On the way to the Tip, of Cape York
We are now on the last leg of the journey to the Tip. Heading for Punsand Bay camping ground which is about 15km from the top. There is nothing much north of there, but for a narrow winding road to the parking area from which one has to walk about 750 m or so, but more on that later.
We are taking the Bamaga Bypass Road from Bramwell, which does a wide loop to the east before coming back west to meet the ferry at the Jardine River crossing. It cuts the Old Telegraph Track at a half way point. The Old Telegraph Track was constructed originally when the telegraph line was extended up the Cape in the 1880s. It is now a 4WD haven, but not for vans. Along the Bypass Road we stop off at the short detour to Fruit Bat Falls. This is another one of those iconic postcard photo places. Water tumbles over a 1.5 m ledge into a broad croc free swimming hole. But the weather was a bit unpleasant, cloudy with a bit of scatty rain. Allthego didn’t go for a plunge. We will return here on the way back, hopefully in better weather. There are a lot of those carnivorous pitcher plants around the track to the Falls. Pigs also plentiful as the ground has been rooted up extensively among the scrub beside the track and boardwalk.
Back on the road it is a short drive through to the ferry crossing. $135 return ticket! It is like a stones through across the river, but no alternative. The Bypass Road has been a fairly good drive with a long stretch of bitumen in the middle. The other side of the ferry is a different story, plenty of corrugations for the 40km into Bamaga and Seisia, twin towns and the most northerly settlements. It is another 30 km onto Punsand Bay. On the way back we are going to stop at Seisia (pronounced She-sa), it is the spot for the ferry out to Thursday and Horn Islands.
Punsand Bay is a very pleasant spot beside the ocean, quite a good restaurant and bar area. Their speciality is wood fired pizza, done in an enormous oven. But no pizza currently available as the Pizza chef has gone. Looking for a replacement. Allthego was tempted and disclosed his amatuer interest, but also lost interest quickly when it was indicated that they did 120 or so pizza a night, no time for a red while cooking!
The main game here was to go to the Tip. This is a half day type exercise involving a drive up through the rainforest to the carpark. There is then a choice of two routes. The first up and down along a rocky ridge line. Not an easy walk for people with knee afflictions and an aversion to heights. Homealone aborted the trek half way and awaited while Allthego continued on, finally returning after reaching the Tip. Given the time we had taken the tide had receded allowing us both to go back and make it to the Tip, along the shore line among the mangroves. An eye was kept out for crocs but none bothered us. The weather was the only disappointment, a pretty strong wind and scatty rain. But there were patches of blue and sun in between showers. Plenty of sea mist around.
On the way back to camp we detoured to the location of an abandoned settlement called Somerset that had been established by John Jardine as a trading type post in the 1860s to service ships sailing across the top. HIs son Frank later moved here. He and his wife are buried in remote graves along with a number of others. Not much is left of the settlement, apart from the graves and 3 forlorn cannons and a flag pole being swallowed up by scrub.
At Punsand there is a track off along the Tip coastline that gives a lookout down the west side of the Cape. Not far out to sea is Possession Island, Cook stopped here after rounding the tip and establishing it as the most northerly reach of the east coast. He went ashore there and raised the English flag claiming the east coast for the Empire. There is a lonely memorial there commemorating the event.
On a final note Allthego located the most northerly vanilla slice he could find. It was at Weipa, one had not been sighted since the street markets at Cooktown. What these Cape residents miss out on! The Cooktown slice was unusual, it was homemade with those lattice biscuits and came with a chocolate mouse stuffed cigar thing as a bonus, perhaps to justify the price of $5. Not memorable, but gets an honorable mention for initiative! The Weipa slice was standard stuff. We will see what we find heading home!
We had 3 nights at Punsand before starting the slow journey back down the Cape. First stop is Loyalty Beach at Seisia for the trip out to Thursday and Horn Islands. Before leaving we had a morning coffee at the bar and Allthego spotted a Cooktown Orchid in the garden. Have been looking for these without success, later learnt that they flower after the wet in March and April. So we have been lucky! Thanks for irrigation in the garden it seems!