Musgrave to Cape Crawford via Normanton & Lawn Hill 21/05/2011 - 27/05/2011 by Mrs Kanga

Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 00:00


Day 36 - 21/05/2011

Woke to a heavy dew as expected, Packed up and on the road out of Musgrave at 8.30am. Pormpuraaw Road still showing closed. Lots of road works under way north of Artemis, bits not done still in reasonable condition. Hit the morning rush hour, passing quite a lot of traffic. Stopped at Lakeland for a nice lunch and shared a piece of Malteezer cake with Andrea, staff very helpful and friendly. Grabbed some diesel ($1.63pl) then pushed on to Mareeba where we filled all the tanks and jerry cans ($1.55.9pl). Decided to push on even further to Atherton where we grabbed some shopping and set up camp back at Halorans. Misty light rain and very overcast. Chatted with a guy and his family over from Esperance. They had been through the centre to Darwin so could give us some tips on where to stay and what to see. Caught up on a bit of news on the TV and rang the kids, sounds like they are finally getting a bit of rain in the West.

Day 37 - 22/05/2011

Woke to a very grey day, no sun and constant misty rain, low visibility.Gordon slipped in the toilets on the tiled floor and hurt his hand. Hit the road by 8.30 and took it a bit slow in the treacherous conditions. Got to Mt Surprise in time for an early lunch or late morning tea. Topped up with diesel ($1.59.9pl) then hit the underbody car wash on the way out of town, liked it so much we went through twice. Back on the road to Georgetown, road goes to single width bitumen with gravel edges, condition very poor with many pot holes and uneven surface, really needs attention. Went straight through Georgetown at 12.50pm heading for Croydon, skies have cleared a bit and much drier out this way. About fifty ks out from Croydon, Gordon & Andrea thought they may have clipped a kangaroo but there was no sign of it when we came past, they think they may have just clipped its tail. Five ks later we passed some people with dogs, looked like they were pigging. It’s turned into another beautiful sunny day and the road is much better out this way, a whole lane of bitumen each way, with white lines and everything. Had a pit stop at Croydon, cute toilets and friendly informative guy at the information centre, Andrea picked up some info on Normanton and beyond.Adriane spotted a 130 dual cab TD5 Landover Defender with UK number plates and went over and had a chat with the couple. Got a quick tour of their rig, they are here for eight months then will ship it to South Africa to tour there. It was a bit before 3pm and the guys were keen to push on to Normanton so we hit the road again, really hot out of the air conditioned car now. Got in to Normanton and set up camp on a couple of nice shady spots at the caravan park. Had another go at getting Gordon’s trailer brakes working, had some dinner then went for a quick dip in the spa. Adriane also did a couple of laps in their lovely 25metre pool before it shut at 8.30pm. There is an amazing number of little insects around the lights here. They in turn seem to attract a lot of Geckos, frogs and Cane Toads. The place seems to come alive at night with bugs, although apparently this is nothing compared to the wet season.

Day 38 - 23/05/2011

Booked in for another night then went to see Krys the 8.63m crocodile replica, truly a monster. Off to Karumba by 9am, Dunbar, Chillagoe, Mt Surprise Road Closed. Fuel was much cheaper at Karumba ($1.59.9pl) than Normanton so we filled up (bumped into fellow Exporoz member Grant HID again). Just got to the Barramundi Discovery Centre in time for the 10am tour ($12.50pp). Volunteers run the place, which is responsible for restocking most of the popular fishing spots up here. Had a bit of a look around town and stopped for lunch at Raptis, tried the Barra, Adriane said he was not sure what all the fuss is about. Bought some nice prawns and a mud crab for later. Awful lot of boat trailers about, seems to be mainly tinnies. Don’t think I would like to be out there all day in the sun and not be able to go for a swim to cool down, for fear of being eaten or stung. Decided we had seen enough and headed back to Normanton for a swim in the pool and Gordon messed about with his trailer brakes again. Adriane took me over to meet a chap called Lionel who had set up camp in his new 4x4 Isuzu Motorhome, what a set up. Really nice guy, recently widowed, showed us round his motor home, everything that opens and shuts. Obviously word had got out about the number of bugs last night because while we were preparing dinner a ute came driving round the caravan park spraying a huge cloud of insect spray. Would have been nice to have had some warning so we could cover the food and put on a gas mask! Walked up the road after dinner to take a look at the Purple Pub, all lit up in purple lights.

