Run to Cape York
From S/E Cape of Tasmania to the Tip of Cape York
Start from South East Cape Tasmania
Running on the Spirit of Tasmania
Welcome in Melbourne
Not much room for all three of us
A very emotional moment
Sunset at New Italy
Big Mango at Bowen
Asta making friends
No crocodiles here
Running in Townsville Marathon
End of bitumen. Dirt road 800 km there and another 800 km back
Some scenes from the road
Ferry on Jardine River
This was very tricky
School at Bamaga
We all three made it to the Top
Cook Town on the way back
I loved buying mandarines for $5 a bag...
...but hated to dump them at the border!
Not used yet to the cold!
Plenty of fresh vegies now
Ready for the sailing home.
A luxury cabin on the Spirit with the compliment of the Captain
Even a bottle of Champaigne in the fridge with an order to drink it!
Tassie in sight!
RUN TO CAPE YORK FOR KIDS SMILES
It is 22nd of May 2006. Bobby Weeding and I are on the way to the South East Cape – the southernmost point of Tasmania - to the start of my next charity run to raise money for and increase awareness of Camp Quality. I am facing the greatest challenge yet – 5,500 km solo run to the top of Cape York – the northernmost point of Australia. The plan is to arrive there on the 28th August – my 67th birthday.
The idea was born about 18 months ago. There are so many requests for donations by many various organizations so to stand out from the crowd I believed in doing something different to get attention for this worthy cause. First of all I approached outback tours operators I know from the Simpson Desert Race who happily offered to accompany me from Cairns through the Cape York Peninsula to the Top. On the basis of this promise my wife Jo and I purchased older campervan, good enough to drive us to Cairns and back. We had already prepared a plan and with that started to look for some sponsors. All the donations would go directly to Camp Quality and we will finance the trip ourselves.
We secured the services of a marketing organization CPR Communications& Public Relations who would give their time free. It proved to be a very important contribution to the success of our fundraiser. Asics supplied me with six pairs of running shoes Nimbus – the only shoes recommended by Sport Medicine of Australia. I have had already a very good experience with Nimbus which I wore during the Spartathlon and some other ultra marathons. They are the best shoes money can buy. They also supplied other running apparels of the highest quality that proved to be very useful during my run in conditions ranging from - 4 deg..C to mid thirties. Barry Ling from Barry Parkers Tyre company fitted our van with five brand new Bridgestone tyres at no charge.
TV Channel 7 produced a commercial which started to be shown frequently prior to the run. Donation started to pour in. The largest was handed to me by Rotary Club of East Burnie Sunrise - $ 1,250! All was going according to plan until I received shock news that my 4 wheel drive support through Cape York was called off due to illness. Well, it was too late to change anything; we have to make it on our own.
On the way south we stopped at ETC Bakery in Elizabeth Town to drop off a money box we would collect later. Got back into the van, trying to start, nothing happened! Great start! We had to be in Hobart for an interview with ABC radio in two hours so no time to investigate what was wrong. We push started it and safely arrived in Hobart in time. After the interview an auto electrician attached a lose wire to the starter and the problem was fixed. When I was going to pay, he said: “I cannot charge you for such a small job.” It was going to be the only problem with the van for the entire 10,850 km the van would be driven. 22 year old Nissan Urvan, no power steering, no air-conditioning, no 4WD. Many people thought we were crazy and had no hope to make it to the Top.
The next day we drove to the S.E. Cape and in the beautiful sunny afternoon started the run at 1.30 pm. First night we spent parked behind a pub in Dover after covering 49 km in 5 hours. The night was cold – minus 4 deg.C. Water left in the sink of our campervan turned into ice cubes. I am sleeping and running with a balaclava on my head, woolen gloves and a warm jumper. The frost was all over me, Bobby was laughing that I looked
like a snowman. But when the sun came out it warmed up so it was not so bad during the day.
Running through Geeveston we went past Sacred Hearts School with all the students waiting outside to give us some encouragement. Amongst them was Felicity Oates whom I met in Hobart during filming the commercial by TV 7 Southern Cross. A very brave girl, very friendly, always smiling in spite of having been through some very hard times during her battle with cancer. She is the one I always remember when someone asks me why I am doing this. Yes, it is for the kids like Felicity.
Greg Dwyer, teacher from Sacred Hearts School caught up with us and invited us to stay in his home overnight in Huonville. An offer too good to refuse – hot shower, warm bed, feels good!
The hills on the way to Hobart are much bigger than I thought. They slowed our progress so we were finishing often after dark which came at about 5 pm. The last hill from Kingston is 8 km long and then comes 4 km steep decent to Hobart. We went through Hobart finishing at 7 pm in Brighton after covering 76 km. Bobby’s sons lives there and is on holiday so we can have his house for ourselves. Being in a hurry I neglected regular eating and just about 10 km short of Brighton I ran out of energy. Fortunately there was a Mc Donald nearby so after a Big Mack I had no problem to complete the run.
