Sunday, July 25, 2004

Maytown to Cape Melville 2004

Maytown to Cape Melville 2004

My parents had been to the tip of Cape York a few times but had never explored the bottom section of the Cape, they were keen to have a look around some of the less travelled areas.

They were on holidays at Mareeba in their caravan but had the rooftop tent and all the necessary gear packed into their GQ patrol so it was just a matter of locking up the caravan and they were ready to go, I had just returned from a trip to the top of Cape York in My GU Ute and had restocked the food box and had nothing to repair so i was also ready to go.

We headed north towards the Mount Carbine Roadhouse and fuelled up then took the unsigned dirt track on the left about 10 kms before the Palmer River roadhouse.

The track had recently been graded and it was an easy run, not unlike a roller coaster ride, for about 65 kms to the crossing of the Palmer River.

After crossing the 500 mm deep water we had lunch under the shade of a tree on the grassy bank on the other side.

There is some nice areas for camping along either side of the river in this area.

After lunch we drove to the old ruins of the Queen Mill and had a poke around the slowly rusting machinery then Headed over to the site of the the Maytown township.

The Maytown historical society has placed informative plaques on either side of the old main street showing what businesses used to be there, the main street itself is quite interesting as the gutters were made of stone slabs.

There is not much in the way of buildings left but a replica shack has a lot of small items stored in it and a visitors book.

The old crossing of the Palmer just below town was very rough as a few of the larger boulders had moved in the previous floods and a bit of rock stacking and dodging was required to get Dads 2” lifted GQ across to the other side with a bent mudflap the only damage.

we set up camp on the grassy banks in a little flat area, the flood line several metres above us yielded plenty of firewood and showed just how high this river can get !

Next morning dad removed the front mudflaps to prevent damaging them and we crossed back over to the northern side and stopped and talked to a couple of campers there, they advised us that the old coach road to Laura was impassable but we decided to give it a go anyway, in the meantime there was a lot of other stuff to see in the area.

Not far from the river is the site of the old hospital and the cemetery and we had a look at these then moved on to the charcoal burners which entailed a bit of a walk to look at the mound shaped ovens.

We then drove on to the Ida mine site for a look at the old battery then continued on to the restored Comet Mill and had a poke around the workings before taking a look at the nearby King Range mine.

Next site was the Louisa mine which has a tunnel under the road, a large battery, steam boiler and lots of other gear spread around and quite a bit of time was spent there.

We finally dragged ourselves away and headed over to the Chinese cemetery which consisted mainly of a few small rock mounds.

Time was getting late so we drove down to the old Chinese Alluvial workings and vegetable gardens and made camp on the grassy river flats of the Nth Palmer river where we had an enjoyable night around the campfire talking to the old fellas from the next camp, heard lots of fascinating stories about life around the Cooktown and Cape York areas.

A very heavy dew next morning delayed us until about 10.30 so we had time to take a swim and have a bit of a wander around and found an old Chinese oven built into the bank next to the entrance road.

Dad had removed the rear seats before his trip up north to fit a shelving unit and one of the bolts was too long and had rubbed through the top of the auxiliary tank so we placed some thick rubber on top of the tank and screwed the bolt back in to block the hole temporarily until the tank could be removed for a permanent repair.

Our gear finally dried so we followed the road up river and crossed the Nth Palmer River then immediately turned up the hill on the old Dray track which takes a very steep line up the ridges to meet up with the old Coach road on top of the range, we turned left and followed the track until it eventually dropped down on a very rough section past a dam on the right to the Valley floor.

There is a lot of work going on in the area so we crossed to the other side of the valley then veered slightly left before turning up a ridge track on the right.

We followed the track as it wound its way up and down the hills until we came to the turn off to the old Feddlers Hotel site where we turned left and followed the track to the remains and stopped for a good look around.

We continued on up the track getting rougher all the time as it climbed up a series of rock steps up the side of a steep hill and as we neared the top of the range we came to a section that had been hand cut out of the solid sandstone with a huge ledge at the bottom varying from about 500mm to 1200 mm high.

I eased the front of the Ute up the ledge on the far left and punched it up but the rear wheels skipped sideways and the trailing arms slammed into the ledge, i reversed back through the deepest section and tried the same line again with a lot more right peddle and managed to pop the rear wheels straight up and over the ledge.

Dad took the bypass track to the left and scrambled up and round the worst section and we continued on to the top of the hill where we turned left and drove the short distance out to the Robert Logan Jack Memorial for our lunch stop.

After taking in the views over lunch we backtracked to the intersection and continued on across the plateau then followed the edge for a while before starting a shallow descent winding its way down some rough and rutted sections to the sandy flats before a flat run to the river crossing at Laura where we made camp.

We refuelled at Laura and headed out to Old Laura to have a look around the old homestead,

the termites are really getting stuck into the place.

