If you’re planning a drive to the top of Cape York Peninsula, you’ll have a few decisions to make. You can stick to the Peninsula Development Road and get there in a couple of days. or you can wander off the main road and take weeks or months to explore the country.
Eventually, you come to Bramwell Junction, and that’s when you have to make a possibly fateful decision: the rough road, or the rough-as-guts track?
The decision point is the Brawmell Junction road house, where fuel, food and good advice is available. And the table-tops are covered with photos of 4WDs that have chosen the rough-as-guts option, the Old Telegraph Track, usually abbreviated to the OTT. The track, and some of the pictures, are not for the faint-hearted.
From Bramwell, you can veer right and take the Bypass Road to Bamaga and the Tip. It’s very corrugated in places, which makes for slow going and a rough ride.Or you can head on to the bush track to the left of the road house and make for the OTT.
The Track follows the route of the original telegraph line built in the 1880s. For a long time the OTT was the only way to the tip.They stopped maintaining it when the Telegraph Line closed in the 1980s, and the Bypass Road opened around the same time.
You might manage the Bypass Road in a 2WD during the dry, but the OTT is 4WD only, and can’t be done during the wet season. There are challenging river and creek crossings, some deep sand, and as we discovered, even the approaches to the water crossings are hair-raising. Listen to Phil and I at the so-called “easy” crossing at Palm Creek on the OTT.
OK – we chickened out of the OTT at the first crossing – Palm Creek. The creek was dry but the approach to it was steep and rough. No way the ABC would let us take the 4WD through there. So we u-turned, went back to Bramwell Junction and headed north on the Bypass Road. And then we took the car ferry across the Jardine River – as you can hear in the audio.