From our camp beside the river at Coen we continued up the Peninsular Development Road (PDR) past Archer River Roadhouse and the Bill Hanson Bridge - and Glen's late brother in law was worried about being forgotten… and turned right toward Lockhart River. We decided to camp at Chilli Beach, a stunning white beach in the National Park. This is what you imagine tropical island beaches to be like - perhaps without the threat of crocodiles. We spoke to ca couple f guys who said they'd just done Frenchman's Track in the reverse direction to what we intended and the advice was we'd never make it across the Pascoe River. The water was OK but the climb out couldn't be done with a Triton and would be tough with a trailer. Then there was a long bog in the middle he guy (lifted and muddies) just made it through and the chicken track on this one was harder than the main line. Julie spoke to a couple of local women who'd been fishing from the beach at low tide using handlines to catch snapper in the weed. She got the Ok for us to swim there when the tide came in. It still wasn't more than about knee deep where we dared to go but it was nice to get wet.
That night over a beer and the maps we decided to take a look at the Pascoe crossing, the guy told us there was turnaround room for the trailer at the top and it was only 12km in. We set off the next morning with no intention on our part of doing the crossing… Sandy possibly had a different agenda.
At the crossing we caught up to some people. The had a new stock Fortuna towing a camper and a Hilux towing a trailer as well as a beast of a 105 (Land Cruiser). Sandy and Glen looked at the track and both thought it was very achievable even though the Hilux had trouble and the Fortuna did some damage to side steps. To be honest we just thought they drove it badly. They were a nice group and offered to assist us it we needed it on the track. We decided to do it and Sandy, about 500m closer than us had almost completed airing down before we even got back to the car. He made it up with only a small stop and retry and then it was our turn. We walked up effortlessly. At the next obstacle, the bog hole, even though somebody must've drained a lot of water compared to what the guy at Chilli had said, the first trailer needed a snatch out, almost bogging the 105. The second just made it through and Sandy with not very aggressive all terrains hit the middle and sank in somebody's wheel ruts. He almost pulled the 105 in but got out in one go with some foul smelling water in the car. Determined not to get caught Glen powered the Fun Truck in in third low, regretting his decision about three quarters of the way through when we ran out of steam but she kept turning over and climbed a high section in the middle then powered out. No water in the car :) The Wenlock River crossing was uneventful and we said goodbye to the people in the other cars as they were headed to Weipa. We had a swim at this crossing… well WE didn't include Julie who took up unofficial croc watch instead. At the end of the Frenchman's we turned right onto the Telegraph Road. We camped by a dam about 20km south of Bramwell Junction, the start of The Old Telegraph Track (OTT) proper. (found out later it's the end of the track and we missed the start of it, Cable Beach at The Tip where the under-sea cable comes out of the water. Apparently you can still see it.)
Next morning after to obligatory "we're doing The Telly Track" photos we were off down the actual OTT, an iconic 4WD track often featured on the DVDs of 4WD Action and on many 4 wheel drivers bucket lists. Not far down the track is the first creek crossing. Palm Creek, dry when we were there so without doubt much easier, features a steep drop off and a 30m long vertical walled car width groove as the entry and a steep climb out. No troubles going down but up the other side was harder. Almost made it out but when Glen put his foot on the brake the car and trailer slid about 4m backwards with Glen able to do nothing but hang on. With the locker and a bit more oomph on the second attempt we climbed out fairly easily. Turns out this was the only time we needed a second attempt on The OTT. Sandy's Triton made it up third go with it's centre diff lock. Pretty impressive.
North Alice Creek was dry but the Dulhunty River had claimed a victim when we arrived. Two young guys had a couple of cans and decided the Cruiser could do that vertical wall exit easy… They'd been digging it out for a while and were getting nowhere until Sandy's winch pulled it back easily. Over a beer they shared their story and Julie dubbed the guy "Vertical". We had lunch and a rinse off in the river and Sandy also rinsed the dirt off his car.
