Camp # 38, Days 113 -114, Bramwell Station and the Old Telegraph Track

Bramwell Station is a great spot to stop in on your way up the Cape, it’s got loads of space to setup your van and is famous for it’s bush dinner and entertainment.

On the way in we seen this lying in the middle of the road!

Friday night with the Hall’s is home made pizza night. So we fired up my fire pit oven for wood fired pizzas. Llew-Llew approves – she loves ‘Pitzzy’!

Bramwell is also just before the start of the ‘Old Tele Track’ so perfect to use as a base to leave your big van for day trips to check out the track.

I’ve been watching 4WD shows and YouTube videos about Cape York and the ‘Old Telegraph Track’ for years. It’s probably the most well know track in Australia, famous for it’s remote location following the line of the old overland telegraph line in the northern cape. It strikes fear in to many four wheel drivers given the number of deep creek crossings, each marking an oasis of insurance claims! It has a legendary status thanks to it’s reputation of “testing the best and drowning the rest!”

Old Telegraph Track – Creek Crossings

I had already said we wouldn’t do the track, too risky this early in trip, we have well over a year of exploring Australia to do. If the worst happened and we got stranded/flooded in a creek and had to rebuild the car with all the modifications we had done that alone would take at least two months.

We did though intend to jump into the track from the main Bamaga Road at a couple of points and check out the ‘crazies’ doing ‘Gunshot creek’. There are also a couple of great waterfalls and swimming holes off the track that are a must visit on any trip up the Cape.

So we left the van at Bramwell Station and after checking the winch, uhf radios and making sure my recovery gear was close at hand we headed off just a little bit north to Bramwell roadhouse and the start of the ‘Overland Telegraph Track’.

‘Plate Tree’ – rare species only found on Cape York near Bramwell Roadhouse.

Palm Creek

The very first creek crossing is one of the toughest, ‘Palm Creek’. A very steep drop-in to the creek and an equally steep exit. I had just watched an online video from the 4wd action guys and they we’re pretty nervous about this crossing. 

We watched a couple young guys tackle it – with high 4” lifts and plenty of welly from their V8’s on the exit. I knew our car could do it but what damage might occur! 

We met a couple here – Simon and Sarah who we’re towing  a trailer through the track and learned they we’re very experienced – they decided to find the ‘chicken track’ that bypasses the main crossing. So we tagged along to bypass it ourselves.

The chicken track turned out to be more of a ‘Rooster Track’. Still pretty steep entrance and a tricky exit especially steep at the top. Sarah and Simon showed us the line and said use your lockers and take it real easy – great advice.

You may not know that normally, when one of the wheels on the front or rear axle is off the ground or loosing traction the other stops turning providing no traction whatsoever. This can happen to both front and rear. Differentials which are needed in all cars, allows one wheel to turn faster than the other to make turning corners easier.

Locking differentials or lockers – lock the wheels in sync, providing traction to that set even if one wheel is in the air – having both front and rear lockers provides the best traction possible – although it’s very difficult to turn the car when the front lockers are engaged – it feels like you’ve lost power steering.

Anyway rear lockers engaged going in and both front and rear going out enabled us to conquer Palm Creek in control and style!

Gunshot Creek

We always intended to just check out Gunshot and watch some other mad 4wd’ers cross it as it’s the most famous of the Tele-track crossings with a near vertical gully entrance. 

The day though was getting away from us and we needed to make a call if we go all the way there and then potentially have to double back and take the long detour of the Gunshot Bypass.

To Bypass or Not?

Bumping into Sarah and Simon again turned out again to be fortuitous, giving us a boost of confidence, assuring us that there were sure to be chicken tracks that we could take and so go the direct route – so onward we went!

Once there, seeing the vertical dropoff into Gunshot Creek in person was an instant no-way! 

Looking down the barrel of the infamous Gunshot entry

The exit looked pretty step and muddy as well, and a few drivers earlier in the season had cooked the exit too much and gone straight over the thin ledge and rolled their vehicles. This was now cautioned off with a strip of pink tape!

We watched a couple of other drivers navigate the creek using one of the other entrances and got ready to take it on ourselves…

You had to be careful getting under the tree in the middle of the creek – you can see part of the tree has had a neat corner chainsawed out to allow taller vechiles to get through and the turn from the creek to get up the exit was real tight as well.

I took it real easy on the exit to make sure I never ended up on the wrong side of the pink tape, but lost traction in the mud. A quick back-up, engaging the front lockers, then made it look easy and in control. We’ve done Gunshot! Time for a photo!

Cockatoo Creek was up next – it’s a beautiful clear flowing creek with a hard rock base with some huge potholes and ledges caused by the constant erosion from the flowing water. We walked this on our own to pick the line we would drive to avoid the potholes, some of which would easily swallow a wheel.  

We took it easy and kinda zig-zagged across the creek, with Leonie spotting for me. The big cruiser’s turning circle makes this a bit harder than it should be, but no problem taking it nice and easy.

At Salior Creek the final creek of the souther section, we met a 4wd convoy that had pulled up just before the rickety wooden bridge because the leaders Nissan Patrol had broken an axle. They were waiting for a recovery truck coming all the way from Wepia – that was going to take a while! Someone had marked / closed off the bridge as being dangerous, so we ended up with a bonus creek crossing to end the day.

