Monday, 30 July 2012

Cooktown


Cooktown is renowned for being a little windy.  When we rolled into town, we really felt like a coffee, so went searching.  Being Sunday afternoon, not a lot was open, (ie next to nothing).  At the only place we could spot, we got out, and nearly lost the kids.  They near on got blown off their feet. 

The cafe had its coffee machine shut down, so we abandoned, and headed for camp.  We decided to skip the windy hollows, and go back to our old ‘haunt’, that being “The Lion’s Den”, 20km south of Cooktown.  This is where we stayed on the first 2 nights of the MySwag trip.  Wow, we were in a different space then.  It was all anticipation, naivety, a lot of ‘getting to know’ you time with the rest of the group.

This time we rolled in like old hands.  Knowing where to go, and having that air of “We’ve done the Cape” about us.  We did have to search out people and persuade them into asking us where we had been.  Sheesh, don’t they understand!

We picked a spot down near the river, and setup quickly.  The kids wanted to head straight back to the playground, so after a play, and a shower, we took the night off and headed to their restaurant / pub for dinner.  The beers and pizza went down very well, whilst we looked back over the campground where the whole group was spread out a few weeks ago. 

We shot back into Cooktown the next day to have a look around, and also decided to try to tick at least one of our re-set jobs off before getting to Cairns.  We had to get the 2 tyres we had beaded on the OTL taken off the rims and cleaned out.  The local tyre joint did us well, with a bit of advice for free.  “Never, ever drop your tyre pressure, unless you are totally bogged”.  Hmmm... it’s a black art, and a religious discussion around the good ole’ tyre pressures.

We did find a very lovely coffee shop open this time, and also played in the park near the foreshore.  Cooktown was where Capt Cookie ran aground out in the reef, abandoned a heap of stuff to refloat, and then ran his tug up on the sand in the bay at Cooktown to do repairs.  

'Dumped' Canon at Cooktown


Musical ship

From the lookout



We also drove up the very steep lookout, onto Mt Cook.  When we got out at the top carpark, the kids nearly went MIA for the second time, but this time for real.  We put on our grippiest shoes, tethered the little ones to us, and walked up to the 360 degree lookout point.  Very impressive, looking out over the bay, and out to sea.  Would have been an interesting vantage point for Cookie to assess what kind of ‘kaka’ he was in.  How do you navigate out past all those reefs??  Sheesh.

We headed back to Lion’s Den from there, and enjoyed a lovely afternoon swim.  Amy was a bit sad to leave, given how nice the whole place was.  Definitely a lovely feel.

Swimming at Lions Den

The Run Down South to Lakefield NP

With Jess well and truely on the mend, we finally drove out of Weipa.  It was great to get back on the road again - something we had nearly forgotten how to do.  A round of ‘Old Man Emu’ soon sorted us out, as well as apricot pieces and fruit bars.....  arrr, that’s right, now we remember.

The road back down was fairly uneventful.  We were expecting the corrugations to be a lot worse given the amount of traffic, but it was generally quite fine.  We had a lovely burger at Archer River Roadhouse, given how good we had heard they were (which they definitely WERE good).  We stayed that night at Musgrave Station, a quick overnighter.

From there, we drove into Lakefield National Park, apparently the 2nd largest National Park in Qld, behind Simpson Desert.  It has some pretty spectacular bush, again, dry bushland scrub.  We had booked into a campsite at Hahn Crossing to spend a couple of nights.  Qld parks have now implemented a process where you have to PRE-book specific sites before arriving, either online or on the phone.  This means that you have to do it sight-unseen.  Very annoying.

The site we had booked for 2 nights (guessed at) was well set back from the croc infested river, was fairly open, and, worst of all, was MEGA BUGVILLE.  We were warned by the previous family who were staying there, (we interrupted their packup when we turned up), and sure enough, late afternoon, not only the mozzies, but other mega bugs turned up.
Glenn trying to shave in peace


Jess at Lakefield NP

Savannah at Lakefield NP

It was also particularly hot, as in, quite hot, as in, let’s sit around, and pretend that we are loving this because we know how cold it is in Melbourne, but GEEEZ, we are sweating a bit.  Night-time was somewhat of a relief, but still warm. 

In the morning, we debated for a little while (not too long) and decided to BUG OUT (excuse the pun) of there.  It was good to be doing bush camping, as we were by ourselves, but still, not really that enjoyable.  From there, we ended up driving back to Cooktown through the National Park. 
A lagoon at Lakefield NP



Weipa

We debated heavily, over and over, whether to spend a few more days hanging out at Bertie, or to make the trip down to Weipa.  It was a beautiful spot, and the girls loved the swimming.  It was definitely the sort of place we’d been looking for the whole trip.  The problem was that we had Savannah’s birthday in two days, and we were sitting in a location with no phone reception, therefore if we stayed, grandparents, etc, couldn’t talk to her.  It would also mean we would be there for another couple of days given we didn’t want to travel on Savannah’s birthday.  We decided that it was too important for Savannah to be able to talk to the ‘outside’ world, so leaving ‘Camp Interuptus’ was the call.