We drove out to Kalpower crossing where i crossed the crossing and got out to video mum and dad crossing over, as i turned around a 4 foot croc scrambled into the water beside me and disappeared into about 1 foot of clear water !!

We could see where it had stopped moving but could see no sign of it at all until it eventually made a break for deep water, damn those things are well camouflaged.

The track continued on past Kalpower homestead and we had an easy run to the Cape Melville turn off then turned right for Barramundi creek where we stopped for lunch,

We then backtracked to the main track again and continued on towards Bathurst heads.

The track started to get into some boggy sections and after about 15 kms we came across a couple in a troopy who had spent the last hour trying to hand winch about 5 metres and were extremely happy to see us pull up.

I quickly snatched them out and they told us they had spent 4 hours the previous day winching themselves out of the next bog along and had decided to turn back when a couple of bike riders told them the track got worse and worse for the next 30 kms.

Somehow i don't think mum and dads idea of a good holiday is spending a few days battling mud bogs so we turned back and headed towards Cape Melville instead.

We carefully crossed the 1 metre deep Barramundi creek and continued on to Sandalwood creek, when we got out to check the crossing we found very fresh croc tracks and made sure we stayed well clear of the waters edge.

We slowly crossed the 500mm deep water with no problems via the side track and drove on to the small billabong with the grave of a young bloke beside it.

We crossed the small creek at the end and as i tried to stay on the high points of the ruts on the exit i slipped sideways off the edge and the left wheels promptly sank creating a 38"deep gutter.

The lockers and 38" super swampers were no help as the diff housings were firmly planted on solid ground so i winched forward a metre and when the front left hit dry ground i drove out easily.

Dad stayed in the ruts and drove straight through without even slipping a 31"desert dueler, doh!!

We encountered a few small bogs on the rest of the track out to Wakooka but had no more troubles .

We found a large sign at the old Wakooka outstation saying "no camping by order of the traditional owners", maybe the old airfield, dam or tractor has some sort of cultural significance !!

It was getting near sunset so we a beeline to Ninian Bay, the track was overgrown but another vehicle had cleared the way recently so we had no troubles along the way and made camp in the shelter out there.

We made a few repairs to the roof to stop it flapping in the breeze and settled down for a peaceful night.

The shelter had apparently been made by the government for the Traditional Owners but was abandoned so a new 20 km long access track was made to enable year round access but is now overgrown from lack of use.

The old track to the freshwater point was washed away and completely overgrown so we made a new track to collect some water and hooked up my shower to the shower shed then repaired the dunny and settled down for a couple of relaxing days.

We pigged out on fresh oysters and tried a bit of fishing and even found some abandoned crab pots at low tide.

It really is an idyllic place and we didn't want to leave but our batteries were in need of charging so we packed up and headed for Cape Melville.

The drive up was relatively easy with few muddy sections and as the track had been dozed a couple of years ago we made good time to the beach on Bathurst Bay.

We headed inland and filled up with fresh water then headed east up the beach to the plane wreck a few kms from the end of the beach, it was low tide so we were able to walk out about 20 metres and inspect the two radial motors and remains of the airframe.

We continued on up the beach to the very end and met up with Dennis and Serena again who we had met back at Barramundi creek, it was a bit windy so we made camp tucked in between some huge boulders hard up against the mountain which was quite fortunate as the wind increased markedly over the next couple of days.

There was a Burnt out Landcruiser ute parked nearby and apparently it had caught fire while some refueling was happening and the bloke had lost his whole camp and got badly burnt then had to endure a 5 hour trip back out to meet the ambulance.

I walked about a kilometer along the boulder strewn shore line and stumbled upon a cave with a fresh water spring in it and a couple of huge "W" 's painted on the rocks so the boats can see it, the walk back at high tide was a mad scramble up and over all the huge boulders lining the shore.

Today was dads birthday so we had a big breakfast and as the tide was on its way out we walked around to the water spring then decided to keep going and see if we could walk to the point of cape Melville but after a couple of hours we were still walking into one cove after another with no sign of an actual point.

Mum and dad turned back but i decided to go "just around the next cove" and after another hour or so i finally gave up and turned back as i didn't want to "rock hop" again as it was way too much hard work, i arrived back to the beach just in time to take some pics of the spectacular sunset.

Mum had cooked up a lamb roast for Dads birthday, awesome !

Dennis and Serena joined us around the campfire for a few drinks and we had a very pleasant evening.

The wind was really howling and even though we were well protected we had a restless night, so much so that Dennis and Serena had enough and packed up early the next morning and said there goodbyes before we had breakfast.

The wind was still howling as we packed up and we drove about 2 kms back down the beach to the turn off to the Memorial and parked at the fence at the end of the track.

we walked to the base of the mountain and veered right to follow an indistinct track to the Memorial.

