Burton's Perth to Cape York Lawn Hill to Lorella Springs 29 May to 1 June 2011 Day 60-63

Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012 at 13:03

Red Dirt Australia


The weather report for the next few days was not good. Eighty percent chance of 20 to 40mm of rain frightened us into leaving. That much water would close the road and the gates of Adel Grove! Backed up the Cruiser, locked in the Hitchmaster DO35 and plugged in the trailer lights with much difficulty. We smashed the car end bracket at the Finke River and it now is assisted by a bright orange occy strap (red dust faded orange). The huge double 'O' ring truck plug now suffers from some dust ingress resulting in the odd dodgy connection. The Stone Stomper is looking worse for wear, a little frayed and impregnated with red mud and dust. We really do need another shower after hooking up, all of us stained very red and feeling dirty. Washing the damn car and trailer doesn't help as it only gets dirty again the next day and our time is too precious to spend it lathering up the Cruiser at every opportunity. We've jokingly observed some grey nomads washing their rigs at every opportunity even when there isn't a speck of dirt anywhere. Their usual rude comment to us is "why don't you wash your car"....my unspoken rude thought is "why don't you get a life!"

We tried the alternative dirt road towards Kingfisher Camp, a little nervous at previously finding many roads closed. A few gates and the bloody road disappeared into what looked like a fast flowing Lawn Hill Creek! It looked like the track became the river bed and could have exited further up somewhere we couldn't see. Not wanting to get stuck and delayed we sadly turned around and headed up towards the Gregory Downs Tiranna/ Doomadgee Road. This had been closed on our way down but should be fine now although subject to extensive roadworks. On our way out on the excellent minesite maintained gravel we could see our old friends Dave and Lindell approaching in their Landcruiser and Camprite. Kate was squirming with joy anticipating seeing her new friend Lucy once again. We all pulled over and spent the next half hour catching up on each other's adventures and filling them in on Lawn Hill. Sadly we seem to be tracking one or two days behind each other but who knows we may catch up again.

The road was the usual, some bitumen sections, some mud, however nothing like the previous slippery adventures. We regained the Savannah Way and rocketed towards Hell'sGate Roadhouse crossing the now familiar causeways and occasional creek, mostly with hubcap deep water. In the late 1800s police had to escort travellers from nearby Corinda to Hell's Gate but refused to go any further due to the lawlessness beyond. Rather than highwaymen and robbers, we encountered welcome and friendliness from the owners as we fuelled up and set up camp on the green lawns behind the ablution block. Hot showers, great campfire and on our own until our other new friends Jim and Pat from the Vines in their Troopy and caravan rolled in. Even though they have a decent size van, these guys are the real deal, tackling all the dirt and remote places. The Troopy is well set up, looks pretty tough and is not washed every day...LOL! We encountered green tree frogs, little frogs and no cane toads. One frog posed for hundreds of photos. Wallabies were everywhere around the camp and the station cows and 'cheeky bulls' kept us entertained with their occasional bellows and belligerent stares.

The Savannah Way to Borroloola was standard, not very challenging gravel with plenty of water visible on either side. Graders working in tandem were seen in one spot, no traffic controllers and it not very clear where they wanted us to drive. We sighted wild pigs, huge cheeky bulls, plenty of birds of prey and colourful orange grevillea, bright blue flowers resembling our WA lechenaultia. The NT border crossing was a low key affair consisting of only a faded sign which prompted us to turn back our clocks half an hour. Borroloola seemed to be mostly an aboriginal town with one main street. We topped up fuel, prowled the street looking for the two supermarkets and optimistically wholemeal bread. We spotted Jim and Pat in the Troopy mirroring our movements. The town didn't seem to warrant spending much time in so a basic food top-up saw us heading out towards the 51km shortcut to the Roper Highway and the Limmen National Park. The road all the way to the Lorella Springs turnoff presented no problems. It varied from wide gravel, rutted wheel tracks to bouncy corrugations. There were the usual up and downs into green treed creek crossings, some dry, enough with wheel deep water to make it fun. All along the Parks people were or had been burning off, blackened still smoking stumps and scrub were visible everywhere, the air a pall of grey hazy smoke.

The Lorrella Springs driveway was 30 kilometres long and in much worse condition that the Roper Highway so far. It was narrower, more corrugated and had a couple of interesting crossings. It was passable for caravans with great care - we found an Australian Offroad Quantum and a larger on-road van set up when we arrived. We started to encounter touring dirt bikes and later found a group of 30 was due. These guys were en-route from Darwin to Cairns, mostly in their 40s and 50s, their adventure of a lifetime. The way my dust cloud enveloped them they were welcome to it. The owner Rhett Walker and his staff were most welcoming, giving us a comprehensive introduction to the property, offering us a cold beer at $6 a can and letting us know they had emergency diesel and ULP at $3 per litre. The camping ground consisted of two areas divided by the hot creek. The reception side had donkey fuelled hot showers but seemed a little crowded. We drove over the quite steep creek crossing to the large paddock on the other side and zeroed in on a fire ring on its own away from the creek. We were unsure of the mossie situation so rightly guessed away from the water would be healthier. The area was equipped with a basic tin shed, cold showers and two flushing toilets - no doors, only shower curtains! We found the local social activity seemed to be discussing world affairs through the flimsy walls with your neighbour whilst doing your business! We spent the next three days driving the dirt tracks of the million acre station investigating the water crossings, billabongs, water holes and hot springs. Our favourite was Wildfire Gorge, a spectacular water hole between tall cliffs. We managed to have it to ourselves on a couple of occasions and it was a beautiful serene experience, quiet and special. The warm afternoon punctuated by corellas, lizards basking on warm rocks and coarse beach like sand under foot. The water was crystal clear, the silence only broken by a gleeful Jack yelling "bombie" as he ruined the serenity with a loud splash. The Nudie Hot Springs were visited by a mistaken, wrong turn and were very warm. Fortunately no other visitors were prancing around in birthday suits in this clothing optional camp site. Huge golden orb spiders had woven blanket webs across the warm springs just above head height. Green algae stuck to the rocks along the edges. It was not the most attractive swimming hole or camping spot although the water was a great temperature for basking. Back at camp I used some spare time to fill the Cruiser's tanks with most of the fuel from our jerries. The Tanami air pump worked flawlessly although it wouldn't pump the last few litres from each so we reverted to manual labour and the plastic funnel. The bikers had drained the station's supplies of unleaded so we would need every drop to get to Mataranka after our little adventures around the station tracks. On our last night I decided to have a soothing soak in the hot pool next to reception. It was dark and I was the only occupant, floating serenely weightless on a foam noodle when some dark formless silhouettes approached. Slowly they took on a recognisable shape....Dave, Lindel, Will and Lucy were approaching. We greeted each other with surprise and joy, filling each other in on our adventures since we last met. Returning to camp I told the kids who immediately rushed down and spent another hour chatting. Dave and Lindel with kids joined us around our camp fire that evening, all of us on alcohol rations as a shop was much needed. It was great to catch up and then sadly learning that we'd been shadowing each other although them a day or so behind us. Our conclusion - Lorella Springs was an enjoyable spot and well worth it! We had only just scraped the surface and and found it a good value offroading adventure relaxing stay with like minded travellers.
Mike & Amanda
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