Thursday, 31 July 2014

Day 35 - Seisa to Punsand Bay

Moving day again, can't believe how quickly the 4 days at Seisa has gone.  Given that we only had 50 or so kilometres to travel today we packed up at a steady pace.  That was just as well as the sun was out and with only a little breeze it was quite steamy.  Dad got up quite a sweat packing up, the first place that you could really feel the humidity.  Up till now it has always been combined with a nice breeze or a spot of rain to cool things down.  We did a quick stop at the wharf as the weekly boat was in and being unloaded.  This is the boat that takes the broken cars (among other things) back to Cairns.  It's about $950 per couple to have your cars shipped up.

We had a few chores to do before we made our way to Pundsand Bay: gas, fishing bits (we getting really good at loosing lures), meat from the butcher and a few groceries.  After a bit of back and forth between Bamaga and Seisa we made our way across the shortcut road between Sesia and Pundsand Bay.  Half way along it says private road, we pretended to not see it and continued on.  It seems that even passing cars no one worried.  The bush was very lush along the coast so a nice little detour and minimises our need to go up and down the same road.

A quick stop into the croc tent which is a curio shop in the middle of nowhere, started in 80's by a tourist who didn't want to go home.  Since then it has been through 4 families, the current one running it for the last 10 years or so.  A good place with stuff that the other places didn't have and we lightened our wallets appropriately.

The other bit of excitement on the way was spotting what we think was a dingo and pup.  Mum was in mid pursuit of a kangaroo that darted across the road in front of us, she followed but the pup got half way across and then scuttled back into the bush.  Got it all on video and no stills so you will have to wait till we get back.

We rocked into Pundsand around 1 and setup for lunch by 2pm. The road in was true red dirt with sand edges, Charlie and Ernie are now back in their cape colours, in only 11kms!  The dips along here are proper ones,usually just a dry creek crossing with the odd wet one thrown in for good measure,  however they all require first gear in and out so as too not upset and bounce the car and trailer everywhere.

Pundsand Bay is a lovely place right in the beach with a powered and non powered sites.  We chose a beach front spot which are unpowered but plenty of sun meant the solar panel will keep us going.  There is a lovely restaurant and pool area in the main complex.  Quite popular by other campers comments.  The boys certainly were attracted to the pool and after setup and lunch it was like a magnet!

Picture of campsite, bar and pool area

With the annual big gala dinner planned for tomorrow night we thought that we best have pizza in the restaurant tonight.  With Uncle Chris's birthday in mind we celebrated (as we hadn't had a chance on his actual birthday on 25 July).  The pizzas are from the wood fired pizza oven, a few different types on thin flat bread style crusts, and come highly recommended.  The Big Mack (seafood mixture) and New Yorker were our picks.  The boys enjoyed  their first fanta in many moons.  

Picture of Andi at the table.

Day 33 - Seisa, Mutee Heads

Today we had a slow morning, bacon and eggs was on the menu. The first time in more than five weeks, just small withdrawal ...they were yummy!

We thought maybe a drive to see the plane wrecks in the region would be a way to pass on the history of the place to the boys.  After struggling to the find the first one, we came across a Bristol Beufort.  It would have been no more than 5 kms from Bamaga airport.  Explaining how the plane came to be there and why it was there was an interesting experience.  Something about war time hasn't clicked yet.

Something that you did notice it the piles of empty barrels left in the bush.  These were fuel drums dumped at the end of the war.  These were in lots places and we only saw them from the road, can't imagine how many there would be around the place.  Each flight of the Bristol used about 12 drums and it was a busy airport for 10 year or so, there must be lot somewhere!

Next was a visit to a DC3 crash where 6 people died.  If you lined up the plane, it is directly in line with the runway just 300 metre away or so.  It didn't say what went wrong but the crash was at 05:20 or so after a long flight from Brisbane.

For lunch we thought we might head to Mutee Head which is on the coast just south of Seisa.  It was the landing site of Chief Bamaga who left their island Saibai in 1946 after a high tide flooded most of the island.  They stayed here for a number of years before moving to the current site of Bamaga.  This explains the stronger islander influence in Sesia than Bamaga.  Although the beach was open to the SE trade winds, it was a massive step up from inland Bamaga.  Nevermind I am sure that there was a reason.

We also stopped by the radar installation above Mutee Heads.  The area was a major supply route and base for military during the pacific part of World War II.  They say there were hundreds of soliders placed here and a major supply area for transporting and stockpiling.  The remains of the wharf imply something was there, but not the 600 feet wharf they said was in place.  The sea/earth is reclaiming it rather quickly.

