A few questions about cape york

Submitted: Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 15:27
ThreadID: 53898 Views:6811 Replies:11 FollowUps:7
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We are looking to travel oz in june and have a few questions about doing the trip to cape york. If someone could answer any of the following, I would appeciate it. We live in Brisbane, QLd and aim to be up their around July/August.

1. How far can you get towing an outback Jayco expanda van 16ft behind a nissan triton dual cab (haven't bought either of these yet, but these are what we are leaning towards) before you have to leave the caravan and go by 4wd only?

2. How experienced do you need to be at 4wding? Is the trek really as hard as the liteature maintains?

3. We have 2 children under 4 with us, how long do you think it would take to get to the tip, taking the kids into consideration? Is there a particular route that you would recommend?

4.Tag along tours can be quite expensive, can anyone recommend how to find people that you can 'just tag along with'?

5. Is there anything else that you can think of that we would need to consider or plan that I may not be thinking about?

Thank you in advance for your replies

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Reply By: Footloose - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:18

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:18
Jackie, so many questions, so little time.
Cant help with your setup, sorry.
Is it as tough as it reads ? Yes and no. If the track has been graded, and there's little water, it's a doddle. If not it can be difficult. It also depends on what parts of the Cape you are visiting. Once off the main track, water and corrugations can turn it into a problem.
I'd recommend going to Weipa first, then doing the bottom end of the Telegraph Track, then up to perhaps Punsand Bay or Seisha. I wouldn't recommend a 16ft van above about Cooktown. There are lots of nasty dips in the track above that.
You could do the trip much faster, but I'd recommend a couple of weeks on the Cape itself ie above Cooktown.
I'd be tempted to leave the van and grab some tents.
No doubt some hairy chested types wouldn't even blink at the van,... but I know I would.
AnswerID: 283750

Reply By: Steve63 - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:33

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:33
1. Don't know the van. If it is any type of off road van you will be able to tow it up the developmental roads. They are very corrugated but by driving to the conditions it should see you right.

2. Depends on the route and the conditions. The main roads don't need much experience other than driving on a dirt road that has water crossings. The telegraph track is more challenging. I have seen the odd camper but no vans in there. Others will have a better idea but I don't think it would be a good idea. On the telegraph track conditions and experience will play a bigger role. Much of the litrature is about the telegrapgh track. Also many bridges have been built and it is no longer as difficult as it was nor is the area at the mercy of the weather as much as it was. Some destinations may also be difficult if not imposible with the rig you are suggesting.

3. Depends on conditions. I would not be in a hurrry, a few weeks at least. I will leave the route to others with kids. In reality shortish regular jumps are usually more enjoyable anyway. There are lots of places to stop. You can always camp some where and do day trips to some of the more out of the way places.

4. I'm not a big advocate of tag a longs. They tend to do longish days to jam as much as possible into a short period. With two young kids this may be a trial. In reality you tend to just meet up with people. We toured with a few other vehicles over most of Cape York. We met them at a creek crossing on the batavia (?sp) road. We camped at the same place that night and we got on so travelled together. It was very enjoyable even though our backgrounds were very different and I learnt some new swear words I didn't know before. It is an exercise in trust and tolerance. Not everyone does things the same way or holds the same views about the world. You may learn some things about yourself and other cultures/communities.

5. Prepare for the worst and hope you don't need any of the gear. With young kids an easy way to get emergency medical assistance would be prudent (satphone or HF radio). Have a decent First Aid kit. Make sure your partner can work ALL the gear he/she may need to use. My wife is 5 foot nothing and 50 kg. She can change a tyre by herself (including lifting the splits back onto the truck), operate the UHF and HF radio with ease has a seniour first Aid certificate and she can drive in any conditions we may be in. Both of you need to be able to all the things to get out of any given situation. This includes the cooking. If one of you becomes ill the other will need to pick up the difference to get yourselfes to a safe place. You hope not to need these skills but you never know.

