Race to the Cape: Part 2

By: Tim van Duyl, Natalie Cavallaro, Photography by: Cam Inniss, Jack Murphy, Dan Everett

Second part of the ultimate offroad adventure at Cape York.

Car -bogged -in -Cape -York


Bramwell Station was our next port of call and with a hardly signposted tight right-hand turn onto Batavia Downs Road an hour out of Weipa, communicating to the Mars crew who were delayed to reset their tyre had us stressing we would become disbanded. No such issue as Celso navigated his way easily to catch us near Bramwell Station. We offloaded and set up camp hoping to be able to head into the surrounding bush for some 4WDing only to be denied by the station manager. Knowing it was a popular area to explore and one on our list of to-dos, it was a disappointment to be denied but the Old Tele was just around the corner...

People -fixing -tyres -on -the -road

The Old Telegraph Track is awesome. We’d only hit the start, and without our convoy of trailers, but immediately it lived up to the hype. The aptly named ‘Chicken Track’ – the bypass around the worst of the drops – is still only suitable for proper 4WDs, while the pro-route will likely lead to panel damage and definitely requires the ability to self-rescue and also of support vehicles. We scraped through only about 20km before the Discovery support car tore a sidewall on a tree root. As great as low-profile tyres are on the road, they were never cut out for the tight, sharp rock and root-lined Old Tele. Back to camp and arriving to an already set up swag felt great. We had achieved some of the Old Tele, recovered a couple of times and only torn one tyre, a decent effort rewarded with cold beer and a barbecue courtesy of Celso that will go down as one of the trip’s most enjoyed meals.


Man -jumping -in -water -at -Fruitbat -Falls

Having spent the morning track testing gear it was time for Fruit Bat and Eliot Falls. Paradise found. High enough to be croc-free, the water runs clear, warm and down cascading sets of falls into deep pools perfect for swimming.

The team spent a couple of hours taking it all in before heading on in split teams. It was decided the Zone shouldn’t take on more of the Old Tele, it was getting too tight and the climbs too steep, so off went Big Dog and the Wrangler to meet the rest of the team further north up Bamaga Road. On our way back down the track we stopped at Palm Creek where Big Dog again made the deep crossing and climbs look easy but on our way out we saw one of the sights that will live on with us. A young couple pushing their rental motorhome, albeit a small tray-on bolted to a HiLux, hit the crossing at full noise. Never have I seen so much enjoyment and fear in two people. The driver loving every wave of windscreen deep water washing across the bonnet and his passenger gripping the Jesus-bar tighter than I’ve ever seen. We would see these two at The Cape later in the week where I congratulated them through a wide grin.

Caravan -World -crew -in -Cape -York

We pushed on to the Jardine River ferry crossing making it at 4.13pm, 17 minutes before our agreed deadline but where were the campers and Land Rover? We had only till 5pm for the last sailing of the barge. With less than 10 minutes to go, the familiar blue hue of Dan’s Ranger appeared and we were off on the barge. Yes, it’s true, the barge is over a hundred bucks per vehicle but the fees cover camping north of the river and the money goes to maintaining the area. Cash is accepted but they also take card.


Cassowary -at -the -beach -in -Cape -York

If there’s one thing Cape York isn’t lacking in, it’s landscapes that’ll stun the smile permanently onto your face. The best way to get a full appreciation of these is to get right among them and set up camp. When you’re travelling remotely, it’s often tempting to push on a couple of hundred kays, to reach the campground with toilets and hot water. I get it – it’s hard to beat a cold beer after you’ve washed the red dirt off. However, bypass some of Cape York’s purest beachside free camps, and you’ll deny yourself the chance to enjoy Mother Nature’s bounty fresh from the source. Mutee Head is one such place. Located about 20km west of Bamaga, we headed straight here after crossing the Jardine River Ferry. Thought you couldn’t get further off the beaten track? Well, you can after you turn off to Mutee Head from the "main drag". If you don’t have a 4WD, you’re not getting in. If you do though, you’ll give yourself a pat on the back for making the effort when you glimpse the pure white sand of the empty beach. Where we set up, I saw only one other small group of campers, and they were a fair distance away. One thing’s for sure, there’s privacy here.