Mutee heads beach and campground

The plan was to make our way back to Seisa via Bamaga's swimming pool, the only safe water around that the little ones can swim in.  Unfortunately it wasn't to be, closed with a rather large gate!  An example of opening hours in Bamaga.  Sign says : Open 7 days; however when you look at the hours inside the pool area it says it's closed Monday and Tuesday, open Wednesday and Thursday 10:00 - 5:00 open Friday - Sunday 11:00 - 5:00.  Rocked up to the gates at 1:00 on Wednesday, gates all shut up.  Where hear that Tom who runs the pool is less than consistent with opening hours, something the local mothers groups is working to find solutions too. The boys were really disappointed but we tried to make it up to them with a slushy for the gift shop.

All was quite after the slushy and the evening meal came and went.  The only excitement to the evening was a visit but the wild horses to our garbage bag during the night.  Head in trough he got quite a shock by a bang on the tent, he also ate the flowers that were in a glass (Andi had picked them for mum earlier in the day).

Monday, 28 July 2014

Day 32 - Seisa

A rest and restock was on order for today.  A bigger grocery shop, some fishing tackle restock and Charlie even got a wash!  Wanted to get some of the salt wash off him. He looks a little less like a cape car now.

Good sense of humour is all around this joint, these are the signs going into the men's and ladies loos

We made a quick stop to restock our fishing gear and picked up some bait fish gang hooks.  Six little hooks with no bait needed.  Around 4:30 we headed off and no sooner had we dropped the line into a ball of fish, Andi came up with one.  His first ever.  A little nervous because it was jiggling a lot but he did really well.
 Andi with his first fish!

They ended up catching five.  The hilarious bit was that was on the way to the wharf we were talking to another camper about his rig.  He mentioned that he would give the boys 20 cents for every bait fish they caught.  They were working out how much fish they needed to catch for $2 before we even started!  So every fish we pulled in Griff would shout "that's 60c, 80c, $1 dollar!  On return the boys were shocked when the kind gentlemen gave them 2 dollars each, the faces were priceless.  Andi walking back to camp said that he is going to control what he spends his money on and has opted for more barbies!

Just before we got to the wharf a guy pulled us over and said he had something to show the kids.  He pulled out an esky and Dad and Chris thought they were going to see a big fish.  This little baby was quite a surprise.  The guy had found it crawling up his leg whilst he was searching for old copper cable around the district.  He said it was quite sedate and was able to hold it.  (WARNING: Janine - you may want to skip this picture!) We all took a step back, Andi who isn't a fan of creepy crawlers at the best of times, opted for a safe spot on the other side of the road!  We will have be careful looking for firewood.

Reason you don't wonder to far in the bush

 Lovely sunset to finish the day

Day 31 - Canal Creek to Seisa

It's moving day and we made our way back to civilisation staying at Seisa Caravan Park. As predicted the packup was wet but it didn't hold us back, leaving at around 9:15.  We becoming quite an efficient team.  To get out we needed to cross the fjord, it kept both Stu and Chris awake thinking if it would be Charlie's downfall.  We wanted to go out this way to pass by Fruitbat Falls before making our way back to the development road. Would the recent rain have raised the water level?

 The fjord from the south
 Putting on Charlie's car bra aka a tarp and occy straps

 A closer shot

 A happy "before shot"!

Well we don't have the photos for this addition on the blog but we made it through unscathed.  We did move quite a bit of water as we exited, as Stu was keen to get out. It created a small tidal wave for the cinematographer at the other exit. The video didn't even move!

Then off to Fruitbat Falls which only has a day use area, ie no camping.  In slight drizzle we again timed our arrival to perfection with only one other car there, an old couple that just popped in for quick snaps before moving off again.  We were the only ones swimming, all five of us!  So no pictures of us there but just imagine the rather grotty, scruffy looking group getting in and a clean as a whistle group getting out.

The falls were quite large and certainly a better place to swim than Twin Falls with deeper pools and a lovely emerald colour when the sun made a brief appearance.  With a few rain showers in between and a few visitors coming and going, we made an exit once the boys started to really shiver.  Our exit was just in time, by the time we left the car park was full and the visitor numbers including other swimmers were increasing.  A quick change of clothes and we were back in the car heading north on a very good developemt road.  

 There were a few corrugated sections to keep you on your toes

 And again

We came up to the Jardine river ferry, an expensive 25 second ride across the river at $145 return.  Never mind it covers other camping fees and supports the local community.  The other option is to drive the 150 metres across the 0.8 to 1.4 metre depth, so not really an option.  

