We packed up camp at Punsand Bay and started to head back South. When we arrived at the Jardine river the ferry was not operating. Ah yes, the lunch break where they actually stop the ferry for an hour so the operators can have a sambo and a beer. Yet another reason for controversy and a bit of an annoyance. Soon enough we arrived at the start of the Old Tele Track which we decided we would do in it’s entirely this time from North to South. The first challenge we encountered was Nolans Brook. A lot of the guys earlier on had talked about how challenging it was coming from the South due to it’s fairly deep water crossing and a sandy embankment that needed to be climbed while the vehicle was half submerged. When we arrived, just like Palm Creek on the way up, there was a whole gaggle of people hanging around anticipating every vehicle crossing and incident. There were guys sitting in chairs in the water drinking booze, a winch slung tight over the river attached to trees that was being used as a flying fox. Kids flying across the water on a rope swing and plenty of people wading through the cool water. The first batch of cars we saw coming through had a bit of an incident as one of the cars being recovered got the straps caught around it’s wheels. Some hero dived into the water and grabbed a knife to cut it off… “Quick gimme a knife, we gotta cut this bastard loose!” Most cars came through OK but we did hear of several vehicles that didn’t. We crossed from our side without any problems.
The next memorable crossing was Logan Creek. A fairly seedy looking section with plenty of murky water, we were pretty cautious on approach and stayed pretty alert for crocs. We decided on a more complicated exit to avoid walking the deeper and murky looking section. On the way out of the exit, a fairly steep embankment section of clay, Mark backed on an awkward angle which bent back his exhaust, effectively folding it in half. We checked it out quickly and managed to somehow crank it back around and cleared some of the blockage but decided to fix it later rather than lying in the creek bed of some croc infested mud hole. After a winch recovery, the car puffed and spat it’s way forward, barely clearing any air out of the blocked exhaust. A few more river crossings were negotiated before we arrived at the crude log bridge crossing at Cypress Creek. Talk about a close call. As the Tonka Truck’s wheels sit fairly wide, each wheel straddled the outer log on either side as I slowly crept over. A half tire width either way would have had you stuck or worse. It felt good to get out of that one. We assisted another family by spotting them across the bridge and safely out.
We stayed the night at Sam Creek where we enjoyed the crystal clear (and safe) swimming hole with the rope swing and jump rock. Nothing like a morning dip before setting off again. We stopped at the very scening Eliot and Twin Falls Falls and later on the even more impressive Fruit Bat Falls and swam at both croc-free and very refreshing attractions.
Up the road a bit further was a site to remember. We had reached the mighty Gunshot Creek. After a tricky deep mud entry, we crossed the river and saw a Land Cruiser ute hung up on a giant, near vertical dip. A few other rough looking blokes were hollering and calling out some outback style encouragement – ‘there’s no turning back now’. ‘come on, giver her some stick’, ‘hurry up, the Bundy is getting warm’. We stood back and watched them trying to get this truck out of this unimaginable position. Soon enough, the winch was pulled out and a successful but extremely harsh looking recovery was made. At one point it looked like his giant bulbar was going to snap clean off as it was wedged so deeply in the mud. The rough Land Cruiser blokes then decided one of their other cars had to go through the same section as the mate because now ‘he had fixed it up’. After looking like he might topple over and just before the nose hit the mud bottom as his mates heckled all sorts of comments and gags, the driver gave it a bit of throttle and shot out before the nose of the car could wedge into the thick mud. The crowd approved with a cheer. Mark and I went around to the top of the Southern section and went down one of the slightly tamer drop offs (while Kat remained totally asleep but had to be held back in her seat by Rita) and had a bit of a play. Later on up the road we passed these blokes and by now had affectionately named them ‘the crazy boys’ on the UHF radio. Later, after more river crossings and fun we arrived at the mighty Palm Creek, where we had no problems going through on at the start of the south to north drive and had heard that noone had successfully come out of in our direction without being winched out. We gave it a damn good shot but the FJ was the first to be recovered. Oh well, time to test out that new winch. Wouldn’t you know it, just as we were sorting out the recover gear, the crazy boys posse turned up and offered to help out by suggesting they bring their vehicles around the slightly easier route for us to connect up to. After 15 minutes or so went by, we started to think we had been forgotten. But no… As true ‘men of their word’, the crazy boys turned up to say that one of them had hooked up their trucks on the slightly easier section and they needed help of their own. Without hesitating they offered to continue help and assisted with the practicalities and gear needed for both vehicles. Soon, the daylight had completely disappeared and we were in complete darkness. We had said we would assist the crazy boys with our vehicles but one of them gentlemanly gestured to Kat and said “nah nah, yoos have the little one to take care of, we’d feel better if ya headed off to take care of her ay.’ Other friendly and amusing comments and discussions were had ‘oh yeah, she’s a good little bus aint she’ – referring to the FJ Cruiser. “Nah we come from the bush mate, this Old Tele track aint nothing special”. Mark went to shake one of the guys hands but mentioned it was covered in mud, grabbing Mark’s hand he aid “nah mate we are from the bush and live in the mud”.
Later than expected we made it to Bramwell Station to camp for the night. On this particular day, we had a birthday in our entourage. Kerstin had a very bush like birthday and due to the circumstances, we hadn’t given her a proper birthday treat apart from some good old pancakes for breakfast. When the owner of Bramwell Station heard it was her birthday she asked what she drinks. “Oh, red or white” said Mark. Boom, a bottle of nice red was handed over compliments of the house. There was also the culmination of a charity 4WD event, many of whom we had seen up in the Cape, and the music and festivities went on for many hours. Once again we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at Bramwell Station. The facilities, the cattle, nice big camp grounds and super friendly staff make it a place that it worth stopping for. Later on in the night, the crazy boys rolled in and popped over to say hi on the way through. But these men of the bush wouldn’t accept sausages or a round of beer. They were well equipped with plenty of Bundy’s and other basics of outback survival. In the morning, Mark got chatting with the leader of the crazy boys posse who slept on the back of his truck and mentioned he had a Bundy and a smoko for breaky.