Australia
Weipa

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  • Day28

    Weipa, Queensland

    June 17, 2015 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 29 °C

    MAREEBA TO WEIPA 13/06/15 - 17/06/15

    HW. Heading North again along the Mulligan Highway we made our way through the North Queensland tablelands towards Lakeland which is the junction with the Peninsular Developmental Road, our route to the Tip. Another 50 km along the road we came to Laura which is the first “major “ town and the end of the sealed road. We camped at the back of the Hotel which has power, showers and toilets. Frank enjoyed seeing the old Austin 7 which was driven to the Tip in 1928 and figured if it could make it, so could we!

    Next morning we headed off again, the start of the dirt road which we were told was in good condition. There were a few stretches of bitumen but mostly dirt which was a bit rough and corrugated in places. Most of the creek crossings (which were dry) were concreted so only required a slower approach in case of potholes on the edges. There were some roadworks in one section and as we passed we heard one of the workmen on our CB radio say that our van was leaking water so we pulled over and sure enough a stone must have hit the drain valve on the side of our front water tank and snapped it off. Fortunately the driver of a road-watering tanker pulled up and gave Frank a hand to find something to temporarily repair it while I held my thumb over the hole to prevent all our water escaping. ( I felt like the little Dutch boy who plugged the dyke in Amsterdam!) The dust is something to behold. Everything is now covered in red dust and it’s quite thick in places like the top roll section at the back of the van and the car and van wheels are just caked. I found it pretty scary when a road train came past in the opposite direction and the dust was so thick we just couldn’t see anything for 50 to 100 metres. There are some cowboys who drive past at great speed and throw up stones etc. as well. We continued on to Coen for our next night stopover at the back of the hotel. In hindsight we should have continued on a further 116 km to a place called Archer River where there is a camp next to the river. However we now know what advice to give others. It wasn’t all that bad I guess but we could have done without the pub owner’s dog barking on and off all night long only 20 metres away!

    Next day we hit the dirt road again for the drive to Weipa on the western side of the Cape York peninsular. There were some sealed sections of the road which were a nice break from the vibrations and dust of the dirt road. We arrived in Weipa mid afternoon and set up camp in the only camping ground near the centre of town. It was a nice spot and we met up with some other vanners we’d met along the way. Weipa is the site of the world’s largest Bauxite mine which is operated by Rio Tinto Alcan. We decided to spend three nights here in order to do a couple of tours of the area. First we went on a sunset Eco boat tour but unfortunately it wasn’t low tide so we didn’t see any crocodiles. However it was really lovely to drift up one of the small creeks while enjoying beer, champagne and nibbles and later watching the sunset over the Gulf of Carpentaria. We also went on a bus tour of the township and the mine which included lots of history and mining information. It was good to see that the mined areas are returned to their natural vegetation after the bauxite has been removed. Frank really enjoyed seeing the massive equipment used here.

    FW. As Heather mentioned our first stage up to Coen had some pretty deep corrugations and we were down to first and second gear through some of the creek crossings. Asking the locals about the road conditions didn’t help as you always got the same answer “ Ok I guess”
    We bought some rectangular plastic baskets of various sizes from the local 2 dollar shop in Mareeba and put the fridge items in them. No more booby-trapped fridge. After the beer flavoured Yoghurt incident, all screw tops or flip tops have now got rubber bands securing them.
    The road from Coen got a bit better and in the main was better than I was expecting. At the Quarantine station I again ask about the condition of the road ahead and the lady officer said it was good and that she had come from Weipa that morning and it had taken her about 2 ½ hours.
    Weipa is about 225 + kms away.
    The Austin 7 Warwick outside the Pub at Laura that Heather mentioned will do the trip again in a re-enactment of the 1928 trip.
    The Aboriginal tour guide on the Eco trip gave some really interesting insight into the local indigenous culture around here as Weipa is where he was brought up. The next day he was wandering around the caravan park and he noticed our Pajero number plate. He came over and explained that the Aboriginal clan name for the Weipa area was Wik and he was known as Frank the Wik man. When we told him that my name was also Frank and that Wik was my nick name from when I was a teenager he couldn’t believe it. I am now known as Frank the Wik man too.
    We have included some photos of the Haul Trucks which carry over 200 ton of Bauxite and weigh around 300 ton all up. They burn 120litres of fuel an hour and carry enough fuel to operate for 12 hours. Each tire costs in excess of $30,000. They load as much as possible into the trucks as they are paid bonuses on the mines productivity. The Miners food, electricity, fuel, holidays and housing is all subsidised by Rio-Tinto and the houses supplied by Rio can be bought for the cost of construction only. Apparently the only way to get a job at the mine is when someone dies and they have no relatives or the mine is expanded. Rio has made this a residential mine which means you must live in Weipa before you even apply for a job at the mine.
    The dust has effected everything, locks are hard to lock and unlock, catches stick, fridges struggle to maintain temp and it gets in everywhere.
    Tomorrow we leave for Bramwell station, another step closer.
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