Before continuing north we made a slight detour to the old vehicle crossing sight where cars came across before the ferry was an option.  Scary to think that a) people crossed this and b) the river being croc infested and with recent fatalities it's not really an option to walk it.

 The entry for the north looking across to the south.

We continued north and in a short time arrived back on bitumin in Bamaga.  A quick stop for some essential groceries for dinner and breakfast and restock the drinkies.  The prices were expensive even compared with Coen, but you would expect this far north and most of the supplies coming by barge from Cairns twice a week.  Case of beer 30 cans and 2 litres of box wine ... 91 dollars!

We continued onto Seisa, just 14 kms down the road.  Our campsite is quite sublime, right to the beach front at the very end of the unpowered section with no neighbours to our right and a friendly group on our left.  How we keep getting such amazing sites I don't know but let's hope our luck continues.  A picture is on Stu's Facebook page if you wanted a quick squiz at the view. A lovely dinner was had, fresh meat and veges was much welcomed.

 Our little piece of paradise. Although wild horses could carry you away - literally! At about 9pm a wild horse rocked up and made its way through the campground. Katie and Griff went for a walk to get a closer look, only to find two more with their heads tucked in under a camper's annex trying to grab tea towels, torch cords etc!!! 

Day 30 - Elliot Falls

It was a rest day today, with just a visit to Elliot Falls penciled in.  It was the first day of our travels where the weather had an impact on our movements.  There was some drizzle that meant journals and other jobs that needed doing got precedence.  The rain didn't really make the track any more interesting, we were hoping for a bit more mud and slush. 

At 11 or so we relented, and with journals up to date, in the rain we headed off to Eliot Falls .  The falls themselves were quite spectacular, with quite a volume of water going over them.  The falls are actually a small Penisula where the Eliot and Canal creek meet.  

The falls from the top
 The falls from downstream.
Where the two creeks meet, note the stream coming in for the left

Up the steam of Canal is Twin Falls, a much more spectacular set of falls that we took the opportunity, at least the younger boys, for a quick dip.

 Twin Falls

It was quite surreal that somehow we timed to be there by ourselves, not even visitors made a quick appearance.  Yes the weather wasn't fantastic but to have to one's self was just very special.  Something that we also noted was the campsite that we were scheduled to stay in at the Eliot Falls campground wasn't a shade on where we were staying at Canal.  Big tick for FREE camps.

Before long the rain returned and the boys chilled and we returned.  In afternoon we gathered a bit of firewood from the neighbouring camps to create some nice coals for scones.  Uncle Chris is becoming quite the pasty chef.  It looked like it would be a wet pack up way we going.

Another thing to note was the use of our 85 litre water tank.  Even with staying near a river and using it where we can for pre washing etc, we still used all of the tank in the 8 days that we were away.  Last fill up was in Archer River Roadhouse.  We still had the backup jerry to cover us till we get to Seisa so nothing to worry about.

Day 29 - Canal Creek to Nolans Brook and return!

Today was the day of creek crossings, probably the most 4WD'ing that we will be doing on this trip.  The aims was go head north via the northern section of the telegraph track to Nolans Brook, a quite sounding crossing but has quite a reputation for drowning cars.  Not that we were contemplating crossing it but we wanted to see others go across, successfully or not!

The plan was to head there and get back for a late lunch, maybe 2ish.  Word for the other campers implied that should be very feasible.  We not sure how they did it, we crawled back into camp around 5:30 in evening, after 7:51minutes of driving for a total of 49 kms!

There aren't a lot of photos from the day that we can access at the moment, we working of that.  There is however lots of video of both our decent into each creek and a winch out in most cases.  We will load these up when we get back, loading video of 3G would take as long!

There were four creeks and a ford to cross, Canal, Sam, Mistake and Cannibal.  The first two creeks were appropriately easier inline with their name, the second two as well!  The ford was a little to deep and long for us, we followed others down a drop in and muddy slop with a shorter crossing.  We had company for most of the day going there, solo on the way home.  4WD's of various ages, 2 Landrovers, Nissan Patrol, Ford Maverick (same thing as the Nissan) and us.

Dad's and the family onlookers nerve was tested on many occasions as the drops went from 20-30 cms to 6-7 feet.  At one point going down Cannibal we lifted the back wheel, perched on three wheels looking straight down a near vertical slope at a large mud puddle below.  The creek crossings were deep enough to get water sloping above the bulbar but nothing to serious and they weren't very long, so no drowning issues for Charlie.  They allowed you a good clean before heading off to the next one.

Dad was particularly satisfied to see Charlie get through challenges that others got recovered from.

