Cape York - July 2010

Submitted: Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 17:56
ThreadID: 80454 Views:7261 Replies:5 FollowUps:3
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ConqueringCape York

We have just returned from 3.5 weeks of touring Cape York in our rear fold, hard floor camper trailer, which we bought specially for the trip. It was an unbranded mostly aluminium camper that was made in Maryborough by an aluminium fabrications guy who had to close his business because of a family illness. The camper proved to be perfect for the cape and we are very happy with its performance. Our 95 series Prado Grande also proved perfect for the task. Before going I read heaps of forum threads and read books etc, to make sure our trip was as trouble free as possible. I put new tyres all round and spent heaps of time dust proofing, strengthening areas of concern and generally cape-proofing the rig. This all paid off in the end, as we had no dust, tyre or mechanical problems. We went in convoy with 2 other couples, also in hard floor campers and being towed by a Prado 120 series and a Hilux.

While we were well equipped and did camp out, most of the nights were spent in camp grounds or caravan parks. While there were no flat tyres, and no mechanical problems, a few items of equipment did come loose from the corrugations. My biggest problem was that the stones cut through some zip ties and a brake cable sagged and got further damaged by stones, but all I had to do was remove a wheel of the trailer and reconnect the brake cable and tape it back to the axle. I hear lots of people swearing by cable ties to attach things, but my experiences with cable ties were negative and I will use other methods next time.

We left Bribie Island and stayed at: Waverley Creek (near St. Lawrence), Ingham, Mt Carbine, Archer River Roadhouse, Weipa, Eliot Falls, Seisia, Archer River, Cooktown, Cape Tribulation, Cairns, Chillagoe, Bowen, Cape Hillsborough and Bundaberg. Just because we stayed at Archer River Roadhouse twice does not mean it is a great camp spot, in fact the management and staff leave a lot to be desired, as far as cleanliness and adequate amenities are concerned. Asking to have basic items renewed/fixed was a waste of time.

We did not go via the Telegraph Road, as some of the crossings were quite badly cut up because of the large amount of traffic using it. We spoke to heaps of people along the way looking for good recent information and one guy in particular (Brendan) told me to unhitch our rig at Bramwell Junction and drive up the Telegraph Track about 5 km to Palm Creek and watch the others trying to negotiate that crossing and I would get enough excitement watching them damage their vehicles and then drive the bypass roads, which is exactly what we did. Palm Creek at the Southern end of the T.T. is now another Gunshot and there is no other crossing available.

Much of the road was good gravel and there were numerous short pieces of bitumen on the southern end, but a lot of the road was very rough and very dusty, because of the large numbers of vehicles travelling up the cape at this time of year, but it was what we were expecting. The quarantine inspection station at Coen said he had had 700 vehicles through the previous day, so as you would expect gravel roads deteriorate quickly with that amount of traffic. There were graders on the road upgrading sections and repairing others, but with nearly a thousand kilometres of nearly all gravel from Lakeland to the Cape via Weipa, it is difficult for them to maintain all the roads in a good condition.

I badly wanted to visit Chilli Beach, but by the time we had travelled over so much gravel road, with dust and corrugations we could not justify driving the 140km in and back out to Chilli Beach, just to see another beach that was experiencing high strength easterly winds at the time and camping there would have been uncomfortable. We also had very positive comments about camping at Vrilya Beach on the North/Western side of the Cape, but didn’t get there. Before we left I was emailed by a recent Cape York traveler who said: “Make sure you visit some of the areas on the way North, because as soon as you turn South you will be so sick of the corrugations and dust that you won’t bother visiting them. He was right!

Tours: We did a tour of the Weipa Mine and also Thursday and Horn Islands and Chillagoe Caves.Weipa Mine tour was interesting and reasonably priced. The combination boat trip, Thursday Island, Horn Island and associated local tours, including a buffet lunch on Horn Island was good, but the price of about $230 each was over priced in our view. The Chillagoe Caves tours were very good with fees being reasonable. Other members of our group also did the Cairns/Kuranda rail/chairlift tour and Green Island tour, as well as the Undara Tunnels and Cobbold Gorge tours. As we had done those tours previously we found other things to do, like visiting friends, relatives, shopping, washing and cleaning the rig.

People and the Environment: Throughout our travels we found fellow travelers tremendous. EVERYONE was keen to share information and be very friendly. The other thing we noticed was that all of the areas we visited were clean with no rubbish/litter problems that we read so much about.

Favourite Camps:Cape Hillsborough, Cape Tribulation, Seisia Beach and Chillagoe Creek Homestead. Mt Carbine is also a good spot for anyone wanting to leave a caravan if they are tenting the Cape. They do not charge to leave a van there provided you stay a night on the way up and a night on the way back. The park is very dry and rustic, but comfortable and the owners are lovely people who give an interesting talk each afternoon about the local area.

Favourite Meals: The buffet dinner at Brothers Club in Manunda, Cairns. It was only $19 each and the best value for money we have had, maybe ever!!! A pie (also best ever) at a homemade coffee shop at the Coles shopping Centre at Mareeba. Some of the Burgers at the roadhouses were also good.