From Hobart there was level running until after Bagdad (not in Iraq!) where I hit the hills again. By now I was getting used them. On the way I had a call from Canberra’s radio and as soon as the interview was finished there was an unexpected call from New Zealand newspaper. The message about my run for Camp Quality was spreading fast.
.The next stop for the night was Oatlands. We were ready for a decent meal so decided to stop in the Kentish Hotel. We asked the owner if we can collect donations while having meal. It was freezing outside and when he found out that we were going to sleep in the van he promptly offered free room with breakfast included. The restaurant is run separately from the hotel. The chef offered a rump steak for half price and when I was going to pay he changed his mind and did not accept any payment. This was the sort of generosity we experienced many times since. Camp Quality is a very much respected charity.
Next morning my friends Les Naunton and Chris Costello joined me for about 25 km to Campbell Town. They were rather surprised when in Ross I decided to have a meat pie and coffee. They thought that I would be more sophisticated in eating more appropriate food for a runner. In Campbell Town I noticed a football match in progress. I asked the organizers if I could do a run around the ground at halftime to collect donations. They said than they normally do not allow this but for Camp Quality it was OK. The spectators were very generous.
After spending the next night at Conara Junction camping ground we hit the road again. My next support runner was Debbie deWilliams. She was the first women to walk around Australia a couple of years ago breaking 5 world records on the way (www.walkaroundoz.org.au). In spite of recovering from illness she joined me for about 5 km walk. But she wanted to run! After about 10 km she stopped, said good by and drove off with her husband Glynn. About 500 m later I saw someone standing on the side of the road – it was Debbie – she wanted to keep running with me. She is a real inspiration for me. We spent the next night at the friend’s Copper Gallery in Carrick.
This is a place of unique beauty and I would recommend anyone to visit it. There are not many places like this.
During the next day I developed shin splints. I have experienced it once before when my feet swelled a bit during a long run and I did not loosen my shoe laces till it was too late. I did not tell anyone. People would think:” How does he want to run to Cape York when he is already in trouble half way through Tassie?”
While running through Latrobe we stopped at the Anvers Chocolate Factory. I was looking forward to a cup of chocolate with chilli. Might sound strange but is delicious! That’s how the old Aztecs used to drink it. Igor the owner comes from Belgium so he knows how to make delicious chocolates. That is another must visit. He and his staff were generous towards us and also made considerable donation.
Our last stop in Tassie was Devonport. We received a very good reception in Devonport Primary School. We were taken to the yard where there was a long line of coins marked by a chalk with the names of places I was going to run through, finishing at Cape York. It was a much innovated way of donating well over $100.
We drove to Burnie, I had one more night to sleep in my own bed. In the morning we checked everything again. It was the last chance to ensure that nothing important is left behind. It was raining. We had not had any rain until now. How lucky!
My wife Jo who was going to join me from now on with our German Shepherd Asta developed a bad toothache and was looking for a dentist. Finally she found one who pulled her tooth out just 2 hours before we were due to leave. She was nursing her swollen face and I was sitting in a chair with my leg up with ice on my badly swollen leg. It was a great sight!
Finally we are boarding the “Spirit of Tasmania.” The company donated return tickets for all of us and allowed me to set up a treadmill. I was running on it throughout the 11 hour voyage to Melbourne. I wanted to run the whole distance including the Bass Straight.
The staff looked after us really well, especially Tim O’Shannessy we know from Burnie. He is well known champion cyclist who has a silver medal from Commonwealth Games.
In Melbourne we were met by large number of officials as well as children from Camp Quality. Their Puppets provided an entertainment with Channel 7 taking shots for evening news. Good promotion for CQ. One very special boy joining us there was Jay. For anyone looking for an inspiration I recommend to click on www.jaysjourney.org
After spending the night at Boronia camped outside our friend’s Rudolf and Vicky Skrucany’s house we started our mainland leg. Rudolf jumped in our campervan to guide Jo out of the city onto the Princess Highway. Vicki picked him up from there and we were from now on our own. Jo was really scarred of driving the van – manual, no power steering and much larger then ordinary car. But she managed to get used to it very quickly.
We are now progressing well as planned. My leg is improving so there is no drama. We are stopping for nights near petrol stations, parks or wherever we find a suitable place to stay, preferably places with toilets.
