Gulf Country Day 62 - Lawn Hill to Borroloola

Wednesday, Sep 23, 1998 at 00:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

We left Lawn Hill National Park around 8.45am bound for Doomadgee and later Hells Gate via a 4WD track though the Bowthorn Cattle Station. We could not find the roads marked on our maps but were given a brochure on the station which had a hand-drawn mud map. It seemed the thing to do as it would give us a short-cut of at least 100km to Hells Gate and it was well sign-posted.

The sky appeared very dark and stormy to the SW but as we had only 107km to Doomadgee we thought we'd be ahead of the rain break. As we travelled through the Lawn Hill Station the sky turned black and we stopped to take a few photos and video because it looked so sensational.

Just before we had to make a decision to turn left or right at an intersection the rain hit hard and it was no longer fun to be driving. The trailer was losing all traction and slipping and sliding from side to side no matter what we did even though we were travelling in low range 4WD. The roads that 5 minutes ago were dusty and dry suddenly disappeared under huges puddles of water. The gulf savannah floodplains could not absorb the unseasonal sudden rain had turned our shortcut into a quagmire.

We considered our options at the intersection: 45kms to the Aboriginal community of Doomadgee or 28km to the well advertised, traveller friendly, Bowthorn Station whose phamflet offered free morning tea and bush hospitality for visitors. I was feeling nervous with the trailer sliding out of control and we had already sideswiped a small tree with it. We deviated from our original plan and took the left turn to run for cover at Bowthorn Station Homestead.

We'd only travelled 8km from the intersection when we made a right hand bend and too late saw a deep hole where the road had recently erroded away. The passenger rear wheel of the car dropped in and we both seemed to expect that we were going to roll the car but somehow the wheel popped out but then the trailer fell in.

In those split seconds, with absolutely no visability out the rear doors, David drove the trailer through the hole thinking it would pop out like the car but he realised too late that it had rolled. We stopped and jumped out of the car to find our trailer lying on its right side in the running mud with its left door wide open and our gear spilling out. We were devastated.

It was a bit confusing at first to see the trailer flipped onto the opposite side that fell into the hole but on closer inspection we could see that the side that fell in had a fair amount of damage including the jerry can holder (and full jerry can) rammed back into the tool box.

Because the trailer slipped into the hole on its left side it launced itself 180 degrees over onto the other side when the car pulled it out of the hole. This side then suffered damage also which bent the doors, hence they were open and wouldn't shut without force.

Here we were in the pouring rain and mud, 18km from the homestead, 50km from Doomadgee and 72km from Lawn Hill station. We could make no radio contact and no one was expecting us anywhere. Devastated, we salvaged what we could into the car and set about the recovery. Using the hand-winch and a tree 20m into the scrub David had the trailer upright and mobile in less than one hour. We limped the last 18km to Bowthorn Station Homestead and were greated with hot coffee, fruit cake and the smell of freshly baking bread. David and Kerrie McGinnis treated us with kindness and offered great assistance to have us back on the road by 3.30pm to Kingfisher Camp 33km up the track (owned by them). Whilst David was sorting out the car repairs I was inside talking with Kerrie who I found to be a fascinating conversationalist. I don't know how she was educated because from the time she was 12, David her brother and her parents started droving and continued until 1996 when the McGinnis family bought the Bowthorn Station cattle property. Despite the obvious lack of formal education Kerrie was extremely knowledgable on almost every subject and I enjoyed her company very much.

At Kingfisher Camp on the Bowthorn Station we met up with a couple from NZ who are travelling around the the world in a Troop Carrier similar to ours. We started talking and found we were similar age and were headed to Darwin in a similar timeframe. Although it was raining the guys were keen to head out tomorrow although the girls were feeling a little hesitant given our recent misfortune in the mud. We agreed to leave the decision to the morning.

Kingfisher was quite a friendly camp with most people stopping overnight just to get out of the mud. I met up with Merewyn and Andy from Darwin who had just come through Roper Bar, Borroloola, and Hells Gate so we talked in the usual way strangers at campgrounds speak - about road conditions and good camp sites.
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Always working not enough travelling!
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