Cape York trip June-July 2015

Submitted: Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 13:22
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I thought I would share my experiences of the Cape trip we have just completed, Canberra to Cape and return over three weeks.
The timing of expeditions and water crossings were first thing in the morning, we could see most of the bottom of creeks and we did walk each and every creek, to ensure the best lines were used to avoid damage to trucks and an expensive trip home.
Nolans creek and the Jardine were high, no more than bonnet height on the GU patrol, but we had no isuses as we walked each creek, prepared if something went wrong and had two people, driver and spotter agree to ensure safety of the crossings.
It beggars belief that we witnessed many drivers not walk creek crossings and get stuck or winched out after drowning there trucks. With all the talk on these types of forums you have to shake your head at some people. The gallery at nolans were none to impressed when our group went through, why as we were prepared and had no issues.
Noting most roads were in very good condition, noting the bone jarring of corrugations was hard to get used to. CREB track was closed so we didnt get to do this. All cattle stations were lovely and have good facilities.

Without going into to much detail, happy to answer any direct questions if needed.
A wonderful trip had by all,
Spanner
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Reply By: Member - tommo05 - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 13:32

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 13:32
Surely you didn't actually cross the Jardine, Spanner? I didn't think this was still possible even if you wanted to... never mind the fact that I wouldn't be walking it! I'm assuming that was a typo..!

Sounds like a great trip mate - except for those corrugations. I can still feel them just thinking about it.

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Reply By: spanner1969 - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 16:12

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 16:12
Thanks Tommo,
Yes we did cross the Jardine, (heading west to east coast) as stated the water was to the bonnet and no further. Rumours were this was over bonnet a couple of days prior.
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Reply By: 322 - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 17:20

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 17:20
We didn't cross the Jardine. But we did everything you did I regards to walking the crossings etc. Glad you gad a great trip.
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Reply By: Kevin S - Life Member (QLD) - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 17:59

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 17:59
Can you give us a bit more on road conditions please Spanner? I'm not sure what you mean when you say that most roads were in good condition but that corrugations were hard to get used to. My interpretation of a good road is one without corrugations.
Cheers, Kevin.
Kevin
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Follow Up By: Member - tommo05 - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 18:20

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 18:20
Well I guess it it's all relative isn't it. Is there such a thing as an uncorrugated road on the Cape York peninsula?

I remember after the first 100ks or so north of Laura saying to the missus, "these corrugations aren't that bad, I don't know what everyone goes on about!". Famous last words...

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Reply By: spanner1969 - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 20:15

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 20:15
Most roads were well graded with some good corrugations. Some except for frenchmans track heading toward chilli beach was very rutted. The bamaga access road to captain billy landing was well used and rutted in some places.

The crossing we did my apologies was the water crossing off frenchmans track ( thinking it was the Pascoe) going toward chilli beach which in some areas was well rutted with large rocks and would be dangerous if wet, my apologies this wasn't the Jardine we crossed.

Spanner
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Follow Up By: Member - tommo05 - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 20:25

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 20:25
That makes much more sense, you had me confused! Yeah the Pascoe is a good deep crossing.

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Reply By: Member - Will 76 Series - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 21:31

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 21:31
Spanner, thanks for the update. We are also looking at going up the Cape the same time next year with a group of four vehicles all towing camping trailers. Did you or any of your party tow a camper trailer? Also can you give me an idea of your night locs along the OTT? How did you find Elliot/Twin Falls and did you camp there?
I know it changes each year but would be keen to hear how you went.
Regards Will
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Reply By: BunderDog - Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 22:30

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 at 22:30
Three weeks for Canberra to the Cape and return, Wouldn't have much time to relax and enjoy, generally it's a six week trip once we get to Cairns and return and it's never enough time to fit everything in.
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Reply By: spanner1969 - Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 07:58

Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 07:58
No we didnt take camper trailers this time, but in saying this many others did.
I suppose if you take the easy tracks with campers you may be ok, but some of the tracks are not for camper trailers. Like frenchmans track not for trailers heading to chilli beach.
We spoke to one unhappy camper who took his mates camper and both leaf springs snapped and the camper had to be taken to Weipa from Musgrave Roadhouse. The cost of the tow truck alone was $750 bucks plus the cost of the new springs. Your call at the end of the day.

