Tackling the Tele – Pajinka Wilderness Lodge

As you arrive at the tip you can’t help but notice the abandoned buildings that sit on the edge of the rainforest, slowly being taken over by the bush.  We had a very quick look at this on our last visit, but didn’t have any idea of the story behind it at that point.  On this latest visit, knowing a lot more about the area and this abandoned resort, we decided we wanted to explore a little further.

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This is the remains of the Pajinka Eco Lodge (later renamed Pajinka Wilderness Lodge), which was once a five-star luxury resort located right before you reach the current car park area at the base of the tip.  In its day there was a private rainforest boardwalk which guided resort guests towards the tip.

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The accommodation consisted of bungalows, each with private bathrooms, bedroom and verandahs.  The resort had direct pick ups for Thursday Island tours, offered great fishing charters and one of the more popular and promoted activities was the Indigenous cultural experience offered by a local Aboriginal man.  Looking at it today its hard to imagine, but back in the day this would have been one amazing resort located in one of the most spectacular places around.

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Now as we started investigating what had happened to this resort we actually found it hard to find too much information.  There are a few different stories floating around and it seems a little secrecy as to what the real story may be, but from what we gather the basic story goes something like this …….

The lodge was opened in 1986 by Bush Pilot Airways (later Air Queensland).  Ownership subsequently changed to Ansett Airlines and later to Qantas, before reverting back to its native title and being sold to the Injinoo Aboriginal Corporation in 1992.

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The resort remained open for a number of years, but apparently things were slowly going downhill.  Poor management was reported as one of the key reasons for failure, as well as talk of unpaid wages and clashes between Indigenous staff from different clans.   At the ultimate time of demise, it must have been the off-season and the resort was operating on a skeleton staff when a fire broke out in the generator workshop and destroyed the generator shed and numerous vehicles.  This had a significant impact on the resort and with no power and no money for repairs there was not much that could be done.  Everyone just walked away, literally just walked out and never came back.  The bar was left stocked, there was linen on the beds, drinks in the fridge, air conditioners and industrial washers and dryers ……. EVERYTHING was left behind.

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Over the years things have been stripped out and taken from the site, I’m sure by locals and travellers alike, the main infrastructure of the buildings is still there, but there is little else.   Anything of any value was obviously taken long ago.  From what we’ve read, the lodge had a sign up in 2002 saying “closed for renovations” but it never did reopen.

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What would have been a beautiful place in an equally beautiful location is now a derelict site which is being taken over by nature.  The boardwalk that once led to the tip is barely there and the wood of the structures is decaying and suffering from the elements.  The buildings are probably not overly safe to be wandering around in, but we took a look around anyway!  You had to be careful where you walked as steps were no longer there, wood was cracking under your feet and there were holes in the floors of some of the cabins (not to mention spiders and snakes and whatever other wildlife was making their home around here!).  Most of the electrical power points, lamps, fans had been removed from the cabins, but some did still have their toilets and sinks in tact.

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During our last visit there was corrugated iron covering the pool, but this time it was open ….. as hot as it was, this pool was not saying ‘come swim in me’!  We’ve heard stories that a salt water crocodile was found in the pool a few years ago, I’m sure there are plenty of things living in that pool!

Apparently there has been talk of reopening the resort over the years, but the site is too far gone now for any refurbishment.  This is a fabulous site for a resort and in theory it should be a great business opportunity for someone.  But the tourist season doesn’t run for the full year, with most of the Cape York region being cut off and inaccessible during the wet season, so this would add its own set of challenges for the resort.  Back in the day, being a luxury resort, I’m sure many guests were flown in by plane, but I can’t imagine it would be a relaxing holiday to be up there in the middle of the wet season.  The heat and humidity and rain, and of course being isolated due to flooded roads, would take a little of the appeal away.

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In some ways I think this needs to remain exactly how it is, the bushland and rainforest taking over and the remains of the resort now just another page in history.  The area has such a magical feeling about it, it is rugged yet beautiful at the same time.  To have this area taken over by a multi million dollar resort with masses of people around would really take away from the natural beauty of this area, it would take a little bit of that magic and sense of adventure away.


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