Cape York via Simpson Desert 24 June 2015 – Day 23

Thursday, Jun 25, 2015 at 18:27

Peter Beard (WA)

After a couple of nights in luxury at the Cape York Peninsula Lodge Pete and Ali loaded up and turned the 80 for home. There’s really not much alternative to camping at Cape York besides the Peninsula Lodge but even so the service there is excellent – better than we’ve had in some major towns and cities – and the food they serve in the Paperbark Restaurant is some of the best we’ve tasted anywhere. The presentation says the dishes are prepared by a “proper” chef, the wine list isn’t exactly comprehensive but it has some choice labels. The first night both of us had the coral trout with a bottle of NZ sauvignon blanc and the second night Ali had the lamb curry, obviously made with fresh ingredients and not from a jar, and Pete had a very tender eye fillet steak. Both were delicious, especially washed down with a bottle of WA tempranillo. Cape York Peninsula Lodge was a real surprise for both of us and we highly recommend it.

Other than that not much to report on our reverse journey down the Peninsular Development Road from Bamaga to Musgrave. The track down to Jardine River is still cut up and lumpy. The ferry still crosses the swift flowing, inky river. The road crew is still at work - the crew has fixed the flat tyre on the grader and it is steadily levelling the track much to the relief of travellers. A bunch of motor bikes and us swapped positions, they pulled over to let us pass before the roadworks, then weaved through a throng of water trucks, graders and semis carting gravel to get past us, then pulled over a couple of kilometres down the road to let us pass again. Go figure that.

The track between Fruit Bat Falls and Bramwell Junction is still plagued by corrugations. The corrugations are much worse on the left side heading south, leading us to surmise that lots of people head north along the Old Telegraph Track - leaving the north side smooth on the bypass track - then head back south along the bypass track. More cars = more corrugations. QED.

A straight forward run all the way to Musgrave Station, a few showers settled the dust making the trip a bit easier in sections. The major hazard for the day being cars coming north travelling too fast when approaching us. We slow down and move to the left of the track to minimise dust impact and stone damage on oncoming vehicles. But that courtesy only encourages some to maintain breakneck speed in the middle of track and shower us with dust and gravel. Two stone chips in the windscreen today - another year, another windscreen on insurance. Pete's strategy to deal with this phenomenon is to stick to the middle of the track as he slows, headlights on, then pull to the left at the last minute. Sure slows them down and makes them pull off the centre of the road. This game of chicken took us all the way to Musgrave.

The only other sight of interest today is two people on push bikes sitting on a bank halfway between Archer River and Coen, eating lunch in the dust. Not a great road choice for a bike trip. They must breathe pure dust every time a car goes by. And that is lots of times. Must be better places to ride.

Final note for the day - Ali sends sincere thanks to the people that run and work at the Archer River Roadhouse for their honesty. She left her headlight torch in the room on Sunday and they saved it for us to pick up today on the way back. The light didn’t cost a lot of money but’s invaluable when camping and there aren’t many camping equipment shops to get a replacement out this way. Thanks for looking after it, guys.


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