Cairns to Cape York
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Cairns to Cape York

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Hi All

I am a diehard/old hand camper who has just taken the big move to my first 4wd.  Just brought a 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara 4 door wagon.  I have given myself 3 years to learn to drive her properly and to kit up for a 14 days Cairns to Cape York return trip.  I would dearly love to hear from anyone that has done this trip, especially in a Grand Vitara.  Would love to know if there were any particular issues, how you kitted out, what spare parts you took and what you actually should have taken, what you actually used.  I would also love to hear of the highlights, the don't do it unless you are a 4x4 extreme guru pointers, so I know which spots to avoid because this is so not what I am aiming for.  I do not have any desire to do the Telegraph run.  I am not that brave and I want to bring me and my vehicle home without injury or crocodile teeth marks if I can avoid it.  Mind you I brought her from Weipa so she already has crocodile survival skills.  There is 3 cars in our group plan at the moment.

Forgot to mention - car has - tow bar, paint protection, chemical rust proofing, electro rust-proofing, darkest legal tint.  Manual/unleaded/4 cyclinder.

Cheers Jo

Posted : 10/03/2012 9:03 am
Posts: 1367

I would dearly love to hear from anyone that has done this trip, especially in a Grand Vitara.

Paging Bruce...

Posted : 10/03/2012 9:21 am
Posts: 8457

Some light reading

Cape trip 2007

Trip members
Vitara ? Serge & Kym
Vitara ? Dick & Wendy
Grand Vitara ? Bruce, Sharon, Jason & Renee
Sierra ? Tony
Range Rover ? Andrew & Shane
Landrover ? Dean
Patrol ? Allen & Dan
Pathfinder ? Symon

Day 1 7th July 2007 Brisbane to Rockhampton
We gathered at the BP Burpengary at 7:30. There was Andrew, Symon and me in the initial starting line up. Dean had problems with his new alternator and let us know through Bruce that he would catch up. Allen had left the day before and was already in Rocky. We picked up Bruce and family a short distance up the road and headed for Dicks place. The trip was uneventful and we arrived around 4 to find Allen had already set up his camper trailer. We had a bit of a ramping competition which was won by the Rangie. Dick and Wendy had an awesome BBQ set up and we retired to warm beds in the house.

Day 2 Rockhampton to Bowen
We packed up the seven cars early and everyone was eager to go. There was a little friction from some about convoy procedure but generally things went well. We arrived at our destination of Bowen in the mid afternoon. Andrew left us for a day to stay at a mates place in Proserpine to go for a bit of a fish. I had prebooked at the Bowen Village caravan park a couple weeks earlier. At first they tried to tell us that they had no booking then when they found it they sent us to the back of the park near the chemical toilet dump. The natives started to get restless but we made the best of a bad camp. Symon set up his projector screen and we watched Night at the Museum under the stars. In the end we had a great night.

Day 3 Bowen to Atherton
The tribe awoke to discover a sign on the amenity block saying there was no hot water. We where all pissed off now after paying $10 a head to camp by a shitter with no showers. I had a few words with the management on the way out which probably didn?t achieve anything but made me feel a little better. We cruised up the coast, loosing Allen and Symon in Townsville for a short while. Things started getting nice after Townsville with tropical forest running down to the sea. Turning left just outside of Innisfail we drove up into the Atherton Tablelands. The scenery up there is amazing. Trouble was had interpret ting Tony?s directions and for a brief time every car seemed to be heading in a different direction. Tony came out looking for us and brought us in safely to his house. Atherton had been experiencing its coldest recorded temperatures and most elected to camp on the floors inside near the fireplace. Tony had set up a great BBQ for everyone and we spent the evening watching movies on the big screen by the fire.

Day 4 Atherton
We awoke to a frozen but sunny day. My Vitara was covered in Ice crystals and Tony and I went to see the sun come up from the lookout in Atherton. We spent the morning cleaning up and doing washing then Tony took the convoy for a tour of the Tablelands. We managed to do a circuit of all the best sites including lakes, water falls and an amazing extinct volcanic core crater. Everyone loved the day. Andrew and Shane caught up with us in the evening. We started to watch a movie that night but most retired early due to the cold temperatures.