A few days after departing from Melbourne I was joined by runners Ian and Sue who would use this run as training for Gold Coast Marathon. During 25 km they ran with me we were talking about running and also I was trying to impress on them the importance of
the Camps not only for the children but for their parents as well. When they decided to stop, Sue handed to me a card. Inside was a cheque for $500 which stunned me but after reading the card I was in tears. It said apart from wishing me well: “The donation is in the memory of my son Alistair who spent two camps with Camp Quality before he passed away, aged 8 years, on 14/4/95. Sue & Ian.” She then showed us the albums with pictures of Alistair having fun during the camps. She confirmed to me that what I was saying was true. The same day I was met on the road by members of the Lions Club of Waragul who presented a cheque for $1000. To top the day up, I received a call from “Doc” Hancock from Coast FM Radio from Wynyard in Tasmania. From that day on “Doc” and Dean Holloway kept calling regularly to keep the listeners up to date with our progress. This was the most welcome connection with home.
A couple of days later I was joined by Kelvin Marshall I have not met since we both took a part in Simpson Desert Race. It is always nice to meet old friends.
The next day in Traralgon we had a planned stop at the Police Station – no trouble, only an interview with TV and a journalist from local newspaper. Ampol Horizon donated a tank full of petrol – much appreciated. Back on the road we were stopped by passing Coca Cola rep who offered a box of bottles of Powerade . Another gesture of support for Camp Quality. There was some rain overnight but again no rain during the day.
Night was spent in another picnic spot. In the morning I had an interview with a journalist from Gippsland Times. The following night we spent in a Caravan Park in Bairnsdale. This was the first chance of a shower in 6 days!
The weather has been very good, it warmed up considerably and even mosquitoes started to bite. The night was spent behind a petrol station.
After passing through Lake Entrance in a beautiful weather we hit the hills. For the next 145 km there would be nothing but hills. The swelling of my leg was gone and the pain too. The hills are not going to bother me.
While passing through Orbost we were told that this was the first fine day they had after 18 days of continuous rain. We have been on the road for 18th days of fine weather. We seemed to be taking the good weather with us. Someone has been looking after us!
Though fine, the temperature dropped dramatically. When leaving Cann River it was minus 1 degree C. We have now completed the first 1,000 km. I started in another pair of Asics Nimbus though the first pair was still in a very good condition. Just to play it safe.
We are now progressing through a middle of nowhere. Stopped for the night at a rest area just before NSW border. As soon as we stopped it started raining. It was so noisy on the roof of the campervan that we could not sleep. There was no reception neither on our mobiles nor TV. Well, we better get used to this. In the morning showers continued. It was very frustrating. As soon as I started running in my Gortex raincoat, the rain would stop, the sun came out and I was too hot. As soon as I took the coat off and put a light jacket on, it started to rain again and got cold. The weather was playing like this with us all day. We were happy to arrive in Eden and had a nice hot shower in the Caravan Park. But it was very cold and we quickly buried ourselves in our sleeping bags.
In the morning there was another interview for local newspaper and another huge hills all the way to Bega. Another newspaper interview , more freezing mornings with frost all around and more hills. The countryside was beautiful, almost like Tasmania, only the hills seemed to be even bigger than ours! Another night spent in a car park this time Central Tilba – a very picturesque National Trust Village. The cold weather continued for several more days, so were the hills. Every day there was another newspaper interested in a story. We were very pleased to be getting so much publicity for Camp Quality. On day 24 we reached Nowra well after dark – covered 75 km – needed to have another shower after about 5 days without. Sometimes there was no Caravan Park to stop at, other times they would not allow dogs – so most of the time we would stay at parks, petrol stations or car parks, whether it was permitted or not. We had no other choice.
We are now running on a freeway, not easy for Jo to stop and wait for me. Day 26 was one of the longest. We could not find a reasonable spot to stop so had to keep running 84 km to Heathcote. Bought nice takeaway seafood – too late to organize own meal. Found a nice spot in a car park near the sea with toilets in vicinity. This time, far away from highway, we hoped for a quiet night for change. The sea got very rough and noisy. We are slowly getting used to a lack of decent sleep.
Day 27 and we are in Sydney. It was supposed to be simple. “Just follow the Princess Highway and just before the Harbour Bridge you’ll find the office of CPR where you will meet with Rachael from CPR and Aimee from Camp Quality.” Rachael had been very supportive, calling every day to check on our whereabouts and getting media to contact us. She even emailed a map to me with direction how to get there, unfortunately I could not access my email. So we got lost. Jo went one way – the correct way, I went a different way. However, thanks to both having mobiles we found each other and about an hour later were reunited again.
After a cup of coffee with Rachael and Aimee we kept going as there was nothing else to do in Sydney. Stopped at a picnic area in Hornsby.
