Travel

4WD GUIDE TO CAPE YORK

dirty 30

The Old Telegraph Track is a bucket list destination for every Aussie 4WDer, and this year it has been reopened to the public late in the season due to a community isolation lockdown, and Shauno and Jock waste no time getting up here to do it!

We started at one of our favourite overnight stops, Bramwell Station, and travel all the way to the most northern part of the continent. Shauno brought his Dirty 30 MK2 alongside Jocko and his budget homebuilt super-tourer Hilux, the Pony, to prove that no matter your 4WD set up, you can tackle Cape York yourself.

THE OLD TELE’ TRACK BEGINS

The boys fuel up and air down their tyres at the start of one of the best tracks you’ll ever experience, the Old Telegraph Track, at Bramwell Junction. No aircon for Shaun, but all smiles from ear to ear as he knows what adventure lays ahead.

The track itself follows the old telegraph line that once connected Australia to the rest of the world, and there is plenty more history on offer at Cape York.

PALM CREEK

Just a few minutes up from the roadhouse is the start of the Tele’ Track with the first real challenge - the crossing of Palm Creek - a challenge with a steep, scary entry and even more committing exit. As it is later in the season, the crossing is looking much more doable with less mud and water involved.

Smaller width vehicles like the Dirty 30 and the Pony Hilux easily fit through the entrance, but wider vehicles such as the DMW 200 Series Landcruiser must be more cautious of their size. The departure angles of long Utes and camper trailers must also be careful when entering and departing Palm Creek.

The Maverick camper trailer was a bit too long for the exit of Palm Creek crossing, and the boys opted for a sensible option to take it easy and winch out as they are only a few kms into their trip. What is good for the car is also good for the camper. With a short and quick use of the Runva winch, the camper trailer is up and out of the creek in no time.

River Crossings

On our journey up the Tele’ Track we will cross many creeks and rivers, and it’s these water crossings that make the Old Tele’ so iconic and even more fun to drive and camp along. Cape York changes massively from season-to-season, from treacherous muddy creeks to crystal clear crossings, all you need to know is to pack your bathers and hope your 4WD is water-tight!

water crossing

CAMPING NIGHT 1– DULHUNTY CREEK

Our next challenge up ahead is the notorious Gunshot Creek, and we have a lot of kilometres to cover first, so we find camp tonight somewhere south of it next to the river. The convoy is soon flexing its way along the track with the prospect of a cold beer quickly approaching.

The boys pull up for the night at Dulhunty Creek, next to the river to freshen up, wash off the red dirt and relax. This is one of the many great campsites on route but is a little off the main track and just a bit quieter. Cape York etiquette is to crack a cold beer before you set up camp, definitely something Shauno won’t argue against.

The convoy show off an array of Cape York touring set ups with a few Drifta Stockton Roof Top Tents, the classic swag and an offroad Maverick camper trailer, complete with a kitchen. Not long after everyone is set up and relaxed, Shaun whips up one of his famous gourmet camp cook ups – this time a KFC inspired spicy chicken burger from scratch, a delicious feed that satisfies any and everyone.

DAY 2

There is nothing better than waking up to the sound of a flowing river at camp, but there is an air of quiet anticipation around camp as we prepare to take on one of the biggest 4WDing challenges in Australia – Gunshot Creek. The convoy is full of some capable rigs all with the possibility of taking on the main line of Gunshot, and nerves are starting to build.

Before the team heads off for another day of 4WD adventures, the boys pack and clean up their camp and have a quick swim in the river right next to camp to cool off. In this part of the world, you must pick your swimming spots carefully, and fortunately this is a perfect option. Now this is Cape York Living.

GUNSHOT CREEK

The convoy might be smelling good now, but the nervous sweat is about to begin, and particularly Shauno as the prospect of putting his new pride and joy on the line, the Dirty 30.

There is a stack of different lines and options for passing through Gunshot Creek, but everyone in this convoy has chosen to tackle the big dog Gunshot track. This line is perhaps the most iconic 4WD challenge in Australia, a sheer drop into the mud that offers no backing out once you commit, and suddenly the 30 is looking very small in comparison.