Day 5 Atherton to Lions Den
Tony led the convoy out of Atherton through Mareeba and down to the Daintree. We all took the Daintree River ferry and got onto the first bit of dirt being the Bloomfield Track. It was rough in spots and the traffic was pretty heavy but the scenery was up to everyone?s expectations. We made our way North to Helensvale and the famous Lions Den Hotel in time for Pizza night. We camped out the back, the amenities where ok and we had an early night after some friendly banter with the backpackers working behind the bar.

Day 6 Lions Den to Lakefield
Everyone was starting to get into a routine now. Up at dawn, on the road 8ish our plan was to not get caught out looking for camping in the dark. We headed West on Battle Camp road and turned North again into the Lakefield National Park. The ant nests on the side of the road where starting to get bigger and the road conditions where better than we had anticipated. Our destination had been open on this leg to one of the many camping sites throughout the National Park. We got to the Kalpowar crossing camp grounds in the early afternoon and after a brief vote on whether to go further we decided to set up camp. A few of the guys went for a fish at this beautiful location but mostly hooked turtles. Symon and Dan came across a fresh water croc while they where fishing in the evening and Sym caught a 5 inch barra. The camp had cold showers but Andrew (Inspector gadget) had a hot water system with him which gave some relief.

Day 7 Lakefield to Weipa
We headed out of Lakefield and soon found the road conditions to be better than the black top. The groups enthusiasm to get up to the top seemed to be driving us along so we drove all day up the peninsula development road through Musgrave, Coen and the Archer River Roadhouse(where we all tried the famous Archer River Burger) then we turned left and headed for Weipa. Weipa was a pleasant surprise for me. I had never been there but always imagined it to be a dusty mining town. It was the exact opposite, green, tropical and warm. I think it was just out of Coen on this day that Symon?s fuel pump started playing up.

Day 8 Weipa
The park facilities where great and right next to the town supermarket giving everyone a chance to stock up and wash up. Most of us spent the day fishing of the customs jetty. The trevally where literally jumping out of the water in front of us all day and we saw many decent fish hauled up onto the jetty. My gear was way to light for the fish and the conditions and now half of my rod is lying in the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Andrew and Shane came walking up the Jetty just as a local hauled in a couple of decent Taylor. Five minutes later they where back at camp putting them into Andrews smoker (Inspector gadget). My Vitara blew a radiator hose when we got back to camp but thanks to Lance I had a spare. Symon bagged a decent Trevally that night and vowed to return as soon as he could. Shane thought the beer in Weipa tasted great.

Day 9 Weipa to Cockatoo Creek
We rolled out of Weipa early heading East we took a short cut back to the Telegraph track. In dusty conditions we turned North heading through and stopping at the Moreton Telegraph Station, where Tony had a bit of a problem with a front wheel bearing and then up to Bramwell Junction. This is the start of the Old Telegraph Track. Someone who will remain nameless but was not I took off West out of Bramwell and we got about 20k up the road before we worked out the sun was in the wrong direction. We backtracked and found a little crappy sign at the back of the fuel station which was written ?OTT? Old Telegraph Track. The track was now definitely a track and within a couple k?s we came across our first real creek crossing Palm Creek. Everyone did it easily but Symons fuel pump died again a hundred metres up the track. We motored North up the small track with a couple creek crossings until we came to gunshot. Dean (Landyman) got there first and had driven it before we arrived and was now in the process of trying to drive back up it. There was no longer any easy way around it except for a 50k bypass but no one hesitated to take their turn at it. Dick tapped his breaks (on purpose me thinks) and got an excellent rear wheel up. Tony in his stock Sierra and I in the stock Vitara got stuck in the sludge at the bottom but where quickly out again. We motored up a little further to Cockatoo Ck and set up what was probably my favourite camp of the whole trip. That night in the middle of no where we watched Wolf Creek.