We then left Bathurst Bay behind and drove back to Wakooka outstation where we had lunch then took the Starke track through to the Jeanie River, we crossed the 300 deep water and continued on to the Starke river and made camp there, the "Rattle Bush" has taken over the flats and there is only one small area cleared enough to camp in.

I set up the shower and we all felt much better after washing cape Melville's salt and dust away.

The next morning we packed up and drove down to the river to collect some water, dad reversed into a rock ledge and was not impressed as he did a bit of damage to the quarter panel.

We once again headed down the track and a short time later i disturbed about a dozen wild pigs in a dry creek bed, it was like a keystone kops scene with little piglets running round in circles crashing into each other before finally getting onto the trail of their fast disappearing parents.

The track started to get into lots of boggy section and we could see where a lot of people had recently had troubles but we managed to get through with no dramas.

We passed Starke Station which the govt had purchased for the traditional owners and refurbished a couple of years ago, sadly it was all overgrown and deserted again with the "rattle bush" once again claiming the home paddock.

We passed the old overgrown date palm plantation and a short time later turned left for Cape Flattery.

It was an interesting drive through a small patch of rainforest, swamp bogs up to a metre deep and soft sandy tracks to reach the beach where we turned left and dodged our way through the flotsam and jetsam along the beach until we reached the jetty.

I had heard about a tunnel you have to drive through to get under the conveyor and we set about looking for it with no success for a while, eventually i found a washed away track and punched up and over the sand wall and followed the track until i came to a 2.4 metre x 2.4 metre concrete tunnel.

I called up dad on the uhf to let them know and proceeded to drive very slowly into the tunnel with the roof rack lightly scraping the ceiling and only about 50mm clearance on either side of my ute, nearing the end the roofrack started to scrape harshly but the suspension squashed a bit and i managed to pop out the end.

Once dad had driven though ok we drove up to a lookout and looked over the silica mine site with the huge long conveyor snaking out to the jetty and a couple of large ships over in the next bay.

We drove on down the track until we found a north facing beach with several sheltered camp sites, not a bad spot if you cleaned up the few bits of rubbish left behind.

Most of the sites had a small hole dug into the sand at the back of the clearing containing fresh water but i would be bringing my own drinking water if we were camping there.

We didn't see any signs indicating who to contact about camping there [possibly Hopevale community] but we had heard you needed permits so we retraced our tracks and headed back the way we had come.

Dad couldn't make it up the big soft sand hill leading off the beach and we decided it would be quicker to snatch him up than let the tyres down and a minute later we were on our way again back out to the Starke track where we turned left and drove on to Isabella Falls where we made camp for the night.

Next morning we drove into Cooktown and refueled before visiting the cemetery and then heading out to Trevevathan Falls where we marveled at this peaceful and unspoilt little spot tucked away beneath a rainforest canopy.

We joined the road again and decided to keep going to see where it led and inspected some very suspect looking billabongs along the way before we started climbing a very steep hill, dad lost traction trying to get up the very steep track which may have led to private property so we reversed back down and turned back for the main road then turned left and drove down to the Famous Lions Den Hotel and set up camp on the river flats there.

It rained overnight so the CREB track was not looking possible but by the time we got to the turn off it was dry and we decided to give it a try, another couple joined us and asked if he could tag along in his double diff locked cruiser ute and we all headed off up the hill.

The track was mostly dry with the occasional muddy section beside a creek so it looked like there had been no rain but as we got to the Roaring Meg turn off it started to rain.

The others decided they wanted to keep going so i led the way along very recently bulldozed tracks past the last of the properties and started to get into the slippery and now loose red clay tracks.

I just managed to claw my way to the top of the first long steep hill and watched as dad had trouble even getting to the bottom of the hill, he had a couple of goes but the desert duelers did not have a chance against this sticky red clay loosened up by the bulldozer. Even my super swampers were now looking more like racing slicks so we could see the risk of panel and track damage was far too great and turned back.

The track was only one lane wide at this point with a long steep drop over the side so i just nosed the bullbar into the bank and gave the throttle a quick blip which gracefully slid the truck round and i slowly eased back down the hill keeping next to the bank and was surprised that the truck just walked on down without doing a slippery slide impersonation.

We heard later that the dozer was sent in to fix the track so a new pole could be transported in to replace one lost in a landslide less than a fortnight before [i had driven the track a fortnight before] about 10kms from the southern end.

We made our way back out to the main road and turned right for Bloomfield Falls but just before we arrived we met up with some friends, John in the 80 series, and Michael and Lance in the hilux who were just on there way up the Cape so we stopped for a few hours to talk about where we had been and what the tracks were like etc.