Ron Schwebel joined me the next morning only to experience another mishap. Jo followed my instruction to stick to highway no 1. I was surprised that there was so little traffic and after running for a while without a sign of Jo I asked Ron how far had we run – his monitor showed 7 km! So where is Jo? She is supposed to stop after 2 km! A call to her provided the answer. I planned our route from old maps which did not show the new freeway so Jo following the sign with No 1 ended up on it with no turning back. We were on the Old Princess highway. It took several hours before she found way back to meet us at the Hornsby River. From here on we continued on the Old Princess Highway – winding hilly and very quiet – a very enjoyable run. Finished our run in Gosford from where we drove to Umina staying at Tina and David Dogherty’s house. Enjoyed nice meal and a hot shower. Even sitting at a table has become a luxury for us. Overnight started to rain heavily and kept raining while we were driving back to Gosford to re start our run. By the time we got ready to hit the road the rain stopped! It is very cold though so I am running hard to keep warm. We bought a new map of NSW to avoid any more silly mistakes.
Next day I woke up with sore throat. Took a couple of Panadols sweating all day while running and then all night. That fixed that problem.
The next night we got into a Caravan Park at Karuah. Asta developed an appetite for food and ate more dry food than normally. Soon after she tried to throw up but could not. I noticed her belly swelling up rapidly and getting very hard. There was no vet so we had to drive quickly back 30 km to Raymonds Terrace to find one. It was 8 pm so we had to call an emergency number. The lady vet lived 30 km away so it would take 30 minutes to get there. We were in panic as Asta was really suffering. Finally the vet arrived and told us to leave Asta there overnight. She would call as at 7.30 the next morning. All the Caravan Parks were closed by then and since there was nowhere to park our van overnight we had to drive back to Karuah. Needless to say that we did not sleep, expecting the worst. But when the phone rang the news was great: “Asta is fine!” We did not mind parting with almost $500 – we were so happy to have Asta again with us! After picking her up we were back on the road. We did not lose much time, only a night’s sleep.
On day 32 we finished the day early at Taree. The weather warmed up and we both got craving for beer! Jo never drinks beer but today we both were ready for one after a month into the journey. We bought a carton and from now on we finished every day with a stubby of light beer.
The temperature is rising to a very pleasant 18 deg.C. Paul Jefrree from Pert Macquarie joined me for a run and like all the other support runners made a donation to Camp Quality. After running on a busy highway we used the first opportunity to turn off to a scenic drive close to the sea. The next couple of nights we camped at SLSC and rest areas apart from Telegraph Post past Port Macquarie where we stayed at Stoney Park – very well kept Caravan Park with lots of waterways designed for water sports.
Day 37 we got to Coffs Harbour where we stayed in a Caravan Park for 2 nights. There was a sausage sizzle organized by Tina and Amanda from the Camp Quality office and we were to finish my run there the next day. It was to promote their project – building a house by volunteers using material mostly donated by various companies. They are hoping to make good profit when it is sold. The temperature is already 22 deg.C – we are starting to enjoy this weather. Although we were ahead of schedule we had set up new dates for arrival at Surfers Paradise and Brisbane and with events planned on the new dates I had to run hard for the next few days to make up for the day lost at Coffs Harbour. It was 81 km to Grafton where we stayed behind a Roadhouse, 83 km to New Italy – a very interesting place with an Italian Museum displaying history of Italian settlement in this area as well as interesting scenes from Italy. All free, even coffee and biscuits. No strings attached! A very cold night. We heard on news that this was the coldest night in Canberra for 40 years! Where is the global warming? The countryside is changing. About 20 km north of Grafton we saw the first Sugar Cane plantations.
The next day was 90 km to Brunswick Heads. By now we had caught up so could afford an easy day – only 47 km to Chinderah. As soon as we settled down in a Caravan Park it started pouring and never stopped till morning. By then it stopped and I could run again without getting wet. Our next stop was Tweed Heads where Jenniffer and John Gilmore had organized a successful fundraiser in a local Shopping Centre. Soon after we crossed the border to Queensland where our nightmare started at Nerang. The total distance for the day was only 37 km so we arrived very early looking forward to a relaxing afternoon. But both Caravan Parks were “No dogs” and all the public spaces and parks had big signs “No sleeping overnight even in cars.” It took several desperate hours to finally find a Caravan Park in Advance Town which allowed dogs. There were no signs pointing to the town so again it took a long time to find it. We arrived there well after dark but relieved.
