After our long, and mildly traumatic, drive to Punsand Bay we decided to have a day of doing nothing. Well, Erin decided we should have a day of doing nothing. I was desperate to complete the journey to the tip, but she was right, we needed a day of rest.
We had a wander along the beach and looked out for Gary, the five metre Croc who owned this stretch of coastline. We had a swim in the pool. We had lunch in the restaurant. We got an early night.
Just before dinner, I drove the girls to the Croc Tent to buy them a wee souvenir. Now the Croc Tent is an interesting place. It’s basically a shop that sells Cape York Souvenirs, but the folks who run it have a fantastic amount of knowledge on the surrounding area, where to go, what to find and see, what the roads are like. I say ‘shop’, but it actually IS a tent, albeit a rather large semi-permanent one.
The current owners are a lovely couple who have two wee boys about the same age as Katie and Skye. They grew up in the Atherton Tablelands, went to University in Brisbane and got ‘proper jobs’, before buying the business off the woman’s parents about seven years ago, and now, she said, they couldn’t go back to the real world if they tried.
They told us the 4WD track that goes from Punsand Bay to the tip wasn’t in great condition. Lots of people were getting stuck, so when we headed off the next day, we gave it a miss.
The main route was a beautiful drive anyway, taking you through the most northerly rainforest in the country. It was pretty dark for most of the way as the forest was closing out the light, but occasionally a few shafts of light would make their way through.
“We’re driving through a river of sunlight.” Katie commented as we approached one. And she was right.
Then we crossed through a few real rivers. Then we passed an abandoned holiday resort called Pajinka, where a Crocodile had apparently taken up residence in the deserted pool. Of course. ‘Cause that’s the sort of shit that happens up here.
As intriguing as it sounds, we motored straight past. The desire to get to the top was now palpable. Gotta get to the top. Can’t stop! Two minutes later were at a car park by a beach. And this is it. Woo hoo!
For non-Australians, I’m not sure if the trip to the top of Oz is much of a big deal. I’d certainly not heard of it before moving here, and even then, until I’d started looking into it properly, I hadn’t quite grasped the enormity of the task.
People wait their whole lives to get here. It’s like a pilgrimage, and those who’ve done it carry that badge of honour around with them, sometimes quite literally, for the rest of their lives.
We got out the car and started to climb. Informally, I suspect, a series of cairns have been built by a procession of visitors, collectively guiding the way for the next pilgrim.
Up up up. Beautiful views. Cloudy skies and threatening rain. Oh well. We pass some people on their return trip, who tell us the couple we’re about to pass have just gotten engaged. Congratulations! Then we’re heading down to the ocean, and it’s in sight. The sign that marks the end of the road.
The northern most point of Australian. Here we are. Katie runs ahead and is first to make it, then we all arrive and the relief, for me anyway, is unbelievable.
We’ve done it. Fuckin’ jesus.
Also at the top of the country, by some geographic miracle, is amazing mobile reception! Not for Vodafone, which is absolutely nowhere in rural Australia, but for Telstra – three bars! Amazeballs!
We take our pictures. A happy family who’ve achieved something pretty amazing together, and then Erin is on the phone. I’m not interested in talking to anyone else. I want to savour this. Soak it up and enjoy the moment. It’s too special to share right now. Within minutes I’m talking to my mum though. Ha!
Erin and the girls start clambering back while I hang around thinking about my dad. My grandpa. My family. On the walk back I notice a few plaques. People leaving messages for loved ones, for people who couldn’t make the trip but wanted to.
It was touching, and reinforced the achievement. It’s not easy to get here. It takes a lot of preparation and weeks to complete. There aren’t that many places left on earth that are quite so inaccessible.
But hey, phwooooo… we’ve done it.
I leave my reverie and catch up with Erin and the girls. We pass a woman who was shaking from what looked like MS. We spoke for a wee while and I got the feeling she and her friends were at the end of a very special journey.
And then we were down.
Back in the car.
And that was it.