We finally left Cairns, even though it felt like the universe didn’t want us to, albeit a day late. On the day we were meant to leave, we instead got the car in for a service at the last minute, to fix an idling issue we had noticed the day before we left. Then, on our way out, we also had to take Jess to a doctors appointment to confirm and get antibiotics for an ear infection that had conveniently popped up the night before. Considering we didn’t leave town until after 12, we then had an uneventful drive north to Lakeland, which is about 80km west of Cooktown, where we happily stayed at the caravan park that only charged for adults (as the owner didn’t think that kids cost any extra to stay). Even though she wandered around the park cuddling a pet magpie goose we really like her, she certainly had spunk and we nicknamed her the crazy bird lady, which she quite liked too!!
From Lakeland we finally began our journey on, what is known as the longest and roughest no through road in Australia, to Cape York, or ‘the tip”. We were unsure of how far we would get on our first day as all the research and current reports we were receiving indicated that the road was in good nick for this time of the year, however we were not sure what to expect. The beginning of the Peninsula Development Rd (PDR) which takes you all the way to Weipa, was a combination of bitumen, graded dirt road and nasty corrugated dirt road littered with wash outs and bull dust holes. Our favourite was certainly the bull dust holes which would all of a sudden crop up out of nowhere, we likened it to navigating a road full of land mines, thankfully we were travelling at a very conservative speed and managed to avoid or gently go through them. Not long after leaving Lakeland we stopped off at Split Rock to see the Aboriginal rock art. It was a relatively short walk of 400metres (felt like a NT 400m though….) straight up and along the side of a hill, the girls were so excited……. As usual Bec ran off in front while we all trudged along behind her, yelling out warnings of looking out for snakes……. however Bec was the only smart one in her runners, whilst we were all less prepared for this walk in our Haviana hikers….. The art was awesome and a lot of effort had been made to make it safe and accessible to the public, so we didn’t mind putting our money in the honesty box. The views from the rock were pretty amazing too, well worth the stop and quick walk to get our hearts started!!!
We stopped at Musgrave Roadhouse for lunch, which we were orginally planning on staying at overnight, however, with not much else around to explore and still feeling like we could continue on, we decided to keep going until we got to Coen. So finally after 6 hours of travelling only 350km, we drove through Coen and stopped at a free camp on the Coen River, only 10km out of town, with a drop toilet and phone coverage. In true Smith style, as soon as we arrived the rain started, not heavy rain as we have been used to up here in the tropics, but the drizzling rain that normally occurs in Melbourne. Needless to say it ended up being an early night, and even earlier morning as we rose with the birds and were back on the road by 8.
From Coen, we had spasmodic occurences of bitumen then dirt road, much like the day before. We arrived at Archer River Roadhouse for morning tea and to stretch our legs, and was also informed by a lady who worked for Rio Tinto and was handing out leaflets informing drivers, that there were 10 road trains travelling on the road ahead from the Archer River Quarry to a mine site some 150kms and that we had to be aware of them. Luckily for us we never even saw one of them, however we did notice that there was a considerable amount of bitumen on this stretch of the road, a coincidence I’m sure….. Another coincidence had the road pretty much turning to shit, with many a corrugation and wash out, after the turn off for the mine trucks. However, this was rectified about 50kms out of Weipa, where the dirt road was immaculate and smoother than the bitumen we had been driving on.
We arrived at Weipa not long after lunch, heading straight to the caravan park, the only one in town, and queued up behind another 5 vans waiting to book in. Thankfully, the customer service was great and we were quickly on our site and setting up for a few days. After setting up and having lunch, we quickly headed to the pool, as the day was hot and humid, where we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
The next day we celebrated Nik’s birthday, by relaxing in the morning and spending a hour driving around and exploring Weipa, before returning to the park and having a swim in the pool. We then treated ourselves and had dinner at the restaurant at the Caravan Park, ‘Barramunchies’. The restaurant had gluten free options and considering the price of staying at the park ($$$$), was quite cheap. Unfortunately, the Barra was not sourced locally, so instead, we opted for the house hamburger and chips, thankfully the chips were gluten free too, so Bec, Zoe and Jess for once enjoyed a meal of chips and salt and pepper squid. We skipped desert and instead feasted on chocolate birthday cake that Bec has baked in the morning.
After a few days experiencing Weipa, it was time to pack up and keep heading north on our next adventure and destination on our OZLAP………………..