Cape York Penin­sula

Far North Queens­land

Australian Geographic - - Expedition Diary - STORY AND PHOTO BY CHRIS CLAR­SON

HOW MANY TIMES have you looked at a map of Oz and won­dered about the croc-in­fested wilder­ness that is Cape York Penin­sula?

For me, it was more of­ten than not, so when a friend asked me to join him on a four-week four-wheel-drive trip to Queens­land’s north­ern tip, I jumped at his of­fer. When we hit the gravel Penin­sula De­vel­op­men­tal Road (PDR), I in­stantly got but­terf lies in my stom­ach – I’d heard all about the car-de­stroy­ing route.

Af­ter a few hours, how­ever, I re­laxed a lit­tle. As long as you drive sen­si­bly, there isn’t too much to worr y about. No crazy dust holes or washouts to de­vour your car whole. Just cor­ru­ga­tions, lots of cor­ru­ga­tions.

The first night we stayed at The Bend, just north of Coen. Af­ter cross­ing a lit­tle, al­beit deep­ish, river, we parked on a sand­bank next to a swim­ming hole. Watch­ing my kids play in mini water­falls – no crocs here – my car and trailer still in one piece, I was in high spir­its.

The next af­ter­noon, we ar­rived at Bramwell Sta­tion, un­hitched our camper and headed out to see Aus­tralia’s most talked about 4WD track, the Over­land Tele­graph Line (OTL), and its first river cross­ing at Palm Creek. I’d been told this was one of the hard­est, and look­ing at the en­try I could see why – a near-ver­ti­cal drop into a mud-filled hole. The exit was dif­fi­cult too – steep, eroded banks. I made it through with only a bent side step!

As we made our way north we crossed mul­ti­ple creekbeds, opt­ing to take ‘chicken’ (eas­ier) tracks when we didn’t think the car would make it through.

Back out onto the main road we headed for Fruit Bat Falls (above) – a long, low wall of rocks with a beau­ti­fully clear wa­ter­hole to swim in.

The next day, we turned onto the north­ern sec­tion of the OTL and pointed our nose to­wards Eliot and Twin falls – both great spots to wash off the dust. Next we tack­led Sam, Mis­take, Can­ni­bal and Cy­press cross­ings, be­fore push­ing on to Nolans Brook – the last, and hard­est, cross­ing on the track. It’s deep – seven cars had drowned in the two days be­fore we ar­rived – so we had a mate pull us through the wa­ter.

Af­ter com­ing off the OTL, we drove on to Pa­jinka and the tip of Aus­tralia – as north as north gets. We did it!

I urge you, if you’re think­ing about do­ing Cape York, dive on in. You’ll see some of the pret­ti­est sights in Oz, and come away with a great sense of sat­is­fac­tion know­ing you’ve sur­vived the OTL.

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