Free Camping Cape York – This continues the story of a trip across Cape York in Tropical North Queensland. You can read the beginning where we spend a week camping in Riniru National Park.
You hear so many tales of woe coming from Cape York. While we were in Lakefield National Park, we met a group of 4 foresters who were on their way south. One of the drivers was complacent and didn’t slow down. He said, “The road just went down from under us, and we hit the ground with a thud. (Blocks) were all over the car and we bent one of the rear arms on the trailer. This was in the morning. They have to let the trailer on the side of the road, pull the arm off, drive it to the next town about two hours away, bend it back and strengthen it, drive it back, fit it to the trailer, and find and set up Camp in the dark that night. And they were the lucky ones. .Before we left Cannes, of course the beginning of the hard way to the cafe, we saw a patrol with a hole in the side of the engine, two trucks without Stunter engines, one with a bent steering wheel, and heard many more stories. About breaks and breakdowns. And the faithful patrol shook a roof pole and shook one of the water tanks.
Free Camping Cape York
Despite the horror stories though, we met dozens of people who had the time of their lives handling the drop and our excitement grew. I was initially worried about taking the old telegraph track, up through the middle, but now we are well and truly committed to it. However, from Coen to Bramwell Junction, the starting point of the track, we had a lot of driving to do.
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Watching the tour group, who had almost parked us in Cohen, pack up and take away their impressive collection of broken-down 4WDs, we leisurely made our way up the Peninsula Development Road until we arrived at the Moreton Telegraph Station. Back in the old days of morse code and other backward means of long-distance communication, the station was a repeater in the telegraph line. Nowadays it’s a tourist stop and campsite, and with a section of the River Wenlock catchily named the ‘Barra Hole’, we thought a few nights here wouldn’t go amiss.
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Moreton proved to be quite a nice place to rest after our strenuous two days of driving (we covered about 600 km in the two days). As well as the ‘Barra Hole’ which seemed empty during our stay, there are some short walks, a nice bit of history and lots of nice places to relax.
The Wenlock River is a fascinating body of water. During the wet, the river almost breaks its non-vinified banks and many large fish, sharks and crocodiles come up it in search of food. Brett, the supervisor, told us a story about a bull shark that was found in one of the deeper holes not far from camp that was caught by the falling water before it could return to the sea. We heard other stories, one of guys fishing from a boat, 40 km inland, who in every cast brought in bull sharks because the poor creatures got caught and were obviously starving. It is therefore imperative that we heed Brett’s advice to stay out of the water, no matter how inviting it looks.
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From Moreton it is only a short drive to Bramwell Junction, the start of the Overland Telegraph Track. After a quick stop to see if they had bread, which they didn’t, we entered. After a few kilometers, you reach the first of the dozens of streams and river crossings for which the cable car is famous. Being so close to the start and quite a distance away, you can imagine our surprise to find the road blocked by about six other 4WDs, one of them stuck in the middle of the river.
From what we could gather, the group had just started down the road on their way. But at the first crossing they decided that breaking the front diff of their jeep was a better idea and so did that instead. We only got there towards the end of it, but apparently, they spent a considerable amount of time turning the 4WD in the river and winning it back out the other side. Welcome to the teletrack, thanks for coming, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Not surprisingly, I suppose, we had a bit of a crowd watching us cross the river, wondering if the exit would claim another victim. It didn’t. Quite frankly I wonder how it took one in the first place, but that’s Cape York for you.
The reputation of the Telegraph track plays on your mind more than it deserves. Despite how often I’ve read, heard and even dreamed about the track, I was a little surprised to find that it’s only about 100km from the 900km to the top of Cairns. However, the 100 km took us almost three days to cover.
One of the good things about the Tele Track is that you mostly say goodbye to the undulations, which is an unprecedented relief. Don’t worry that 25km/h is now your top speed and you’re reminded of that every time you hit 30km/h through an incredibly well-placed pothole or washout. Where the track isn’t just a well-ordered collection of potholes, it’s broken up by rutted tracks barely wide enough to fit a 4WD, tight and twisted gravel roads that weave their way around bigger potholes, fallen trees and ruts deep enough to swallow. some 4WD before dinner. And where the track is not potholed, rutted, narrow or twisted, there are all four and usually with a stream or river thrown in to hide everything from view.
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The river and river crossings provide most of the challenge over the Cape and also most of the entertainment. It wasn’t uncommon to find groups of people hanging around some of the more difficult crossings, openly cheering you on, but secretly hoping, I think, that you’d get stuck, break, or do something interesting. Luckily for us, we didn’t put on too much of a show until we hit Canal Creek, one of the last crossings we did.
A bit of background though. Along the cable track, three checkpoints get all the attention. Palm Creek, I already mentioned. The others, Gunshot and Nolan’s Brook are infamous. Gunshot Creek, if you’ve never heard of it, is a bit of a non-event as far as creek crossings go. It has a firm bottom, is not too deep and is short. However, coming to the river, down an almost vertical drop, two or three car lengths high in a brown puddle is crazy. Enough that a bypass track has been developed which adds about 30km to your journey, but people still take it, and drive back to Gunshot from the other side to watch the action. We took a B-line around the hardest parts, although it was still one of the hardest parts of the track.
Brooke de Nolan was the other winner this year. The only way across is through chest-deep water, a soft sandy bottom and a steep slippery exit. Almost everyone we spoke to who made the crossing either got stuck or was with someone who did. Half of these, as a result, had mechanical problems and everyone we asked had a story of a couple who knew someone who killed their 4WD in it.
In light of this background, I guess our Canal Creek crossing wasn’t all that spectacular, but I’ll tell the story anyway. The part itself was one of the more difficult. The water was crystal clear so it was hard to tell how deep it was. It was also quite rocky, with some big deep holes that we didn’t want to drive into. Normally, I would have gone there, but right when I got there, a guy was in the process of doing it anyway, saving me from wetting my pants. Under his helpful guidance, we crossed the river quite quickly, but the river current on the other side was very rough. I maneuvered the patrol to what seemed the most likely exit point and motored it carefully. Remember the Patrol is close to 3 tons fully loaded (and I won’t say which side of 3 tons that is), Rivero, our one year old daughter sleeps in the back, and
Peninsula Development Road Pdr
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