The next morning we had a breakfast at Subway with Bianca Williams from Brisbane office of CQ and other staff and supporters. Scott Stevens and Lindsay Phillips started running with me while Jo went ahead following the ladies from CQ who would lead her to the Library about 2 km away where she would wait for us. However when we got there, there was no sign of Jo. When calling her on mobile I found out that she was left at a car park near a Community Centre in spite of trying to convince them that this place did not look like the Library we saw several times the day before while driving around looking for a place to stay. It took about an hour to find her. The plan was to run on service roads but at that moment we realized that it was impossible for Jo to find her way without any navigator. We decided to get on the freeway in spite of ban on pedestrians. We hoped that the police would let us get away with it seeing what we are about. We kept running on with Lindsay till midday when we get off for a break. There Lindsay was picked up by his friend but lent to us his Brisbane Street Directory. The service roads from where we stopped were much easier to follow so we could stay off the freeway and continue to Springfield where we parked behind a Roadhouse.
Our next stop was Czechoslovak Club at Burbank. After running about 12 km in heavy traffic and getting lost all the time we decided to drive the last 10 km to the Club. Fortunately Brisbane runners Karen Wiersma and Adrian Pearce were interested in joining me for a run and were disappointed that I was already there so we agreed to go for a 10km run. It was very enjoyable run on country roads after all the hassles of running on freeways and getting lost. I was also happy to make up for the unfinished kilometers.
We had a traditional Czech meal in the Club which was most welcome, collected a considerable amount in donations and stayed over night on the grounds of the Club.
Lindsay arrived in the morning to show us the way to the New Farm Park where Bianca organized a sausage sizzle. There were many Brisbane runners from Pat Carrol’s training group to show support and together with proceeds from a raffle several hundreds of dollars were donated to CQ.
I am on the way again, joined by Jessica Savage and Dave Brelsford while his wife Anne was driving ahead leading the way to their home at Lawnton where we stayed overnight. Dave with Colin Colthorpe – a sub three hours marathon runner – joined me in the morning. Colin ran with me for about 40 km when he called his friends to pick him up. When they arrived we noticed the lady’s Swiss accent. We have a friend cheese maker who moved to Queensland some years ago and we lost contact with him. She did not know him but offered to contact the Swiss Club to find out. About an hour later Colin rang up with a number. We rang our friend up just to say hello. Queensland is a very large state so we could not expect to meet them. It was unbelievable to find out that they live less than 10 km from Lansborough where we were going to finish the day’ run. We had a happy reunion with Frank Marchand and his wife Elizabeth. Frank had built a cheese factory Heidi in Tasmania and was making the best Gruyere in Australia. In fact his cheese was judged the Best Cheese of all varieties at Sydney Royal Show. After he sold the factory to Lactos he moved to Queensland for well deserved retirement.
The next day we went pass Ettamogah Pub and finished at Yiandina. Never heard of it
before but should have – it has the largest Ginger Factory in the world!
Patrick O’Kane who owns the Yiandina Caravan Park offered a free cabin for the night. Jo slept there while I stayed with Asta in the campervan. We all had more room for the night. Patrick with his daughter Ashleigh cooked nice meal for dinner. All much appreciated. Patrick, himself a runner, joined me for about 10 km in the morning but not before making a considerable donation.
From Brisbane until now we have been running on country roads but now it is back on Bruce Highway.
Day 50 and weather has been steadily getting warmer. Today is 28 deg. C in shade! Our next stop is Tiaro where the local council encourages tourists to stay for up to 48 hrs free in camping area behind a pub. There is even free shower. It has a large rose built into the
ceiling and all you have to do is to press a button – water of the right temperature starts running.
The next day was long – 79 km to Childers. Very noisy night behind a Roadhouse. The trucks kept coming and leaving making a lot of noise. The towns are far apart, all we can see are Sugar Cane fields. After staying overnight at a good camping ground at Gin Gin we are on a very narrow road with no shoulders. I have to be very careful not to get run over. We had few small showers today. It is the third day we had some rain. And it was the last for the entire 92 days! Any rain or showers occurred overnight.
Day 56 we arrived at Rockhampton. We have now crossed the Tropic of Capricorn – we are officially in tropics. Visited the office of Camp Quality and settled for the night in Parkhurst Caravan Park. The owner while walking around the park stopped at our van. He regretted charging us for the night but asked us to stop in the morning in the office. He made a donation of $100.
It is now 6 days of running to Mackay and very little civilization on the way. Even no reception for our mobiles or TV. There were a couple of good camping grounds at Clairview and Showground at Sarina where we could enjoy a nice hot shower. Otherwise we had to stop wherever we could without any facilities.
Looking forward to Mackay we got a shock as soon as we got there. Due to a Mining Exhibition there was absolutely nowhere to stay. We ended in Caravan Park at Marian some 20 km away.
The days are getting warm again; our overnight stops are at Bloomsberry Roadhouse, a caravan park past Poserpine and Showground at Bowen – famous for its Mangos. However no mangos available – the mango season starts in November. Apart from mangos there are huge tomato plantations – never seen plants so large and so full of tomatoes.
