Burton's Perth to Cape York Burketown - Lawn Hill 26-28 May 2011 Day 57-59

Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012 at 12:27

Red Dirt Australia


The bitumen south of Burketown was plagued with cows. They wandered indiscriminately all over the road staring belligerently at us with vacant brown eyes. We passed the turn off to Leichardt Falls bumping into our new Swiss friends Richard and Evonne in their hired troopy. We lead the way towards Augustus Downs and ultimately Lawn Hill, being totally unaware of the dismal 'fun' that was awaiting us! Large flocks of birds of prey prowled the roads gorging on road kill. The bitumen gave way to sodden, slimy gravel, the brown water soaking the windscreen and the recently 'cleaned' Cruiser (LOL). Soon the colour changed from the familiar gravel to the feared black soil. We slid and skated more sideways than forward, constantly changing into low range and engaging the centre diff. A road crew in a 4WD Hilux Ute came towards us, and we observed that they were moving off the mud onto grassed bypasses to either side. We copied their route making much easier work of the gluey mud until we hesitated at a rudimentary cattle grid. Just passed it was a very large body of water taking up the whole road width. We could see where the road crew appeared to have bypassed to one side. Into low range, diff lock engaged, we followed their tracks only to hear the annoying vehicle stability control alarms go on high alert. All wheels were spinning, ABS crunching sickingly and the vehicle came to an abrupt halt. Amanda and I looked at each other sadly, realising that this was the real deal, we were now glued to this spot on the earth and no amount of 4WD trickery could get us out. I stepped out up to my knees in mud, and not just any mud....the dreaded Queensland Black Soil! My long handled shovel proved to be useless becoming permanently glued to the mud and I looked at my MaxTrax miserably, forecasting at least four hours dirty work. Like a short lasting beacon of hope headlights approached....it was Richard and Evonne with their at least 4 tonnes of solid winching platform approaching! I flagged them down, warning Richard of the quicksand disguised as grass and walked a safe route for him. Sadly this didn't work as he deviated slightly and bogged the Troopy. With much effort I retrieved my submerged shovel, unstrapped the four MaxTrax and managed to extricate Richard and position him fifty metres up the track on solid ground. Using the trusty Premier winch the Cruiser was released from the black goop with a soggy popping sound and with much relief we were on our way, feeling a little chastised, our growing 4WD confidence somewhat diminished....rescued by two Swiss tourists in a hired Troopy...please don't tell anyone (at least it wasn't a Patrol)! There was one more bogging incident which I'd rather not go into to, requiring the Troopy to assist again. This whole road was a black mess and required a great deal of concentration. We finally reached the bitumen of the Wills Developmental Road and said goodbye to Richard and Evonne. Richard looked fondly at his mud covered Troopy, shook my hand and proudly announced that "this was the most fun day of his life. It was not possible to to this in Switzerland!" I gave them a bottle of my diminishing supplies of Margaret River whites in thanks for the use of their winching platform, bade them goodbye and headed to Gregory Downs. This was a small town, dominated by the pub and large mining haul trucks. We camped behind the pub, the sun disappearing and managed to clean some of the terrible gloop off the trailer. At one point the dirt is a badge of honour, however it soon becomes a damn nuisance, setting up without becoming filthy impossible. The clean required cold chisels, scrubbing brushes and much elbow grease. It should be noted that the pub people did not want us to clean the vehicle excepting the "headlights and windscreen as an OHS issue...."
Next morning the road to Lawn Hill was bitumen for a few kilometres before turning into a great well maintained mine site gravel road. Averaging 90 clicks we soon made the turn off towards Lawn Hill and Adel's Grove. The road deteriorated here and we were surprised to find a number of caravans attempting the route. One van smashed its water tank in front of us, the road muddy, covered in water in some places with some wash outs and jump ups.

Adel's Grove was a pleasant place, the reception people very friendly and accommodating. The generator use camping bays were all rather small and difficult to enter, mostly rock lined driveways with some trees. It was easy to see where the recent rains had played havoc with the gravel, deep rutted tyre tracks evident...this wouldn't be a nice place to get caught in wet weather. The Grove area consisted of old trees and forest lining the Lawn Hill Creek. Camping in here was dark and dank, solar panels not having much hope. We wandered down and enjoyed swimming in the creek, bombies off the pontoon and drifting around in an old inner tube. That night we ate in the buffet type restaurant, a great meal of roast pork and veggies with apple crumble and cold custard. The night was freezing, down to 8 degrees and requiring thermals, blanket and doona! Next morning we hired a four person canoe, all the 2 persons having gone. The canoe up the gorge was two part, having to physically lift the canoe out and drag it on rails and old mat about fifty metres to the next section. It was a great day, warm, sunny, the gorge being spectacular in its own way. We spotted large fresh water crocs, snapping turtles and archer fish. At the end we swam in arctic waters, slipping and sliding over mud, tree roots and getting caught in swift currents.

Lawn Hill is certainly a pleasant spot although very dependent on fine weather. We have seen better gorges and warmer waters, however it proved to be a relaxing stop. A couple of bus loads of school kids (all well behaved) decimated the limited hot water so hot showers were out. Camp fires were allowed however dependent on your own wood supply. We did spot some people plundering the small trees surrounding the park which will probably mean a denuded landscape in a few years unless the managers do something about it.
Mike & Amanda
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