9 Day Cape York Wilderness Adventure with Outback Spirit
Commenced 31st May 2007

Tour Notes
Others will have different opinions but this is the way I saw things. I genuinely liked everyone on the trip and had many long and interesting discussions with everyone. Anything I say about anyone is purely in fun.


Tour Summary
Starting in Cairns.
Day 1. Port Douglas, Daintree, Cape Tribulation.
Day 2. Mossman, Palmer River, Cooktown.
Day 3. "Battle Camp Track", Laura, Musgrave, Lotusbird Lodge.
Day 4. Musgrave, Coen, Archer River, Weipa.
Day 5. Moreton, Bramwell Station.
Bay 6. Jardine River, Bamaga.
Day 7. Bamaga.
Day 8. Thursday Island.
Day 9. Horn Island, Cairns.

The Participants
Richard (driver and guide) & his wife Cherry
Ron & Rae
Geoff & Carol
Geoff & Collette
Ron & Faye
Rick & Ann
Gary & Patricia
Gary & Julia
Cec & Maureen
Ray & Brenda

Most Represented Job Category
Farmers. The two Gary's and their wives Julia and Patricia.

Distance Travelled in Bus

Highest Fuel Cost
$1.87/Litre for unleaded at Jardine River.

What surprised me
We visited many remote places that relied on diesel generators for their power. It is costing them huge amounts of money, For example, the fuel cost at Lotusbird Lodge is $150/day (approx $50,000/year). Solar technology is now affordable and I was surprised that very few have made the switch. Bramwell Station does have Solar/Batteries with diesel backup. Most places you go to you can hear the diesel generator humming in the background. I did not hear one at Bramwell so I asked and they showed me the setup.

Most Disappointing Refreshment Stop
Jardine Ferry - they had no ice creams! The lady told us that she cannot get anyone to deliver.

Biggest Surprise
Warrick purchasing a bottle of water at Pansand Bay (and drinking it).

Funniest Moments
When exploring the ruins of Pajinka near the tip we heard Warrick yell out "I've found the bar". Click here for photo.
After having a huge lunch a Horn Island and being offered more on the Qantas flight to Cairns a few hours later Faye was heard to say "We never knock back food - do we?"

Best Dinner
Taking into consideration the number of staff, facilities, speed of serving and food quality, I believe Lotusbird Lodge wins. Sue and Gary did a great job. Sue was even seen running back into the kitchen. Of course I am only saying this because after dinner Gary asked if anyone had any complaints whilst walking around with a meat cleaver in his hand. Gary claimed that the dinner had 11 vegetables in it and someone did name them but I have forgotten them.
The Sovereign resort at Cooktown was also very good.

Most Interesting Ruins
Pajinki Lodge near the tip of Cape York. The sign is still there. Click here for a photo.
Established in the 1970's, the resort was a 4 star establishment, predominantly catering for the international market, and was managed by professional tourism operators.
In 1992, the local aboriginal community of Injinoo, with the support of the Cape York Land Council and ATSIC, purchased the lodge and operated the business. Following a fire in April 2002 which destroyed certain plant and equipment, including all the generators, the lodge ceased operating and has not reopened since.
There are currently proposals for the re-development of the land.

Most Embarrassing Moment
After our bus boarded the Jardine ferry (we were on last) and the ferry operator cranked up the motor, nothing moved. He tried a few times but still nothing happened. After scratching his head he realised that the weight of the bus was pushing the back of the ferry onto the landing area. A re-arrangement of the vehicles on the ferry solved the problem and we were off.

Worst Service
Jardine Hotel on Thursday Island.
When we arrived our rooms were not ready.
Richard (bus driver) had to carry all our bags to our rooms. I don't know how he knew mine because it didn't have my name on it.
Apart from one staffer, their attitude was nonchalant.
A very long wait between courses at dinner.
The next morning at 6.00 am Warrick wanted to go outside but all doors were locked. Initially, they were not going to let him out until 6.30 but when he threatened to smash the door down they relented.

Most Travelled People
Overall it would be Rae and Ron. There is much to learn from such a well travelled couple. For his age, Kevin has also travelled a lot.

Most Expensive Drinks
At first I though Jardine Hotel on Thursday Island at $7.50 a glass of wine. However, back at the Shangri-La in Cairns a glass was also $7.50 but they put much less wine in the glass.

They abbreviate Thursday Island to TI but not Horn Island to HI.

Quietest Person on the Bus
Richard (the driver). His commentary was barely adequate.

Nicest Town.
I liked Cooktown. Wide streets, lots of potential for development. Since the last section of road from Cairns was sealed a few years ago there is talk in the town (most likely Real Estate Agents) that Cooktown will be the next Port Douglas. However, some of the locals I spoke to don't agree. Too windy, no beaches they say. But then Cairns does not have a beach either.

Most Enthusiastic People
Sue & Gary at Lotusbird Lodge. They greeted us when the bus arrived, looked after us very well during our stay and said goodbye when we left. Always with enthusiasm.

Bus Problems

Largest Spider
There were two in webs near our cabin at Cape Tribulation Beach House. About the size of a large hand with legs extended. Click here for photo.

