Cape York Adventures 2006

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Cape York Adventures 2006

Post by slunnie » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:42 am

Andy Loader and Leila Warren – Defender Tdi
Pete and Chris Jansen – The little Patrol that could (but not in 2nd gear)
Simon Lun and Ben Campbell – Discovery TD5
Captain Obvious also followed for that little extra insight – unfortunately he may have been any one of us!


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Day 1 Fri 23rd June 2006
Sydney - Sydney

Virgin flight from Sydney to Cairns – due to early fog and altered flights, flight had been moved to Sat midday. Went home again. Sadly for the others in the group, they made it Cairns and had to wait. It was though a great opportunity for Ben to put about $600 of fuel into the Disco’s long range tanks and buy all of the food required for the first half of the trip. The 4WD’s had already been trucked to Cairns.

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Day 2 Sat
Sydney – Cape Tribulation

Flight arrived in Cairns, and I cleared the terminal at about 4.40. We then immediately hit the road and began our journey north. We travelled the roads via Mossman, meandering the famous Daintree National. Crossing the renowned river by ferry, that was debated so widely for damming many years ago. Continued to find and set camp at Cape Tribulation for the evening.

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Day 3 Sun
Cape Tribulation – Archer Point

Due to the previous storms and resultant damage, the CREB track, like much of Lakefield NP was still closed. Pushing north we toured the Bloomfield track, and much like a coastal road we zigged left, zagged right, jumped up and dropped down through the tropical forest. The Bloomfield track is a great bit of road with great scenery. Water crossings always make things interesting! This took us to Archer Point where we camped off the beach with excellent though wind ravaged views.

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Day 4 Mon
Archer Point - Elim

After viewing the lighthouse at Archer Point we continued north again. Finding Cooktown where supplies could be found was handy, as it was another point where our insatiable desires for pie could be satisfied. Hmmm, pie! For the evening we continued north again bound for the minor Aboriginal Camp “Elim”. Travelling the dirt roads we crossed many a dodgy bridge, though one just east of HopeVale really took the cake. With missing planks throughout the bridge we were lucky not to fall through it, quite literally! It just happened that out vehicle widths matched the main rail width on the bridge and so it was all grins. Camp at Elim was great with a massive tidal marsh at our door and excellent hosts. They even had a dish to watch the soccer world cup with that night! Needless to say the Socceroos were robbed!

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Day 5 Tues
Elim – Hahn River Roadhouse

The coloured sands at Elim are the finest I have even seen. Absolutely brilliant and definitely a must see. We hit the road bound for the top considering some of the closures around Lakefield, with the plan to see them on the return journey when things had hopefully dried out a little. Travelling the dirt Battle Camp track we crossed a magnificent waterfall, with the crossing at the top! After a brief break viewing and meeting the nomads we continued west to stop at Horseshoe lagoon for lunch. Now if there ever was postcard scenery, this was it – and absolutely stunning lagoon and as green as green can be. The buoyant flowers, the stillness, the sun. Travel also took us through the interesting restorations of Old Lara station and the tiny town of Laura where fuel can be had. We then continued north on the ever improving Developmental Road where we camped at Hahn River Roadhouse for the evening. On our explores of the station we crossed deep creeks and surprisingly a number of interesting peacocks!

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Day 6 Wed
Hahn River Roadhouse – Archer River

After a morning fish we continued on to Laura. A tiny Cape York town that was previously a railway hub, though had given way to diminishing profits and road transport. After stopping for fuel, and of course the mandatory pie, we continued north enroute to Archer River. After stopping briefly at Musgrave to tour the station store at the end of their runway, we naturally settled in for another pie. Man can never have enough pie, well… maybe except for pie with green bits! We pushed on. After reaching the end of the bitumen out from Coen, well that’s when things started going badly. After sending an “all’s well” email to family at the quarantine station, it was shortly after that the Discovery had decided it had crossed one water crossing too many. Well the water hardly wet the bonnet, but the engine fan definitely became intimate with the radiator. Intimate…. It ****ed it well and truly. Sigh. The reality sank in very quickly as with the time required to resolve the problem become apparent. 2 passing travellers were kind enough to pass forward the message that the Disco had dropped its coolant and needed rescuing. The crew returned to help, and Pete was kind enough to tow me forward to Archer River in the little Patrol that could…… but not in 2nd gear! Even if we were stranded, Archer River Hamburgers are to die for.

