After surviving the corrugations of the Peninsula Development Road, it was a relief to finally make it to Seisia, at the top of Cape York. We stopped in to the start of the Old Telegraph Track (OTT) on our way up to see what that would be like – we had entertained the idea of doing that track but had been warned it was pretty “gnarly” (do people still use that word these days? Apparently so!). And “gnarly” it was!
The initial track through to the first water crossing at Palm Creek was quite good with only a few little spots that required some caution. Poor Brandon – with such a sooky pants in the car (that’s me, not Charlotte – she loves everything to do with the car being on it’s side or bouncing around up and down) this small bit of 4WD-ing is probably all he’s likely to do on this trip 😦 We would have attempted OTT if the Palm Creek crossing was passable as that is apparently the worst. But alas it was just too risky for us. It really was quite bad – particularly for heavy vehicles towing heavy camper trailers! We stopped to watch two cars attempt the steep descent into and then climb out of the creek and I was cringing all the way. The first car was driven by the son, the second driven by the father. I was talking to the mother on the banks of the creek and she said her and her husband had done quite a lot of 4WD-ing. When I watched first her son and then her husband attempt to exit Palm Creek, I was able to see where his experience came in! The son gave his car too many revs at the top of the slope and ended up getting stuck (and, as it turned out, damaged his wheel or tyre and had to change it after winching himself free). Meanwhile Dad does it after him a more measured and steady pace and makes it look easy.
The son entering the creek…
The son leaving the creek…
Dad showing us all how it’s done…
Not surprisingly, we made the very adult decision to give it a miss. We had also heard that the road in to Elliot Falls (our next destination) was likely impassable thanks to deep water and while we could probably take a more northerly road to reach it, it would add a few hours to our trip. So we decided to just head straight to Seisia instead.
Brandon’s one and only 4WD attempt on the OTT 😉
It was drizzly and wet as we arrived so Brandon suggested as a treat we stay in a cabin – I think he felt sorry for me having to put up with all that red dirt and adding in the rain would have just about sent me stark raving mad! Setting up the camper and annex in the rain is certainly something we’re going to have to experience, but my capacity to cope with discomfort is being stretched a bit already, so let’s just take things one at a time. A cabin it was, for two glorious nights. Yes, I know, I’m a bit soft. But I have another 3 months to toughen up, OK?We were planning to stay at Loyalty Beach Campground originally because Brandon had been told they had palm cockatoos there. Brandon loves palm cockatoos and he would probably tell you he only had 2 things he wanted to achieve while we were up the Cape – (1) catch a fish off the Seisia wharf, and (2) see a palm cockatoo in the wild. Turns out, palm cockatoos like Seisia too 😉
We were driving back into the campground after a quick trip to the shops and suddenly Brandon brings the car to a screaming halt and says “palm cockatoo” – and voila, there on the ground right in front of us was this illusive creature that Brandon has waited most of his life to see! Just hanging out, nibbling on a nut. Right in front of us. And then, later during our visit, we saw another one just next door to our cabin! Brandon was able to get incredibly close to it, which I thought was pretty special 🙂
(Side note: alcohol restrictions in this part of the country mean you are limited to what you can buy at the bottle shop in Bamaga. When we saw the first palm cockatoo we were coming back from a trip to buy our allowable limit of alcohol – in this case, a 30 pack of cans of beer and a 2 litre cask of moscato (yeah, cask moscato – it’s a thing up here). You know your car is packed to the brim when you have to sit your carton of beer on your lap!)
Our first night, we watched the sun set as we sat next to the water in Seisia – even knowing there were probably crocodiles in the water in front of us, we still enjoyed the ambience. We also made friends with the locals – tree frogs and wild horses. This little green tree frog parked himself outside our cabin for pretty much the entire time we were there. He was adorable 🙂 At one point, Brandon grabbed a grasshopper that was jumping about the garden nearby and held it in front of the frog’s nose. As soon as one of the grasshopper’s legs brushed against the frog – gulp! He was gone. So cool to watch! And if you come to Seisia you have to get used to seeing wild horses everywhere. They roam through the campsite and attack the wheelie bins in the evening, hunting for food. They were hanging out the back of our cabin. We were warned against approaching them – they have a nasty bite apparently.
