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Week 8 Weekly Blog 15/07/2021 - 21/07/2021

Week 8 Weekly Blog

Last week saw us leave Historic Cooktown, have an extended stay in Coen awaiting mail and finish up with a delicious meal and entertainment at Bramwell Station before heading onto the Old Telegraph Track (OTT) Read on below for what adventures we got up to in week 8 of Allan and I exploring Oz.

Day 50

Today was the day we were going to start the OTT. We packed up camp and put our camper in storage and said goodbye to Bramwell Station to drive the 10km of unsealed, highly corrugated road to Bramwell Junction Roadhouse, which is the start of the OTT. Allan was pumped, I was feeling anxious, as I am not keen on 4WD tracks and especially not water crossings since Allan sunk the 80Series Land Cruiser he used to have. We fuelled up at the roadhouse, took the obligatory photo of the OTT sign and got going. It was quite a nice drive, as there were no corrugations, just a few wheel-lifting ruts and some small water crossings which we took ‘chicken’ tracks around, as they looked quite boggy. We arrived at Palm Creek, the first major obstacle/creek crossing on the OTT with a line-up of vehicles waiting to cross it. If you have watched Youtube videos on it then you know how sketchy the main track can be, but there are 2 other ‘chicken’ tracks that could be taken to cross, each with their own difficulties. The main track had an extremely steep entrance that was almost a vertical drop, a shallow creek crossing and then a very steep exit with multiple large wombat holes that most vehicles cannot exit without a winch up. There was an easier looking exit from the main entrance, which was a longer, less steep incline with less wombat holes. Allan decided against doing this track, but we still watched a couple of cars cross it. We walked 200m down the track to the first ‘chicken’ track and watched only one person attempt this one as they got stuck getting out the other side. This track had quite an easy entrance, then shallow water, but the exit was very steep. Allan decided against this option as well. We walked another 200m to the third and final crossing which at first glance seemed to be the easiest option. The entrance was smooth with no decline, the water crossing was deeper and came over the bonnet of the cars that were going through and the exit was not as steep but had a couple of very large alternating wombat holes which Allan called “CV snappers”. We watched a couple of “No Limits” hire Land Rovers go through which made it through easily. Allan was keen to go across using this track until he watched a Izuzu DMAX have the water come up over the windscreen and then when they had almost reached the top, their front passenger wheel lifted off the ground and the driver throttled up and upon landing, there was an awful bang. Allan said it sounded like they may have broken their CV. Allan quickly changed his mind and decided that he would rather take Bamaga Road to Gunshot South Bypass, which would take us back to the OTT. Bamaga Road is an unsealed road was quite corrugated with some sections of smooth road. We turned off Bamaga Road onto another unsealed road that took us past Heathland National Park Headquarters, which was a very well-maintained road with minimal corrugations. We turned left onto Gunshot South Bypass Road which was extremely corrugated, and we had 12km of it before getting back onto the OTT. Once back on the OTT heading south, there were no corrugations, just large ruts and rock steps. We got to Bertie Creek and had a walk across it, not because it was deep, but because it had some large potholes in the rocky bottom and there was a bit of cross-current. On the way back from walking across the creek, Allan and Brian were in front of me when I heard a slithering sound next to me and saw a 1.5m snake brown in colour (could be a Taipan) slithering next to me. I hate snakes, so I ran, but I broke one of my thongs to the point of not being able to fix it, so I had to go barefoot for the rest of the day. We crossed Bertie Creek easily and Allan loved it. There were many cars lined up on the other side of the creek waiting for us to cross. There was about a 2km easy drive to Dulhunty Creek. We saw a line up of cars before we had even seen the creek. We walked across the creek with a couple of cars parked in the creek and the people having lunch and a swim. The crossing itself was not complex, but it would have been difficult to drive across with so many people and cars in the water. We decided to go back to our cars and have lunch and planned to camp on the other side of Dulhunty Creek for the night. Allan drove the Triton in the river to the edge a small waterfall and took photos, while Sue and Brian found a camp for the night. We set up camp, then went for a swim in the creek and were able to swim against the current and sit under the waterfall and get a massage. It was a great way to cool down, as it was 32degrees. Once back at camp, Allan and I went for a walk and found an awesome secluded campsite that had its own swimming spot and made us almost consider changing camp sites. However, when we returned to camp, there was a couple that just rocked up and were having trouble finding a place to camp, so we gave them a heads-up about the secluded campsite. They thanked us and drove to it. We started the fire, cooked and ate tea, sat by the fire, then went to bed.