That morning, we were greeted with a little more than the drizzle we’d seen over the last few days.  It actually had developed into rain, just for our pack up!  We stretched the packing out until there was a break in the rain, and rolled out of camp. 

We did our final crossing of Bertie, all without problems, and headed back to the Development Road.  A quick run down the Development Road saw and we were at Bramwell Junction for lunch, the starting point of the OTL.  From there, it was a reasonably long, but easy day drive across to Weipa.

As per most days, the girls did a sensational job travelling in the car.  They have developed the ability to do some pretty big days, even with long stretches of 3-4 hours without stopping.  The day usually starts with a round of ‘Old Man Emu’ on the stereo, all singing and clapping.  Morning tea can come pretty quickly afterwards, with various snacks been thrown over to the back seats.  The girls’ IPOD will often be requested after that, with their headphones.  Lots of Wiggles, Justine Clarke, Hi-5 all gets belted out.  Our best hope is that some sleeping occurs, but that’s not always guaranteed.

Mid afternoon saw us roll into Weipa, which is essentially a bauxite mining town.  It began as an aboriginal mission in 1898, but the town itself was established in 1961 due to the enormous bauxite deposits along the coast. 

We found the only caravan park that exists in Weipa, and as we parked, spotted a couple of MySwag people we’d just been travelling with up the Cape.  Ian and Kylie and the kids were in the pool, and had been there for a couple of days.  To our surprise, when we checked with the office, they told us that they had NO campsites available, at all!!! It was the last day of school holidays, and Weipa isn’t exactly on the way to other places, so this blew us away a little.  We did have the option of a cabin at $130 / night.... nice!!  Otherwise, it was go and drive back down the road and try to find a bush camp.

In talking this through with Ian, he mentioned the neighbours right near him were all packed up and were going to leave early the next morning.  After a little negotiating, we ended up sharing their site given they only had a packed up car on it.  They were leaving at 3am to get away, and were happy for us to inundate.  Very nice, and very lucky for us.

The next morning was Savannah’s birthday.  We managed to bring along and collect a whole heap of pressies, including glam jewellery items, a pink fishing rod, a fire truck and a sticker book.  Savannah loved ripping into these, with newspaper wrapping flying everywhere (no expense spared).

After breakfast, we attempted our first camp-oven cake.  It all looked good going in, but what was suppose to take 40 minutes was abandoned after 3 hours!!!!.  Glenn learnt a lot, and reckons he’d know what to do to cook it next time.. hmm.. we’ll see!!  Anyway, we salvaged what we could from the cake, and our saving grace was to smother it in lollies.  Savannah LOVED it, and was very happy to pick all the lollies off after blowing out the candles.
Birthday girl and her lollie cake

Dressed for the Party


Savannah was running around with a new fairy wand and tiara, declaring that she was the ‘Birthday Princess”!!!!  We enjoyed a swim, and generally hanging out in the great weather. 

That night, we went for a treat, a night out at the local bowls club.  Pretty swish place in Weipa, with a great outdoor playground for the kids.  It was all a bit luxurious, but we really enjoyed it.  During dinner, Jess looked a little off, which we put down to her being tired.

When we got back to camp, she had a temperature of 40 degree’s, which she’s never had before.  We started the 4 hourly cycle of panadol, and made it through the night. 

We then spent the next few days trying to figure out what was wrong, including a visit to the GP, and then to the hospital the next day.  We eventually found out it was a urinary tract infection, and thankfully we were there to get it diagnosed and antibiotics. 

This all meant that we stayed in Weipa an extra couple of extra days than intended, which was ok, and gave the girls a chance to really enjoy the park's pool!!
Savannah painting at Weipa Caravan Park

Our camp at Weipa


Weipa Beach just off the Caravan Park

Weipa Sunset


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Punsand Bay and Bertie Creek... ohhh, Bertie Creek!


We left on the Wednesday after an incredibly slow pack up, which included saying goodbye to more MySwag members who were shooting off south to start their trip home.  We drove the short distance up north to another park, just near the Tip, called Punsand Bay.  One of the big drawcards for us was the reported pool that they had.  The girls, being swimming obsessed, had not been in the water for weeks.  It was definitely hot enough for this as well.

