Another day opened up as we pushed ahead on the never-ending dirt roads. A mix of contrasting colours of earth that have been trucked in and flattened out, one minute you are on a white sandy section and the next a pink clay colour. Of course these have made their way onto the cars which look like the 4 wheel drive equivalent of drag queens. Every now and then a giant plume of dust appears in the distance as a large road train truck sweeps through. We were told to pull over when you see one as they kick up huge dust clouds that are impossible to see through. Unusually, we saw no Kangaroos – dead or alive, on these long days of driving and have only seen one in the Cape region. Mark suspects that the heavy wet season keeps them south where they have an ‘easier life’. Snakes seem to be an endangered species up here due to the large numbers of hawks and eagles which are constantly prowling the large open areas of savannah wetlands. Around lunch time we stopped at the Archer River Roadhouse for a famous Archer River Roadhouse Burger. They may as well scrap the rest of the menu because this feast of greasy goodness is the only thing anyone orders. After more hours through endless bushland and dirt roads we arrived at the next overnight roadhouse, Bramwell Station. We really enjoyed the facilities here, including plenty of fresh water, good bathrooms and showers, happy hour, roast night and a talk on the history of the property by one of the owners.
That night Mark and I started to get excited for the next morning where we would take on the mighty Old Telegraph Track, a pinnacle of Australian 4 wheel driving. Next morning we did a vehicle safety check, fuelled up at Bramwell Junction Roadhouse and entered the track. At Bramwell Junction, many 4 wheels drive parties were sharing tips and thoughts on the OTT. “Oh yeah, I reckon yous might get through but Palm Creek is the really hard part, lots of people have had to turn around”. As we arrived at Palm Creek there was a large group of spectators waiting to see if anyone was brave enough to take on the challenge. Cameras and phones were whipped out as we announced we would take this beast on. Oohs and aahs were heard as we negotiated our cars down the steep clay banks, across the river and out the steep muddy exit. Pfffff… In the end we rated it about a 6 out of 10. Things could have been very different if one of the earlier convoys hadn’t spent time digging out a large section of clay wall to make the track passable. At one of the later stops, he was called out buy a friendly crew we got talking to “hey this is the guy that fixed Palm Creek”!
After more river crossings and decent 4 wheel driving through various terrain, we came to Dulhunty River, where we were going to stay the night. It was very dusty and dry and only one or two other convoys had set up camp. As it didn’t look so inviting, we had a quick lunch and took off to try and catch the last ferry across the Jardine river. We diverted off the OTT in order to save time and plan to tackle the harder northern section on the return leg. The Jardine River ferry has been the subject of much controversy. The price has gone up from $88 to $129 for a 3 minute river crossing while ferry opening and closing times can also be hit and miss. It’s probably part of the reason the government has announced a 250 million road upgrade including a bridge over the Jardine. We were relieved to make it in time and avoid being stuck on the other side. After passing through the coastal towns of Bamaga and Seisia we made our way to Punsand Bay camping grounds just before nightfall. We found our camp site which was nestled next to a creek and mangrove swamp with views of the ocean. Yes. A creek and mangrove swamp. In some of the most infested crocodile territory in the world. We were a bit nervous but the owners assured us it was too dry and we would be very safe. There was also a large drop off between our camp and the river, so we figured a croc would have to be a pretty good rock climber to get to us. Still, Mark and I did a lot of scoping out and we’ve been on constant alert since. Having little Kat along makes us extra cautious near any body of water. Although rare, crocs are known to have taken people on the coast line, so there a constant lookout when walking along the beach and strictly no swimming. We decided to go straight to the tip of the Cape the next morning. It seemed surreal that it was just up the road and we had covered so much ground the past few days.