Day 51

We woke to a slightly damp awning as it rained overnight. We had brekky and packed up camp. Allan got chatting to a family camped across the road from us who were from Port Willunga who had taken their girls out of school and quit their jobs to travel Australia. We left camp travelling along the OTT. We crossed Dulhunty and Bertie Creek heading north and were going over the small ruts and rock steps when Allan noticed a weird creaking sound under the front passenger section he did not like. We got back onto Gunshot Bypass South Road which was extremely corrugated. We decided that we would not take the OTT to Gunshot and just take the PDR, that meant we parted ways with Sue and Brian so they could watch people do “Gunshot” and go around it on a “chicken track” and meet them at Fruit Bat Falls. Allan and I got back on the PDR, still unsealed and relatively well maintained, with occasional small stints of very rough corrugated road. The scenery changed frequently from sparse small trees to very tall rainforest trees, to medium sized trees with sweeping valley views and back to rainforest-like trees as we got closer to Fruit Bat Falls. There were times where Allan had no other option than to drive over corrugations, otherwise you had to drive outside of the road markers to avoid the corrugations. To get to Fruit Bat Falls you had to turn back onto the OTT which had minimal corrugations, as it was well-maintained. Allan and I got to Fruit Bat Falls, walked the 200m to the falls and went swimming. There were lots of people there, but the water was beautiful and refreshing. Allan even jumped off the falls into the water. We went back to the car, had lunch, then went for a walk waiting for Sue and Brian to arrive. The couple who we told about the secluded campsite rocked up and we had a chat to them. Sue and Brian arrived shortly so we went back to the falls and went swimming again. Got back to the car at 3:30pm and decided to camp at Canal Creek for tonight. We followed the OTT to Canal Creek, which was bliss compared to the PDR, as there were no corrugations, just a few wheel lifts and large ruts and one Scrubby Creek crossing which was hardly a creek crossing. We arrived at Canal Creek Campground, which was very busy, but we found a spot to set up camp. As we were setting up camp, we could hear crunches and grating noises, so Allan and I went to investigate. We realised that it was people crossing Canal Creek to continue the OTT. The creek was not very deep but there were a few potholes that if a tyre fell into made it deeper. The exit was where the crunching/grating noise was coming from. The rear diffs of some cars were quite low and were hitting the steep exit and grating on the rock. We watched a few cars go through, with only one getting stuck and needing to be snatch-strapped out. Once most of the entertainment had finished, we walked back to camp and set up a fire, cooked and ate tea, then sat by the fire before going to bed.

Day 52

We woke up early and packed up camp. While we were waiting for Sue and Brian to finish packing up, we went for a walk and a swim in the creek. We backtracked along the OTT for a couple of km to go to Eliot and Twin Falls. Got to the carpark and walked the 250m boardwalk to Eliot Falls first. Eliot falls was big and the only way to go swimming was if you were happy to sit in shallow rock pools, cliff jump or scale the rocks to get down to the water. Both Allan and I jumped in. It was my first jump from a cliff/fall into the water for the trip. To get out we either had the choice of climbing up a relatively steep rock wall 3m high or swim downstream and walk back. We chose to swim downstream and walk back, but we both got swept into a rapid as the falls were quite strong which we managed to get out of relatively unscathed. I say relatively because we both got a couple of cuts and grazes from submerged rocks and Allan’s of course were bleeding. We decided to jump into the water one last time. This time, because I was more confident and less scared of hitting the bottom, it took me less time to do it. To get out we decided to climb up the steep rock wall, rather than take the rapids. We then walked the 100m to Twin Falls. This was where you could just walk into the water and sit and chill out, as the falls were not as ferocious. You could also sit under the waterfall and get a massage. We spent about an hour swimming in the falls, then went back to the car and got changed. We decided to skip watching people cross Nolan’s Brook (the deepest water crossing of the OTT) and drive to the Jardine River Ferry Crossing via the PDR. The PDR had some very rough sections and was mostly corrugated. We hit roadworks with the road being graded so you could only travel from 40-60km/hr for the last 15km to the ferry line up. There were some idiots that decided to overtake us (even though the speed limit was 60km/hr) doing 100+km/hr and we met them in the ferry line up anyway. We got to the ferry line up and paid for a ticket ($100 return). It took 45mins before we got on, but we got front row seats and the ferry driver was a legend and I swear, the happiest, most smiley person I have ever met! The ferry took about 1minute to cross, then we were off on Bamaga Road which is also unsealed and was highly corrugated. We stopped on the side of the road to have lunch and planned to try our luck for a campsite at Punsand Bay. We stopped in Bamaga for food and alcohol, then fuelled up at Bamaga BP (ULP $2.14, Diesel $1.96). From Bamaga we drove 30ish km to Punsand Bay for camping. We had not made a booking because they were not answering their phones and despite leaving messages to call us back, they did not. There were 2 signs on the way out to Punsand Bay to ensure that you were booked in for camping before driving there, which we ignored. The road from Bamaga BP to The Croc Tent (a souvenir shop + Visitor Info Centre) was unsealed and really corrugated. From The Croc Tent to Punsand Bay, the road was unsealed, but well-maintained with minimal corrugations. It had one quite deep water crossing which took us by surprise. We got to Punsand Bay Campground and were told that there were no sites available at all. Our back-up plan was to drive the 40ish km back the way we had come to Loyalty Beach Campground. We got to Loyalty Beach Campground and paid for four nights ($28 per night unpowered) and set up camp right on the beach. Walked to the bar (DJ’s Bar and Restaurant) for drinks. It was a beautiful setting with a lawned area with tables and chairs and fairy lights strung up overlooking the ocean and we were able to watch the sunset over the ocean. It was stunning! Walked back to camp, cooked chilli-con-carne meatballs with pasta for tea and ate it. Started a fire, sat around the fire before going to bed. I was a bit scared of crocodiles coming and eating us in our swag, but I eventually fell asleep.

