Tag Archives: 4WD

Creek crossing old telegraph track Cape york

  Driving on the Old Telegraph Track

We race down the Old Telegraph Track in convoy, five landcruisers one after the other, like rats down a water pipe.  Where the others go, we have to follow.  There is only one way, forward.

The track runs from south to north, up through the Cape York peninsula.   What was once the only route north to the topmost tip of Australia, is now a track for adventurers, for four wheel drivers who want to push themselves and their vehicles to their limits.

The already narrow track has deep water ruts. Our vehicles have to pick a route around the pot holes and widening cracks and crevices.   Trees crowd the roadway, leaning into view as we pass, scratching a message on the side of the camper.  It’s a bumpy ride, down into a hole here, up on a ridge there.

And soon we are at the next creek crossing. It’s Ducie Creek.   We stop to take a look at what lies ahead.  After Palm Creek, it doesn’t look so intimidating.  There’s a good flow of water running and we drive straight into it, then turn right along the creek, sending a bow wave ahead of us.  We take our time climbing the muddy channel up and out.  It is gouged with holes that make the ute dip and bow.  The cab rocks from side to side, but at least this time we keep all wheels on the ground.

Back on the track, red and green, red and green, the colours of the dusty road and the grasses and trees flash past us.  Crossing North Alice Creek poses no problems.  The entry ramp is steep, into the water and out.

Old Telegraph Track, Cape York Old Telegraph Track, Cape York

We follow the old metal telegraph poles along the track.  Many are bent, presumably by souvenir hunters reaching for the old insulators, looking for a piece of history to take home.

After lunch, it’s the big one…. Gunshot Creek.   It lives up to its formidable reputation.  Two deep gorges have been cut into the side of the creek.  The drop is almost vertical.   No one in their right mind would attempt to drive down there, yet recent tyre marks indicate some crazy fool has recently been this way.

Gunshot Creek Old Telegraph Track Gunshot Creek Old Telegraph Track

I’m appalled by the destruction of the area around the creek crossing, the bare earth and vehicle debris hanging in the trees. 

A bright blue Ulysses butterfly flies by and disappears into the bush around us.

Scouting around for an alternative route we find the chicken run, a bypass that crosses the creek downstream.   This is challenging enough.  We drive across, then on into a rabbit warren track that takes us up away from the creeks and into beautiful heathland.  Like a garden it is vibrant with lush green growth and full of flowers after a recent burn off.  Golden grevilleas line the track.   Yellow flowers bloom.  I see a white flower with huge droopy petals in among the pink green grasses.

The track seems to follow a dry creek bed, or the course of a wash away formed in the wet.   It is a rough track, dusty and uneven.   The landcruiser is surefooted on its heavy off road tyres and takes every craggy ridge in its stride.

We stop for the night just off Cockatoo Creek.   A sign warns Achtung, crocodiles have been seen here.  That does not deter some of the group who strip off and paddle.

Your chariot awaits…

When you are planning a long trip into the outback, your vehicle takes on a new and heightened significance. It needs to be tough enough to cope with all kinds of terrain, from smooth freeway driving to scaling 35 metre high sand dunes.  It needs to be comfortable enough for you and your beloved to happily spend many an hour on the road, and most important of all, it becomes your home. It carries your food, water, cooking equipment, bed, clothes, first aid and rescue equipment.


We bought our ISUZU ute last year as our runaround vehicle – chosen for its comfort, fuel economy and large tray (for dog transport and shifting garden supplies).  A secondary consideration was its 4WD capability.  As long as it could safely be taken on to the farm and out on to the unsealed tracks around the Otways, it would do fine.  But for the desert?

It is interesting how many different views are held on what is needed for a trip like this. We’ve heard all sorts of different opinions expressed with equal vigour and certainty.

There are those who adopt the famous Aussie “She’ll be right” approach and believe a basic 4×4 road car will be fine in the desert.  Then there are the brand worshippers.  We recently watched a 4WD TV show where the local guide, a Landcruiser man through and through, stated there is no point in undertaking any serious outback trip unless a Toyota is involved. Fortunately we will have three of these tried and trusted vehicles in convoy with us.  We hope our Isuzu D-Max will hold her head high in such esteemed company.


Taking all these views on board, in the end we have done what we think is right. Only time will tell if we have made the right calls.  With the most remote and challenging part of the trip in mind, we have invested in some new features for our ute.

1) A long distance fuel tank – there are sections of our route where there are no opportunities to buy fuel

2) A dual battery system – this means we can run auxiliary power from a separate battery for our “home” needs, such as the fridge, keeping the main battery charged up for its primary purpose

3) Enhanced suspension – to give us greater clearance and robustness to cope with sandy terrain


4) A bull bar – there be camels and roos out there…

5) A UHF radio and antenna – to keep in touch with our convoy and find out what those road trains are planning.


6) Extra spare wheels and tough looking tyres, called Mickey Thompsons – to provide more grip and resilience for the outback conditions and spares in case of trouble


As a result, the ute has grown, both in height and length and now looks a little imposing in the local shopping centre car park!  We think it is ready..