It has been a peaceful night at Cockatoo Creek. We are up and about getting ready for another day on the Old Telegraph Track. A loud cry disturbs our morning ablutions. A vicious wasp like insect has descended unseen from a tree growing by the creek and stung Richard and Malcolm on ear and nose. We beat a hasty retreat before he attacks again. Never let your guard down when in the Australian bush. Around every corner, up every tree is a creature waiting to sting or bite.
Crossing the deep flowing water of Cockatoo Creek, we pass a sign warning of crocodiles, then see a young family bathing their baby in the shallows at the creek’s edge. What? Are they mad? I shake my head.
The landcruisers amble up the narrow track over potholes and water ruts. As the track widens the palette of colours expands from dusty red to vivid pink and almost fluorescent bright orange. I will never tire of the colours of the outback. Dreams are made of this.
The Old Telegraph Track joins the new Telegraph Road here. We are back in Pixieland. A sign post points to the turn off to Fruit Bat Falls and leads us into to an elaborate one way system around the car park. There are several parking sectors devoted to tour buses. It’s a shock to the senses after the aura of wilderness and adventure surrounding the old track.
There’s an opportunity for swimming at the falls, but we decide to wait. The sky is overcast and it is early in the day. We walk down the footpath to the falls, avoiding the roped off boardwalk. Why is it out of bounds? Has there been a murder at Fruit Bat Falls. Has someone slipped or been pushed into the crystal clear water? Or is this just an excuse to tell each other tall tales of disappearing heiresses and handsome detectives?
Down by the water, pitcher plants grow among the ferns. I’ve never seen them in the wild before. Their strange flesh coloured cups are used to attract and catch insects for food. Fascinating, almost alien in appearance, they intrigue me.
Back to the track and another creek crossing. Into the water we drive as if this were an every day occurrence. Thank goodness for the snorkel.
Max and Heather take a shower at the falls
The true stars of today are Eliot and Twin Falls. Despite being in tour bus country, we are alone at Twin Falls and I watch as the others enjoy a swim in the cool clear water there. The falls thunder down over the rocks to form the perfect natural hydrotherapy shower to reinvigorate tired and aching limbs. I’m sitting it out this time, but enjoy the spray filled air and fresh clean scent of the water.
Leaving the falls behind we race towards Canal Creek and Sam Creek Crossings, the last before we leave the old track. On the way Malcolm’s vehicle gets a little too friendly with another 4WD as he squeezes past on the tight track. As the two cars drive up on to the sloping edges of the track, they lean inwards towards each other. Camper box makes contact with roof rack and they cling together in an unwanted embrace. Men rush to assist and like the crew of a racing yacht, jump to the far side of the ute to add the ballast needed to prise the vehicles apart.
Sam Creek is the deepest crossing we have attempted so far. The creek flows rapidly between its white chalky banks, hiding deep pools below the surface, before it tumbles down a small waterfall downstream. The more experienced drivers cruise across without a care. We watch and wait before following in their wake.
The remaining stretch of the track includes the deep and dangerous crossings of Nolans Brook and Jardine River. The latter is crocodile infested and few dare to cross these days, when a diversion to the ferry is an easy few kilometres away. This is the end of our OTT adventure and we turn on to the bypass road and drive for the ferry.
Filming on the Jardine River Ferry
At the Jardine River ferry we meet up again with Roothy and his film crew. We join them on their trip across the river on the old chain ferry, trying to stay in shot when the cameras are running. I suspect we will end up on the cutting room floor, despite our attempts to look like the rough and tough off-road drivers Roothy would want to associate with.
There are no crocs visible in the river when we cross, but we know they are there.
The last few kilometres of the day’s driving take us into Injinoo and then on to Seisia. Six of us stay the night at Seisia, in easy reach of the boat wharf for our trip to Thursday island tomorrow. The others go on to Punsand Bay and wait for us there.
Soon our journey to the tip of mainland Australia will be over. Punsand Bay is the last stop before we reach our destination.