ROAD TRAVEL ON CAPE YORK PENINSULA CAN BE A CHALLENGE, WHAT WITH THE CORRUGATED ROADS, THE SOMETIMES HAIRY WATER CROSSINGS, AND THE CHANCE OF A SUDDEN CHANGE IN THE WEATHER LEAVING YOU STRANDED.
But it’s worth all of that and more to see this wonderful area at ground level, to get well off the beaten track and share the adventure with your fellow travellers. Along the Cape York Road, there are regular opportunities to pull up and have a yarn with other folk making the journey. This is one of the real pleasures of Cape York travel, meeting people who share your enthusiasm for the journey and sharing your road stories.
So here we are in October 2011 at the Archer River Roadhouse. About 200km from Weipa, somewhere to buy fuel, stay the night, or eat one of its famous burgers. Pulling in to the clearing out the front of the roadhouse, I felt like we had just arrived at an oasis.
It’s a great spot. We met Ted and Judy having smoko at the roadhouse and got yarning with them. They were guiding a couple of overseas visitors up the Cape, something Ted has done many times before. My ears pricked up when Ted told us he had met one of the legends of Cape York Peninsula, Toots Holzheimer.
CLICK ON THE AUDIO PLAYER TO MEET TED AND JUDY AT ARCHER RIVER
Ted mentioned Toots Holzheimer, a pioneer in so many ways. Toots drove trucks on Cape York for about 30 years from the early 60s. She was a mother of eight kids, delivered freight in all kinds of weather, building and renewing roads and bridges with her husband Ron. In those days, this was man’s work, but Toots did it every bit as well as the blokes, loading and unloading by hand.
Her work helped keep remote Cape communities viable, and she earned a legendary status in remote Australia. Toots’ exploits also encouraged people to hit the road for themselves and explore the Peninsula.
Her story is wonderfully told in a biography published in mid-2011, written by one of her daughters, Donna Vawdrey. The book is “Toots – A Woman in a Man’s World”.
Click here to listen to Donna speaking to ABC Radio’s Steve Austin.
Sadly Toots Holzheimer is no longer with us, but her story is central to the recent history of Cape York Peninsula. Follow this link for details about Donna Vawdrey and how to buy her book.