Tackling the Tele – We make it to ‘The Tip”!

On Sunday 22nd July 2018 a group of friends donned their matching shirts and made the trek to the northernmost point of mainland Australia ……. 15 people and 6 4WD’s left camp early that morning with a feeling of excitement and anticipation that soon they would be standing on the tip of Australia, this is what the trip had all been about.  Months and maybe even years of dreaming and preparation for this trip and we were all now so close to seeing that sign and standing on the tip of Australia.

As you leave the township of Bamaga and take the turnoff to Pajinka you notice the landscape change. As you drive through what is known as the Lockerbie Scrub you are surrounded, and often dwarfed, by the lush rainforest around you.  The Lockerbie Scrub is the northern most rainforest on mainland Australia.  There is so much diversity in the landscape, one minute you are driving through rainforest and the next you are surrounded by huge eucalypt woodland.  This is a really one of the prettiest drives in the area, although the narrow windy road does get a little scary with others driving too fast and on the wrong side of the road.  You really have no idea how many near misses we had on this road, during both of our visits.

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On the way up you pass the Croc Tent, which you really must stop at.  This place is filled with souvenirs, gifts and t-shirts, plus plenty of helpful information on the area and road conditions.  It originally opened in the early 80s on land that was once part of Lockerbie Station – opposite the tent are the remains of the old homestead Station, which was established by Frank Jardine.  In 1988 the business moved to its current location at the junction of Punsand Bay & Pajinka Road, approximately 17km from the tip of Australia.  The current owners, Dale and Lea live on site with their young family and run the store.  They could not be more helpful and they know everything there is to know about Cape York. They are so friendly and happy to help so go in and have a chat!  Dale and Lea are actually taking a break shortly and our good friends are moving up there to take over the store for a few months, what an amazing experience that’s going to be for them! …. we are maybe just a little jealous guys!

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There is no way to explain exactly what it feels like to know you’ve made it, to know you are standing there on the tip of Australia.  It’s a feeling of accomplishment, an awe-inspiring feeling as you make your way up the track (which isn’t an easy walk) and take in the spectacular views that surround you.  As you make your way down the other side of the hill and see that sign you know you’ve made it, you know you’re about to mark one more thing off the bucket list. It’s at this point that you realise how lucky you are to be experiencing the magic of this area, this is the reward for braving the corrugations, dust and dirt of the past few days!

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For George and myself it was our second visit to this point so it was a slightly different feeling for us this time, but it was amazing to see how excited all our friends were and know that we’d shared in that moment and would forever be part of the memories from that day.

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Pajinka lies right on the coast and is surrounded by the rocky hill climb on one side and beautiful blue water on the other. Looking to the left you see the beautiful white sand of Frangipani Beach, with the rainforest behind.

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Approximately 17km south-west of the tip of Cape York you will find Possession Island. This is where Captain James Cook rowed ashore and formally claimed all of eastern Australia on 22nd August 1770.

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Whatever you decide to call it …… ‘The Tip’, ‘Cape York’ or it’s indigenous name ‘Pajinka’, it’s a place that should be on everyone’s must visit list, it truly is spectacular. It’s the remoteness, the unspoiled wilderness, the natural beauty of the area, the people, the adventure ….. it’s all of this rolled into one, it’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been why we love this place so much.  It just has this hold over you and you can’t help but fall in love with the area.  Once you visit, you’ll understand.

 


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Tackling the Tele – Northern Most Pub on mainland Australia

After a morning of checking out the plane crash sites we drove back into Bamaga to grab some supplies from the bakery.  We got some great cakes and pies from here on our last visit, but this time their produce was pretty bare and what we did manage to buy was nice, but not great.  I wonder if they’ve changed hands since our last visit.

We did later find out that the supply boat had apparently broken down and supplies had been delayed by days ……. this obviously affected the bakery and also the supermarket, which had no supplies of bread or cold meat etc.  One of the downsides of living in a remote area.

Next on the bucket list was a stop at the Bamaga Tavern.  Why you may ask?  Well to have a beer in the northern most pub on the Australian mainland of course!