The locations on the OTT.
We stayed at Bramwell Station going up and Moreton St coming home. Elliot falls we camped both ways and is worth stopping to rest up and check your gear, it really is a lovely spot but book early as you will need a booking to stay there. We booked 4 months in advance, FYI.
Fruit bat falls is lovely and just down the road, unsure if this changes but no camping was allowed at Fruit bat, day visits only and we saw many rangers checking ours and others camping permits at Elliot.
Loyalty beach was our last stop and you will also need to book early, fantastic spot.
As for three weeks to do this trip, sure it would be nice to see everything with more time, but we had three weeks only and we jammed as much in as we could, we can visit this spots we missed or would like to see next time.
Spanner
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Follow Up By: vk1dx - Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 10:49

Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 10:49
Thanks. It was good to see that "many rangers checking ours and others camping permits".

We had the same experience at Nolans. Only the young bloke standing in the "bonnet height" middle was heard to say "bloody diesels" as one son passed him. We didn't put on a "show" for the audience either. But I will say that we all had 4.2TD cars with a lot of "clearance" so it wasn't a problem.

The Jardine!!! We didn't either but I would like to cross it but safety says "NO". In 2012 we did drive all the 16Kms of the Balfour Track in Tassie with water lapping the windscreen.


Three weeks - Same here. Unfortunately we didn't have time to "smell the roses" on the to and from trips. Such is life when you don't live "just down the road". Also from Canberra. We will have the same issue with our next trip which is a Madigan Line crossing of the Simpson. No time for the to and from legs.

Thanks again for the report.

Phil

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Reply By: vk1dx - Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 10:54

Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 10:54
Wasn't a problem. Just left hand down and drove out. Looked good though and the son learn't a bit more about wheel placement. Kids - Hey he is 40 years old. Better stop that Dad.
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Reply By: spanner1969 - Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 15:00

Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 15:00
As for fuel we spent just under $1800 return to Canberra, which was just over 7000ks return trip, one of the cattle stations were $2.10 per litre.
That being a 2004 GU patrol 3.0ltr.
We filled up mainly at the major fuel stations and only used the roadhouses as backup.
spanner
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Reply By: birdnerd - Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 18:40

Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 at 18:40
We just came back from the Cape last Friday leaving from Geelong mid June. Did not do the OTT as we were towing a camper trailer. Road was "good" for a corrugated road, air down the tyres and sat on about 80. The road on the way back was worse we felt, maybe as more cars go through it gets worse?. And people, if we slow down for you to pass, please don't shower us with stones as you race on by, maybe slow down a bit too then speed up after you are past us. Most people that sped past us were stopped at the same place as us up the road anyway, either camped or getting lunch, so I did not see the point. Most expensive fuel was Archer River roadhouse, and get there early as the camp ground was almost full late arvo. We stayed at Loyalty Beach but did not book ahead and got a powered site, second row back from the beach. Restaurant there is nice if you don't want to cook. We did however book our trip to Thursday & Horn Islands. Also if you are headed up to the Cape remember to get to the Jardine ferry before 12 as that is their lunch time and will be yours too if you get there late. Love seeing everyone get out their burners and start to cook lunch while waiting in the queue when they realise it will be an hour wait until the ferry leaves again! Also found a nice spot to camp on our way home coming in to Blackhall, about 70 kms out - maybe after Barcaldine, called Lara Wetlands (Lara Station). Look for the sign on the road. Little gem of a place, new shower and toilet block. It is a cattle station about 13kms off the road where you can camp around a beautiful big lagoon - great for birdwatching.
Bring on the Kimberley again next year! Amanda & James
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Follow Up By: spanner1969 - Thursday, Jul 16, 2015 at 12:07

