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Aug 15 2011

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Old Telegraph Track – Day 1

Well, here we are. The big adventure bit of the trip to Cape York.

Driving up the Old Telegraph Track.

Old Telegraph Track the beginning

Old Telegraph Track the beginning

This is what Doc has been looking forward to. He’s in his element with this type of adventuring. Rough roads, creek crossings, sand. You name it, it’s up here somewhere. And it has a reputation.

We’ve already lost one of our party. Not in the Oscar Wilde vein of losing somebody  –we know where they are, they’re just not with us anymore.

We’ve been travelling with two other couples, and one of them just backed out of this part of the trip. I can’t say I blame them.  It’s not an easy road and they’re towing a fairly large camper-trailer. And they’re not driving a Toyota!

That’s the only product recommendation I’m going to make, although I’m open to offers. Doc really loves and swears by his 60 Series. It’s taken him to a lot of places and got him out of a lot of tight spots.

Hopefully we’ll see our lost friends at the Cape anyway. After coming so far it would be a shame not to get there and take a photo of us all together.

That said, we’ve picked up another fellow travelling couple, so we’re back to three cars. We weren’t down for long. Just as long as it took us to get over the first crossing. Palm Creek.

It’s strange how many waterways up here are called creeks. Some of them are bigger than the Murray, particularly in the wet. Even this late in the dry some can be very scary to cross. Palm Creek isn’t particularly wide. But the drive in is very steep, and rocky. And scary. Particularly for the first crossing.

[As soon as I work out how to upload a video, I’ll put it on]

This is only 3k into the track, and the woman at Bramwell Junction advised that this is worse than the dreaded, and mythological, Gunshot.

So as we’d been advised to do by many other travellers, we stopped the car, walked down to the crossing, walked across it and back, and looked at it some more to work out the best way across. And then waited until somebody else came to do it first.

Fortunately that wasn’t very long. A couple of young guys who had already done the track so were experienced. I was going to say “knew what they were doing”, but that might have been stretching it.

With the arrogance of youth, they were invincible. They’d done much worse than this, so weren’t at all worried. The driver looked at the crossing, walked across it, looked again, walked back, jumped in his car and started down, with his mate standing on the side giving directions.

It was only when he’d made it to the bottom and was crossing the creek that we all started chatting. Seems that they’d already written off one car driving along here – not a great recommendation.

But it was enough to give Doc the confidence to cross. Albeit more slowly and carefully than the young blokes.

So we were across – and on our way up the Old Tele Track.

After a few twists and turns, and the car leaning over at an alarming angle through ruts, I asked Doc just how low the centre of gravity in our car was – at what point would it tip over.

Driving at an angle

Getting up close and personal with the road

His reply that you would get really uncomfortable before it tipped was deceptively comforting. It seems his comfort level and mine are not quite the same. One particular stretch had us driving for quite a distance with the car at a 40deg angle or more, looking at the bank almost next to my face, I glanced across at Doc. He was sweating and seemed to have a death grip on the steering wheel.

“That was close.” he said “I thought we were gone there a couple of times.” We’d just discovered a drawback to a roof top tent. It makes you top heavy and increases the possibility of rolling.

Day one finished with the dreaded Gunshot. We weren’t sure we’d get over this on the first day, but there we were, pulling up at Gunshot and it was only 3 o’clock. Plenty of daylight to work it out and get across, particularly as the camping ground was on the other side.

There were a few vehicles in front of us, with everybody out there, looking from all angles.

Gunshot is the stuff of myth.

There are a number of entries to the creek, some almost guaranteed to overturn your vehicle. Which one you take depends on your bravery – or stupidity.

Gunshot all done

Gunshot dancing a jig

Twenty years ago Doc would have been on the mud track at least, if not going over the almost vertical path. But time gives wisdom, or at least an understanding of how insurance works, so after watching a couple of bikes do it, we opted for the easy route. No sense in risking overturning the vehicle. There’s still a lot of kilometres to do till we get to the Top.

So we made the dreaded Gunshot and came out the other side, all vehicles intact. And that’s where we set up camp for the evening. Among the gumtrees on the edge of Gunshot Creek.

And had a celebratory drink.

Gunshot camp

Gunshot camp a well deserved drink

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