At the end of 2016 our little family expanded to 4, with the birth of our son Daniel. Being a little bit under weight when born, meant he was under a little bit more scrutiny than most new born babies, but nothing we couldn’t handle. I mean we were experts, we had kept our first born Cailin alive for 2 years so surely we can repeat our success with Daniel.
Fast forward a couple of months and after a routine check up for the young bloke, our world was thrown into disarray, after Cara raised a question about his breathing. Before we knew it Daniel was bounced from Doctors surgery, to the local hospital in Wangaratta and then to The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, all in the blink of an eye. What the F#*! was happening? Uncertainty followed those initial days. Test after test eventually discovered he had Pneumocystic Jiroveci Pneumonia, or either P.J.P or P.C.P. for short. This basically meant he had a severe lung infection, the cause of which is still unknown, which has caused damage to his lungs and airways and would leave him struggling to breath. To top this off it was discovered he had a compromised immune system which meant a simple sniffle for us would be enough put Daniel straight back into hospital.
For the next 12 months Daniel would spend his life in and out of hospital. The worst of which very nearly took his life, at the end of October 2017. That was an extremely hard time for our little family.
So how does this relate to Cape York you wonder, well in June or July 2017 on a boys weekend away, don’t judge it was good for my mental health at the time, the question of who wants to go to “The Tip”, the northern most point of the Australian Continent, Cape York Peninsula, was raised (thanks Toddy). For many Australians this is a bucket list location for anyone who is interested in four wheel driving, camping, travelling, touring and/or adventure. I was no different. Why? Well for many, it is so far from home that it is hard to find enough time off of work to complete the trip. Equally as much, the remoteness of Far North Queensland (FNQ) is just as big of a challenge to convince yourself that it is doable, and for us all those questions and more started running through not only my head but Caras’ as well.
I did something that night that I had never done before, I said YES, I’m in, but this time I meant it. We were going to step out of our comfort zone and finally reward ourselves. No more excuses to not do things, only reasons to do what we want, and so it begun, our journey to the Tip.
Having just started a new job I was keen to give my new boss as much notice as possible for my leave. It worked in my favour as he seemed to get almost as excited about the trip as I was.
The following months were spent getting our ute ready, a 2011 Mitsubishi Triton, in between sleepovers and hospital stays. Plans were set, budgets were put in place, and then blown, late nights spent and frustrations rising, yet still we wanted to go.
September 2018 was our departure date and before we knew it we left our home town of Benalla, it was an extremely cold and wet day too, and the convoy of travellers were off. Wives and kids were flying to Cairns so it was going to be a long and lonely 3 days behind the wheel. The emotion that become of me as the convoy drove off out of town was quite amazing, it almost brought a tear to my eye, a mini sense of accomplishment, we had done the hard work, now it was time to enjoy our time away.
Arriving in Cairns and picking up Cara and the kids from the airport was again emotional, I had just travelled some 3000km or more and it was the first Fathers Day that I had ever spent away from my kids, so to see their faces again was quiet emotional.
At the time I had no idea of the challenges that lie ahead or the impact that those challenges would have on my life. Theft from CookTown, driving on unfamiliar terrain and even using a basic tool kit to make major and minor roadside repairs. Did I mention Gout even tried to cripple me and test my patients.
The theft in CookTown was my rear recovery point, oh well my fault I guess, I was warned to lock it up but didn’t, better not get stuck now. The unfamiliar terrain came in the form of sand and beaches, I had never driven on sand before and you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. The repairs, well this was one that threatened to haunt me for a while, I was the only mechanic on the trip, imagine if it had have been my vehicle to break down or even the other vehicle that i had prepped for the trip. I was sure my knowledge would be called upon at some point during our voyage. Why did I think like that you ask? Because I doubted myself and my abilities as a mechanic, my self confidence wasn’t very high. This trip, however would change my confidence and change my self perspective in a really good way.
It wasn’t long into the trip when my skills and confidence were brought into question. One vehicle in our convoy had a breakdown, not mentioning anyone Todd, whilst replacing a blown tyre, he had noticed something in the rear wasn’t right, the “U” Bolts that hold the rear differential housing to the rear springs had rattled loose. With spare parts 160km away something had to be done to get the ute to a safer place to work on. I immediately went into a comfort zone that I didn’t know existed and I did something that I had always wanted to do, I patched that sucker up and held it all together with ratchet straps, just to get the vehicle to a safe spot until the replacement parts arrived.
Spending long days in the cars with young toddlers was always going to be a challenge, not to mention setting up a family tent every day. You could say that we became quite good at Travel Tetris during our time away.
The next really confronting challenge, for me anyway, came on the infamous OTT, The Old Telegraph Track, in particular an unnamed river crossing on our maps, we later found it to be Logan’s Creek Crossing. The crossing is deep and has a sandy bottom, and I made the rookie mistake of not lowering my tyre pressures enough-BANG-stuck in the creek and water starting to come in past the door seals. Other than a bit of water intake, and some wet carpet and toilet paper, no harm was done. Unfortunately this crossing wasn’t finished with our convoy. It had already claimed a motorbike from another group of travellers and it was about to try and claim one of us! Half way through the crossing, KAPOW the GU Nissan Patrol in our group came to a sudden halt in the water, this wasn’t meant to happen. Quickly dragging it out of the water and into some shade, I slipped straight into repair mode, without a thought of hesitation, and quickly came up with a plan of attack. The snorkel had come apart and it subsequently allowed the engine to be filled with water. Myself and Tom, Another in our group who is also in the auto industry, looked at each other with low confidence, the chances of this thing driving out under its’ own steam was extremely low, to say the least. So we set about stripping the engine apart, trying valiantly to de-water the engine. It was a hot 37-38 degrees C. small amount of shade and high humidity, add to that a limited tool kit. Our words were more positive than our thoughts, but we were going to try. A long and hot 2 hours later and it was crunch time. The engine was de-watered and reassembled, time to see if our efforts were in vain. Just like that it fired up, all be it running on 3 and a half out of 4 cylinders, and blowing an absurd amount of smoke. Relief dripped down my face, or it could have been sweat, by that time I wasn’t sure. We had done it, I had done it. Together we had saved this couple literally thousands of dollars in recovery fees and untold heartache. My confidence was finally where it deserved to be. If I could do that I could do anything and do it anywhere mind you.
The days that followed took us to some amazing places in the Cape York Peninsula and culminated in our visit to the sign post at the Northern most point of the Australian Continent and the obligatory photo with the sign.
After all the hype of the “Tip” was done some of our crew did some fishing. Although nothing was caught, we did have a large Sea Turtle greet us near the sign, now that was simply magical. Instead of fishing I choose to find a rock and reflect on what we had just achieved, and yes this time I did tear up, I welled with emotion. Less than 12 months ago we had come as close as any parent would want, to losing our son. He hadn’t needed to have a hospital stay in over 8 months, we had worked our arses off to be able to, not only setup ourselves and ute up for the trip but also to be able to afford to get away for such a long time. I was also extremely proud of myself and new lease on life I had, all because I SAID YES. Before we left, I doubted myself and my skills, yet with all that self doubt I over came it all and realised I could and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t said YES to one simple question over 12 months earlier.
I conquered Cape York, We conquered Cape York. We left home excited, yet apprehensive and came home fulfilled. We left nervous and came home confident. For me, at least, this trip became less and less about the physical location and more and more about finding my place, my belonging. It has led me to doing what I am doing now. I am full of self confidence and I no longer fear what each day brings, Why? Because I Conquered CAPE YORK!!!