Leaving our caravan safely tucked behind the Laura Road House, we headed northwards and made our way up the Cape. We had been told that the road had been recently graded as far as Bramwell Station and were pleasantly surprised at how good most of the mainly dirt road was – up to Bramwell. First stop was at the Musgrave Road House for a short break, and then after filling up the Pajero at Coen, we stayed over night a few kms out of town at a great free camp called The Bend. We quickly set up our campsite and headed down to cool off in the creek – with no salt croc worries as Coen is a long way from the coast. The creek beds are uniquely picturesque as the gums grow out of the white sandy bottoms and huge fully exposed tree root systems support their tree on the banks where fast flowing water has washed all soil from them. Add to this the glassy water and striking rocks and the creek becomes a romantic relaxing place to spend time.
After a good sleep we decided to head over to Weipa on the west coast. We had originally planned to go there on the way back, but someone, who shall remain nameless, (Andy), had forgotten to refill our gas bottle before leaving Mareeba, so we had to get to a larger town to do this. The dirt road to Weipa was great – due to the large bauxite mining operation there which maintained it in good condition for their huge road trains – and after setting up the tent at the harbour side campground we headed for the pool to wash off the dust, then took some great sunset photos from the beach.
From Weipa we took the north fork road via Batavia Downs to rejoin the Bypass Road and headed via Moreton Telegraph Station- where we booked two nights at the Eliot and Twin Falls National Park camp and then Bramwell Station (where diesel was $2.15!) to spend a night free camped beside the notorious Palm Creek crossing – one of the more challenging parts of the Old Telegraph Track (OTT). It lived up to its’ reputation with about 45 degree climbs out of the pit that had water, mud and sludge. We had no intention of wrecking the Pajero attempting this but watched some cowboys having a go on their ATVs. Great fun!
On our last leg to the top, we experienced a stretch of terribly corrugated road from Bramwell Station which was bad almost the entire way to the Jardine River crossing. Parts were so badly corrugated we had to go around the road marker posts to be able to go at more than 10-15km/h as any faster and the car would have shaken itself to pieces. Lowering tyre pressures to around 25 helped a little – but the advice from some to ‘go faster, around 80km/hr and you can skim over the top’. Yeah right! but when you come to corners at that speed the vehicle can seriously lose traction and end up heading for the bush. No thanks – slow and steady for us.
Breaking the last couple of hundred kms at Eliot and Twin Falls bushcamp, we didn’t realise that there was a serious water crossing to negotiate first, but having done the 4WD training we knew what to do to reduce the risk of getting bogged or flooded. Andy walked the crossing first to find the best route through then fixed a small tarp across the front of the Pajero. He took it slow but steady to create the bow wave and it went fine as the video below the photo gallery shows. As a bonus, Carolyne found the amazing pitcher carnivorous plants we had heard about growing on the sides of the walls leading down into the creek. We ventured into the ‘Saucepan’ for a dip at the base of Eliot Falls but it was a little off-putting to use the rope to get out again as it was worn down to a few threads in parts, but then discovered Twin Falls where we spent the whole day swimming in both pools and sitting under the falls and eating lunch and an early dinner. Just a magic place that you must go to if you travel up the Cape.
The next morning we packed up and set off for the last stretch to the top. After paying the $99 return for the 100 metre river ferry crossing (you get camping permits included so I guess the price isn’t that bad) – we were taken across by a local aboriginal chap who told us of his plan to take his restored FJ Holden on the OTT as his uncle had done 40 years prior. We thought he was crazy but his uncle had dared him to attempt it apparently. After a great fish & chips lunch (fresh mackerel & great crunchy chips) at Seisia we found our way to Punsand Bay camping/resort. We spent a relaxing 3 nights there and enjoyed the cold beer and wood fired pizzas – yum.
The trip to the tip was so interesting with unexpected lush, green rain forest the closer we got the the top of Australia. We walked the 500 metres over steep rocks to get to the tip, had our photos taken by other visitors and sat and enjoyed the view. Andy was the first to spot the 15 foot crocodile that glided around the tip for 10 minutes eyeing us (and a bloke’s dog – ‘DFor’ – yep ‘D’ for dog). He was an impressive beast with high back spines and fearsome looking jaws with very large teeth which he showed us every time he surfaced. We were just glad we were out of his reach for sure. On our return to Punsand Bay we almost ran over a 2 metre, thick and beautiful tiger snake, pleased that we were in the car when we saw it and stopped in time!
After sending some postcards, stocking up on a few supplies at the small top end town of Bamaga we said goodbye to the top end and headed down again, stopping off first at Fruitbat Falls for another swim. Next, we diverted off the Bypass road to the east coast to stay a night at Captain Billy Landing. The road out there was a good 4WD track with a couple of creeks to cross and was very narrow in parts but we didn’t meet any others heading out. The night was a little windy but not as bad as we had thought it would be and this area on the eastern side of the cape was a little eerie but interesting. The local ranger had told us to look for sea cucumbers and various types of fungi but we spooked ourselves over the resident large male crocodile that had been seen hanging around the landing and so didn’t venture onto the shoreline for very long. However, our beach combing found a beautiful large Nautilus shell.
On the last leg back we stayed at the Archer River camp where we listened to the cheers of the Queensland supporters enjoying the first State of Origin match before we fell asleep. Then we made our way back to Laura to collect the van, passing managed burn offs that sent the mulga snakes scurrying out onto the road. We stayed at Laura again before heading to Lakeland so we could visit Cooktown the next day.