AnswerID: 283754

Follow Up By: On Patrol (East Coast) - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 19:49

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 19:49
Gday Simplelife
Steves description is, in my opinion, one of the most accurate here, having done that trip myself back in June 2007.

You can base yourself at a central camp and "Do" the Telegraph trk in two stages. IE setup at Eliot falls ( a stones throw from the development rd) and do day trips Sth & Nth from there without the van and returning to base via the Development rd whichever way you go. Do not try the track on your own, that can end in tears.

Plan, plan, plan & then enjoy.
FollowupID: 548434

Follow Up By: Max - Sydney - Sunday, Jan 27, 2008 at 15:16

Sunday, Jan 27, 2008 at 15:16

I am with Steve - leave the Jayco on the end of the bitumen at Cooktown. Expanda is simply not built for the endless corrugations and fun rutted tracks of the Cape - certainly a minimum would be to have it fitted with Shock Absorbers - but why wreck a nice van?

We travelled to the Cape on one of our early trips (in 1994 for goodness sake), and raised our awareness of skills by attending a 4WD training course for a weekend - that gave us a lot of confidence. You can get that from a Club or pay a commercial operator. We did the latter.

I endorse all Steve said in each point otherwise.

If the Cape is the main part of your trip, have you thought of not getting the van this year? Buy the Triton, do a course, get the camping gear together and head off with the tent(s) in the back, but stay in cabins on your way up. That will get you up to Cairns quicker, and from then on use the tents.

That will save you the trouble of learning the caravan and getting used to it, and give you longer days as you can travel faster and don't have to set up each night, get tow bars etc etc.

You need to be sure the Triton will pull the Expander though - I had a look on Redbook and guessed just one twin cab here


and noticed the maximum towing mass is 1800 kg. You would probably be ok up to Expanda 14'6" PROVIDED YOU DO NOT CARRY TOO MUCH STUFF.

Jayco specs are at http://www.jayco.com.au/rvs_exp_specs.html.

(Sorry - you will need to cut and paste the URLs.)

Anyway - happy planning

FollowupID: 548659

Reply By: Member - Doug T (FNQ) - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:37

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:37
A Nissan What....??? and a 16 footer leave that somewhere in storage or a small Caravan Park, and travel without it.

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AnswerID: 283755

Follow Up By: simplelife - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 20:28

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 20:28
Sorry, silly female me with no idea about cars. My hubby amusingly informs me that I actually mean a Nissan Nivara 3lt Turbo Diesel.
FollowupID: 548447

Reply By: Moose - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:39

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:39
G'day Jackie
1. No idea re that particular van (a full sized van was taken to the cape by Kedron but that doesn't mean you should)
2. It would be worthwhile doing a 4WD course before you go - especially if you want to enjoy the best bits. Consider joining a club and doing their course. How hard will depend on conditions when you're there. Can easily change with a bit of rain.
3. How long do you have - you will need at least 2 weeks on the cape itself unless all you're wanting to do is get to the top and back as quickly as possible. If that's your aim don't bother. The actual old telegraph track is the best route by far. Heaps of side trips are possible. Look up the Treks section on this site for more details.
4. Join a club. Or keep asking on here for someone to join you.
5. How would we know what you may be thinking about! Do heaps of research - read the trek notes on this site as a starting point. Get Ron Moons book. Research - you can't do too much of that.
Cheers from the Moose
AnswerID: 283757