The next three nights we were lucky again to have good camping grounds – Guthalungra, Home Hill with modern facilities including a free shower and Giru near a Sugar Mill.
On Monday 31st July we are in Townsville. Stopped behind a Roadhouse 5 km south of the city.
The first stop in the morning was Camp Quality Office. Lorraine and Christine made us feel most welcome. They had organized media for 2.30 pm and several Camp Quality children to run with me. But the Prime Minister John Howard was in the town and that was much bigger story for them. They cancelled our appointments.
I had planned to run the Townsville Marathon but it was not on until Sunday 6th August.
Not to waste too much time we decided to run to Ingham over two days and back over next two days. We had now 255 km credit we would use after the Marathon.
The organizers of the Running Festival were great. They even let us stay overnight only 20 meters from the starting line! It was most welcome especially since the start was at 5.30 am. The race is run on a very picturesque course. When the sun comes out, there is enough shade for much of the course to make the running comfortable even when it gets hot. Col Kenna with his committee did a fantastic job organizing such a huge Running Festival. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to be a bit cautious not to run too hard but did not want to disgrace myself either. At the end I was happy with my time 3hrs 51 minutes and a trophy for 2nd place in my age category.
Soon after the presentation we drove 255 km we had “pre- run.” It got us to Innisfail ready to re start our run in the morning. The media coverage in Townsville was great. We had a big story in the Townsville Bulletin and on TV Channel 7. Getting publicity for Camp Quality is as important as raising funds. We are achieving both.
Innisfail, Babinda and surrounding countryside are still carrying the scars of Cyclone Larry 5 months ago. Many houses have tarps covered roofs – there are not enough tradesmen to repair the enormous damage in time before the next cyclone season starts. On the top of it they had a lot of rain until we arrived!
On the way to Cairns we were met by a journalist and a photographer from The Cairns Post. For once we were able to buy the paper next morning and read the story. After leaving Cairns and stopping at a Shopping Centre we started running up the huge hills of Kuranda Range. TV caught up with us to run a story on the evening news as well as ABC Radio Station broadcasting throughout the whole Cape York. From there on everyone we met seemed to know about the run and Camp Quality.
Arriving in Mareeba there was Kylie Reghenzani from Tablelands Advertiser waiting for us for another newspaper article. The support from the media made our effort really worthwhile. Mareeba district produces about 85% of all coffee produced in Australia. We learnt that due to diseases all coffee produced in third world countries is subject to chemical spray, Australian coffee is disease free and therefore no chemicals are used to spray it with.
We are now on Cape York Peninsula. The road up to Lakeland is still sealed Weather is good, lovely tropical countryside and good camping grounds. We stayed at two Caravan Parks – Mt. Carbine and Lakeland – owners of both let us stay free of charge. Going through Palmer River we are told that there is still gold in the river to be found. We are finding the gold in the hands of many generous donors!
After Lakeland the sealed roads ends. The gravel road is badly corrugated. So this is what to expect for the next 800 km to the Tip and then 800 km back!
About 40 km past Lakeland there is some bitumen – why here is a bit of mystery for us. Back on dirt road we arrive at Laura. A small town with a new Information Centre built to attract tourists to visit cave paintings some 25,000 years old. The gentleman from the Centre came out with this advice: “I advise you, sir, to turn back right now! There is no way you can go any further with this vehicle!” My reply was simple:
“If we come across an obstacle we cannot possibly overcome we will turn back. But I am not turning back on an advice no matter how well it is meant.” On the way back I saw the man outside the Centre and before I could say anything he said:”Congratulation, I know you made it to the Top. I heard you talking about it on the ABC Radio.”
The roads were really badly corrugated and very dusty, but surprisingly there were some very good stretches as well. We enjoy this part of our run. It was all very different. Termites Mounds seemed to be getting bigger and bigger and close together as we were progressing north. Weather was warm; all we had to wear was shorts and singlet. There was always westerly breeze which made the running bearable. The worst part was the nights. Too warm for comfort. Asta was puffing all night, it was impossible to get decent sleep. But when the morning came, all was forgotten. Temperature rose to 34 deg.C but with the low humidity it was not so bad. Every now and then there was a stretch of bitumen in the middle of nowhere. I was amazed how everything suddenly looked so civilized. There wasn’t much traffic so the dust did not create any real problems. It was interesting to note that the grass and trees on the eastern side of the road were covered with red dust the other side of the road was green. Musgrave Telegraph Station offered another pleasant overnight stay.
Soon after completing 5,000 km we arrived in Coen, called Virtual Capital of Cape York.
It has a Police Station, Caravan Park, Pub and two shops and population 300!
