We should not have been surprised, then, to find on our arrival in the Weipa caravan park our old mates from the Moorehead River. Boof, Karen, Chris and Geoff from South Australia were relaxing a few sites away.
We shared experiences and sundowners before they moved on the next morning. By that time we were also close friends with our next door neighbours, Scott Thomson from Cairns and Paul Forrester from the Sunshine Coast (left), who had proved excellent company.
They had finished up work with a mining construction crew at Moranbah and were taking time off to fish around the Cape. How long they were away would depend on their girlfriends, the Ministers for War and Finance.
They are heading north up the Old Telegraph Track and like others are irritated by the National Parks system of pre-booking on line or by phone. They can book at Weipa for one of the camping grounds on the OTT but they are not sure when they are going to be at any given point.
We muse on that and also on other mysteries. For instance, a camper trailer near the toilet block has a sign “The Mayans taught us that if it’s not finished it’s not the end of the world”.
The other mystery is the tide pattern of Cape York. We are perched on the foreshore at Weipa and estimate high tide should be not long after dark. We put out the crab pots and after dark Roscoe wanders out into the dark with his fishing rod.
Heather accompanies him on croc watch. She is not needed: there is no water. We contemplate that mystery and work out that a little tide had been in and out while we were yarning. We go to bed. About 2am we wake to the sound of waves splashing on the beach.
How did that happen? What would the Mayans have done with the Cape’s tide times on their calendar?
Scott admits to being a bit damaged the next morning. The boys set off to test fishing spots and we elect to do the Weipa mine tour. Bus driver Gary is a mine of information. We learn the history of the Comalco operation that was expanded by new owners Rio Tinto from 2000.
Everywhere is coated in bauxite orange-red. Belly-emptying mine trucks are of a design not found anywhere else in the world. Thirty per cent of the world’s bauxite comes from hundreds of acres of scraped earth, hauled out to waiting ships over the largest single lane rail bridge in the southern hemisphere.
Trains are limited to 3400-tonne load limits every 40 minutes because of the pay load of the bridge, which is shut down if the wind wobbles it by blowing at 60 knots for 60 minutes. A third of Weipa’s 3500 population goes to school; the Royal Family is the biggest shareholder in Rio; and the company donates $100 to breast cancer whenever the female workers elect to wear purple boots. If a rock creates a bubble in one of the $11,000 tyres on the big dumpers everyone clears out because if it blows the blast can knock over an average-size vehicle.
We have a couple of drinks with Scott and Paul on the foreshore and commiserate with them about their poor day fishing. We throw a blue swimmer, a small male muddie and a female from our crab pots the next morning and move on.