In getting there, the park was a bushland setting, and pretty scrubby.  We setup the camper, and headed off to the pool.  We discovered this to be a small above ground jobbie, and a little run down.  It did provide an opportunity for the girls to get wet, and practice their swimming.  The water was, surprisingly, very cold!!!  We go as far north as we could go within Australia, and the pool water is STILL COLD.  You’ve got to be kidding!  Needless to say Glenn and Amy kept out of it as much as possible, and the girls turned blue.

Daggy pool at Punsand Bay - the kids were happy




After this, we had an early dinner, and early to bed.  Going to sleep, we could hear the roar of the gathered crowd at the Bar, all watching the NRL Origin decider, which Qld won by the skin of their teeth.  It would have been fun to be a part of it, but us parents with young kids were committed to bed!

Jess enjoying the dirty sand at Punsand Bay

We were happy with the quick one day visit to Punsand, so drove out the next day, heading back down the Development Road.  The dust was still quite bad, and the traffic reasonably high, so normal caution was taken.  We drove past the Nolan’s Brook turnoff, past the Canal Creek turnoff, past the exit from the southern section of the OTL, all with us acknowledging them, and remembering the last time we were there.

We headed for a bypass road for the OTL, about mid-way through the southern section.  This bypass road was probably the worst corrugated of all the Cape roads we’d been on so far, but thankfully wasn’t too bad, or wasn’t too long.  It dropped us back onto the OTL between Bertie Creek and Gunshot.  We did a quick few km’s south, arriving at Bertie Creek crossing.

It was a little weird being back on the OTL, but nothing too problematic.  We did get out and walk around the northern bank trying to look for a camp, which all seemed a little bare.  Glenn walked across the creek and found a fantastic campspot down a side track.  We did have to have a good look at this creek crossing we’d obviously done with the group previous, but that was following someone, and they all seemed to blur after a while. 

The crossing was fine, and we rocked up to a fantastic camp spot, with the Bertie Creek flowing low and fast all around us in a horseshoe.  The ground was level, and there was no-one around. 

Whilst all the girls swam, Glenn setup the camper, and joined them for a dip.  It was lovely clean water, not too cold, and nice little rapids to play in.  Just as we started to get dinner ready a little while later, Glenn was MOST upset to see another camper arrive, and even worse, set up!!!!!.  ARGH, why are you spoiling our peace!

Swimming at Bertie's Creek
After getting over that, we hit the sack listening to water flowing all around us.  If you were paranoid, you could have dreamt that the camper was being swamped and swept away.  Just as well we’re not paranoid.

The following day we just hang out around camp.  Lots of swimming, coffee’s, swimming, lunch, swimming.......  you get the picture.  We did get a little drizzle, (as we had throughout a lot of the Cape trip), but it was still warm, and no inconvenience.  The previous campers had left that morning (thank god), but Glenn was even MORE annoyed when another camper turned up around 3.30 that afternoon.  Knowing full well that it was the Cape, it was busy, and this was the OTL, all that didn’t diminish the disappointment of seeing another camper ‘interrupt’ us.

Glenn preparing the camp fire for the night

Looking back to our camp from the creek

Bedtime stories by the fire


The next day we decided to go for a drive up to have a good look around ‘Gunshot’.  Given we could take more time, Glenn got to ‘play’, and drove up.  We crossed Bertie again, and another easy creek crossing, and made our way up the track.  There was quite a long section where you had to drive on a fair tilt given the left hand track was heavily eroded down.  Weird, but nothing Slim couldn’t handle.

When we got to Gunshot, with no signs of butterflies given we weren’t driving it, we got out and wandered around.  It was great to see all the alternative tracks that were available, including some of the original, now near vertical tracks into the creek.  As mentioned, we did watch 4-5 cars do one of the accessible alternative tracks, which seemed a little bit of a strange thing to do, but no doubt a badge of honour.  A few of the cars got a bigger badge than others, inflicting various forms of damage on their car.  It was interesting though to see the car nearly vertical before it hit the bottom.

Satisfied that we’d see it, we wandered back to camp for another swim.  Whilst back at camp, mid afternoon, you can just guess what happened, AGAIN.  Yep, more bloody campers rolling into “Camp Interuptus”.  This was additionally annoying because we were literally about to strip off for our bush shower.  It did mean we had to take an extra hour in setting up a shower tent, showering, and packing up!!.. Pah.

Glenn had been convinced that we were being ‘interrupted’ by a certain type of people, that being “Nissan drivers”, given the first two nights saw Nissans turn up.  They must be a type of people that would do that, so he thought!!!!.  The theory was blown apart a little however when on the last night two cars rolled up, one a Nissan, one a Toyota 100series.  One explanation is that the Nissan driver had tricked the Toyota driver to stay there, convincing him it was all ok.  