After a few beers and lunch we all headed back to camp to relax for the afternoon.  It was incredibly hot, so we both decided to go for a drive around the area while the others relaxed back at camp.  We took a drive through Umagico and Injinoo and found a great little park right on the water.  It was a beautiful spot and the breeze was great, it was a much more bearable temperature than it was back at camp!

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While George took the drone for a few flights, Shelly walked around taking photos.

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I love the photo below, it really sums up the cape region, the colours in this photo really say ‘Cape York’.  The blue of the sky, the green of the tropical palm trees, the rich red of the dirt, the sand and the beautiful aqua blue water that surrounds the land, this is what it’s all about, this is why we love the area.

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While we were all off exploring for the day, Jim & Jacky and David & Maria were off on their own adventure, a day trip to the beautiful Thursday Island.  This is another stunning place to visit and again, filled with history.  We spent a day on Thursday Island during our last visit to the cape and loved it.

Back at camp we experienced another amazing cape sunset.

What better way to end the night and discuss the days adventures than a campfire on the beach ….. yes this is the life.


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Tackling the Tele – WWII Plane Wrecks

There are a few WW2 plane wrecks around the area, the easiest to find is the DC3 that crashed in 1945.  This one is situated just off the side of the road to the Bamaga Airport.

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The DC3 aircraft, operated by the RAAF, departed Archerfield Airport in Brisbane en route to New Guinea.  On 5th May 1945, the plane clipped some trees and crashed at this site in Bamaga and all on board were killed.

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From what we’ve read, the RAAF personnel killed were initially buried at Jackey Jackey War Cemetery, but were later relocated to the Townsville War Cemetery.  Jackey Jackey Airfield (now known as Bamaga Airport) was named after Jackey Jackey, the Aboriginal friend of Edmund Kennedy, and the only survivor of the Kennedy expedition.

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This particular wreck is fairly well-preserved and the most intact of the wrecks.

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After checking out the maps it looked like there were two more wrecks located out past the airport so we went in search of these.  After venturing off into the bush we ended up finding the Beaufort Bomber.

As you drive through the bush you pass numerous fuel dumps from WWII.  There are literally thousands of rusting fuel drums lying around.

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We then tried to follow our paper maps to make our way to the second plane wreck in this area, a Kittyhawk.  Our track was gradually getting deeper into the forest and the track was getting narrow and very overgrown.  After weaving our way through the bush on tracks that looked like they hadn’t been driven in years, we finally worked out why they looked that way …. the track was blocked off!!  Now that was fun trying to turn four 4WD’s around on a tight track …. and I meant tight, at times our brush bars were nearly touching trees on either side of the track as we were driving.

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We later heard that the third plane wreck has now possibly been removed.

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Both planes have fences around them, but other than that they are open to the elements and it’s amazing how intact these planes actually still are.  If this was in Sydney they would have been vandalised, covered in graffiti, stolen or scooped up and placed in a museum, which is great for preservation, but you lose some of that history and ‘feeling’ of being there.  This is what we both absolutely love about remote travel, most people actually have respect and it’s because of this that these important sites can remain.

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Both of these planes lay where they crashed, it’s quite a sobering and eerie feeling to know that you are standing in the exact place that people lost their lives.  At the same time though, it’s great that these crash sites are still there and we can pay our respects.  Each site has a plaque and it’s a nice memorial to the personnel who died in the plane crashes, selfless men and woman who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.


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Tackling the Tele – Seisia and surrounds

After crossing the Jardine River you enter into the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA).  The NPA covers the communities of Injinoo, Umagico, Bamaga, New Mapoon and Seisia. This is the gateway to the Torres Strait islands and of course to the tip of Australia!

Entering the NPA also meant the start of our alcohol restrictions, which may have meant some of the boys having a drinking session the night before to dispose of some liquor!  A lot of the communities in the Cape York region have alcohol restrictions (limits to the amount and type of alcohol you can carry, as well as the alcohol content allowed), some are even dry communities where no alcohol at all is allowed. This is quite normal in many remote towns and Aboriginal communities across Australia, so it wasn’t anything new to us, but you really do need to do your research before travelling remote as there are huge fines that apply if you are caught with alcohol in your vehicle.