We said our goodbyes and Dad and i headed to Bloomfield Falls for a look before continuing on down the Daintree track to make camp at Daintree Village.

The next morning a very thick and wet fog enveloped the campsite and it took until midday to dry everything out then i said my goodbyes to Mum and Dad and headed back to TJM Cairns to change back to the road tyres, connect up the trailer we had stored there thanks to Brent being a mate of Tony's, and hit the boring bitumen back to Brisbane.

I'm sure Mum and Dad enjoyed seeing a bit more of the remoter sections of Cape York and i sure Enjoyed showing them round... In reality, any excuse to holiday in this part of the world is fine by me !!

Shane Gerrish

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Cape York 2004


I looked up at the huge ruts in the red clay hill, gazed at the rain softly falling and turning the red clay into the consistency of ice, pointed the 38" swampers up the hill then mashed the accelerator pedal to the firewall...

It was good to be straight into the hard stuff after a couple of thousand kilometers of boring bitumen and both Brent and i were looking forward to driving the CREB track but doing it in the rain at night was not exactly how we had planned it!!

I had picked up Chris who was occupying my passenger seat and we had met up with Brent at Caboolture on the Friday night before beginning the long drive to Cairns where we changed our wheels over and fitted the 38" Super Swampers.

Brent's truck was a cut down 4.5 litre petrol powered Nissan GU patrol wagon with a Wizard Performance 7" suspension lift, five link front end, "A" frame rear end and custon tube tray while mine was a 4.2 litre turbo diesel powered Nissan GU patrol tray back ute with Wizard Performance 7" suspension lift, Radius Arm Drop Brackets on the front end and Adjustable Trailing Arms on the rear end. With the 38" swampers fitted we were looking forward to trying as many of the neglected sections of track as possible and decided to just keep left no matter how bad the track got.

On Sunday morning with swampers fitted we headed north from Cairns to the picturesque little village of Daintree where we took Stuarts Rd out of town and shortly after turned right over a narrow bridge and followed the gravel road which loosely followed the Daintree River until we came to the rusted remains of an old barge which indicates the River crossing at the start of the CREB [Cairns Regional Electricity Board] track, the track which follows the electricity lines north across the rainforest shrouded mountains towards Cooktown.

We paced the bank of the Daintree trying to gauge the safest way across but as the water is incredibly clear it was impossible to tell how deep it is and since no one was going to walk out and test for depth and [crocodiles] we just attached a strap to the rear of my truck in case it got too deep so that Brent could tow me out.

I eased the truck down over the sandy bank and worriedly watched as the bonnet went under but as the rear end came down the bank it leveled out to only 600-700mm deep and with a firm gravelly bottom we had no problems completing the crossing.

Brent joined us on the other side and we followed the very indistinct track as it curved to the left across the paddock and up beside the river until the track became clear as it moved away from the river and turned in to a series of deep bog holes.

I tried to keep on the high ground to the left but the truck started to slip into the bog hole on a very steep side angle so i had to floor it and turn in to the deepest part as it felt like it was about to tip on its side... we just managed to slowly creep out under a shower of mud!!

Brent decided the safest way was to drive straight through the middle and so with his rear Airlocker on and front Detroit locker he just ploughed straight in and almost didn't make it but the swampers managed to claw their way through leaving a huge grin on Brent's face.

Another small mudhole was encountered before we started the long uphill climb out of the valley with the sun keeping the tracks nice and dry in the open spaces between the trees.

Someone had been through and had cleared the track but they must have been in something without a roof or windscreen as we had to chainsaw a few trees off the track to get our trucks through.

Pretty soon we could see where they had turned back and it became obvious that no one had been through since last season as the track was completely overgrown in places and there were numerous trees fallen over the track .

We pushed on stopping every few hundred metres to chainsaw another tree out of the way and then to make matters worse it started to rain so the decision was made to keep going as we didn't want to be stuck in here but still wanted to drive the track.

One section we came to had a very steep climb of wet rutted clay, I looked up at the huge ruts in the red clay hill, gazed at the rain softly falling and turning the red clay into the consistency of ice, pointed the 38" swampers up the hill then mashed the accelerator pedal to the firewall trying to stay on the high points and avoiding the ruts but about halfway up the truck slipped violently sideways into the ruts and slammed me against the door as the wheels hit the other side of the ruts, the diffs were dragging but we kept forward motion up and made it too the top leaving a trail of graded dirt from the diffs.

Brent once again just went straight up the middle and with a fair bit of bucking and bouncing, made it up as well.

Tree clearing had slowed our progress considerably and wet leaves were clogging the snorkel intakes as day turned into night making it hard to see, by this time we had done about 12 k's in 4 hours since starting the track and the red clay hills were really putting up a fight as the swampers could not dig into the hard slippery surface.