Side-note, I’ve never been into car racism, but the MySwag trip got it all going.  Thought I’d give it a go.  Can’t say it’s a passion, but what the hell, a bit of fun!! J

It was extremely pleasant to spend some time soaking up the bush and the track through this part of the OTL.  As said, it is all too hard to take it on board when you are on the move with the group.  This was definitely one of our best camps on the Cape, and the trip so far.  Thanks Camp Interuptus!!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Hanging Out and Horse Heads...

Monday and Tuesday saw us hanging out at Seisa.  We did our small restock of fresh food at the supermarket, and sampled the bakery pies.  That night we decided to cook up the chicken roast we had brought with us, and then cooked damper (on the gas stove unfortunately).  Pretty luxurious, although we did go to bed that night with ‘damper guts’!

That night, whilst the girls were brushing their teeth on the back step of the camper, they all of a sudden looked up and not 4 feet away from them was the wandering horse, staring them in the eye.  “WHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” came this gut wrenching cry from both of them, as they backed up the stairs.  The camper flyscreen door was shut, so they couldn’t get in, and were therefore effectively pinned there.  Amy, who was in the camper at the time, couldn’t stop laughing, but did unzip the door to let them in.  Glenn came out of the hut and (in Savannah’s words) ‘donked’ it away, much to their relief. 

On the Tuesday, Glenn did a heap of checks on Slim, and a few maintenance jobs.  He was in two minds about checking all the oils until one of the other members found water in his gearbox.  That was enough to make sure the checks were done.  After a while crawling around under the car, Glenn was relieved to find that all was fine.  We did discover water in our driving lights, and a few fish floating around in there like a fishbowl.  Man, that was deep water we must have gone though! 

There was a LOT of car preparation that went into getting ready for this particular Cape trip, starting well more than 12 months beforehand.  This included things like fitting winches, brand new tyres, extensive spares, breathers on diffs,  replacing clutches, and making sure we had the right gear, such as car bra’s for deep water crossings.  All this additional to what we already had from previous trips.  It was satisfying to know that we were extremely well prepared, confident in our vehicle, and we made it through without serious incident.

Some members had been slowly heading off, all with various commitments and timeframes.  Quite a number left on the Tuesday to visit another beach on the way back.  We decided to head off on Wednesday morning, and given we only had around 30kms that day, it was the worlds slowest packup, leaving around lunchtime. 

As expected, the girls were incredibly sad to say goodbye to our travelling group.  Amy also found it a little difficult to say goodbye as we had all made some lovely friends, and the kids really enjoyed all the socializing.  They were a hit with the older kids on the trip, and even quite a few of the adults took a real shine to them.  They were great at entertaining, and being surrogate grandchildren at times.  Savannah even got a birthday present from two of the families.  We were very pleased to get some lovely compliments on how lovely and well behaved they were.  We knew better, but didn’t want to rain on the parade.

Seisa and the Tip

Seisa is a small, seaside place, just north of the “major” town of Bamaga.  Bamaga to us will be remembered for the bakery (great pies), expensive beer ($75 for a 30 can cube of XXXX!!!), re-stocking... and a thriving automotive trade!!!!.  Mechanics and wreckers do an amazing trade here, with work rolling up to their door every day.  Between the OTL, and the sometimes heavily corrugated Development road, the wreckers saw those who had written off their 4wd or camper, and the mechanics were kept busy on various repairs or replacements. Thankfully we didn’t use either, but some of the MySwag members had to pay a visit.

The Seisa Holiday Park was a fair sized park directly on the beachfront.  The MySwag group took over 4-5 huts, with numbers of group sharing each.  Everyone used this time to re-group, relax, and generally enjoy the fact that we had made it.  There seemed to be a wandering horse that called the park and surrounds home.  You would see it wandering around the campsites, and sometimes enquiring around the huts.  Very friendly.

After arriving on the Saturday, Sunday 10am saw us all roll out of Seisa to take the 30km journey to the Tip of Cape York, (referred to as Pajinka).  This started with the normal dry bushland type scrub, but about halfway up, turned into this most spectacular, thick rainforest.  It was a wandering track through the forest, and Amy commented how she imagined that this is what Gondwana must have looked like.



The access road ended at Frangipani Bay, a beautiful beach.  From there you had to take a 10-15 minute walk up an undulating rocky outcrop, to finally reach a... sign.  Yep, you get to celebrate with a sign.  Seems a bit weird, but strangely it does have a feeling of significance to stand there with that sign. We hadn’t really given it much thought until we reached Seisa, but actually going to the northern-most point of Australia, in the way we did, seemed like a huge achievement. 

We stood around and took our turn getting our picture taken with the sign, one which we are quite happy with.  A few have noted how happy and relaxed we all looked, and can see that photo coming out in the girls 21st photo boards, when their crazy parents took them to the top!!!  The girls definitely look cute standing there!

