The Quest for Pajinka: A Cape York Adventure Part 2

The company of twice nine on the quest for Pajinka

It was told in the Targ-alung runes that the twice nine would conquer the Pajinka and so it came to be. At their head strove, Johndalf the Khaki. Most knew him only as a trickster who could conjure fire, but his wisdom spanned aeons and he knew the differential magic from before the syncromesh.

He had chosen his lieutenants carefully, Stefan and Johan of the Happy Rock for they also knew the way of the corrugations. Michael The Safe understood the ancient lore of protections. Little John and Jane of the land of the bears had travelled in the north country of the Guinea.

Robyn, daughter of Bobyn, was conveyed in a carriage driven by Mal the White. It is said that she could communicate across vast distances using the ancient way of the Char-lea. On foot were the warriors Diekske and William of the black fern. They were without fatigue and could walk for a thousand leagues without a stop. Anthony of the one eye could read the secret maps of HEMA, and Carol from the Elflands interpreted his mysterious words of wisdom.

The twice nine needed to carry many packs on their journey – yet they felt no heavier than feathers thanks to the people of The Shire; Dion and Treasaigh . They could weave a hundred weight of glass into fibre using the spells of the SÈrfnRÂck.

For entertainment, the mischievous Tagalong and Tumbleweed joined the company to sing the songs of the old peoples as the campfire burned. To complete the twice nine, Andre and Jayn from the country of Angles would write the history , so that those to come would also know of Pajinka.

The sun rose over the ocean on the morning of the final ascent and Johndalf summoned the company to him. This will be a fateful day he told them, songs will be sung and stories will be told of the twice nine who tamed Pajinka. The company listened in silence and were stirred to action by the words that Johndalf had learnt from his grandfather, who in turn had learnt them from his grandfather before him, it was time to put them to action; ‘Let’s go guys’.

Apologies to fans of fantasy literature but that did allow us to introduce our fellow tagalong (or Targ-alung) adventurers; Steve and Joanne from Gladstone QLD, Mike from Toowoomba QLD, John and Jane from Tewantin, QLD, Robyn and Mal and Bill and Diekske from Albury, NSW, Tony and Carol from Melbourne, VIC, Dion and Tracey from The Shire NSW, and Geoff and Liz (Tanglefoot and Tumbleweed) from Murrumbateman, NSW.

Orange OTIS

We’d arrived in Seisia near the tip of Cape York and met up with John, our guide. He’d been brought there the day before by the recovery service and his car was being attended to by a local mechanic. By now, the red dust from the roads had just about changed the colour of OTIS*, our jeep completely. During the first afternoon, we had a drive around to look at several plane wrecks in the area. Northern Australia had a significant forces presence to guard against attacks from the north during WWII, and the wrecks are part of the legacy.

*We don’t normally name cars, but as you can see from the rego, our Jeep Wrangler came with one.

We were up early the next morning to head the 35 km along dirt roads to the tip. Another useful bit of advice from John, get there early to avoid having to queue to take your picture. Along the way we drove through the fabulous Lockerbie scrub, an area of rainforest. The tides favoured us so we could walk along the beach, around the headland to the tip. It was a moving experience and given the driving we’d undertaken, felt like a real achievement to have made it. Our fellow travellers, John and Jane had brought a bottle of bubbles so we were able to toast the moment. When we got back down to the car park we found somewhere to leave our calling card – we weren’t the first.

Pajinka is the local aboriginal word for The Tip, you can read some more about the indigenous communities of the Northern Peninsula Area here. Pajinka was also the name taken by a luxury resort established at the tip in the 1980s. It was abandoned in the early 2000s and nature has now largely reclaimed it so it was a bit spooky walking through the remains.