We finally got to a point where someone else had got to from the northern end of the track and didn't need the chainsaw anymore as they had cleared the track except for a couple of places where they had made a new track to get around 1.5 -2 metre thick trees across the track.

We started to make some pretty good time with only a couple of extremely steep red clay hills requiring a second go and arrived at our campsite near Roaring Meg Falls about 6 hours or so after we had crossed the river.

Definitely one of the best days driving ever ... awesome fun !!

Next morning we went for a walk down the rough track to the top of the falls and found the wet rocks very slippery and great care had to be taken to get into a good position for photo's, you wouldn't want to slip off here as its a long way down over bare rocks to the bottom and it would be a sudden stop at the end.

We headed back to camp and met the guy from the wet tropics world heritage department who told us the area would be closed off to camping and walking as it was an Aboriginal womans sacred site... another spectacular place going !!

We drove out towards the northern end along a pretty easy road then turned right and headed through Wujal Wujal to Bloomfied Falls to view the small amount of water flowing ... it would be very spectacular in the wet season.

Our next stop northwards was the historic Lions Den Hotel where we stopped for lunch and a chat with the new owners before continuing north to the Black Mountain lookout to marvel at the piles of white coloured boulders covered in a black algea which gives them their spectacular black colour.

The Mt Amos road was taken shortly after and we drove several kilometers until a handmade sign indicated the right hand turn into Trevathan Falls, we followed the narrow winding track to the small parking area then walked the last few metres to one of the best sight on the trip.

Its very hard to capture the full beauty of the falls as they drop through the rainforest canopy to the plunge pool below with a camera as it is so closed in.

Its also very dark as the water continues down the creek over the rounded boulders under the heavy canopy.

The hard climb up through virgin bush to the top of the falls is rewarded with another series of smaller falls continuing upwards and spectacular views down the creeks course and over the valley.

We reluctantly left the falls and headed into Cooktown to refuel before continuing north to Isabella Falls where we set up our camp for the night in the light rain.

Tuesday morning didn't start off too good... We had driven back across the creek crossing to take some video of the falls and as i walked towards the top of the falls i slipped on the brown slime covered rock landing heavily on my butt and slid across the rock slab and straight over the edge of the falls with video in one hand, camera in the other and no idea how far it was to the bottom!!

There was a rock sticking out near the bottom which i used to push off and changed my direction of travel from vertical to horizontal so that when i landed in the water i had enough momentum up to step through the knee deep water back to shore without getting my boots wet and the only damage being the brown slimy patch on the back of my shorts [that was from the brown slimy rocks...honest !]

Naturally being the good mates they are, Brent and Chris laughed there heads off and gave me heaps about the brown stain on the back of my shorts!

A quick change of shorts and we were once again on our way to Old Laura Station, The termites are making a real mess of the place and i doubt it will be long before they fence the place off to prevent anyone gaining access.

We headed in to Lakeland National Park stopping at White Lilly Lagoon before driving through Lakeland Ranger Station and stopping at Red Lilly Lagoon for lunch.

It was still drizzling rain as we drove on to Musgrave station to refuel then once again headed northwards up the main gravel road until just north of Coen where we made camp beside the river and caught up with a bit of washing.

The yabbie pot had looked real promising last night with 8 or 9 medium sized maron inside it and heaps more surrounding it so we were rather disappointed to find only two large ones in the pot, we quickly cooked them up and i must say they were delicious with a taste very like unsalted lobster.

In the meantime Brent had started up his patrol to run the shower and it was making a strange noise which turned out to be two blades broken off his motor fan, he removed the fan and unplugged the air conditioning compressor so he could run both electric fans then we rang up and ordered a new fan blade which was to be sent to Top End Motors at Seisa.

We headed north to Archer River with no sign of overheating and stopped there to refuel the patrols and our bellys with Brents truck using about 25 percent more petrol than my diesel.

Sherrill showed us the Tiapan she had caught on the floor of the shop recently, she had named it "jason" ???

On the road again it was not long before we turned off towards Bamaga and found that the 38's soaked up the corrugations so well that the extremely bad ones were the only ones we even felt... these same corrugations last year had my truck dancing all over the road with the 35's on. I was very impressed.

We called in at the new servo at Bramwell Junction where the old fella there was asking all sorts of questions about our trucks.

Telegraph Track :

Our first crossing was Palm Creek which we found quite shallow, a few family's had set up camp on the other side and they all trooped down to watch us drive through, we drove on to Ducie Creek and took the line straight through the middle section which was about 1.0 metres deep and then took the hard line out before setting up camp on the other side, Brents truck was running hot in the slow going so he cut another blade off the fan to try and balance it a bit better then bolted it back on.

I cooked up a lamb roast in the camp oven to finish off a great day!

