Time to head for one of the major tracks in Australian 4WD. The Old Telegraph Track, running up the middle of Cape York, is a perennial in any list of must do tracks.
Chili Beach – Sun 13th Sep
The last day was just as windy as the first, no wonder these winds powered trade in the days of sailing ships. Good for walking along the beach.
Moreton Telegraph Station – Mon 14th to Tue 15th Sep
With Frenchmans Track clearly not a viable short cut the road north began with a retrace to the south, picking up the Development Road where we had left it a few days earlier. From there the road was in pretty good condition, being the end of the season we had expected it to be flogged out from all the traffic – a pleasant surprise to be on a smooth surface.
Moreton Telegraph Station was built in 1887, one of many stations along the way. Now offering camping it is a great little spot to spend a few days, a far cry from its original design when the stations were built like forts to protect the people and equipment from “wild blacks”, complete with gun ports on two corners.
Powered sites are the same price as unpowered so an easy choice there. Slightly unexpected are the cows which wander in at dusk, seeking the well watered grass and the fallen mangoes from the trees. The girls certainly enjoyed the sprinklers.
Positioned alongside the Wenlock River, Moreton is a decent spot for fishing. Although the barra hole does not look like much at this time of year there is plenty in there, producing my first barra of the trip (sadly undersized). John of Fifty Toes had better luck, pulling out two keepers – amazing how good it tastes when so fresh from the water.
It is incredible to think the river, now shrunken into the base of it deep course, will rise over 15m in the wet to flow through the campsite. Outside the office is a pole with historical flood levels marked on it, the volume of water in 1907 would have been stupendous.
Cockatoo Creek – Wed 16th to Thu 17th Sep
Moreton is just over 40km from Bramwell Station, the start of the Old Telegraph Track (OTT). Here the Development Road veers to the east, whilst the OTT heads directly north.
The first crossing is Palm Creek, the track approaches from an angle so the crossing is hidden until the last minute. When we arrived there was a tour bus parked up, cups of tea in hand waiting for entertainment, no pressure then. The drop in is a two stage affair, the first a steep drop, the second stepping down abruptly into muddy tracks. Best taken at low speed, unlike the guy ahead of me who went in fast, smacking his trailer into the wall in a couple of places.
The crossing itself is dry at this time of year, which would normally assist with the climb out; unfortunately a sharp rain shower ensured this was slick. With all terrain rather than mud tyres the winch was needed to get us over the lip, although with hindsight perhaps a little more speed into the climb may have bounced us up (and increased the chance of breaking something).
From here the OTT is a delightful single track running through the trees, and thankfully lacking in corrugations; a real pleasure to drive.
Along the side of the track are many of the old telegraph poles. Most of them are bent to the ground, presumably by people trying to get at the ceramic insulators for souvenirs. A rare few have survived, it must have been quite a sight to see them marching into the distance strung with wire.
Almost immediately comes Ducie Creek. At the start of the season this would be a deep pool, needing a hard left line to the exit. However it was now just a muddy puddle and a straight drive across to a simpler short climb on the right. All the more puzzling to stall at the lip; check gears, oops, low range may help……
North Alice Creek comes next, a simple dry but rocky crossing. Even early season it is reportedly only shallow.
A further 11km on there are two crossings in quick sucession, both with water albeit it currently very shallow. First up is Dulhunty Creek – this has a long entrance sunk deep into the bank, as you cross the far bank looks impossible but once there the hard right becomes visible providing a shallow exit.
Then comes Bertie Creek. This is a hard right along the bank then a dive over to the left further up, being careful to avoid the deep holes in the river bed. With the water level low the holes were easily visibly, making this easy (aside from the 110’s turning circle putting us close to the first hole – check the video); with deep water this would be much more of a challenge, requiring first a careful walk across.
The next crossing is the infamous Gunshot – more on that later, discretion overcame valour and we took the bypass, all 25km of corrugated misery a penance for not throwing caution to the wind.
Cockatoo Creek was the last crossing of note in the southern section of the OTT – Sailors Crossing was little more than a dip. Aside from a steep slope at the start the entry is gentle; however the crossing needs a careful line as it is rough with deep holes – would be scarier if the water was deep enough to hide them.
Cockatoo is a wonderful free camp on the north side of Cockatoo Creek. It goes back a lot further than it looks, with a track running into the woods behind the campsite giving access to fishing holes downstream. The campsite is set amongst trees, and raised above the river which provides some great swimming for the kids, as well as a fine spot to look over whilst cooking dinner.
Now back to Gunshot. A short drive back down the OTT brings you to the north side, a fine place to chill out and watch the action, and admire the broken bits hung in the tree at the bottom.
Gunshot number 1 frankly is unnerving, a vertical drop taller than the 110 into water – people who have done it say the run out is curved so your wheels naturally take you out, but we also heard horror stories of trailers ending up on roofs and someone having to be winched out backwards.
Gunshot 2 and 3, to the right (looking north), don’t look much friendlier, although 3 does seem to have a slope in rather than a drop.
To the left (looking north) are the chicken tracks, if you like your chickens on steroids…..all sharp drops into deep mud. Sadly whilst we were there no-one took on the main drops, just the chicken runs.
The chap in the photos above made it look easy, but then a 4” lift and huge tyres do help – it seems he only backed away from Gunshot 1 under threat from his wife. The vehicle before him left both tail light clusters shattered in the mud.
Slightly up the track from the crossing there is a grave, a memorial to WJ Brown, one of the linesmen who maintained the telegraph line, found dead in his swag in 1945.
Elliott Falls – Fri 18th to Sat 19th Sep
North of Cockatoo the OTT becomes a straight dirt road, not nearly so much fun as the corrugations make a return for the 15km to the junction with the Development Road.
The north section of the OTT starts 9km further on with a side trip to Fruit Bat Falls. This is a place not to be missed, twin falls tumbling down into a perfectly clear pool; perfect for swimming and relaxing. Swimming up to the falls you get a fantastic back massage from the water tumbling over.
A couple of km to the north you come to Scrubby Creek, don’t look for the name on a Hema map as they just show it as “ford”. Seems strange this one is not marked by name as it is long, deep and definitely not clear. Deeper in the middle its best to hug the edges, for us that was the right hand side to keep the air intake nice and high – the girls all got wet feet in the back but nothing serious.
Elliot Falls is a campsite with three distinct waterfalls on offer. Nearest the camp is the Saucepan, more of a rapid than a waterfall; as the mist rose in the early morning this was a lovely place, a few hours later it was rather too popular with people cooling off with stubbies in hand.
Elliot Falls is next, where the river drops into a long “v” shaped gash in the riverbed. It is possible, but hard work, to swim up to the base of the falls.
Both the Saucepan and Elliot Falls are on Elliot Creek. Twin Falls is just around the corner, on Canal Creek, just before the two join. This is probably the best known image, a two tier waterfall with pools between – a beautiful place and just far enough from the camp it was never too busy.
In many ways Elliot falls is a wonderful campsite, it’s just a shame people let it down. The second night the crowds arrived, along with the feral behaviour – since when has it been acceptable to tear down standing trees for firewood, run generators when they are not permitted (one was to power the saw to cut up the trees!) and take a good soapy wash in the river ………..The rangers were conspicuous by their absence, do Queensland Parks even care about the site being trashed, or do they only care about the $$$$$