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Day 7 Thurs
Archer River

The calls were made today and we couldn’t have wished for anything more than an instant delivery! One radiator please. We pulled down the Disco early and removed the radiator to inspect the damage. A call to the mechanics at Weipa was made and they placed an order. From there a little group waited, and waited, and waited. It turns out the part had to be sent up from Sydney – a quick delivery was still going to take an eternity, but hey, one the bright side at least it was probably only 4000km.. It was a great opportunity to visit the sights of Archer River, so we went down to the river for a swim. Surprisingly, to me at least, the river was croc free so we all went for a swim. At least the water was fresh and freshies (freshwater Crocs) were meant to be human friendly…. Well that was our theory at least. Disclaimer: Little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but ignorance makes for a better trip. (Assuming you don’t come unstuck!) see Day25 for the reason why!

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Day 8 Fri.
Archer River – Archer River via Weipa

Still waiting for the delivery of a radiator, we had a good game of soccer and again went for a swim down at the river. We also made amends with the shop keeper for forgetting to return their phonebook. At 2.50pm there was the call, and the radiator was in at Weipa. They reckon they’ve never received anything from Sydney that fast ever! They were still waiting for brake pads ordered 3 weeks prior. A late run into Weipa as they the mechanics were kind enough to wait an extra hour for us to arrive and the radiator was picked up. Kowari Motors had saved the day and did it all for a price that was significantly lower than expected for a genuine radiator – as in significantly, let alone overnighted to Weipa from Sydney. A case as a token of our appreciation. After a quick shop, dinner and the return trip we were then back to Archer River and into bed. By the way, the Weipa club make the finest bacon on this planet.

Day 9 Sat.
Archer River – Old Telegraph Line (Nth of Bramwell Station)

It took until 2.30 that afternoon before the new radiator was installed after a few complications that meant some drilling was required. After another fine Archer burger and a shower we were on the road. Bound northward for the Old Telegraph Road we headed north along the Cape York telegraph road and gained some good information over the radio from a waiting fuel truck. We didn’t get too far past the turnoff for the Old Telegraph Track at Bramwell Station before coming into quite a crossing. Slippery mud, huge cross-ups, deep ruts and big holes – we crossed and returned back again before setting up camp for the night. This track is going to be a beauty and we’re loving it!

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Day 10Sun.
Old Telegraph Line (Nth of Bramwell Station) – Old Telegraph Line (Sam Ck)

An early rise and we were off again to travel north along the Old Telegraph Track. Touring this track took us through some spectacular and changing scenery. A great trail that was once used as the service line for maintaining the communications line that serviced the top end prior to the use of radio microwaves which are used today. Our tour in led us into the renowned Gunshot Creek, which has a mean reputation due to the drop in which is near enough to vertical. Without winching this is a one way passage and its one hell of a ride down. At our lunch spot we also help the next group to pass through drop off, with one trailer being lowered down by vehicle. After experiencing this awesome drive we continued on to view and swim in Fruit bat falls. Post card location, and like always beautifully warm water. The swim and wash off was more than welcome. With the intention of camping at the nearby but over populated twin falls we continued along the OTL to Sam creek, where there was an excellent campsite to spoil us. As our intentions for the next day were to travel north of the Jardine into the alcohol restricted zones, we did our best to get ride of as much alcohol that we could that night. It was more than our duty to fulfil this obligation and we were more than up to the challenge – oh except Andy. You see, Andy’s changed, through the trip she gained a reputation for folding early.

