Old Telegraph Track

The Old Telegraph Track on Cape York is famous in the 4WDing world – it might be the most famous track in Australia. Most of the photos you see of Cape York, whether of waterfalls or 4WDs getting drowned in deep creek crossings are taken along the OTT. So, it was always on our itinerary.

Our original plan had been to go straight from Frenchman’s Track to the start of the OTT at Bramwell Roadhouse and camp there for a night, but Mali’s broken spring changed our plans a bit. Instead we had to spend a couple of nights in Weipa and transfer all our gear into the car so we could drive up the track without Mali. When we headed off from Weipa it was an easy drive to Bramwell Roadhouse and we were there for lunch, so we got started on the track that afternoon.

Most of the track itself, particularly at the beginning, is easy. It’s the creek crossings that are interesting and what the track is known for – just search for ‘Old Tele Track Gunshot’ or ‘Nolan’s Brook’ on YouTube and you’ll find hundreds of videos of the more famous (or infamous) crossings.

The first day was mostly pretty easy and, to be honest, we were feeling pretty underwhelmed by the OTT on our first night.

However, we found a lovely campsite on the Dalhunty River near some nice falls and with no one else around. That in itself was a minor achievement because of the popularity of the track.

All the way along the OTT, campsites have developed at each creek crossing. There are no facilities at any of them but plenty of people camp and plenty of people seem to hang around at each crossing for a good part of the day as well, just chatting to whoever comes past, generally with a beer in hand.

Please don’t ask. I don’t know.

I wasn’t looking forward to that aspect of the OTT. I’d generally much rather get as far away from other people as I can and I’d knew that the track would be busy. However, everyone was really friendly and in a good mood so once you got into the spirit it was actually a really nice atmosphere and we met some great like minded people. It was actually great fun to have some others around to inspect each crossing and talk to about how to tackle each crossing.

On our second day the first main obstacle was Bertie Creek. The creek itself was easy but the track leading into it involves a short steep section leading into a long channel (just look at the photo, it’s hard to explain):

Unlike most of the other creeks along the OTT, there is no ‘chicken track’ at Bertie Creek, so no other way round if you don’t like the look of the steep drop.

Then we were on to Gunshot Creek – one of the most famous parts of the track due to the very steep entrance to the creek which formed the original track. There’s actually a long bypass that goes all the way around and misses the crossing altogether but we figured we should at least go and have a look. Once there we found about 5 or 6 different entrances into the creek and at least 2 exits. One of the great things about the OTT is that there is almost always an easy way through each creek, or at least some ways that are easier than others, but that also means that more and more tracks are always being created and damaging the landscape. Some areas really have become a quite ugly mess.

Anyway, out of the 5 or 6 entrances into Gunshot Creek only two seem to still being used – the others are so eroded and overgrown nobody attempts them. We went the harder of the two ways. The other was a much gentler, and much easier, slope down into the river.

There was a fair bit of standing around watching others and umming and ahhing before we finally decided to do it but in the end Izzy and I went down while Lindy and Matthew took photos to make sure we had proof. It was actually much easier than it looks, but certainly a thrill. Here’s a few other photos, including of some other cars, to give you more of an idea:

From Gunshot Creek we continued north and the OTT actually joins the main road up to the tip of Cape York for a few kilometres before diverging again. We stopped at Fruit Bat Falls which is just off the main road so attracts a lot of visitors. That’s another great thing about the OTT. It runs pretty much parallel to the main road and there’s a number of access tracks from the main road so you can easily get on and off the track as you please. After lunch we had a long afternoon swimming and playing in Fruit Bat Falls which were beautiful. They are not massive, impressive falls but great for the kids to swim in and climb on etc.

We finally tore the kids away from the falls and drove a little further down the track to Canal Creek to set up camp. Canal Creek is just past Eliot and Twin Falls where there is a paid campsite run by National Parks. The booking system in Queensland is infuriating and just like many of the other National Parks campsites we’ve been to it seemed to only be about one-third full despite being booked out. Anyway, we camped at Canal Creek which was fine (and free) and drove back into Eliot and Twin Falls the next morning. They were again beautiful and great places to swim and, again, we spent more time than we intended there.

Past the falls, the OTT does get more difficult. The track itself becomes a little rougher and the creek crossings basically get deeper and trickier as you progress north, with less options and often only one possible way to cross (no chicken tracks).

Cypress Creek is a change. Instead of fording the creek you have to trust a rather rickety ‘bridge’ which. Just as I was about to drive over Lindy told me over the radio that one of the logs had actually broken when she watched the car before us drive over. Great!

Then we were up to the last two creek crossings, Logan’s Creek and Nolan’s Brook, which are also the deepest two. We stopped for lunch at Logan’s before crossing and Lindy showed everyone how it’s done.

At Nolan’s, as I was wading through the creek, we amazingly found our friends Ryan and Sue that we had met a while back on the CREB Track. It’s amazing how we keep bumping into the same people up here. Anyway, Nolan’s itself turned out to be fine, although it was pretty deep and we heard a number of stories of others stalling and having to be pulled out of the creek.

From there the original OTT (the OOTT?) continues north and fords the Jardine River. For a long time that was the only way to get to the Tip but, thankfully, there is now a ferry a little further downstream and most people took that option. We did go and have a look at the Jardine ford on our way back from the Tip and all agreed the ferry was a very good option. It might be different at other times of the year but it looked very deep and was flowing very fast when we were there.

Overall, we had a great time on the OTT. It was just good fun. Nothing was too hard and we didn’t need any of our recovery gear but the creeks are beautiful and part of the fun is getting out at each crossing, walking through the river and letting the kids have a bit of a swim while you watch a few other cars go past and chat to whoever is around. It should be on everyone’s list. It’s really not that hard and everyone is really helpful and happy to give a few tips – and you can always skip the harder crossings if you want to.

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