The peninsula north of the Jardine River is surrounded by water – the Coral Sea to the east, the Arafura Sea and Gulf of Carpentaria to the west, and the Torres Strait to the north.

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This area is full is history, with ruins at Somerset and also WW2 relics around the Bamaga area.  If you have the time, there is so much to explore in this region.

Even taking a drive out into some of the communities is an eye opener.  The one thing that is really confronting and got to us on both visits is the amount of stray dogs.  The poor things are so skinny, just pure skin and bones and most of them with either terrible skin conditions, cuts and wounds and limps from old untreated broken bones.  It’s heartbreaking to see this.  There are so many puppies running around and some of the mummy dogs look like pups themselves, it’s such a horrible situation. We just wanted to pack them all up in the 4WD and take them home with us.

It’s not only the stray dogs you need to worry about, it’s the wild horses that roam the streets and campgrounds aswell.

We were all staying at the Loyalty Beach Campground, which is where we both stayed last time.  There are a few campgrounds around, but we loved this one last time so decided to stay there again.  It’s quite a large park with plenty of space for everyone, the facilities are good, the staff are friendly and helpful, the sunsets are amazing …. and they have a bar on site!

The view from the bar

Two of the vehicles from our group arrived at the park earlier in the day and found us the perfect spot, right on the beach.  We couldn’t have asked for a better place to call home for the next 3 days.

Here’s a little bit of random trivia for you …… Seisia (pronounced Say Sea A) is the most northern community on mainland Australia.  It’s name was derived after a family of Saibai Islanders moved to the area after World War II, in 1948 .  Seisia was formed by taking the first letter of the names of 5 men – Sagaukaz, Elu, Isua, Sunai, Ibuai, Aken.


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Tackling the Tele – Old Telegraph Track (Day 2)

It was a relatively early start to tackle day 2 of the Tele Track. We’d all had so much fun the day before and everyone was excited to see what day 2 would bring …. and all a little nervous about the infamous Nolan’s!

Canal Creek was the first crossing we came to straight after leaving the campground.  This is a fairly tricky crossing with plenty of obstacles to tackle.  It’s full of slippery mud, water and rocky pot holes … it really is one crossing that can test your 4WDing ability, but it’s also a lot of fun.  Once we got through the first part Shelly took a walk to navigate the crossing, find the best route and directed the 4WD’s through.

The next few crossings – Sam Creek, Mistake Creek, Cannibal Creek and Cypress Creek are all fairly close together.  Cypress Creek is the crossing that has a so-called bridge to cross it.  This bridge consists of some old logs that have been placed across the creek and this bridge has certainly seen better days.  Numerous logs were broken, the middle was very sparse and the front had been packed with sticks and branches, but these rolled away after each vehicle crossing. The sound of logs and sticks cracking as you drive over this bridge doesn’t really fill you with confidence! The bridge itself isn’t very wide so you really do need to worry about where you are positioning those tyres or you may quite easily end up over the side.

Logans Creek is a relatively unknown creek, you rarely hear anyone mention this one, but it’s actually one of the deepest crossings on the whole track.  It’s deep, swampy and murky and it looks like a crocodiles perfect home ….. but when we got one of our 4WD’s stuck halfway across, that’s the last thing you think of as recovery mode kicks in!

 

Luckily it was a quick recovery and, other than water on the floor inside the 4WD, there were no issues at all. After seeing this occur, the BT50 wasn’t taking any chances!

Before we knew it we had arrived at Nolan’s Brook (also known as Bridge Creek). We all parked up and took a walk down to watch some other 4WD’s cross, while we all decided if we would tackle it or not. You see, this particular crossing claims numerous vehicles every single year. The base is soft and sandy and picking the right line can literally mean the difference between making it across or drowning your car!

 

Just as we arrived, there was someone sitting sideways, stuck halfway across. After them being rescued, another 4WD attempted to cross and we watched as it went from driving to floating (floating is not something you want to do in a 4WD!).

