Posts Tagged With: Jardine River

Pennyfather and Mapoon, West of the Tip

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And so the long journey back south begins in earnest. The drive back from Usher didn’t seem too bad with only one termite infested tree blocking our way, then the corrugations to the Jardine River ferry didn’t shake the bones like they did on the way up. Maybe we have finally got used to bull dust and corrugations now? It seems normal to drive to the left of the road markings, along the less corrugated but clearly worn paths of the locals.

On recommendations from travellers we had met on the Cape we were keen to explore a little of the Gulf side of the Cape. After 4 weeks on the Cape we were in need of supplies, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables, and curiosity was leading us to the city of Weipa anyway, so restocking and refueling was the order of the day.

Fruit Bat Falls

Fruit Bat Falls

A quick stop was required, firstly at Fruit Bat Falls to wash away excess bulldust, then at Bramwell station to view the “Rego tree”. then on to Moreton station for the night.

A “short cut” from the Old Telegraph Track south of Moreton took us across Batavia Downs station to York where we joined the Peninsula Developmental road leading to Weipa. With the exception of a few heavily corrugated sections this road soon improved and before we knew it we hit bitumen driving into Weipa.

Just north of Weipa lies the Pennyfather River, supposedly a top fishing spot, but also a beautifully peaceful beach camp.

Access is via a Rio Tinto mining lease and the only traffic lights we have seen for a while were those for mine vehicles passing. The boom-gate was broken so we watched quite a few monster trucks pass by, with loads of dusty bauxite piled high in the hold. Even the water trucks managed to dwarf our cars waiting patiently for the gates to rise. They follow behind spraying hundreds of litres of water on the road to reduce dust levels. In the end Simon jumped out of his car and physically lifted the boom-gate so all could pass.

Being on Aboriginal land a permit is required but once there a very long beach offers many camping options, from basic amenities for a small fee, managed by a ranger to free camping along the beach, south of the local beach shacks. We chose the latter, searching for a site that another family had told us had the makings of a funpark made from washed up debris from the beach. After ten minutes driving along the soft sand it was time to stop and we found a great shaded spot with a tyre swing. The Gulf waters lapped gently on the beach and the glassy water was a welcome change from the wind blown east coast. Thirty minutes later an onshore wind blew up and brought a veritable swell with it, shattering the initial idyllic appeal of this west coast.

It did improve the next day and we had fun trying unsuccessfully to catch massive trevally that were cruising up and down the shoreline. The fishing gods were not kind to us and once again sausages hit barbeque instead of fresh fish.

The kids built hammocks from fishing nets, strung between trees, and spent hours on the tyre swing.

Whilst we didn’t find a plaque, and there must be one there somewhere, the Pennfather River has historical significance as being the first place that a European landed in Australia. Willian Janszoon, a Dutch navigator, sailing in the Duyfken landed here in 1606, long before James Cook.

Today this area is totally alcohol-free and it is not permitted to even carry alcohol into this area, however, with no-one policing it, discarded bottles and cans litter the sand and bush where some people found it easier to discard rather than take the rubbish with them, thereby spoiling it for future visitors.


From Pennyfather we headed north for a couple of days to Mapoon where the Dulcie River meets the Gulf. The camp on the western ocean side offered more protection from the wind and on local advice Jackie Creek some 12km south along the beach offered good fishing opportunities



The kids together with Simon and Hilary’s girls scoured the shoreline for materials and commenced building a “humpy” city. Humpys are the temporary shelters that aborigines used, conical huts made from logs, with leaves or fur to cover the roof. The kids made scaled down versions from the long mangrove seeds that can be found everywhere, washed up with each tide.

Jackie Rivermouth

Jackie Rivermouth

Oscar and I slipped away for a quiet fish, driving down to Jackie Creek where we saw locals using spears to catch mud crabs amongst the reef. We had no success but witnessed plenty of “bait balls” of fish being doggedly pursued by larger fish around them and by a large flock of hungry terns diving wave after wave into the throng for a meal. The next day we returned at the right point of the tide and for a busy half hour caught mangrove jack for dinner, whilst keeping an eye out for a large crocodile we had seen when we arrived.


The wild horses called brumbies proliferate around Mapoon and Pennyfather too and it isn’t unusual, driving along the beach, to spot small groups or see their footprints coming to and from the beach and swamplands behind. We only saw the one crocodile and had a couple of shallow swims, then a local advised that they live in the swamplands behind the beach at this time of year, waiting for the big wet to arrive when they become more mobile and visible.