Reply By: Crackles - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:41

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 16:41
Gaday Jackie.
1. Cooktown is a common spot to leave the van or even back at Mareeba/Cairns which then allows you to to take a different way back.
Some tow vans up to Weipa & this would be quite possible with your setup if taken steady but there is the risk of damage on the rough corrugated roads.
2. Basic 4 wheel drive skills iare all that is required. A simple understanding of recovery techniques and vehicle repairs will be handy. Most literature overstates the difficulty of the trip & many photo's show the hard options that can often be simply detoured less that 20m away. Really during August the trip is normally just a long rough road with less than 20 short creek crossings that will need a look to ensure you pick the correct route. Some precautions may be required for deep water if the season is particually wet. Some side trips to the coast will require reduced tyre pressures on the sand.
3. Recomend go to Weipa cutting accross Batavia Downs track then up the telegraph track to the Jardine. Base camp at Seisha taking day trips to the tip, Somerset & Thursday Island. Return down the Developmental road taking side trips to Vrilya Point, Captain Billy Landing, Chilli Beach if time permits. Down South detour through Lakefield National Park to Cooktown.
4. Join a 4x4 club doing the trip.
5. Get Ron Moons Cape York Guide. All the info and detail required for this trip.
Cheers Craig............
AnswerID: 283758

Reply By: Trevor R (QLD) - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 18:37

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 18:37
In response to Q4. You will find after a night or two of camping on the cape, you will be camping with many of the same people you camped with the night before and so a simple conversation with these may find some travelling buddies. Not many travelling the cape would shoo you away as many like the re-assurance another vehicle brings to the fore (even if you don't know how to use it LOL). Night time camps still need to take into consideration other people's privacy so don't camp too close unless invited to and you want too.

Many of the members on here have photo's of many cape york ck's so looking through the occasional rig setup will give you insights into what to expect as well (I have Nolan's Brook in mine with my old Pathfinder and trailer). Rivers north of the falls will see you need some good judgement and 4wd skills but south of here most are not too bad.

Try to spend at least 3 weeks on the cape (more if you can) to really enjoy it.

Cheers, Trevor.
AnswerID: 283777

Reply By: kiwicol - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 18:44

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 18:44
Hi Jackie, 2 ways for the cape 1 easy 1 hard, with your experience the easy one is the go, corrugations will be your main concern. The vehicle both nissan and mitsy will do the job easy. As for the van you would be better to hire a camper trailer well before the cape trip, learn about it, then hire it and set it up for a trip up the cape. Fuel and supplys are readily avalable all through the cape. make sure you get up to speed about alcohol as there are so many different rules for each community you travel through. There are many people travelling the cape, so you will never be stranded. Col
AnswerID: 283779

Reply By: Gerhardp1 - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 18:48

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 18:48
Hi Jackie,

1. I wouldn't take a Jayco expanda onto a gravel road, let alone the never ending corrugations of the Cape York trip.

An off-road camper trailer, however, is definately possible. We took the Campomatic up the OTL track behind the Jackaroo, and had no problems at all.

Didn't go down Gunshot, and a different year/month could have made it impassable, so you don't really know until you go.

2. It would be useful to do at least a 4WD taining at a club. However, our convoy of 2 cars/camper trailers increased to 3 at Moreton Station - a couple in a Patrol (no trailer, no 4WD experience) asked if we were going up the OTL and if so could they tag along as they were novices.

They were great company, got through all the creeks under guidance, and on the return they took the OTL south as well, while we took the bypasses.

So it's not hard when it's not too wet. It can get very hard though. But there's always someone who will help, too.

3. It's been a long time since I've had 2 kids under 4, but the parents are the boss, and the kids will have a great time, especially in the water at Fruitbat Falls, Twin Falls, and all the creek crossings.

Do be on the alert for snakes, though. There are plenty.

Allow at least 3-4 weeks, kids will probably be better if they can "settle" a bit before moving on too often.

4. No interest here in tag-along tours, too much of an individualist.

5. Just do it.

Try and pick a vehicle with a snorkel, but these are not essential. We helped a few people through the deeper crossings by using blinds and keeping the speed right.

Don't store stuff that doesn't like water low in the car. If you happen to get stuck in the middle of Nolans Brook, the stuff on the floor will drown!