When I caught up with Jo in front of (S)Exchange Hotel the owners Brett and Roslyn
were waiting outside with cold beer and an offer for us to camp behind the hotel free of charge. The biggest shock came little later when after talking about Camp Quality they came with a cheque for $500! That’s the sort of people we met on the way. And that is the best and most satisfying part of a run like this: Meeting some fantastic people.
In this part of Cape York the only meat available is frozen. We bought some chicken for Asta and put it in the fridge. She will not eat tinned food. We ate mainly tinned food.
After Coen there was 23 km of sealed road up to the turnoff to the airport and a Custom Checkpoint. They are there to stop any fruit coming from north to prevent fruit flies coming in. After the checkpoint we are on a dirt road again. Not too bad but some holes filled with very fine “bulldust.” It is unbelievable how it gets everywhere. Our van is now full of it. Have to cover everything what needs to be protected from it.
After turn off to Weipa there is even less traffic. There is a lot of roadwork going on. Just past Musgrave Jo had a job to get through deep sand piled up on road. The same just before Archer River and some other places. Archer River Roadhouse is known for their Hamburgers. They are $10 each but worth every cent of it. The Archer River itself is a beauty! Very different from the rivers we are used to. It has the tropical atmosphere about it. The days are now much longer, at 6.30 pm there is still a lot of daylight.
At Moreton Station we were approached by a couple identifying themselves as Jacob Minton and his Czech girlfriend Veronica. They met us in Czech Club in Brisbane. We had a good conversation with them. Jacob came back later with a cheque for $170 on behalf of Underground Bunkers and Military Museum of which he is a curator.
We are progressing well towards the next goal – Bramwell Junction. There are two ways to the Top. The Old Telegraph Line which is a straight road to the top, crossing many deep creeks. There is no way we would make it this way. The other way, longer, is the Bypass Road. A much better chance for us to make it. Still many people are saying “ NO Way, it is only for 4WDs.” Some more positive are saying “You can make it! When you get bogged in a deep sand or creek, someone will pull you out”. It is not IF but WHEN.
After running on a road surrounded on both sides by bush I ran into an open space with the Roadhouse in the middle surrounded by a large number of huge Termite Mounds. Amongst the trees in the bush they are not so obvious, but in this open space they look really majestic. It is like a scene from a movie. I am really impressed with this scenery. My happiness does not last long. Asta has a very bad diarrhea. It is like if one turns a water tap on full bore. All night she wants out as soon as I take her back to the van. In the
morning we started our run at 8 am as always. After about13 km we stopped for a short break Asta does not want anything to eat. Worst still she does not want to drink either. I suspect that the chicken we bought at Coen and kept in the fridge which is not working very efficiently in this heat caused the problem. I am very depressed. What now? Keep going, knowing that there is no vet at the Top? It is only about 260 km left to the Top but.
it is more important to bring Asta home alive. The nearest vet is at Weipa, some 250 km back. If we turn back, that will be the end of the journey. We will be able to say only ”We ALMOST made it.” Fortunately Jo came with a third option. Let’s go back to the Bramwell Junction and have a rest till next morning. Then we can decide what to do.
People living in these remote areas have no doctors or vets as easily accessible as we do. They have to help themselves and are very good at it. One man brought an apple suggesting grinding it for her. A lady from the Roadhouse brought some corn flour and another man suggested cheese. We did what they suggested and to our relief Asta was much better in the morning. But all night we heard non stop and loud rambling in her belly. It was unbelievable. As serious as the situation was we had to laugh.
The road to Jardine River was as rough as promised. Deep sand, creek crossings but Jo kept going. The sand sometimes was scraping the bottom of the van. Before crossing the creeks I put on old shoes and waded through to find the best spot to cross them. At the end we were at the ferry across Jardine River and after paying $88 for the 100 m crossing we were past the worst but the road was still badly corrugated with deep sand patches. Suddenly a loud noise in the front wheel made us very worried. We had to make it to Bamaga so kept going. After few kilometers a grinding noise replaced the clanging and all went quiet for next 30 km to Bamaga. To play it safe we had it checked by a mechanic when we arrived there. He did not find anything wrong. It was most likely a little stone caught in the drum eventually crushed without causing any damage.
We stopped at a Supermarket to buy some fresh chicken for Asta. Running into the carpark, we met our friends Adrian and Marilyn Young from Burnie. It is a small world. Nice to meet someone you know well so far from home
We settled at the “Loyalty Beach Camping Ground” where we stayed free of charge for next three nights. Lovely spot to stay but again, signs everywhere about danger from crocodiles. Lovely beaches, warm water but have to stay away from it. But the sunsets were unforgettable!
