Cape York via Simpson Desert 21 June 2015 – Day 20

Monday, Jun 22, 2015 at 17:14

Peter Beard (WA)

A torrential downpour for Cooktown overnight and this morning. The forecast of 90 per cent chance of rain was very accurate. Pete stared gloomily at the grey sky, not looking forward to the potential of closed tracks or nasty river crossings. We stopped at Cooks Landing on Cooktown's waterfront for some takeaway coffees and sandwiches for lunch. It was here in 1988 that Ali's sister Maggie ordered a crocodile burger and told the waitress to "make it snappy". Apparently the joke didn't go across all that well.

So with the ritual of takeaway coffees, sandwiches, fuel top-ups and vehicle checks completed by 8:30 we headed north and west out of Cooktown towards the midpoint of our journey - Cape York. The road is bitumen for about the first 30 km, gravel commencing in fits and starts as it begins to climb into the Great Dividing Range. Lovely scenery across the valleys were only slightly marred by grey skies and rain - brilliant orange flowering gums in one valley changed to pure white flowering gums in the next. Light orange grevillea, white cockatoos, flocks of pink and grey cockatoos and loads of cows kept our attention through the steep hills.

Entering Lakefield National Park on the other side of the ranges, the terrain changes from lush tropics to the start of savannah - trees thin slightly, grass makes an appearance and the land is full of lily-covered lakes. A sign at the entrance warns "Take care - all creeks, waterways and lakes in this park contain crocodiles". Duly noted. We made sure we stayed well clear of all creeks, waterways and lakes. Half way through the park is the Nifold Plains. Grasses take over the landscape, a few gum trees dot the fields in a veritable city of termite mounds.

The track is well formed all the way to Musgrave Station, wide and dusty. Yep, dusty. The rain stopped once we crossed the ranges and apart from a few drops on the windscreen from scurrying clouds it is blue sky and strong winds.

Lunch, fuel and a Red Bull at Musgrave set us on our way north. Musgrave is the turning point of our journey. Musgrave is one of the old telegraph stations that has transformed itself into a roadhouse and camping ground. From Musgrave there is one track to Bamaga and Cape York so we will go up and down again the same way, turning right when we get back to Musgrave for the trip back to Karumba via Kowanyama, then across Northern Territory to WA and back home.

The Peninsula Development Road north from Musgrave is wide but heavily corrugated. It climbs through a series of hills at first then settles in to a steady track of corrugations punctuated with steep dips over creeks and streams - most bone dry, some with a muddy puddle at the bottom and the occasional one flowing.

Coen is the first (and last, depending on which way you are travelling) town on the road north. We passed through Coen making a beeline for Archer River, our home for the night. We have taken a room - that's all it is, a room with a couple of beds - and are in the open air bar and eating area enjoying a bottle of wine, burger and chat to fellow travellers.

Here’s where we need to make an addendum, probably more accurately an erratum, to our blog of 13 June – Day 12. When we were coming to the end of our Simpson Desert crossing we saw a Commodore Adventra heading west and we raised some doubts as to whether (a) the car would make it and (b) whether the driver was actually sane. Pete mentioned this to a couple of guys we were talking to at Archer River and it turns out one of them used to work from GMH and the guy that did the design and development work on the Adventra actually worked for him. Turns out part of the concept proving involved crossing the Simpson from west to east and finishing with a climb up Big Red, which the Commodore reportedly managed with ease. So we apologise for blaspheming the holy name of Holden. Even so we suspect there’s probably at least a couple of plastic bumpers out the somewhere, dropped in the last week or so.

Before dinner Pete spent a useful half hour checking nuts and bolts (the radius arm bolts have worked loose again, last tightened back on the Simpson Desert, the source of that nasty cracking noise of our first day). The bloke in the room next to us, coincidentally also from WA, gave Pete some Loctite so hopefully they won't come loose again. Pete also rotated the tyres, swapping the back tyres for the two spare hanging on the back of the car to ensure all six tyres wear together.

Another celestial treat tonight. A fingernail moon with Venus and Jupiter shining brightly below in the eastern sky. Clear skies too so looking good for tomorrow.


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