We got to Nolans around 12:30 there were four cars wanted to go through after a walk around.  We heard that we had just missed the 41st car go down, drowning with water in engine, a late model Patrol.

 Checking the depth of Nolans Creek
 It gets deep

The Landrovers were very well kitted out and cruised through without even putting on a car bra, no issues, he didn't even get his bonnet wet!  The second Landrover put I a temporary snorkel and cruised across although it seemed that he floated a bit more.  He got his bonnet wet at least.  It was now time for the Nissan's (Mavericks).  With the Landrover ready to snatch out if needs be, the Nissan went in and plopped around a bit but making it, exiting in a cloud of white smoke.  We held our breath hoping the smoke cleared, it did and apart from the seals being less than tight he made it through unscathed.  Opening the doors was met with small waterfalls as the interior emptied.

It was time for the second Nissan, driven by a couple backpackers on holiday for the UK.  they had been travelling for 2 months from West to East, starting at Margaret River in WA and heading for work on a cattle property some 600km south of us in Lakeland.  She was certainly keen to try Nolans as they planned to start work on Thursday and didn't really want to come back along the same track as she didn't have a winch.  We offered her a tag-a-long with us home if she wanted.  Given that she did the real Palm Creek crossing she wasn't to afraid of some challenging terrain.  So they prepared the car and took the risk.

Unfortunately it didn't pay off, she made it about 10 feet into the creek and as soon as water entered the bonnet she stopped, hydro-locking the engine, sucking water in through the airfilter.  Water is no replacement for oil in an engine.  It seemingly took for ever to get a snatch on, eventually she was pulled out and towed to dry ground.  With quite a bit gear wet and the engine dead with the air of full of water they had a few options.  After a quick chat we offered to take some gear up north but they were happy organising themselves getting to Bamaga to see if the car could be repaired.

It was about 2:30 and we had a return leg to do, knowing that many of the drop in's we did I the ways here would need a winch on the way back.  With Dad driving, Chris as chief instructor and director and Mum as cinematographer we were a very efficient team.  Taking our time as to not damage Charlie one the way it also gave the kids a bit of an oppurtunity to have a swim in the creeks whilst we winched Charlie up the slopes.

 The winching went pretty much according to plan with trees located at the right spot at the top of the slopes in all but one occasion, Mistake creek.  Apart from a few occasions where we dragged the spare tyre through a muddy section, it got through without even touching or slipping around.  Mistake creek took a bit more effort as he tree we originally were winching off wasn't good after we heard a big crack, time to rethink.  Chris's enginuity to hook up a redirection setup (through a pulley off one tree to another tree) did the trick and we were up and away in no time at all.

As I mentioned we got back into camp around 5:30, all were somewhat shattered for the day.  Although the day wasn't an energetic one, it was taxing mentally.  Dad and Chris popped down for a swim in Canal creek to chillax and clean up whilst Mum started on dinner.  It was early night for all, we seem to time our bedtime just at the time the campfire coals are just perfect. In bed by 9:00.

Pictures will come when we can get them off the other phones.  There are entertaining so watch this space!

Damage and repair update : 
Repairs to Charlie's inside left guard we're successful and made it through the day unscathed.  The same couldn't be said for his rear quarter panel, in a typical car park accident Dad was reversing back in the flat bit of Mistake creek and popped the panel off the plastics clips, nothing serious but frustrating in the way it happened.  We will looking into how we repair this tomorrow.

Day 28 - Dulhunty to Canal Creek

On this special day for Uncle Chris, we farewelled Dulhunty Creek today, it was a great few days but time to move onto another camp that people coming south had talked about, Canal Creek.  We returned to the development road via the Gunshot Bypass and made our way to where the Telegraph Track intersects about 100 kms south of Seisa.

The pickup went well but we for some reason still manage to leave around 9:00 or 9:30 no matter what time we start the packup.  Must have been the second cup of tea but the fire that was still lit from last night that slowed us down.

Just 5kms south of our camp site we came across a crossing that made us think twice.  About 100 mtres long , muddy We were following a landcrpuiser but got chatting to people that we met in Lakefield national park.  They were the ones with army land drovers that wanted to drive them across the Jardine river like the old days.  Well they didn't make it through the Jardine, got bogged in less than a metre of water and a tree was blocking the exit at the other end.  They also lost a car in Nolans Brook, the last creek of the track.  This was said very casually as if they just describing a trip to the shops.  

We heard that the count of cars lost in Nolans is up to 40.  These are the write-off numbers only, god knows what the tow away numbers are.  And yet people still go through them, just crazy and more money than sense!