Day 10 Cockatoo Creek to Nolan?s Brook
There was definitely a positive bunch of happy campers in the morning following the previous day?s accomplishments. We headed north to Fruit Bat Falls and almost everyone went for a swim. We then drove up to Elliot/Twin Falls and went for a swim there. All the falls where spectacular, the air was warm and so was the water. Most of the group wanted to push on so we left Allen and Dean there for the night and went to tackle the bigger crossings including the famous Cypress Log bridge. We came to the last water crossing of Nolan?s Brook at the end of the day and there was a little apprehension. Reports that a Cruiser had been lost in it the day before and the threat of rain added to the excitement. The water was a good metre deep and I was a bit concerned about the stock cars. We sent three cars through at a time in a daisy chain with car bras and had no problems. It made for some good video footage too. We camped there that night and celebrated the end of the Old Telegraph Track.

Day 11 Nolan?s Brook to The Tip
Allen in the Patrol and Dean in the Landy caught up with us early the next morning and crossed Nolan?s without a hitch. We took the exit road and took the ferry over the Jardine River. We made our way up to Bamaga and then up to Loyalty Beach next to Seisia where we set up camp. In the afternoon we all jumped into our trucks and headed for the top. The guys stuck me at the front and we convoyed up the final track. We walked from the car park for about 20 minutes to the very tip with the daggy stainless steel sign for the obligatory photo shoot. I had a beer that night with my Dad in the Bamaga hotel and it tasted great.

Day 12 Seisia
A day off, some went fishing, some rested in camp, some went to see the world war two plane wrecks out at Jackey Jackey Airfield and some went exploring the towns. I had a beer that night with my brother Tony in the Bamaga hotel and it tasted great.

Day 13 Seisia to Archer River
We headed back South down the Northern Bypass Road which due to the speed, corrugations and traffic probably caused more carnage than the hard tracks. There where tyre blow outs, cracked windscreens, broken shackles and a fuel tank rupture. We set up camp at the Archer River Roadhouse, had a fire, some beers and played charades. Symon bailed on this leg and went back to Weipa to spend a few days fishing.

Day 14 Archer River to Laura
Heading South Bruce?s fuel tank began to leak again so we sent him ahead to Coen before he lost too much fuel. When we arrived in Coen he was no where to be seen but we got him on the radio and Jason came back to town in Tony?s Sierra to guide us to where he was getting his tank repaired. I tell you no lie that this place was exactly like the set of Wolf Creek. Sharon was a little on edge while the jokes where being passed around. Bruce, Jason and Tony soon had the fuel tank out and Bob the gold miner took it up to his shack, filled it with water and started welding. It took him a fair while and there where a few anxious moments before he was done. The guys put the tank back in and Bob the gold miner came down the hill with a plastic cup full of a yellowy liquid. Bob insisted I try his home made rum and I tentatively took the cup, had a look at the stuff floating in it and took a sip. It actually tasted great but I quickly insisted that Bruce take a taste before the rohypnol kicked in. Meanwhile, the rest of the convoy where heading south and we caught up with them again in Laura. Apparently the trailer on the Patrol had a few minor problems so they weren?t that much ahead of us. We camped at the back of the Laura Hotel and the beer tasted great. I don?t remember much else but I may now own some land up there.

Day 15 Laura to Cairns
I was a bit woozy as we headed out of Laura. We finally got back on the blacktop down around Lakeland and headed up to Cooktown. That?s when I got phone reception for the first time in over a week and got the news my daughter had been in hospital with a double compound fracture to her right arm. Cooktown was busy as we had rolled up on the day of the Cooktown cup. The wind was blowing hard from the East. Half the troop elected to stay on in Cooktown while we started towards home with Bruce?s family. We aimed for Cairns but where unable to find a decent place to camp so we continued out of town until we came to a place called fisherman?s falls. This camp ground had the best facilities any of us had ever seen with kitchen set up and the best shower block ever.

Day 16 Cairns to Mackay
We continued south though Townsville and Bowen to Mackay. Once again we couldn?t find anywhere decent to camp and we continued on to Sarina. This was a big days drive and we where starting to look a little on the scruffy side. The park manager gave us the hairy eyeball as we turned up at dusk and he drove his golf buggy up to our camp every now and then to keep an eye on us.

