We decided to drive over the Gulf Savannah track to Cairns. We wanted to drive the 2000 km quite quick. That meant to have an average of 6 - 7 hours of travel per day, its pity because the passing scenery was beautiful and the landscape varied. The most beautiful part was without doubt the Limmen Bight NP. We always found good bush camping spots. Once we stayed overnight in the proximity of a rock formation, which remind of ruins of a city and therefore called "lost city". In the morning light we could shoot some impressive pictures and we took ourselves some time for a short walk at the "stone city".
our last camp was at a river. But always staying in a safe distance, because there were some saltwater crocodiles. We could see some large ones. Unfortunately they disappeared in the water, before we cold take any photos. But in the night their eyes reflected the light of our torches, and they were everywhere.
After two long driving days we arrived at Cairns, the tourist metropolis of northern Queensland. But we appreciated it to have all the facilities. It should be a short stop, as soon everything was set and done, we wanted to proceed to Cape York. Though we spent two full days in Cairns with e-mailing, car preparation, buying, washing and so on. Finally, we were ready for the Cape. We drove along the coast, past Daintree and Cape Tribulation.
Roger organized a rainforest night walk for us. It was interesting, because we saw many animals, you would never see them like this during the day. Unfortunately it began to rain and soon we were all totally wet. It was not warm anymore and therefore we felt cold and were glad to be under a shelter again. But all the wet dresses dried badly in the car. Everything was damp and began to smell. I found this to very unpleasant and wished, we would be in the dry, warm outback!
Over the Bloomfield track we went to Cooktown. It was not difficult, but had a lot of holes in the road. Soon we noticed a strange noise, a metallic clicking sound, from the front wheel. That did not please us at all. Peter considered whether it would be better to cancel Cape York and drive further to Brisbane. But first we went to a Garage in Cooktown before we gave up. The mechanic looked at everything very exactly and said: Everything in order! He didn't find any problem. Therefore we decided that we wanted to try it with the Cape.
After two days we were at the beginning of the Old Telegraph Line (OTL). In the travel books it is described as one of the most arduous tracks in Australia. It is rare that a car has no technical problem and it asks a lot from the drivers. We could not so easy be deterred any longer, because we knew that the descriptions in the books were simply exaggerated. But in this case each word was true! The OTL should become the largest challenge of our Australia journey. As soon as it branched from the main street, the track was not more, than two tread marks. The first creek came soon. The water wasn't the problem, it were the embankments, which were challenging. Steep, slippery washed out and bumpy. We had to carefully check, where and how to drive. We got out of the car, looked exactly at the driving line. Put in the low range gear, and drove slowly through the creek. It was challenging, but not too difficult. With fresh courage we drove on.
The second crossing looked simple! After a quick look, Marianne drove in. First everything was completely harmless, but the hood suddenly dived in, deeper and deeper. Marianne swallowed empty and said to herself: Calmly now, only further, ever further, simply do not go from the gas pedal! Peter stood on the other bank and had the order to take photos. But when he saw it, his eyes went bigger and he cried: Drive, drive, drive!! Unfortunately he forgot to make photos.
Daniela and Roger made large eyesas well and had a somewhat uncomfortable feeling, when they tackled the crossing. They dipped beautifully deep, too. And this time Peter made a good picture.
The next two creeks were very simple and in such a way we advanced well and reached like planned the Dulhunty River. We stayed overnight there and expected the new day. The OTL is not as bad as as everyone tells you. During the night Peter got throath aches and felt rather ill on the next morning. It seemed that he caught a cold on the night walk. We decided to drive nevertheless further. During the breakfast it started to rain. The day did not begin optimally. The first crossing happened without problems and gave us motivation. But afterwards the challenges became slowly bigger. The creeks were not deep, had a solid rocky bases with large holes (potholes).
Though we had longer discussions, how we could get around the holes. We needed suddenly much longer and advanced only badly. Nervousness rose, particularly with Peter and me. We had a rather close schedule and that became now more unpleasantly conscious. The transport of the car was not yet organized, which could be settled only in Brisbane. Peter felt increasingly worse, the noise in the car became continuously louder and nerves got weaker.
Finally we came to the Gunshot Creek, the most famous creek of the OTL. We already agreed in advance, that it is not worth to risk our cars and we would detour. But anyway, we wanted to see someone, who dared itself on this crossing. We had luck. As we arrived, a 4wd club made preparations on the worse part of the crossing. We could see four vehicles sliding down into the creek bed. They had no mentionable damage. We heard later, that in this season already four vehicles had accidents, even with injuries, at the Gunshot.