Thursday, Jul 16, 2015 at 12:07
I agree with your comment re - vehicles going way to fast, this seems to be common practice for others on our trip.
We had one redneck pass us at speed on the OTT and then pulled right in front of our vehicle, we couldnt see 3 feet in front of us.
Now my dear wife was none to impressed, either were the others in our group whom he did similar things, luckily for him he didnt stop at one of the roadhouses just down the road.
Also agreeing with your comment, the cattle stations campgrounds, yes we had the same experience get there early as those campgrounds fill up very quickly.
I did notice the Jardine river ferry fuel pumps not being used for any fuel purchases and we had at least 70-100 vehicles in our line, this must be a sign and we had the same experience on the way back.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Thursday, Jul 16, 2015 at 21:05

Thursday, Jul 16, 2015 at 21:05
We just got back on Tuesday from Cape York. The Jardine Ferry is approx. 70c/L more than 40km up the road at Bamaga/ Seisa.

Towing a heavy CT using the bypass roads we also sat on close to 80km/hr for much of it. Workers at one of the accommodation places we stayed at commented that the track was the best they'd seen it "in ages" saying they had just come back from Cairns in 9 1/2 hours.

We also saw a couple of Kia Sorrentos towing small pop top caravans on the track sitting on about 60

We'll also give a plug for "Merluna Station", as somewhere we enjoyed staying.

Local newspapers were carrying the story of some people in a 1928 Baby Austin currently recreating the first trip to the top in a car.

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Follow Up By: birdnerd - Thursday, Jul 16, 2015 at 22:38

Thursday, Jul 16, 2015 at 22:38
Hi Mark, we were camped at Moreton Telegraph station when the little Austin rolled in, what a site! To see this little car drive in surrounded by large 4wd's, also saw them arrive at Loyalty Beach a few days later. Just on Loyalty Beach, Spanner mentioned about booking there, we tried to but they said "we don't take bookings we have plenty of room" so we just turned up and got a nice powered site anyway.
Amanda
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Reply By: Warren B - Thursday, Jul 16, 2015 at 20:59

Thursday, Jul 16, 2015 at 20:59
got back from the cape today. left loyalty beach 1st july came back via lakefield. there were 4 in our group 3 d max's and a 100 series ( towing a track trailer ) I were towing an O'briens camper.
Wife and I are going back next year but this time taking the Dirt road caravan and staying longer, that will indicate what the bypass road was like.
we camped at the back of the coen pub (great place )Then at the Delhuntly river, fruit bat falls GREAT place were booked in at Elliot falls but didn't like it so pushed on. I bailed out at mistake creek and bypassed nolans as I had the obriens camper. The rest of my bunch didn't make it through nolans ended in tears or one.
came back via the development road out to chilli then to lake field. maybe it was just me but didn't think much of the OTT we have better / challenging tracks in the high country. the hardest part of the trip was going out to morgans landing then on to cape Flattery (great day) next hardest was the bloomfield track very rough in places ( nearly done clutch there )
as I said glad I done it and next year we are taking the van up.
Foot note.. If you do your auto at the cape Isuzu don't want to know you even if its under warranty.
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Reply By: Member - Will 76 Series - Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 09:11

Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 09:11
Some good info on this site, thanks Spanner.

Warren B, interesting comments about Bloomfield and Cape Flannery.
We will have a group of 4 vehicles and camper trailers in our party and from what you said they all should be OK to travel the Bloomfield from Cairns to Cooktown?
Also in regards to Cape Flannery how did you find the beach run and was the rough time to go from Cooktown to Cape Flannery?

Regards Will
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 13:23

Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 13:23
Will

Two weeks ago our Pajero towed a 1.4Tonne camper trailer which had no brakes (CT master cylinder had failed) south from Cooktown on the Bloomfield no problem at all. I just had it in low range (auto gearbox) going up the hills and used 1st or 2nd gear (low range) when going down.
Never any problems.
On some of the steeper dirt sections where there were "moguls" I planted my foot on going up, where as my friend in his Hi Lux just plodded along in 2nd gear low range with less fuss.