This really didn’t give us a great feeling, but some of the guys offered to hang around while our first vehicle went through so they could snatch from the front if needed. We all decided we’d give it a go and with snatch straps all hooked up ready in case they were needed, one by one we went across ….. and all made it without any dramas!

Crossing Nolan’s …… Another thing marked off the bucket list!

We all then stopped at Nolan’s for lunch and the kids had a swim – there is a great little swimming area with crystal clear water, it’s actually quite a beautiful area.  Many people swim at Nolan’s so no-one thought anything of it ….. but we did hear later that a crocodile had been sighted in the area …. oops, luckily no children were eaten during our visit!

Before we headed off to the Jardine River Ferry we wanted to go and find the old Jardine River crossing.  Until the ferry was introduced, vehicles had to drive across the Jardine River.  Not something I’d be wanting to do nowadays, the Jardine is filled with saltwater crocodiles and wading across metre-plus deep water to check the depth and conditions does not seem like a great idea to me!

Nowadays there is the Jardine River Ferry which takes you across the river for a cost of $100 return.  It is expensive when you see the distance you travel, but hey, if it stops us being crocodile bait, it’s all good!


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Tackling the Tele – Old Telegraph Track (Waterfalls)

Fruit Bat Falls are spectacular and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular spot on the Old Tele Track.  It’s one of the major highlights and ‘must visit’ places of the whole cape region.  Last time (and for most of this visit) we were lucky enough to have it all to ourselves, but it’s generally full of people.

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Pic from our last trip as the day was a little overcast this time, as you’ll see below!

After a tough, hot and dirty day on the tracks, this is the perfect spot to relax and have a swim.   It’s such a beautiful area and what a great experience it is to swim under a waterfall, that’s something everyone wants to do, right?!

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There are plenty of waterfalls in far North Queensland and they are all stunning in their own way. Some are spectacularly high and ferocious, some are small, some are accessible for swimming, some aren’t. Fruit Bat Falls is a low, wide waterfall with a large area of crystal clear water perfect for a refreshing swim.

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From Fruit Bat Falls it was a relatively short drive to our camp for the night at the national park campsite at Eliot Falls.  We were all eager to set up camp and then make our way down to the next set of waterfalls.

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A short walk from the campsite and you will find the equally stunning Eliot Falls and Twin Falls, another two spots that offer apparent crocodile free swimming.

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This area is a photographers dream, you really have no idea how breathtaking and pristine this area is until you visit.

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Tackling the Tele – Old Telegraph Track (Day 1, part 2)

After our adventures at Palm Creek it was time to continue on with the rest of the tele track ……. almost immediately after Palm Creek we reached Ducie Creek, followed by South and North Alice Creek. The next crossing, and the largest water crossing so far, was the Dulhunty River.  It’s a pretty area here with plenty of camping spots and a small waterfall, a great place to grab some photos.  It was here that we all decided this would be the perfect spot to stop for lunch and chat about the mornings adventures and wonder what was ahead of us.  After lunch, Lauren and Shelly decided it was their turn to show the boys how to do it and they took the wheel for the next few crossings!

The Dulhunty, although being the largest river crossing so far, was easy. It’s hard rocky bottom made for a very easy crossing.

Soon after Dulhunty you come to Bertie Creek, again a relatively easy crossing with a rocky bottom, but plenty of large holes to navigate around, so this one took a walk-through first to check it out.

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A little further to the north you come to the famous Gunshot (there is a bypass, but we were all keen to do it – or at least check it out, so we continued on).  Now everyone who knows anything about Cape York or the Old Tele Track would have seen or heard about the famous Gunshot.  YouTube is filled with videos of people attempting/accomplishing Gunshot and/or rolling or severely damaging their 4WD at Gunshot!

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The original entry into Gunshot Creek is a near vertical drop and when you see it on the videos, that’s nothing to what it’s like when you are standing there! Now this original entry is pretty much a no go nowadays, but in saying by that, every year people like to try it out to say they’ve done the ‘original Gunshot’.  We all really love our 4WDs and kinda wanted to keep them for the rest of the trip, so we decided against attempting this entry!

