A Jardine River Adventure

Departing normality behind at Cairns, we journeyed along the Peninsula Developmental Road. This further deteriorated in to a dusty corrugated track which wound along the route of the telegraph line, between giant rainforest trees along with across numerous rivers up to the little Aboriginal town of Bamaga on Cape York. “The Entrance to HELL — get back if you can”, stated an encouraging handwritten sign once we headed off into the wilderness!

River crossings of most manner and form interupted each leg of our journey — with axle-deep red mud, decrepit log bridges (the particular odd log missing in some places to add to the task), deep bull dust or fast flowing water to keep you busy. It was a classic four wheel drive venture. The grandest challenge, however, was the crossing of the Jardine River.

Even in the drier times of year, the Jardine River, just 35 km south of Bamaga, is a wide, one metre deep, quick-flowing river. In 1982, the luxury of a small car ferry had just become open to carry the vehicles containing the less adventurous across this famous barrier for your princely sum of $25. Many marital battles then erupted by the banks of the Jardine while cautious wives and thrill-seeking partners debated the relative merits of the challenging river crossing as well as the tame punt ride. As newlyweds, we too had our dispute here, but in our case it absolutely was the adventure-seeking wife whom desired the river adventure!

To drive across a river such as this requires lots of preparation. A diesel motor like ours requires a long air snorkel to attract air from well over any possible water level. Tyres must be deflated, waterproof covers packed around the engine and openings for instance fuel tanks and doors need to be thoroughly sealed. We watched with dread as many vehicles attempted the crossing — and a lot failed, becoming stranded mid-river with the crocodile infested waterss swirling across the driver’s feet and camping gear floating in the rear of the vehicle!

Finally the adventure-seeking spouse won out. A group of fellow Cape York drivers came to our help and loaned us a snorkel and also covers which fitted our vehicle. So with our vehicle set up like a Christmas lunch, we drove down into the muddy waters of the Mighty Jardine.

Across the river we all drove, pushing a significant bow-wave just before us. John said it felt so good he wanted to turn around and keep driving the river! Then through a heart-stopping very deep hole at the end and up the steep bank we drove, masters of the Jardine. I bet they don’t have this much fun on the organised Cape York Tours.

Our dripping wet vehicle on the positive side seemed little the worse due to the adventure. However, it cost us more to change the gearbox oils which had become waterlogged compared to the little punt ride might have cost. So sanity prevailed upon our return journey 30 days later and the Landcruiser needed a dry ride across the Jardine on the punt!

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