Anyway back to the story,whilst we were chatting the cruiser in front of us went through and we didn't see how deep it was or which route he took.  Mmm, to walk or not to walk, is it crocodile red or not.  It looked to too long to be unsure.

 Dad checking it out.
 The south entry
 The south entry just before mum nearly slipped after saying how slippery it was to the kids.
 Another view

Of course it took some time to wait to see what the crossing was lie.  Another car finally arrived, a KIA Sorrento with a lovely couple originally from South Africa/Johannesburg now Perth based wanted to cross to go to their Elliot falls campsite.  Sharing some recovery gear, we prepared to help each other out, them going first and I wouldn't be able to snatching out if he got stuck as we still had the trailer.

dad and the gentlemen did a walk across after they assured us the creek was croc free.  Came to Dad's upper thigh at its deepest part so certainly doable but it would be both Charlie and Ernie's deepest swim yet.

He cruised across at a slow pace and then called us through.  We wanted to put a tarp across the front just to make sure we created abow wave to protect Ernie somewhat.  We cruised through as well, with a little more pace than them.  Ernie came through with flying colours.  Not even the dust of the back was washed away.

(Insert link to video of crossing)

We cruised into camp and there was just us and one other camper.  We picked the best spot to setup, right near the creek and with a view of the crossing. For entertainment during the day.

 Our camp at Canal Creek
 The view from the lounge room, tough I know.

After setup we headed to the creek, a deep in parts clear flowing creek that is narrows with rocks either side in parts, hence the name Canal.  We spent the best part of an hour exploring and mucking about.  Sorry no pictures, we were too busy enjoying ourselves.  I am sure that there will be other opportunities.

With fire wood required, the boys headed off in Charlie whilst Mum pulled together a lovely tuna Monday for the birthday meal.  It has been a somewhat low key affair for the birthday boy, it's a dry ken as well as we have run out of beer and wine ... Shock horror I know but we have promised to make it up to him when we get to Seisa.

The boys also caught up on journal writing before dinner.

After dinner Chris and the boys played a new counting games they've learnt, you have to get cards adding up to 21!!  Helps the maths no end, Andy being quite adept at picking up the game, winning several hands outright! We have a future card shark on our hands.

Other news included the official naming of the loo tent and loo.  Yes everything has a name.  We would like to introduce Giles (tent) and Desire (Portaloo).  Here is Andy in demonstration mode playing picaboo.

Dust and repair update :

The red dust is gathering, a swipe past the spare tyre or garbage bag on Ernie is sure to gather a smear, something to avoid.

Repair wise,the inner guard of Charile left front tyre has rattled loose with all the corrugations, a smack with the tyre yesterday was too much.  A temporary repair with tape was a dart but more temporary fixes were applied today in the form of a cable tyre.  Let's see how we go.

Day 27 - Telegraph Track (Dulhunty to Gunshot)

Today was Groundhog day in terms of itinery, except this time we went north instead of south.  Uncle Chris took the reins and we made our way towards Gunshot creek with an eye to see if we could take the trailer that way going north tomorrow.

Before we got to Gunshot we crossed the Bertie again (becoming old hat now) and past the gunshot bypass turn off.  We came up to Chomondeley Creek which was a little bit of a dip for all involved.

(Insert link of going through Chmondeley Creek)

Then across the banksia filled wind swept landscape towards Gunshot.  It's not until you are right there that you feel there is a creek there at all.  Once you are there though you certainly know about it.  A small crowd had gathered doing a similar thing to us, look in awe at the drops and hope there was a crazy person there to take it on while we wait!

The drops are impressive, the original (see above) is still the steepest with a large puddle at the bottom to greet you. The scale of the pictures don't really give you a sense of how steep and high they are.  The second and third chicken tracks ain't that anymore, they just as serious these days.  The 4th, 5th and 6th weren't that much chop either, starting with a steep drop and ending in a deep muddy bog.

 The second chicken track, ain't that chicken any more.
 The drop we would do if we really needed to!
 With Uncle Chris at the bottom for scale, drop was about 2 metres with less of a bog waiting for you than the others but still a winch job.

(Insert video of gunshot chick track)

So we decided that this would be where we would end our journey today.  Like the Palm creek crossing we felt it would be doable if our lives depended on it, but whilst you have a choice we chose not to.  Like the others that were there with us, they decided to go back and take the bypass road around gunshot as well.

Whilst we were looking around the bots had fun in the creek, there was a swing rope and nice clear cool water.

The creek at the bottom
 The war wounds and memorabilia of the 2014 gunshot year.

We got back home about 12:00 and spent the afternoon reading books in the creek whilst the boys played on the small beach with some other kids that had arrived.