simply embraced us with every turn, and seemed to form tunnels that we were driving through. For some reason, I expected to be traveling through this type of forest more often, so really soaked up the atmosphere when I could. The hike to the Tip was rocky and full of those rocks “cairns” that people add to to mark their passing. Dan took a particular obsession with these by carting the biggest rock he could find and carting it to each next cairn. He started a few of his own along the way, and was disappointed on the return hike to find no-one had added to his pile. Reaching the tip there were the usual suspects – men casting out the fishing rods, others carted up golf clubs and balls to flog out into the ocean. Even the mandatory fellow stripping off for “the photo”! (Hope your sons forgive your embarrassment to them in time ShadJ) Terry bought a beer up for each of us and after a toast to the trip and photos it was time to move on.

The next day we drove the Beaches Loop Road from Somerset Beach. This map was given to us at The Croc Tent the day before and it was a fabulous day out. Similar to Chili Beach though, the high tide line was littered with debris from passing boats/ships. From fishing nets, to buoy markers, to thongs and bottles it was quite an eyesore. Even the boys remarked on the ugliness of it compared to the beauty when just looking at the ocean side. Throughout the day we also took in the DC3 wreck and Beaufort Bomber wreck sites from WWII, along with the Jardine Family cemetery. Sombre, but very interesting.

On the third night, it was clear that we were running out of time to do everything on the return trip that we had originally planned. We delayed any decision making until we checked out Vrilya Point on the way down. The length of stay there would be determined on what weather we had, so we set off again with only that destination in mind.

On getting off the ferry after crossing the Jardine River Terry came over the UHF telling us that one of our trailer tyres was about to fall off. A careful drive of another 15 metres to get on a flat spot and yep – grief again. It was the other tyre this time (at least the bearing casing was holding well) and meant another stoppage to take off the wheel and inspect. The bearing had absolutely disintegrated and the wheel was now running on the stub axle. This was never going to end well. Luckily these parts were part of Steve’s pre-planning so it was a matter of getting out the tools and doing the job. The old bearing case had seized to the stub axle (a fine testament to the heat generated) so the hammer and cold chisel came out of Steve’s toolbox and the men took turns at knocking it off. For good measure the files came out and the stub axle was filed down and the new bearing case bashed in. On the road again….

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