The Old Telegraph Track, or the Tele Track, is a fantastic adventure that takes you through the heart of Cape York. The track itself begins at Bramwell Junction, and extends for roughly 150km, finishing up at the Jardine River. It is only accessible during the dry season, and with a properly equipped 4WD. It has many river/creek crossings, thousands of corrugations, and plenty of deep sandy patches, but it passes through some truly beautiful country.
We were lucky enough to meet a great group right at the beginning of our trip, who were also travelling up the Old Tele Track, so we joined up with them, and travelled it all together. In all we had 6 adults and 5 kids in the group, and it was fantastic! The kids got along really well, and we all made some great new friends!
Day One – Southern Section of the Tele Track
The convoy of 3 cars all set off from Bramwell Junction early in the morning, full of excitement and pumped for the next few days. It wasn’t long before we hit our first little obstacle…. Palm Creek! This was definitely the most challenging of all the crossings, even though there was virtually no water in it! It involved a steep decent down, a slight turn, and then a very steep ascent. Getting down was OK, if a little (OK, a lot) stressful for me, however getting up proved a little trickier with the camper. Chrissy tried a couple of times, but to no avail, so he ended up using his winch, which he was pretty excited about!
Once we were all through, we continued along, with lots of dust, lots of sand, lots of bumps, but very little water to be seen. (We went through in September, which is basically the very end of the dry season, so the creeks and rivers were all quite low.)
We passed through a few more small creek crossings before arriving at the famous Gunshot Creek. It is basically a near-vertical drop down into a shallow creek, however, luckily, there are a few other ways down (known as the ‘chicken tracks’). We were quite amazed with just how many alternatives there were – 12 in total. Even though we all took the ‘chicken track’, it was still a little scary for us girls! After making it through, we were pretty relieved at just a small ding, and stopped for a break and bite to eat at the top campground. Many travellers tend to stop and camp at the top, in the hope that they may see someone crazy enough to take the original track down. After an hour or so, we weren’t so lucky, and just continued on.
Our next little tricky spot came in the form of Cockatoo Creek. It isn’t a water crossing as such, as it has a wooden bridge, however don’t let that lure you into a false sense of security! It still required a decent amount of navigating. We were lucky to have Skin on the radio guiding us over, let me tell you! Check out the pics below!
It wasn’t too long before we arrived at our designated camp spot for the night – Eliot Falls Campground. It wasn’t all that easy though, with just one little (or, not so little) Scrubby Creek to cross right beforehand. We had become separated from the rest of our group for this one (long story!!!), so had to navigate it ourselves. Upon arrival, it looked quite deep, but after watching a couple of others head through, we knew we’d be fine!
Eliot Falls Campground
Eliot Falls is a National Park Campground, so does need to be pre-booked prior to arriving (NB. No phone service means you need to book prior to starting the Tele Track). The campground itself is a great little spot for an overnighter, with toilets and water available. It is very close to the Falls themselves, which meant just a very short walk along the boardwalk to have a swim. And what a swim it was! The water was cool, refreshing and clear, and exactly what was needed after a full-on day of dust and bumpy driving! There are 3 swimming holes in the precinct, so perfect for all members of the family. The boys got their rock jumping fix, the Mums got some peace and quiet, the littlies got a shallow sandy pool, and there was a little natural spa for all to enjoy!
Back at camp, after dinner was all done and dusted, it was great to cap the night off with a few drinks and a chat about the days events on the southern section of the Tele.
Day Two – Northern Section of the Tele Track
Day Two of the Tele Track saw us all up and about early, and ready to hit the northern, more difficult, section of the Tele Track. We were packed up by 8.30am, but just had to drop in for one last swim before leaving. It was already pretty warm by then, and packing the camper is a hot, dusty job!!
Only a few kms down the track, we were already at our first obstacle, Canal Creek. It involved a small creek crossing, which was easy enough, but the ascent out was a little tougher, as the ruts were so, so deep. Our high clearance Prado and CUB Camper handled it fine, as did Skin & Kara’s Troopie, however Steve & Tracey struggled a little in their Ford Ranger. As the rain started to sprinkle down, we all had to work together to get them through. In the end, the Max Trax were the saviour, and they got there! The bigger boys in our group called this place ‘The Playground’. Apparently, it was a 4WDers dream, with plenty of places to ‘cut sick’ as they say. To me, it just looked like a big area full of rocks, heaped mounds of dirt and water in places 🙂
Mistake Creek was next. It had a deep drop in right at the entrance, which proved quite tricky. The Troopie nailed it, but still had a bit of flex in his wheels. We weren’t confident towing through, and decided on the chicken track to the side. Whilst the boys were working out their lines, us girls stayed at the bottom with the kids, and were amazed at just how clear and blue the water was. It was gorgeous!
Driving on, we were met with Cannibal Creek. For me, this one was probably the freakiest, but ask Chris, and you’ll get a completely different reaction! There was quite a steep descent into the creek itself, and then a sharp dog leg. Without trailers, the Troopie and Ranger were fine, and could take the tight circle needed. Towing though, was slightly more difficult, meaning we had to take a wider line, into the deeper water. The ascent out of the creek was the toughest part though. It was very steep, and had some very deep dips. Chris managed to get up with the help of Skin on the CB, but not without lifting a tyre off the ground.
Hence, the difference in reactions…. Boys => Cool; Girls => Pretty bloody freaky!!!
Similar to the southern section, the northern end of the track also had a bridge crossing, however, again, it wasn’t just any bridge. This one was called Cypress Creek, and named that because the bridge was basically just s heap of Cypress Tree trunks laid on top of each other. It needed some good navigating, to ensure both the car and camper made it across safely.
The deepest water crossing of the whole track was the next one we came to, Logan Creek. We stopped for a while, to allow the guys to walk it, and check on all the dips, drops and obstacles in the water, and choose the best line. We also strapped on the Car Bra, because, well, it was looking pretty deep, and we wanted to restrict the amount of water flowing into the engine. When it came time to drive across, we all stood at the other side, watching with bated breath. The Prado didn’t miss a beat though…. It actually appeared to just swim, or float across! Once through, Chris was pretty keen to open the doors though, and it soon became obvious why… This was the one creek that water made it into the cab! Not too much, but enough to make a soggy mess in the bottom.
After drying out a little, we continued on, and made it to the last of the crossings… Nolans Brook. The water here was so shallow, compared to the various You-Tube clips and videos we had seen previously. The original entry point had an initial dip into the water after the drop-down from the bank, and a couple of big holes that you had to drive on top of, but it wasn’t too concerning. After watching the Troopie and Ranger make their way through, our boys followed, with Jacko at the wheel! He was very excited, and proud, to say that he drove Nolans Brook (or steered at least!!)
Once all were across, we let out a little cheer, and celebrated with a coldie, as that was basically the end of the Tele! (the kids celebrated with a dip in the clear, cool waters, and played for ages on the rope swing.)
We had all made it, relatively unscathed and with little damage… Hooray!!!!! 🙂
As an end note, from a family perspective, the Old Telegraph Track was a fantastic experience. The excitement on the kids faces as we came across yet another water crossing was incredible. Then, at each crossing seeing the kids splash about and play while the oldies work out the best way to tackle the water was such a joy to watch. This few days was by far and away the highlight for our family so far on this journey around Australia, made even more enjoyable by the good friends that we made and got to hang out with! If ever you are thinking about doing the Cape, and indeed the Tele Track, our advice is to just go for it!!! 🙂