We Made it!

The MySwag Crew at the Tip

The Tip from another viewpoint


We jumped into the group photo as well before we all split, wandering back to our cars, and driving SOUTH.  We did a little exploring before heading back to camp.  We decided to hook into some fish and chips for dinner, and Glenn had probably THE best burger (top 3 easy) he’d ever had.  Very impressive, and NO WASHING!!!.  Whooo Hooo!

That night there was a group party organised to celebrate.  A tropical theme was the order of the night, and the girls borrowed some sparkly skirts and sarongs to get into the swing of it.  Glenn put his Hawaiian underpants on.  The girls had a ball dancing with the other kids in the ‘disco hut’, (mirror balls and fairy lights).  They kept going and going and going.  Whooaa, did they have the moves.

Then it was time for the big raffle draw that had been organised.  Some quite impressive prizes had been donated by many and varied people, which included solar panels, recovery gear, parrot fish purse, and first aid kits.  The tickets were to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctors, a worthwhile cause.

We ended up scoring a year’s subscription to a 4WD magazine, (will be great to read), and we were all highly amused to see one of the tough recovery guys (JK) win the parrot fish purse.  Suited him to a T.  The magazine subscription was for a 4WD magazine that is going to be featuring an article (or 3) on our trip.  They had sent a professional photographer on the trip with us (Matt), who had been getting some pretty impressive photo’s.  Let’s set if Slim gets his magazine debut.

There were a number of notable mentions for the trip, such as Paul and Maria’s “never say die” attitude in not letting their situation with their car get on top of them, and still getting to the Tip.  Amongst a number of others, Amy was highlighted for her “Give it a go” approach.  Being the only female to drive most of the OTL!!!!  What a champion.

After stretching the girls’ tiredness long enough, we scooped them up and headed off to bed. 

Day 5 – Canal Creek to Seisa

When we woke up the next morning, there was another light drizzle to greet us.  This didn’t cause the same angst as it had on the OTL, and for some reason, Amy’s butterflies seemed to have disappeared. 

We had aimed to be out of camp pretty early, but wasn’t able to replicate the 7.15 exit like the day before.  8am wasn’t a bad effort however, and saw us get ahead of a lot of the traffic.  We drove the 130kms down to Bramwell Junction in around 1.5 hours.  The lack of traffic, and dust, definitely assisted the trip.

Our camper was sitting there, excited to see us, and most importantly, in one piece.  Not a scratch, dent, or missing any parts as a result of the OTL.  Our decision to drop it off was never questioned by us at any stage.  A quick hook up, check over, and the turn-around was complete. 

We headed straight back up the Development Road, this time with significantly more traffic.  This is a fairly wide, and at times, very smooth gravel road.  The corrugations however build up over a short period of time, and definitely get worse and worse throughout the season.  Of more impact to us at this stage was the dust.  When following someone, the road can be difficult to see, and with the addition of oncoming traffic, and their dust, it can become near impossible at times.  Headlights are a mandatory requirement to help other cars seeing you coming, and you them.

During the run, we were able to reflect again on the adventure we had just been on.  It definitely felt like an achievement to drive the entire OTL, with young kids, and we were extremely happy with our teamwork and organisation.  We did feel like we worked our butts off, with a big day of driving, then get into camp, setup, cook dinner, do maintenance on Slim, get kids in bed, and try to fit in some socializing.  This definitely added to the intensity.

 The reality of Paul and Maria’s car drowning was something that kept bringing it home that the OTL can be a difficult, problematic journey.  It’s a little hard to describe, but the OTL can be a little deceiving.  The OTL’s legend definitely precedes itself, but if all goes well, and you don’t run into any problems, it would be easy to think that there was little challenge, and a bit of a walk in the park.  If something goes wrong, obviously it’s a monster, and a horrendous track.  Everyone would have a different variant between these two extremes we’re sure.

We reached the Jardine ferry by 12noon.  To our surprise, we met up with a half dozen MySwag members queued up at the ferry.  They had left Nolan’s Brook quite late that morning, and had been caught in the lunchtime ‘shutdown’ of the ferry from 12 – 1 (ISH).  We caught up on a little of the news, (and group politics) whilst waiting for the ferry to re-open.

The Jardine is quite a large, sandy, croc filled river near the top of Cape York.  In the past, travellers had to brave this crossing, which would have been quite challenging, and any recoveries would have been near impossible.  The ferry was a welcome introduction, and we had little trouble in paying the ferryman for our safe passage.

