From Bramwell Station to the Dalhunty River.
Bramwell is the penultimate junction in the road. Head straight north and you are driving into the maw of the Old Telegraph Track, the black heart of the Cape itself.
Turn right past the strange stand of three metre termite mounds and you head up the Developmental Road, which still offers access to some of the great spots up the cape, without any of the 4WDing.
Before heading north, though, it is worth stopping at Bramwell Station for a night or two. It’s an interesting property, with heaps of flat grassy camping spots and a resident jabiru that always comes to say hello.
There are trees for shade and a few shade huts scattered around, but the real attraction at Bramwell is the open-air pub. Cattle skulls and rope lights decorate the cut-log and tin structure, and there isn’t a better way to prepare for a trip up the OTT than a couple of cans and a parma, with the warm tropical air blowing through.
You can get petrol, diesel and ice creams at Bramwell Junction before heading out, and this is the last touch of civilization for a while.
The path less travelled is becoming more and more travelled today. Whereas two decades ago there might have been a few hundred 4WDers heading up the OTT, these days there are tens of thousands of people coming up the Cape. And yet, with a few exceptions, the people are generally quite cool.
I met a guy heading up the track who had been dreaming about coming to the Cape for half his life. He had been planning the trip for years, and here he was, standing on the side of the track, living his dream.
I love that about this place, the sense that it is a culmination for so many people, the final step in a journey that began when they read a story in a magazine a decade ago.
The first time I came up this track a couple of years ago, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d seen the pictures, like everyone else, but the Cape is an ever-changing place, and creek entries and exits can change within a season.
A couple of short kilometres into the track is Palm Creek. I think there is a certain perfect balance in this place, with Palm Creek the psychological toll booth for the rest of the track.
It isn’t particularly technical, but it looks and feels hairy, particularly the steep entry, and if you have the balls and commitment to cross this creek, you’ll be fine the rest of the way.
But it isn’t like you’re going to make it halfway up the track before you have to endure Gunshot. It couldn’t be designed better.
Palm Creek’s entry was no more brutal this year than it has been the past few – a steep drop into the creek and then a rutted, muddy exit.
Without much traffic in front of us in the morning, though, and the exit was fairly straightforward, and we rolled on to Ducie Creek, a brown arcing crossing through fender deep water.
The first day on the track is a straight drive, looking through the trees for old telegraph poles, half of them bent over from people stealing the insulators.
We’re heading towards the Dulhunty, which I consider one of the best campsites up the Cape. The river here is rocky, with a shallow flat crossing. The campsites on the southern side are flat and sandy, and besides swimming in the cool clear water that spills over a small fall, the thing to do here is to set up your camp chairs in the running water, let your feet dangle in the stream and just soak up the ambience.
When it is wetter, the old exit, an almost vertical ramp of white clay, becomes a slippery slide for the kids, who cover themselves in the clay before washing it all off in the stream, only to do it all over again a minute later.
We were travelling early in September, which is late in the season, but if you get up here just before school holidays, it is surprisingly quiet.
And yet, the rubbish bin here at Dulhunty is overflowing. There is garbage strewn all over the ground, and I don’t want to blame the parks guys, who really should have come in here by now to empty it out.
The real problem is the people who have this much garbage one day into the track, and the fact that they can’t seem to take it with them.
The toilet paper all over the sides of the track point to a lack of respect for this part of the world, which doesn’t make sense considering the fact that so many people have dreamed half their lives of coming up here…
The Dulhunty River is one of the prettiest places on the Cape, though, despite the fact that you have to share it with people sometimes.