The OTL is divided into two sections. We were now briefly before the end first. Up to noon we wanted to complete the first section. The Bypass road between the two sections were the nine worst kilometers. Not technically to drive, but with terrible corrugations. Corrugations were enormous and the car rattled and vibrated, no matter how fast or slowly we drove. The clicking noise at the wheel reminded us with each impact, that something was not correct with our truck. This grinded at our nerves. After that, we reached some beautiful water falls.
a spider at the waterfalls
Later, back on the OTL, Marianne was driving, because Peter still didn't feel better. The next creek emerged. She got a bad starting position and maneuvered herself into a quite unpleasant situation.
Though she had to back and fill in the creek. Fortunately the water came only to to the lower edge of the rims. Nevertheless she was annoyed that she didn't achieved this better. Finally she got on the other side. It looked more elegant with Roger. So, that's how it goes!
Peter - obviously tired, ill and impatiently was not particularly happy with my weak driving skills. Despite, he did let me drive on and I was determined to show him that I could drive a 4x4! I was unlucky. The road went worse. There were stones and roots and other obstacles there. I was forced to change the side across a ditch (see above). This proved as more difficult than I thought. The car behaved more like a wild horse than like a machine, rocked and rolled, leaned frightening to the side. One wheel lost the contact to the soil. I stopped my breath and the colour drained from Peter's face. It seemed to last an eternity, until the car stood finally again reliably on all four wheels. I do not know how I managed it, not to wreck the troopie. Afterthat I had enough from 4x4. Peter was glad that everything went good and decided to take over the steering wheel again. Peter guided Roger over the same spot. For Marianne it was good to see that Roger also let his car dance. He and Daniela had some fright moments, as well, until they were through.
Without further incidents reached we reached the next camp spot. We all were quite tired. Peter felt ill, our car seemed broken, the schedule pressed - we did not have big desire continue on the OTL.
With some medicines Peter had a calm night and felt rested on the other morning. Marianne was still worried about the front end of the car, which made these strange noises. At breakfast it rained again briefly, which didn't increase the motivation. There was a possibility to shorten the OTL . Still another creek was to be crossed, afterwards there was an exit to the bypass road. We could not decide yet. On the side there there was our pride, not to give up, on the other side we were anxious, how we would get over further crossings. We agreed, that we look at the next creeks, and decide then. Already during first crossing we had some problems. The entry was simply, but the exit was very steep and washed out. We couldn't keep all four wheels on the ground. Another scary moment.
We arrived at the exit. We did not want to turn around, then we looked at the next crossing. That was not so difficult. We didn't have to lose anything, if we crossed it. Said, done - and we stood before creek. In the map it says: "very steep and eroded bank " and it was not exaggerated. For a long time we stood there, looked into the water, irresolutely. We had terrible difficulties to give up, what finally did. Too many things made us not have the time and concentration, which are required for such an adventure.
Back on the bypass Road the terror with corrugations began again. We reached the Jardine River, paid the 88.00 $ for the ferry and were soon on the last bit to the Cape York.
Peter felt again worse and Marianne was driving for the last two hours. We arrived exhausted at the ruins of Somerset, which should be our night camp. Peter took a warm shower and went into the Toyota to have a rest and recover. That worked well and after tea, he felt better, to play cards.
On the next morning we drove the last kilometers to the northernmost point of Australia, the tip. When we then were finally there, a abandoned Resort and much waste expected us. That was disappointing, is it worth driving 1000 kms to see a place like this? We still had to walk for half an hour to the real tip. The OTL had been surely the best part. In addition the Cape York is a simple must for each adventurous Australia traveler. But we wouldn't drive all the corrugations a second time. Peter and I agreed that we would rather spend more time in the desert. At least we could say that we were there and stood at the "Nordzipfel" of Australia.
Then the moment had come, where we had to separate from Daniela and Roger. It was funny to drive again without having radio contact with two familiar voices. They wanted to drive easy in direction south and still do some side trips. We drove on the fastest way back to Cairns. Peter was now again healthy and looked after the noise on the car. It was - a completely destroyed rubber bushing of the shock absorber! What he had assumed from the beginning! This was repaired in ten minutes and we drove on completely noise-free. For all the efforts we spoilt ourselves with an Archer Burger in the Archer River Roadhouse. We spent the next driving. We reached Cairns in three days and drove to Brisbane along the coast as fast as before. We were in weird mood. It is almost over - the journey is coming to an end.