The final 50km run up to Bamaga and Seisa was uneventful, except for passing another MySwag member, who was parked up on the side of the road half-way up.  Whilst travelling earlier that day, all of a sudden the trailer let go, and self destructed.  Apparently two of the ‘U-Bolts’ on the trailer cracked, and broke apart.  This caused the suspension to fall apart, the wheels to fold, and the chassis and guard to be smashed.  All up, it was lucky they were able to pull up safe, but the camper trailer was an instant write-off.  Another unfortunate casualty of Cape York. 

Tim's trailer after the OTL and just 30km from Seisa
Rolling into Seisa Holiday Park, we said hello again to the rest of the crew, and set up our much loved camper beside one of the beach huts, which we were sharing with Mal and Roz.  The beach huts are a covered, sand floor hut with power and water.  Very luxurious.

Seisa Holiday Park

It was lot busier than this (thanks Google images)

The camper was set up, and we even went to the extra step of putting up the awning, which given the drizzle we had over the next few days, was well worth it.  Dinner, drinks, chats were all had that night, a lovely warm, mild night, and then a lovely sleep in the camper.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Bruises from the OTL Track


Trailer Plug ripped off after Palm Ck Decent (our 1st Ck crossing)
King Hit from Ducie Ck Exit (Straight after Palm Ck)


A 'high lipped' side step also courtesy of Ducie Ck Exit

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Day 4 – OTL Part 2

After Cannibal CK, we regrouped, and Paul & Maria, Maurie, and Geoff & Kay had caught up with us.  We all headed off through some spectacular, although rocky, bush.  This is where the comment of the trip occurred for us.  We were in the middle of negotiating a quite rocky section of the track, and Glenn made some comment over the UHF about tip-toeing through the rough stuff.  Maurie, the oldest statesman of the trip at nearly 80, in his old Defender, came across the radio with a “Yeah, not wrong.  My bottom hasn’t moved this much since the second night of my honeymoon!”.  Rolling on the floor laughing, we didn’t manage to ask why the 2nd night, but we’re sure that’s another story.

We crossed the previously infamous Cypress Creek log bridge, which in the past had been literally a bunch of logs laying across quite a big gap (which you could walk under).  It has now been filled in totally with dirt, so no problems now.
Cypress Ck Log Bridge

From here, we came across a long, lagoon crossing.  Paul and Maria were in front at this stage, where we all stopped, got out and walked the crossing.  The water was quite deep in spots, and had a sandy / gravel base, but still seemed reasonable to do.  Paul seemed a little nervous, but still opted to go across first.  He and Maria jumped into the Discovery (towing a camper), and started across the crossing.

Lagoon Ck - the Last crossing before Nolans

Much to our surprise, and fear, halfway across they slowed, and then stopped.  This wasn’t good.  The Disco had water half way up the driver’s door, and Maria was climbing out the passengers window.  We had to assess the best way to get him out, and with no recovery points on the trailer, we couldn’t winch him out backwards, as Glenn was ready to do. 

This is where Maurie, in his old Defender, come to the rescue.  There was a very small gap between the Disco and a tree on the left.  Maurie jumped in, and drove straight across, skimming through the gap in his old Defender with only a few centimetres left either side.  Slim definitely would not have fitted through there.  Very impressive!!  We then snatched Paul out, and watched as gallons of water came gushing out when the doors were opened.  It was quite disheartening to see, and very upsetting for Paul and Maria.

With Paul trying to dry out and see if the Disco would go, we had to go across.  Glenn put on a car bra, and braved the crossing.  Side-note, the girls, as they had on all but the first Palm Creek crossing, were engrossed in a DVD, and didn’t notice the deep water crossing they were going through.  This had the extreme benefit that Amy and Glenn could concentrate, and communicate, on the tricky crossings.  Funnily, just after we had done an earlier, pretty difficult crossing, we both heard the DVD proclaim from the back seat, “We are the CAN DO BANANNA’S!!!!”.  Thanks to Bananas’ in Pyjama’s, we become the “Can do Bananna’s”

Albeit quite deep, we got through the crossing without an issue, and walked back to see how Paul and Maria were going.  The Disco would start, but as soon as the accelerator was touched, it would conk out.  Although we felt horrible for them, there was not much we could do at the time, so we moved on so as not to cause a roadblock. 

From there we moved onto the final hurdle, Nolans Brook. 

Nolans Brook
After arriving and walking up to see the crossing, we were confronted with a very deep, reasonably long crossing.  The other members who had left the day earlier were all setup, camping on the other side of the crossing, forming (in their words) a peanut gallery to view the proceedings.  They had got through without too much incident the day before, but some had definitely had water come in the cars at some stage.  Duggie, (one of the recovery vehicles) had arrived earlier that day, and had turned his Nissan into a submarine by trying to drive across, and getting stuck half way.  His car still ran fine, but was a little damp inside!!!