Oldest/Youngest on Bus
Ron (wife Rae) at 80 and Kevin at 40.

Most Unimpressive Luxury Hotel
Shangri-La in Cairns. On our last night we were placed on the top floor in room 3999999999999999. Took 10 minutes to walk to the lifts.
The next morning I tried to explain to the lady on the front desk that I wanted to store our bags for the day. She could not speak English very well and I had difficulty getting through to her. Fancy putting someone on the front desk of a luxury hotel in Australia that cannot speak English.
On our last night of the tour we had a long delay getting our dessert. Only after Richard (our driver and guide) said something did we finally get served.

They Multiply
At Bamaga when we arrived there was only our Outback Spirit bus. A few hours later we walked through the car park and there were two exactly the same. Click here for a photo.

The Phone Expert
At our many evening discussions I noted that Julia had a good knowledge of Communications. In particular, the best landline and mobile deals. I discovered later that she was formerly the operator at the now closed local manual telephone exchange and has retained and enhanced her knowledge of the subject.

Hottest Places
Weipa and Bamaga. Five seconds after you turned the air conditioner off the room was hot again.

Best Wildlife Viewing
A Cassowary and its three chicks on the road in the Daintree. We had plenty of time to photograph them and one of the chicks started walking towards us. Click here for a photo.
A green tree frog at Bamaga. Click here for photo.

Loudest Laugh
The girl on a table nears ours at dinner on the last night in the Shangri-La Hotel. A couple with a young baby sat nearby her table but were soon moved after a few shrieks of high pitched laughter.

The Thing Ann Liked Most
Her bed at the end of each day.

Worst Table Etiquette
At Bramwell Station serving our main course on paper plates. They served our soup and dessert on plastic plates but I think they used the same ones which they washed whilst we were eating our main course.

Best Tours
Weipa Mine tour and Daintree Discovery Centre. In particular, it was refreshing to not hear one "um, ah, you know, like, absolutely, I mean, yeh/nah" from the girl doing the Weipa Mine tour commentary (she was also the driver).

Worst Insects
Whilst waiting for the boat at Bruce Belchers Daintree River Cruise, the mossies descended on our legs.

Biggest Disappointments
Not driving on the Bloomfield Track. Apparently, after recent heavy rain it was very slippery and one of the bridges had a reduced load limit.
Thursday Island. I expected it to be more "Islandy".

Unusual Accommodation
Cape Tribulation Beach House. Cabins in the rainforest. Click here for photo. Open air dining area. Click here for photo.
Lotusbird Lodge. Cabins on stilts facing a billabong teeming with birds. Click here for photo. Also an open air dining area. Click here for photo.
Bramwell Station. Prefabricated huts.  Click here for photo (there are five huts together in the photo. Ours is the one in the middle with door open). Just enough room for beds and wardrobe. Little ventilation except some had a wire door on the front. Shared shower and toilet facilities. Open air dining bushmen's style. Click here for photo.

I Am Over It.
Anything to do with rainforests. I have had enough talks, brochures, walks, interactive displays, explanatory boards on tracks.

Worst Lunch
Soggy salad sandwiches from Bramwell Station which we ate at Twin Falls.

When we got off the ferry at Thursday Island (TI) a bus was waiting for us to tour the island. The lady driving the bus was also the tour guide and provided an excellent commentary. Later that day we were walking down the main street and a school bus went past with the same lady driving. The next day we went into the Ferry Shop and the same lady was serving behind the counter. When I asked her about her many jobs she just shrugged and said you have to be versatile.

Best Swimming
The pool at the base of Twin Falls. Click here for photo.

Worst Section of Road
Actually, I thought the roads were in reasonable condition in Cape York. This was confirmed by various locals on the way up. After Cyclone Larry in 2006, the roads were in an appalling condition and the first vehicles could not come through until early June. There were so many complaints that the Government poured lots of money into fixing the roads. There was plenty of evidence of road maintenance on the way up. They have even made some of the bridges wet season proof.

I Felt For Them
Sue & Garry at Lotusbird Lodge. After opening in 2005, Cyclone Larry flooded them out in 2006 causing $300,000 worth of damage. Took them months to repair but they had many volunteers helping. They now move everything they can into a shed on higher ground during the wet season.

What Every Accommodated Place Had
A bar.

Worst Accommodation
Prefabricated huts at Bramwell Station. To be fair, we were told in advance so I didn't expect much better and they were OK anyway.

Best Day
Bamaga. Walking to the tip (click here for photo), exploring the Pajinki ruins, Pansand Bay resort (click here for photo), Injinoo Airport and WWII Airplane wreck.

Bus Restrictions
Unable to visit Somerset ruins near the tip because one of the bridges was too narrow.
Unable to visit the observatory at Cooktown because the track was too narrow.
Unable to traverse the Bloomfield Track because heavy rain made the track slippery and one of the bridges had a reduced load limit.

Hardest Worker
At Cape Tribulation Beach House we were initially offered an uncooked breakfast. When Richard pointed out that we had paid for a full breakfast the resident cook worked his butt off. He most likely had a hangover because the staff partied the previous night and long into the morning making a hell of a racket.

Not Needed
The face net that everyone said we needed. Had very little problems with insects.