In the late 1800’s Old Coach Road was the sole connection of the Palmer River Goldfields to the outside world. Today it is renown as the toughest 4WD track on the Cape and we were keen to put Steve’s skills to the test on this long and rocky road.
It was fantastic to be joined by friends and fellow Hilux drivers, Ben and Helen, for this trip which happened to coincide with Steve’s birthday. Ben and Helen have a fairly standard ute with rock sliders but no diff lockers or winch, but were set to hit all the toughest parts of the track and see how their rig handled the heat.
We set off from our camp just outside Laura at 8.30am and hit the road. It wasn’t too long before we came across some challenging little sections of track. All of these had small bypasses around them but we try to take the most original track if possible and safe to do so which are more often than not, the most challenging option. Both utes are fairly top heavy and so consideration was taken about the path taken, so not to lean to much which might cause the ute to roll. Both utes made it through no worries on all these sections. Though with a slight bit of scraping on Ben’s utes due to only having a standard height.
By lunch time we were up high on a ridge line, with a stunning view out over the surrounding ranges and the tracks we were yet to traverse. I don’t think you could have a better view for lunch and it was definitely worth the drive. Then down over the rocky road which we slowly meandered through heading towards the dry and dusty ghost town of Maytown. With the sun beating down on us, the dry grasses and rocks we could see what a harsh land this was and would have been for the gold prospectors which came with hopeful hearts. When we thought the amazing views had finished, around the corner was another one, where we had to stop, gawk and point. Alongside some of these were current mining prospects, which it still baffles us how they got the trucks and caravans that were laying around down this 4wd track to their shanty set up.
Finally by mid afternoon we stumbled upon the first old mining relics. We spent the next few hours exploring these old mine batteries and boiler houses before walking down what remains of the main street of Maytown.
Walking along the old gutters reading plaques of each building gave us a sense of the bustling town it once was at it’s peak with approximately 17,000 in town and the surrounding goldfields.
Another short drive down to the Palmer River at Dog Leg Crossing we found a secluded spot on the banks of the river which won’t flow again until the next wet. We had to quickly set up before the sun went down, it was certainly a full day of driving. There was no better way to end a fantastic day than with friends having a couple of cold drinks by a raging fire, eating camp oven roasts and a freshly baked chocolate cake.
We conquered Old Coach Road and we were impressed with where a bit of skilled driving and a standard ute can go, it went everywhere that we did. So if you are tossing up whether or not to tackle this long, tough track we recommend you do, you cannot beat 4wding with the reward of an absolute ripper view!