We did come across a 80 series who had cooked his brakes and was letting them cool. Rather amusing to hear later across the UHF "I've got brakes again". Maybe he had it in high range and only used his brakes instead of enlisting the gears.
You'' enjoy it

Mark
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Reply By: Warren B - Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 17:24

Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 17:24
Hi Will. Campers will be no problem on the OTT however bear in mind I bypassed Nolans. Out to Morgans landing and on to cape flattery via the beach would be interesting with campers having said that on the way in we passed a camper coming out he had twin diff locks. The problem as I see it would be two of the water crossings one is DEEP over the bonnet of the Dmax and up the windscreen ( no way round it ) that was one end of a 100 feet crossing rest was about mid door height. other one is about mid door height but soft bottom ( I walked this and all the other diversions around it working out best route only to find out some days later bloody crocs there.... woops) beach run is great on low tide. there were people camped on the north of flattery but buggered if I know how they got their campers there cause you had to go under a conveyor that is as wide as a 100 series and low. But worth it though. we left our campers set up at endeavour falls caravan park and did a day trip. the bloomfield was different I were behind the 100 series and on one VERY steep rocky washed out section he struggled and I were only in 2wd and nearly rammed him so had to stop ( my D max is chipped ) I were to close !!!! then couldn't start had to go into low range and engage the locker and ride the clutch to take off cupla cars behind also had to do low range.
Don't get fuel at Archer river 45cents dearer than coen and fuel at the jardine was 55cents dearer than Bamaga
hope this helps cheers warren
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Reply By: Kevin S - Life Member (QLD) - Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 19:01

Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 19:01
I asked a question earlier in the thread,but these last few responses have given me much of the information that I was seeking. Wife and I leave Brisbane on 27th July with 6 weeks to get to the tip and back. This is not our first venture on lengthy unsealed roads but one where we will be sharing the road with the most other travelers. We are looking forward to it. Even a bit excited.

Cheers, Kevin
Kevin
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 21:42

Friday, Jul 17, 2015 at 21:42
Kevin

Regarding the road, it was better than I expected. I've driven on far worse in South Australia, similar to I encountered on the Plenty Highway several years ago. Certainly better than the road from Lawn Hill to near Camoolweal we drove a few years ago. It was "about average" as far as I was concerned.
The thing to bear in mind is that it is 700-800km of dirt from Laura to the top, not just 200-300.
Just make sure that your suspension and tyres are relatively new. I did with my vehicle, I thought my CT shockies though 12 years old hadn't seen much use and would be fine. They weren't fine and cost me accordingly.
We didn't drive the OTT as were were towing a heavy CT without a snorkel.
I expect with increased traffic and no graders to be seen though it may have deteriorated slightly since last week by the time you head off late this month.
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Follow Up By: Kevin S - Life Member (QLD) - Saturday, Jul 18, 2015 at 09:24

Saturday, Jul 18, 2015 at 09:24
Good of you to give me this additional information, Mark. We did both the Donahue/Plenty and Camooweal to Gregory Downs via Lawn Hill last year so I know what you are talking about. Our shockers were new for that trip and have only done sealed roads since so should be OK. But I will have my 4WD savy mechanic check them when the car is in for service on Monday.

Interestingly, the distance from Boulia to Gemtree is 674 km. We did it in a comfortable 3 days and plan to do the same sort of daily distances on this trip. We will also detour to Weipa, so I guess our total on dirt will be about 2,000 km. A good trial run for a proposed run over The Great Central Road on our way to WA next year.
Cheers, Kevin.
Kevin
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Reply By: Warren B - Saturday, Jul 18, 2015 at 17:09

Saturday, Jul 18, 2015 at 17:09
Woops forgot the 100 series with us had all 4 shocks replaced, kept a coupla shocks but had to give them to another 100 series who's shocks stuffed up. mine were 3 years old and survived ok. not one in our party had any tyre troubles but then all tyres where next to new when we left. cheers warren
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