Day 53

Today was the day we were heading to the most Northern point of mainland Australia. We weren’t in a rush today, as we wanted to wait for low tide to get to the tip. This is because there is an easier walk along the beach with a small 200m walk along a relatively easy rock path to get to the sign saying, “You are standing at the Northernmost point of the Australian continent”, which can only be done at low tide. The common way to get to the tip is apparently quite a challenging “rock scramble” and we wanted to complete the walk with Allan’s parents, as that was the reason for going on this journey and Sue was already very anxious about the walk (even though she had done much more complex walks already on this trip). We left camp to go to The Croc Tent along the same unsealed, corrugated roads as we had driven yesterday to get the obligatory “Cape York” shirts (long-sleeved $69 and short-sleeved $60). From The Croc Tent it was a 17km drive on unsealed road that was well maintained to Pajinka (commonly known as “The Tip”). There was one water crossing that was a little deeper than we were expecting, but we got through with ease. The road was quite windy with sections that you wouldn’t want to meet another vehicle oncoming, as they were quite narrow roads. The scenery was dense rainforest with vines hanging down from the trees. We got to the carpark and there were hundreds of cars there. We started the 300m walk along the beach, as it was a very low-tide and the water was still going out (thankfully) and the 150m walk along the rock path was slightly undulating, with a small 50m rock scramble at the end. We eventually made it to the tip and took the obligatory photos at the sign. We spent about an hour there taking photos, because we got there during peak hour with about 6 other families. While we were there 2 private helicopters landed on the rocks each with 4 passengers. We also saw a turtle swimming in the water at the tip. We watched the helicopters take off from the tip, walked back to the car and drove back to camp. Each time we drove on the same roads, the corrugations seemed to get worse and worse. Back at camp Allan noticed oil dripping from Brian’s rear diff. Unfortunately, because it was Sunday there wasn’t much Brian could do, so he decided to call the mechanic tomorrow morning to see if they could look at it. We chilled out at camp, then headed over to DJ’s Bar and Restaurant for drinks and fish ‘n’ chips for tea ($15 for 2 pieces of fish and medium chips individually wrapped in butchers’ paper). The fish ‘n’ chips were tasty, but the chips needed a bit longer cooking to be a slightly crunchier. We saw a few dolphins having a feed and swimming past not far from the beach. It was a relaxing finish to an eventful day!

Day 54

Allan and I woke up energetic and decided to walk the 2.5km from our campsite at Loyalty Beach Campground, along the beach (dangerous with crocs, I know) to Seisia wharf, because we could see it from our campsite. The sand looked damp and solid but was deceptively soft and we saw a lot of rubbish littering the shoreline in certain places along the beach. It took us about 35minutes to walk along the beach to get to Seisia. We were hot and both sweating a lot, as it was already 28degrees and severely disappointed when we realised, we couldn’t walk on the wharf because there was a supply ship docked that was being unloaded and loaded. We had a look at the township of Seisia which didn’t take long, as there wasn’t much more to it than the wharf and the caravan park, so we walked the 2.5km back to camp. Once back at camp, Brian was about to leave to go to the mechanic to get his diff looked at and potentially fixed (hopefully). Allan and I waited an hour to be able to wash our clothes (Allan needed clean underwear otherwise we wouldn’t wait that long). In that time, Allan had received a call from Brian to pick him up from the mechanic in Bamaga, as it was going to take all day to fix their car, so I chilled out at camp while Allan picked up Brian. By the time Allan had returned with Brian, I had already hung the washing out (typical Allan getting away with not doing the chores). We chilled out on the chairs at the bar/restaurant, because the internet worked better there and there was lots of shade. At about 4pm, Brian got a call from the mechanic that his car was ready, and it would cost $800 (cash). Allan dropped Brian back off to the mechanic and I stayed back and took the clothes off the line, folded them and put them away. We chilled out at camp for the rest of the afternoon, Chris and Dale (the couple that we met on our last night at Coen) came around for a couple of drinks and we sat around the fire, cooked tea, then went to bed.