Try and have a tow rope ready on this crossing so a good samaritan can hook you up and pull you through just in case !
AnswerID: 283782

Follow Up By: simplelife - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 20:30

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 20:30
The van is an outback model. Does that change you opinion, or do you still think it is unsuitable. Can you elaboate why you think this, so that I can do some more research please?
FollowupID: 548448

Follow Up By: deserter - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 20:54

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 20:54
I did the trip a couple months back. Left the van at Mareeba then camped the rest of the way. The OTL is a must if you want to experience the old track type conditions. We followed that up. Couple deeper crossings but not so bad later in the season - as we were. You will find them deeper in June. Didn't bother with 4x4 classes - take things easy and its no probs.

We needed to get back in a hurry and came back from the Tip to
Marreeba down the development roads in 2 days. Bad corrugation in places though.
FollowupID: 548458

Follow Up By: Gerhardp1 - Saturday, Jan 26, 2008 at 10:29

Saturday, Jan 26, 2008 at 10:29
Hi Jackie,

The Jayco outback is still not suitable for the trip, in my opinion.

I queried the Jayco salesperson at the Sandown Caravan show a few years ago, and he basically said the suspension and subframe were up to the Cape York task, but the cupboards, etc would fall to bits.

There is plenty of anecdotal rambling that would support that view.

There's not much point taking a van part of the way and camping the rest - with 2 littlies, you might as well camp all the way and save money by not buying a van at all.
FollowupID: 548527

Reply By: rumpig - Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 23:37

Friday, Jan 25, 2008 at 23:37
Q1 :- you can get a van to cooktown no worries at all due to it being bitumin all the way now. got a mate with the same van you talk of, so i can atleast picture your setup. i wouldn't plan on taking a van past weipa no matter what, even the trip to weipa could be a test for vans if the roads are pretty corrogated, take your time and run the right tyre pressures and i can't see why you couldn't get the van to weipa though.
Q2 :- really depends on the weather and road conditions, rain can make it pretty hard going
Q3 :- i'd allow atleast 3 weeks north of cairns, the more time you can allow the better, but i like to just sit around and do nothing all day sometimes. definately don't take the van out towards chilli beach, way to many creek crossings. if your not sure of your 4wding ability, there is no reason you can't drive to the start of the OTL at bramwell, have a look at the first real creek crossing you'll do (think it was palm creek) about a klm or 2 down the track. if it looks like something your not comfortable doing then turn around and head north up the developmental road. you can still visit gunshot and fruitbat falls and heaps of other nice spots without doing all of the OTL.
Q5 :- make sure you have a DVD player to entertain the kids in the car (only for in the car, they'll love the outdoors), makes long hours driving at 1 time doable.
AnswerID: 283821

Reply By: balko - Saturday, Jan 26, 2008 at 16:03

Saturday, Jan 26, 2008 at 16:03
Gday Jackie
Ill be going from Cairns to the tip towing a van in July with my wife and 4yo Daughter so if you want to team up no probs. its no where near as hard as people say (driven up twice) and spent heaps of time north of weipa fishing and hunting (wifes uncle lives there fly in every chance i get ). It gets a bit tricky from Bramwell station on but i wont take a van on the otl. My advice would be stay a night or two at bramwell station and take the cars no vans out for a day trip to the otl so atleast you have done it. So if you want to team up no prob our daughter would of been traveling for 4 months by then and would love some friends to play with. just pm me if keen Cheers Tony PS if you want to see that you dont have to be a 4wd junkie to do it read the current caravan & motorhome magazine page 107 a family take a windsor rapid to the tip with no experiance at all. Its a good read
AnswerID: 283863

Follow Up By: simplelife - Sunday, Jan 27, 2008 at 20:52

Sunday, Jan 27, 2008 at 20:52
Thanks Tony. That certainly sounds like a plan. Can you tell me how to PM you so that we can talk further. I'm new to this forum and am unsure how to do this.

FollowupID: 548696

Reply By: balko - Monday, Jan 28, 2008 at 09:22

Monday, Jan 28, 2008 at 09:22
Im not much better on these things. i think the best way is just email me balkoktm@ozemail.com.au Ive got a boat i take so we can do some great fishing too Cheers Tony
AnswerID: 284032

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