We left the camper at the cabin and headed for the Tip proper on our second day. (Charlotte took great pleasure in pointing out we were going to the Tip of Cape York and not a rubbish tip.) Despite the volume of red mud we brought back with us, it was great to finally get to that illusive sign I had seen on so many television programs about the Cape. The tip of the continent of Australia – pretty cool really. It required a bit of climbing up a small rocky mountain but I heard not one word of complaint from Charlotte about all the walking and climbing. It was marvelous 🙂
On our second morning, Brandon headed off to the Seisia wharf nice and early for a spot of fishing. While I suspect he had hoped for more variety in his catch, he came away having caught three quite nice sized trevally. Apparently the highlight was watching the 6 foot shark chasing his trevally in, and then also seeing a 5 foot grouper following too!
We initially planned to stay 3-4 nights up the top but we’d pretty much seen all there was to see, Brandon had been for a fish and the palm cockatoos had made an appearance, so we decided we might as well start our trek back south. Obviously Brandon would have been happy to fish for days more and I would have been happy to lounge in a cabin for days more, but we needed to keep moving. Too much to see in a short period of time! We have a few places we want to add to our itinerary so being a few days ahead of schedule isn’t a bad thing. On the way south, we stopped in at Fruit Bat Falls. This is a day use area only, no camping allowed. There’s a walk of about 200 or so metres from the carpark to the Falls and then you reach this glorious freshwater water hole along the Elliot River where you can swim and paddle around. Charlotte was in heaven – she’s such a water baby. Some people were swimming but we hadn’t brought our swimmers down from the car so we settled for a quick paddle before hitting the road again. I pointed out an orchid flower I hadn’t seen before which was also a new one for Brandon too. I can’t remember what it’s called now, but no doubt JH will tell me.
After this we made our way to Bramwell Station. We had heard that this place had a good atmosphere and had live music etc each night, so we thought it would be a good place to stop for the night. Like most places here, it was a little rough around the edges but the beer was cold and during happy hour the manager, Ken, put on a talk about the history of the Station, the current owners and the surrounding area. If you wanted to join in the buffet meal (for $35/head) at this point you could but we retreated to our campsite as we had just splurged on the cabin and didn’t really need to spend more money. We packed up in the morning and continued our journey south, returning to Musgrave Station for a final night on the PDR before beginning our trip west. Unfortunately, after arriving at Musgrave some 5 hours later we realised we had left behind a rather integral pole for our annex at Bramwell. After a nervous few hours, we were able to get the Station to confirm they had our pole (which also has our LED lights attached to it) and had put it in their office for safe keeping. Now as I write this we are waiting to hear if someone is heading south from Bramwell tomorrow who can bring the pole to us! If not, we’ll ask them to hold on to it and arrange them to send it back to us COD once we return to Brisbane. Brandon has found there’s a camping supply place in Katherine so we may just have to make do until then. We plan to get up early in the morning to ring the Station again to see if they have found anyone to send the pole with. If not, we’ll head off without it. But if they did, we’ll wait around here another night to get our pole back. Stay tuned for more news I guess!
EDIT: Pole was found by the manager of the station but no-one was heading as far south as Musgrave the next day so we pushed on. The manager, Ken, lives in Brisbane and will be returning home at the end of October. He is bringing our pole home with him and will contact us to collect it 🙂 Meanwhile, we will have to make do with what we have and will buy another one at the next camping shop we find.
I suspect it will be a little while until our next blog post as we head off into unchartered territory and do some bush camping on our way to the Burke Development Road and Normanton. From there we are heading to Lawn Hill Gorge for a few days and then across into NT and Katherine. We have ordered some Clearview mirrors through a supplier in Katherine so they should be there when we arrive and who knows – we might have to source a local camping shop to buy a new annex pole if we’re not lucky!
Night on the road: 16