Next morning was the start of the last section – 33 km to the Tip. Beautiful weather as always. Road was very good. But no lack of traffic. 120 BMW motorbikes from all over Australia made the trip to the Top and as I was running they were passing me one by one. It was dusty but fortunately not as bad as the previous roads. About 10 km from the Top Jo stopped and looked very depressed. In front of her was a creek about 10 m wide full of dirty water. She did not think she could get through. I put on again my old shoes to test the bottom. It was deep in some places but I was able to find crossing only about a knee deep. So after all it was not the end! Jo went ahead again and waited for me at a parking area near the Top where she collected quite few dollars from the bikies. Finally, after claiming over few rocks we are at the Top. We made it! After 5,506 km and 92 days.
Yes, I was relieved, but had mixed feelings about it. It is much more enjoyable to work towards a goal. Once it is achieved, there is nothing left. I find it hard to get too exited about it. Also we still have to get back home, another 5,000 km. I will be driving. Will I be as successful as Jo? It would be very embarrassing if I get bogged on the way.
After returning to Bamaga we had an appointment in the Primary School. It was very enjoyable. The mostly Aboriginal children were singing and dancing for us, I talked about the journey and Camp Quality, the ABC radio was broadcasting an interview with me with the students singing in the background. The kids loved Asta, I could not get her away from them. As a special honour I was presented with a cup from Queensland Education Department which is available only to those teachers who spent there at least two years. This is the most remote school in Australia.
We stayed another day in Bamaga just to rest and do nothing. I must say that after the day rest I felt more tired than ever before. Asta started to eat well. We are cooking for her chicken with pasta and she started to put some weight on. She is probably more settled because I am with her all the time. She is so attached to me.
Before we left Bamaga the next morning we stopped outside the town while we had still mobile reception waiting for an interview with Dean Holloway from Coast Radio at Wynyard.
While talking to him, we were passed by 15 tractors from WA on their charity run across Australia. Huge machines, each pulling a caravan. They were moving at about 50 km/hour so it was not an easy task to overtake them on those corrugated and dusty roads. We managed to pass most of them before we got to the ferry across Jardine River. After crossing we filled our tank up with petrol ready to go before the tractors start moving again. Then someone asked for a jumper lead to start a motor. I started digging for it and by the time I got it back again the tractors had gone. We had to go through the process of overtaking them again. Meanwhile the motorbikes started to overtake us – all 120 of them. It was like on a busy highway. But about an hour later it was all over and we saw only very few vehicles after that.
On the way back we went through Cooktown – a very historical and beautiful place, Daintree Village – a very picturesque place surrounded by tropical rainforests, but hardly anyone there. Cape Tribulation was full of tourists, the ferry across the river only $16 return. After passing through Mossman we drove to Port Douglas – a beautiful place with palm trees lining the roads for many kilometers. We spent only a very short time in the business centre – it was too busy for us after spending so much time in the wilderness. From Mareeba we drove inland through Tableland to Innisfail, Rollingstone and Townsville where we left all the donations in the Camp Quality office.
Two days after we left Innisfail we heard on news that hey had 130 mm of rain, mud slides and that Bruce Highway was closed for 2 days. Again our luck was holding up.
From Rockhampton we turned inland to New England Highway and eventually to Melbourne. It seemed to be so far to get there.
The crew on the “Spirit of Tasmania” made us feel most welcome. They placed us into a suit in the front of the ship – looked like a luxuries hotel room with large front windows
and a bottle of Champaign in the fridge with the instruction to drink it. We enjoyed our first sleep in the double bed after almost 4 months of sleeping in 1.5 x 1.8 m space sharing it with Asta. We now know how the privileged travel! I do not think that something like this will ever happen to us again.
Our grandkids and other family members who were not working were all waiting for us with a large poster made by Jacob and Danial welcoming us back. Waiting for us was 4 months of mail I had to sort out, dozens of emails I had to sort out and of course unloading and cleaning the campervan.
At this moment I am not sure how much we have collected. We know that the publicity alone we generated for Camp Quality was worth the effort.
In Tasmania alone we have raised over $12,000. Students from Table Cape Primary School at Wynyard followed our journey on internet and collected at a special function about $250 for Camp Quality. On the top of it they decided to raise more by walking from Wynyard to Burnie. I was told that they collected over $2,500! After the school holidays I will find out all the details about it.
The donations have not stopped coming yet. “The Rebel Rousers” produced a CD with a song about me and selling them with all proceeds going to Camp Quality. I have already received $100 from them. Mrs Liz Hamilton from Elliot near Burnie read about us in The Advocate and sent a card with a cheque for $500! Paul Gregory came last night with $50.
The donations have not stopped yet.
All this is going to put smiles on the faces of a lot of kids battling with cancer.
THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR YOUR SUPPORT .
Would I do it again? You bet!
Vlastik Skvaril, Burnie, Tasmania 20th September 2006.