Departing civilisation behind at Cairns
, we ventured along the Peninsula Developmental Road. This further
deteriorated right into a deeply corrugated trail which wound along the route of
the telegraph line, between giant rainforest trees and also across innumerable
rivers approximately the little Aboriginal city of Bamaga on Cape York. "The
beginning of HELL -- return if you can", proclaimed an amusing handwritten sign
even as we headed off into the wilderness!
River crossings of almost all
manner and form punctuated the journey -- with axle-deep sticky mud, decrepit
wooden bridges (the odd log missing here and there to add to task), deep sand or
fast flowing water to keep you entertained. It was a traditional four wheel
drive journey. The ultimate challenge, however, was the crossing of the Jardine
Even in the drier times of year, the Jardine River, just 35 km
south of Bamaga, was a wide, not too deep, fast-flowing river. In 1982, the
luxury of a little punt had just become available to carry the vehicles owned by
the less adventurous across this famous barrier for the princely sum of $15.
Many heated battles then erupted by the banks of the Jardine as cautious wives
and thrill-seeking partners debated the relative merits with the challenging
river crossing and the tame punt ride. As newlyweds, we too had our own dispute
here, but in our case it absolutely was the adventure-seeking wife whom desired
the river adventure!
To drive across a river this way requires
substantial preparation. A diesel motor such as ours requires a prolonged air
snorkel to draw in air from well above any possible water level. Tyres must be
deflated, waterproof covers packed round the engine and openings for example
fuel tanks and doors should be securely waterproofed. We watched with concern as
numerous vehicles attempted the crossing -- and lots of failed, becoming
stranded mid-river with the murkys swirling across the driver's feet and camping
gear floating at the back of the vehicle!
Finally the thrill-seeking wife
prevailed. A group of fellow Patrol travellers came to our help and gave us a
snorkel and also covers which fitted our own vehicle. So with our vehicle
trussed up like a Christmas turkey, we drove down to the muddy waters of the
Across the river we all drove, pushing a significant
bow-wave before us. Dave said it felt so good he wanted to turn around and keep
driving in the river! Then through a heart-stopping very deep hole close to the
end and up the steep bank we drove, masters of the Jardine. I bet they do not
have this much fun on the organised Cape York Tours.
Our dripping wet
vehicle on the other hand seemed little the worse because of its adventure.
However, it cost us more to change the differential oils which had become
waterlogged compared to little punt ride could have cost. So sanity prevailed
upon our return journey a month later and the Landcruiser required a sedate ride
over the Jardine on the car punt!