Shorebirds were present in abundance but with my ailing Canon EOS camera struggling to focus correctly, I couldn’t capture images

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Offroad, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York (Part 4)

Having had time to check the vehicles were ok and contemplate how we would complete the river crossings on our last day on the Old Telegraph Track (OTT), we left with mixed emotions. I was excited at the prospect of quite a few challenging water crossings, Simon was more concerned, suggesting he might not accompany us the whole way, and Amanda displaying some trepidation at the prospect of having to do this “solo”.

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The first ten kilometres beyond Eliot offer three water crossings and a log bridge crossing then beyond that Nolans Brook offers the deepest crossing on the track, often over one metre in depth. Simon had also heard of another crossing, Logans Creek, innocuously labelled as a ford on the map, that was reputedly as deep as Nolans Brook. We decided to assess each crossing before progressing.

All electronic gear had been moved as high as possible in the car, and recovery gear made easily accessible for this day. Amanda seemed to think water would be flooding through both car and trailer so had moved essential clothing to a safe height too. Really? We are not driving a sieve! I cut up a tarp to cover the radiator to help create a bow wave when crossing deeper water too. We also wanted an early start so we got a good look at crossings before they were silted up by traffic. Most clear pretty quickly but we wanted to be sure.

Canal Creek was fairly straightforward, avoiding the deep sections then crawling up a steep section on the far bank. Then Sam Creek and Mistake Creek past with no incident, the challenge being avoiding potholes and steep entry/exit points.

The log bridge at Cypress Creek didn’t look too bad until half way across when loud wooden cracking noises sounded beneath the car. Knowing that we were a tad overweight a touch on the accelerator got us quickly across before anything collapsed beneath.

Arriving at Cannibal Creek I had flashbacks to Palm Creek. A steep descent into the creek looked fine but a deceptive steep drop off the rock platform into the creek was unavoidable, followed by a horseshoe turn across the thigh-deep creek and a steep exit. It would be difficult to exit back out should Logans or Nolans Brook prove to much of a challenge, and at this point Simon and Hilary reluctantly chose to turn back and take the deviation road but I felt we could still do it. As a result most of the coverage is video format rather than photos

The rock drop-off took its toll as one of the support struts was broken of the Camprite. Not a critical part and easily fixable when we return it was put in the car and off we went, Simon offering to provide support at Nolans Brook from the opposite bank when he got there.

Very soon we arrived at Logans to find a deep channel and an ankle deep crossing so we took the easy route. Then came the signs offering towing and recovery assistance, so we knew we had arrived at Nolans. A quick wade proved it to be waist deep but I was confident the Pajero and Camprite would easily do it. Just in case I rigged up the winch and a strap.

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Just as I jumped into the car a car pulled up behind us and two guys jumped out with cameras. I could see dust clouds not far behind indicating further traffic arriving. I took off before they arrived keeping hard to the right of the main crossing, the bonnet sinking fast, but seconds later I emerged, pulled out of the creek, pulled over, left the engine running and checked for water – nothing inside.

By the time I walked back to the creek 7 cars were lined up waiting to cross. Apparently our early passage had caused everyone to quickly pack up to avoid having to cross in softer sand as more vehicles pass through. The fourth car, a Landcruiser took the central line, briefly disappeared and only partially re-emerged from the water. Stuck in two-wheel drive it needed a tow to exit and as he did the doors were opened to let water gush out from the front and back doors – lovely to watch especially as it wasn’t us. They hadn’t moved the shopping bags off the floor either which could have been disastrous.

Everyone cracked open a celebratory beer once over the creek except for me, who had run out a few days prior. It is actually quite hard to buy alcohol in Cape York and there are strict restrictions to protect the local indigenous communities.


We all jumped into the creek for a swim and the kids made the most of a rope swing over the water while we waited for Hilary and Simon to arrive from the opposite side. We had lunch at Nolans then convoy again we drove north to the Jardine River to our camp on the south side. We camped at what used to be the river crossing but after too many people got eaten by crocodiles attempting the crossing, a ferry crossing to the west was mandated. Looking at the crossing at the end of a very dry year I believe we could have made it but was happy to go swimming in the water with the kids instead. That may sound dangerous but we always send the kids in first to be sure it’s safe!

The Jardine River was approximately 50m wide here, with gin clear water flowing up to a metre over sand. It was delightful to see such a major waterway in pristine condition. Birdlife again was bountiful with kingfishers, a fawn-breasted bowerbird, honeyeaters and many more inhabiting the forest and scrub close to the river.

Clouds formed in the sky and threatened rain but at the end of the day we had a gorgeous campfire on the riverbank with 110 around Oz and talked about the OTT and our other journeys to date.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, National Park, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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