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There are now numerous entries going into Gunshot so it’s just a matter of picking the one you want (none are overly easy, but at least you have a choice!). Shelly was really excited to be driving Gunshot, as George had driven it on our last trip. It’s one of those things you get to mark off ‘the list’!

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This year there had been numerous rollovers coming out of the exit of Gunshot so we were all a little nervous about that, but luckily it wasn’t as bad as what it was made out to be. Of course accidents can happen so easily when you are off-road, but a little common sense, walking the tracks beforehand a not being a dickhead really does go a long way!

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Just north of Gunshot is the grave of W.J. Brown, a linesman who died on the Old Telegraph Track in 1945.

Cockatoo Creek required another walk through before proceeding, to point out the large holes hidden under the water. Sailor Creek has a bridge so that wasn’t an issue at all (and this one you really can call a bridge, not like the so-called ‘bridge’ at Cypress Creek!).  After here it’s back onto the corrugated bypass road for a few km before turning back in to head down to Fruit Bat Falls.  We will do a separate post on the falls as they are so beautiful they deserve to be showcased on their own!

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From Fruit Bat Falls it was a short drive to our camp for the night at the Eliot Falls campground …. more on that later.

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Tackling the Tele – Old Telegraph Track

The morning we left to start the track everyone was up and ready bright and early …. there was just a little bit of excitement in the air ….. and maybe a bit of nervousness and anticipation of what was to follow.

We arrived at the Bramwell Junction Roadhouse to fill up and do some last-minute vehicle checks, check pressures etc as this was the last fuel for a few days.  Bramwell Junction Roadhouse is also the start of the Old Telegraph Track …… a small wooden sign marks the start of the track.

 

This is one of those iconic 4WD tracks that is on everyone’s bucket list.  A visit to the cape isn’t complete without being able to say you completed the Old Telegraph Track.  Although not an overly long track, there are many challenging parts, with lots of water crossings and deep, steep, slippery river banks to deal with.

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Although this track is a 4WD’ers dream, it’s also an important part of our history.  In the early 1880’s the Queensland Government enlisted JR Bradford to survey a route along the Cape York Peninsula to Thursday Island for the construction of an electric telegraph line.  The line consisted of galvanized cast iron ‘Oppenheimer’ poles which were manufactured in Germany.  Some of these poles are still standing today.  After more than 100 years of service the line was closed in the late 1980’s.

The Old Telegraph Track is basically split into two sections, the southern section and the northern section.  The southern section runs from Bramwell Junction to Bamaga Road, while the northern section runs from Bamaga Road to the Jardine River ferry.

You could drive the whole track in a day, but most people take at least 2 days to do it.  It’s such a beautiful area and an amazing experience that we didn’t want to rush it, so we took 2 full days to drive the track, which gave us plenty of time to explore.

As with most of the tracks in the area, track conditions change significantly every year.  The wet season comes through, fires sweep through the area and even from the beginning to the end of the tourist season, the tracks change.

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We were interested to see how much had changed since our visit 5 years ago and wow, this track had definitely changed!

The first major obstacle you come to is Palm Creek.   Now last time we went we were told we wouldn’t get up this without a winch, but we did!  This time …… we didn’t!

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We all stood at the top of Palm Creek and looked down the huge rutted drop and wondered if we really should attempt it or not.  Finally George decided he’d give it a crack and the rest said they’d follow if we made it through!  Everyone lined the banks of the crossing and waited in anticipation to see if the mighty Prado would make it.  We made it down the first side and into the creek crossing without an issue.  The Patrol, BT50 and Triton all followed.  Our other two vehicles decided to give it a miss and met up with us later that day at camp.

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After all making our way safely down the first side it was time to tackle the next hurdle and get UP the exit.  We nearly made it all the way up , but couldn’t quite get there so our winch was used for the first time, and boy did the winch get a workout here!  After only about 15 minutes on the track we then spent over 1 1/2 hours winching every single vehicle up Palm Creek!  Our 4WD Supacentre Domin8r winch certainly got a work out that morning (Shelly really does buy the best presents!).