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Day 11 Mon.
Old Telegraph Line (Sam Ck) – Jardine River Ferry

After the nights smashing, this morning was very slow. We all decided that after sleeping in, that we would have breakfast, pack camp and then just mellow in the running Sam Ck at the bottom of the hill for a while. Hmmm, just perfect. As we continued along the OTL through the ever changing scenery, the call came over the radio from Andy – “Hey check this, there’s someone in the creek with a snorkel”. Wondering if he meant that there was a car in there with a snorkel, we quickly found out that there were actual snorkelers in there swimming around. Ok, how deep is this, and I assumed they didn’t call it Nolans Brook for nothing. The snorkeller’s kindly indicate the depth for us as being nipple deep and the tyre tracks go straight through it. Ben reserves judgement on depth until he see’s the snorkeller out of the water and yes it was nipple deep on a regular person, not a midget! Fearless Leila had no problem with this and in plunged the Defender and it was deep! Traction was a minimum. Now the moral of this story is this….. Defender owners are all the same, Shut the vents under windscreen before a deep water crossing – or GME radios don’t seem to mind the odd washing. Traction was just enough for a submerged 4WD to get through. Pete and I certainly had reservations about this, especially after a 3 day interlude from a destroyed radiator, so we fitted blinds and found a path through that was merely belly button deep. My apologies for the depth measurements, these were our measurement increments. You should also count your lucky stars that the water wasn’t a little shallower again! All through and a great swim then we continued on past this popular camping site. Northward bound to the Jardine and getting close we passed a group of returning Toyotas that had barely made it to the river. The news was grim, but we radioed it forward that the crossing to the river (not over) was impassable. Shortly afterwards the radio call came again. Get me out, hurry, hurry! Hurry up, get me out. This leads us to the second moral of the day: Confusious say, door seals shut gap. Lucas retorts, door seals eat fish and stinky. Well, Andy tried the river crossing and the Defender sunk, as in a long way down! Lets just say that GME radios still work after being submerged, Big Red air compressors can also be water compressors, Defenders need door seal in the bottom of their battery box’s, and Door seals let water in faster than what they let out. Oh, and Leila doesn’t like it when Andy makes the water comes up to Dash! With a race to get Andy out keeping in mind that there were agro Salty Crocs in the water, Pete managed to reverse snatch the Defender to safety. Water was evacuated and we continued on back to the Jardine ferry. The drive is great as with the Capes Scenery – much of it how I would picture Africa with the vegetated plains and giant termite hills. After developing the “Booze” GPS waypoint we then setup camp at the Jardine ferry were again we settled into outrageous cooking, outrageous drinking and outrageous Uno. Such luxury it was to camp under a tin roof.

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Day 12 Tuesday
Jardine River Ferry – Loyalty Beach

The morning starts with pack up and an introduction by one of the quad bikers in a group of seemingly many. Quite an unusual character but as we were to later find out, they were all a great bunch of people. It seems that we’ve been noted over the Cape for the tyres that we’ve been running, all on Simex Jungle Trekkers for arduous conditions, and are known as the Nobby tyre brigade! After finally getting on the road, we crossed using the ferry, a rickety looking thing for something that I obviously and mistakenly didn’t think was very old. Crossing, we met up again with the good folk found snorkelling in the titty deep Nolan’s Brook and continued north having a good old UHF chat and some friendly ribbing. Of course they from the Toyota Engel school of thought, but we were wise enough to know about Land Rover and Waeco/Evacool. They kindly offered to have a go at fixing Andy’s Waeco. Heading into Bamaga was a bit disappointing but worthy of a look around and to learn something of the locals from the bottle shop – great for a chat! Just north of Bamaga was also the local airstrip, still maintained, though has a tragic history with some of the failed war flights that almost made it home. There were quite a few wreckages in the area. That afternoon, Andy did a sterling job in finding us a fishing tour of the top end for the next day, and we found our camping spot at the sunset rich Loyalty beach – great spot.

