I felt like a local leaving Weipa. Four days was long enough to have been everywhere, at least four times. I was happy to put it in my rear view mirror, and as we roared along at 100kph we passed another destroyed 4WD, sitting in a cage at with a sign saying ‘Speed Kills’. Hmm… Thanks for the reminder.
Halfway along the road we turned left, taking a short cut to meet the PDR further North at Batavia Downs. The short cut was red, corrugated and in a reasonable state, but narrower. The weather was beautiful, we were all ‘reasonably’ healthy, and although we’d had a run of awful night’s sleeps, we were happy to be making our final push for the top.
We hit the PDR, turned left and pushed on to Bramwell Roadhouse.
This is where you can go straight ahead to the Old Telegraph Track, or you can branch off and take the Southern Bypass Road. The bypass takes you East to begin with, curves North and eventually heads back to cross over the OTL. Then it carries on to create the top part of the ‘S’, meeting up with the end of the OTL, and the Jardine River Ferry.
This is now the only way to cross the river. Further upstream cars used to drive through the river itself. But it’s very deep, extremely dangerous, and not advised in the least anymore. The Jardine River is crawling with Crocs, of course, so everyone just gets on the ferry nowadays. Nevertheless, only a couple of months ago some idiot walked down to the edge of the river by the ferry and got taken by a Croc – so you still have to be careful.
Originally we were going to stay at Bramwell for a couple of nights, use it as a base to go exploring the Old Telegraph Track. Not now however, no time. We pulled into the roadhouse for a quick bite to eat, and were scuppered by a padlock full of dust. Which meant we couldn’t get the trunk on our trailer open – where lunch was…
Within minutes three large bearded men were helping out; one with a hammer and chisel, one with an enormous pair of pliers and one who had an angle grinder tucked away in his car. He won, but by the time I returned with an extension cord Erin had managed to jiggle the lock and open it. We were all a bit disappointed.
People up here are so willing to help each other out. If you’re stopped at the side of the road, it’s never long before someone pulls over and asks if you’re OK. It’s actually a very nice part of the trip. Anyhoo, a quick bite to eat and we’re offski. The OTL with a camper trailer and two little kids in the back would have been a bridge too far, so, onto the bypass thank you.
Erin is still doing some of the driving, and I reckon she was the only woman to be sitting behind the wheel pulling out of that roadhouse. It’s a very masculine environment, and I was proud of her as we headed off.
Corrugations. Red dust. Long straight roads.
Corrugations. Red dust. Road trains & 4WDs.
Trees, scrub & roadkill. Red dust & dips.
That’s pretty much it, for the majority of the way. Although it sounds monotonous, you do have to concentrate as the road condition changes constantly. I was very glad we had a big bull bar up the front too, as by now I’d lost count of the number of dead Kangaroos we’d had to weave around. Also a cow, and a wild pig had met their maker, before being picked to pieces by the eagles that were constantly circling, looking for an easy meal.
We turned onto the Northern curve of the Southern bypass, and before you were aware it was happening the long straights disappeared, and the road became twisty. You couldn’t see for miles any more.
Corrugations and turns are particularly tricky. If you slow down too much, the car begins to shake itself to pieces, but if you go too fast, the car bounces sideways as you turn. It’s a fine balance.
We came round a corner and there, in the middle of the road was another 4WD heading towards us. Erin swerved, we bounced sideways towards the vehicle. Then the wheels gained traction and we bounced the other way. Erin corrected, our own trailer tried to overtake us and the momentum sent us careening across the road. Shit!
We hurtled towards the edge and, fortunately, the road had a steep grassy bank at this point, which slowed our progress considerably. We eventually came to a halt at the top of the bank, sitting about 90 degrees to the road.
“OK, everyone’s OK. Let’s get out and see what’s happened.”
“You OK Erin?” Girls, you OK..?
The trailer was still attached, but had swung all the way around and nestled itself into the back right bumper. Holy shit. Within minutes, a Mitsubishi pulled over and a Dutch couple jumped out.
“Are you guysh OK..?”
“Ay, yeah, thanks.”
“We did the shame thing, jusht a few minutsh ago.”
Phwoooo… OK, let’s see what we can do here. None of the tyres on the Prado had been damaged, and the trailer seemed to have no issues at all – except for the fact it was now stuck to the car. I jumped in while Erin got the kids out the way, drove forward a little to pull the trailer out of the bumper, and thankfully it popped out.
Phew. Thank Christ for that.
The Dutch couple helped us unhook the trailer, I reversed the car down, we hooked up again, and we were done. Jesus that was lucky. I drove forward a bit to get us off the corner, rechecked all of the tyres and once again, all was in order. Well, a tuft of grass was sticking out between the back right tyre, and the actual wheel but it seemed undamaged, and the pressure was holding. Sho thanksh be to god for that.
“OK, well. That was fun eh..?
Let’s get going shall we?”
And off we trundled. A little slower this time.
We crossed over the OTL, and an hour later we were sitting on the banks of the Jardine River. In the car of course. No freakin’ way was anyone getting out the vehicle. The Aboriginal ferryman wandered past, waved us on, and we slowly rolled forward.
Off the other side and it was another hour and a half, or so, before we finally arrived at Punsand Bay Camping.
At. Freaking. Last. We left Weipa at 9am, and it was 5:30pm when we pulled into Lilly Creek No. 4, our lovely secluded camp spot – about 2km from the most northerly point of the Australian continent.
And relax. And beer. And sleep.