On Learning and Travelling

Some time ago, I read this column which basically chastised parents who took little Johnny out of school during term time for skiing holidays in the south of France, and because missing school time to travel would see kids drop a full band in Naplan testing.

Seeing as how I’ve taken my kids out of school for 18 months to travel, I guess they’re stuffed.

I guess they’re stuffed because Naplan doesn’t test them on whether they can build a fire, or a drop trap (thanks Bear Grylls for that one), or explain how our solar panel and dual battery system operates.

I guess they’re stuffed because Naplan doesn’t test their reactions to seeing c.13000 year old rock art in person, rather than in a book.

I guess they’re stuffed because Naplan doesn’t test them on the way they relate to people from vastly different walks of life to their own – kids from
Cape York, a Czech couple in their 60s, people with much more than we have and others with much, much less. People with views similar to our own, and those who could not think more differently. (I’m looking at you, dude who thinks “they’ve all got XBoxes” is appropriate recompense for 200+ years of dispossession.)

I guess they’re stuffed because Naplan doesn’t ask what to do when you have limited clean drinking water available, or question the logic of using it for black water when so much of our state is in drought.

I guess they’re stuffed because Naplan doesn’t give a rats about their mental health.

Of course, since that piece was published the world’s gone nutso over the fact that our nation’s 9 year old’s are massive fail whales because they couldn’t write a persuasive argument as to what rules or laws they would change given the choice. Out of curiosity, I asked my 7 year old daughter that question, and she answered:

I’d stop them being able to cull sharks and crocodiles. They are apex predators at the top of the food chain, and without them the ecosystem shuts down. The animals in the water create the ecosystem. If the sharks don’t eat the seals, then there’s too many seals, but then there’s not enough food for them. We need more people like Sea Shepherd and Bob Irwin and Steve Irwin to save the sharks and crocodiles. When you cull sharks and crocodiles you unbalance the ecosystem and it doesn’t work anymore. That’s why I’d stop them doing it.

Yep, I guess they’re stuffed.

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Our Top Tips for a Top Tip Trip

Getting to Cape York really was the focus of the trip for us. It took a huge amount of planning and research, and even though we’re still travelling we did have that post-holiday low feeling as we left Cooktown. But we learned a lot, and had no major issues mechanical or otherwise other than a smashed trailer plug.

We learned a heap just from talking to other travellers, and so we thought we’d put our top bits of info together to share with anyone else who’s planning this amazing trip.

Our route
On the way up we stayed at
Cooktown – Endeavour River Escape
Laura – Quinkan Remote Community Campground
Coen – The Bend
Bramwell Station
Umagico – Alau Beach

We drove onto the Old Telegraph Track for a squiz, but drove up on the Bypass Road. The OTT we’ll do another time, without a trailer on.

On the way back
Moreton Telegraph Station
Weipa – Camp Weipa
Coen – The Bend
Cooktown – Endeavour River Escape.

We took Battle Camp Rd back from Musgrave Roadhouse which is a slightly longer route but takes you through the beautiful Lakefield National Park.

Bloody Corrugations

They were fierce on the way up. The worst stretches were between Laura and Coen, and just after the Jardine River Ferry Crossing. We found lowering the tyre pressures made a massive difference, however it did eat into our fuel consumption a little. We still averaged around 400km a tank though.

We dropped the front tyres to 25psi, the back to 30psi and 20psi on the trailer. We found 80km per hour pretty good going on most of the corrugations, until you got to the gnarly bits and then it didn’t matter what speed you were going. We tried 20, 5, 90…they were all terrible.

We saw quite a few cars who’d come a cropper, more than a few camper trailers who lost their drawbars, and parts are not easy or cheap to come by up there.

Fuel prices
Weipa was the cheapest at $1.659L (we use diesel). Jardine River was the most expensive at $2.459

Bamaga BP has cheap Thursday with a 15 cent per litre discount which brought them down to $2.139 from $2.289

Other prices we saw or paid were
Cooktown $1.729
Laura $1.819
Coen $1.889 or $1.909 depending on which side of the road you went to.
Bramwell Roadhouse $2.109

We didn’t carry a lot of extra fuel as we were concerned about weight. But if you had long range tanks etc and shopped smart you could avoid paying a completely outrageous amount for your fuel. We topped up every time we stopped – except for the Jardine River.

Food in the Cape
Grocery items come up on a barge and arrive Monday mornings, so Monday lunchtime/afternoon is a good time to hit one of the three supermarkets – or all of them. Seisia, Bamaga and Umagico all have supermarkets and their prices can vary pretty wildly. There was over a $2 difference on the exact same bag depending on where you shopped!

We found Bamaga was best for fresh fruit and veg, while Seisia was cheaper for meat and tinned products. Things like canned beans, cereal, cheese etc seemed to be the most inflated. Umagico had a good range of baby products.

There is also a butcher at Seisia, their prices aren’t much different to the supermarket.

If you are on any sort of restricted diet, like we are, take as much as you can with you. Things like rice milk and gluten free pasta were pretty much non-existent, although both Bamaga and Seisia stocked a good range of Orgran products.

Due to alcohol restrictions in the Northern Peninsula Area, alcohol is pretty pricey – $66 for XXXX Gold hurts a bit. There’s a lot of signage about stockpiling and sly grogging around, and there’s no alcohol consumption in public places, other than your campground.

Our picks
Before you get to the Jardine River, make sure to stop in at Fruit Bat Falls. The water here is absolutely beautiful, and even better, croc free so swim away!

The campground at Umagico was our pick of the bunch. Children under 12 free, $10pp for over 12 years, pay 6 stay 7. It’s not as flash as some of the other grounds, but it gets our vote for price and location.

We didn’t camp at Punsand Bay but we did stop in for lunch and a beer. They were awesome in the time they took to talk to us about Cai’s dietary restrictions and really made us feel like we weren’t the most difficult customers they’d ever had! So a big tick for great service.

One of our highlights was a day trip to Thursday Island. A beautiful place with vibrant culture. We travelled on Peddell’s Ferry and would pick the Gab Titui Cultural Centre as a must do.

And of course, walking to the tip of Australia itself was just amazing. It’s a rocky climb so wear sensible shoes, but the kids (and the dog) did it easily. Don’t forget to take your camera for the essential photo at the sign. And then, pull up a rock and sit for a moment. Take in the amazing view. And when you get back to your car ask yourself….

Where to next?

Bamaga : WW2 Aircraft Wreckage

In among the gum trees and the palms, located by a handpainted sign and some crossed fingers you’ll find some other pieces of Australian history. Two WWII aircraft, maintained by the Australian War Memorial are found in the scrub at Bamaga.

Between the two aircraft, 8 crew members perished. It’s quite an emotional experience to see these wrecks and to think about those who lost their lives.

Lest We Forget.