We swam then decided to camp at Bertie Creek (Sandy's car was still clean and shiny). Glen got the drone out and took a couple of shots and videos. He even took it off beginner mode and freaked Julie out with the drone going much further than 30m away. Bit of water in the camper so out with the silicone.
Next morning we found a huge pile of rubbish, including many bottles and cans. Soon after the National Parks people arrived and started their annual clean up before the wet. Couldn't believe that this was just one season's rubbish. Why do the ferals leave their rubbish and for that matter why do they bring bottles? Crush the cans and take them out with you you pigs. While you're at it bury or burn your toilet paper too.
We had a swim and moved on headed for the most famous crossing of the OTT Gunshot Creek. After inspecting the vertical drops, less vertical drops but slushy mud at the bottom and the pretty easy slope in, deep water, tight turn options we chose the latter and 47 point turned the car and trailer in the creek to get out while National Parks watched and pondered how to get the creative markers people leave out of the tree.
The rest of the crossings were fairly easy with the only challenge being wheel placement on the bridge at Sailor Creek. The OTT then joins the PDR for a short distance to Fruit Bat Falls where we spent quite a bit of time cooling off by jumping into the water exploring the upper falls and getting massaged by the water.
Back on the OTT and Scrubby Creek was the next crossing. Fairly deep and a bit of an angle which was fun and the camper stayed dry inside! We went past Eliot and Twin Falls and camped at Canal Creek, a nice place for a swim.
Next morning we drove back the short distance to Eliot Falls and Twin Falls. Glen had a play with the drone and everybody swam in Twin Falls then jumped into Eliot Falls. These two falls are about 100m apart and both were beautiful. The jump into the small canyon at Eliot Falls is brilliant.
After crossing Canal Creek we saw our first, and so far only, frilled neck lizard - without the frill up.
The Cape cont... Please forgive any typos (the r, s and u keys stick and the a key sometimes doesn't work) and spelling errors as One Note has stopped working because it can't verify my Office 365 subscription without the internet. Grrrrrrr!!!
Sam Creek has a little swimming hole below the crossing so we had a swim there in the clear water before we muddied it up. Sandy's capable little Triton edged into the crossing at an angle and made it easily. The crossing looked straight forward enough for The Fun Truck but straight on it was a bit larger drop off than Glen thought and the rear bar and the back corners of the camper ended up crunching pretty hard on the bank. Minimal damage but still not good.
After a few more uneventful creek crossings (the camper didn't even take on water - Glen claims it was his silicone sealant that did the trick but maybe the creeks weren't high enough) we arrived at Bridge Creek, the infamous Nolan's Crossing or Nolan's Brook which is usually deep and drowns cars. Parks told us there was a 4m croc just past the drop off but people were swimming in a clear section so, with safety in numbers, we too took the plunge! The crossing was shallow, Sandy took a side track and Glen, learning nothing, took the straight down route. Camper slid sideways into the wall, minor scrape, no dramas. We set up camp for the last night with our "tour guides" and the girls helped Glen to gather and cut the wood for a camp oven meal.
After a swim the next morning we discovered that the people who we swam with the day before were ferals. They'd left empty bottles, half eaten food containers and unburied poo when they left. I'd name and shame if only we could remember thee company name on their car. Sandy ran across them later that day as they were broken down. Needless to say he didn't offer help.
We said our goodbyes and we all took the bypass road back to the PDR. Sandy, Simone and the girls turned left and we turned right, bound for the Jardine River Ferry. We knew that the Jardine was driveable at the moment but on our own we couldn't risk it.
At the ferry crossing we got service and a text from Ashley that he was appointed to the AFL Grand Final.. We were so pleased for him we had to ring.
After the ferry we drove to Loyalty Beach Campground near Seisia, set up then headed for the tip via Seisia. The kids were jumping off the wharf and swimming and it was very tempting but we wanted to head up the tip. At the Croc Tent we picked up some souviners and were advised to do the 5 Beaches Track since it was low tide. Stunning views along the coast then into Seisia for fish and chips and prawns which we ate outside our camper, metres from the water, as the sun set.
