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Accessible Four Wheel Driving Adventure

You may know of Paul Carson from PBF’s Injury Prevention Workplace Programs.  What you might not be aware of is what he likes to get up to in his spare time.

Australia has some iconic landscapes, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru, but for the more adventurous there are some remote places that are at the top of many bucket lists.  For those with an adventurous spirit destinations like Cake York require a lot of planning and a well set up vehicle.  However just consider doing Cape York with your wheelchair on the seat beside you.  With his 4WD ute and camper trailer, Paul spent 5 weeks last year exploring along the east coast from his home in Traveston right up to the northern tip of Cape York.

With a group of mates joining him at different parts along his journey, Paul would drive all day, camp at the side of the road, eat, sleep, then get up and do it all over again.  The main stops along his way were, Mount Carbine, Roadhouses on the Hann River and Archer River, Weiper, Captain Billy’s Landing, Loyalty Beach Campground, Chili Beach, Cooktown, Lion’s Den Hotel, Cape Tribulation and Seaforth. Travelling along the infamous Peninsular Development Road for the majority of the time.

For anyone who has ventured this far north, you will understand just how challenging these destinations can be.  Yet Paul tackled each one with enthusiasm.  Upon his return to work we sat down with Paul and asked him to share a few of his highlights, lowlights and tips from his adventures.

Q1. Firstly, why Cape York?

A1. I have wanted to do this particular trip for many, many years.  Long before I was paralysed.  Now just seemed like as good a time as ever.

Q2. Driving huge distances to remote places and setting up your own camper trailer at the end of a long day must have taken its toll.  How did you manage it?

A2. I was really well prepared.  I had planned and mapped out the route, sorting out spots to refuel and restock food/water.  I had practiced setting up the camper trailer at home by myself many times, and ended up being so efficient at it that I could set it up and still have time for 2 beers before the rest of the group were even finished.  I would undo the 4 clips, let out the winch, lift it up and push forward as it dropped back down.  Then I just had to put the poles up.

Q3. Where was your favourite spot?

A3. It would have to be Loyalty Beach Campground.  Located on 13 acres of beach front land and only 45 minutes from the northern most tip of Australia.  The reasons being, I had finally made it to the top of Australia, it was a really nice set up, and we stayed for 5 nights as there was so much to do and see in the area.  The best night though was at the Lion’s Den Hotel.  A truly iconic Aussie pub that opened in 1875.  It is a rest stop for travellers going around the Cape York Peninsular.  There were shirts/hats/graffiti all over the walls, great pub food and an awesome blues band playing.

Q4. What was the worst or most challenging place?

A4. Captain Billy’s Landing without a doubt.  It is located 27km from the main road but it took us over an hour and a half to 4WD into there.  It is nestled in the corner of a small headland right on the coast and is very isolated.  The weather when we were there was shocking, gale force winds, drizzly rain, no accessible toilet or shower.  We arrived about 4pm, set up and went to bed.  Left early the next morning as there was nothing to see or do.

There were many challenges or disappointments along the way:-

  • Not being able to get into the water for a swim anywhere – beach, creek, waterfall.
  • Sheer exhaustion.  I was used to pushing myself on concrete not sand/gravel all the time.  Combine that with driving all day (4 wheel driving one handed as I have hand controls), and setting up camp.  It was a long 5 weeks.
  • Lack of accessible toilets and showers.  I was hanging for a shower some days as I was so hot and dirty but couldn’t have one.  Yet everyone else in the group managed to.
  • Not being able to do simple things like collect firewood, because I couldn’t push through the bush to get it.
  • But by far the most frustrating thing was not being physically able to touch the sign that says you are now standing at the most northern tip of Australia.  I tried everything to get there.  The car park is about 200m from the tip, but to get to the actual sign it is a 500m rocky hill climb.  Alternatively, you can go onto the beach at low tide to get around on the sand.  I tried the beach way first, but the sand was too soft and I got water up to my axles.  I inquired about getting a helicopter, but it couldn’t land at the sign.  I inquired about a boat, but there were none big enough to get through the channel as it runs very fast.  Believe me I tried absolutely everything I could think of but just couldn’t get there.

Q5. What tips do you have for anyone planning a similar trip?

A5. My Top 3 Tips:-

  1. Make sure the route is well planned and mapped out.
  2. Don’t go on your own, as it is hard on the vehicles so you need backup.
  3. Do it before they lay the bitumen on Peninsular Development Road.  It will make the road easier to drive on but will remove the adventure component.  It will also increase the number of tourists who can access the tip.

Paul was paralysed over 15 years ago in a workplace accident.  He has since travelled all over the world.  There are not many challenges he hasn’t faced.  However the unforgiving Australian bush pushed him to his limits.

“This 4WD trip made me realise, for the first time since my accident, there are certain things that I just couldn’t do, but I had to accept it as bad luck and move on, so I could enjoy the rest of my trip.” Paul Carson.

Paul on one of the magnificent beaches
Typical camp set up
Loyalty Beach Campground
Captain Billy's Landing
4 Wheel Drive Track
One of the water crossings
A termite hill & Paul's 4WD ute & camper trailer

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