Here’s an opportunity for train lovers to get involved with the restoration of steam engine 3620 – which used to pull the elegant silver carriages of the Cairns Kuranda Steam Railway. It’s a few years since its seen service and has been sitting in the railway yards off Sheridan Street north Cairns, going through an extensive restoration. That’s nearing completion, and the friendly team who volunteer their time and talents on this project have room for some new friends. They’ve set up the Cairns Local Loop club – which you can join here
There’s an assortment of diesel and steam at the north Cairns rail yards, and it’s home to the iconic far north Queensland Savannahlander – that does the run out to Forsayth.
Come an audio tour of the rail yards and meet Rob Rutten and Mike Lee
Everyone should see Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait islands at least once. I’ve been lucky – I’ve been to both several times. I’ve been by road and air, but last week I did the journey by sea. Wow! I’d run out of adjectives within a couple of hours of leaving Cairns. Far north Queensland is a stunning place, but looking at it from a ship doing a steady 11 knots on the Coral Sea gives you time to take it in, to marvel, to get inspired.
I travelled on theMV Trinity Bay, the only working cargo vessel in Australia that also carries passengers. Its main job is to be a lifeline for remote communities on Cape York, and in Torres Strait. It carries food supplies in refrigerated or freezer containers, general freight, cars – the vast bulk of freight going north from Cairns goes on the Trinity Bay. It stops offshore of Lockhart River, and at Horn Island & Thursday Island, and then at Seisia, near the tip of the Cape. A fleet of smaller vessels take freight on to island communities around Torres Strait.
Trinity Bay can take up to 48 passengers – we had 30 – in 15 cabins. It travels inside the Great Barrier Reef, so the sea is usually calm. It’s within sight of the coast for most of the 1000 kilometre journey, but you do get to see offshore islands, sand cays, and you get a real understanding of how big the reef is, and of its environmental importance.
It’s not the best way to get to the top of the Cape – nothing can compare to the sense of adventure and accomplishment that goes with the long, dusty road trip. But the sea journey is a very close second. And you could always have the best of both – drive one way, and send you & your car back by boat. The view from the passenger deck of the Trinity Bay is always special. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
Last Saturday morning, sports-loving legal secretary Tanya Roneberg was riding her bicycle on the Cook Highway at Thomatis Creek, on the north side of Cairns. Around 7 o’clock, she was hit by a car and died. She was 37.
Tanya is the sixth bicycle rider to be killed on far north Queensland roads in the past three years. That statistic tells a grim story, but regular riders will tell you many more – chilling accounts of near misses and aggressive driving. It seems our drivers are not all willing, or able, to share the roads safely with bicycles. This constitutes a very real danger to local cyclists, and to the ever increasing number of visitors who want to ride in FNQ.
We have new bike paths and established bicycle lanes in Cairns, but the cycling community identifies danger zones they say need urgent attention. Local police say driver behaviour has to change. “It’s not good enough to say ‘welI I’m a car driver, I own the road’. They don’t,” says Sergeant John Fischer, the officer in charge at the Cairns crash investigation unit.
Tanya Roneberg’s close friend, Emma Miller, believes the best way to bring about change is to encourage drivers to experience our roads the way cyclists do. Emma is organising the Ride for Tanya this Saturday morning – a memorial ride for her friend and a road safety campaign. Emma hopes Cairns and FNQ drivers will join the ride – get out of their cars and ride a bicycle from down-town Cairns to Trinity Beach. By experiencing a few hours or a day on a bike, Emma hopes drivers will understand what it’s like for cyclists. She’s not anti-car or anti-driver – Emma wants to get riders and drivers together to learn from each other, and to make the roads a safer place for all of us.
LISTEN Click on the red arrow to hear my interview with Emma Miller.
The Ride for Tanya will start at the Cairns hockey grounds on Rutherford Street at 6:30am on Saturday, May 18 and finish at Trinity Beach. Riders will be accompanied by a police escort.
