Penny's Tough Tracks: The Old Telegraph Track
Top of Down Under's Penny Wells knows a thing or two about heading out on the great off-road tracks in Australia. We've asked her to share her experiences of the toughest tracks our great country has to offer.
It's been hailed as one of the best off-road tracks in Australia and I would be confident in saying that it's on most four wheel drivers’ bucket list. The iconic Telegraph Track, located in tropical North Queensland. For history buffs immerse yourself in the past, think back to the 1800s and what it must have been like to be one of those resilient men that were the first to push this road through to connect Cairns with Thursday Island. The last Morse code message was sent down those lines only 55 years ago.
Bramwell Junction Road house is the starting point if you complete the track South to North. They make a mean burger at the road house and you are going to need a degree of energy to four wheel drive through the creeks and erosion cavities that the Tele Track presents along the way.
Towing a camper is possible but it will be paramount to navigate each obstacle slowly! Don't rush, take your time otherwise you will do unnecessary damage. Depending on your four wheel drive experience this will effect which tracks you take. If you’re not feeling confident there is usually another way around most obstacles. Take for example 'Gun Shot', a very steep entry into a creek. Depending on the previous wet season this can be a very daunting vertical drop. I have in the past cranked up my trailer brakes to maximum and used the trailer as an anchor to ease my vehicle down. The good news is there is an alternative track to by-pass this crazy section and you can just sit back and watch others negotiate their Fourbys down into the creek. Some graceful attempts, and others not so much.
Trust me, in peak season this track is not lonely. You are pretty much guaranteed to meet several other vehicles and off-road camper trailers along the way. I have spoken to people who are not keen to do this track as they thought it was too remote and that they would be isolated by themselves. This is not the case and don't let it stop you from exploring the Cape York peninsular.
Is thorough vehicle preparation required? Absolutely! There is no substitute for being prepared. Recovery equipment in good condition is a key element. Just as important is putting a bit of fore thought into tackling an obstacle. In 2015 we were staring across the waters of the last creek crossing on the Telegraph Track, Nolan's Brook, which had claimed quite a few water logged vehicles that year. It had a deep section at the beginning of the creek bed and the sand was very soft in the centre of the crossing due to so many vehicles crossing and getting bogged that day.
With this in mind we decided to camp on the Southern bank and let the sand pack down over night before tackling it the next morning. Letting the four wheel drive and off road camper trailer tyres down to 8 PSI was a major contributing factor to crossing the creek unaided. It doesn't hurt to be cautious and I still had a snatch strap hooked up and ready to go in case I needed a pull out. There was a pack of wolves on the other side just itching to pull Penny Wells out of the creek! Had I needed it, I would have gladly accepted their help. That's the thing about travelling up here, it's the people you meet along the way that can really enhance the experience of your trip.
Time and weather constantly change the Old Telegraph Track but will always be one of my favourite tracks.