Day 17 Mackay to Brisbane
I think I speak for everyone when I say we where all thinking about our homes and our beds on this day. We put in a good 10 hours driving to get home with traffic steadily getting heavier. We bid Bruce and his family goodbye at the Matilda at Gympie and I dropped dad at home just before 6pm. Mum looked happy to see him.

Posted : 10/03/2012 4:52 pm
Posts: 109

Have you got a link to your pics Bruce

Posted : 10/03/2012 6:10 pm
Posts: 8457

Trying to see if it's still posted on the net. I know they were on another forum but I think its all gone now. I have all the photos still on my PC.

Posted : 10/03/2012 6:29 pm
Posts: 8457

Can't see them on the net now sorry.
Here is a few anyway

Posted : 10/03/2012 6:40 pm
Posts: 109

Sounds and looks like a great trip, i must do this myself one day soon.

Posted : 10/03/2012 6:55 pm
Posts: 8457

Was a great trip. Tele track is over rated.

Posted : 10/03/2012 7:16 pm
Posts: 2723

cant wait to do this trip agian .applaud.

Posted : 10/03/2012 7:42 pm
Posts: 2
Topic starter

Thank you so very much Bruce, that is so very helpful.  I have saved your story for notes and trip planning, hope that is cool. 

You mentioned your GV is stock, thus, I am assuming you haven't lifted her or any such for this trip.  It appears from pics that you have added a snorkel, bull bar and roof racks?  Is that a fair assume you did nothing else to prep your vehicle or are their hidden mods?

From your story I have also assumed that there was no serious need to carry lots of spare parts other then a spare tyre, tyre repair kits, a couple of radiator hoses, air filter and fluid, thus, all the standard kind of things for a long touring trip, not to mention tools to do some minor repairs on the run.  Is it also fair to assume it is hard to prepare or anticipate bearings and fuel tank holes, Sadly, I am not terribly mechanical other then general maintenance on my vehicle.  Did you find the need to carry much extra fuel or were you stops pretty much on target for refueling?  Sounds like most of the campground were pretty baron in regards to facilities bar a couple, thus, I am assuming it pays to assume you will camp raw or did other travellers tell you of better option after the fact?  This is okay for me, I am good without electricity as I have a dual battery system, toilets and showers for a week are also not a prob if I know as I have provision in my camping set-up if needed.

We don't want to do the telegraph track, we are all mutually agreed on that as we are not into 4x4'ing persay.  More into touring and camping, thus, I think we are happy to do the bypass and spend some more time at the Cape or in Cooktown lazing around or site seeing.  My GF lives in Cairns so we/I have seen the most of the tablelands over the years.  I have also seen most of the Daintree but that I could easily do more of, one of the most picturesque places I have ever been next to the Blue Mountains.

I would love to hear more...  and once again thank you so much for the pointers, it is dearly appreciated, I am not keen on reinventing the wheel when others know so much more.  Cheers Jo

Posted : 11/03/2012 7:02 am
Posts: 8457

No my GV was far from stock.
Was twin air locked.
Running 225 x 75 x 16 tyres.
Approx 80mm lifted.
Dual battery ststem.
As for spares, because we had 2 Vitaras (1 GV and 1 Vitara) we shared the spares.
From memory I took spare CV and 1 rear shock. The other took front strut and oils.
On a trip I normally take 2 spare tyres but because we were running the same tyre size we only took 1 each.

I took a 10lt spare jerry can just in case. (You really don't need to take spare feul as there are lots of places to get fuel)
Yep just take hoses and some tools. Tank repair putty.

Posted : 11/03/2012 6:58 pm
Posts: 216

Bruce theres not much room for spare jocks or a fishing rod in that last pic mate....

Did you feed any crocks on the way ????

Posted : 21/03/2012 6:51 am
Posts: 2723

there wasnt much room the car at all, i ended jumping in the car with another bloke to give dad more space,

we didnt see any crocs at all, one of the other guys went fishing and every couple mins he would flash the torch over the water and he said he seen eyes of a croc but thats it,

we even went swimming at nolans brook (last creek crossing on the old tele), we got out and realised that there could have been crocs in there lol :shocked:

Posted : 22/03/2012 11:06 pm
Posts: 47

Bucket list!

Posted : 24/12/2015 7:39 am