Complete beginner questions about Cape York

Submitted: Saturday, Jun 23, 2012 at 23:09
ThreadID: 96454 Views:4246 Replies:7 FollowUps:13
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Hi all, New to the forum and am new to the 4wd world too. (just bought a prado a few weeks ago).

In early Nov, we have a family trip planned all up the east coast up to Cooktown. Now that we have the Prado, I'm really tempted to go up the Cape too.
But I'm not sure on several points;

1. If we stick to the PDR, is a novice driver like myself going to be Ok? I'm not looking to go out of my way to perform heroic acts - but is the PDR reasonably safe and doable for a novice?

2. Are there any/many river crossings that way? Any sections which I need to be really mindful of?

3. Since it sounds like most of the good stuff is when you leave the beaten track, I am wondering if we're missing too much ... or if it would still be a great trip.

4. How many days should I reasonably allow to get to the top and down again? Any sections/places you would recommend I deviate to look at?
Unlike planning road trips, I'm not sure how to draft my 'itinerary' for this place - and am not sure how many Km's I should expect to cover in a day.

All hints, tips and advice welcomed!


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Reply By: Been-Everywhereman - Saturday, Jun 23, 2012 at 23:34

Saturday, Jun 23, 2012 at 23:34

Nov getting pretty warm, bit thundery in the afternoons.
Prob not raining though.
PDR is dirt road which is fine when travelled solo so long as you drive to the conditions.
There wont be much water around to drive through.
If you took the OTL you may not see too many if any other travellers if you get into the poo....
If you follow the PDR you will find fruitbat falls and elliot falls which are both worthwhile stops.
Chilli beach is worth a look.
Optimal time to go is now up till sept/oct.
AnswerID: 489257

Reply By: AlbyNSW - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 05:56

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 05:56
Go for it, whilst you will miss out on a lot of the fun getting there on he OTT it is still a worthwhile experience
AnswerID: 489260

Reply By: PJR (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 08:05

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 08:05
The PDR is easy. Just a long wide, maintained and corrugated road. Corrugations can be big so you may want to drop the tyre pressures but not too much. We found 70 to 80 was comfortable but we have upgraded ths hocks.

Time: You could drive Cooktown to the Tip andback in a week. But try the OTL and I would not do it in less that two weeks.

Foer conditions search Youtube. Try searching for "telegraph track" and "frenchmans track". Look for things like "cape york development road" etc for the development road.

I hope that helps. It's a bloody long way back to see it if you miss it.
AnswerID: 489266

Reply By: Chris Prado - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 09:25

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 09:25
Thanks for those replies - much appreciated!

So it sounds like I'm pretty safe to go up - which I'm really glad to hear. As said, it really is a bloody long way back - which is why I'm looking into this... and formed part of the nudge for me to get the 4wd in the first place.

@PJR - thanks for the timing info. That's helpful to me. I will ensure I build in a week for the tip and back (PDR route). With a large, young family and no experience (yet!), I'll grudgingly steer clear of the telegraph track (though I suspect I'll get bitten by the bug once I've seen a little offroad action).

@Been-Everywhereman - You've touched on one point that I'd been pondering ... when the rain and conditions really start to turn. I've looking up seasonal climate information which breaks things up into months.
The trouble is, when I see this info, I see dry conditions before Nov and torrential rainfall totals after Nov.... with Nov listed as something of a 'ramp up' month in between.
I would be there at the start of Nov ... would the weather typically have already started getting uglier by then? (ie - is it only in the latter half of Nov that I'll see lots more rain/afternoon thunderstorms ... or for the whole month?)

Three more q's (not sure if I should really start another thread for this but....) :

a. I recognise the need to get some experience before then. Is there any training courses or other activities which are not too far from Melbourne that you'd recommend?

b. On the way, we also pass Fraser Island. Is that also something a novice could easily take on (so long as they're sensible)? What are the conditions like there?

c. I'm looking into gearing up before the trip and paid a visit to Opposite Lock (was looking at the costs of snorkels, dual battery, air compressors roof racks etc). Any advice on what is essential (for the PDR & Fraser Island) and where you'd recommend I go to buy? Would hate to find that I got ripped off because they saw a green driver walk in the door.

AnswerID: 489274

Follow Up By: Member - Kiwibound eventually - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 09:55

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 09:55
We would recommend that you join a four wheel drive club. We joined the Landrover Club in Doncaster even though we don't own a Landrover (we have a Nissan Patrol) and this was a perfect way to gain experience. They offer two part 4wd courses covering both theory and a half day practical experience which was excellent. In addition they have family week end trips with lots of 4wd opportunities.Well worth joining and mixing with other owners which gives lots of opportunity for chatting and thus learning. The age group of the members was from mid twenties to perhaps the eighties and they were very friendly and welcoming. The club meets monthly and upcoming day or week-end events are well advertised.

