How Cape York Changed Our Lives
The trip that changed our lives forever!
After catching up with a good mate who ventured to cape York in 2012, the enthusiastic story he told us about all the fun there was travelling through the top end, with 5000 photos in his arsenal he convinced us it was a place like no other!
So the planning began! I didn’t own a 4wd, we only had a little Holden Astra wagon. We took it camping with our tent and covered most of NSW and QLD in this little thing. Unfortunately it wasn’t going to tackle the “Old Telly Track”
So I decided to sell my dirt bike which was starting to collect some dust and begin to save every dollar I had. I Started scouring the net for possible rigs. Researched every type of vehicle, the suspension set ups and touring ability. I closed my choice down to wanting a duel cab utility.
Every day I was looking through for sale posts and websites waiting for the right vehicle that would need least money spent, I was lucky enough to stumble across an old fella selling a 1993 LN106 dual cab
This thing came with lots of goodies which kept my modifying budget to a minimum.
The Accessories fitted were.
- ARB steel bulbar
- ARB brush bars and sidesteps
- ARB rear protection bar
- ARB canopy
- Safari snorkel
- Long Ranger 140 litre fuel tank
- 2 inch Old Man Emu suspension lift
- Turbo Glide aftermarket turbo fitted
- Enough uhf/vhf/am radios to make an old truckie jealous!
It was a beast! the old fella had the same idea to eventually one day take it to Cape York but never got around to it and that is exactly what happens to a lot of people. My advice set a date and make everything else work around it. I still hear friends saying they are going here, there, everywhere but years later they still have not done anything.
With our new ride sitting in the driveway the “Preparation” could begin. Our first point of call was buying a roof top tent. The wife and I didn’t feel comfortable camping in a tent, especially when there could be wild animals at our door step so we opted for up high in the sky and it was a great investment. We started testing out our new tent immediately, going off locally to get a feel for things, writing down a list of things we have forgotten or changes that could be done to our car. It was very easy to set up and a little harder to pack up being so high of the ground but we managed to do it with out a hitch.
With a couple of extra Mods done, which included a 12,000p winch to the front, 235/85R16 BFG Mud Terrains and fitted a rear wheel carrier to the existing rear bar at the back. After a few little trips we where ready for our adventure!
CAPE YORK HERE WE COME
We planned our route to go up the inland through the middle of central QLD and back down the coast road. Headed off straight after work on the Friday night and stayed at Mungindi on the NSW/QLD border at a free camp just over the bridge, the rig was going well, everything was in its place with a quick cereal brekky and we were off again.
We stopped in at Walkabout Creek Hotel in McKinley where the famous Crocodile Dundee was filmed, had a quick beer and off we went again.
The landscape started to change a fair bit, instead of green hills it became flat and dry, you know you’re in the outback when you come across road trains pulling 4 trailers, next stop was Normanton QLD to check out Kris the Crocodile apparently a life size replica of a Crocodile shot and killed in the Normanton River.
So far on the trip it has been Tar road the whole way, this next step is where the fun started we finally hit the dirt roads, the decision to travel the inland route created an unknown situation on how to get to the tip, all the research I’ve done, everyone drove the coastal road and anyone coming from the west headed for cairns.
MITCHELL RIVER, DUNBAR
I couldn’t find much information on a road that linked the Burke development road to the Peninsula development road called Dixie Road. There was a long sandy crossing at Dunbar Station on the Mitchell River, all info I could find said it was 100 metres of sandy bottom and that the recovery was $1000 if you got stuck! Being the dare-devil that I was it didn’t deter me, I had to at least check the crossing out and I’m glad I did. It was recently reconstructed with a plastic causeway and the flow of the river was minimal. I attempted the crossing before deciding if we should camp there and it was a piece of cake.
We checked out the northern bank for camping but decided that the south bank was better so back across the crossing to set up camp for the night. The fishing here was unbelievable! We fished down stream of the crossing catching small bream and then threw them upstream as live bait, we latched on to a couple of Barras but the hooks kept getting spat back out. Right on dusk we had about a 3 metre salty come stalk us, we retrieved our lines then boom, we were on again but this time it wasn’t a Barra it was a 2 metre Sword Shark. Unfortunately we don’t have the photos as our friends lost their camera later in the trip.
The next morning we were woken up by a road train crossing the river. It was great to see how the outback truckers do business. Hopefully one day I will get the opportunity to experience the same thing.
As we headed off up the Dixie Road it was clear that this was starting to get some attention from the local councils. There was road crews pushing through a wider road and it was a pleasure to drive, the first research showed this road would take approx. 8 hours to complete 250km, we did it in 3 hours.
PENINSULA DEVELOPMENT ROAD
We popped out on the PDR just south of Musgrave, saving so much time we pushed on to Coen to stay the night. We free camped just on the other side of town called “The Bend” There was a freshwater creek for swimming and it was a very popular camp site. So get in early for the best spots.
That night Kym fell ill the only thing we could put it down to was the hot chips she bought earlier that day. We have eaten the same meals everyday except for the hot chips, she was the only one that ate them. The next morning she didn’t feel any better, but we pushed on to Bramwell Junction where we wanted to camp and get ready for the more serious off-roading ahead of us.
30kms out of Bramwell the dash lights came up and smoke started coming from under the bonnet, upon further inspection it appeared the alternator had seized. Luckily I had a spare one but decided to wait for the engine to cool down before changing it.
