Burton's Perth to Cape York Mt Surprise to Burketown 24-25 May 2011 Day 55-56

Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012 at 12:17

Mike & Amanda

Mild showers overnight, cloudy and distinctly not warm seemed ominous as we packed up. We chatted with a Caravan magazine writer with a distinctly caravan oriented world view in which camper trailers should move over to the dirt shoulder..."after all why should we both get stone chips?"...not recognising my look of disgusted horror. Leaving Mount Surprise we fuelled up and encountered a fantastic free weed wash just outside of town. Heartily sick of turning red every time we touched the Cruiser or Oddy we decided to give the poor abused Toyota a much needed wash. The high pressure water blasted off the Cape York mud and dust almost making us look respectable LOL! A quick stop at the dump point to clean out the full porta potty and we were heading west on the Savannah Way. We had planned to have an easy day and stop overnight at Croydon, however the predicted bad weather and all bitumen road saw us make Normanton late afternoon. Well formed bitumen, dozy cows and myriads of birds of prey feeding on road kill marked the next few hours. We tried the Hema marked bush camp Leichardt Lagoon just outside of Normanton only to find it packed with caravans, dodgy looking ablutions and an exorbitant fee of $7 per person per night, which meant $28 for a patch of dirt only, with very close noisy neighbours. On, on to Normanton we went!

Normanton caravan park proved to be a real bonus. The friendly lady took the kids for a spin in her golf buggy, showing us the way to nice little spot at the back behind the swimming pool. Next to us were Jim and Pat in their caravan and troopy from the Vines near Perth. To add to the growing list of odd little coincidences, they were the people that sold their Camprite to Dave and Lindel our friends from the Cape! They were well set up, very friendly and had been travelling for some time. The kids and I spent much time in the wonderful 25m swimming pool getting some exercise and then relaxing in the hot artesian water spa. The forecast was looking dodgy and we were keen to get to Lawn Hill, so after a few photos of the Cruiser and Oddy outside the famous Purple Pub we zoomed out onto the Savannah Way part 2 towards Burketown.

We hit the road at 0915 and unbeknown to us, the Shire closed the road at 0930! The 150 odd kilometres to Leichardt Falls and the bitumen consisted of gravel, mud,causeways and the dreaded Queensland black soil. We in WA being simple innocent folk, have not encountered this evil substance. We've read about it, but never imagined such gloopy, smelly, sticky gunk could exist. The road deteriorated as we went. The first causeways were not flowing and presented no issues (sadly, grin). Soon we were slipping and sliding, the car covered in red mud, the BFG muddies doing a great job. That was until we hit the black soil, the deep tread filling up and before we knew it we slip sideways and jack-knifed badly. The Stone Stomper bar impacted on the soft plastic of the Cruiser bumper, pushing it in at least 50mm and the Oddy stone guard denting the side near the fuel cap. In the strange silence following the noisy slide, we could hear our hearts beating very fast, the adrenaline causing a rushing noise in our ears, before we looked at each other, grinned, and said simultaneously "oh bleep !". Accepting the damage as a travelling occupational hazard and silently thanking the insurance gods we righted ourselves very carefully, reversing out of the lake at the front wheels and headed west once again, a little more careful and attentive, more appreciative that these roads are not like ours back home.

The Cruiser was not driving properly. At first I suspected shocky or suspension damage until I realised the sticky mud that coated every surface was not only a terribly added weight, it unbalanced all the wheels and suspension. This driving was hard work. Not only couldn't I see properly out the windscreen, it constantly obscured by red and black mud that the wipers and washers couldn't clear, the constant focus was very draining. At Leichardt Falls we met Richard and Evonne from Switzerland in their hired well equipped troopy. They wanted to make Normanton, with Evonne not being too keen having seen us and our red muddy condition. We advised against it and we all headed out towards Burketown. We still had some hours of daylight, however the lady at the fuel stop said we were mad to head out with the roads wet and suggested we overnight in town, which truth be told we were happy to do. The caravan park suggested we use their fish wash down area and do something about "that mess". We had to buy some scrubbing brushes and a squidgee to assist the high pressure hose. It took ages, the mud reluctant to part from its new friend. The best we could do was wash down around the door handles, windows and parts on the trailer we might touch. The rest was so thick it wouldn't come off.

It rained again, it was cold, we were in beanies, wind stoppers and trackies. At night we needed thermals with a max of around seven degrees! This can't be tropical Queensland, can it? We had barra and chips, a great meal washed down with beer and wine and soda water and ginger beer for the kids.
Mike & Amanda
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