View from the northernmost point of mainland Australia

We drove a short distance on to Somerset, an area named by the Jardine family. John Jardine established a cattle station at the tip in the mid 1800s. His sons, Frank and Alex gained notoriety in 1864 by driving 250 cattle from Rockhampton 1200 miles across bush and rivers. Their feat was honoured by them being made Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society. There is no doubt that it was an achievement. However, only 50 cattle survived and the brothers allegedly killed close to 200 aboriginal people on their journey. Therefore, to us, any honour seemed misplaced. Frank continued to live at Somerset, and was made the Police Magistrate. Apparently, he survived several attempts on his life, as a result the indigenous people called him ‘Devil Devil’ and treated him with fearful respect. He married a Samoan princess, Sana Solia and we saw their graves at the remains of their property.

Like much of the history of Australia, particularly remote regions, it’s difficult to view it through a modern lens. Nonetheless, we believe that if a culture of reconciliation is to prevail in our adopted country, the truth of the past must be recognised. The Jardines worked hard to try and develop the Cape as a viable agricultural region. However, it would seem that they did not respect the local indigenous people as their equal or value their lives. Stories such as theirs do begin to help us to understand the aboriginal perspective on the European occupation of Australia.

The last of the family left Somerset during WWII and their legacy includes the large number of feral horses roaming the townships of the northern peninsula. Apparently they let their 75 horses go free when they left and their descendants are still there. We even had one come and explore our tent in the middle of the night.

After the thought provoking visit to Somerset, some four wheel driving was in store. There are a series of beaches nearby with some interesting tracks leading down to them. We had fun getting through the tracks and driving along five of the seven beaches. We decided not to tempt fate on the sixth beach as the track was very challenging and we wanted to keep OTIS intact for the rest of our trip. Two cars did make it, however, Tony drove his car accompanied by John, and Steve and Joanne also successfully conquered the track. The seventh beach is notorious and even John, in the past, has been defeated by it so we headed back to our camp without attempting that one. All in all, another fabulous day, we’d reached the tip of Australia and learnt some sobering lessons about the history of Cape York.

We were up early again the next day for a boat trip to three of the Torres Strait islands. These are named after the Spanish explorer, Luis Vaez de Torres who explored the region in 1606. We were visiting three of the islands closest to the mainland; Horn Island, Thursday Island and Friday Island. It took about and hour to get to our first stop at Horn Island which gave us opportunity to admire the stunning environment in this part of the world. We spent some time at Horn in the Torres Strait Heritage Museum which includes a lot of history about the role that the islands had in the defence of Australia.

Torres Strait

From Horn we had a short trip over to Thursday Island which is the administrative centre of the island group. Several Federal Government departments have offices here so the infrastructure has grown to reflect this. As well as visiting the Gab Titui Cultural Centre we had a very informative taxi tour around the island. Frank, our driver is an islander of several generations and was a wealth of information about the islands as he took as round and stopped at The Fort and The Cemetery. This was followed by a delicious fish and chip lunch at the Torres Hotel known locally as The Top Pub. This is a pretty accurate description given that it is the northernmost pub in Australia – another achievement for us.

Our final stop of the day was at the Pearl farm on Friday Island. Pearling is less of an important industry than it used to be, but Kazu farm is still continued by Kazuyohi Takami, who is originally from Japan. As well as an opportunity to buy all manner of pearls and pearl related items we learnt about the seeding of oysters and harvesting of pearls. It was a long day but we learnt a lot and the views of the islands and the ocean were absolutely stunning.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the tip and in the Torres Strait. However, we were left thinking that the region felt like a different country to the rest of Australia. This is partly due to the vast distance from population centres of any size. However, it also felt a bit neglected and lacking in the vibrancy we associate with Aus. The attempts to develop a major port or agriculture haven’t succeeded meaning that tourism is the only industry. Even that seems to be largely taken for granted and not a lot of effort goes into making sure that visitors have a good time. There were a couple of exceptions, the dinner provided for us at Seisia Holiday park was superb and we thoroughly enjoyed our island trip with Cape York Adventures. However, it would be fair to say that the townships of Seisia and Bamaga feel a little unloved. We’d recommend everyone makes the trip to the top of the Cape and maybe in time this will result in a revitalisation of these communities.


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