When it comes to 4WD’ing, road trips really don’t come much more intrepid than Cape York’s Old Telegraph Track – or the “OTT” or “the Tele” as it is often referred to by those in the know. As one of the “must do” pilgrimages for any serious 4WDer, the track stretches a gruelling 350 kms (if you go the full distance), but the good news is that you can also set out to tackle its challenges in smaller sections.
Situated deep in Far North Queensland’s iconic outback wilderness terrain, the OTT includes some pretty intense river crossings, bog holes and creeks (watch out for the crocs!) and plenty of other formidable obstacles. There are several bypass roads if the going gets a bit too tough and you need a way out or you want to do avoid crossings or tougher parts of the track. However, this is a drive that’s generally only recommended for those with plenty of 4WD experience, so if you’re a newbie make sure you team up with others who know the drill. You’ll also want to have a highly reliable vehicle along with exactly the right tyres (Maxxis of course), plus all the other necessary gear, supplies and forward planning that comes with the territory… more about this later.
Where and when to start
The OTT is most often undertaken from south to north, beginning at Bramwell Junction (about 620km from Cooktown and 6km off the main road). Look out for Bramwell’s signpost tyres which will show you the way to the roadhouse where you can refuel and recharge for the challenges ahead. The track is usually open and accessible May to September (in the dry season), when there is less or minimal rain and before the more intense summer heat sets in.
Best tyres for the ride
This adventure is one where your tyres are definitely going to be put to the test – so we say Maxxis RAZR MT772 muddies all the way!
Highlights and Milestones
Telegraph poles…The iconic Old Telegraph Track is aptly named after the area’s original telegraph communication line serving the area in days gone by. Many of the original telephone poles are still standing as beacons of history now silently telling the past tales of this historic, off-the beaten track.
Up the creek… Creek crossings are an essential part of the OTT’s landscape — not to mention 4×4 fun and the optimal chance to put your skills (and tyres) to the test, with the last wet season playing a huge role in current crossing conditions!
Palm Creek is first cab (or creek) off the rank with a steep descent into the creek — and just as steep out the other side. While it’s not a breeze to get over even when it’s dry, muddy clay in the wet can make conquering Palm Creek a defining moment in getting your OTT journey really started!
Further creek crossings on the southern track (usually a little less intense than Palm Creek) include the Dulcie, South Alice, North Alice, Dulhunty, Bertie and Cholmondeley, with the intimidating (and ultra-renowned) Gunshot Creek then looming large as one of the most challenging crossings to be reckoned with (you can take the bypass detour if you want to give this one a miss)!
Once you’re past this hurdle, it’s on to Cockatoo and Sailor Creek which brings you to the end of the southern section of the OTT. It’s really worth going a few further kms to Fruit Bat Falls — a scenic spot to take a cooling dip and wash off that red dust in awesomely magnificent surrounds. However, do note that while it’s a great place to kick back for a few hours and it has a picnic area and daytime facilities – no camping is permitted. From here, you can step on the accelerator and get those tyres rolling further north – or call it quits and make your way back to the start via the bypass roads. If you’re keen to do the entire northern track (which also has its share of crossings), Nolan’s Brook (one of the deepest and most challenging) will see you at the track’s end. Then head on down to the Jardine River Ferry which will take you to the very northern, remote and picturesque tip of Australia!
Crocs, fruit bats and other animals…As you’d expect, there are plenty of birds, fruit bats and other outback wildlife inhabiting the OTT and its creeks, including resident crocs – so take care and always check diligently before entering the water.
Essential gear… This one’s a biggie – as when it comes to the OTT, you are pretty much the furthest you can get to being in the middle of absolutely nowhere! Doing your own detailed research and preparation is vital – as you’ll be relying on the supplies and essential gear you’ve brought with you for large stretches of the track.
Here are just a few things (along with a good set of Maxxis tyres!) you won’t want to leave home without:
- 4×4 Snorkel: with all the OTT’s river crossings this is an absolute must!
- Spare tyre/s and puncture repair kit
- Recovery gear: In case you become stuck or bogged including items such as shovel, traction boards, recovery straps, bow shackles and winch
- Communication devices / satellite phone
- LED Lighting: Cape York is renowned for its wide-open starry skies but things can get pretty dark out there, so go prepared
- Jerry cans of petrol or diesel (20 to 40L)
- Camping kit
- Drinking water and adequate food supplies.
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