The long road north

Get out your map of Australia now.

We are going to Cape York.  How are we going to get there? Read on for the route of our long road to the north.

We like to go off the beaten track.   So rather then heading up the freeway to Melbourne from our home in the Otways, we’ll head inland through the goldfields and wool mills around Ballarat and Bendigo.   Two of our party will meet us on the way.  Five vehicles will then head north across the great Murray River to overnight in the country town of Deniliquin.

Taking a turning to the west, our camping convoy will head for the Darling River, one of the longest rivers in Australia.  Our journey along the Darling will take us through small towns like Wilcannia that were once bustling river ports.  Back in the river boat era, the Darling was part of an extensive water transport network that took wool and other goods to the coast.

Leaving the river for the outback, the convoy will visit the mining town of Lightning Ridge, famous for its black opals.   Then on to Roma, home of the largest cattle sales in Australia, if not the Southern Hemisphere.  We’ll spend some time there admiring the animals at one of their  famous outback cattle auctions.

After the excitement of the sales yards, we head into the wilderness of Carnarvon National Park in Queensland’s central highlands to bush walk, admire the birds and wildlife and be inspired by the indigenous art.

If time allows, Longreach will be our next stop.  Famed as the birthplace of Australia’s Qantas airline, there is much there to interest the aviation enthusiast.  Those more interested in Australia’s rural history, can wile away a few hours in the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame.

Northwards to Airlie Beach, where the cars and campers will be given a few days rest in secure parking.   Skipper and crew will head to Hamilton Island for a week to explore the beautiful Whitsunday Islands by yacht.   On the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, this is a perfect sailing spot, sure to please even the most nervous novice sailor (I hope).

Refreshed from our sailing adventures, it is onwards and upwards to Charters Towers, then along the Gregory Development Road to Cairns and on to Cooktown in the Cape York Peninsula.    It’s starting to get hot and steamy up here.   Cooktown sits on the edge of the tropical rainforest and is a botanist’s paradise, as well as a handy stopping off point for the Great Barrier Reef or the Lakefield National Park.

Now in one of Australia’s true wilderness areas, we’ll take the Peninsula Development Road towards the town of Weipa.  Looking out for crocs we’ll head up the Old Telegraph Track to the northernmost tip of mainland Australia, Cape York.   This could test our vehicles and our drivers. Its rocky creek crossings are spoken of in hushed tones by experienced off-road drivers. Gunshot Creek, the scariest of them all, requires a steep descent into a running rocky river. As the old timers used to say, “there be dragons…”

Having made it this far, we hope to have time to take the ferry across to Thursday Island.  The island is the centre of the Torres Strait Islands region, culturally Melanesian but administratively part of Far North Queensland.

And there, as far north as we can go, we will have reached our destination and can make our way slowly back home.

This is the plan.  Dear reader, do join us on our travel adventures to the most northerly tip of Australia.  Bigredbit will document what happens as the plan meets reality.



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