Every time Shaun has done Gunshot, he has gotten stuck at the bottom in the mud, so preparation is key as he readies the Runva winch, already spooled out and attached to his aerial for quick access, and the camera car is ready on the other to winch to if he gets stuck.

Slow and steady down the drop is essential, and a few hands at the bottom to hook you up for recovery as fast as possible. If you do get stuck vertically at the bottom, we recommend putting the vehicle in neutral and turning off the engine. As expected, the Dirty 30 gets stuck at the bottom and the boys take no time to set up his winch and before you know it, he is pulled out. Shaun might need to change his undies after this one.

Jocko and the boys all follow suit, prepping for recovery before entering with the pit crew ready to rescue everyone from the bottom of Gunshot. Jocko does it in a budget rig with 29” stock tyres, and even the Maverick camper trailer does it. The big DMW 200 Series is just too wide to attempt Gunshot this year as the narrow entrance would inevitably cause some panel damage.

gunshot creek

SCRUBBY CREEK

With Gunshot under our belts, we get started on the northern half of the Old Telegraph Track, where this part is home to some of the biggest and deepest river crossings, starting with Scrubby Creek.

Up in Cape York you are almost guaranteed to go through a stack of deep-water crossings, even late in the season. Water up past the bonnet at this crossing shows the need for a snorkel fitted to your 4WD and really tests the quality of the seals of your vehicle. Another upgrade we recommended is a secondary fuel filter to further protect your engine from water ingress due to these water crossings or even poor-quality fuel.

ELIOT FALLS & FRUIT BAT FALLS

After dropping down Gunshot, there’s a few distressing smells from the convoy so the next stop is to clean up and cool ourselves off at one of the best swimming holes in the country, Eliot Falls.

Eliot Falls and Fruit Bat Falls are two must-visit stops right near each other on the Tele’ Track and are great crocodile-free swimming areas to cool off and swim during those hot Cape York trips.

swimming cape york

CAMPING NIGHT 2

 After a big day at Gunshot followed by water crossings and a nice swim, now is the perfect time to find camp and park the 4WDs up and relax. On a big day like this it is worth getting to camp early to sit back with a cold beer. The camping on offer up here is some of the best you’ll find anywhere, and we never get tired of the chance to camp along the Old Tele’ Track.

Shauno’s 30 is set up with Red Vision from Redarc, with no switches, relays or fuses needed and can control up to 10 different circuits through the Red Vision system or via the app on his phone. A system like this essentially makes Shauno’s touring set up more bush-proof for places like Cape York as there is no complications with wiring and switches.

Tomorrow the boys tackle the northern end of the Cape, with deeper water-crossings ahead and still a few convoy members who have yet to get a photo at the most northern part of Australia. The Northern half of the Tele Track is Shaun’s favourite part of every Cape York Adventure.

DAY 3 – FINAL DAY OF THE TELE’

Today is the final day on the Old Telegraph Track, with a stack of big water crossings to take on before we make the barge across the Jardine.

After inspection the Dirty 30 has its first few scratches that add some character, and Jocko’s budget homebuilt touring Hilux, the Pony, has shown that any type of vehicle can come up and experience one of the best 4WD destinations in Australia – aside from a few water leaks in the cab and tub from the river crossings.

Staying on top of vehicle maintenance is a big deal as we are a long way from help, so doing daily checks of your vehicle to avoid small problems becoming big ones is a must. Using an air compressor offers a perfect way to clean out air filters from all the Tele’ Track dust, as well as oil level checks and visual inspections each morning.

rooftop tent dirty 30

CANAL CREEK

The first obstacle of the day is the water crossing of Canal Creek. Convoy member, Kaito, ran into some issues with his Hilux unable to engage 4WD properly. This crossing took multiple attempts to exit, even with his rear diff-lock engaged, and the result of being stuck in the water too long ended with flooded footwells. Kaito’s alternator also began to fail, so he has to nurse the limited battery power and join the no aircon club. Other than this speed bump, the rest of the boys were effortlessly successful.