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Day 13 Wed
Loyalty Beach - Loyalty Beach via fishing trip

Up early, very early….. actually it was so early that our watches hadn’t even started yet! Ok, we were still late. 7.30am and we were on the dock where the boat waited for today’s fishing. Some locals with crazy dyed hair and a lot of interest also met us and saw us off on the fishing trip. Well the morning was all good laughs, stories, beers and some boat time. Stopping for a snorkel, the fish apparently were abundant, myself not a snorkeller. There were no crays to be found. The afternoon on the return trip was a cracker though, the fish had finally come out with everybody pulling in a good sized fish. For many of us, this being the largest fish ever caught. Pete a Golden Trevally, Andy and Simon a Spotted Trevally each, Chris the oh my god it’s a giant Mackeral whale, Benny a Coral Trout and Leila a Trout also. Needless to say, that night sported a fish banquet, all cooked over the fire to varying recipes. That night was also State of Origin – it wasn’t just the fact that it was the decider, but us smart arse New South Welshmen were in Queensland, surrounded by a million, no, a billion Maroons all packed around the small screen. We couldn’t see in detail everything, but we knew enough to stir the maroon pot. We were also thankful that there is a limit to medium strength beers in the area! With lots of good natured banter and a reuniting with the Quad bikers, we had to eventually confess with the threats of having our tyres slashed, that we were in fact the Quad bikers and parked at the end of the camp ground!!! Damn the Maroons, they won. In hindsight their win may have saved our bacon as there were a few folk that were very serious about their footy.

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Day 14 Thurs
Loyality Beach – Captain Billys Landing via the Tip

After being woken up by quite a number of high revving Quad bikes next to our tents we emerged shortly after for the day. Good morning QLD! Good morning ALL! Some of the other campers asked if we knew them…… um, yep. Setting off for the top it was finally the time to Summit this great land of ours. We set off for the tip and acquiring a native rain stick on the way. We had finally made it. Different to what I was expecting, but none the less excited to finally make it, we enjoyed the experience, had a beer, took some photos and were nearly blown off the side of the planet by some of the winds. Now it was time to head south again and begin our return. It was great to get there, but somehow disappointing as it also represented the beginning of our return trip home. We motored through to the magnificent Elliott falls and Twin falls where we stopped to enjoy the sights and float down the river. Like Fruit Bat falls previously, this was also a picture perfect set of waterfalls that I since noticed have been used in so much of Cape Yorks marketing material. We jumped off Elliott falls to view it from a new perspective, and floated down to where Twin falls came in and then walked up the adjoining falls. After such a nice interlude in another of the Cape sensational falls, we then continued on for a night drive down to Captain Billys Landing to camp for the night. It was on the track into Capt Billy’s landing that Andy managed to launch the Defender into the air, and then stop so Leila could retrieve the chair that had launched off the roof rack!

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Day 15 Fri
Captain Billys Landing - Weipa

Today the plan was to continue heading south to Weipa. Andy’s broken fridge was still in need of repairs, and Weipa had just the man to do it. Heading south we stopped at Bramwell station, where the Old Telegraph Track splits off the Developmental road, and the numerous termite mounts litter the scenery. On our way out a pair of huge Landcruiser utes hauled out a Daihatsu 4WD which had recently become drowned in one of the river crossings that we had passed through a few days before. It was here chatting to the shop hand that we learned of a river called Croc Creek, the one in which Andy’s Defender had been submerged. He was also quite direct in telling us “Don’t go in there”. Hindsight is a great thing, as I’d probably been in there for 1 or 2 minutes while attaching a strap to Andys 4WD. After explaining that we had looked out and didn’t see any Croc, he then assured us that they were in there. I taught myself some new swear words about then. We continued south, finding the reputedly very ordinary Batavia track, traversing it without drama and then continuing on to Weipa. Andy’s fridge was booked in for repairs, and so were we for the night at the camping ground. While there we also booked and took a tour of the mines. Weipa is a mining town, and so ruled by Comalco, not a government. The town is large and purpose built, with expanding ship loaders, massive massive open cut mines and bauxite moving machinery to match. There are specific mine truck moving superhighways even!!! That night we relaxed at the club with a fine meal – oh except for Pete when Chris (Pete’s very own brother!) forgot to order his. We ate, drank and seemingly made ourselves known. The club were kind enough to call a taxi for us to ensure our safe return to the camping grounds.