The next morning we were off to The Tip via a 4wd short cut to the main road up and before long we were there! We walked the track to the actual tip, Glen flew the drone and found he had no photos because the memory card was full so he walked the track back, cleared the card and walked the track again to rejoin Julie. Another successful flight resulted in some photos that not everyone gets. Of course we took the usual photo with the sign too. Frangipani Beach is near where you park so we had some photos of us and also the Fun Truck on the most northerly beach on the mainland. Our next stop was the resort at Punsand Bay for lunch. We drove the Roma Flats 4wd track to get there. Punsand Bay was very nice and we had a swim in the pool after lunch and got chatting to a British doctor and his girlfriend who we first met at Eliot and Twin Falls. We got out when the old people with sores on their legs got in...
The Cape has a few plane wrecks from WW2 so we drove to a couple of those to check them out. Back at our camper Glen flew the drone along the beach and we saw a palm cockatoo in the tree near our camper.
The next morning was AFL Grand Final Day. Our intention was to pack up early, catch the ferry and go to a place with the game playing. OK we got up early but Glen rang Kyra, we spoke to the people from the Frenchman's who were now here and the people in the caravan next door were chatting to us so we got to the ferry at 9:30. Today of all days the air conditioning stopped working again. (turns out we had lost a bolt and yesterday's bumps had worn a hole through a pipe and we lost all the gas! We didn't find this out until we got to Mareeba again.) The day was quite warm and it was taking quite a while to bump down the PDR so we had to push it to the speed limit. The car was getting pretty hot (apparently the viscous hub on the fan wasn't working either at only 12 months old, again discovered and fixed at Mareeba) so the air conditioner would have had to be off anyway!
We made it to the Archer River Roadhouse at 2pm and the broadcast was showing the pre game entertainment. We paid and ordered lunch and got the sound turned up - we'd rung to make sure they'd be playing it as the other roadhouse we were going to stop at wasn't going to show the game. The other guy watching left when his food arrived and two more people came at quarter time so there was only 4 of us actually watching the game. Set up in the campground after the Swans lost and the Western bulldogs had all been presented with their medals.
We had arranged to meet Sandy and Simone back at Elim Beach so we headed off early next morning. We were on the right road after turning off the PDR and Glen decided to put the GPS on with a setting of Hopevale. Bloody Hema took us to the middle of nowhere 40km from Hopevale on a road that consisted of a couple of indents in the grass. The route it planned to the street which is actually where Hopevale is took us to burnt out bridge so we had to do a river crossing to continue. Eventually we got back to Elim Beach to stay 2 nights as the girls wanted to show Julie the starfish at low tide.
We travelled to The Lions Den Hotel where we were basing ourselves to do some 4 wheel driving with Sandy and Simone. We had dinner at the pub and followed the tradition of writing on the wall. Early next morning it rained a little. The Creb track is notoriously hard in the wet and is usually closed but undaunted we set off. It continued to rain. We got to the gate and it was open so we went in but not far down we met a guy coming the other way. He wasn't hopeful for us. We went up a few hills and Sandy was having a little trouble with slipping but the Fun Truck had no problem. On a big hill it was taking ages for Sandy to call us up and it turns out he went sliding backwards down a section and almost went over the edge. We went up and got stuck on the same section as him but we only slid halfway back. It was so steep that when Julie got out to walk back down the hill her feet slipped from underr her and she ended up on the ground. We decided to call it as this was the first real challenge and there were many more so we'd be winching all day. No point. As we drove back the light rain was making the track very slippery so it was probably a good decision to turn back. We made our way to the Bloomfield Track and drove down to Myall Beach and Cape Tribulaation before heading back to the Lions Den. A really nice day out with the Mabbotts even if we didn't complete The Creb.