Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Old Telegraph Track and beyond (11.08.11)

This morning we left Bramwell Station reluctantly (which appears to be a continuing story lately) and took a side track through the Station to the northern road, then backtracked south for a kilometre to Bramwell Junction.  The Junction is where the roadhouse is and there is another camping area which looked pretty good.  We bought fuel @ $2.02 a litre (the most expensive to date but I guess we have to pay to get it here). 

Bramwell Junction Roadhouse
The Old Telegraph Track is recorded as challenging and there is a Bypass Road which can be taken if you don’t want to go on the 4wd track.  Of course, for us this road is one of the highlights of the whole trip to the Cape so there was no way we were going on the corrugated road north.  There are fourteen river crossings some of which are quite deep.  The first of these is called Palm Creek and is one of the most challenging.  After checking it out Peter was confident to progress so down, in the water and up the other side.  We had an audience of other travellers who had gone only as far as that crossing for entertainment purposes!
  Palm Creek warrants a sign post
We were travelling at this stage on our own and we were quite surprised that we didn’t have any other travellers following us.  After about four river crossings we met up with three vehicles going the same way as us but they had decided it was time to stop for the night (it was only about 11 am!).  As we went to cross the river we met another vehicle which had stopped in the water – it was a 4wd tour operator who was letting his five passengers have a wade in the water.  After a short chat the driver, Mark, suggested that it would be wise to “have the power of two” and suggested we travel together.  We were more than happy.
 Entry to Palm Creek
Many of the entries and exits from the river are very eroded and take some good experience to negotiate comfortably.  I have to say Peter is a very competent and experienced driver, in my opinion, in these conditions and I did not feel uncomfortable at any stage even though at time we were nearly at 45 deg angles.  The track was single width and if we did meet an oncoming vehicle it was a matter of backing up and pulling as far off to the side into the scrub or trees as possible to let the vehicle pass.
Palm Creek
 Palm Creek
The next challenge was a river crossing we have heard lots about – Gunshot creek which my book recorded as a difficult crossing that each year some vehicles come to grief on.  As we approached it there were a number of entries into the water but they were all difficult.  Mark (the tour operator) discussed them with Peter and a choice was made.  It is hard to describe the entry – you can’t see over the bonnet, it is a nearly vertical drop (just under the 90 degs) of one and a half lengths of the Patrol approximately, into a thick mud base before entering the water.  Mark went first, head down and dropped into the mud and that is where he sat.  He was close to wheel deep in mud and was going nowhere.  Fortunately he had a winch so was able to climb out, secure the winch to a tree and slowly inched himself forward into the deep water and waited there, with snatch strap attached to the rear.
Now it was our turn and Peter didn’t chicken out, and I was just confident that he knew what he was doing so continue we must.  We inched over the side, couldn’t see where we were going and then down the drop and eventually dropped into the mud.  At this point Peter had to climb out the window (as the door would not open the mud was half way up the side of the car) and climbed over the bonnet to connect the snatch strap to the recovery point.  With that connected he climbed back over the bonnet, in the window and we were slowly pulled forward a few feet into the water where we could make our own way and out on the northern side.  We had made it – quite an accomplishment to achieve going through Gunshot even if we did need a little assistance.
We continued on and after a few more river crossings it was our turn to help the tour operator when a number of his electrics suddenly shut down after an exceptionally deep crossing (Cockatoo Creek) that saw water over the bonnet of our car.  Peter identified that water had got into his electrics and he had lost his air conditioning (really necessary when you have paying passengers and it is over 30 degs), windows, lights etc.  The fuses we had weren’t sufficient to help so he decided to continue on holding his door open to allow air to fluctuate.  Fortunately there were no more water crossings before reaching Fruit Bat Falls however as the road is extremely dusty (as well as corrugated and rocky) it wouldn’t have been a very pleasant ride.
Two o’clock saw us arrive at the Fruit Bat Falls and we stopped for lunch and a swim in the falls.  Here we said goodbye to the tour group as they were heading on north and we were stopping at Elliot Falls to camp for the next couple of days.  Elliot Falls was just a further 7 kms along the track and a couple of deep creek crossings.  We have only travelled about sixty kilometres today but it has taken us about five hours!
We are staying in the Jardine River National Park.  The area is divided into individual campsites and we have a lovely flat area under the trees.  There are toilets and drinking water but no showers.  We can walk the 5-10 minute walk to both Twin and Elliot Falls and also the falls called Saucepan.  Swimming is allowed at both Saucepan and Twin Falls and the water is quite warm.  Apparently there are turtles at Saucepan Falls but we haven’t seen them and others have said the same so it is not a matter of not looking in the right place.
We are staying two nights so it has been nice not to be travelling today.  It has been extremely warm with little or no breeze so to be able to swim has been good.  This has proved a challenge for me as believe it or not I forgot to put my togs (bathers) in my bag.  This was not a planned excuse (as those who know me well will know that getting in the water is not one of my favourite pastimes).  So today I have had to compromise and where a tee-shirt and three quarter pants rolled up into the water.  Not the best sight but it was nice to be able to enjoy the water.
We have succeeded in using our bush shower today.  A bucket of cold water heated with a couple of pots of hot water brought the water to the right temperature.  We have a 12 volt shower unit which Peter connected to our portable battery unit, opened the ensuite shower tent (which needed some amendments as some of the poles had broken with the movement in the back of the car so is now cut open a strung between trees) shower unit in the bucket and we were able to have a great shower.  Peter was very happy as one of the things he hates is to miss his shower in the morning. 
Each of the campsites at Elliot Falls has a campfire surround.  Today we were able to inherit some firewood left by other campers and tonight we have lit the fire – not because it is cold as it is far from it, but for the ambience of being real Aussies sitting around the campfire and cooking our dinner on it.(Although Peter did complain that he had run out of tinnies and this being his first bush BBQ this did not seen right!)  The chicken might be a bit overcooked but who cares as I am sure it will taste good.  Perhaps there might even be damper for supper!
 Ducie Creek
Yet another
Sideways entry
Nose down
That one easy
 Now to get out
Achieved - out of that one
 Must be bad - a sign
 Delhunty River looks bad
Entering the water
Another easy one
  Exit is not that great
Concerned about this one
The track conditions
 The angles
Checking out Gunshot
 It looks bad and very muddy
Looks like Rotorua!
 Mark commences the entry
  Will we follow
 Paying passengers drop in
Mark is happy
 Four wheels in the mud
The winch takes up the slack
Peter and Mark secure our snatch strap
 Looking behind from the passenger door
 The mud we were in
Quick pull with the snatch strap
 We are through Gunshot
Gunshot River exit
 Graffiti Gunshot
  Looking back at the entry into Gunshot
Mark and Peter
Peter did not add to the graffiti
 Ready to head out
Mark walking Cockatoo River, Peter did not want to
find out that there were Croc's in there
Cockatoo looks a little bumpy too
Peter can now assist Mark
 Welcome relief on the OTT
Back on the Development Road
A friend on the road
Fruit Bat Falls
 Fruit Bat Falls
Unusual fauna Fruit Bat Falls
Eliot Falls
The water was really deep Eliot Falls
 Eliot Falls
 Bush shower Eliot Falls
Campsite Eliot Falls
 Modifications to shower tent
Chicken cooking for dinner
Well cooked chicken
Fried potatoes and carrots

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