Our gear was a bit damp from the morning dew so we didn't leave until about 8.30 and it wasn't long before we crossed South Alice creek which was only about 500mm deep then we continued on to North Alice creek which had a small dropoff over a rock ledge but was only about 100mm deep.

Delhunty River was our next crossing and after taking pics of the small waterfall there we drove across the 400 deep water and decided to have a bit of a play on two of the old exits there.

I entered the left exit and drove through the deep muddy slop between the side banks to the bank at the end but the bullbar just slammed into the bank and i only managed to get the rear wheel to the bottom of the bank before losing traction and as the steep bank prevented getting some momentum up and we had made a rule about stacking or digging to make it easier i had to give up after a couple of goes and moved into the next old exit to try that one.

The middle exit had a big side lean and was full of muddy slop and i had the side rail rubbing along the left bank as i drove up to the end, the front diff was dragging on the high centre of the end bank and after a few different lines were taken i had to give up on that one as well and backed out to give Brent his turn.

Brent tried the middle exit without any better luck than me and as he was reversing out the side lean pushed his left mirror into the bank and shattered the glass, he turned his attention to the left exit and had a couple of good goes at it but ended up filling up his winch slot with the white sandy clay just the same as mine.

We then took the right hand exit and drove on to Bertie Creek to wash the mud out of the brakes in the 400mm deep water.

There are some very deep holes in the rocky bed of the creek but there is a couple of places you can cross to dodge them.

Our next interesting section was Chalmondeley Creek which at 450mm was an easy crossing and we continued on until we came across an almost complete telegraph pole complete with guy wires, cross braces and everything except the insulators, naturally we had to stop and take pics of this very rare sight.

The next crossing was the one we were looking forward to the most...Gunshot Creek, the most infamous crossing of all!

We parked at the top of the crossing and got out to check out all the options, the old exit was a deep hole "almost" as wide as my truck and about twice as deep as the patrol is high with a bottom full of deep mud and the climb out almost vertical, beside that is the current exit which has been cut into the bank at a shallow angle with one side a straight up wall and the other side a straight drop over the side into deep mud pit.

The track surface was not level either but sloped towards the mud pit and had no edge to keep your wheels on it, I eased the patrol down the new exit with the left tyre hitting the wall and the right tyre running along the edge [i was running 38"tyres on 10"rims so its a fair bit wider than stock! ]

When i reached the bottom i turned sharp right and lined up to enter the old exit, i eased the truck into the slop with each side rail scraping the bank on each side and leaving deep impressions in the walls.

The front of the patrol finally forced its way the the near vertical exit but then as it tried to climb, the rails were gouging the dirt from the vertical walls and it took several tries to force their way clear, the walls were now about 150mm wider apart and i could start to climb the track.

I dropped the front wheels back down to the bottom, revved it up and with both lockers engaged i tried to punch it up with no luck, i kept trying and got higher and higher with each try until the chassis was hitting the ground on top of the bank, the front wheels were waving uselessly in mid air and the rear wheels were spinning uselessly part way up the bank.

I couldn't change line as the truck was running on the rails anyway and turning the wheels left and right made no difference, i was trying different gears and different revs but nothing seemed to work and had to give up....damn i really wanted to conquer that climb!!

When i reversed out i had lost the paint off the side rails, bullbar, rear bar, rollbar, rear support bar and even the roofrack!!

I decided to drive back up the top via the new exit and drive down the old exit but as i drove up with tyres full of mud and clay it started spinning and was about to slide off the side until i quickly let it roll back to the bottom, i tried again with the lockers in but it did the same thing so i tried it with a fair bit of revs and the back left wheel slid over the edge and i was stuck there.

as soon as i tried to go forward the rear slid further over the edge so i reversed over the edge until i was in the mud pit on an extreme angle and was thoroughly bogged.

I tried revving it up and moving forwards then backwards until i got enough movement up to finally get out and parked out of the way to repair the damage to the track.

Brent decided to try another track on the far side of the new exit and dropped down over the rock face with no worries and drove through the mud at the bottom easily until Chris said he missed the photo... Brent reversed back up but the truck sunk immediately and as soon as he tried to move it got worse.

I moved my truck into position so he could use it as a winch point and he winched out then lined up "just to take a photo" but he couldn't help himself and had to have a go, he didn't make it either but did manage to put some deep scratches in his door and guard as well as lose paint of siderails and tray.

We did a bit of digging of the track to stop people sliding off the side and helped one guy to get his ute up the new exit, the digging we did stopped him from sliding off the edge but he still had to be winched up by the next bloke that came along.

We drove on too Cockatoo Creek and checked our line on foot before heading across as it was about 700mm deep in places, if you were worried about the depth you could pick a path through which would be a couple of hundred mm shallower.

