In the morning we towed the Jeep to Bramwell Junction, the starting point of the famous Overland Telegraph Line Track. We spent a few hours replacing all the fluids and straightening the front bumper (that was bent during the recovery) before firing the engine and we were once again on the road. The following two days were spent traversing the challenging OTL track, crossing the many beautiful rivers and creeks that cut its path and enjoyed the amazing 360-degree views with the roof off and the windscreen folded down.
Some of the creeks were deep enough to flow over the bonnet but with mostly sandy bottoms, we were able to use enough speed to get a descent bow wave happening to keep the little four-cylinder Ford motor dry and running. We reached the Jardine River ford late in the day and after walking across a way to check the strength of the current and the softness of the sandy bottom, we decided it would be crazy to attempt it without a snorkel so it was back up the track to the ferry.
The next day we drove into Bamaga, fuelled up and headed for ‘The Tip.’ The road passes through some gorgeous rainforest and is quite narrow in places but most oncoming vehicles pulled aside to show respect for the aged Jeep.
At The Tip parking was at a premium so we drove out onto Frangipani Bay to be greeted by a stunning view of the Torres Strait and its numerous islands. After the short scramble over the headland to the very Tip of the Cape and the obligatory photos at the new sign marking “the northernmost point of the Australian mainland,” we were back in the Jeep bumping along the track to the old government settlement of Somerset. There’s not much left there today bar a few old cannons, but it’s worth a short detour if you’re in that ‘neck of the woods.’ The picturesque coastline south of Somerset has a remote and desolate feel and provides an alternative route back towards Bamaga so we bounced down to the beach for a pleasant drive amongst the red termite mounds, waving Pandanus palms and piles of flotsam.
On the way back to the main road a short detour will take you to the shore of the delightful, blue, freshwater Lake Wicheura (reminiscent of Fraser Island’s lakes). It looks very inviting but apparently its home to at least one croc, so none of us was keen to test the water. We ducked out to Seisia for a quick visit to the renowned jetty with the intention of ‘wetting a line’ but it was covered in people so we were out of there in a flash. Our next destination was Vrilya Point, on the Cape’s west coast, where we arrived just in time to catch a stunning sunset over the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The following morning we cruised north along the beach to find the rusting remains of a wrecked lightship and started the day with a bracing dip in the crystal clear water, keeping watch for waiting reptiles. After another detour into Fruit Bat Falls for a freshwater bath and we were on our way to Captain Billy’s landing on the Cape’s east coast. The once-challenging track has been significantly upgraded and is now more a road but it passes through a magnificent of stand of rainforest full of huge fan palms, which makes a nice change from the dusty scrub bordering the main Cape road. A lookout a few kilometres in provides sweeping views south to the snowy white peaks of the massive Shelburne dune fields. The track finishes at Captain Billy’s landing, once the ‘port’ for nearby Heathlands Station (now a National Parks Ranger base).