The arrangement was that a long snatch strap was attached to the 4WD’s, and Duggie, now over the other side, effectively made sure you got across by pulling you through.  A number of vehicles went ahead of us, and when our turn came, again the girls were engrossed in their DVD.  The call came, and off we went!!

Well.....  When you drive through water in a 4WD, there is a bow-wave that is created out front from the water being pushed along.  In this case, the bow-wave started, and then very quickly, for the first time ever in Slim, water flowed over the bonnet and splashed around the bottom of the windscreen!!!!....  errrrrrk.  WEIRD!!!!  The water behind the bow-wave was probably low to mid door level (providing we didn’t stop), but watching water bubble around the windscreen is slightly un-nerving.

It was all over pretty quickly, and we drove through no problems.  We did get a little water come in through the passenger foot-well, possibly through the hole in the firewall.  Other than that, no problems.  It was definitely an interesting crossing, and obviously capable of being driven unassisted, being pulled through was a safe way of ensuring no ‘incidents’ occurred.

We went and found a park over the other side, did a little dance, and then turned the girls DVD off.  We walked back to view the action from the safety of the ‘other side’, amongst the peanut gallery.  It was definitely interesting watching a 4WD being near submerged as it went through the crossing, and we very much enjoyed particularly seeing Maurie successfully get across in his old Defender.  We snapped a few pics and videos of the spectacular, and also found out that there was a video of us doing the crossing.  We’ll be sourcing THAT when we get back!!!!
Maurie's entry into Nolans Brook

Maurie's big splash

And still going

Another 'MySwag' member making his way across Nolans Brook


Before the last couple of members came across, we walked back to Slim to get the girls some lunch before they expired.  Whilst making lunch, we heard a bit of fracas going on back at the crossing, including someone else hooking up ‘in-train’ to Duggie to add to the snatching.  We went to have a look, and found that the guys who had been towing Paul and Maria from the previous lagoon, had hooked up to Duggie, and tried to get everyone across at once.

Half way across, the tow (middle) vehicle had done damage to their front ‘lockers’, and had also got stuck.  This meant that both them, and Paul were stopped in the crossing.  The middle 4WD was in there, but only the back corner of the ute tray was in water.  Unfortunately though, Paul in his Discovery was actually sitting in his lame duck 4WD with water up to his chest.  We can only imagine the feeling of sitting in your car whilst it tries to act like a swimming pool.  Imagine all the things you have in your car below chest level!!!!!.

They eventually got the middle 4wd out, and then winched Paul out, 30 minutes later.  They towed him up to dry ground, and a couple of the members who were diesel mechanics started working on pulling it apart, and having a look at what state the engine was in.

There was definitely a sour feeling amongst the group at that stage.  It was a huge achievement to make it through the OTL, but also disappointing for Paul and Maria.  The early group had themselves setup on the far bank, and were camping there that night.  A large number of the rest of the group had decided to setup camp around the corner at Nolan’s Brook as well, whilst a couple had left to camp elsewhere.

We had decided that the best thing for us was to move on, and start the trek down to pick up our camper so that we could have it for our 4 days camping up near the tip.  We drove the final 14kms (of easy track) of the OTL on our own, and hit the Development Road.  We then started back down south towards Bramwell Junction, and our camper.

It was a VERY weird set of emotions that afternoon.  A little surprisingly, we were overcome with a huge sense of achievement in getting through the entire OTL, pretty much in one piece.  We had held our own in the group, worked together in a hugely effective partnership, and successfully drove one of Australia’s ‘reported’ difficult 4WD tracks.  On the other hand, we were continually thinking of Paul and Maria, and the feeling of disappointment of their situation.  For such a lovely couple, their predicament was an unfortunate thorn in their holiday, and dream to do the Cape trip.  They endured the scenario admirably, with an upbeat, ‘let’s not have this bring us down’ attitude.  We definitely felt for them.

We drive 50kms south on the Development Road, which at that stage of the season, was still a very reasonable dirt road, and not too many corrugations, (although EXTREMELY dusty).  We made it as far as the turnoff to Canal Creek, and after considering whether to push on for another hour or so to Bramwell, we made the better decision to shoot back into Canal Creek and setup camp there for the night, have a swim and a beer, and re-live the day.

The access road to Canal Creek was reasonably rough, and we were remarking how we really didn’t remember this section.  As mentioned, when you are in the momentum of the group ‘rolling stone’, you don’t have a heap of time to look around and take it in.  It all come home and hit us when we drove around a corner, and.......   WHAT!!...  a creek crossing??????.  Was that there before??  Did we do that??...  Is it ok???     WE THOUGHT WE’D FINISHED.  WE’RE NOT PREPARED FOR THIS!!!.

We both sat and looked at each other.  Errr, is this right?  Do we really have to?? 

