Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Savannah Way and Gulf Country

The Gulf Country (Gulf of Carpentaria) is a large area stretching across North West Queensland upto the border of Northern Territory, mostly flat and boring - the roads amongst the most boring we have seen in fact.  And in some places dangerous as the tarmac was a thin stretch in the middle and gravel lanes either side of it, so if a road train passes you have two wheels on the tarmac and two off.  Quite disconcerting with a very large truck flying at you at 100kms an hour!  Most of the time the best idea is to get off the road altogether and hide behind a tree until it has gone past.


This area is where Burke and Wills were trying to reach the Gulf, and unbeknown to them they were almost there, but the two of them on horseback thought they would never get to the sea, so turned around perhaps 100kms from it and headed back on their doomed mission.  Only one man from their party made it back alive and the whole story is a tragedy from end to end.  I can really recommend "The Dig Tree" for a good read.  And can see how desperate they must have been as it goes on and on forever up here without any change in the landscape.

Anyway we floored it from Chillagoe to a dodgy little roadside rest area to get some sleep, got up early to get away from the grey nomads, got to Normanton which is a major town in the area, but quite unremarkable with some weird locals, took a brief side trip to Karumba which is a prawn town, did some fishing with no luck, had lunch and headed back to Normanton and on to Gregory Downs to camp overnight in a nice quiet spot, only after we found where everyone else was down by the river!  Apparently the river is the towns supply (unfiltered and untreated) so they dont like people camping there, but most Aussies don't listen and camp there anyway, we just obeyed the rules - but had a camp spot all to ourselves rather than surrounded by 20 other campers!

From Gregory Downs it was a 100kms drive to Lawn Hill (Boodjamulla in the local dialect) National Park.  Lonely Planet reckons this is a must see NP in Australia, and when we got there we spoke to the Ranger and were lucky enough to get the last pitch he had - not that the park was busy, they just limit numbers.  And Lonely Planet were right.  A beautiful, small NP with a gorge, river you can swim in (freshwater crocs only - they dont grow to more than 3 metres, but more importantly only eat insects and fish and not unsuspecting mammals).  Lots of little walks and lookouts.  The weird thing was the water has a high content of calcium carbonate, so our skin was really dry the whole time we were there and swimming - and if you drink it you become even more dehydrated!


A highlight of the park was also catching up with Amalia and Paddy (who we had met at Punsand Bay on the Cape) and their Discovery.  They were camped near to two other Aussies, Darren and Nicola, and we spent a bit of time getting to know each other on a sunset walk.  On the way back it was getting dark, and a European hiker on his own had been past us, we heard him playing the drums in the hills on his own.  Some sort of spiritual weirdo "finding himself" no doubt.

We spent two nights at Lawn Hill relaxing, walking, swimming and on the third day teamed up with Darren and Nic to head North West and onto the NT border.  Sadly Paddy and Amalia were heading back to NSW and work so couldn't join us.

The road out was uneventful, but interesting travelling with "new people" and through some sparse pastoral land past car wrecks and an old roadhouse called Hells Gate....apparently this is the point where the Queensland police in frontier times would escort people too, after this you were on your own.....



No comments: