Faced with big tides spoiling their Christmases by flooding their island, they moved to the disused military base at Mutee Head. Neither water nor soil was wonderful there, so after a few years they moved to Bamaga to grow their crops.
At pretty Mutee Head we found nothing but disillusioned fishermen, a few piles where US Navy sailors used to tie up ships during WWII and, on the hill, a slab of concrete that used to be the radar base. Further inland is the air field and some preserved plane wrecks that bring home the solemn side of war.
A DC3 en route from Archerfield to New Guinea crashed with the loss of six lives on May 4, 1945. A crew of three died in the Bristol Beaufort Mark VIII torpedo bomber which crashed about the same time.
Tony and Roscoe were fascinated by the terrific Australian craftsmanship still evident on pieces of the wrecks (above). They almost saluted the unknown workers who had welded and riveted the planes. Why, they asked, do we need to bring inferior goods from overseas now when we clearly have trade skills of superb international standard?
Fascinating too are the rusting piles of fuel drums hidden in the bush around the Jacky Jacky airfield. A few hundred drums here and there, including decoy stacks of empty barrels, lessened the chance of bombing, sabotage or accidental explosion.
In Bamaga we became part of the bakery’s roaring trade, returning to sample the signature crayfish pies. Not so happy were a friendly but slightly downcast Geelong couple waiting for the barge from Cairns to depart at nearby Seisia.
Some not so intrepid souls who make it to the tip take the easy way home by tossing their vehicles on to barges and flying to Cairns to continue driving home. Mr and Mrs Geelong had come north in a Toyota Coaster, braved the Telegraph Track and were heading home when the transmission conked out south of the Jardine ferry.
Recovery vehicle fees are not cheap up here. Then they had the cost of the barge to Cairns, road freight back to Geelong and their own fares. Insurance would help but even a crayfish pie would not provide enough soothing for the poor souls.
Signs, as noted, are a bit lacking on tracks around the north of Cape York. So are dunnies. Cousin Heather wondered why travellers, after bumping hundreds of kilometres over corrugations and crossings to get to the tip, find no relief for bladders before or after walking across rocks to most northern point of Australia. It’s a fair hike along a bumpy track back to any sort of loo.
On the up side, apart from the crayfish pies, are the sensational sunsets we found at Seisia. (The strange name was formed by the patriarch of the islander family that settled in the spot beside the sea. He put all the first letters of Christian names of his family together and came up with the acronym.)
We ventured out on a ferry. Tony and Roscoe were appalled at the shoddy workmanship evident in the welding. Clearly this vessel had been made overseas. Nothing like the grand Aussie workmanship still evident on the plane wrecks.
A crew member heard them tsking. He shook his head sadly. No, it had been done in Australia. That did nothing for the boys’ souls.