Day 55

We toured around Cape York today and looked at the WWII aircraft wrecks that had crashed and were still able to be viewed by tourists. Despite the wrecks being over 75yrs old, they were well preserved. Allan and Brian flicked lures for about 20mins at Jackey Jackey River boat ramp to catch nothing. We then drove to Somerset and completed the 5 beaches 4WD track. It was challenging in some sections with some steep rock steps and sandy/boggy sections, but it only took an hour to complete. We drove on/near 5 beaches (hence the name) which were beautiful and looked very inviting for a swim, but I wouldn’t go in the water, because of saltwater crocs. Along high tide line the beach was littered with all sorts of rubbish that had been washed up (potentially from overseas). We drove back to camp, chilled out at camp and went to the bar for a couple of drinks. We had tea at camp and sat around the fire. By this time, it was dark, and we were watching a group of boys (in their mid-20s) throwing things in the water (we later found out it was raw meat and bacon) and using their torches were following it along in the water. One of the torches hit 2 red eyes and you could see a shape of a saltwater crocodile that looked to be between 4-5m long. The boys followed the croc along the shoreline with their torches as it swam towards our camp and then further than our camp toward Seisia before disappearing under the water. The boys soon lost interest when they couldn’t see anymore crocs. Allan and I were interested and so continued to scout the water for crocs. It was not quite hightide and the water was still coming up and it was about 30meters from our swag. About 20minutes later Allan pointed his torch about 10m from the shore into the water and landed on 2 red croc eyes. We could see the head of the croc out of the water before it turned and swam towards the ocean before sinking beneath the surface to not be seen again. I had officially seen my first crocs that weren’t in a zoo, but they were seen a little too close for my comfort and a little too close to my swag which was too close to the waters edge for my liking (we still didn’t move it though). We sat by the fire for a little longer before going to bed.

Day 56

On my walk to the toilet this morning, I noticed the boys that had been throwing meat into the water had moved their swags from on the beach to more than 30m away from their original position and off the sand. They must have got a bit scared of the crocs! We packed up camp and got on the road heading back to Bramwell Station. The road was unsealed and corrugated leading up to the Jardine River ferry crossing, but it only took 35minutes to get there from Bamaga. We waited at the ferry for 50minutes for a 50second trip across the Jardine River. The PDR had been freshly graded for the first 20km from the ferry, but was very, very rough and highly corrugated all the way back to Bramwell Junction Roadhouse, with speed ranging from 40-80km/hr. We were going past Bramwell Junction Roadhouse (on bitumen road) at almost 3pm around the large, sweeping corner and Allan put his foot on the brake. The brake pedal went straight to the floor of the car and no speed change. Allan put the car into manual drive and manually changed gears to slow down safely and pull over to the side of the road. We jumped out of the car to assess the damage and I noticed copious amounts of fluid dripping along the chassis behind the front passenger wheel of the car. I mistakenly told Allan it was oil leaking and he freaked out but was slightly relieved when he realised it was brake fluid (not oil). After doing a bit of bush-mechanics we soon found out it wasn’t going to be an easy fix. Allan slowly drove the car to the Bramwell Junction Roadhouse to use their phone to call RAA. We asked if we could use their phone, but they don’t give out their phone, instead they gave us a voucher to use their Wi-Fi to call RAA. Allan spent almost 2 hours on the phone being on hold multiple times and was transferred from RAA to RACQ and then back to RAA to help us. By the end of the phone call, the plan was that a tow truck from Weipa was going to come and pick us up from Bramwell Junction Roadhouse on Saturday (it was Wednesday today). Brian and Sue decided to stay at Bramwell Station for 2 nights, so they left to setup camp. Brian planned to come back to the roadhouse tomorrow by 10am to pick up Allan so they could fix the wheel bearing on our camper trailer (Allan had bought a new wheel bearing at Bamaga). Bramwell Junction Roadhouse has a campground, so we booked a site for the night ($30 per night unpowered which included 2x Wi-Fi vouchers) and set up camp in our swag.

This week we got to the tip via parts of the Old Telegraph Track and mostly the Peninsula Developmental Road, crossed the Jardine River by the quickest and most expensive ferry, stayed at Loyalty Beach, saw a couple of saltwater crocodiles and finishing with a car with no brakes. Stay tuned for next week to find out how we go with the tow-truck ride and repairs to our car!

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