We crossed and hung around to watch a few others go through before heading off to the end of the southern telegraph track then drove up the main road until the turn off to the northern part of the telegraph track then immediately took the right hand turn to Fruit Bat Falls for a look.

There is no camping allowed at Fruit Bat Falls and we headed off to the crossing of Scrubby Creek where we decided to take the hard line up the steep bank to the left.

There is a deep hole in the right hand wheel track at the bottom of the bank so i carefully nosed the front wheels through the hole before punching it up the bank with the front left wheel leaving the ground for most of the way up, i also left a bit of red paint on the right hand wall of the climb.

Brent lined up for his go and put on an magnificent display of three wheel driving while kangaroo hopping up the bank... he lost some paint off the roof of his truck on the wall because of the extreme side angle he was on as he drove up...totally awesome display!!

We collected some wood and drove on to the campsite at Twin Falls/Eliot Falls where we quickly set up camp and raced down to twin falls to soak away the dirt and dust...pure luxury!!

Twin falls is on Canal Creek and is a few degrees warmer than Eliot Creek so standing under the falls letting the water massage your shoulders is great way to unwind after a long hard days driving, its pretty hard to beat!

A lack of overnight dew meant we could pack up and be on our way fairly early but Brent had a flat tyre due to mud in the bead, he broke the bead and removed the mud before we headed off but only made it as far as the Canal Creek crossing before we were halted by the sight of a dual cab hilux with trailer stuck in deep water .

Brent winched him out and we reversed back and took the hard line up the right hand side over the rocks then up through a boggy rut to the top where we rejoined the main track and continued on to Sam Creek.

The water was about 450mm deep and we took some pics with the wheels up the bank showing off the suspension travel then drove on to Mistake Creek where we had no trouble crossing the 400mm deep water.

We arrived at Cannibal Creek to find a GU patrol with a large trailer stuck part way up the exit. Ron was halfway around a steep uphill corner when he ran out of wheel travel and his trailer prevented him from reversing back down and he couldn't go straight ahead as he was close to a very deep rut.

Brent and Chris hooked Ron's winch up to a tree using one of our tree protectors then he winched himself clear and left room for us to pass.

We both drove up and round the corner easily then drove on to the hairy looking log bridge at Cypress Creek

We lined up on the 2 decent logs and slowly crossed over by which time Ron had arrived so Brent guided him across before we drove off, we then waited while Ron got clear of the jump up over a tree root before driving on to Logan Creek where we took time out to get some pics driving through making a big splash in the 400mm deep water.

We drove on again crossing some muddy swamp water before arriving at Nolans Brook, the crossing where i had drowned my GQ wagon in 2001.

This time the crossing was virtually flat with about 500mm of water in it so we drove it easily and stopped on the other side for lunch while i broke the bead of my left front tyre to remove some mud from the bead area .

After lunch we drove through some more swampy tracks before making a left hand turn and crossing over to the Bypass track to get to the ferry crossing at the Jardine River.

We paid our 88 bucks to cross the ferry and drove up the corrugated road to Umagio where we turned right on the tar road and headed to Top End Motors at Seisa to pick up Brent's new fan blade.

We took the back way out towards "the tip" and joined up with the main track a short while later then pulled up at the souvenir shop for a spending spree.

Time was a bit against us so we quickly drove out to the old campground at Pajinka and walked the 750 metres or so out to the tip in time to get some photos before the sun went down.

We realized that it had taken us exactly a week to get here from Brisbane and had done it with minimal dramas especially since we had taken every hard track or disused crossing we could find and only 3 sections had defeated us.

We took a few sunset shots and walked back via the abandoned Pajinka resort in the fading light and found the Army had moved in to clean it up after the "locals" had walked out leaving everything behind, it sure has gone downhill since the government bought it for them a few years ago!

We fumbled our way back to the trucks in the growing darkness and set up camp, we had the place to ourselves except for the mosquito's.

While waiting for our gear to dry off the dampness the next morning we had a look around the deserted campground buildings at the mess left behind then drove up to the campground at Somerset.

Walking west along the beach and over the rocks for a few hundred metres brought us to a cave with lots of aboriginal painting on the walls with one supposedly of the master of Somerset, Frank Jardine, whipping one of the locals. There is a story going round that because Frank Jardine was a man who wouldn't lay down for anyone they buried him standing up looking out over the ocean but the aborigines hated him so much they snuck in that night, dug him up and turned him upside down !!!

We climbed the cliff and walked back along the cliff top through the tangled undergrowth until we stumbled across a gun emplacement carved into the rock and overlooking the western end of the beach.

We descended the cliff and had a look at the Jardine Family Graves noticing that a couple of the plaques had gone missing ! That's got to be one of the lowest acts possible.

We drove up to the site of the old Somerset Homestead and had a look at the cannons, old outbuilding and an old winch, not much else is left on the site.