We got towed to Bramwell after some lunch I changed it over and we were ready to go again. We have had such a good run with timing we were already a day and a half up on our itinerary. so we pushed on to camp on the OTL at one of the creek crossings for the night.
OLD TELEGRAPH TRACK, CAPE YORK
The first creek crossing we came across was Palm Creek, it had 2 entries and 2 exits. I decided to take the more challenging track while everyone seemed to take the chicken track. The hard track was difficult but doable and if you had all the protection bars like I did then it wasn’t a problem. I ended up on my side against the wall on the entry luckily no damage done. The exit was no problem.
While we waited on the other side of the creek, we started to question where all the other cars went. So we ventured around to the chicken track exit and what a sight! Everyone was getting stuck in the mud on the exit and most were getting winched out. Once the long line up cleared we headed towards Dulhunty River for the night, oh boy what a prime spot to camp.
Dulhunty has a rocky bottom and camping both sides of the river, it’s a non difficult shallow crossing with a waterfall downstream. Great spot for a swim to relax and wash off all the red dust sticking to your skin.
The south OTL is pretty easy to travel, most rivers and creeks are just wheel deep, entries and exits are simple except for 2. Palm Creek at the beginning and Infamous Gun Shot Creek! travelling along the OTL the scenery changes very rapid, from dry bush lands, sandy shrub to almost rainforest.
GUN SHOT CREEK, CAPE YORK
I checked out all the drop offs and decided not to do the largest drop off. The vertical drop off looked inverted inwards on itself and having the roof top tent. I felt too top-heavy to risk it, the water was deep and the walls where tight. If I had flipped end over end I would have surely drowned to death.
The second steepest drop off wasn’t chopped out as much and I proceeded down it. Oh what a thrill, it was vertical and a slight drop into the water, enough to send shivers down my spin. Looking back at the video it was not much, but I can assure you inside it felt scary.
On the other side of the creek crossing there is car parts galore that have been hung in the trees. Majority of these parts are reminders of what has failed while attempting this crossing, things like radiators, exhausts, side steps and number plates.
NORTH TELE TRACK, CAPE YORK
The north OTL is very different, here you will find much deeper creek crossings, and a lot more spectacular waterfalls. The first stop off from the PDR is Fruit Bat Falls. The iconic waterfalls is picture perfect! You would have seen pictures from everyone that has been up the Cape standing on top of the falls.
The north OTL is swimming heaven, these are such popular places there is “no camping” or very little at these waterfalls. If there is camping it requires a permit from National Parks. We like to save our dollars as much as possible, so we try to find free camping when we can. So a quick swim and lunch then off to the next waterfall. Eliot and Twin falls, to get to these falls you have to cross a no name water crossing.
I don’t think any crocs are in this water but you can never be too sure. We watched another vehicle cross as we got there and it seemed deep but they had no trouble at all. We ventured into the water and it was pretty deep, just coming over our bonnet. I felt uneasy as we floated along this 50 meter crossing,
If you don’t have a snorkel I would not be attempting the north OTL without one or at least a car bra but even then I would hesitate.
Once at the next falls it’s a must to jump from the top and swim downstream to the joining falls. The temperature in the water is crazy, it’s like a hot shower coming from cold deep water to a shallow stream coming off the rocks. I laid there for a bit and soaked up the atmosphere, then headed up to the top water falls and had another dip in the crystal clear waters, this place is magical! and a must see in my eyes!
After our swim, we were off to find a camp for the night. We came across Sams Creek, at first it was just a little crossing and we decided to camp on the northern side. I went for a stroll back down to the creek to collect some water for dinner. I could hear a waterfall just down the stream, so went down to check it out and OMG!
A nice little oasis hidden in the bush, the waterfall was feeding a waterhole and well I couldn’t resist another jump into the water before heading back to camp. We spent the rest of the afternoon down in our little oasis relaxing and throwing back a few beers.
Kym was still feeling a bit ill and we decided to head off early the next morning and head into town to be seen by a doctor. There was an exit just after Sams Creek to head back to the PDR but we decided to just check out the next crossing. Before we knew it we found ourselves at Nolans Brook.
This crossing can make or break your trip, it’s a 20 meter crossing on a sandy bottom. The water level is always changing but this morning it was windscreen high. I selected low range and grabbed 2nd gear, I entered the water slowly until I was completely in and then just putted across without a worry. This crossing claims cars every year, people rushing into the water and going gun ho, spinning wheels or floating and then sinking. Just take your time be confident and be ready. Make sure you have a snatch strap or winch cable out and ready to go. If you find yourself bogging down and losing momentum just stop and if someone is there willing to help they could have you out in a matter of seconds.
If you don’t have any recovery gear ready you could well and truly find yourself stuck for minutes and that could be the difference between water logging your electrics or swallowing water into your engine.
We headed to the Jardine River ferry with a $130 ticket to get across. Some people find it excessive for a 50 meter ferry ride but then again it is remote and it saves you trying to cross a croc infested river. It was a short drive through Bamaga then onto Seisia. The days were getting away from us, we didn’t realise it was Sunday and the local doctors were not open. By this time Kym was looking faint and dehydrated. We checked into an Air conditioned cabin for 3 nights to get Kym to feel a bit more comfortable.
She was sick quite regularly but it didn’t stop us from venturing out on day trips to check out the top end. I snuck away to get some groceries from the shop and stumbled across a little medical tool that might answer a few questions for us. I had a hunch and I was correct we were “Pregnant!!” finally we had an answer.