Heading Back South From The Tip

Well we’ve reached the climax of our Cape York trip with a visit to the tip and a day trip to Thursday Island. Now it’s time to come back down from those dizzy highs. Way down. Down south that is. Back across the Jardine River, down the Old Telegraph track and across the cape to Karumba on the Gulf of Carpenteria. We left Seisia in the late afternoon after returning on the ferry from Thursday Island and headed down the cape towards the Jardine River ferry. But it was late so we decided to scoot off the main road and set up camp at Jackey Jackey creek which is just north of Jardine River National Park. The creek flows clear and fresh and seems too small to house any big crocs so it’s a nice place to camp. Joe chucked in some traps to try to catch some freshwater prawns whilst Sharni baked some bread in the camp oven.

Next morning we crossed the Jardine River on the ferry and continued our journey south, tackling the southern section of the Old Telegraph Track which we originally bypassed so we could visit Captain Billy’s Landing on the way up. We did the infamous gunshot crossing which wasn’t too bad but we didn’t tackle the crazy steep drops into the creek. Palm creek was the most difficult part of the track, with the ascent on the southern side being very steep, narrow and slippery. A few people we met suggested it may not be possible to complete Palm Creek crossing travelling south. We gave it a crack and it took a few attempts but we made it.

After completing the old telegraph track we stayed the night at Moreton Telegraph Station where we cooked up the crayfish tail that we bought on Thursday Island. We cranked up a fire and cooked it on the hot coals. Needless to say it was delicious. Heaps of meat too. Then in the morning we headed off to Weipa. We ran around town asking where we could get a permit to camp at Pennefather River but it was difficult to find info. We called in at the police station and they said we needed to go to the aboriginal community of Napranum and speak to the shire council there. We called the council and they said they were going out for lunch for an hour so we decided to have some lunch too. We splashed out and had lunch at Weipa Bowls Club where Sharni got a salmon wrap and Joe got a steak sandwich. Then to Napranum where we searched for the unsigned shire council offices. We found out that it’s $30 for the access permit to Pennefather River plus $10 a night camping fee. It was getting late and we decided to bail out of the Pennefather trip. So we left the Weipa region and continued on our journey south.

We departed from the usual route down the cape and headed west on New Dixie road / Koolatah – Oriners road across cattle station country through Artemis, Oriners, New Dixie, Koolatah and Dunbar stations towards Karumba. The track was really good for most of the way, no corrugations, easy going. Some sections were sandy and there were a few dry creek crossings to negotiate. We had driven many hundreds of km of dirt tracks since leaving Moreton and with the delay at Weipa we were too late to make it to Karumba so we camped on the side of the track overnight. In the morning we bumped into a cattle station manager who was cruising around on his dirt bike checking the gates in preparation for a cattle muster. We asked him some questions about station life and living in such a remote area and Sharni asked him about how his kids did their schooling. Further down the track we crossed another famous crossing – the Mitchell River, which until recently was an extremely treacherous crossing. It’s a very long ford on very soft, boggy sand in crocodile infested water and many vehicles have been claimed attempting the crossing. Fortunately there is now a plastic causeway running across which provides a nice firm surface to drive on. After the Mitchell River we joined the Burke Developmental road and followed it through to Karumba on the gulf coast.

8 replies »

      • thanks for that, I thought so. we are heading across late June from Mount Isa. I think it might be too early and we might have to go around

      • hmm yeah maybe too much water hanging around. Are you towing? Keep an eye out for reports or phone the roadhouses or whatever and see if they have info. If not towing and reports are ok then I’d give it a go. If towing I’d be worried about getting stuck in some mud or something.

  1. Joe, you missed a great spot (Pennefather). I’ts well worth the money. Last year when I was there it was $30 for your vehicle plus $5 per day per person. They have (or did have) a couple of outside drop dunnies as well as a flushing one at the rangers hut which you could use.. Also a couple of cold (not really cold) showers. There was also a solar washing machine which worked fine. The fishing was something else. As for getting permits, Napranum is nearly impossible ( never anyone there, or they don’t answer the phone. The go is to just drive in and the ranger will eventually find you. Definately put this on your bucket list.

    • Yeah bit sad we missed it, we could only stay for a night since we were on a schedule to get back to Brisbane and decided it wasn’t worth it. We spent too little time on the whole west side of cape york. Will need to return some day and pennefather will definitely be on the list.

  2. Hey joe, ron moon is saying 8-10 hours for that Dixie-oriners track. We are camping at Mitchell river on the way up and would be good to know how long it will take to get to PDR

    • Yo Scott we camped one night on that road and made it to Karumba some time the next day. Can’t remember exactly how long it took but the road was pretty good, well formed, no corrugations or washouts. You have to slow down for the creek crossings and gates but other than that it’s a pretty good track. Conditions change depending on weather and how long since last time it was graded, we did it a couple of years ago.

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