Camper V Caravan: My wife was not impressed with folding the camper up and down each camp, just opening the door of a caravan when camping spoils you. We are going camping on a family property next week, but surprise, surprise, the camper will be staying home, as it is time to use the luxuries of the caravan again.

Overall Comments: We normally tour in a small Jayco freedom pop top van and was concerned about only having the Waeco in the rear of the Prado, but it proved quite sufficient for our needs. I learnt that each day while travelling I would restock the drinks section and turn the thermostat up one notch to 3 and then at evening when the sun had gone down (I have 170Watts "Suntec" solar on Prado Roof Rack and 120AH "All Rounder" battery in rear of Prado) I would reset the thermostat back to number 2 setting again and this would minimize my current draw during the hot nights of the tropics.

If we were going up the cape again, and we are not, I would keep in touch with the local authorities concerning road conditions and go as soon as the roads were graded, that is before the rush in July. We had no option because one of our group could only get annual leave at this particular time.

No matter where you go "USE COMMON SENSE AND DRIVE TO THE CONDITIONS! And you will have very few problems. Also drive defensively to cater for the small minority of D.H. drivers that also use our roads.

Brian DJ
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Reply By: BrownyGU - Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 18:36

Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 18:36
Thanks Brian,

Some good info there for a cape virgin such as me!

Sounds like 3.5 weeks is only just long enough though?

Cheers Browny
AnswerID: 425917

Reply By: CJ - Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 19:00

Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 19:00
Sounds like you had a good old time.

Next time honestly you should do the OTL. That is the true road and experience of CY, Hence the name "bypass" as you pass by the real road.

Not true that you damage the vehicle doing it. Yes bypass Gunshot but all the rest are do-able with no damage.

As a matter of opinion, I believe I did less damage on the OTL compared to the constant shaking on the corrugated bypass roads. Yawn.

The OTL has magic spots and of our three trips every fond memory seems to be from somewhere on the OTL

AnswerID: 425919

Follow Up By: Member - dave e (QLD) - Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 23:40

Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 23:40
good work cj,so true,last year i spent 4 months going up the cape towing a tinny,yeh it was a pain in the arse sometimes,but worth it,did otl and most other tracks,took my time and no damage at all,if i listened to everyones advice telling me not to do it,i would have regret it for a long time,i now have awesome memories forever of that trip
FollowupID: 696491

Reply By: Glenndini - Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 19:52

Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 19:52
Just shows the Cape is different things to different people.
We have just yesterday returned from 3 weeks to the top and back.
Best part: going up the telegraph track, drove both Palm creek and gunshot. Also did track (no track at all in some places) from Old Kalpower to Bathurst Head, Frenchmans Track and a short one just south east of Coen that was very rough and lots of fun.
Best meal: fresh fish we caught ourselves, cooked ourselves under a full moon on the beach at Virilya.
Best beach: A bay nest to Combe point (next to Bathurst Head). Chilli beach was also great if a bit windy.

Worst part: bypass roads (filled with camper trailers).
AnswerID: 425923

Reply By: Ian & Chris - Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 20:10

Sunday, Aug 01, 2010 at 20:10
Great post,

Enjoyed it, cut and posted it to my "reference library".

If I might be so bold, you made reference to ties and how they let you down.

I also swear by them for all types of emergency repairs. Are you aware that there is an equivalent in stainless steel? I have used them in quite a few places under my off road van. Sparkies use a special "gun" to tighten them but for plebs like us who just use them now and again they can be satisfactorily tightened with a pair of pliers. No way are stones going to cut those suckers, available from any electrical wholesaler. Mine are supplied by my two sparky sons however I'm going to check to see if the local Bunnings stock them.

AnswerID: 425924

Follow Up By: Maîneÿ . . .- Monday, Aug 02, 2010 at 08:19

Monday, Aug 02, 2010 at 08:19
when you get an answer, can you please post it here for us who will be interested in them.
Manufacturers name or link to their website would be appreciated :-)

Maîneÿ . . .
FollowupID: 696500

Follow Up By: Member - Andrew (QLD) - Monday, Aug 02, 2010 at 10:52

Monday, Aug 02, 2010 at 10:52
Panduit and Cabac make stainless steel cable ties, though you need to be aware that the standard versions have sharp edges and may cut the item secured in some cases. IIRC the smaller versions had a tensile strength of around 900N (~90kg) for the smaller 4.6mm versions and heavy duty are around 1000-3000N (1-300kg) depending on width.

They are better to tension with the right tool. Any slippage may not be the best for the cable. Tension is held by a ball and cam concept with the addition of extra clamps or bending over the tail in some cases.

A couple helpful links to the products:




FollowupID: 696514

Reply By: Member - Paul F (QLD) - Monday, Aug 02, 2010 at 07:06

Monday, Aug 02, 2010 at 07:06
Thanks Brian,

This report and the reply's are excellent for us. We are leaving in one week to travel up the center of Queensland to Kingfisher, across the gulf to Cairns and then up the coast. We should be there about the end of August.

Again Ta

AnswerID: 425939

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