Thursday, July 31, 2008
Day 18 This day started very early as it had rained all night and I was up early in the morning to check the van. The Jayco performed perfectly with no leaks at all. We decided that this would be a good day for the famous Cooktown museum and it proved to be good timing as the rain continued in the morning. The museum was very interesting and I was most impressed by Captain Cooks quote “ I had ambition not only to go farther than anyone had been before but as far as it was possible to go” now that’s inspirational! By late morning the rain had cleared and we decided to head out to see the coloured sands on the beach past Hopevale where we had been the pervious day. What we did not allow for was the combination of 35mm of rain together with roadworkers having dumped loose soil on the road and not compacted it. The first 60 km’s was fine but then we got into the road works and they had reduced the speed limit from 80kmh yesterday to 40kmh today. As our 4wd experience was limited we sat well under the new speed limit. All was good until we reached the bottom of a slight hill at which point we totally lost all steering and all braking ability. The road had turned to jelly and we were sliding out of control (all be it very slowly) towards a white road post. At this stage we must have looked like a graceful elephant on the ice and despite all efforts to regain control, we kept going. The Prado was up to its axles in mud and we watched helplessly as we hit the post at slow walking pace. I guess this is not an uncommon event as the posts were made of light tin or plastic and simply placed loosely in the soil and so it gently bent over as we slid into it. We finally stopped with no damage to man or machine and I decided to reverse slowly to the nearest high ground and turn around. This manoeuvre worked perfectly and we were soon returning to Cooktown. I assumed it was my in experience that had caused the problem but I could see a serious Land Cruiser in my mirrors that appeared to be having the same problem. We later bumped into a fellow traveller who had been returning from Cape York that same day and said the worst road he faced was that section we had our troubles in. I must admit it was very frightening to be in such a large car, with no control (we didn’t even get a picture as we were both too concerned at the time). We both decided it was time for a drink so we returned to Cooktown and travelled out to the famous Lions Den Hotel. This is a famous frontier drinking hole and to call it a pub would be an overstatement. It was rough and ready but the people were delightful and we enjoyed our much needed drink (the young barman from the UK got talking to Harry and the topic of Footy cards came up, suddenly he had given Harry about 60 cards that he had collected during his bar work). We completed our day with a beautiful dinner at 1770, a well known local restaurant on the waterfront and enjoyed the wine, food views and being safe.