What there isn’t are facilities so you’ll need to be fully self-sufficient. Thanks to the Mars Spirit’s slide-out kitchen, we were able to cook a bang up meal of pasta before building the ultimate beachside campfire. Toasted marshmallows under the starry night sky, before falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves – pure bliss.


Unsurprisingly, the further north you go, the distance between the shops increases, and the harder it is to get supplies. When we got to Bamaga and I realised the tiny supermarket stocked Nippy’s iced-coffee, you best believe I stocked up the Wrangler’s fridge in such a fashion that my co-travellers were grumbling about the lack of space for you know, necessary food. After you cross the Jardine River on the ferry, Bamaga and Seisia are your main options for stocking up. In Bamaga you’ll find a petrol station, supermarket, pharmacy, a great bakery (more on that later), and a shop where you can buy souvenirs, ice-creams, Avril Lavigne CDs, and thongs. Thank the gods too, because I busted a plugger running to convey comms on the Old Tele Track, and it had been an uncomfortable few days ever since. Though you’ll no doubt have a supply of essentials already in the back of the 4WD, Bamaga and Seisia are a welcome sight for a treat or two.


At any beautiful and remote landscape, there’s a healthy dose of danger with the delights. The obvious of course are the salties, although there’s a plethora of snakes and spiders that are more than ready to make your trip a misery should you get in their way. What I wasn’t prepared for though, was the possibility of being trampled to death as I slept, by rogue horses. It was up near Bamaga at Loyalty Beach Campground at the tail end of our trip, where we were fortunate enough to be able to set up camp and stay put for a few days. I snagged the tent for myself, forcing the others to remain in their swags under the stars. I’d seen signs around that warned of wild horses, but didn’t pay them much notice. That is, until I heard galloping coming towards my tent in the middle of the night. I froze, the sound was so fearsome that I suspected it was the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ themselves coming for me as punishment for stealing the last yoghurt from the fridge in the back of the Wrangler. I dared take a peek out of my tent, and saw two of them. Equine tyrants, their nostrils flaring as they stalked ever closer to our campsite.

Horses -at -Cape -York

"Hey guys?", I squeaked out, but my fellow campers responded with only guttural snores. I pulled my sleeping bag up to my chin, and resigned myself to death by trampling. Applying the theory that if I didn’t move they wouldn’t notice me (hey, it worked with dinosaurs in Jurassic Park), I lay statue-like, until they tired from sniffing around my tent and moved on to the wheelie bins. Their neighing and stamping through binfuls of XXXX Gold tinnies continued throughout the night.


By the time we actually got to the famous sign proclaiming, "You are standing at the northernmost point of the Australian continent",  we were like a group of weary hobbits and elves who had been on a quest across Middle-earth battling orcs. We’d covered so much ground and watched the landscape change so many times, that it seemed impossible that we’d been away less than two weeks. The sense of achievement was satisfying as we stood on the rocky headland and watched the waves crash. When you get here, take the time to appreciate the landscape and the trip you’ve undertaken. Photos with the sign were a must, proof that we had made it. In order to get here, we’d battled mud, sand, water, dust holes, cane toads, and each other. This was time for back slapping and photo taking, and of course, time to sit quietly and ponder how fortunate we are to live in such a vast and beautiful country in which a journey like this is possible. When you get here, take the time to appreciate the landscape and the trip you’ve undertaken.

Woman -next -to -a -bull -in -Cape -York

There’s no question that your Cape York adventure will test your patience, your appreciation of your family (or co-workers) and the hardware of your vehicle. However, even as you’re digging out the 4WD with MaxTrax, remember to stop and look around you. Every moment here is worth remembering.  

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #572. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!