CANNIBAL CREEK

With a unique U-turn bend mid crossing, this can be a challenge early in the season with higher water levels, but today was an easy run for everyone. Crystal-clear blue water crossings like this at Cannibal Creek scream Cape York, and Shauno goes as far to say that crossings like this are the best in the country.

CYPRESS CREEK LOG BRIDGE

The boys flexed there way through some rutted tracks and hill climbs between Cannibal Creek and their next task ahead. Cypress Creek is famous for its sketchy looking wooden log bridge that always gets Shaun’s fear of heights going. With a decent drop underneath, it is important to get spotted on your way through to avoid getting a tyre wrong. Even on the boys’ test walk across, Shaun almost lost a Plugger! Hundreds of cars cross this bridge every year, but it always feels sketchy and gets you feeling nervous.

Before everyone tackles these next two crossings – the deepest of the Tele’ – the boys find a spot alongside the track for some lunch, and another look over their vehicles to make sure they’re confident they can handle what is ahead!

LOGAN’S CREEK

This sketchy looking run of water, Logan’s Creek, has a few lines you can take to drive across, but the best line is generally right down the length of it. This challenge is definitely one of the more significant water crossing on the Tele’ Track that doesn’t get as much attention as the task ahead, Nolan’s.

If Shaun’s experience has taught him anything, this is quite a deep patch of water and stretches some distance, so it is a great idea to get out and have a walk through to know what you’re facing. The depth and slight bend in the path can really catch you out if you aren’t careful, so walking every water crossing is essential in the Cape for the sake of your 4WD and your own safety.

For this year’s attempt, Logan’s provided bonnet high water that certainly leaked into some vehicles that aren’t fully water-tight, like Jock’s budget Hilux. No need for Jocko to get out of his vehicle for a swim! The boys who made it across wait on the bank on the other side in case someone needs a quick recovery.

jocko hilux

NOLAN’S BROOK

Just one more crossing before the boys and the barge is one of the most infamous tracks in the country, the mighty Nolan’s. Shauno estimates that 60-70 vehicles get written off every year just from Nolan’s Crossing. Hard to imagine the amount of chaos this treacherous yet idyllic creek causes.

This short stretch of water does get its reputation for a very good reason. Straight away the entrance is deep, but the depth is only half the battle. The softness of the bottom is like a fine sand that can get your 4WD caught up quickly.

The plan of attack is to go through nice and slow and not to let your wheels spin too much and dig you in getting yourself stuck. In other years, the water has been way too deep to attempt so checking the depth could not be more important. 20psi is Shaun and Jock’s tyre pressure of choice when tackling the soft sand of Nolan’s to help with traction.

 Again, the boys wait at the bank on the other side to help with recoveries if need be. Kaito’s front diff has failed yet again, but luckily the boys were prepared just in case and Shaun’s Runva winch was able to save the day. The last thing you want is the last challenge of the Old Tele’ Track to ruin your trip and end it with a massive towing bill. Fortunately for Kaito, he has gotten away with just a bit of water in his Hilux.

Although this is one of the more intimidating parts of Cape York, Nolan’s is great to have a swim in as well as to camp near so you can watch the endless carnage on show when other 4WDers come through!

THE TIP OF AUSTRALIA

THE JARDINE FERRY

Back on the Peninsula Development Road (PDR) we are soon at the Jardine Ferry, the only way to make it to the tip of Australia. Just in time to catch the last light of the day, the final path leading us to the most northern part of Australian mainland.

shaun fishing

UNTIL NEXT TIME CAPE YORK

We reckon every Aussie needs to come here and get their photo taken with the famous northern point sign. This trip the boys proved you can make it up through the Old Telegraph Track in almost any 4WD, whether it be a kitted out Landcruiser like Shauno’s, a big 200 Series, a regular Dual Cab Ute – even with a trailer in tow – or even in a budget $6k Hilux!