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Day 16 Sat
Weipa – Chilli beach

After packing camp at Weipa, picking up Andy’s fridge and resupplying with necessaries, we were back on the road again. A big days drive out to Chilli beach. The distances were not too bad, but the road in to Chilli was to be very slow and hard going. It started looking quite promising before degenerating from good graded, to corrugated, then to include huge holes before turning into a quagmire. We passed and chatted to some excited German tourists and were greeted by a number of the locals and abused by others. Crossing the mighty Wenlock River was a breeze, likewise was the very very wide but relatively shallow Pascoe River. After traversing the clay ruts and bog holes we arrived at Chilli beach well after the sun had set and chose what was probably the only decent camp site in the area – of course that was in the tour operators area. Slunnies tours all of a sudden came into existence. I’m not a fish person, but dinner was another magnificent fish entrée and main course. My hat off to the Andy, Ben and Pete the fine fish chefs.

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Day 17 Sun.
Chilli beach – Musgrave

Looking at the area this was definitely an anticlimax and the road in had been a lot of effort. The site we were in was pretty good. The site was definitely wind ravaged and some trees had grown out of the ground at about 45 degrees, quite literally! Unfortunately the storms had not only brought the quagmire, but also a lot of rubbish that was thick throughout the beach and the beach itself had suffered significant damage. Not worth the effort of a visit this year. Pete and Andy were low on fuel and we were heading out again. After spending hours and hours traversing the Chilli beach track we again found the Developmental road and quickly after we returned to Archer River roadhouse for an Archer burger and a hell of a lot of fuel. Andy had 12 litres left in the tank, and Pete managed to put more fuel into the tank than its capacity! Continuing south we again found the infamous radiator that claimed my radiator (GridRef 0719318,8498655). We crossed safely this time, gave it the finger and took some photos. The night was spent in Musgrave with a good camping ground, a roast to die for and some chat around the fire. It was great when later that night one of the local Aboriginal road crew, Mark, joined us at the fire to join in the chat and a enjoy a beer with us.

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Day 18 Mon
Musgrave – 5mile/Annie Ck

It was a slow day today. After being the last to leave the station it was time to head into Lakefield NP. Our destination wasn’t terribly ambitious being 5 mile creek. Shortly after leaving Pete also though it was a good idea to restock the fridges. We liked his thinking. After a brief wait, the returning Pilot informed us that we could have bought it while camping, but not for the road. Doh! Back to mid strengths. Unfortunately, while we journeyed into Lakefield, it would turn out that much of it was still closed due to the persistence of the rains and high water levels. That night we camped on the bank of Annie Ck and solidly committed ourselves to some drinking games. Well our efforts resulted in burly before dinner for Chris, 3 games of “4 Kings”, an aluminium beer can cairn by the fire, a magnitude of mozzie bites and 3 sadistic cocktails to be consumed on the roofs of a Discovery, a Defender and a Patrol.

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Day 19 Tues.
5mile – Kennedy River

We led for a while following the excellent maps on the Garmin GPS, the tracks being so comprehensive that those on the GPS were not necessarily on the ground! We drove over a boggy lake, toured somebodies cattle farm and eventually backtracked out again. Termite mounds were fascinating, all dead and all with tide marks from the recent storms and floods. A shame really, it was like a holocaust in the termite world. Then down to the excellent Kennedy River for a camp. We were dry after the previous night’s activities so it was a quiet and boring night before early bed.

