TO THE TIP AND BACK

A TRIP TO CAPE YORK IN MY NISSAN PATROL

By Terry Lambourn

Prior to starting our trip, we had our Patrol checked and serviced by Nissan Bundoora Service Dept. They were efficient, friendly and stated no issues with vehicle. Good to go.

So, we loaded our vehicle up with all the necessities for a 5-week trip, plus attached our Camper Trailer. All the comforts of home, well almost.

We headed off early on the 29th July and proceeded to travel towards Lawn Hill Qld to meet our friends.

This was a long trip of some 4 days and most of the time some 12-hour days, travelling to Bourke, Longreach and Mount Isa. However, this was quite comfortable and the use of cruise control and air conditioning made the driving easy although, we had to watch out for all types of animals like Kangaroos, emus, wild goats and even a turtle crossing the road.

Once we got to Mount Isa, stocked up on supplies,the trip north to Lawn Hill was dirt road of which was corrugated and had several river crossings. This was comfortable even though a little bumpy and dusty, the Patrol performed well.

The weather up this end of Australia was getting much warmer and was already in the 30’s.

We did some walking through Lawn Hill to lookouts, swimming in the river is a must in warm conditions and canoeing in the gorge which early in the morning showed us how tranquil and awesome this place is. Great Fun.

We then headed across to Normanton, start of the Gulflander to Croydon, Kurumba (great fishing and sunsets), Croydon, Undarra Lava Tubes and many other interesting towns with all a story to tell and then across the top of the Gulf to the start of our journey up the Cape.

 Once we got to Lakeland north of Cooktown, is where the road changed to dirt, corrugations and plenty of them plus so much dust at times you could not see a few feet in front, especially when road trains passed. This was at times very slow, bumpy and dangerous. Always drive to the conditions and if need be, stop and evaluate. This made the trip quite hard on vehicle and driver. Surprisingly though, there was a lot of bitumen sections as they are in the process of bituminizing the development road to the tip and should be completed in 1 to 2 years. This will make it easy for everyone to get to the tip and experience some of the wonderful locations.

We made our way via Laura, Musgrave station,  Coen, Archer River roadhouse to Wiepa. This was at times very hard on vehicles and speeds got down to 20kms at times.

Wiepa is a mining town and was a great place to visit although not many facilities.

There was 1 caravan park (quite large though with a swimming pool – fantastic), 1 Shopping Centre and some specialty shops. There were also commercial premises for car repairs, fishing etc. At this stage car is going great, no mechanical issues and dust, even though lots of it is not an issue.

After a couple of days relaxing and stocking up with supplies we headed towards the Tip of Cape York via Moreton Station, Bramwell station, across the ferry at Jardine River (expensive at $100 for car and $130 for car and trailer – return for a 5-minute journey across river, but what can you do as it is the only way up unless you want to try your luck at crossing river, would not recommend) and then to Seisia for setting up camp.

This was another great place as caravan park is on the beach and great views of ocean, Islands and wildlife. A great Base Camp. It is also here you can catch a boat to Thursday Island and Horn Island and learn about the history of World War II and how it affected the north of Australia. 

Heading towards the tip of Australia, although not far from Siesa, it was a great track to the top. A must stop is the Crocodile Hut – great souvenirs. At arriving as far as you can dive I parked the Patrol and continued on foot over a small hill to the northern most point of Australia. Again, great views of the coast and the treacherous seas surrounding us. 

So now we have made it to the Top of Queensland, we must head back. 

After packing up camp and refueling we head back south via the Old Telegraph Track or a section of it stopping at Canal creek, Elliot Falls, Twin Falls and Fruitbat falls. This track is rough and has creek crossings, some hard and many ruts, need to take care. All a must to see as clear and refreshing swimming spots – to wash of some of that dust and relax, as well as some great photographic opportunities. 

The Patrol handled the tough conditions of the Tele Track remarkably well and even had to use the rear diff locker (standard with Patrol) making it easy to get up some of those difficult river crossings. After relaxing at the falls, we continue south again on the Development Road which seems to be a bit rougher on the way back. It is at this stage our friends, towing a caravan, broke an axle. This however, did not stop them they simply placed caravan on a truck as sent it south for repairs while continuing with us. The Patrol still going strong, had no issues which was great. 

We did several side trips on dirt to some beach locations on the east coast before getting to Cooktown. Cooktown has developed quite well over the years and is a bustling town with all services. From here we did several trips to local waterfalls and lookouts. 

After a couple of days, we continued south via the Bloomfield Track, visiting the Lions Den Hotel / Camping facility / Pub and a great icon of the area. This track is a great short cut to Cape Tribulation while passing Bloomfield Falls. There were some interesting sections on this track, with a couple of steep sections and water crossings. As we were towing a 2 ton trailer we had a small issue getting up steep sections but in the end simply changed to low 4wd and made it easily. We are now in Tropical Rainforest of Cape Tribulation with all types of Flora and Fauna. Beautifully colored butterflies, birds and some snakes. 

We did several side trips on dirt to some beach locations on the east coast before getting to Cooktown. Cooktown has developed quite well over the years and is a bustling town with all services. From here we did several trips to local waterfalls and lookouts. 

After a couple of days, we continued south via the Bloomfield Track, visiting the Lions Den Hotel / Camping facility / Pub and a great icon of the area. This track is a great short cut to Cape Tribulation while passing Bloomfield Falls. There were some interesting sections on this track, with a couple of steep sections and water crossings. As we were towing a 2 ton trailer we had a small issue getting up steep sections but in the end simply changed to low 4wd and made it easily. 

We are now in Tropical Rainforest of Cape Tribulation with all types of Flora and Fauna. Beautifully colored butterflies, birds and some snakes. 

The weather is still quite warm but nights are cooler. Still not able to swim due to Crocodiles, but the scenery makes up for it. From Cape Tribulation we crossed the Daintree River and headed for Cairns. This is a busy city with Boat cruises and many tourist options. As far as I am concerned too many people. It was here that I dropped my wife at the airport due to her time limitations as she had to go back to work while I had an extra week. From Cairns I went to Port Douglas, Mossmon Gorge, then south to the tablelands visiting waterfalls and Paronella Park (a must see), old castle and water fall with its own Hydro. In these areas where I saw many butterflies and birdlife. 

I also visited the single highest drop waterfall in Australia at 268m and some 60kms approx. from Ingham approx. 1-hour drive. It has some great lookouts and walks down to the base of the falls. 

Time is starting to get short and I must get home so I head south passing though some interesting towns to get to Carnarvon Gorge some 720km north west of Brisbane. 

Due to my limited time I walk 25 km in a day through Carnarvon Gorge seeing other gorges, waterfalls rivers and flora and fauna. I was glad I took a lot of water as it is needed in the warm conditions. More great views. Now heading home form Carnarvon gorge I have approx. 4 days to get home. I visited towns like Roma famous for its Bottle Trees, Thallon for its painted Silos and then down more dirt tracks across to Lightning Ridge. I spent a couple of hours here to look at old mine sites and historic buildings of the area. 

So, after some 10,000km of various road and weather conditions I arrive home. The Patrol has never missed a beat, no punctures, no mechanical issues and most of all the safest, most comfortable trip I have done yet. 

Note; I now understand why people towing caravans sit on approx. 80km an hour and it is due to better fuel economy on long trips. I found that towing a trailer at 85km an hour gave me an extra 100-150km. Well worth it, safer and you see more. 

I recommend anyone to get a Nissan Patrol and travel anywhere in Australia and see its great locations both on road and off. This vehicle properly setup will take you anywhere. 

I am now planning my next trip.
 By Terry Lambourn