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”.
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.
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.