The number of passing vehicles with a patina of red and orange mud down their sides told us we were on the Cape, albeit at the southern fringe of it. Today’s target is Bramwell Junction, start of the infamous Old Telegraph Track and planned meeting point to catch up with Lachie and Sarah. To get there by late afternoon meant another early morning start, so we were in the car and trucking north well before sunrise.
The road quickly falls back to a stringy bitumen track once north of Mareeba, with tall grass right up to the narrow road shoulder. When you add fog to the equation it makes for uncomfortable driving, ever fearful that a wallaby (or something larger) will dash onto the road in front. Its at these times that you realise the spotlights are pointing skyward as a result of leaning on them when working under the bonnet, so a quick stop is in order to aim them down the road.
We’ve soon passed through the darkness shrouded villages of Mount Molloy then Mount Carbine before witnessing another sunrise from cabin of the LandCruiser. The scenery changed from the tropical vegetation and cane fields of the Atherton Tablelands to the open eucalypt forests and scrub of the southern peninsular region, with occasional small mountain ranges to add interest and some wonderful views. Before too long we wheel into the Lakeland Store for a toilet stop, a coffee and some nibblies for the long run ahead of us.
With little traffic on the road we soon slip through Laura, making good time across the plains and rolling hills, however its not long before we encounter first of the many stretches of gravel road which called for a quick stop to air down the tyres (28psi front, 32psi rear) for a more comfortable ride and to minimise our contribution to road damage.
The PDR (Peninsular Development Road) is infamous for its corrugations and bull dust holes but today it wasn’t too bad. The further north we got the shorter the bitumen stretches and longer became the red gravel patches. There was now more traffic moving southward causing brief periods of blinding dust, but thankfully we didn’t come across many vehicles heading north which would have seen us in continual dust haze, even when sitting well back.
Lachie and Sarah had camped last night on the Coen River, just north of town, with a plan to leave there by 10:30am. We rolled into Coen’s main street at 10:40am and though it worthwhile sending them a text in case they were still within phone range. We hadn’t planned on catching them so soon but thankfully they had slept in and were still at the campground, so 5 minutes later they were with us for the new official start of our 2021 Cape York adventure.
It felt good to have a couple of extra travelling companions and the radio banter added a welcome distraction to help dissolve the kilometres left to travel. It was also a surprise to find that Lachie had buzzed his hair off, matching my low maintenance cropped top haha.
A late lunch with the locals at Archer River had us ready for the final run to Bramwell Station’s tourist park, where we would spend the night before starting the OTT. A feature of camping at Bramwell Station is the nightly catered dinner, complete with live music and a station history spiel by manager of the tourist park, at $99 per couple (camping plus dinner) its reasonable value, considering the cost of camping alone is nearly that much further north.
We had now spent three and a half days on the road (Lachie and Sarah had spent a week) with early starts each morning, so we welcomed chance for a relaxed start tomorrow morning. It was also our first night back in swags which will slow our camp set up and pack down times from here on.
Now though, it was time to lay back and gaze at the stars above through insect mesh of the swag, before drifting to sleep at start of the Old Telegraph Track…