Day 39 - 24/05/2011

Packed up by 8am and hit town for a few last minute supplies. Andrea and I went for a quick power walk and I tripped over a Telstra pit lid in the footpath and landed in a screaming heap. No permanent damage, just a few sore spots. Back on the road for a while before we stopped at the Burke and Wills Camp 119 where there are a number of blazed trees. Pretty amazing to think these trees were blazed over a hundred and fifty years ago and they aren’t huge trees today, things must grow really slow out here in these harsh conditions. Pretty cool and windy today. Stopped and spoke to a fella at a fish ladder at Flinders River. He said there was usually a couple of little salties on the bank up river, but not today, we are beginning to think there are no crocodiles in Queensland. He reeled off an amazing array of fish they get through here, including Gardies and another saltwater species, which we though was pretty amazing considering how far inland we are.The Fisheries guy said that this was the furthest point inland or tidal influence. Have passed lots of cattle and flocks of budgies and red tailed black cockatoos and seen Brolgas, Wedge Tailed Eagles and lots of other birds. Took a wrong left hand turn for Leichhardt Falls but a helpful man on the radio put us on the right track. It was very windy at the Falls but well worth pulling in for a look. Drove on to Burketown for lunch at the Pub, tastie and reasonably priced. Nice Welsh Barmaid told us how a live six foot croc was tied up in the corner of the bar on the day she arrived less than two weeks ago. Saw some pictures and heard some stories from the men in the bar about a fourteen foot croc they had on the bar and the pub record 67cm Cherabin. It was like walking into the set of Crocodile Dundee. Pulled in to Adels Grove fairly late in the day, set up camp and the couple next to us with an Avan, kindly let us use their fire to cook our spuds and corn for dinner.

Day 40 - 25/05/2011

Stoked the fire up for a bit of warmth over breakfast. Quite cool this morning, especially in this shady spot under the trees. Put a chicken casserole in the Ecopot before donning our bathers and heading over to Lawn Hill Gorge.While walking down to the river I just managed to stop Andrea from stepping on the tail of a large Olive Python. Adriane dragged it back out of the bush for a photo then off she went. Hired a couple of canoes ($20per hour) and headed up the gorge. What can I say but it is a must do if you are in this area. Only freshies found here but we didn’t see any. Did see some terrapin, fish and birds though. Small section up river where you have to get out and drag your canoe past the falls, got Andrea on video taking an unscheduled swim while trying to get out of their canoe. Never heard her laugh so much in my life. Went for a quick look at Lawn Hill Creek because the lady at Adels Grove had said we wouldn’t get through that way especially with the trailers. Walked it and drove it and decided we would go that way tomorrow. Went up Harry’s Hill lookout on the way back to camp. Caught up with Grant HID and Grason who actually had a spare alternator identical to Gordon’s original one and he would have been happy to let him have it, could have done with that a couple of weeks ago in Port Douglas. Enjoyed our dinner then Gordon and Adriane pulled Gordon’s trailer brakes apart again as they had stopped working again! They finally found that wires to the magnet in the drivers side had shorted out and melted, they were up til about 11pm.

Day 41 - 26/05/2011

So dark and shady under the trees here that Adriane and I slept in until 8am.Gordon was already up and working on his trailer brakes again. Bid farewell to Grant HID and his fellow campers then hit the road by 9.50am. Started following the Scenic Savanah Way (even though Adels Grove people said it was closed) towards King Fisher Camp, through two gates then Lawn Hill Creek then another gate, no “Road Closed“ signs. Caught up with another two utes at a wide creek crossing and let them go first. No problems. Pulled over for lunch at a beautiful roadside billabong full of water lilies. Two Brolgas flew off as we arrived and kites hovered overhead, swooping down occasionally to pluck things from the water. Pulled in to Doomadgee Roadhouse to meet Joe, Mel and Mick (fellow Exploroz members). Joe said that the Calvert River is the only bit we would really need to take care at and gave us some tips on crossing it, otherwise all roads open to Borroloola. Stocked up at the Doomagee Retail Store (great place to restock) and made a few phone calls (Telstra 3G working) then left Doomadgee at 2.30pm headed for Borroloola. Got through to Hells Gate around 4pm and set up camp ($20per vehicle unpowered) with another guy travelling on his own, Dave the Barber. He now lives in Cairns but originally from WA. As he was on his own, he was going to tag along with us through Calvert River but the people at Hells Gate reckon we won’t get through. We were a bit surprised to even find them open as we had heard it had shut down. They had fuel at about $1.98pl but not much else compared to Doomagee. Adriane spoke to the boss lady there and she said that they would be open all the rest of this season for fuel and camping. She also thought that it was Wollogorang Roadhouse that had shut down permanently, we later passed the sign that confirmed this.