We did the Cape York trip last August. We took nearly three weeks from Cooktown back to Port Douglas as we didn't want to rush. We went into Chilli Beach, (2-3 short river/creek crossings) and also did the Old Telegraph Track. It is possible to do some of the OTT and then rejoin the Develment Road before doing Gunshot. From Elliot Falls we found Nolans Creek tricky but we were able to complete. The whole trip was a great experience and we wouldn't have missed it.
FollowupID: 764433

Follow Up By: miandering fiander - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 10:34

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 10:34
I Agree with Kiwibound, Join a club , there are plenty around. We joined a local club and well worth the small amount of membership compared to the price of training courses you see around and the club members help you a lot. Do not buy anything until you join a club and see what others have. You can get only what is needed and build from there.
FollowupID: 764439

Follow Up By: Chris Prado - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 10:54

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 10:54
Sounds like great advice. Is there any general consensus on good clubs in roughly the Box Hill area? (eastern suburbs of melbourne)?
Or is that question the grounds for a holy war? :-)

If nothing else, if there's a nearby club that has a few Toyotas (especially a Prado or two) then I'm probably sold!

Or does location not matter (ie - they never meet except out on the tracks?)
FollowupID: 764444

Follow Up By: Member - Kiwibound eventually - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 11:27

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 11:27
We lived in Box Hill and found the Landrover Club perfect. They have more than 100 members who have a variety of types of vehicles and there are sure to be Prado owners. Perhaps go along to a meeting before joining and check for yourself. Held on a Thursday evening (think it is the first Thursday in the month). We are now travelling Australia having left Box Hill in July 2011 and the experience received through the club certainly set us up.
FollowupID: 764448

Follow Up By: Kiwi100 - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 11:51

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 11:51
Toyota Land Cruiser Club will have what you want.

FollowupID: 764450

Follow Up By: Crackles - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 13:52

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 13:52
Chris Fraser Isaland is pretty easy in general for a novice driver & certainly worth spending a week on the way through. Lower tyre pressures & checking the tides the main considerations.
4x4 Victoria have a good training course or for better ongoing value join a club that has training included. Check their web sites to see what they get up to as some are family orrientated while others are into winch challenges.
For travelling to the Cape during November be prepared for an early wet. This may mean allowing time for rivers to drop & roads to re-open. Definately fit a snorkel, upgrade springs if heavily loaded, ensure your tyres are OK & a compressor would be the key items. Travelling solo possibly some additional comms as well.
Cheers Craig.....................
FollowupID: 764464

Follow Up By: Been-Everywhereman - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 20:13

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 20:13
When does the wet season actually start you ask?
It is hard to pinpoint that.
Some years you see the cloud building in the afternoons and it thumps and bangs and nothing happens as far as rain until January and some years the wet just starts as quick as the cloud comes....
In november you would normally be safe to travel as far as the rain goes but the weather is quite humid and the travellers have died out,.
Be wary and enjoy the trip.
FollowupID: 764489

Follow Up By: aboutfivebucks (Pilbara) - Saturday, Jun 30, 2012 at 07:47

Saturday, Jun 30, 2012 at 07:47
The Nov temperatures will challenge a young family in the Cape if your camping. Its pretty hot.
One thing for sure, you'll have the place all to yourself.
FollowupID: 764852

Follow Up By: Chris Prado - Saturday, Jun 30, 2012 at 19:12

Saturday, Jun 30, 2012 at 19:12
We've listened to some of the voices and have rearranged the order in which we're doing things. We could only bring the cape a week forward, but now we'll be there at the end of Oct.
Probably will not make much difference but might lessen the chance of getting caught in an early wet at least!

Have you been to the cape? What can you share about conditions there late Oct/early Nov?
FollowupID: 764916

Reply By: Members Pa & Ma. - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 16:56

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 16:56
Hi Chris.,
Welcome to the Forum.
We're almost in the same boat but we're seasoned travellers. Mainly Dry land & Desert.
If health allows we hope to leave late August when we usually take our annual leave & hope to be away from there in late Sept.
We aren't adrenalin junkies & we travel alone. We hope we can go via the P.D.R. & get to Weipa as well.

Myself, in particular am worrying about an early wet season, the heat at that time of the year and the Insects, Midges & Sand flies make a real mess of me.
We've done up to the lakes area & Bloom field track then we ran out of time & had to get back to work in Vic.
We've been though some deep water & a snorkel & a Bra (for your car) are very important., or a good Tarp.

I don't like the idea of walking the River & creek crossings because of crocs.
We've been told that Nolan's, can be a troublesome crossing. I' glad you put this post up cos I'd like to know some of the answers too.
I'm looking at our plans now. I reckon Nov is getting a bit risky for rain.

Driving to the conditions makes it hard to plan ahead you have to book ahead for camps in the national Parks now.
What have you got to camp in?
A reliable insect repellent & some Paraderm cream are essential.
Take care, safe travels,Bye Ma
AnswerID: 489313

Follow Up By: Members Pa & Ma. - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 17:31

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 17:31
Back again Chris,,
Do be wary of the Dingos on Frazer Island if you go there. Don't let them near your camp & make sure you lock the food in the car. I don't know how old your kids are but make sure they know not to go near them or encourage them by feeding them.

Also, I've been told that both the Sand flies & midges are as hungry as the Dingos. No I'm not trying to ruin your trip just be prepared. Hubby never gets affected but in a 100 mile radius they find me.
Another thing I'm thinking is that maybe you could go on a tour or get someone to acompany you in another car for parts of the O.T.T. on the way back.
Make sure your car is in good shape for the trip before you leave by a reliable mechanic.
Preparation can make or break a holiday.
Bye again Ma.
FollowupID: 764472

Follow Up By: Chris Prado - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 18:16

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 18:16
Hi Ma,
I'm thinking I'll leave the camper trailer back somewhere and take a tent to sleep in. Not sure, but I might wish I wasn't towing if things get tricky.
And yes - I don't have massive scope to 'wait it out' if things get too wet ...
... I have a hot date later with a total solar eclipse on 14th Nov.
FollowupID: 764474

Follow Up By: Members Pa & Ma. - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 19:54

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 19:54
A holiday isn't a holiday with Deadlines. As I said before, we had to turn back at Lakefield National Park. or somewhere there.. Don't try to rush it or your holiday will be a nightmare. See what you can, there is nearly always another holiday as happened to us.

You have to have Permits too ,which I forgot to mention before. When you go on the Jardine River Ferry the cost includes all Permits from there apparently.?
We'll be happy if we only get to Weipa. There is no point in rushing.
We started out like that & were bitterly dissapointed when we had to turn back, but we are planning to finish the trip now.

We both have incurable illness & we're priveledged to have seen what we have.
At first we rushed things From the Great Ocean road where we work.
There was a near divorce and many a tear at William Creek & we have no kids!
Just trying to do too much.
Try to have your camp & meals done before dark & get a good tent with good Midge proof mesh.. We might have to le the camper trailer too but will have the Oztent on the roof.

Forget Itinery to the extreme, just do what you can, It took us 3 yrs to do the Sandy blight track due to adverse conditions. We had to chose plan B & C.
Finally, we did it after 3 yrs. of trying.
Enjoy your holiday ,don't make it a nightmare just to get there.
Take care, Safe travels, Ma.
FollowupID: 764485

Follow Up By: Chris Prado - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 20:15

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 20:15
Thanks Ma, yes I agree too. Being too regimented with time tables isn't great.
Of course, I can only get a certain amount of time off work - so I either "have a go" or don't even try. If I don't go as far as I need, then so be it.

In this instance on the cape too I'd especially prefer to play safer and turn back if it looks like there might be delays.... I can always do the cape again .... but I can't catch the eclipse again!

Thanks - appreciate hearing from all the experienced guys and gals ahead of me.
FollowupID: 764490

Reply By: Geoff H (Q - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 17:17

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 17:17
Hi Chris,

The 4x4 club will give you a great base, however driving to the Cape can be easily handled by a novice in the dry season, just take it easy on the PRD, it's a big wide dirt road and you will be tempted to sit on 100k, (at your peril). I bought new tyres and ran 30psi on the dirt.

You will find Fraser Island a beautiful holiday spot, I drop my tyres to 25psi and travel 2 hours either side of low tide so that the beach is like a highway. If you travel near high tide you will be travelling much slower in the soft sand.

Before you cross any section of soft sand select a lower gear so you can keep the revs up for the duration of the crossing.

Do your own research on the tyre pressures as everyone has their own theory. Those pressures are simply what I use.

AnswerID: 489317

Reply By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 17:40

Sunday, Jun 24, 2012 at 17:40
yes Chris, I'd definitely join a club. They'll take you out on sand where you'll drop pressures to maybe 15 psi and show you how to get unbogged and they'll show you some bushwork and creek crossings too. Really enjoyable stuff and well worth it. If any of your family are interested, take them along too.

On the firm sand, Frazer is like a freeway but watch your speed (cops patrol) and try to avoid the soft (deep) sand generally but if you have to go through it you'll need those pressures down.

As previously mentioned, the PDR will tempt you to do 90/100 kph despite the corrugations and then you'll hit a pot-hole. Bang! Just keep your speed down - it takes a bit of discipline with a big, straight, open road in front of you but you WILL hit a pot-hole or wash out and you'll wish you'd kept your speed down.

AnswerID: 489321

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