Frequent Problems, Solutions and Worthwhile Tips
Though not exhaustive these tips are provided by those who have camped at Pandanus Park.
Reserved Campsites – There are no numbered or reserved campsites. Some of the regular attendees arrive early in the season (usually they are first in) and will usually take the campsite they have occupied in previous years.
Therefore if you want a particular spot – arrive early.
Solar Power – Experience has shown that solar power alone does not always provide sufficient recharge for most vehicle batteries especially when a fridge is connected to the batteries. Far too often campers have underestimated the amount of power that electric (car) fridges consume or worse, the power consumed by the much larger caravan fridges. The latter in particular should never be run whilst your car engine is stopped.
If you run your car fridge from your car battery you stand a high chance of flattening the battery so the best option is to install a dual battery system – the cost is about $400, including the battery, but its worth it.
Plan for some cloudy days at Pandanus, that is days with next to no solar recharge.
Generators – 240 volt generators are excellent value especially for long term campers. Experience has shown that the cheaper the genny the more trouble it gives. Honda generators seem to be the most reliable and fuel efficient.
Gennys are great, those that have them swear by them as they allow for the recharge of your batteries on cloudy days and can be used to run lights and water pumps but don't forget to bring fuel. Plan on about 2 litres per day or more if you plan to run your genny for lengthy periods, especially on a daily basis.
Water Pumps – Bucketing water is a pain and can also be a health hazard if you regularly draw water from the same spot (crocodiles). If you plan for a long stay then a small water pump on the river is a great investment. Either a small 12 volt pump or a 240volt (genny required) unit is ideal. 60 metres of garden hose will get water from the river pump to most camp sites and if you plan to use a 240 volt generator don't forget the long extension cord.
Food – You should bring ALL your food requirements with you plus allow for a few extra days – it is amazing how many extend their stay. Burnable containers are better than cans and freeze dried or dehydrated packaged food is ideal as is cryovaced meat. Long life milk and Burrito style bread lasts well and does not require refrigeration until opened. Onions and spuds and most veggies are available at Mareeba so they can be purchased on your way to Pandanus. Long term campers should plan on bringing the makings for nibbles at roving RAP's and rotating dinners. If you need a resupply then most items are available at Cooktown and to a lesser extent Laura or alternately at Mareeba. Expect to pay more for produce at the remote locations. Liquid refreshments are also expensive at Cooktown and Laura so consider bringing as much as you can with you.
Insects – If you are prone to insect attack then bring adequate supplies of tropical strength insecticide. Mozzies, midges and other insects are common especially early in the season when there is stagnant water in the area. Blowies are not as prolific with face/head type fly screens rarely required.
Green Tree Ants – Green ants are everywhere and they love climbing, scaling table legs, ropes and tarps. To slow their advance try tins or bottle bases placed under table legs then part filled with a mix of water and oil. Oil or grease smeared on tent ropes also works.
Native Bees – These can be prolific but do not bite. They will however home in on any fatty cooking utensils especially outdoor cooking areas.
Small black ants – These are everywhere but can be stopped with the usual sprays and ant dust. A product called ANTRID sold in boxes not much bigger than a cigarette packet and containing 4 bait blocks works brilliantly – available at major supermarkets.
An insect screened enclosure for the preparation of food and eating or sitting outdoors can be useful. Similarly a yellow light at night will help keep the bugs at bay. Placing a very bright white to the side of your camp, away from tables etc will help attract the insects away from your camp.
Esky – A small esky or similar is needed if you plan to attend parties or the RAP.
Camp Fires – Firewood is a diminishing resource therefore plan to use it sparingly. Only fallen timber can be utilised for firewood. Bring a chainsaw and gloves if you plan on gathering firewood.
Toilet Pits – The ground is hard, indeed very hard in some places and a toilet pit will have to be dug as there are NO facilities at Pandanus Park. For this reason you will need a sturdy shovel.
Toilet Bucket – For those without a porta loo a handy suggestion for night time piddles is a 20 litre bucket with toilet seat and lid. Camping shops sell these – most under the name Handy Pails. A small amount of water and either some detergent or even chemical toilet additive can then be added and the makeshift toilet emptied as required.
Clothes – Friday evenings are traditionally designated Tropical Nights with outlandish tropical attire the order of dress if you wish to get into the spirit of the night. Lifeline, St Vinnies or the Salvo shops usually have good supplies of garish shirts and sarongs at very cheap prices because their original owbners are no longer game enough to wear them. Otherwise the normal Pandanus attire is casual such as shorts, shirt and shoes or thongs or bare feet. Ladies wear the equivalent. Long pants and long sleeve shirts may be needed at night.
Money – There is no charge for camping at Pandanus and no compulsion to spend money. Camping donations are welcome but not compulsory. Likewise the one dollar per year membership fee need only be paid if you wish to vote at the meetings. All monies raised at Pandanus Park are used to fund the ongoing operating costs for Pandanus. Your committee is made up of volunteers who willingly give of their own time and money for the benefit of all who seek to camp at Pandanus.
Fuel – Important: You will need enough fuel to drive from Laura to Pandanus and return (260 kms) plus an average of around 10 kilometres per day whilst at Pandanus. If you wish to tour the local tracks e.g. drive to Shady Camp, one of our outlying camps, you will need more fuel. Most vehicles on these roads seem to have a fuel consumption rate equal to city driving.
Boats – Some Vets bring small tinnys however there are very few places to easily launch a boat and boats that sit low in the water can be a health hazard due to the presence of crocodiles. There are no places to launch a trailered boat and in any case the navigable distances in the river are very small.
Children – Pandanus Park is generally a safe area with few outsiders entering the Pandanus camp area. Children are welcome and have camped at Pandanus however be aware that the river poses a risk for very small children so ALL kids must be supervised at all times. Your children are your responsibility.
A base to head for Cape York – Many vets set up camp at Pandanus and then head north to Cape York (1339 kms). You will need at least 14 days to undertake the drive to Cape York and return especially if you follow the Old Telegraph Track. Your camp will normally be safe at Pandanus during the main camping period leading up to Long Tan Day provided it is well secured. After Long Tan Day most campers depart the area and the security of items left at Pandanus Park cannot be assured. If you vacate your camp for a few days always arrange for someone to keep an eye on your gear whilst you are away.
See "The Great Northern Trip" for more information...
Garden and Path Lights – Small LED garden or pathway lights are an excellent addition to any camp at Pandanus so consider buying some of these as they are quite cheap and give reasonable light. Christmas 'string' or 'rope' lights have been used by some campers to provide bug free and effective lighting and are best purchased just after Christmas when the stores are wanting to sell old stock. Solar powered LED lights are ideal.
Gloves – These are essential for those with campfires and handy for those without. Sturdy boots are also helpful.
Radio Reception – Radio reception is possible (AM Band only). We are all old enough to remember the days when radio reception relied on external aerials made from 7/010 hook-up wire that was then strung from the nearest tree or roof. To get the wire into the tree tops use a sinker and fishing line attached to the end of the aerial wire.
Food Storage – Food stored outside will need to be kept in sealed conatiners because of frogs, ants and crows. The life of spuds, onions and sweet potatoes can be extended greatly if each is individually wrapped in a sheet of newspaper.
Soap – Ordinary soap works perfectly in the Normanby River water but NOT IN THE RIVER. There is no need to buy camping soap (the stuff that copes with hard water) because the Normanby water is not hard.