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Day 20 Wed.
Kennedy River – The Lions Den

Early pack up and departure from Kennedy River and everybody glad to leave the mozzies behind, with a dose of antihistamines. Further into Lakefield for lunch. By the Kennedy River again where Pete got bogged to the sills after his hub became mysteriously unlocked. This was quite a source of amusement. Actually he drove at me, I unlocked his hub, he sunk to the sills and then I relocked his hub. Admittedly we laughed all day over this, while Pete wondered how it all went so wrong. Through the day we met the ranger who’d just been up to Bathurst bay for a look and pronounced the windscreen deep water impassable. We also stopped to visit the Red Lilly Lake to have a look at the birds, frogs and aquatic fauna which was very interesting. There are quite a few of these lake pockets in this Lakefield National Park, and I assume this is how the region got its name. We continued south into Cooktown for some fish and chips and got permits from the NPWS/EPA and land owners permission to head into Meg falls at the top of the closed CREB track for the next day. That evening we drove out to the Lions Den pub at the top of the Bloomfield track and camped there, drank lots, played pool and had good meal, entertained the locals and the publican and tried to empty their bar shelves. Thankfully they didn’t call a taxi!

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Day 21 Thurs.
The Lions Den – Lions Den via Bloomfield, Meg falls and Emmagen River.

Travelled in to see Meg falls traversing Aboriginal Lands including the top of the CREB track. The track was closed at Chinamans Camping area which we eventually found the back of. The track was wet and very slippery in many areas, including one decent into a flooded River. After turning back to ascend back out, it was taking everything the Simex tyres and Lockers had to offer. A deep rut requiring everything eventually claimed 2 leaky beads on the Discovery, a tyre off the rim on Pete’s Patrol and Andy/Leila climbed without damage. We never actually found Meg falls but had a lot of fun driving around. We continued down Bloomfield passing and having a chat to Corey who was on his way in. It was great to catch up, with Corey heading into the Lakefield, Cape the Gulf area on an extended trip. Eventually we got down to Emmagen River at the southern end of the Bloomfield track, which unfortunately was flooding and flowing too quickly to pass, and after some discussion we decided to return to Lions Den. In total the day advanced us by around 50 meters! Now that’s progress!!! Oh well, when one door shuts, another opens.

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Day 22 Fri.
The Lions Den – Mareeba – Cairns

The drive out was wet, and we sampled the worst pies on the planet after stopping at a servo at Lakeland. On the bright side though, we were back on bitumen, the roads were great, the dust was gone as were the corrugations. All of the things that we loved and hated were gone and now we were moving fast. Heading into Mareeba we decided to go karting at Mareeba’s Mako track. It was an excellent outdoor track with full timing system and excellent karts. When we got into Cairns we stayed at the backpacker hostel which was a good cheap way of doing things. We decided to go out for a meal and some quiet drinks and ended up going way over the top at PJ O’Brians. After dumping the pots of beer for Jugs, and then the Jugs for shots we returned to the backpackers, managing a druken pile up in the middle of a neighbouring Café full of customers. Chris was an absolute disgrace this night!

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Day 23 Sat.
Cairns – Cairns via Great Barrier Reef

Boating early for a reef trip. The trip wasn’t rough, but we were all feeling very very sick. Snorkelling and scuba diving seeing the coral reef, fish etc. Diner at the Café where we all fell over the night before, the waitress kind enough to explain the incident. Watched the trinations Rugby on the projector at a neighbouring backpackers to witness the Wallabys prevale over the Springboks by 49-0. Home and to bed.

Day 24 Sun.
Cairns – Cairns via Hartleys Croc Adventure

Trip out to Hartleys crocodile Adventure Park. Went on a Croc boat trip to look at the croc’s, demonstrations and explanations of the Croc farm, the Salt water and the freshwater crocs. It was here that we became a little more enlightened on the characteristics of Crocs. Well, a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous… well it seems that the Saltwater Croc, as in the ferocious man eating variety, is as happy in freshwater as it is in saltwater. So, don’t swim anywhere up in the Cape! Gulp, glad I never knew that! It was here that Pete left us to fly home for work. A quiet burger lunch and photo data copying was the order of the afternoon.

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Day 25 Mon.
Cairns – Sydney.

Pack up, out for brekky, drop cars off and fly home. Ah, home sweet home, but I could have spent another month up in the Cape!


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