Day 42 - 27/05/2011

Got up to a cool clear morning at Hells Gate Roadhouse, the last day of week six on the road, last day in Queensland. All still talking to each other.Gordon’s passenger side trailer brake is still working after their rewire job the other day, just need to get a new magnet for the other side then maybe both will work. He tightened up his alternator belts then were on the road about 8.30am and headed for NT. We have decided to take a look at the Calvert River but don’t expect to go through. No mobile coverage and can’t find a radio station for the latest news. Most of the road has been pretty good but got even better after we passed a grader until we crossed the border in to NT at about 9.30am. More corrugations and creek crossings over this side, wouldn’t want to be doing this in an ordinary motor home. Lots of different colours of flowers by the roadside, grevilleas in red, orange and yellow.There was a makeshift “Road Closed” sign for the road to Borroloola via Calvert River, we went around it and down to look at the river. Adriane walked it a few ways, Joe from Doomagee had said to keep to the south side of the crossing but that was far too deep so he checked the north side and thought it might be doable. A couple of old fellas in a new Landcruiser Ute towing a trailer with a boat on top came down the same side we were on to have a look. Then a family with a old F250 ute towing a trailer came down from the other side. While Adriane and one of the old guys were up past their wedding tackle in water, moving some big rocks, he asked if there were cros here. The reply was “Oh yeah, there’s a fourteen footer lives just up stream.” “Big black bastard,“ he said, sounding all the world like Les Hiddens (The Bush Tucker Man). The old guys went through first because he said he crossed it eight time a year on his many fishing trips and thought he would be okay but wasn’t sure about Gordon’s trailer making it. Adriane and I went next with no problems then the family in the F250 bounced across and was stoked to make it to the other side.Gordon had us worried for a minute as he bounced off line a bit at the deepest section but made it through with only a little water in the foot wells. Pulled up the hill on the other side only to find a crocodile warning sign. Stopped for some lunch then back on track by 12.30pm. I don’t think you would want to consider driving this section of the Savanah Way in anything other than a high clearance 4WD. Passed a couple of crews of locals lighting fires and some graders working on the road, it certainly needs it. Interesting the number of vehicles we have seen considering the road is supposed to be closed. The chips in Gordon’s windscreen that progressed to a crack had been getting bigger and heading for Gordon’s line of sight so they scratched it with Andrea’s diamond ring in an attempt to divert the crack in a different direction.Gordon later tapped in with his fist and the crack got much bigger (bugger). Pulled in to Borroloola at 3.15pm and Gordon topped up his fuel ($1.89pl). We found somewhere to fill the camper gas tank that was empty because I accidentally left the burner on for a few of hours when we went canoeing. As there was a local funeral happening here tomorrow we decided to push on to Cape Crawford. Visibility is limited due to smoke from all the bush fires. Bitumen road is in need of some urgent repairs, you could lose a Daihatsu Charade in some of these potholes! Hard to believe this is national route 1. Set up camp at Cape Crawford ($8pppn unpowered), lots of green shady grassed areas and a pool. Helecopter parked over the road for the Lost City tours, $350pp for 3 hours, gave it a miss. Got a rip roaring fire going in the half 44 BBQ provided, as it was turning cold. Turned our watches back half an hour to NT time, no mobile coverage. One of the two utes we had come across on the Scenic Savanah Way pulled in and said they had come through the “Road Closed” section like us. But they had stalled it in a deep section going straight through the Calvert River instead of round the north side of the crossing. Their mates in the other ute had decided against it and went the long way round. They didn’t arrive until nearly 9pm.
Tempus Fugit

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