We followed the track to the eastern beach at fly point where i broke the UHF aerial off when it got caught in the fork of a low branch...funny thing is it worked better after that !

We headed south along the beach track keeping a watch out for the "impossible to get through" section we had been warned about but must have missed it as we didn't spin a wheel all the way through, these eastern beaches sure get a lot of junk washed up on them and we had to thread our way through each time the track dropped down onto the beach itself.

After the track headed inland again we drove back to the souvenir shop for a more leisurely look around and then some shopping at Bamaga before heading to the airport area to have a look at three of the old plane wrecks then drove across to the western side of the cape to check out the old radar tower at Muttee Heads.

We continued westwards to the mouth of the Jardine River for a look then turned around and headed to the old vehicular crossing of the Jardine and made camp at the old Linesman's Hut at the telegraph line crossing and caught up on some washing.

We had to wait a few hours next morning while our washing finished drying so we just lounged around with our chairs in the shade watching the crystal clear waters of the Jardine flow gently past.

Our gear finally dried so we drove the few kilometers down to the Ferry and refueled the trucks on the other side before heading south on the main road to the track which leads back across to the the telegraph line then turning north and driving up through the Jardine swamps to the old vehicular crossing.

We drove out into the river to take some photos then drove back to where the telegraph line crossed where chris did some fishing after he spotted some sizeable fish.

Brent and i were speculating if we could drive across here if the water got low enough late in the dry when we noticed the foundations of the old world war two bridge had been uncovered not far out from the southern bank and as usual you could see the foundations in the middle of the river but it looks more like an island with some growth anchored within the framework.

Reluctantly we pointed out trucks south and drove back down the telegraph track until we reached Mistake creek where we decided to have a try at the old exit which turned out to be a mistake.

The old exit heads off to the left and is made up of white sandy clay with a bog hole in the left wheel track just before a steep hill of very loose white material, i tried to skirt around the right hand side with a fair bit of pace but as the back wheels hit the bog hole it pivoted the truck and slammed the wheels into the wall and filled the beads with dirt, i had a few more goes without success and moved out of the way for Brent to have a go.

Brent tried all the same lines and some even faster but had no luck either so we quickly drove back through Sam and Canal creeks to the campground at Eliot/Twin Falls before the two left tyres went completely flat.

We broke the beads and cleaned out the dirt then headed down to Twin Falls for a swim.

We walked over to Eliot Falls and i showed Brent where to walk under the falls without getting swept into the deadly hole near the upwards end while Chris videoed us disappearing under the water and reappearing again.

A light sprinkle of rain next morning convinced us to get out of the swags and break camp then we decided to brave the southern bypass road and head to Captain Billys Landing.

We found the track out from the bypass road had been graded and the old shed near the concrete causeway was flattened, when we arrived at Captain Billys Landing we found the famous old big shed had been demolished .

A new shelter has been built which doesn't afford much shelter from the prevailing winds and with two wooden table and seats in the shelter there is no room in there to get out of the weather either but on the bright side there is a toilet there now.

I walked up to the rainforest covered headland where some old campsites were and even though it was blowing a gale down at the shelter there was only a gentle breeze filtering through the trees, pity they stopped people camping up there.

The ranger showed as a dead and slightly dehydrated crocodile that he had found so we placed it on the "warning, crocodiles inhabit these waters" sign for a bit of a lark.

The tide was on its way out so i waded out to the cliffs and poked around in the caves there and took some pics then we headed back out to the bypass track and turned south.

When we reached Batavia station we turned right and drove through the shortcut to the Weipa road wondering if we were supposed to be there as all the signs near the turn off were gone, the road had recently been graded as it was an easy run all the way back to Weipa except for the last 40km's which were very rough.

We made camp at the campground and decided to stay a couple of days and catch up on our washing, the sunset over the ocean ended another good day.

I had a bad wobble in the steering at about 50 to 80 kmh so we chased around until we found a panhard rod bush in a kit but when we pulled it apart there was nothing wrong with it so we checked wheel bearings, king pin bearings and everything else we could think of and found everything o.k. We eventually came to the conclusion that i must have knocked some weights off the wheels on one of our play sessions.

Chris and Brent bought some fishing gear and went fishing but had no luck so we treated ourselves to some store cooked fish instead that night.

It was Wednesday and we were due back in Cairns on Friday so we pointed the trucks south and headed straight down the main road until we hit some rain and decided to camp in the Bunkhouse at the Lions Den Hotel.

It was still raining the next morning so we gave the CREB track a miss and drove down through the Daintree track back to Cairns.

Brent's dad was crook and he wanted to be with him so he decided to head back to Brisbane early so Chris cancelled his plane ticket and kept him company on the long drive home.

I still had a couple of weeks holidays left so i headed back north again on a whole new adventure............