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The view from the SV Seagoon in PNG’s Milne Bay Province
Many of us dream of life at sea – chucking in the day job and sailing over the horizon in search of adventure and tropical bliss. Making that dream a reality is not cheap or easy, and life on the high seas is not always blissful. But, as Hans Clemmensen has found, it can be immensely fulfilling and rewarding. Hans migrated to Australia from Denmark to Australia 40 years ago, and found his way to far north Queensland, where he worked at the legendary Rusty’s market in Cairns. Hans got into boats, bought himself a yacht and has been sailing out of Cairns, across the Coral Sea for the past 17 years. He’s been making regular voyages aboard the SV Seagoon (named for Neddie Seagoon of The Goon Show) to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
Hans makes regular visits to island communities in the Milne Bay region, at the eastern end of main-land Papua NewGuinea. “It’s a very beautiful part of PNG, lots of islands, people who are friendly, no crime to talk about,” says Hans. But this is a remote part of the country, with little in the way of industry or infrrastructure. The main source of income has been bech-de-mer fishing, but conservation measures have closed that industry and people have turned to hunting for shark fin to make a living. There’s very little money around, basic goods are hard to get, and very costly. There’s no electricity, and Hans has a project going to introduce sustainable solar powered lighting, and he’s hoping you might be able to help. He’s looking for solar panels, batteries and the other bits and pieces needed to set up a sustainable lighting system. “So far, I have been very lucky to get sponsored with 20 solar panels and some batteries from the recycle shop and I bought a lot of wire to be used in running power to LED lights in the houses,” says Hans.He hopes to sail back to Milne Bay in May with enough gear on board to get the sustainable lighting project running, and he’s looking for crew to make the journey with him.
AUDIO Click on the red arrow to hear Hans tell the story of his years at sea, and explain his Milne Bay lights project.
YOUR ABC FAR NORTH CREW HAS MADE IT TO PALMER RIVER FNQ FOR WEDNESDAY’S SOLAR ECLIPSE. WE’RE AT THE ROAD HOUSE, AND ACROSS THE ROAD WE HAVE ABOUT TEN THOUSAND NEIGHBOURS AT A DANCE MUSIC FESTIVAL. THEY’VE COME FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD AND WE’LL BE INTRODUCING THEM TO YOU ON THE RADIO OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS.
WEATHER FORECASTS AREN’T GREAT FOR ECLIPSE WATCHING DOWN ON THE COAST, SO WE’RE PROBABLY IN THE BEST PLACE AND RIGHT UNDER THE CENTRE LINE OF THE TOTAL ECLIPSE.
CHECK BACK OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS FOR AUDIO AND MORE PICS FROM PALMER RIVER FNQ.
As you make your way around far north Queensland, you’ll hear people talk about stopping whatever they’re doing to have “smoko”. In the old days, it meant stopping work for a cigarette break, and was probably a term introduced by sheep shearers. In FNQ these days, smoko means “morning tea” break, or any adjournment of work for the purpose of refreshment.
Smoko was a much looked-forward to thing on our long road journey from Cairns to Weipa and back – sometimes three or four times a day. The Peninsula Development Road has road houses at regular intervals, with fuel, food accomodation and info on road conditions. We pulled in to most of them, including the Archer River road house. It’s a short ride from the turn-off for Bamaga and the Northern Peninsula Area, about 200km from Weipa. http://www.cooktownandcapeyork.com/stay/cape-york-peninsula/accom/archer-river
It’s a short walk from the road house to the Archer River, which is completely dry at present, but floods during the wet season. It came lapping at the road house doors after cyclone Monica crossed the Cape in 2006. The Archer flows from the McIlwraith Range and runs through Mungkan Kandju country to enter the Gulf of Carpentaria near Aurukun.
AUDIO Brad and Modena Allan run the Archer River road house. Click on the red arrow to hear Brad talk about life, running a business on the Cape, and the challenges of the Peninsula Development Road. Brad’s talking to the ABC’s Charlie McKillop.
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DRIVING ON CAPE YORK IS NO EASY THING – DEPENDING ON THE STATE OF THE ROADS, A COUPLE OF HUNDRED KILOMETRES CAN BE AN ADVENTURE, OR A GRUELLING FEAT OF ENDURANCE.
Any chance for a stop is welcome, and if there’s something to see and a yarn involved, even better. One place you’ve got to stop at, and if you’re south-bound it’s compulsory, is the Coen Information & Inspection Station. Biosecurity Queensland runs the station on the Peninsula Development Road, about 20 kilometres north of Coen, near the turn-off to the Coen airstrip.
Biosecurity Queensland runs the station as a buffer against plant and animal pests and diseases that could spread into Australia from our northern neighbours. They’re a very real threat to agricultural industries and could spread serious diseases to humans.
If you’re driving south you’ll have to stop and be checked for produce that might be carrying dangerous critter passengers. The process doesn’t take long, and you’ll find Scott Templeton & his team love a yarn and are a treasure house of information about the Cape, sights to see and road conditions. Scott has 26 years experience on Cape York, and I hope he’s going to write a book one day, because it would be a must-read.
There’s a good display inside the Centre with plenty of info about the pests and critters they’re looking for – the red banded caterpillar, citrus canker, banana skipper, foot and mouth disease, screw-worm fly and the papaya fruit fly. You’ll get plenty of tips on how to travel wisely on the Cape, and how to make sure your journey doesn’t help spread pests and diseases.
AUDIO FILE Click on the red arrow to hear Scott Templeton in action at the Coen Information & Inspection Centre, Scott’s talking to the ABC’s Charlie McKillop.