Glenn got out, walked the crossing, and noted the tree on the side with about a dozen number-plates stuck to it.  It was slightly deep, but nothing serious, and after plucking up the nerves again, we drove across without a problem.  PHEW.  Another few bumpy KM’s saw us rock up to Canal Creek, AGAIN.  It was very strange, given we’d only just left there that morning, yet SO much had happened.  De-ja-vue!!

We found our camp spot from that morning still vacant, and so parked Slim in position.  This time we wouldn’t have our close quarters neighbours, unfortunately.  We did nothing else other than get into the swimming gear, and head down to the creek with a couple of beers in hand.

A little cooling off, re-living, refreshment, and chasing the girls around the water, and then we were back to setup and cook dinner.  Glenn decided we needed a camp version of ‘take out’, and we had Baked Beans and Spaghetti on toast for the first time.  We put the girls to bed for the final time in the tent, and sat around for a bit chatting.  It was a little weird looking around, thinking of the other campers, “You don’t know what we’ve just done!!”.  Especially strange seeing as some of them were looking to do the northern part of the OTL.  We also saw people assessing the same Canal Creek crossing we had done that morning.

Canal Creek
Glenn had found that the bull bar had loosened significantly on one side, and was hitting the panel.  With all the corrugations to come, he wanted to try to fix it up.  He found the problem pretty quickly, a sheered bolt which attaches to the chassis, probably from the hit the bull bar took at Palm Creek.  He found a replacement, and tightened everything up ready for the rest of the trip.

As Glenn was lying under Slim, a couple of guys came over to see what was going one.  This is where we got to, subtly, tell someone what we had just done!!!!  Was good therapy. 

We finally settled down for our last tent sleep.  What a day!

The OTL Track – Day 4 Canal Creek to Canal Creek (Part 1!)

The butterflies returned again the next morning, in spades.  We had been warned about the two hardest crossings, those being, Palm Creek (the first), and Nolan’s Brook (the last).  This day was to see us at Nolans!!

We blew apart all expectations on this morning, being fed, packed up, and ready to drive out of camp at 7.15!!!!.  WOW.  That shocked (and impressed) not only our neighbours, but more so, ourselves!!!.  We did also manage to down one of Paul’s espresso’s as well, which definitely got the heart started!
We quietly wandered out of camp, and Glenn jumped in to drive Canal Creek.  It was funny that, given we were camped there, swam there, and watched over a dozen cars go through there, it was the most analysed crossing of the trip.  It was a little tricky in that there were a few deep water holes to avoid, and most of all, it had a nasty little jump up out of the creek to negotiate, of which quite a few got stuck.  Nothing like driving out of camp at 7.15am to go straight into a doozey of a crossing. 
Thankfully, and with some relief, we managed to get up without a problem.  Amy took the wheel yet again, and we trundled off down the track as one of the first couple of cars.  We fell in behind the OKA, a big, serious 4WD truck that one of the MySwag members had on the trip. 
We crossed a few very easy, low creek crossings, and then come across Cannibal Creek. 

Entry to Cannibal Creek

A couple of the recovery team members were in place and ready to guide us through, which after seeing the track, we saw why.  Our first hint of what it was like was when we were watching the OKA inch down the drop.  It was quite steep, and the OKA had an interesting angle to it.  Our hearts almost jumped out of our mouths when all of a sudden we saw the OKA’s front left wheel drop down, and then the whole rig started to tip.......   big truck, big angle, tipping!!!!!... eeerrrrg, is that suppose to be happening????  Thankfully, it all corrected and dropped back down.

As one of the recovery team guys said afterwards, all it would have taken was for a fly to land on the wrong spot, and it would have been over.  Chris (who had the OKA) did admit that a little bit of poo came out when it was happening.
Having seen that, we were of course thrilled to be the next ones down.  JK from the recovery team walked up to us and said, “don’t do what Chris just did”.... errr... RIGHT!!!. 

Amy was at the wheel, and was an absolute champion.  Slow and steady, following the specific and overt instructions from JK saw us get down without any incident what-so-ever.  Thank god!  Good one Amy!
By this stage, Amy’s reputation, and endeavours had earned her more than a healthy respect amongst the group.  Clearly being unusual having the female doing all the driving, everyone was seriously impressed with how Amy not only had towed the camper on the Bloomfield Track , but also had managed most of the driving through the OTL.  She had not only kept up with the group more than adequately, she had also tackled some very serious, and impressive 4WD crossings.  The guys kept saying how impressed they were, and the girls were in awe, with Amy doing things they would not consider having a go at!!!  Amy earned a ‘Give it a go’ award by the end, and we coined the name “OTL-Amy”.  You’re a legend sweetie, very proud!!!!