By this time, there was no way we we’re going to have enough time to visit Fruit Bat falls and get home before dark, so it was back to Bramwell via the PDR, faster, but no-less less bumpy.

We had cleverly booked ourselves in for the famous bush dinner back at Bramwell Station that night knowing we’d be exhausted from the days adventures. Turned out to be a cracker of evening with some awesome bush comedy and entertainment by the Bagman!

So much for not doing the tele-track! We done the entire southern half and would do even more in the days to come!


Camp # 37, Days 109 to 112 – Archer River Station & Weipa, Cape York

Sweatwater Lake to Archer River Station to Weipa .04

We awoke to a lovely cool morning. Ken was up early trying to catch more crocs with Dronie II. It was feeling like a good day but then Ken pops his head and and says he’s lost the drone, he’s going to drive down the lake a bit and hopefully get a better connection …….. No luck. Dronie II ditched in a croc infested lake, along with nearly all the footage on the SD card.

Unfortunately the morning didn’t get much better. Firstly, Ken has ripped his two favourite pairs of shorts and this morning did his 3rd and final pair, secondly, as we leave Ken discovers he has smashed the lens in his spare pair of sunnies after loosing the other pair 2 days ago. Thirdly, as we are driving back out through the tricky bit of narrow, windy, river bed, he totally forgets the last obstical and guns it up the sandy bank not taking it wide enough to clear the protruding tree roots. I scream STOP but its too late to avoid impact with the wheel and with a loud crack Goldilocks comes to a stop.

It looked grim and we where both thinking the worst but with a bit of cleaver improvisation we were able to gradually remove small amounts of wood revealing we had been very lucky. Most of the impact missing the tyre and with the root firmly wedged on the rim of the tyre we hadn’t punctured the tyre itself, phew! Not having a chainsaw which we have been thinking of buying, (will now), and the axe being too risky, possibly causing more damage, we used the flat head screwdriver and hammer to chisel away bits till we could drive free.

Carefully monitoring the tyres the rest of the drive we seemed to have had a lucky escape.

Coming out of the National Park after 4 days it was a really treat to arrive at Mulgrave Station for some refreshments. It was only a brief stop before pushing on through Coen to Archer River Station for the night. The Archer River burger is famous in these parts and it didn’t disappoint. However by far the greatest delight of arriving here for the night was water to wash bodies and clothes in. A lovely, and at this time of year bustling place to pull up for the night.

The drive the next day was more of the same dusty, corrugated roads that are taking a toll on our gear.  Cape York is certainly an adventure and we are loving it but so far not a day goes by without something surrending to the relentless vibration of these unforgiving roads.

Today’s causalities, the UHF aerial mounting come loose on the front bumper. The aluminum bracket fractured and the aerial fell right on the bonnet of the car bumping away until we could stop safely. After attempting but failing multiple times to fix things Ken just cut it loose hoping we can get it replaced or reattached in Weipa.

Arriving in Weipa was a little exciting. We knew we we’re coming into some sort of civilization because there was a set of traffic lights on the way into to town – admittedly to let the Rio haul trucks pass.


Who would also have thought a Woolworths would be so exciting.   Other highlights were a swimming pool in the caravan park and Barramunchies the onsite fish n’ chip cafe. A lovely setting right on the beach, we were relieved to be pulling up for 3 nights.

However it wasn’t plain sailing and we didn’t even get a chance to explore Weipa. We really needed to use the time to do some maintenance and repairs. The corrugation have been pretty full on at times and we feel the van and car need a good going over. Tightening up everything and checking what may have shaken loose and maybe fallen off. Unfortunately we also continue to have dust issues inside the van. So disappointing as this was a big selling point for us and me. So we spent an entire day, screwing of panels and pulling out draws to investigate access points and clean out old dust. It’s been a great chance for us to learn a lot about the van but I’m very unhappy that we don’t have the product we paid for.

The hits just kept on rolling with the pool getting shut down on our 2nd day and then the night before departure we had water issues with very low pressures. Again learning lots about the van, which is great, we were able to establish the problem was the water filter but in the process of removing it snapped an essential connector and now had another more serious problem.

Charlotte squeezing into tight spaces to help detect where the dust is coming from.

Fortunately we did have internet access so Ken has been able to arrange replacement and spares to be sent up to Bamaga (near the tip of Cape York) and hopefully we’ll be back on track. In the meantime we removed the water filter from the kitchen and attached it to the main supply for the van and just wont have filtered drinking water anymore. Not ideal but at least we can get water back through the rest of the van and keep traveling.

What we did learn about Weipa, it’s a mining town with Rio Tinto having Australia’s largest bauxite mine here. Sunsets are amaizing! The beach is full of some unseen biting creature (probably sand flies again, ugh!), and the bakery makes a great apple turnover.

Our time in Weipa has been a mixed bag and we are looking forward to testing out the new UHF, hopefully Goldilocks being a dust free Zone, and a new drone. Yep that’s right Ken put it out on FB and would you believe someone in Weipa was looking to sell their old one. Beggers can’t be choose and it better than no drone. So welcome to the family Dronie III.