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So at this point we are still only about 15 minutes into the tele track and have a long way to go and there is so much more action still to come, so stay tuned! ……..


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Tackling the Tele – Bramwell Station

It was a leisurely start for the day as we left Weipa and took the Batavia Downs track towards Bramwell Station.  It was during this journey that our Prado started flashing up some warning lights on the dash, it appeared that there was an issue with the 4WD system, but as we had no reception or internet service it was hard to ascertain exactly what was wrong.

We waited until we arrived at Bramwell Station and then set about trying to fix the problem, as a Prado without low range was not going to be a fun Prado to be in on the tele track!  The scan tool wasn’t showing any error codes, but there was obviously something wrong so George & Liam set about trying to work it out.  Eventually, after trying everything else, they decided to just ‘clear’ all error codes (even though there weren’t any!) and the lights disappeared.  A few quick tests and it was confirmed that the 4WD gears were working again!  Little did we know this problem was going to keep popping up during the trip, but at least for now we knew we’d have low range on the tele track.

Now if you are looking for the perfect place to stay before you tackle the Old Tele Track, then you really need to get yourself to Bramwell Station (not Bramwell Junction, but Bramwell Station).  It’s the same family that own both properties, but if you want a fun-filled night, full of laughs and entertainment, then you need to stay at the station.

Bramwell Station is the most northerly cattle station in Australia, but apart from being a working cattle station, it’s a great tourist park with accommodation units and a huge camping ground.

The video below shows Matt (our self-appointed table captain) trying to get our table to sing the loudest!

We stayed here on our last trip and thought it was great, but stay here in the peak tourist season and you really see what this place has to offer.  The ringing of the station’s bell signals happy hour at the bar and of course we were all there ready and waiting!  But this was just the start of the night.  Most of us chose to have the buffet dinner and that was money well spent.  There is live entertainment at the station every night during the peak tourist season.  The beers were flowing, the food was plentiful and the entertainment was great.  Plenty of laughs were had this night, it was absolutely the perfect way to relax before we tackled the old tele track the next morning.


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Tackling the Tele – Weipa

It was a relatively short drive from Laura and we arrived in Weipa around lunchtime.  Everyone split up to do their own thing and met up again later in the day at the caravan park.

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View from in front of our campsite …. plenty of crocs out there!

Weipa is a relatively big town …. well very, very tiny compared to say Sydney!, but for the townships on the cape, it’s a relatively large town with most facilities available.  Weipa sits on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula, on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

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The region in and around Weipa is very rich in bauxite and this has led to Rio Tinto operating the Weipa bauxite mine for many years.  They are in the process of extending their operations to another site in the area aswell.  There is some big money being spent on infrastructure in the area and some big money coming out of the mines.  The first thing you notice as you get closer to Weipa is that the condition of the road significantly improves!  Then you see the traffic lights and the boom gates as you cross the mine access road to enter the town.

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We had all booked on a sunset cruise with Western Cape Eco Tours.  We had done this exact cruise when we were in Weipa 5 years ago and it was such a great night we couldn’t recommend it highly enough.  Everyone took our recommendation and we booked on for a couple of hours of relaxing, history and crocodile sightings.

 

You’d think being a ‘sunset cruise’ I would have mentioned that we watched an amazing Weipa sunset aswell, well think again!  We didn’t even come close to getting a sunset that night, very disappointing, but what can you do!  At least we saw plenty of crocs.

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Here’s what the sunset should have looked like! (taken on our cruise in 2013).

The cruise itself runs for about 2 hours and takes you around the Embley River to see the wildlife and of course the sunset.  The price of the cruise includes beer, champagne, soft drink and yummy antipasto platters.

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Western Cape Eco Tours are a small family owned company who love their town and love showcasing its natural beauty.  They had only just started out when we took our first cruise with them and we are so glad business is going so well for them.  If you are ever in the area, you really must look these guys up.

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Contact Details

Western Cape Eco Tours

Website:  www.westerncapeecotours.com.au 

Email:  westerncapeecotours@bigpond.com

Telephone:  0447 009 044

Tours depart from Evans Landing Boat Ramp, Weipa QLD 4874


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